Photo of Palestinian lawyer kicking tear gas canister lights up the internet
Flying kick by Palestinian lawyer in formal robes becomes internet meme
When a Palestinian lawyer in his formal attire was photographed punting a tear gas canister with a flying kick back toward Israeli soldiers, the internet took it up an opportunity for fun, but the image has also connected the social media world with strife in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Palestinian lawyers joined protests near the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Oct. 12. Tensions over the mosque have been a source of clashes between Israelis and Palestinians.
Hassan Ajaj was part of that group of lawyers when he dramatically booted the tear gas canister while wearing his formal robe.
"I just wanted to kick it [away]," he said to The Associated Press.
Majdi Mohammed of the AP took the now viral photograph of Ajaj, his legs flying, as he shot back the canister. The internet has spawned myriad forms of the image.
There's Ajaj as a dance star
Bowling with Obama
Showing off his martial arts skills
Launching a soccer ball across the field
Or using his robes to fit in at Hogwarts
While the images themselves exhibit a sense of playfulness, Ajaj told The Associated Press that he feels the sheer popularity of the image — it's been widely shared on Tumblr, Twitter and Reddit according to Buzzfeed — connects to a deeper sense of frustration.
"Social media helped Palestinians compare themselves with other societies," said Ajaj. "They have a right to live like any other nation."
Tensions have heightened in the Old City as many Palestinians worry about what they perceive as Israeli encroachment on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which currently bars non-Muslims from praying there.
Israel denies it has any plans to expand its presence at the mosque.
Since mid-September, 11 Israelis have been killed in stabbings and shootings by Palestinians, while 68 Palestinians been killed by Israeli forces.