The clubhouse turns into the assembly place for Israelis and Palestinians: NPR
The clubhouse logo can be seen on an iPhone screen in this photo illustration. A clubhouse room has become a place where Palestinians and Israelis speak openly about the conflict in Gaza. Jaap Arriens / NurPhoto via Getty Images Hide caption
Jaap Arriens / NurPhoto via Getty Images
Jaap Arriens / NurPhoto via Getty Images
Conversations about sensitive topics on social media often turn into full-blown arguments. But this week, as violence raged between Israel and the Palestinians, a group of people gathered at the Clubhouse, a social audio networking app, for a marathon conversation on the subject. The room, entitled “Meet the Palestinians and Israelis” began as a private conversation between friends that turned into a six-day conversation with an audience of up to 159,000 at times.
“I started a private chat with friends and we talked about the latest news,” said Moshe Markovich, the Mexico-based host of Balance, a clubhouse room that focused on good conversation and moderated the talk.
“We started talking about the Gaza Strip conflict and more friends joined our room,” he says. “We have decided to make this available to the public and have an open discussion.”
What started as a private chat with no name for the topic turned into an emotional conversation – the public clubhouse space became a place where both Israelis and Palestinians had intense, frank and impactful conversations from their own perspective.
Haitham El Khatib, a Palestinian living in British Columbia, found the room by accident after joining the clubhouse. At first he said he found the discussion inviting, but after speaking he wished for more from the conversation. “People asked for solutions, which is great, but they didn’t acknowledge the real situation,” says Khatib. “I think the conversation needs to continue and not focus on different topics.”
Markovich says he has “hosted spaces that focused on a lot of different topics but didn’t realize how emotional I would hear those conversations. My views have totally changed.”
“As someone who has lived in Israel in the past and who has been briefed on one side of the other, but now that this has changed it has been a difficult pill to swallow because these are people, we have to empathize with how someone else is feeling, “he says.
During this continued conversation, the moderators asked the audience to flash their microphones (turn them on and off) if their views or opinions had changed when they heard from many different voices. Many people signaled that the conversations had an impact.
“There were literally two people speaking, two mothers – an Israeli mother and a Palestinian mother – who were both emotional and raw in their conversations,” says Shane Feldberg, a Toronto host who was in the room after more than 70 hours . “These two probably couldn’t talk to each other without this platform. There are people who die on both sides and children are traumatized, and here are two mothers who were just trying to comfort each other.”
“It felt like the United Nations, but with the people,” says Markovich. “The people discussing their views in the room were transparent and it is not easy to hear these thoughts. I hope someone with authority can do something. We don’t need private conversations in back rooms. Why can’t we be open discussions on a platform like Clubhouse where people in authority can come in and hear from people and give us their perspectives? “
The moderators hope that the conversation will continue for as long as needed. Clubhouse calls can last anywhere from an hour to a full day, but this lasts six days. Moderators worked long shifts and worked all night to make sure the conversation continued. They only took breaks to sleep and eat.
“I think as long as people enjoy the conversation, it can go on for as long as we want,” said Amit Harris from Chicago, who was in private before an open discussion about the Gaza conflict ensued.
“Clubhouse conversations can go on for days and repeat themselves. At this point, some stories will sound familiar, but each person’s story is unique and fascinating, and that’s why I really enjoy this room,” says Harris. “There is less talk about people and more about people. Anyone can share an experience or a belief and it is not discussed. It is only accepted as what that person has to say. We hope that everyone who joins the space follows, makes a positive contribution and goes on to share our experiences. “
People turning to social media platforms in times of turmoil are nothing new. During the Arab Spring 2011, Twitter was the main platform for protesters to spread news and exchange updates.
“I remember being in my senior year in 2011 listening to updates on the Arab Spring,” says Harris. “There was a sense of hope when each of these different countries had a moment. It felt like we were using a platform like Twitter to see impact and change. It didn’t go as promising as it seemed. I am I hope social audio and platforms like Clubhouse have what it takes to make some changes in the future. “
Esther Mo from Brooklyn, NY, has overheard the conversation for the past two days. “I have a family in Israel that I’m very worried about,” says Mo. “It can be very powerful and powerful to hear from people with different perspectives. I think it’s different from being on social media and just read a short post or comment. You actually hear a person’s voice or the emotions of what they’re going through. That has had a profound impact on me. I want the military to protect Israel, but in this conversation I am now at what price? “
Khatib calls it an “educational experience for everyone in the room” and says it is “a good thing for those who join in”.
The original plan for the room was to keep it open until the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was announced, but so many attendees waited for the moderators to decide to keep it open.
“We still had more than 50 people waiting to speak, some waiting two days and we just couldn’t reach everyone,” says Markovich. “As long as people want to share their stories and experiences, we’ll keep the space open.”