When Liran Kapoano and a few friends started the Facebook page “I support Scarlett Johansson against the haters,” he was surprised to see a huge, quick community reaction.
“I think the reason the Scarlett Johansson page became so popular is because it was well-timed as it was created just before the Super Bowl,” when she was set to appear in a commercial for Israeli product SodaStream, Kapoano told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “Scarlett is also a very popular actress, but I think it’s more driven by the fact that she has a larger fan base. There is a natural inclination to join up that you think is real and authentic. When I’m promoting a page that is in favor of tolerance and understanding and preventing isolation, you can see that’s true.”
After seeing Facebook pages and petitions to ostracize performers who support Israel, Kapoano, director of the Center for Israel Engagement at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, decided to harness the power of social media.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement created Facebook pages and petitions to ostracize celebrities who support Israel starting in 2004. Counter-protest pages have sprung up and collected likes and tweets by the thousand to support artists such as Johansson, Alicia Keys and, most recently, Neil Young.
For each BDS Facebook group that goes up, it seems that a counter-protest Facebook supporting those same celebrities is created in response often gaining the support of thousands through Facebook likes and comments.
“This is a big push back,” said Kapoano. Sharing it with their friends, and asking them to invite others, “is tedious work, that requires more effort than just clicking. That says something. We have a devoted group who does this,” he said in an interview with the Post.
“They make it seem like they are this big bad wolf huffing and puffing, but there’s no real effect. If you go to the official Neil Young page you’ll find an endless barrage of [BDS] people posting ‘Please don’t go to Israel.’ You only need 30 to 50 people to do that and you’ll look like an army,” Kapoano said when asked about the difference in strategy between the BDS movement and the counter-protest groups.
“While it took the BDS movement three-and-a-half years to get 19,000 followers, my page has reached 35,000 people [in less than two weeks]. I don’t force my followers to go through the tedious task of enlisting other members and I don’t just bombard the real Neil Young fan page. There’s a difference between 100 people bombarding Web pages and 100 people inviting others of their own will.”
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