“West Bank Live”

A selection of photos from Snapchat’s “West Bank Live,” depicting life under occupation.

On 7 July, the photo- and video-sharing smartphone app Snapchat focused on Tel Aviv as part of its twenty-four-hour live story feature, which offers users a glimpse into daily life in cities around the world. The app uses a geofilter to compile snapshots from users in a specific location with Snapchat selecting which photos and short videos to include in the live story.

Journalist Rania Khalek posted this infamous photo of Israel’s 16 July 2014 airstrike that killed four children on a Gaza beach alongside a Tel Aviv Live photo. (Twitter)
Journalist Rania Khalek posted this infamous photo of Israel’s 16 July 2014 airstrike that killed four children on a Gaza beach alongside a Tel Aviv Live photo. (Twitter)

Released on the first anniversary of Israel’s fifty-day assault on the Gaza Strip, “Tel Aviv Live” showcased city residents sunbathing on the beach, enjoying amusement parks, and riding bikes across the city throughout the day. The feature sparked outrage on social media. Twitter users commented that “Tel Aviv Live” whitewashed the occupation, and the hashtag #StopTelAvivLive trended all day. As Palestinian activist Mohamed Zeyara put it on Twitter: “Shame on you @Snapchat for releasing the Tel Aviv story on the same day as the first anniversary of the Gaza massacre committed by Israel.”

After thousands of critical tweets and inquiries, Snapchat responded by announcing that it would feature “West Bank Live” on 9 July. The live story covered the towns of Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Nablus, providing background on historic sites in each. “West Bank Live” also captured aspects of Palestinian culture, from the symbolic importance of the kaffiyeh and embroidering a traditional Palestinian dress to baking bread and breaking the day’s Ramadan fast.

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“West Bank Live” was met with a mixed response. Only a small selection of Snapchat photos and videos reflected the invasive aspects of life under occupation, as illustrated here. Some users felt this humanized Palestinians but others argued that Snapchat had sanitized the occupation.

A selection of photos from Snapchat’s “West Bank Live,” depicting life under occupation.
A selection of photos from Snapchat’s “West Bank Live,” depicting life under occupation.

This section strives to capture the tenor and content of popular conversations related to the Palestinians and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Increasingly, these conversations are held on new and dynamic platforms unbound by traditional media. Therefore, items presented in this section are from a variety of sources, and have been selected because they either have gone viral or represent a significant cultural moment or trend.

Choice selections are also published in the Journal of Palestine Studies.

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