Barely two weeks have passed since a catastrophic wave of terror shook Paris, leaving 17 people dead. The impact of the attacks was felt across the world — the media overcome with expressions of shock. As day faded into night, shock was washed away and in its place stood unity, with perhaps the greatest mass protest in recent history. Parisian streets were packed with millions of people expressing sympathy and support. Media outlets aired homages to the six journalists killed at Charlie Hebdo. People around the world took to social media to express their emotions. And all united under one banner: #JeSuisCharlie.
After the initial #JeSuisCharlie, other hashtags also emerged. #JeSuisJuif arose in response to the four Jews killed in the attack on the kosher Hyper Cacher market, followed by #JeSuisAhmed in solidarity for the Muslim police officer who was killed fighting to preserve free speech in the West.
And now, more hashtags have emerged in response to other acts of terrorism taking place around the world — specifically to the attack on a bus in Tel Aviv on Jan. 21, in which 12 people were stabbed, three of whom sustained serious injuries. The new hashtags that are circulating among Palestinian and anti-Israel Twitter circles are #JeSuisCouteau, which directly translates to “I am knife,” and #ثورة_السكاكين (#TheKnivesRevolution). By identifying themselves with a murder weapon, users of these hashtags (the majority of whom are Palestinian) celebrate the attempted murder of innocent people, while making a mockery of a worldwide movement to oppose terrorism. These people are essentially bastardizing the original hashtags, which were designed to express condolences and support for victims of terror, in order to forward an agenda fueled by hatred and violence.
Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority (despite his elected term having run out five years ago), was invited to join world leaders in a march in Paris on Jan. 12 in order to demonstrate a united front against terrorism. Abbas marched along with French President François Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The world leaders’ gesture sent out a powerful message of defiance, and stressed an unwillingness to bend at the will of terrorists who seek to silence those exercising their freedom of expression. However, not all participants in the march were able to escape scrutiny regarding the sincerity of their stance.
Two days after the march, the Gatestone Institute released an open letter from “A Palestinian Journalist with No Name or Voice” that was addressed to French President Hollande. The letter expressed the indignation that some journalists in the West Bank felt after seeing Abbas at an event celebrating free speech.
The author identifies Abbas’ presence at the “rally against terrorism and assaults on freedom of speech as an act of hypocrisy — a condition that is not alien to Palestinian Authority leaders.”
In the journalist’s eyes, Abbas is an unjust and dishonest despot who has mastered the ability to hide his true intentions from the world’s eye — case in point being that he was invited to a rally in support of free speech not long after he imprisoned journalist Majdolin Hassouneh for personal insults.
The anonymous journalist went on to say, “President Abbas has once again managed to deceive you [Hollande] and the rest of the international community by placing himself on the side of the good guys in their fight against terrorism and extremism.”
Bearing this in mind, it is difficult to say with certainty that anything President Abbas says holds a shred of truth. With the lack of an honest and proper political leader, Palestinians must fight to convey their own feelings to the world. And, unfortunately, many have done so by voicing their advocacy of terrorism through the #JeSuisCouteau tweets.
As socially aware UCLA students who have marched under the Charlie Hebdo hashtag and those related to it, we should be up in arms that this global solidarity movement is being corrupted to promote violence against innocent people. UCLA students held a vigil that expressed global unity — for the 17 people murdered — and should feel a drive to defend the way we honored them. Honor aside, to abuse the right to free speech in order to promote terrorism and racially-charged violence is not only a heinous crime, but an abhorrent insult to the unfortunate people in the world who are not afforded such social liberties.
At the time of the writing of this article, #JeSuisCouteau has been shared 4,472 times in the last five days.