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Viral image ‘All Eyes on Rafah’ criticized for performative slacktivism

A viral image captioned ‘All Eyes on Rafah‘ is urging global attention on Israel’s ongoing strikes in Gaza. The AI-generated Instagram sticker, shared by nearly 36 million users, depicts tents in a camp spelling out the phrase against a desert backdrop.

The image reflects renewed international outrage following Israeli strikes on refugee camps in Rafah, which had been deemed safe zones. Reports indicate that at least 45 civilians were killed in a blaze that spread through the tents.

The image has mainly spread through Instagram stories, with celebrities sharing it as well. However, the rapid spread has sparked significant backlash and raised concerns about performative slacktivism. Critics argue that the use of an AI-generated image, rather than real footage from Gaza, trivializes the severity of the conflict. The image lacks essential information or resources to help the cause, making it appealing to share without offering meaningful engagement or solutions.

Activists argue that this performative act does little to inform the public about the reality on the ground. Instead of raising awareness through genuine and distressing footage captured by victims and journalists, the image merely caters to visual appeal, detracting from the urgent need for real representation and substantial action. This kind of slacktivism is seen as diluting the seriousness of the situation, reducing a humanitarian crisis to a visually catchy trend.

Origin of the phrase ‘All Eyes on Rafah’

The phrase ‘All Eyes on Rafah’ originated from Rick Peeperkorn, director of the World Health Organization’s Office of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, who used it in February after Netanyahu ordered an evacuation plan for the city. Peeperkorn warned that an incursion into Rafah, crowded with Palestinians in makeshift tents, would exacerbate the humanitarian disaster.

Since then, the phrase has been adopted by groups like Save the Children, Oxfam, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. It has become a rallying cry at protests worldwide, emphasizing the plight of the approximately 1.4 million people sheltering in Rafah due to ongoing Israeli bombardment in Gaza.

Gaza’s health ministry reports that over 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive, which began after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on October 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli figures.

Critics of the current campaign urge people to share videos or photos from Palestinian journalists who are risking their lives to document the war, rather than resorting to AI-generated imagery. They argue that real, often distressing, footage is essential for truly understanding and responding to the humanitarian crisis.

Social media users are now using the tag alongside #rafahisonfire, sharing videos from Rafah and images of civilians affected by the war, highlighting the performative nature of the viral sticker and calling for more substantial and informed activism.

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