Organization sparks "Zionist internet revolution."
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
A simple toolbar application on a laptop or iPhone is the settlers’ latest weapon in efforts to galvanize activist support for continued Jewish presence in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem.Earlier this week, when the US State Department said Israel had promised not to build in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, those with the application already on their toolbars were immediately alerted to call the Prime Minister’s Office and seek clarification.The toolbar is just one component of a new Web site, www.myisrael.org.il, which the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip has launched in the last two weeks under the auspices of its director-general, Naftali Bennett.Bennett was a founder and past CEO of hi-tech Internet company Cyota. In 2006, he built a Web site and blog for then-opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, under whom he served as chief of staff.The new Web site offers users multiple options for receiving and interacting with information through online tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Since it opened its Facebook page earlier this week, it has already registered 619 friends.“That’s more than 100 new users a day,” said Bennett. “I didn’t expect it to gain traction as fast as it did.”“The site is more than a public relations tool,” Bennett explained. “In the old world, it was about press releases. This is about the public engaging with each other and creating ideas.”AdvertisementThe Web site gives supporters information that enables them to act in support of Israel and its future in Judea and Samaria by alerting them in real time to tangible things they can do, such as calling a politician or participating in a New York Times poll.A decade ago, said Bennett, he would have spent his time organizing a rally in Tel Aviv’s Kikar Rabin, or he and a small group of settler leaders would have hired a public relations firm to create a message or a slogan to define the movement.Now, he said, the Internet is the new Kikar Rabin.The public relations message that was once created from the top can now be generated in a more democratic and grassroots manner from the bottom up, he said.Those who support the national Zionist movement can talk with each other through Facebook and post their own ideas, as well as videos, Bennett explained.Instead of a few people thinking up ideas in the council offices, he pointed out, there can be 100,000 people brainstorming on Facebook. Why have a focus group evaluate a video when one can post it on YouTube and see how many viewers it attracts? he asked.Already, one can see a number of videos on the Facebook page, including one that the council commissioned as a message for US President Barack Obama, showing 4,000 years of Jewish history in four minutes.Anyone who wants to create an event can use the site to publicize it as well, said Bennett.The council already has a few staff members and volunteers managing content on the site.In addition, it is offering free seminars throughout the country, starting this Sunday in Jerusalem, to train people to use the new Internet media tools, so they can best utilize the site.The Web site is not only for settlers, Bennett said, but everyone who supports Zionism and Israel.He added that not all those who used it had to agree with its ideas.“When you watch television, you might think that all of Israel belongs to the Meretz party,” he said. The Web site “lets us bypass the traditional media, which has shut out the overwhelming majority of Zionist Israelis.“I tell all of the national Zionist activists, let’s stop whining about the media, and let’s go log into Facebook and start doing,” said Bennett.
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