In response to the ongoing unrest in the Middle East, you may be seeing more watermelon 🍉 emojis online — a subtle nod of solidarity with Palestine, as the emojis share the same colors as the Palestinian flag.
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The watermelon has long been a symbol of Palestine, at least since the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel seized control of the West Bank and Gaza and banned the public display of the Palestinian flag. According to TIME. Instead, the Palestinians started using the watermelon because the colors were the same.
Now, some activists are also concerned about a different kind of suppression: shadow banning and other online censorship. It is assumed that Meta shadow banned pro-palestinian content, blocked pro-Palestinian accountsand added “terrorist” to Palestinian biographies. As fears grow of online platforms restricting posts about Gaza, more and more people on X, TikTok and other social media platforms are adding watermelon emoticons to their names and posts.
Watermelon caught the attention of TikTok again last week when a creator made a filter that asked users to follow a model with a watermelon and said he would send all proceeds from the monetized filter through the Effect Creator Rewards to humanitarian aid in Gaza. according to TechCrunch.
This isn’t the first time emojis have become synonymous with a nation in turmoil. Back in February, after Russia first began its invasion of Ukraine, many people online posted sunflower emojis 🌻, the country’s national flower, to express their solidarity with Ukraine. Symbols such as flowers, animals and flags working as a signal of solidarity and strength online during difficult times for nations are not uncommon.
Research from The Conversation in 2018 showed that after the Paris attacks in November 2015, the most common support emoticons were flags from countries such as the UK 🇬🇧, USA 🇺🇸 and France 🇫🇷. But besides flags, other emoticons were common, including the red circle 🔴 or the red phone ☎️ to indicate danger and information. During Hurricane Irma, according to The Conversation, the red heart ❤️ and blue heart 💙 were also used to show solidarity.