27. Apple’s Emojis and Palestinian Erasure

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Everyone’s raving about these new Apple emojis, they’re more inclusive with five different skin tones (as well as the textbook yellow of course), same sex couples and families… you name it, they’ve got it. Hell they have an emoji for marijuana and a prawn. Apple has finally become more accepting and aware of the plurality of our society (not sure where prawns come into play but I’m open-minded). I’ve seen these new emojis applauded on social media and used – and abused – prolifically by my friends.

Then with a sinking feeling I realised who was missing in this big happy emoji family: the Palestinians. Apple has added 20+ flags and there’s an emoji flag for Israel… but no flag for Palestine. The closest you can get is the United Arab Emirates (and that’s a whole story in itself). They way I see it, this omission perfectly sums up the plight of the Palestinians – they are not recognised and not considered. This represents the subtlest form of epistemic violence.

It might seem trivial, pedantic even, to remark on emojis as an expression of hegemonic supremacy, not least because there are so many other countries absent. But politics is everywhere, it saturates all levels of interaction and it is all too easy to dismiss this as a-political, when in essence Apple’s denial highlights what the Palestinians need most: recognition. Palestinians have systemically lost their land, their heritage, their agency and, now, seemingly, their identity too. Recognition is the first step to reconciliation: it’s why the British vote to recognise Palestine was so symbolically pertinent, it’s why Palestine needs its own seat at the table, be that in the UN, the ICC or the increasingly defunct ‘Peace Process’. How does anyone reasonably expect to find a ‘solution’ to the ‘Palestine-Israel conflict’ if we can’t even acknowledge Palestine the way we acknowledge Israel?

If I was more of an activist I’d start a petition, as it is, I’m writing an incensed blog post about it. And mine will be one more voice opining against the demise of Palestine that will get lost in the face of increasing brutality, injustice and erasure. Apple’s omission doesn’t signify much in the grand scheme of things, but it acts as a potent reminder why there is no place for my identity or my heritage… no place for my story. Palestinians cannot go home, they do not get their own country and Apple has confirmed that even their flag is not welcome. The war against Palestine is not just fought on the besieged Gaza or in the Israeli election polls, rather it is waged daily, when I do my shopping, use my laptop and now, communicate with my phone. I am in no doubt at all that Palestine will survive, will flourish and will be restored but until then, I’ll accustom myself to the fact that Palestine is notable only in its absence.

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