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Palestinians and Social Media

01/08/2011

Social media has changed the face of many countries. It has created a new leadership and introduced an innovative method of non-violent resistance. Have Palestinians learned from the experience of neighboring Arab countries to put a voice to their cause? Can this era of social media change the face of Palestinian politics?
Over the last few months I have been observing the emergence of new type of social and political Palestinian activists on Facebook. A considerable number of groups have also emerged such as “Lets finish the occupation”, “People want to end the split between Fatah and Hamas”, “People want reconciliation” and a recent one is “People want an end of the Abu Mazen regime”!  Surprisingly, a large number of Facebook activists do join such groups and post their enthusiastic comments, as well as coming up with some suggestions and encourage their Facebook friends to join too.  Sadly, these efforts went into a vacuum as no tangible results were achieved and no collective efforts were brought to the fore to create substantial change.
I recall when Facebook activists came together at Al Manara (downtown Ramallah) calling for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas emphasising that Palestine is one country and “People want one leadership” But it was not clear what leadership they were calling for. Was it a Hamas or Fatah? Or was it a unity leadership…it was vague!!! A dozen or so of young Palestinians with scattered efforts stayed in their tents for a couple of weeks and the result was that Abu Mazen met Msha’al and agreed on the reconciliation which died as an infant who could not see the light of life.
What went wrong? Why have other similar initiatives succeeded while the Palestinian one is still in its initial stages? Is their cause different from ours? Is their Facebook leadership different from ours?
In fact, Palestine is popular with its large number of political factions for the last sixty years, which fragmented their struggles against the Israeli occupation and sometimes turned this fight into an internal one. This is still happening during the era of the social media. A considerable number of Facebook groups, that might be similar in their aims and objectives and sometimes have the same members, are creating fragmented efforts. Further, lack of leadership in the real world is paralleled by lack of genuine and charismatic leadership on Facebook. Well, it seems that Facebook leadership could not learn from the mistakes of conventional leadership. They still believe that leadership is a given privilege without knowing its essence. There is lack of visionary leadership with no strategic thinking.
It is clear that both conventional and Facebook Palestinian leaders are in need of a comprehensive course on leadership skills, negotiation skills, and effective communication. They need to learn how to deliver their message, only one shot, simple and relevant one “People want one leadership, one voice, one goal, one country”. Is it doable?