Palestinian rights advocates are being smeared simply for opposing Hamas

There is an orchestrated campaign to discredit important voices like Queen Rania, Motaz Azaiza and Rashid al-Khalidi. This is not only unfair, but it hurts the Palestinian cause.

Palestinian rights advocates are being smeared simply for opposing Hamas

In an interview with American news broadcaster CBS last week, Queen Rania of Jordan drew the ire of some when she said, “I challenge myself every single day to put myself in the shoes of an Israeli mother, who has a child that’s been taken as a hostage... and I try to empathise and see where they’re coming from."

Since the beginning of Israel's war on Gaza, Queen Rania has been a key voice highlighting the plight of the Palestinian people. Apart from her role as Queen of Jordan, Rania draws both on her Palestinian heritage and her articulacy in both English and Arabic, when she speaks to Western and Arab audiences on their respective news channels.

However, these critics—who often try to vilify those with different views—simply cherry-picked this quote out of the lengthy interview in an attempt to demonise her without even bothering to listen to the full interview. Despite always highlighting the atrocities committed by Israelis against Palestinian civilians, she is constantly criticised by some Arab media figures and intellectuals who wish to discredit her.

Then you have someone like Motaz Azaiza, the young Palestinian journalist from Gaza City who became known as the "superhero of Gaza". He studied journalism and media and is proficient in English. Azaiza has meticulously documented the crimes committed by Israeli forces against civilians and children in Gaza through his camera lens. During the initial stages of the war, he became the world's window into Gaza; his Instagram following even surpassed that of the President of the United States, Joe Biden.

On 12 October 2023, just days after the war began, Motaz suffered a personal tragedy. He was en route to cover the Israeli forces' shelling of the Deir al-Balah area when he arrived at the building where his family resided. Overwhelmed with grief, he broke down in tears, saying, "My entire family lives here... my entire family is in pieces."

Smear campaigns have effectively silenced national figures and dissenting voices, ensuring that the stances of "the group" remain the dominant narrative.

Motaz lost 15 family members to the shelling, yet despite this unimaginable loss, he remained committed to his mission. He continued his efforts to expose the horrors and brutality of the Israeli army's actions against Palestinians.

But despite his tireless dedication and pivotal role as the world's window into Gaza, as well as the personal tragedy he endured, even Motaz was demonised. What these critics need to understand is that their words could have potentially harmful effects on public opinion—especially in the West.

For example, if an American first learned about Palestine through Motaz's camera and then found out some people viewed him as a "traitor" for supporting the Palestinian Authority instead of Hamas, this could create dissonance and confusion.

But the issue is much bigger than opposing Hamas and extends beyond Palestinian borders. There seems to be an orchestrated campaign to vilify, ostracise and smear those who voice stances and opinions that veer from the official positions of "the group".

Unfortunately, this campaign has effectively silenced national figures and dissenting voices, ensuring that the stances of "the group" remain the dominant narrative. This domination has held entire countries' fate hostage to those who benefit from the continuation of conflict.

Rashid al-Khalidi, a Palestinian-American professor of Arab studies at Columbia University, has also been subjected to smear campaigns, although to a lesser extent than others. This may be because al-Khalidi is less of a public figure and more of a respected and established academic. 

What these three figures have in common is their Palestinian heritage, their important role in highlighting the plight of the Palestinian people and their opposition to Hamas's 7 October attack on Israel. So it seems clear that despite their efforts to advocate for Palestinians and highlight their suffering, their entire message is being discredited by some simply because they do not support Hamas.

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