Not just an emoji: Palestine matters to the tech industry

Technology has been used as a weapon to revolutionize the Middle East, and now it is being used as a weapon to legitimize Palestine

Yara al-Wazir
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The online community is quietly making statements and changes within the technology industry that cement Palestine’s legitimate right to exist.

Technology has been used as a weapon to revolutionize the Middle East, and now it is being used as a weapon to legitimize Palestine. This came into light earlier this month at the Apple’s Developer’s Conference, where audience members noticed that the Palestinian flag has now been included as an emoji as part of the iOS 9 update.

Drawing the lines on the map

Perhaps one of the most disputed and discussed issues in the Palestinian conflict is where the borders actually lie on the map. Although Google Maps still uses a dashed grey line to draw the line between what is Palestine and what is Israel, there are numerous campaigns and grass-root organizations that are telling the stories behind the lines. One of the maps developed tells the story of settlements.

Nevertheless, terminology is powerful too. In 2013, Google took a stand and granted Palestine it’s name, in place of ‘Palestinian Territories,’ which used to appear in its search engine when someone searched for ‘Palestine’. To some, this may seem like a small change, but it is truly monumental to Palestinians and a true acknowledgment of their existence.

What this means for Palestinians

Introducing the Palestinian flag as an emoji is more than just a symbolic gesture. It’s not simply about Palestinians being able to show patriotism by putting their countries flag next to their name – it’s deeper.

The Palestinian flag being recognized by one of the world’s largest companies is an acknowledgement of how far the Palestinian cause has come in recent years. It’s an acknowledgement, that the Israeli lobby will not intimidate Apple any more. This is especially symbolic, considering that in 2013, Apple was forced by the Israeli lobby to reinstate Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the iOS7 release.

The Palestinian flag is an acknowledgement that the technology industry relies on people to grow, and it would like the Palestinian people, and its supporters, to grow with it. Other companies in the tech industry have a long way to go, but the acknowledgment of the flag is a start.

The digital world has no limits – there’s plenty more that activists and technology enthusiasts can do to support the cause. This includes talking about the issues, launching grass-root activism with true stories, and creating an open forum for discussion.

The Palestinian cause isn’t black and white, and there are many who thoroughly enjoy debating the legitimacy of the actions from both sides of the conflict; the online community has an enormous power to make change.

Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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