Viral ‘All Eyes On Rafah’ image captures global attention on Israel-Hamas tensions

Jun 7, 2024 | International News, News

An “All Eyes On Rafah” image trend has dominated Instagram in the past week.

The AI-generated image shows the letters “All eyes on Rafah” with a background of a dense camp of refugee tents.

The picture aims to draw worldwide attention to the situation of Israeli troop’s advance in Rafah, the southern city in the Gaza Strip near the border with Egypt.

The geopolitical issue is the development of the Israel-Hamas conflict, which commenced on Oct. 7, 2023, when multiple armed fighters from the Palestinian militant group Hamas initiated an unprecedented assault on Israel, infiltrating communities close to the Gaza Strip.

The image was initially posted on Instagram on May 27, shortly after the Israeli airstrike targeted tents sheltering displaced civilians in Rafaha a day ago, by user @shavh4012 and widely shared over the platform and other social media.

The picture received more than 44 million shares within the first 48 hours after it became viral on May 28 and currently has more than 50 million shares.

Kyle Hamilton, the founder of BIRR, a digital marketing agency, said social media is a fantastic tool for raising awareness about the geopolitical situation in Rafa and global issues in general.

Celebrities like Dua Lipa, Lewis Hamilton, Kid Cudi, Varun Dhawan, Kehlani, Nicola Coughlan, Aaron Paul, Gigi and Bella Hadid also shared the image.

Sean Trinh, a digital data reviewer at Accenture, a global professional company in digital and cloud, said he saw a friend’s stories on Instagram, which made him learn more about the issue.

“At its peak, when a friend of mine shared about Israel’s war crimes, there were too many pictures of children who had died from catastrophic bombings,” he said. “I was very upset and thought I had to share the images of “All eyes on Rafah” immediately.”

Trinh said the photo spread rapidly so widely because this war has been going on for a long time, and many people have been aware of it.

“This photo appeared at the right time when Israel’s war crimes became more brutal than ever,” he said. “This photo appears as a sharing, a word of comfort as well as a strong voice about the reality of cruel war crimes.”

Trinh said visual design is a significant factor contributing to the rapid spread of this image, making it easily accessible and readily accepted by most social network users.

“These images will limit sensitive photos like violence or blood and make it easy for Al images to avoid violating community standards and then spread across social networking platforms,” he said. “However, not using realistic images also has its limitations, but the most typical one is that the AI ​​images lack realism and cannot fully portray the cruelty and fierceness of war.”

Hamilton said some people find online action can impact the real issue, but it does not in reality.

“I believe the sanitized nature of the image significantly contributed to its virality,” he said. “However, it also ties back to the point I made earlier: people in the West find it easy to share something on social media and feel like they’re contributing, even though it doesn’t impact the situation or change the outcomes.”

Trinh said social networks play a huge role in increasing awareness of current conflicts. However, the increase in awareness is just a small spontaneous wave compared to the tense political situation that has existed for a long time.

“All over the world, many demonstrations and anti-war activities took place. The governments of many countries have also spoken out about the conflicts. People have also taken advantage of the ability to spread information to raise people’s awareness about conflicts and establish funds and campaigns to support victims,” he said. “However, I hope that increasing understanding of social networks today will contribute to reducing the number of conflicts and wars in the future.”

Hamilton said the picture can be used as a case study for educational purposes and will not have any lasting impact.

Trinh said this campaign may have contributed to increased awareness and support from individuals, organizations, and other countries worldwide.

“Although many anti-war activities have taken place, these activities have not been able to help Rafah escape the war or the current conflict,” he said. “However, ‘All Eyes on Rafah’ has also created positive changes even though it was only overcoming post-war consequences: many people and organizations worldwide were ready to stand up to call for donations and set up sponsorship funds to provide necessary supplies or help victims of war here.”

Trinh said verifying information and sharing accurate information from reliable sources is crucial for social network users.

“Sharing false information will bring enormous consequences. It can make these campaigns meaningless and contrary to the original purpose,” he said. “People who have access to false information may have distorted thoughts. If others continue to spread that false information, this could become a tsunami engulfing all the efforts these campaigns aim for.”

Hamilton warned social media users to take practical action rather than spending time on virtual efforts.

“However, I’m also cautious that social media and raising awareness are one thing, but taking action and getting off of your device, phone, or your computer and actually going out and impacting, doing things to create change are significantly better,” he said.