Who knew keeping Gaza online would be so eSim-ple?!

After Israel turned off the power last month in Gaza, the warzone was left in total darkness. Details of the suffering of the Palestinians, which had for nearly a month been continuously broadcast out of Gaza, was cut off. Watchdog Netblocks confirmed the outage of internet in the area. The voiceless it seemed had become even more silenced. 

Now, Connecting Palestine – a not for profit organisation – is getting Palestinians back online. The leader and founder of the movement, sisters Mirna and Yara El Helbawi, are helping Gazans reconnect to the world using E-Sims. It started when Mirna and Yara El Helbawi sent e-Sims to their friends in the Gaza region. The movement has now gone global with thousands of E-sims having been sent and activated. 

Yara has gone on record stating: “If Gaza is being deprived of even the most basic humanitarian needs, the least people can have there is a way or a tool to tell the world what is happening with them.”

Her sister voiced her agreement to this, describing it as “being murdered with a hand over your mouth…you can’t even scream for help”.  Gaza might continue to suffer a siege, but it won’t be silenced again.

The toll in Palestine remains high at 16,248. With the end of the seven-day ceasefire, the numbers have started to rise again. This is not a surprise as the IDF promised to “finish the job” once the period of peace was over. This quote came from Lt. General Herzei Halevi, the head of the IDF, who also promised the attack on Gaza in the South will be just as strong as the attack in the North. 

Gazans have long known suffering. This is not the first time they have seen men with guns invade their homes and kill their people. This is not the first time they have been silenced. But it will be the last time the world lets Palestinians go to their deaths without a whisper being heard. 

Starting on 29th October, the not-for-profit organisation set out secure E-Sims for those in Gaza so that loved ones could stay connected. This also allowed reports from the region to come out, showcasing to the rest of the world the massacres occurring daily. 

Three weeks later they had received over one million US dollars in donations. As Mirna said to CNN: “The right to telephone and internet access is a basic human right, just as important as food and water.” Mirna couldn’t be more right. The Head of the organisation NetWatch spoke on an Al-Jazeera live stream last month confirming Israel had perpetrated the largest single disruption to the internet in Gaza since the war began. They described it as a “total blackout of internet services.” 

Trivial as this may seem to some, the ability of Palestinians to make phone calls to tell loved ones goodbye or reassure them that they are alive, or even to record the illegal acts being committed by the IDF is vital. This serves not only to support their spirit as a people, it ensures that the IDF continue to be held accountable, even if only in the eyes of the online public

We might think of a smartphone as just another item in our pocket, on our desk or behind our shower curtain. In truth, it is today what the atom bomb was yesterday – the next great weapon to define the battlefield. 

As Ernest Wong from the Modern War Institute said: “Throughout history, successful armies anticipated the future, adapted and capitalised upon opportunities. Due to the advantages provided by their connectivity, adaptability, and convergence, smartphones today are already making significant changes in civilian applications.”

Like all weapons in war, phones can be used to connect, but also to track, to attack, to deflect and defame. In the history of Palestine and Israel, smartphones have been used to frame narratives, predominantly in favour of Israel. There is, though, evidence that the tide of public opinion is turning against Israel. We cannot know for sure how history will interpret Israel’s war on Gaza. What is clear is that this story, thanks in no small way to Mirna and Yara El Helbawi, will be told through the lens of a smartphone. 


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