Tel Aviv Live: Snapchat blunders into Arab-Israeli conflict


Snapchat made a controversial decision when it decided to run a feature on life in Tel Aviv almost exactly a year after Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli assault on Gaza that left about 70 Israelis and more than 2,100 Palestinians, the majority of whom were civilians, dead. The social network’s users did not take kindly to the tone-deaf move. AAISHA DADI PATEL tracked the furore.

Snapchat is a booming social media platform with about 30 million active users. Users share videos and photos (“snaps”) that are available to view for a limited time only. The platform also features live feeds of popular events happening around the world, and Live stories that document life in certain cities.

The app accesses user’s location services and uses a geofilter to group snaps from a certain location together into a live feed, forming the Live story, which usually stays online for 24 hours. Because of the app’s built-in location features, a notification appears when Snapchat is building a Live feed in a certain city and users are invited to submit snaps to be featured, which are then selected by moderators.

Other cities that have been featured in such Live stories include Rio de Janeiro, Doha, Istanbul and even Cape Town. Whether a city is featured depends on several factors: popularity and demand are driving forces. Aside from some people being surprised at how a man was shown swimming with his pet lions in the Riyadh Live story, the stories have been relatively controversy-free – until now.

In the Tel Aviv Live story, which went live on Tuesday, users from Tel Aviv posted snap videos of themselves shopping, walking their dogs, hanging out with their friends and chilling on the beach – usual fare for a snapchat Live story.

But some Snapchat users were not impressed and took to Twitter to vent their frustrations.

Tel Aviv Snapchat 4 Tel Aviv Snapchat 3 Tel Aviv Snapchat 2 Tel Aviv Snapchat 1






Tweeps offered suggestions for what Snapchat should have stuck to featuring if really wanted to depict life in that part of the world.


This tweep referenced the incident during Operation Protective Edge in which four boys, aged 9 to 11, were killed by the Israeli military while playing soccer on the beach in Gaza.

But Israelis seemed enough happy with the story. 

Was this another attempt to whitewash what really goes on in the conflict-ridden region?, some Tweeps wondered. 

People have been calling for boycotts of the app, and there’s been uproar on social networks Tumblr and Facebook as well.

My response to the Tel Aviv, Israel Story on Snapchat:It hurt. It really did. Seeing them live a first class life on a…

Gepostet von Mohamed Zeyara am Dienstag, 7. Juli 2015

By using Snapchat, an app aimed at millenials with short attention spans, there’s a risk of whitewashing: glossing over social and political issues, by focusing only on certain elements.

The Arab-Israeli conflict is highly polarised – not least online –  and using Snapchat as a medium to broach discussion about it is both a great and terrible idea.

Great, because it can generate discussion among a generation who is assumed to have little interest in socio-political issues, but terrible because through whitewashing, it’s presenting a glamorous and one-sided view of a controversial issue.

Snapchat has been mum on the issue, and hasn’t responded to any of the complaints it’s received – despite retweeting dissent around the Running of the Bulls Live story that was running concurrently.

Perhaps Snapchat shares the view, put out by other social networks in the past, that its product simply provides a platform and isn’t there to take a position on issues. We wonder if there’ll be a Gaza City live story any time soon, but we’re not holding our breath.

– Featured image: Snapchat logo. 


    • I can’t understand why it is such a big deal that this is now on snapchat. And who are you calling barbaric Adam? You such just hate jews because they finally got the only democracy in the middle east. why don’t you get the Arab nations to do something good for their people for once.

      • Democracy ? They killed children and women by the thousands man, one day i wish you confront families of the victims, children who became orphans, and justify what israel did, like killing boys on the beach. One day the truth will be revealed, palestine will return.

