WITNESS’ actions now: the Israel-Gaza conflict and a collective response to the human rights impact of the escalating war on Gaza

Available in Arabic

November 2, 2023

WITNESS’ mission and global work focuses on supporting communities on the frontlines of human rights violations to use video and technology to protect and defend their rights. Amidst the Israel-Gaza conflict and the escalating war on Gaza there is an urgent need to witness, document and hold to account. 

Israel is committing grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Gaza. There is an absolute human rights imperative to stop the indiscriminate bombardment of over 2 million besieged Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip. WITNESS unequivocally supports the calls of many of our partners and allies for a ceasefire in Gaza and Israel. Hamas’ acts of targeting civilians and hostage-taking on October 7th are war crimes, but they cannot be a justification for targeting civilian areas, the blockade of essential supplies, and other acts which amount to collective punishment, forbidden under international humanitarian law. 

Video and technology are a key element in documentation and truth-telling. We are also seeing the complexity in establishing fact amid floods of misinformation and disinformation, and the crippling of witnesses, journalists, and human rights defenders’ ability to share critical documentation by arbitrary communication shutdowns and discriminatory content moderation. This is where we can respond.

Our current response, described below, is to work with a coalition of partners, including SMEX and Meedan, to ensure critical documentation resources, guidance on operating under communications blackouts, and preserving key evidence are widely accessible and available. 

WITNESS’ past and ongoing work in Israel and Palestine includes the larger aperture of occupation, apartheid, discrimination, forced displacement and evictions, and other forms of direct and structural violence towards Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel. These broader, long-term rights issues cannot be ignored. Our work will always be grounded in our commitment to coalitions with frontline communities including human rights partners in Palestine and Israel. 

Going forward, we know that other areas of our work will be relevant including our strengths in documentation of atrocity crimes, forced displacement, combating misinformation and disinformation (including the impact of AI on the information landscape), as well as on responsibly using perpetrator video for timely reporting and accountability. We will support actions at a global scale to ensure platforms do not take down potential evidence, address manipulated media, and preserve critical accounts. And as hate surges globally we know that it is critical to document and challenge antisemitic, Islamophobic and other hateful speech and acts targeting Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, Jews, and any other communities affected by the ongoing violence.


Our first collective action: Resources from a coalition including SMEX, Meedan and WITNESS  

Monday, October 30  

Strengthening collective capacity to respond to the Gaza War: Resources from a coalition including SMEX, Meedan and WITNESS

Available in Arabic

A communications blackout plunged millions of Gazans, including civilians, journalists, paramedic teams and aid agencies, in an information vacuum from October 27 to midday October 29 when connectivity was partially restored. Today, we stand in a moment fraught with the gravest of risks for further human rights violations and tragedy. As we confront this unprecedented crisis, the call for immediate, community-driven, collective action takes on an urgency like never before. The imperative to rally for human rights, transparency, and accountability cannot be overstated as we grapple with this critical juncture. 

The systematic targeting of civilian lives and infrastructure, including power and communication networks, has inflicted a devastating toll on Gaza. This, coupled with the suppression of witness accounts in both Gaza and the West Bank as a result of content takedowns and biased content moderation is leading to a significant and alarming blind spot in the availability of reliable information and human rights documentation from these locations. There hasn’t been a more urgent time for civil society to come together to counter the spiraling effects of mis/disinformation, and strengthen our collective ability to document, debunk, archive, preserve online content, and build preparedness to deal with the war-induced vicarious trauma on our respective communities.  

In an attempt to make a contribution in this direction, we started a coordinated effort across our three organizations – SMEX, Meedan and WITNESS – to develop an open-access suite of resources that could be useful for individuals and groups involved in archiving, OSINT, fact-checking and documentation efforts as part of the ongoing Gaza war. 

Published under a ‘No Rights Reserved’ CC0 license, these resources cover a wide range of topics including, for example, 

  • Tips for Filming Human Rights Abuses in Palestine
  • Tips for Fact-Checkers: Open-Source Investigation 
  • Why do We Preserve Online Content During the War
  • Collecting and Archiving Videos During the War: A Guide
  • Dealing with Shocking and Violent Images During War and Catastrophes
  • Tips for Safe Online Communication and Phone Battery Efficiency During the War, Among Many Others. 

The resources are currently available in Arabic and English. Some have also been translated into Portuguese, Spanish and Hindi. This work is ongoing, and we will be working on more topics and adding further localisations over the next few days.  

We invite you all to join this collective action through using, remixing and sharing these resources as helpful. If you would like to join our coalition, and/or contribute to content creation and localisations please get in touch.  Please do also share with us any skills/issues gaps you believe are most important to ground future resources over the coming weeks. 

Download the resources here: www.gazamediaresources.co



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