Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

What ‘All Eyes on Rafah’ means — and why the viral image is being criticised

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun3,2024
A viral image, captioned ‘All Eyes on Rafah’, is urging the world to pay attention to Israel’s ongoing strikes in Gaza.
The Instagram sticker, shared by more than 40 million users, depicts tents in a camp arranged to spell out the phrase, against a desert backdrop.
It reflects renewed international outrage following Israeli strikes on refugee camps in Rafah, considered safe zones, and that spread through the tents.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the “tragic incident” was being investigated, arguing precautions had been taken to evacuate residents.

Tents in a camp arranged to spell out the phrase "All Eyes on Rafah" against a desert backdrop

The AI-generated image is a sticker that users can share to their Instagram stories. Source: Instagram

The AI-generated image has been primarily shared via Instagram stories, with celebrities including Bella Hadid, Australian comedian Celeste Barber, and Bridgerton star Nicola Coughlan, joining millions of posters. Australian cricketer Travis Head shared the image on his X account.

However, as quickly as the image has spread, so has backlash around its use.

Where did ‘All Eyes on Rafah’ come from?

Rick Peeperkorn, director of the World Health Organization’s Office of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, said “All eyes are on Rafah” in February, days after Netanyahu ordered an evacuation plan be drawn up for the city.
Peeperkorn warned against the incursion on Rafah, crowded with Palestinians seeking shelter in makeshift tents, as it would expand the “humanitarian disaster beyond all imagination”.

The phrase has since been repeated by groups including Save the Children, Oxfam, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

It has become a rallying cry at protests around the world, urging bystanders not to look away from what’s happening in Rafah, where roughly 1.4 million people are sheltering after being displaced by ongoing Israeli bombardment on Gaza.
More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive, Gaza’s health ministry says.
Israel launched its air and ground war after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on 7 October, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
Gaza and Rafah compared to Australian and world cities

This is the size of Gaza and Rafah over various Australian and world cities. Source: SBS News

Criticism of ‘All Eyes on Rafah’ posts

Activists have condemned the sticker, questioning why an AI-generated image is being used instead of real and often distressing footage from Gaza.
They argue the image doesn’t do much to inform the public of what is happening on the ground and instead have urged people to share videos or photos by Palestinian journalists, many of whom are risking their lives to document the war.

One X user said people who had remained silent until now “should not be absolved by reporting ugly ai generated messages”.

Social media users are now using the tag alongside #rafahisonfire, sharing videos from inside Rafah as well as images of civilians killed in the war.
The All Eyes on Rafah posts also drew comparisons to a black tile that went viral during the 2020 #BlackoutTuesday movement.

Activists at the time claimed it did little to benefit the Black Lives Movement cause and instead diluted a hashtag sharing meaningful resources.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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