If we could travel back in time to London, Brussels, or New York of the 1970s and ask a random person on the street what they thought of Israel, the answer would have most likely been positive.
Today, the same scenario might unfold very differently, despite Israel's growing power and undeniable contribution to humanity. Israel has long been a beacon of Western democratic values in the authoritarian Middle East. Israel is contributing countless inventions that are improving and saving lives around the world - things like drip irrigation systems, medical technologies, high tech and fintech solutions, to name a few. And whenever there is a catastrophic event or a natural disaster, Israel is quick to send its most elite and skilled rescuers across the globe to assist.
So why do so many people dislike the Jewish state? Is it because we Israelis are a bit loud on planes? Is it the genuine challenge to find an Israeli who doesn't cut in line? It's true that some of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians can blemish the country's reputation, even though one would be hard-pressed to find another democratic western country that has been in a conflict for decades who has behaved better. However, these are not the root reasons. They don't like Israel because they see it as too strong and too influential.
So how did we get here?
From the dawn of time, Jews have been maligned and slandered. Apion's vilification, the blood libels, the Dreyfus trial, and of course, the antisemitic propaganda of the 20th century are just a few examples. All of these manifestations of antisemitism got an "upgrade" to vilifying Israel, where the majority of world Jewry resides, by taking away the very legitimacy of Jewish presence in its ancestral homeland.
This effort began when the Roman emperor Hadrian renamed the land of Israel "Palestine" in order to detach the Jews from their homeland. In a nutshell, the vilification of the Jew has evolved into the delegitimization of the State of Israel. Words have power, and we still suffer the consequences of those words written and spoken over the last two millennia.
Today, the effort to delegitimize Israel has gone global and has permeated organizations like the United Nations and Amnesty International, which routinely try to undermine Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state within any borders. Furthermore, with the democratization of communication due to the emergence of social media, the average person has been handed the power and platform to throw misinformed accusations at Israel with the click of a button.
Making matters worse, influencers and celebrities can reach three, four, or even ten times the number of all Jews on the planet, spreading incorrect information. They share inaccurate content out of ignorance (like the star of Netflix's hit show Wednesday, Jenna Ortega) or out of pure malice (like antisemite Kanye West). Thus, the average person, who forms their opinions, including geo-political stances, based on memes, Instagram stories and TikTok videos, will easily be misinformed by these influencers. I experienced this firsthand when my friends around the world would easily share misinformation, while terrorist organizations were unleashing thousands of rockets upon Israeli civilians.
So what can you do?
Learn, educate, and engage in activism! We should encourage more people around the world to utilize multiple sources to learn about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and become aware of antisemitic tropes, no matter which political camp they come from. Then, when questions come up, explain the answers to your family and friends, and educate your children.
Finally, you need to act. Too many pro-Israel and pro-Jewish people worldwide are active only during crises like military operations or following antisemitic attacks.
Being an activist doesn't mean that you have to go to every demonstration, nor do you have to sacrifice your whole life for "the cause." However, if a friend shares an antisemitic or Israel-bashing meme, don't ignore it but rather engage in civil conversation with them. When you see hate or misinformation, report it. Share content on social media to educate those that follow you. Contact the people that can actually make a change.
Above all, never be silent. S/he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
Aaron Boujenah is the Head of Operations and External Relations at the pro-Israel group Act-IL. Act-IL leads an online activism community to combat antisemitism and the delegitimization of Israel through crowd-sourced activism on social media & beyond. Mr. Boujenah obtained his LLB at the University of Kent, and his MA in Government from Reichman University.
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Eran Shayshon.