#BBCtrending: Israel's '#BringBackOur...' hashtag
- 20 June 2014
The world rallied behind #BringBackOurGirls. Will the Israeli version, bitterly opposed by some Palestinians, gather the same attention?
A month ago, US First Lady Michelle Obama posted a much shared photo, calling for the return of schoolgirls in Nigeria. Her tweet came at the height of #BringBackOurGirls, one of the world's biggest ever social media campaigns. On Israeli social media, there are now calls for her to do the same for three Israeli students. The hashtag #BringBackOurBoys has been used 127,000 times since last Thursday when three Israeli teenagers, students from Jewish seminaries in the occupied West Bank, went missing. Israeli authorities believe they were kidnapped.
The Israeli campaign started after a group of fellow students decided they wanted to bring attention to the story. According to Keren Bar, one of the organisers, the aim of the hashtag was to bring the world's attention to something people in Israel only talk about. "We are not an organisation," she said. "We are just a group of students. We each do shifts to cover social media because we receive hundreds of messages from people showing their support."
Like Kenyans and Russian campaigners in recent days, they're consciously copying the "Bring Back Our..." hashtag format started by concerned Nigerians. "Regardless of the situation, they have been abducted," said Bar. "I'm frustrated that people outside Israel are not hearing this story."
But Palestinian campaigners on social media saw the issue quite differently. They moved quickly and were accused of "hijacking" the hashtag by using it to publish pictures of detained or dead children to highlight what they said was the disparity in the treatment of Palestinian children and young people by Israeli authorities. A Palestinian blogger, for instance, tweeted: 'Who will bring u back #AhmadAlSabarin 20 y/o …" in reference to a young Palestinian killed during clashes near Ramallah, which erupted after soldiers conducted house-to-house searches on Sunday night.
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Media Relations specialist at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), who have used the hashtag to highlight the plight of Palestinians, told BBC Trending that the ADC decided to use the same hashtag because "we also want people that access #BringBackOurBoys wanting to learn about the missing Israelis to also learn about the Palestinian children that have been abducted, imprisoned, and killed by Israeli forces."
The use of the hashtag by Palestinian campaigners has prompted the young Israelis who started it to renew their efforts to get it to trend globally. "The hashtag was stolen," said Bar. "We wanted to get the hashtag back."
Reporting by Abdirahim Saeed, Mukul Devichand & Ravin Sampat
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