NEW YORK – In the summer of 2014, as Operation Protective Edge was unfolding, Roxanne Mofaz, an Israeli who has been living in New York for over a decade, felt deep frustration.
She was pregnant at the time, and although she wanted to travel back home and show her support, she couldn’t do so. But to top it all, Mofaz was constantly faced with Israel bashing and slander, especially on social media.
“Many Israelis living abroad felt like me,” she said. “They wanted to do something but just couldn’t.”
The Strategic Affairs Ministry, led by Gilad Erdan, is tackling this issue head on. On Sunday in New York City, as thousands spent the day celebrating Israel in various events, the ministry launched a global campaign aimed at bringing together and strengthening supporters of Israel from around the world in the fight against delegitimization.
“There are so many lies and so much hatred spread on Israel, and our cellphones have become the No. 1 weapon used against us,” Erdan said at the Celebrate Israel Festival, held every year by the Israeli American Council (IAC) on the sidelines of the parade. “It’s time to fight back.”
“The new initiative we are launching today, 4IL, is a vital tool to help us counter the lies, stop the hate and spread the truth,” he added.
4IL campaign’s main platform is a website that provides various resources for Israel defenders to use online, including cartoons mocking BDS, explanatory videos, and links to news stories on pro-Israel activism.
“Together, we must show the world that Israel’s innovation, inspiration and brightest minds can bring light to those without it,” Erdan continued. “If their iPhones have become a weapon against us, then it’s time to launch the Iron Dome of truth.”
In parallel to the campaign’s debut, the IAC, the Maccabee Task Force and Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya also launched Act.IL, a mobile app complementing the ministry’s initiative.
The digital tool was created separately from 4IL and is independent of the government.
Act.IL aims to serve as a space where pro-Israel advocates can work together against the delegitimization and demonization of the country. On it, subscribers detect anti-Israel content online and retaliate by performing collective tasks such as reporting the content to the social media site as a group, which will have more impact than if an individual did so alone.
“When I heard about this great initiative [4IL and Act.IL], I was all in,” Mofaz told The Jerusalem Post
. “It’s an asset for the State of Israel. We always invest in military campaigns, but there is another campaign that is not military but is just as important.”
During Sunday’s event, the audience was asked to download the app and collectively carry out the inaugural task of the campaign: sending a petition to UNESCO, explaining the connection of Jews to the city of Jerusalem, which has been denied multiple times by the agency in the past months.
“Just like in a war, one individual soldier can’t bring victory. It’s the same thing here. Alone, as individuals, we have less impact than all together entering this war,” Mofaz told the Post
. “If we don’t take part in this, we will lose, and that’s scary.”
Hundreds of families attended the IAC event on Sunday afternoon. The venue, which was divided into booths and sitting areas, quickly filled up with enthusiastic children engaging in arts and crafts, eating ice cream and watching performances.
Zachi Rosenberg, who is very involved with the Israeli community in the US and came to the event with his children, said he plans on using the new platform.
“I personally think we need to receive more support from Israel to be able to fight on a global level,” he said. “I think we really lack a proper organized system for advocacy, one that will be active 24 hours a day and not just focused on reactionary processes.
“This app is a great start, but we need more support from Israeli organizations,” he continued.
Although Rosenberg said he is happy to see that the ministry is taking action when it comes to defeating anti-Israel propaganda, he also expressed concern that it may be too late to win this battle.
“I hope we are not too late,” he said. “I’ve been living in the US for 24 years now. We never had an organized system to tell us what to do. I hope it’s not too late, but better late than never.”