A collage of four photos of the interviewees in q
From left to right: Frannie Fluyt, Selma Omari, Sam Adnaan and Maurits de Bruijn. Photos: courtesy of the interviewees

When You Face a Backlash For Speaking Out About Palestine

An influencer, an activist and two creatives talk about the cost of criticising Israel's war in Gaza.

This article originally appeared on VICE Netherlands.

This past month, social media has been flooded with horrifying scenes of war, as well as petitions and calls for a ceasefire in Gaza. Many people have been bold and unafraid to make their voices heard in support of Palestine – but expressing these opinions can also lead to negative consequences, and sometimes even threats.


In the U.S., universities have lost millions of pounds in funding after pro-Palestine protests took place on campuses across the country. Dutch footballer Anwar El Ghazi had his contract terminated by the German football club Mainz 05 after he wrote, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” in a social post. Musicians have also shared stories about gigs being cancelled after expressing solidarity with Palestine.

All of these examples involve public figures, but regular people like you and I might also be dealing with a very real backlash. VICE spoke to four people who have been harassed after expressing their opinions on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and how they’ve dealt with it.

‘Some people say I can't really be Jewish because of my views’

Photo of a man dressed in beige and black, with a beard and tied long hair.

Maurits de Bruijn. Photo: Yara Jimmink

“As a Jew, Israel helped me discover my Jewish identity. I went there a lot – to me, it was a place where I could experience a form of Jewish culture and life that I couldn’t access here. But my relationship with the country changed as I learned more about its genesis. I became more aware of the story of the Palestinians, the Nakba, and how little people know about what it’s like for Palestinians to live under Israeli occupation or blockade. 


“It is apparent how pro-Israel our prime minister and most media are, so I think it’s important to make my perspective heard – perhaps precisely because of my Jewish background. 

“Some people say I can't really be Jewish because of my views. But the fact that I speak out about Palestine does not make me less of a Jew. There have been anti-Zionist Jews since Zionism was created.

“At first, these comments bothered me. Now they don't affect me as much, but they do discourage me sometimes. It shows that people don't want to be questioned. Some call me a traitor, others say my opinion legitimises or feeds antisemitism. I’m often told that, as a queer person, I wouldn't even be able to walk around Gaza safely, so it's ridiculous that I speak out for Palestinians. 

“There is a lot of fear and trauma within the Jewish community, and that’s being used in politics. Biden called the Hamas attack the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust, Netanyahu labelled Hamas as ‘the new Nazis’, and Israel's United Nations (U.N.) ambassador Gilad Erdan wore a yellow Star of David during a speech to the U.N. Security Council. 


“I refuse to be drawn into all that. I recently shared a post on Instagram where I explained that the Israeli government and its allies are using the Holocaust to justify a genocide against Palestinians. As the son of a Holocaust survivor, I can’t imagine a worse legacy. I cannot see the murders and the pain my family went through being used to legitimise this violence. If we need to revive the horrors of World War II, if they need to teach us a lesson, why is ‘never again’ not valid as an argument for a ceasefire?” – Maurits de Bruijn, 39, writer

‘I lost a partnership that was worth a lot of money’

Black and white portrait of a woman dressed in a suit with shoulder pads, facing to the side of the camera.

Selma Omari. Photo: Provided by interviewee

“When I see people being wronged, I speak out. Always have, always will. Injustice is something that can make me very angry. How can people see the situation in Palestine and not call it an injustice?

“What’s happening is inhumane and people want to make it more complicated than it actually is. There are double standards. So I keep sharing images to help people see the truth. I sometimes get negative reactions, but it’s often the same people who DM me or comment on my posts with an Israeli flag.

“Some people don’t dare speak out because they’re scared of the consequences. For me, it’s not without consequences either. I lost a partnership that was worth a lot of money. But I believe in destiny; that you only get what is meant for you. When one door closes, another one opens.


“I think losing projects because you speak out about human rights is a form of censorship. A company can shut someone’s mouth with money. But it doesn't stop me; it fuels me to keep doing it.

“I think people need to keep speaking out because the Western media doesn’t show reality. We need to be the voice of the people being oppressed and unheard – Palestinians, in this case. Social media is a great thing right now, because it allows us to make noise for them. 

