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The establishment of 7amleh was driven by the necessity to raise the profile and capacity of online Palestinian advocacy, both in terms of raising awareness of Palestinian issues to an international audience, but also among Palestinians themselves.

With this statement, Palestinian NGO 7amleh – Arab Center for Social Media Advancement welcomes visitors to its work, which focuses on improving the skills and capacities of Palestinian and Arab civil society through training on the skills and methodologies of social media activism. They also support grassroots media campaigns to raise social awareness and political consciousness of disenfranchised and marginalised groups and vulnerable communities.

APCNews talked to executive director Nadim Nashif about 7amleh's work and the future ahead shortly after the organisation officially became a member of the APC network.

APCNews: You work with marginalised groups. Can you tell us more about these groups and how you work with them?

Nadim Nashif: 7amleh is dedicated to utilising online resources to empower marginalised Palestinian communities and enhance their capacities in advocacy and raising social awareness on a local and international level. We work directly with at-risk/vulnerable Palestinian communities – such as Al Zarnouq, an unrecognised village in the Naqab region – building their knowledge and skills to document rights abuses and to self-advocate using digital platforms. 7amleh has also carried out a series of awareness and rights-based campaigns, focusing on combating violence against women, promoting volunteerism, and thwarting mounting sectarianism between Palestinian sects, among other topics. We also recently launched a campaign with Al-Qaws for sexual diversity and gender diversity in Palestine to raise awareness about the situation of the Palestinian LGBTQ community.

APCNews: What about your international audience? How do you build international awareness in a context of increasing human rights violations?

NN: 7amleh’s mission is also to provide updates and enhance awareness on an international level regarding Palestinian digital rights violations and to spur organisations and movements to be more active on this issue. Our innovative work and wide range of experience have attracted international groups who are also striving in similar causes to collaborate with us. Our values are based on the unwavering belief of freedom of speech, and 7amleh prides itself on being one of the most distinguished organisations working to protect the digital rights and freedom of speech of Palestinians.

APCNews: What is the most challenging part of your work? What do you struggle or face obstacles with the most?

NN: Operating in a restricted context, we face restrictions from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Nowadays, there are more and more restrictions towards the work of NGOs and organisations that are committed to defending the right to freedom of expression. Another challenge regards financial support: given the nature of our work, it's hard to find funders ready to support us and meet us.

APCNews: Tell us some stories of success. How has your work had an impact in your community?

NN: Some of 7amleh’s recent achievements include the launching of the Palestine Digital Activism Forum, which brought together Palestinian civil society, international digital rights organisations and representatives of social media giants to discuss the challenges facing digital activism within Palestinian civil society. This marked the launching of the first ever Palestinian digital forum, and attracted an audience of 250 people and 25 local and international guest speakers.

7amleh has also conducted a series of research studies and analysis, unique in the field of digital rights. We recently published a report that includes statistics on cases of incitement on Israeli social media, in response to the alarming rise in racist and hate posts towards Palestinian and Arab communities online. We also recently released our second annual report, Hashtag Palestine 2016, which reviews Palestinian online content on social media networks, focusing on the most significant social and political issues that Palestinians were engaged with throughout 2016.

APCNews: Why did you join the APC network? What do you think you can contribute as a member and what do you expect from APC?

NN: We joined the APC network to enhance our international advocacy work, to raise awareness about the digital rights reality of Palestinians and to get international support. We also believe that being part of an international network such as APC will allow us to improve our professional skills, learning form the other member organisations. In 7amleh, we believe that sharing experiences and best practices will have positive impact on us and on the entire network.