When Headlines Disappear, the Movement is Still Here

We will look back on 2021 as a year of pivotal inflection points in the movement for Palestinian rights. Gut-wrenching and headline-capturing continuations of Israeli colonization and oppression demanded a global response, while hard-won narrative breakthroughs and hope-instilling mobilizations demonstrated the power we’re building as a movement. Throughout the year, Visualizing Palestine worked to contextualize significant events, connect people with educational resources, and bring visibility to important data, research, and stories.

A year in the movement: 2021 was the year that…

The International Criminal Court opened an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territory. B’tselem and Human Rights Watch made headlines for their respective affirmations of what Palestinians have been saying for a long time: that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people. Families of Sheikh Jarrah taught millions of people what resistance to ethnic cleansing looks like as refugees stood up to the state-backed, internationally funded, unlawful Israeli settlement enterprise. Palestinians across historic Palestine went on strike together. Black Lives Matter, feminist movements, and environmental groups shared their platforms with our movement. Israel bombarded Gaza for the fourth time in fourteen years and bragged about completing a new wall of “iron, sensors, and concrete” around 2 million people in Gaza, a wall that extends above ground, below ground, and into the sea. Palestinians protested the killing of Nizar Banat in Palestinian Authority custody and the PA’s brutal crackdown on dissent. Israeli authorities issued a military order to brazenly criminalize six of the most prominent Palestinian human rights organizations. Meanwhile, dystopian Israeli military surveillance programs and technologies deployed against Palestinians were also used to target human rights defenders and journalists elsewhere, garnering international backlash.

During these and other events of 2021, grassroots communities were so successful in making their voices heard that Vox dubbed 2021, “the year Palestinians proved they could compete with the Israeli government in the narrative battle.” But what happens when headlines in Western media disappear even as the slow, everyday violence of military occupation and apartheid continues? As a movement, we are collectively tasked with finding creative and strategic ways to continuously bring rights-based messages about Palestine into public view.

What Visualizing Palestine Contributed to the Movement in 2021

Provided educational resources to at least 494 people in 59 countries who used VP’s download system to access our collection of visuals.

Produced 17 new infographics in English and Arabic, capturing key data and research on topics such as the crime of apartheid, childhood in Gaza, environmental justice, and ethnic cleansing. Several of these visuals are forthcoming for publication in 2022 as part of partnered advocacy strategies. View VP visuals.

View VP visuals

Updated 2 of our most widely-used infographics with the latest research. See Gaza Water Confined and Contaminated and Administrative Detention.

Published 4 animated adaptations of VP visuals to extend some of our most important resources to new audiences and platforms. View VP’s YouTube channel.

Added 164 new events to the Growth of a Movement timeline to extend its coverage back to the 2005 call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) from Palestinian civil society.

View animated versions of Uprooted, Not Enough Water in the West Bank, Four Wars Old, and Identity Crisis on VP’s YouTube channel
Explore actions that have shaped the history of the BDS Movement.

Saw 250% social media growth as we worked to connect communities with resources in response to 2021 inflection points.

Cosponsored 2 campaigns to encourage our community to take part in key mobilizations, leveraging their power to pressure governments and corporations complicit in Israeli rights abuses. Follow Gaza is Palestine + #NoTechforApartheid.

Acknowledgements

A community of people fiercely committed to justice and liberation powered VP’s mission in 2021, including:

  • 55 volunteers
  • 7 partners on projects and initiatives
  • 600+ VP Members and Member Matchers who funded 66% of VP’s work

You are our foundation — thank you for being part of Visualizing Palestine in 2021.

For those who would like to contribute to VP in 2022: Become a Visualizing Palestine Member with a recurring contribution | Make a one time donation | Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date

Visualizing Palestine’s Narrative Impact: 2021 Highlights

Covered by Mainstream Media: Born Unequal Series

Our visuals with Human Rights Watch appeared in the milestone report A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution. The Born Unequal series was shared by AJ+, NowThis Politics, and +972 Magazine, as well as in the Journal of Visual Culture. The Human Rights Watch report helped embolden politicians, media personalities, and celebrities to apply the accurate label of apartheid to Israeli policies toward Palestinians.

