I tweet about Palestine 95% of the time. The more passionate I tend to get about the subject, the more encounters I seem to have with ardent Zionists. Sometimes I can’t help but respond to their tweets; other times they seek me out of their own accord. In two specific instances, these encounters are worth highlighting because I am certain they speak to fundamental questions about our cause.
In one instance, this Zionist harped very strongly on two points. The first was that the agreement signed at the San Remo conference unequivocally gave all of Palestine to the Jews. That means there is no occupation and settlement construction isn’t illegal. While many of you have probably heard this argument before, it was new to me. It caused me to seek out the truth, and in doing so I learned just how wrong this person was. I was even compelled to write about what I’d found. The second point had to do with Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. This person alleged that Pappe’s book had been utterly discredited. What unsettled me so much about this accusation wasn’t that I automatically took this Zionist’s word for it, but rather that I hadn’t taken the time to appraise Pappe’s scholarship before taking him at his word –something that is very important when it comes to this issue, because there is such a proliferation of nonsense on the subject. Because I wanted to agree with Pappe, I didn’t do my due diligence in checking him out. Needless to say, I did this as soon as the argument ended. Electronic Intifada founder Ali Abunimah was extremely helpful and even took the time to answer one of my emails on the subject, which I really appreciated.
In this way, the conversation was instrumental to improving my understanding of the conflict, and when someone raises such issues again, I will be more than ready to respond fully.
In another instance, a deranged Zionist made a ridiculous assertion, one so ridiculous that it isn’t even worth repeating, and one I could only respond to by laughing. She proceeded to insult me, call me a liar and a moron and then tell all of her followers that I’d attacked her character. Who knew a “haha” and a “:)” (my only responses to her, in full) were personal attacks and calling someone a “moron” wasn’t?
I responded to her last assertion with another “:)” but the more I thought about it, the more dissatisfied with myself I became. I wondered, was that the right thing to do? What else could I have said?
And that’s what I’m really getting at…how should we engage ardent Zionists on Twitter? Should they even be engaged at all? And I believe the answer to that question lies in something deeper. We can’t craft a strategy for engaging Zionists online if we don’t know the purpose of our engagement. So what is the purpose of talking to them on Twitter? Is there one? To an even further extent, what are we doing on Twitter at all?
I know that it is important that the Zionist narrative be adequately countered. Someone needs to be telling the truth, someone needs to speak for the oppressed, even if no one else is there to listen. Our mere existence on social networking sites, in blogs and forums, is important if only as a counterweight to the previously unchallenged Israeli propaganda machine. When people want to know the truth, they need to have somewhere to look. But is there more to it than that?
When it comes to engaging these Zionists, should one take their assertions head on? Are they worth arguing with? Or should we simply go on tweeting vigorously about our own sources, not taking the time to reply to theirs? At times I’m compelled to dismiss them with sarcasm. In one instance a Zionist accused me of propagating a “PLO version of history” to which I replied, “Yeah I hang out with the PLO a lot. Sometimes the US, UN, EU and ICJ come too. You should come! Bring the Hummus,” (the conversation was again about the illegality of settlement construction). A few people had a good laugh about that, but did it actually accomplish anything?
To summarize, what is our purpose? Are we trying to change their minds? Is the conversation for the benefit of those witnessing it rather than participating? I’d really like to know what everyone thinks about this. And if you’d really like to delve into the issue, is there anything unique about Twitter’s platform that requires a separate strategy from other social media channels, such as Facebook?
You can find maggie’s work at http://www.resistingoccupation.com or follow her on Twitter @maggiesager.