Palestinian Digital Resistance: Conversation with Tara Alami and Sunny Singh
June 26 2023

Organizing for the liberation of Palestine is an action that — as the world moves into the age of digitization and near-constant Internet use — has taken on an electronic arm.

Take, for example, Resistance News Network: a regularly updated feed of resistance movements occurring in Palestine. It broadcasts on Telegram, Instagram, and Twitter.

This digitization of Palestinian action — the use of digital platforms to spread the message that Palestine continues to fight — is a specific form of resistance that has moved from the physical space to the intangibility of social media. These forms of resistance link Palestine to similar causes and struggles across the world, broadening the reach of modern anti-colonial organizing, and widening the audience that receives its messaging. 

Tara Alamia Palestinian writer from Occupied Jerusalem and Yafa — recognizes a distinction between the Palestinian camera phone and the diasporic infographic: 

“Someone in the U.S. or [in] Europe [making Palestine-related content] — in the grand scheme of things — [is] just marginal,” Alami says, referencing her own efforts in creating pro-Palestine digital media. Alami has accrued 16,300 followers on Twitter alone, writing online articles as well as creating digital media for platforms like @InContextMedia.  

One of Alami’s arguments about the distinguishing factors between digital resistance and what she describes as the Palestinian diaspora “challenging the status quo” is the risk under the physical conditions of Occupation: “A Palestinian taking out their phone and filming and posting… could be killed, shot, [or] detained any moment — that is fundamentally different than me, a Palestinian, making a thread that goes viral. [And] oftentimes [diasporic content creators are] using that footage from the ground.” 

Alami delineates the effectiveness of Palestine advocacy on social media, maintaining that “materially, [social media] doesn’t do much unless you’re crowdfunding and raising money for mutual aid.” 

However, Alami isn’t unaware of the power of social media to influence mainstream thought: “On the opposite side, the Zionist lobby utilizes social media and corporate media so well, and so the fact that some people have been able to do that on our side has been great.  You're seeing posts that matter and seeing language that should be more normalized and common, like calling [Israel] ‘the Zionist entity.’”

Archivist and filmographer Sunny Singhbetter known by his digital media handle “hate5six” — approaches digital resistance with a similar attitude, stressing the importance of on-the-ground video footage… but not just in Palestine. Singh records footage of protests taking place in exile and posts them online, documenting a different kind of frontline.  

Singh films the protests and rallies he attends with cinematic-grade film equipment. 

“Livestreams filmed as a movie might make [viewers] more inclined to actually watch [and engage in] thought. It gets people to stop and ask questions…that’s how I view the work that I do.”

For Singh, capturing his audience’s attention by utilizing high-quality footage of pro-Palestine protests is his trademark. Singh views this digital documentation of rallies and protests with urgency. 

“I think that these are the fights of people’s lives and of multiple generations, [and they] deserve to be captured and have the story told with the utmost level of respect and care.”  

But that care doesn’t negate the core of Singh’s body of work as resistance; Singh’s filmography is deeply connected to his identity as South Asian, and he likens his work to his ancestors’ use of swords in battle, but rather than a blade, Singh says, “my camera is now my weapon.” 

Singh’s work also serves to connect local struggles to global ones. He has filmed Black Lives Matter protests, recalling how “people in Palestine were sending tips for how to get tear gas out of your eyes — people in Palestine were giving material information to protestors in Ferguson. It underscores how related and interconnected liberation movements are.” 

Both Alami and Singh advocate for the use of footage to further the fight against Occupation and colonialism. But their digital media work doesn’t come without consequence. They have faced blacklisting and subsequent harassment from Zionist hate groups on social media, which have significant online followings. 

For Alami, this harassment became personal when a Zionist group — one of the many tentacles of the Israeli regime’s lobby — doxed her by posting her private information online, encouraging racists to harass her. The hate group had compiled over two years of digital content sourced from Alami’s social media, including screenshots from her Instagram Stories regarding Palestinian freedom. As a result, Alami received death and sexual assault threats, and her university was inundated with threatening emails. 

“The purpose of this harassment and spamming my university with emails to get me expelled is for Zionists to make an example out of the person they’re harassing, [for Zionists to be able to say], ‘we got them expelled and we have this much power,’” Alami notes.

While Alami was not expelled, the doxing impacted her well-being: “They can find me super easily if they try hard enough. I’m a woman and I’m alone most of the time, so I was scared and really emotionally distressed. In terms of what they wanted to achieve, they failed, because I’m still here.” 

The university’s decision not to penalize Alami demonstrates the flip side of Palestinian digital resistance: the vacuum of Zionist digital media. “It’s evidence of the delusion that people in the Zionist lobby have regarding how they can control every single institution,” says Alami.  

Alami believes that there are two primary reasons that these groups are so involved in getting people on social media doxed: “One of them is [that] the Zionist propaganda machine is falling apart. It’s been falling apart for the last two to three years, especially with a lot of Palestinian pages being popular, pages that post live footage from the ground. The easiest way to deal with that is to go with the cheapest, easiest target—which is people’s social media.”

“[Zionists] want you to think that students who organize are dangerous, because that’s the only way that they can save their crumbling propaganda machine,” Alami emphasizes.

“The second reason is that they don’t want people to be hired, because it’s threatening to have, for example, a doctor who is super successful and Palestinian, and who is also super open about their views on Palestine.”

Singh faced similar weaponization of his digital content during his own doxing by the same hate groups that attacked Alami. One Zionist group edited his video content of a pro-Palestine rally in a demonizing fashion, causing Singh to change the way he approaches his work: “The flip side to filming with cinema gear is that the edit [the Zionist group] made looked [convoluted]. It’s made me reevaluate [my] role and how I pursue this work. Now, if I’m at a rally filming, I choose to only focus on the person speaking.” 

The targeting also failed to have material consequence, as Singh attributes part of the ineffectiveness of the doxing to his age and employment status: “I’m 37, and it probably would have had much more negative impact on my career if I had been in grad school or starting at a tech job. I’m a known person in the online world, and that's the reason that it had no impact on me.” 

But Singh’s near-bulletproof status doesn’t always translate to the organizers he films., “I’ve been learning how to walk that fine line of bearing witness and also not creating ammunition for organizations like Canary [Mission],” an Israeli-backed hate group that tarnishes students and professors. 

Alami and Singh are but two individuals in a sea of millions who are working to combat Zionist aggression through social and digital media output, engagement and literacy. They are among those whose work has been threatening enough to incur the wrath of Zionist propaganda. 

Alami and Singh continue to make the same forms of media they experienced such vitriolic fallout for, and they continue to be monitored by hate groups. The vitality of a resistance movement — whether on the ground or in the digital diaspora — can be measured, at least in part, by its ability to carry on despite the well-funded aggressor’s response. Both Alami and Singh prove that the fight for Palestinian freedom is indeed a generational movement, renewed using contemporary technology.

About The Author: 

Anna Rajagopal is a South Asian Jewish writer and organizer based in Houston, Texas. Anna is a recent graduate of Rice University, where she received her bachelor's degree in English and Creative Writing. Anna's work is concerned with the geography of colonized identities, particularly as they play out over space—digital and otherwise. 

Read more