At times like these, you can feel all sorts of emotions. One of them can be a sense of powerlessness. A feeling that you cannot do much or change the situation.
However, throughout history, artists of all kinds have played an important role in creating change. Change always happens through the hearts and minds of people. Particularly, people of the masses. And no matter how much power any individual might have, if the masses are not on your side and are taking effective actions, there is very little they can do.
In a crisis like what we are seeing in Gaza now, there are a couple of things you can do immediately and a few things you can do in the long term.
1. Use your platforms to share accurate contextualised facts & effective calls to actions
During such times, truth can be the first casualty. Mainstream news can be bad enough, peddling lies in order to create a public reaction without verifying the information. “Manufacturing consent” is the political term. Those who are well-versed in the UK and US news outlets know how often this happens.
It is for this reason, people tend to trust the news they receive on social media. But with the rise of AI and even social media platforms giving free reign to certain states (and not others), this has been problematic too.
The Palestinian issue, just like with South African Apartheid, will require a global solution. It is imperative, therefore, that people of the world have access to the right information. Furthermore, information must be couched in the right historical contexts, to not allow the aggressor to choose the start of the story that suits them and to truly allow people to see what is happening in a proper understanding.
“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent.” ~ Malcolm X
Stay away from accounts that try to polarise the issue on religious or ethnic lines, they only play into the occupier’s narrative. There are plenty of Jews, Christians and Muslims who fervently and openly support Palestinian Jews, Christians and Muslims, just as there are Jews, Christians and Muslims who are supporters of Israel and Zionism. This is the uncomfortable reality that Israel try to censor.
Stick to accounts that benchmark what’s happening against history and human rights. They focus on the root of the problem, the political ideology of apartheid that created Israel.
It is only then, when people know what is going on, will people be willing to take the actions that are required to bridge the gap. That action can be writing to your democratically elected politician or when an election comes, vote them out for not standing for what is right. In other places, it could be merely protesting and rallying others to do the same. In other countries, it is sharing content on social media. Whilst in other places, it is to pray.
Do what you can and do what is safe to do. What is important is that you do something. Politics is not just voting and speeches, especially at times like this, any act of solidarity is a political act for justice.
2. Take your art offline & on the street
Because the digital world becoming increasingly more pervasive in our lives, what we experience in the offline world can have a bigger and more intimate impact.
Pro-Palestinians across the world often experience being silenced, either by their governments or by organised harassment from Zionists. It’s much easier to justify ethnic cleansing and apartheid if there is no opposition. They just need the majority to be silent. Enforce it even. So there is always a need to create a buffer against this.
Take your art to the streets, be it chalk on the pavement, graffiti on a wall or on placards. Perhaps create a flash exhibition on the high street. Use your art to send a message. It gives people space to have the courage to speak out and to keep speaking out. And yes, document it and share it online.
Whatever you do, make sure it is safe and within the law.
3. Donate your art to raise funds
Everytime Israel collectively punishes the people of Gaza and West Bank, invariably they will need financial and relief support in the aftermath. Even when the crisis is over, the continuous everyday oppression of the occupation and apartheid, makes everyday living extremely hard.
Even if you do not have a big following, make an occasion of it. Use it as a means to raise funds among offline contacts. Perhaps, create an online class where you can practice your skills and have time to talk about what is happening, calling others to take similar actions too.
Get creative and see what is possible. We are only on this planet for a short time. So whatever we can do to sustain the life of others, it is indeed a special thing.
4. Find, endorse & promote Palestinian artists
Our art is the fruit of our hearts, minds and souls. We know how special it is to have your art loved and acknowledged by others. It feels incredible, especially when that pursuit of art is a lonely one.
Money only goes so far. Solidarity, however, does what money cannot do. Create human connection. That people love you for your art and are on your side. It breathes life into you. Into any of us. Science is just starting to realise what many cultures know implicitly: That human connection extends physiological longevity.
Give that to them by supporting, endorsing and sharing their art online. And ask others to do the same. And if you can, create or connect them to platforms and gives them a voice, so their existence and their experience can be shared with others.
5. Celebrate & promote Palestinian heritage & art history
Genocide is not just the cleansing of a people from a land. It is also the erasure of their heritage, their identity and their culture.
There’s a reason why Israel tried to co-opt Palestinian cuisine (particularly falafel, hummus and za’atar) as Israeli cuisine. By making the world believe that it is Israeli, they effectively weaken the idea that Palestinians have been living in that land for centuries. It failed miserably, but only because so many people openly ridiculed it.
Publicising and sharing about this heritage around the world is a direct resistance to this form of cleansing. It fundamentally reinforces a narrative and the reality that Palestinians are native to that land and resisting a colonial power that is slowly driving them out.
Nation states promote their culture and art, exporting it to influence the world as soft power. We can be the Palestinians’ soft power by these simple acts. Their power is defined by our commitment to them.