  1. The statement at the beginning of this post is inaccurate. Israel didn’t not start a war or attack Palestinian territory. The stated aim of the Israeli operation was to stop rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, which increased after an Israeli crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank was launched following the 12 June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by two Hamas members. Israel defended itself because its citizens were at risk. Gaza was firing rockets at them. They tried to make a peace treaty, Gaza did not accept, aware of the implications. Gaza knew that Israel’s military was much stronger and since they did not agree to a peace treaty it left them no option but to defend their country. It is extremely terrible that so many civilians died in Gaza. They were ordinary people trying to live their lives; they were not in control of thei terrorist government or they were brainwashed to believe they were good. Hamas used civilian homes as places for military rockets, Hamas put its military goals ABOVE its people. The reason why their were so many deaths in Gaza is because Hamas endangered and used their civilians as shields instead of protecting them. That was not Israel’s fault. They wanted peace this whole time, and if Gaza wasn’t willing to negotiate (which they weren’t) Israel was left no option but to defend their civilians. Gaza, on the other hand, and more specifically Hamas, want to annihilate Israel and will not stop at any costs –even if it means destroying their people. This is extremely oftel for people on both sides. Further, it’s tragic that two groups of people needing homes have turned against each other, rather than work together. The rest of the world is almost indifferent to their situation and if they care it is simply to exercise their high and noble views and judge others (Westerners). The Jews have a right to a homeland. They have been kicked out or persecuted in every single place they have lived since the destruction of the temple, and Israel finally gave them a safe place to rule themselves and not be persecuted or in a minority, for once. Some believe this is no longer necessary, but they are wrong. With acts of anti-Sumerian occurring in Europe and hatred of Jews spread across the Middle East, Jews need Israel more than ever. Further, don’t sit here and tell me it’s possible to make over 6 million people migrate very suddenly. Israel is their homeland, and, if we could go back in history maybe things would be different, but Jews built Israel from the ground up. They toke a desert and turned it into a flourishing city (Tel Aviv), they developed one of the most advanced STEM countries in the world, they are the only democracy in the Middle East –one that gives Arab citizens the same rights as everyone else. Do any Arab countries do that? I didn’t think so. The Jews (and Arabs) living in Israel have worked extremely hard to create the country that it us today, so no, it’s not rightfully Palestinian territory. That’s like saying Native Americans should come in and get the U.S. And U.S. Citizens all need to go somewhere else. Even though that is unfortunate for Palestinians that’s not the way the world worked. They are a group who was formed during the early 1900’s, they do not date back thousands of years. Yes, they desperately need a place to live, a non-terrorist government, and other resources. But that is not the sole responsibility of Israel and the rest of the world should not remain indifferent. Like I said before, it’s impossible to force them to migrate to New Zealabd or something like that. This means countries like Egypt and Jordan need to take a more active role in including them into thei societies. Israel is the smallest country in the Middle East, yet they have shared their land with Pakestinians. Palestinian citizens need a lot of resources and in some ways are the charity case of the Muddle East. It is not solely Israel’s responsibility to help them build up a country and I don’t think it’s so hard to see why that might frighten them (stronger they are might have force to overthrow Israel, kill everyone living there). Clearly, this is a very complex situation, but I find westerners are so quick to judge that Usrael is a bad place and Palestinians are poor people who need help. Nothing is this simple. Both groups have done things that are not humane or good. But it is important to recognize situations in context, we need to think about the causes of wars before we discuss them (as was not done in this article). Surrounding Arab countries need to take a more active role in aiding Palestinians. (hey, Saudi Arabia, your an extremely large country how come no ones been hating on you?). We need to be more critical before we believe something, and we need to recognize that Jews and Palestinian citizens deserve a homeland. A little more humanity people, please. Both people’s just want some peace (Pslestinian citizens and Israeli citizens).

    • what are you talking about Gabi? How can there be peace if Israel is occupying Gaza? Under international law, you are allowed to fight back if you are occupied. A non-terrorist government? You are a piece of work.

