The watermelon emoji is not the only TikTok that speaks for Palestine

On Instagram, infographics about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza are accompanied by a watermelon emoji. In the captions of TikTok videos calling for a ceasefire, the emoji replaced words like “Palestine” and “Gaza.” X (formerly Twitter) users added watermelon to their handles to express support for Palestinian independence.

The watermelon has long been a symbol of protest for Palestinians, and as social media users suspected platforms of censoring content about Gaza, the corresponding emoji is used in place of the Palestinian flag. Like the flag, the emoji are red, green and black.

Israel retaliated against Hamas’ October 7 attack unprecedented force against Palestinian territory, destroying it through air strikes and a blockade of water, food, medical supplies and electricity. the death exceeded 10,000 last month, Palestinian health authorities reported.

Posts about the crisis dominate social media platforms, with many creators choosing to use the watermelon emoji instead of some hashtags that users believe will be flagged or blocked. TikTok, for example, refuses to moderate or remove content based on “political sensitivity,” and posts with divisive tags like #freepalestine or #fromtherivertothesea continue to go viral. However, the tag as the watermelon emoji has over a billion views. While the emoji may be universally used to represent the Palestinian resistance to occupation, its meaning is not well understood – especially by users unfamiliar with the coded language of internet culture. A Redditor asked about the emoji of the r/OutOfTheLoopfor example, said they don’t use TikTok, and don’t know what emoji mean.

Online, coded euphemisms are known as “algospeak” used to avoid content filters. Whether “shadowbanning” – or limiting the visibility of certain content – exists is debatable, but the use of these linguistic workarounds has become increasingly common on social media, especially when discussing sensitive or divisive topics. Phrases popularized on TikTok, such as referring to death as “lifeless” or using the corn emoji to refer to pornography and sex workspread on Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

The symbol gained new attention on TikTok earlier this week, after a filter prompting users to trace patterns with a watermelon went viral. Its creator, an augmented reality effects artist who goes by Jourdan Louise, promises all the proceeds from monetizing the filter to providing humanitarian aid to Gaza. Through the Effect Creator Rewards program, AR creators are eligible for revenue sharing once their filters are applied to at least 200,000 videos.

With the launch of the video “FILTER FOR GOOD,” Jourdan Louise asked followers to use the filter and engage with the videos with the filter. In the two days since he released the filter, it has been used on more than 620,000 videos.

@xojourdanlouise

USE THIS FILTER 🍉 to help the people of Gaza. As an AR creator, I’m part of the Effect Creator Rewards program – basically like a creativity fund but for effects creators. This allows me to earn money for every unique video published using my effects*. I created this FILTER FOR GOOD effect and will donate the rewards earned to charities providing aid to Gaza. I know many of us don’t know how to help, but it can be as simple as posting a video with this filter! *Effects can only start earning rewards once 200,000 people have posted a video using them, so we need 199,999 more — which sounds like a lot but is easily achievable! Please comment, save, and share to inspire and encourage everyone to use this filter 🍉 #new filter #effecthouse #watermelon #free #blackgirlsintech #activism #augmentedreality #social change #sin for good

♬ original sound – nemahsis

“I believe that an effective way to make an impact is to use what you know, and if you want to involve other people, rely on their known behavior,” said Jourdan Louise in a you follow-up video posted on Thursday. “I know that I can use my skills as a filter creator, with the knowledge that people will use these filters, to create one that has the potential to earn money that can result in direct help.”

Watermelon imagery has represented Palestinian culture and resistance long before algospeak. Like the olive tree, which has has also become a symbol of Palestinian nationalism, watermelon is used in various Palestinian dishes. Palestinian cuisine is full of recipes for watermelon-based dishes, according to Good Foodincluding a popular Gazan dish (called fatet ajer, laseema or qursa, depending on how it’s served) that uses unripe baby watermelon stuffed with eggplants, tomatoes and peppers.

There is a widespread belief that the symbolism of the watermelon comes from a direct ban on the Palestinian flag. It’s more complicated than that. In 1967, Israeli authorities issued a military decree criminalizing Palestinian gatherings that “could be considered political.” The sequence parameters are ambiguous; Amnesty International reports that the order effectively bans all protests, including peaceful ones. The display of flags and the publication of literature “with political meaning” are also prohibited under the order, without permission from the Israeli military.

Palestinians began using national colors instead of the flag to avoid the ban. The Israeli military responded by targeting artists who incorporated red, green and black imagery into their work. Ceramicist Vera Tamari told the Guardian in 2002 that enforcement is generally “according to the artistic judgment of the particular officer in charge.”

It is not clear whether the watermelon was specifically widely used in political artworks of the time. The myth seems to have come from an artist’s retelling of an incident in 1980, when the Israeli army shut down an exhibition they considered political because the artwork contained the colors of the Palestinian flag. as reported by the National in 2021, Issam Badr, one of the artists featured in the exhibit, allegedly asked an official, “What if I just want to paint a watermelon?” and told to confiscate anyway. Sliman Mansour, who was also featured in the exhibition, told the National that the official was the first to mention the watermelon, telling Badr “Even if you paint a watermelon, it is confiscated.”

Mansour said that he did not remember the use of watermelon as a political motive.

After Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization signed the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Palestinians highlights by carrying the flag throughout the occupied territories. The New York Times reported that young men had previously been arrested for bringing sliced ​​watermelon to Gaza in a 1993 article, but retracted the detail because they could not verify any instance of this.

The watermelon motif as a political statement became common after the Second Intifada in the early 2000s. Inspired by a retelling of Mansour’s watermelon anecdote, artist Khaled Hourani created a silkscreen series called “The Watermelon Story,” which was published in a 2007 art book about Palestinian culture. He released an isolated print titled “The Colors of the Palestinian Flag” in 2013, which inspired other Palestinian artists to incorporate watermelon imagery into their work.

Watermelon images are especially prevalent this year, as Israeli officials enforce a ban on the Palestinian flag. In January, Israel’s security minister said he had ordered police to remove publicly displayed Palestinian flags, equating the flag with “identification of terrorism” in social media posts. In May, there is 11 bills in the Israeli legislature which, if passed, would ban the Palestinian flag in various settings, including in university campuses. Watermelon motifs gained traction after the legislative explosions, and like a keffiyehnow represents the unity of Palestinians living under occupation.

And amid worldwide calls for a ceasefire following Israel’s response to the Hamas attack, other state governments have targeted the Palestinian flag. Singapore BANNED the public display of war-related symbols without a permit this week, including flags. United Kingdom Home Secretary Suella Braverman SAYS that waving Palestinian flags would be a “criminal offense” if used to “glorify acts of terrorism.” Last month, Republican Rep. Max Miller indicates a measure to ban foreign flags from being displayed in the Capitol building, in response to the Palestinian flag displayed by Rep. Rashida Tlaib outside her office.

“Algospeak” is often present in real-world conversations, taking place outside the realm of social platform authority. In this case, however, the popularity of the watermelon emoji is the result of decades of real-world censorship that has bled into online spaces. The emoji represents not only Palestinian resistance to occupation, but also resistance to digital censorship of Palestinian voices. Whether workarounds can circumvent content filters is debatable — tagging posts with “P@lestine” instead of “Palestine,” for example, may or may not be effective for game engagement. . But since watermelon motifs have become synonymous with Palestinian protest, the use of emoji isn’t exactly an inside secret. Like the red, green and black artwork that has defined decades of Palestinian protests, the watermelon emoji is a political statement.

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