Pooja Bhalla

Why so many teenagers support Palestine

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I’m a sixth-former in one of Britain’s largest comprehensives and know no one who supports Israel over Palestine. Some readers might find that shocking. Consider, though, how my generation gets its news. TikTok is today by far the no. 1 source of news for teenagers; YouTube is next, Instagram third. Studies show the average teen spends two hours every day glued to their screens. Few my age buy or read a newspaper, or would ever think of doing so. Even the idea of sitting down to watch television news seems alien to us. We view the world through smartphones; we understand current affairs through video snippets.

In theory, the videos TikTok shows you relate to what you have previously watched: if the algorithm sees that you like something, it gives you more. It’s designed to be addictive. One survey found that just over half of teenagers who go on TikTok use it for news. There are almost no checks and balances to make sure that what TikTokers see is fair, balanced or accurate.

I have come across many videos about the war on my TikTok ‘for you’ page and I can confidently say that I’ve only seen pro-Palestinian ones. If such material were all assembled in a newspaper or a TV channel, it would look like pretty hardcore propaganda.

‘If you’re not pro-Palestine,’ declares a girl on TikTok who is about my age, ‘we’re not friends. If you’re neutral right now, we’re not friends. If you’re too uneducated to have an opinion, we’re not friends… Your neutrality is your complacency.’ To be socially acceptable to her, then, you need to support Palestine against Israel. To venture that the conflict is complicated is to be ‘uneducated’.

‘Palestinians are willing to die for this land because they are native to it,’ says another video. ‘If Israelis were native to it, they wouldn’t bomb it.’

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