    • Gabi, I’m not going to debate you on the semantics of this conflict when neither of us are likely to change our opinions on it. I do however want to say that you cannot call something out as ‘inaccurate’ just because it doesn’t suit your opinion/how you’d like to believe it unfolded. Furthermore, having travelled to the West Bank and seeing life on the ground there as well as having interactions with Israeli people, who were extremely hostile towards me, I would never agree that peace is what they’re seeking to attain.

      • That’s a fair point. The Israeli government is definitely more conservative than it has been in the past and this slows the peace process. Unfortunately, last time Israel had a peace-wanting Prime Minister, he was murdered. A similar situation occurred in Palestinian Territories. I have also been on the ground in Israel and interacted with many Israelis (both Arab and Jewish). You’re right, some of them are hateful and very one-sided, but the majority of people truly and deeply want to have peace and live their lives like normal humans. They do not like being in a constant war zone. Peace is definitely the goal for many, and if we choose not to believe that we are choosing to accept eternal fighting.

  2. Also, it’s totally upsetting that the minute the West Bank is on snapchat everyone’s fine with that. But if Tel Aviv is on people are hateful. Stupid hypocrisy, take a look in the mirror everyone.

    • I’m not sure if Israel is occupying Gaza, though. (the West Bank is a different story) that was land given to the Palestinians, even though Israel rightfully won it in the six-day war. And you’re right that it is understandable why a country would want to attack if they don’t have sufficient land. In the case of Hamas, though, their motives are questionable because the object of attack if they were occupied would be to secure more land for its citizens. Instead, they used citizens for their own person mission of annihilation, rather than trying to help their own people. The Palestinians should continue to have a voice, but what’s more important is that the voices of Israelis and Palestinians don’t continue to talk at a brick wall. It means nothing if opposing groups aren’t willing to listen to one another or compromise. Thank you for giving your perspective, it’s always an honor to be educated on a new understanding.

    • I’m not upset that the West Bank was on snapchat. In fact, it humanize people who are often painted in stereotypes. By the same token, I’m glad Tel Aviv was on snaochat because it humanize a people who are often painted as a villain and allows the world to learn more. I am upset that the world chooses to accept one, but not the other. I think the world should accept both.

      • I think it’s unfair of you to make this assumption of hypocrisy – the West Bank appearing on Snapchat is as much a whitewash as Tel Aviv being featured. Why? Palestine consists of the Gaza Strip and The West Bank. While they’re the same country then, they’re totally distinct and separate areas of land, separated by Israel and it’s occupation. It is an unspeakably difficult process for inhabitants of the West Bank to even be able to travel to Gaza at all. The horrors of last year’s Operation Protective Edge took place in Gaza – so while the West Bank Live story is showing us life in Palestine and the daily struggles living in an open-air prison, it’s not showing the reality of the horror of the massacre that destroyed 18 000 homes and killed more than 2000 innocent people, the destruction that still lingers, and the villages that will take years to rebuild.

        • That’s a really interesting perspective, I see how that could make people upset. I think for Westerners, though, who are relatively uninformed on the conflict, the West Bank story was received much more graciously than the Tel Aviv one. It’s really sad because the whole point of Snapchat city stories is to show the culture and lives of ordinary people in places throughout the world. We are supposed to put or political and personal passions aside because every city and person has the right to be featured on Snapchat with the same positive response as the others. I don’t think politics should be involved here. We managed to receive Riyadh, Saudi Arabia graciously, several times, we can manage to receive Tel Aviv and the West Bank graciously as well. Snapchat is not a place to campaign political ideas, but rather a place to share the unique aspects of a city and what makes where you live and your life interesting and beautiful.

  3. Gabi – Israel controls what goes in and out of Gaza. Yes it is not technically an occupation but an embargo is pretty much the same. Israel also influences Egypt and no wonder Morsi was kicked out of power and the western world didn’t even blink. Of course everyone has a right to exist, but then it should be one state where everyone has equal rights. Right now, only European Israelis have proper rights in Israel and the territories.

