I am a firm believer of the tome, “promote what you love, do not bash what you hate”. It is with this philosophy in mind that I approach Israel advocacy and my social media activity. It may not be everybody’s cup of tea or approach but I honestly prefer wherever possible, to take a more positive angle.
Social media is fabulous. Most of us are active on Facebook or Twitter or whatever medium you like to connect with your friends and family or share copious amounts of cat videos. I have found Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to be excellent tools not just to educate people about Israel or show a side to the country that many are not aware of but also to create community. My tribe, if you will.
Most of us who are active in this field have a following who enjoy what we post or engage in robust debate with each other. This is why social media is effective, it creates engagement and is an excellent barometer to gauge what people are thinking.
I have a simple rule for managing debate on my page – you are entitled to an opinion or to disagree with me and each other but play the ball and not the player. In other words, back up your opinions based on facts (even if I disagree) but please do not personally attack each other. Or me. No matter how fruitcake you think the person you are disagreeing with is!
But social media also has a very, very dark side and bigots, racists and nasties of all kinds use it to spread their vile form of hate. There is very little censorship (have you seen some of the posts in the run up to the US elections? Wow!!) and everybody is an armchair General. Personally I have never experienced this more than during Operation Protective Edge when some really nasty bigots crawled out of the woodwork. It always amazes me how many of them hide behind pseudonyms or mask their true identities
Some of my greatest “hits” include:
“Hitler should have gassed you”
“You are an evil Zionist witch”
“You are nothing but a vacuous bimbo who should change her name to Occupier Barbie” – my favourite for sheer creativity.
“You have the intelligence of a garden potato”.
“You are a purveyor of pornography” – this in response to an article I wrote about a woman’s right to choose whether or not she wants to watch a seemingly erotic movie. Another woman also told me she hoped I do not have children. This was particularly personal and painful for me but as someone who is “out there” comments like this are sometimes just par for the course. Haters gonna hate right?
Thank you foxy Gina Jacobson for this
There were other comments too disgusting to even mention in polite company and were duly reported and many of my colleagues have received far worse.
Some erected (pun very much intended!) to send me pictures of their nether regions. They were not that impressive and were reported and blocked for violating pornography and my standards.
This brings me to the reason for this rant. One the eve of Ramadan, I wished my Muslim friends, of which I have many and some of whom outwardly support Israel, at great risk to their safety, Ramadan Mubarak. I was not alone in this as many from the IDF to the Tel Aviv municipality as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wished our Muslim citizens the same.
I received the following response:
“I will delete you. You are a radical Muslim with a fake name and picture”.
This has raised my fiery ire because Israelis have just come through a 7 month long wave of terror where social media has been the weapon of choice to indoctrinate young Palestinians and Arab Israelis to become teenorists (thanks Colonel!). It almost gave every latent anti-Semite license to go crazy and post whatever they liked on social media. This is not a game. People have lost their lives and others have been severely wounded, emotionally and physically and in nearly incident, the perpetrators have admitted that they were motivated by posts on social media.
It has been an uphill battle to get social media platforms to better police hate speech as the de fact excuse often give is that “comments or pictures do not violate community standards”. View this sobering experiment conducted by Shurat Hadin, the Israel Law Centre who currently have in excess of 20 000 who have filed suit against Facebook for allowing anti-Semitic hate speech:
There is a lot of lobbying happening to try and improve the policing of hate speech as Shurat Ha Din have demonstrated in the You Tube clip above and organizations like Spotlighting who monitor social media and expose racists as demonstrated in the picture below.
Spotlighting – exposing anti-Semites, one hater at a time
Racist comments from either side once again import racism and conflict into social media. Israel is making major gains in the effort to combat online anti-Semitism. Do not open up another front! It is like the saying goes – if you have not got something good to say, do not say anything at all. There is a huge difference between activism and educating for the truth and personal attacks.
There are some things I just do NOT want to see – beheaded victims of ISIS, tortured or starving animals, abused children, personal attacks on individuals that take nasty to a whole new level. Cat videos and shoe memes are always welcome.