Sticks, Stones and Social Media…..

This post currently appears in the WIZO Lapid Magazine’s issue on Global Anti-Semitism:

http://fliphtml5.com/nati/tvko

“You have the intelligence of a garden potato”. “You are an evil Zionist witch”. “You should have been gassed”. “You are nothing but a vacuous bimbo who should be called Occupier Barbie”.

They sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me. These are examples of messages tweeted to me on my personal Twitter account. In this case the words are becoming increasingly harmful and are leading to more than just sticks and stones – They are resulting in acts of violence and terror against Jews and supporters of Israel around the world.

Social media platforms are being used as forums for hate speech. In a few characters and a hashtag, some of the most venomous invective has found an outlet. It seems that anyone with a mobile device and access to a Twitter account or Facebook page can launch an uncensored and hate filled diatribe.

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Anti-Semitism is rising to alarming levels that we have not seen since prior to World War 2. Social media has added another dimension and battlefield and this just increases to dangerous levels when Israel is engaged in any kind of dispute or conflagration.

Last year, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in response to incessant rocket attacks from Gaza. A new frontier opened up across the various social media sites and the level of venom was unprecedented. Social Media sites offer individuals an opportunity to opine without sanction and the immediacy of having a community to share this with as often as they want. It seemed that within minutes, groups and pages sprung up, calling for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people. Some of these extended into personal threats and the race to shut down and report some of the culprits was almost as quick as they originated. This called for extra vigilance and many have complained that longstanding friendships were broken over differing opinions.

Social media sites are the preferred playground of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement who pass up no opportunity to campaign against the Jewish state. In a short amount of time,  they are able to mobilise their minions and have propagated a climate of hatred on campuses around the world. By creating pages that advertise opportunities to protest and campaign against students and supporters of Israel, the BDS movement has successfully manipulated Facebook and Twitter as well as YouTube to serve their more nefarious aims. One of their infamous claims to fame is a carefully edited video of famed anti-Apartheid activist, Nelson Mandela saying that “we will never be free until the Palestinians are free”. The second part of the interview where Mandela endorses an Israel that exists with secure borders has been edited out so that the Nobel Peace prize winner seems biased in favour of what BDS extols.

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Even journalists claimed to be shocked by levels of anti-Semitism, although this does not stop some using social media to give their opinions which in some cases have passed the realm of legitimate criticism.

Where does the line between the freedom of speech and hate speech blur? Criticism of Israel and her policies is totally okay – it is even regarded as the national sport of the country but when the line is crossed and the type of speech used starts to rile up anti-Israel or anti-Semitic feeling amongst the general public we are dealing with something that is no longer journalistic licence but an expression of personal prejudice.

Veteran CNN broadcaster, Jim Clancy, discovered that irresponsible tweeting could costs even the most seasoned journalist their job. While it is important that journalists are able to express their opinions, there needs to be respect for journalistic integrity to report based on fact and not on personal prejudice. After a career that spanned several decades at CNN, Clancy has been summarily dismissed for a tweet that angered not just the pro-Israel activists but the disabled community as well.

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A similar incident occurred when the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen, angered Jews around the world when he accused Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of “playing the Holocaust card”  when he saluted Nobel Peace prize winner and survivor, Elie Wiesel during his speech to US Congress recently.  Bowen responded with a tweet where he claimed that “suggestions that I am an anti-Semite or denierof the Holocaust are untrue and offensive”. He did not apologise. The BBC offered a lukewarm apology by saying, “Jeremy was using Twitter and journalism shorthand whilst live-tweeting PM Netanyahu’s speech. The context of his comment is that a major part of PM Netanyahu’s critique of the proposed Iran deal was based on the spectre of another holocaust. Jeremy’s tweet was designed to reflect that context. He absolutely refutes any suggestion of antisemitism.” Still no apology for any offense caused.

It is not just Israel bashers that are using social media to their advantage. The Islamic State, which have fast become the world’s most frightening terror phenomenon also understand how important a role social media can play. They have turned YouTube into their own network of nasty, using the platform to upload their execution videos and messages of mayhem to the world.  These movies are extremely well- choreographed and scripted and for many, serve more as recruitment videos than horror films.  This death pornography is radicalizing more youth than the most vociferous Imam.