“The infographics are superb. I wouldn’t underestimate how significant they will be…even among experts.” US congressional advisor feedback

“I’ve noticed a little more willingness to accept the use of the word ‘apartheid’ [within the Jewish community] but your visuals are more effective than any other resource I’ve seen in convincing previously reticent people of the appropriateness of that word.” Jewish Voice for Peace member, United States

Widely Shared on Social Media: Four Wars Old

Four Wars Old: Fourteen Years of Childhood in Gaza was our most widely-shared visual of 2021 on social media, with a reach of 425,000 through posts on our own platforms. As Israel attacked Gaza for the fourth time in 14 years, our visual response was inspired by Palestinian writers from Gaza like Refaat Alareer (“My Child Asks, ‘Can Israel Destroy Our Building if the Power is Out?’”, New York Times), who describes his 8 year old daughter’s age as “in Gazan time, two wars old”; Yasmeen El Khoudary (“Gaza Child: Three Wars Old”, Al Jazeera); and Jehad Abusalim (“The Gaza Ceasefire is No Excuse For the World to Look Away”, Washington Post), who emphasizes “the slower destruction and death of the continued siege and occupation.”

Referenced on Wikipedia: Palestine Open Maps

In 2018, Visualizing Palestine initiated the Palestine Open Maps project as a platform that allows users to navigate, search, and download historic maps of Palestine before the Nakba. Today, Wikipedia articles about Palestinian villages depopulated in 1948 incorporate, cite, and link to Palestine Open Maps. References to Palestine Open Maps on Wikipedia are an indicator of the platform’s impact in contributing to open public knowledge on the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in the face of Israel’s ongoing Nakba denial.

Historic maps downloaded from Palestine Open Maps on Wikipedia

Impact from the Archives: Hunger Strikes and Administrative Detention

In 2021, Palestinian political prisoners held by Israel regularly made news. Six prisoners managed to escape from a high security Israeli prison by digging a tunnel with a spoon. Another group undertook a hunger strike to protest administrative detention and poor conditions in Israeli prisons. Israel denied petitions for the humanitarian release of Khalida Jarrar, a Palestinian lawmaker Israel has held under administrative detention multiple times, to attend her daughter’s funeral. Following widespread campaigns, a pregnant Palestinian prisoner narrowly avoided giving birth while shackled in an Israeli prison under conditions of medical neglect.

In this context, two Visualizing Palestine visuals, Hunger Strikes and Administrative Detention, were widely circulated to explain Israel’s practice of incarcerating Palestinians without charge or trial and to contextualize what hunger strikers experience. This is especially notable because the Hunger Strikes visual was VP’s very first publication. As it approaches its ten year anniversary, Hunger Strikes illustrates how VP resources retain their relevance as long-term movement education tools due to their ability to effectively convey the stubborn root structures of oppression.

Standing with Six Criminalized Human Rights Orgs

Israeli military repression against Palestinian civil society escalated in 2021, culminating with a military order criminalizing and outlawing six prominent Palestinian rights organizations. VP responded by sharing and highlighting our experience with several of the organizations via visuals that reference their data, including one produced in collaboration with Al-Haq. We will continue to stand, unafraid and undeterred, with our colleagues in the human rights movement and defend the ability of human rights organizations to carry out their crucial work.

Serving Our Community: Who Used VP Visuals in 2021?

