Viral image ‘All eyes on Rafah’ and its creators criticised for using AI

The first person to reportedly share the image on Instagram was @shahv4012. Picture: X

The first person to reportedly share the image on Instagram was @shahv4012. Picture: X

Published Jun 6, 2024


As Israel turned its war against ‘Hamas’ towards Rafah, netizens across the world expressed the abject horror on social media of Palestinians who had fled from Northern Gaza, and would now face the brute force of the occupying nation.

More than 50% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people were driven into Rafah by February when Israel indicated it was preparing to start a ground offensive on the city, saying Hamas’ four brigades, the Palestinian faction (considered a terrorist cell) that controls the Strip, remained there.

However, Gaza is still under attack. Al Jazeera recently reported that ‘there is no escape from this genocide.’

Richard Peeperkorn, a World Health Organization (WHO) representative for Gaza and the West Bank, reportedly said that “all eyes" are on the upcoming Rafah offensive. Following this, the image began popping up online.

The viral image ‘All eyes on Rafah’ that shows what seems to be thousands of tents splayed in the desert and stretching for kilometres became the rallying cry to stop an Israeli attack on the city.

Influencers, celebrities, netizens and even politicians shared the picture millions of times of social media. Sharing or posting the image became akin to a signifier that a netizen was against the entirety of Israel’s war on Palestine.

Social media activism cannot be understated and can propagate messages to masses across the globe.

The Rafah picture can be compared to those with influence online posting black squares on their feeds to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement which reached fever pitch after the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

However, creators of the image now face criticism for using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to generate it.

“Rafah looks nothing like that: Its skies are grey with smoke from Israeli bombs and there are no orderly rows of tents – many are smouldering after being bombed with their occupants still inside, and debris is scattered between them.

“The city is also far more crowded – with an estimated 1.4 million people seeking refuge there from Israel’s bombs in February, according to the United Nations,” said Al Jazeera.

Rafah is not orderly like the AI image suggests. Tents lay strewn about along with the few possessions that the displaced people managed to bring with them.

The first person to reportedly share the image on Instagram was @shahv4012. However, the backlash on social media has been swift with people saying it is perfomative to post the picture and does nothing for the Palestinian cause.

“That all eyes on Rafah AI image is one of the worst virtue signalling. The viral image of Vietnam was a child whose flesh was burning from Napalm, and it caused enough outrage to cause widespread protest. We have got thousands of WORSE images from Palestine. We don't need that AI,” posted an X (Twitter) user.

“The AI ‘all eyes on Rafah’ post might feel ‘performative’ or frustrating but honestly Israel-Palestine is a war of public opinion and consensus, if it has become ‘trendy’ to stand against Israel’s massacre of Palestinians then that is a net good,” posted another X user commented.

— Jason Okundaye (@jasebyjason) May 28, 2024

“People start speaking up by reposting this image saying “ALL EYES ON RAFAH”, I hope people know that this is a long term movement, not just reposting a single no context AI image and call it done. PLEASE ALSO SHARE CONTEXT ABOUT RAFAH. u can start by reposting useful infographics,” posted another X user.

Another asked: “All eyes on Rafah and where exactly have your eyes been for the last eight months.”

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