Young people tearing down posters of Israeli hostages and launching waves of anti-Israel demonstrations say they’re being fueled by thousands of pro-Palestinian videos, mainly on TikTok and Instagram.
Ripping down posters and lavishing praise on those who do has become a trend ever since Hamas terrorists took 240 Israelis hostage during their Oct. 7 terror assault on Israel.
More than a dozen protesters interviewed by The Post in Manhattan said their opinions about the Israel-Hamas war were shaped mainly by Instagram and TikTok accounts — and to a lesser extent their school professors.
They were at a rally on Thursday attended by at least 2,000, many of them under-30s who had skipped school to join the anti-Israel spectacle.
Zara Asif, 17, who came with her classmate Manoor Javed, 16, from New Utrecht High School in Bensonhurst, said they have both been inspired to go to pro-Palestinian rallies around the Northeast and Washington DC by watching TikTok and Instagram videos.
17-year-old Adama follows Palestinian journalists reporting from the ground in Gaza on TikTok.
Zara Asif 17, and Manoor Javed 16, from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn said they are both inspired and galvanized for the pro-Palestinian cause by what they see on TikTok and Instagram.
Asif said the images she sees on social media galvanize her to act.
“They’re posting pictures of babies with their skulls and their brains leaking out,” Asif said.”It’s mostly (pictures) of little kids that get pushed out on there the most.”
2005: Israel unilaterally withdraws from the Gaza Strip more than three decades after winning the territory from Egypt in the Six-Day War.
2006: Terrorist group Hamas wins a Palestinian legislative election.
2007: Hamas seizes control of Gaza in a civil war.
2008: Israel launches military offensive against Gaza after Palestinian terrorists fired rockets into the town of Sderot.
2023: Hamas launches the biggest attack on Israel in 50 years, in an early-morning ambush Oct. 7, firing thousands of rockets and sending dozens of militants into Israeli towns.
Terrorists killed more than 1,200 Israelis, wounded more than 4,200, and took at least 200 hostage.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to announce, “We are at war,” and vowed Hamas would pay “a price it has never known.”
The Gaza Health Ministry — which is controlled by Hamas — reported at least 3,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 12,500 injured since the war began.
Javed said her school forbids them to talk about pro-Palestinian politics and sometimes what she re-posts herself on social media gets taken down.
“But everyone’s pushing and everyone is posting and that’s how we’re going to make a difference,” Javed said. “We won’t quit — ever.”
Ravia Sidhu 18 (from India) and Zarif Islam, 19, (from Bangladesh), who are both US citizens say they know people look down on TikTok videos about the Israel-Hamas war but praise the social media giant. Both attended Thursday’s rally.
A 17-year-old who gave her name as Adama said she follows several Palestinian journalists who post from the ground in Gaza on TikTok.
“Places like CNN and other mainstream media are not posting about it,” Adama told The Post. “It’s something you can’t deny. Kids are being killed, bombed. No humanitarian aid is allowed in. You can’t deny that.”
St. John’s University student Ravia Sidhu and her friend, Zarif Islam, 19, who attends CUNY, said they came to the Thursday rally after what Sidhu said was “a lot of doing our own research.”
“Even though I know people say Oh TikTok could be telling you a bunch of information that’s incorrect, I did look at CNN and The New York Times as well,” Sidhu told The Post. “I educated myself and everyone else should as well.”
Joana Sa Dias from Lisbon said she is on social media “hour by hour” and “minute to minute” watching what is happening in the Israel-Hamas war.
This is the kind of content young people are finding and sharing on Instagram and TikTok as they claim to “do their own research.” They ignore “mainstream” media, fueling a spiral of poster-ripping and anti-Israel protests.
Michelle Ahdoot, a director with End Jew Hatred said she does not believe that the young people tearing down the posters and going to rallies – the majority seem to be under 30 – are truly aware of what they’re doing.