We believe that everyone can and should understand what is happening in Palestine, a situation that is no more or less complex than any other decolonial freedom struggle in history. At least 494 people from 59 countries used VP’s download system to access resources for education and advocacy in 2021, participating in telling this story to friends, family, and colleagues, elected officials, students (high school and college level), and peers on campus. They featured the resources in cultural exhibitions, faith-based advocacy, campaigns, and more. Here’s a small sample of what our community shared with us this year:

“Your visuals are the best articulated and easiest to comprehend in my opinion…[they] have helped me understand what is truly going on…in a simple way that makes sense without compromising the weight of the issue.” Learner in the US

“We’re creating an educational resource teaching about Palestine and Israel through the lens of human rights. It’s designed to help teachers and educators engage in the topic and create space for the discussion to happen within schools.” Educator in the UK

VP visuals in “Open Gaza: Architectures of Hope,” edited by Michael Sorkin and Deen Sharp

“I am part of writing a handbook on Palestine for church-based organizations as part of educational and advocacy outreach…we love the Visualizing Palestine resources as they say a lot in a little space.” Faith-based organizer in the US

“Raising awareness of Palestine among friends and family. These are great to start a conversation or convey a story.” Individual in India

Working to get our university to divest and boycott companies that are complicit in apartheid and the occupation of Palestine. The visuals do a great job of explaining to students why we should care.” Student in the UK

“Visualising apartheid in the framework of the Apartheid Free Zones campaign in Switzerland.” Activist in Switzerland

“​​I am a teacher at a public school that works with recently arrived immigrant youth from around the world. A group of students have asked for support organizing a workshop to stand in solidarity with Palestinian people…we will use these visuals as part of our educational event.” Educator in the US

“Presenting the history and current apartheid reality to introduce BDS to a queer, people of color collective in the Netherlands.” Activist in the Netherlands

A VP visual on display in the window of an LGBTQ center in Brighton, UK

“We are using these visuals as part of a workshop/teach-in on the ongoing legacy of Black-Palestinian solidarity…Visualizing Palestine creates beautiful, informative, and professional visuals that are ideal tools for communication and education.” Activist in the US

Organizational Transition

2021 marked a major milestone for Visualizing Palestine as we navigated our first leadership transition and executive search since the project was created in 2011/2012.

Our Executive Director Search Committee headed up a thorough recruitment process that included speaking with more than 40 people to source and interview dozens of candidates. After this lengthy search, we were thrilled to introduce the VP community to our new Executive Director, Aline Batarseh.

Aline is a community organizer, activist and development professional. She has extensive experience working with Palestinian and international nonprofits whose missions are focused on advancing social justice and equality for individuals and communities that experience systemic discrimination. She has close ties with a broad range of civil society organizations and frequently provides advice and support to help nurture their efforts.

In other team news, we welcomed a new information designer in 2021. Nasreen is a multidisciplinary graphic designer, illustrator, and researcher whose work centers on the intersection of graphic design and justice-oriented movement work. The first full visual Nasreen completed with VP was Four Wars Old, so you can see that we are very lucky to have her on our team.

Visit our website to view our current core team.

What to look for from Visualizing Palestine in 2022

Here’s some of what you can look forward to from Visualizing Palestine in 2022:

  • 10 year anniversary of the publication of Visualizing Palestine’s first visual, Hunger Strikes (January 25, 2022).
  • Launch of a 3 year strategic plan for Visualizing Palestine.
  • Development of Visualizing Palestine’s Outreach Program to expand our capacity to proactively create opportunities to bring visibility to human rights data and stories.
  • Environmental Justice in Palestine series publication (scheduled for January), as well as several additional visuals building on the same theme later in the year.
  • New resources that continue to deconstruct Israel’s system of apartheid.
  • Freedom of expression as a new theme for production, bringing together multiple sub-topics and partnerships.
  • Publication of additional short animations based on VP visuals.

…and more! We invite you to contribute to building a rights-based narrative in 2022 by becoming a Member of Visualizing Palestine or keeping us in mind for your end-of-year donations.

THANK YOU FOR BEING PART OF VISUALIZING PALESTINE IN 2021!

Questions? Reach out to us at data@visualizingimpact.org

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Visualizing Palestine

Visualizing Palestine

Visualizing Palestine is a project that creates data-led, visual stories to advance a factual, rights-based narrative of Palestine and Palestinians