It is clear that “new media” has eclipsed traditional methods and if we do not get some sort of control on content we will find ourselves at the mercy of the radicals.

There is something that we can do! As media consumers we can play an important role in stopping flagrant abuse of social media.

Here is what you can do to help:

* Monitoring social media sites – report and block groups and individuals that violate social media codes of conduct or are just downright racists and offensive.

  • Reporting posts, articles, tweets to media watch dogs – try honestreporting.com or BBC Media Watch, CiF Watch and many others.
  • Start your own media response group – a group of knowledgeable, skilled, likeminded individuals who can respond factually and cohesively will give your community an opportunity to fight off growing ant-Semitism. Visit: mediateamisrael.wordpress.com or www.truthbetoldgroup.wordpress.com to see examples of citizen activism.

Social Media is playing a powerful role in disseminating hate – but it can also play its part to share facts! Get on your tablet, iPad, phone or computer and get tweeting, sharing and posting today.  It is time to become a pro-Activist.

These Holy days

During this time of the year, Israel is festooned with flags. They line our streets and decorate our buildings. They bring with them a festive and happy energy, signaling a time of celebration and a time of commemoration. There is a pervasive feeling of joy and pride at the site of our cities clothed in their best blue and white.

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Image courtesy of Rafo

This year the national holidays, Yom Ha Shoa (Holocaust Memorial Day), Yom Ha Zikaron (Memorial Day for Soldiers and Victims of Terror) and Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Independence Day) will be felt more intensely, more acutely.

This past year has been one of the most difficult for Israel in recent history and has had a ripple effect, affecting diaspora communities across the globe. It seems that if Israel sneezes our diaspora communities catch a cold but in this case they also fall victim to the wrath and sometimes violent retribution of the anti-Israel activists.

Seventy years ago, as the death camps were liberated and the truth of the horrors of the Holocaust began to emerge, we swore a vow that NEVER AGAIN would we allow for the slaughter and persecution of the Jewish people. This Yom Hashoa, seventy years later, I cannot help but feel that we have failed our vow.  We have failed in our promise to the victims and survivors that we would create a better, more tolerant and peaceful world for their children.

The Holocaust was started with words and over the last year we have seen an increase in the venom and vitriol around the world that has resulted in numerous deaths. Once again Jews are dying on European soil and once again we are bringing our brothers and sisters home for burial. The lessons of the Shoah have not been learned and now more than ever it is important to learn, to teach and to truly mean it when we say NEVER AGAIN.  We cannot allow for heartbroken survivors to feel the fear and déjà vu that their grandchildren will experience the hatred they did. NEVER AGAIN means NEVER, EVER AGAIN!

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Visual courtesy of Spotlighting

June 2014 started with rock star visits and start-up acquisitions.  This all ended abruptly with the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrah z”l, Gilad Shaer z”l and Naphtali Frankel z”l and the news that they had been brutally murdered. For eighteen days, a nation prayed and hoped and news of their deaths plunged us into mourning. Oh, Eyal, Gilad and Naphtali how we still weep for you! This was coupled with incessant rocket attacks from Gaza which prompted Israel to launch Operation Protective Edge in response.

I have been dreading this Yom Hazikaron. The pain of what we have lost over the past years is too much to bear and there is no end to the tears. Tears for the victims of terror in Israel, Belgium and France. Tears for our most precious 67 brave warriors, who paid the ultimate price for our safety and freedom. Tears for the bereaved families, the parents who have lost their sons, cut down in their prime in defense of their country. Tears for the babies who will never meet their fathers. Tears for the lovers who will never hold each other again. Tears, endless tears.

There will never be enough words to express our gratitude for their service to all of us. May their memories forever be blessed.

In a year that has witnessed brutal kidnappings and terror attacks, a conflagration with our neighbours an election and a tension in our relationship with our greatest ally, Israel has stood tall. We have endured the unimaginable and we have witnessed the best of humanity. The brave mothers who carried a grieving nation on their shoulders. The ordinary citizens who cooked, donated, opened up homes, schlepped and sprung into action to help our soldiers and each other.  The citizens who comforted bereaved families and visited injured warriors and those who lined the streets to pay respects to our fallen at their funerals. These are everyday heroes and they make up the fabric of Israel. They are worth celebrating and this year, Yom Ha’atzmaut is in their honour.