“A lot of them wouldn’t be able to point to Israel on a map,” Ahdoot told The Post. “I think a lot of this is coming from ignorance. They’re been brainwashed into thinking they are doing something in the name of social justice.”
Liora Rez, executive director of Stop Antisemitism, blames Hamas-sponsored propaganda at the university level — in addition to social media — for the ongoing poster destruction and rallies.
“Tearing down these hostage posters is not only sinister in and of itself, but shows solidarity with a terrorist organization that’s only mission is to eradicate the Jewish people,” Rez said.
Though there are plenty of pro-Israel videos on TikTok and other social media, they appear to be less popular than the pro-Palestinian ones.
A non-binary person who gave their name as “Mel” was seen arguing with an older man after he tried to prevent Mel from ripping down Israeli hostage posters across the street from a pro-Palestinian rally Thursday in Bryant Park.
The top result for the search phrase “stand with Palestine” had been viewed nearly 3 billion times as of Oct. 26, while the top result for “stand with Israel” was viewed just over 200 million times, according to one analysis.
TikTok’s own data showed a similar gap in the US, with more than twice as many posts using the hashtag #StandwithPalestine as posts with #StandwithIsrael over the last two weeks, Axios reported.
Supermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid, whose billionaire father is Palestinian and who have advocated for the Palestinian cause for years, have a combined 140 million followers on Instagram, and celebrities including Mark Ruffalo, Dua Lipa, Jenna Ortega and rapper Macklemore among others have voiced repeated concern for the Palestinian cause on social media.
Sebastian Grant, 30, is a professor and pro-Palestinian activist who compared pro-Palestinian accounts on social media to the same type of online activism that fueled the Arab Spring.
At Thursday’s protest, the radicalization of the young was on display as a 23-year-old non-binary protester who gave their name as Mel got into a confrontation with a man who tried to keep the protester from ripping down hostage posters.
“These are propaganda posters that do not take into consideration all the thousands upon thousands (of Palestinians) killed so far,” Mel told The Post. “How are the bombs from Israel going to help these hostages?”
Some compared the surge in anti-Israeli sentiment to the Arab Spring of 2011 when Twitter and Facebook energized protesters to take on oppressive regimes across the Middle East.
“I think social media has played a role, you saw the same thing with the Arab spring,” Sebastian Grant, 30 said at the rally. “That started a swell 10 years ago and you’re seeing the same thing now.”
19-year-old Calla Walsh, left, has worked on behalf of a number of progressive organizations despite her age but said she is now focused on Palestine Action US, a group she co-founded.
Walsh shared a photo of a T-shirt with anti-Israel sentiments on her Instagram account.
Walsh has been a political activist for more than three years.
“I’m literally going on Instagram hour to hour to see the updates minute to minute on how they’re reporting on the bombing, the situation in hospitals,” Joana Sa Dias, 25, who said she is originally from Lisbon but now lives in New York. “It’s opened my eyes.”
Anti-Israel influencers posting on Instagram and TikTok have gained followers since the Hamas massacres.
Among them is 19-year-old Calla Walsh of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
She is one of the youngest and fiercest behind-the-scenes anti-Israel agitators, a founding organizer of Palestine Action US, and had 158 million views on TikTok for her videos.
Among her causes: encouraging her followers to tear down posters.
Many young protesters covered their faces and withheld their names, for fear of doxxing, retribution, and discrimination for their pro-Palestinian stance.
Many of the younger protesters at the rally wore keffiyeh scarves in solidarity with Palestinians.
“Anyone with good conscience should tear down these atrocity propaganda blitz posters, which repeat proven lies about Hamas killing babies and raping women in order to breed hysteria and justify Israel’s genocide of Palestine,” Walsh told The Post.
“If we want to talk about hostages, let’s talk about how Israel is bombing its own ‘hostages’ to death in Gaza instead of negotiating a peace. The real hostages are the 2 million Palestinians trapped in Gaza, the 10,000 Israel has murdered in the past month, and the thousands and thousands more trapped under the rubble.”