    • One state with equal rights will be very hard. I definitely think it can be done, but, using the past as evidence, there are some parties who don’t like that idea. Also, equal rights is a struggle in almost every country in the world, not just Israel and Palestinian Territories. It will be very hard to merge these completely different governments, people, culture, resources, economies, etc. It will take great compromise. It can be done, but it will be extremely difficult.

  4. Imagine you get kicked out of your home , so you come to me for a place to stay , I let you in my home with open arms and give u a room, and slowly over the years you start occupying more rooms , and I can’t say anything cause I’m a weak old man , and eventually you end up kicking me out of my own house and putting me in a small room outside for my whole family to stay , that’s what the israelis did to Palestine , I say weak old man because compared to the arsenal Israelis have I.e America etc. Palestineans are weak , so weather hamas attack israel or not , it’s their fuckin land ,israel has none zero zilch. .. u don’t have a country , you are staying where you aRE by force. So don’t come with your bs stories , ah yes , I did not hear off thousands of israelis bombed by palestineans it’s always you cunts starting the shit, so fuck u if u stand with Israel and believe they are right. You’re dullusional, maybe you should stay in gaza and see for yourself , I have really bad English so if you comment on that you’re just stupid.

    • You need to look at this in context. Both groups had ties to the land for thousands of years, the Jews left forcibly not by choice. Every single place they went wanted to kick them out or persecuted them. This escalated during the Holocaust were a 1/3 of Jewry was annihilated by the Nazis. They needed a homeland a place to stay and Israel was that. Yes, what happened with the Arabs living their was by no means just, but both groups had a need to live their we cannot dispute that.
      Second, the Arabs living in Israel did say and fight a lot. At the time, the Palestinians were much stronger than Israelis. They had the support of all the Arab countries in the region. They were not victims to a strong Israel in the 40’s. The Jews were a vulnerable group of holocaust survivors, and the Palestinians did try to get their home back. In fact, they didn’t agree to the U.N. Partition plan because they believed, with the help of other Arab armies, they could kill the Jews and get all of Israel back. That was a risk they time, and they lost surprisingly. They had to face the consequences.
      Third, it is so easy to be delusional when trying to understand this conflict, your right. The easiest way to do that is by closing your ears and eyes to anything you don’t want to hear or anything against earlier understandings. I know there is a lot I’m probably still unaware of, but I also know that debating whose right and wrong is a lost cause, and, rather, I try to take the history of both peoples and others involved and think about ways to move forward, I suggest you do the same.
      Lastly, I’m not criticizing your had English but without the profanity people might take you more seriously. You are the one who sounds delusional saying things that are completely irrelevant and directing anger towards arbitrary homes.
      Thank you for sharing your opinion, but I can’t discuss this further unless your willing to learn something that might be uncomfortable or unwanted for you. It takes some maturity, bravery, and humility which you have not yet displayed.

  5. Israel will fall their occupation can’t Last forever ,god on is on the side of the Muslims ☺. I know this because Jews are well known for killing prophets , on the other hand Muslims have 5 prayers a day , fast for god for a month every year and do everything in the name of God , and don’t even bring up isis , they’re poses, fonies , they’re fake . And can not be classified as Muslims , their actions are against everything we believe in
    peace gonzalos out
    no further comment.

    • Your debating religion. That debate doesn’t work because one can’t impartially justify another’s religion in the context of their own. Rather than saying Israel will fall, what I hope for and what I pray to God for is that the Palestinians and Israelis will both live in peace, with stable homes, and a good society and government. I hope that the people of these lands will live in peace and with basic human rights, freedom, love, and hope.

      I completely agree about Isis, they are using Islam as an excuse to justify their acts of terrorism and inhumanity, which is horrible. I do think the Muslim community needs to do a better job of outwardly condemning their actions and making it clear that what they have done is NOT in the name of Islam.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here