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“…And so they stand, the light on their faces, and the Lord,

alone passes among them, with tears in His eyes He kisses 

their wounds, and He says in a trembling voice to the white

 angels: “These are my sons, these are my sons. 

The Parade of The Fallen / Hayim Hefe

A few weeks ago, the IDF home Front Command conducted a drill in Modiin. We knew it would happen and we expected the siren. What some of us did not expect were our reactions to the noise. I am not embarrassed to say I froze – could not breath and had tears in my eyes.  My friends had similar reactions – we forget the impact of PTSD on our lives.  For many in the South, theirs is a generation that doesn’t know of a life without sirens and shelters. They are the shelter generation. This Yom Ha’atzmaut we honour the courage of our citizens who live under threat and yet continue to build and contribute as their expression of Zionism.

Chag Ha’atzmaut Sameach our dear Israel! Nobody deserves a big party with all the fireworks and celebration as much as you do. These days have no religious significance but the love, unity and solidarity they inspire is holy.Fly your flag high! Am Yisrael chai!

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Roro sits down with the Disgruntled Millenial. Hear the interview here:

http://imjewishyo.podbean.com/e/rolenemarks/

We spoke about the Apartheid comparison, the Middle East, Israel’s media battlefield and everything in between!

Brett Segal: Music and Video Producer. Podcaster. Disgruntled Millennial. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcxyXR9b7pHSyrpfH3s7hDw

Dear United Nations – from an Israeli woman

Dear United Nations

We know you are obsessed with Israel.  You cannot leave us alone. You pass resolution after resolution deriding us and singling us out for opprobrium. You are drunk with lust against us and there are so many who are voiceless and nameless who are wondering why you don’t seem to care about their issues. It is just the petite Jewish State that gets you all worked up, so much so that on the 20th 0f March 2015 you decided that Israel is the number one violator of women’s rights, namely those of Palestinian women.

Sigh. Oh, Useless Nations, do you not have anything better to do? Your “when in doubt, just blame Israel” approach is getting a bit tired and long in the tooth now.

Israel is a vibrant democracy where women are very much a part of the fabric that has and continues to build the country every day. We are pioneers, having built a country with very little natural resources. We are trailblazers in business, politics, volunteer organisations, the arts and sciences and so much more.  We are religious and secular and everything in between – hey, if you want to spend Shabbat in downward dog contemplating your navel that is okay too! We are warriors and defenders of our country on land, sea, air and airwaves and we are homemakers, entrepreneurs and creative genii.  We are changing the political landscape and we represent over 80 different ethnicities. We can vote, drive, own property and business. We can make decisions that govern our bodies and our communities and if we want to, raise a little hell.

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Lady Warriors of the IDF

We are free to be who we are, free to choose and free to fight for our rights. In communities where religious doctrines are sometimes prohibitive towards gender rights for women, we are slowly making changes.

The same cannot be said for many of the other women in our neighbourhood. Women in other parts of the Middle East are not as free as their Israeli sisters and this is not our fault. Blame the despotic, theocratic regimes that are in place. In this part of the world, girls are married off before they reach puberty or are killed because they have ‘dishonoured” their families. In this part of the world, women do not have the right to own property, vote, get an education or even drive. Gender Apartheid is rife and the unprecedented rise of Daesh (ISIS) with their deathly brand of medieval barbarism is sending women’s rights back to the stone-age.

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Golda Meir z”l, first female Prime Minister of Israel

There are so many women’s rights abuse transgressions around the world and particularly in the Middle East and the United Nations is silent.  The Palestinian women in Yarmouk refugee camp who are devastated at the starvation of their children, the Yazidi women being raped and slaughtered, the Christian women being persecuted, the Syrian women who have been subject to civil war are in need of your outrage and help.

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Ada Yonath, Nobel Prize Winner

Stop pointing your finger at Israel and use your considerable platform to give a voice to our suffering sisters.  Help those women who you accuse us of discriminating against. They are far more deserving of your attention than we are.

Kind regards

This concerned Israeli woman.