“I think this generation can make a difference, and I do see change. For example, I’ve talked to a few people who want to speak out, but don't know how. I am always open to chatting with these people so we can inform each other, and understand each other and the situation better.” – Selma Omari, 29, influencer and content creator

‘I’m often told that I’m reacting too emotionally’

Photo of a young woman with light long hair, sitting at a table and writing something in a journal.

Frannie Fluyt. Photo: Provided by interviewee

“I share a lot about Palestine on my Instagram. Fortunately, my friends and family share my views, so I get very little backlash. But I’m often told that I shouldn't care so much, that I’m reacting too emotionally. It’s true that I often feel unwell when I keep looking at these images, but that’s because I have an emotional connection to Palestine.

“My parents would always tell me about Palestine, the Nakba and how that led to an apartheid regime over the years. In 2019, I went to the West Bank to do an internship and graduation project. I spent three months in Camp Balata, near Nablus. People there have lost everything, but the love they have is something we can learn from.


“I also met someone there. I lost a piece of my heart to him, and to his country. We decided to stay in a long-distance relationship. He later joined me in the Netherlands for a few weeks, and then a few months later, I left for Palestine to spend another three months with him and his family. 

“That was when I first heard the sound of flash bombs – they sound just like real bombs. They were deployed by the IDF; as a new bus full of settlers were dropped near the camp to celebrate in a [Jewish] religious building. I also witnessed weekly raids in the camp. The IDF would invade unannounced to conduct a ‘search operation’, and they’d arrest or shoot anything and anyone that got in their way. When I slept one night with Bedouins in the desert, the IDF carried out a search (or rather, harassment) operation. For a few hours, they kept flying around over our heads with a dozen helicopters.

“There was also an attack by armed settlers near Nablus. They were protected by the IDF and destroyed everything in the village. It was so intense that we had to take shelter in strangers' houses. When it was safe enough to drive away, my heart broke – everything was in ruins. The settlers were safely taken home by the IDF, while Israeli soldiers arrested dozens of Palestinians. I cried silently that night, as I came to terms with what I was experiencing. Water mains cut off, daily harassment, checkpoints, random arrests, humiliation – this was the daily reality of my then boyfriend, his family and all Palestinians, for more than 75 years.


“So yes, I think there is no harm in showing emotion. People are dying every day, I don't understand why you shouldn’t be emotional about that. Of course I try to keep my distance to a certain extent, but that’s what the world has been doing for 75 years, and look at the result.” Frannie Fluyt, 29, documentary photographer

‘People say things like: Palestinians would never accept you as a queer person, so why do you speak out?’

Photo of a bearded man speaking on a stage with a microphone.

Sam Adnaan. Photo: Provided by interviewee

“My grandfather and other relatives still have the keys to their homes in Palestine after all these years. We’re not sure if it’s realistic, but one day they hope to be able to go back, when our land is ours again. 

“I grew up as a political refugee in Jordan and I’m a human rights activist. I’m also a queer person of colour and a feminist. I represent multiple identities that come together in Palestine. We speak out for all of them, and we do so from the moment we are born until we die; from generation to generation.

“I do that by protesting and speaking out, both online and offline at demonstrations. A few days ago, Instagram restricted my account for 180 days. I can’t broadcast live anymore, for example. The voice of Palestinians is being suppressed, and it’s unfair.

“Speaking out as a queer person of colour has consequences and sparks hateful reactions. People like to hold against me the fact that I’m queer. They say things like: ‘Palestinians would never accept you, you would be killed there, so why do you speak out?’

“I don't respond to every comment, I don't want to stoop to their level. That often makes people angrier, because they don't want you to ignore them. If someone sincerely wants to discuss things – and doesn’t call me names – I engage in a respectful conversation. 

“I studied international law and I used to hope that international laws would apply to everyone. I don't think that anymore. Humanity was my hope, now it’s just a dream.

“As a person of colour with a Muslim background, I see that the international community, especially the West, is less vocal when it comes to our suffering. Sometimes I think of how the whole world was behind Ukraine when Russia invaded. So was I, because as an activist, I fight for freedom. But when it comes to people of colour, unfortunately, there’s a double standard. 

“I can’t stand to see children being murdered. I have a son and a daughter, so that’s such a scary thought. A child shouldn’t have more rights than another just because of where they live or come from. There is no logic, no humanity. I stand for all forms of freedom and my only dream is the liberation of Palestine. We are not free until everyone is free.” – Sam Adnaan, 30, human rights and LGBTQ+ activist