As people around the world watch the escalating crisis in the Middle East unfold, the Jewish diaspora and the Israeli people are turning to Twitter and Instagram to express their frustrations, concerns and seek out a supportive community. Unsurprisingly, from mainstream celebrities like Gigi and Bella Hadid, and Trevor Noah to trolls with zero followers, the atmosphere online seems to be more sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. As a social media content creator (I currently run a Jewish themed YouTube channel and Instagram page and previously managed a US Government Twitter account with 1.5 million followers) I thought I’d weigh in from a professional standpoint on what’s going wrong online for Israel’s supporters.
In today’s attention deficit social media environment, where cancel-culture rules and in-depth nuanced analysis is ignored, you only have 150 characters to get someone to like your choices. Jewish accounts have been frustrated that certain memes and oversimplifications have been shared millions of times. It doesn’t seem fair, and the knee-jerk emotional responses I’ve seen over the past few days haven’t been successful in swaying the hearts and minds of the Twittosphere.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s become the most popular tactics for the pro-Israel posts:
- ”You can’t understand the situation, so don’t say anything” – asking for silence online is kind of like asking for silence from a hundred three year olds (it’s a request that’s never going to succeed). It’s also incredibly demeaning and self aggrandizing. Many Jewish influencers have maintained that unless someone lives in Israel they can’t speak on the subject. Unfortunately (or not) that’s just not how any social media conversation works and I’d go so far as to say I don’t think the situation even is so incredibly complicated that “no one” can understand it any more so than any other complicated political event.
- ”Anti-Zionims is Anti-Semitism”- this is a nice clear way to dispute any critical statement about Israel, it also defines any statement against the decisions of the current political administration as ‘Anti-Zionist’. I compare this logic to ‘I’m rubber you’re glue’ – anything you say I don’t have to listen to because I’m automatically dismissing it.
- ”All Palestinian Voices are Lies and Propaganda” – this tactic is one many pro-Israel lobby groups employ again and again. They take an instance of faked or enhanced video footage and use it to try convince the world that therefore anytime we ever see a Palestinian child bleeding or crying it must be fake, and if it isn’t it’s because Hammas put them in harms way. This ‘if one then all’ logic is also used to highlight anti semtiic actions at Pro Palestinian ralies around the world. The problem is the vast amount of information, images and viral videos that exist in this current war are out of proportion to anything we’ve combated in the past and it’s just no longer possible to say all of it is fake and biased. Using a few exceptions to paint an entire movement as fanatical is no longer a valid strategy.
- ”All media sources are biased” – Many influencers decry that “all” mainstream media is biased against Israel and instead share their own accounts for what’s ‘really’ going on. Often the accounts shared are ones like AIPAC, or the IDF…if you can’t see from a non-biased perspective that a Pro Israel lobby group and Israel’s own army is by definition a biased source then you aren’t seeing what the rest of the world is.
So…what’s a Jew to do? How can we showcase Israel’s right for self defense and powerful democratic allyship in the region without resorting to these tactics which are failing (and I would say embarrassing) us. Here are my best professional tips:
- Share snippets from mainstream media sources – use their reporting to highlight points you want the world to see, rather than relying on our own sources as the ‘only’ example of the truth.
- Acknowledge the suffering on both sides and don’t paint the Palestinian people as the enemy. Keep the focus on the actions of leaders and understand that people are dying, people are suffering and even if you believe Israel’s every action is justified there are still casualties as a result and that is tragic.
- Advocate for a peaceful resolution. It’s so easy to reTweet #FreePalestine because everyone can get behind the message for freedom. Israel can define its need to protect its citizens from rocket fire and terrorism in the same way, while also linking their base desires as ones for peace. So far it hasn’t been made clear how Israel is making movements towards peace or a deescalation of the conflict.
Ultimately I hope we can realize that if we’ve already decided that “everyone” hates Jews and always will, we will always find examples online of this self-fulfilling prophecy. If instead we can pivot our social media strategy to ‘we are united in an effort for peace’ we might find examples of how many supporters of Israel are out there waiting to repost a message they can get behind.
Marion Haberman is a writer and content creator for her YouTube/MyJewishMommyLife channel and Instagram @MyJewishMommyLife page where she shares her experience living a meaning-FULL Jewish family life. Haberman is the author of Judaism and pregnancy book “Expecting Jewish!” She is also a professional social media consultant and web and television writer for Discovery Channel, NOAA and NatGeo and has an MBA from Georgetown University.