The pro-Israel community stumble to the Digital Age

Social media is a great, maybe revolutionary outlet that lets anyone say anything at any time of the day.

Netanyahu and laptop 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Netanyahu and laptop 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As a Jewish teenager who has grown up in a pro- Israel bubble, I, along with many if not most of my friends, am proudly armed with the knowledge it takes to put forth a strong, fact-based argument for Israel’s existence and right to defend itself. This editorial is not for the purpose of preaching pro-Israel rhetoric. If you keep reading past this paragraph, you probably know the facts already, and you probably share my sentiments.
The problem facing my personal pro-Israel bubble as well as its national and international counterparts is that more often than not, we are preaching to our own pro-Israel choir. Our constant struggle is not formulating or articulating our message; it is getting that message out to where it needs to be heard. Identifying the uneducated is a tough task by itself. Educating them is exponentially harder.
So why is it that our pro-Israel community has such a tough time getting our message across to the masses? The age of social media is creating a level of complacency, nay, borderline lethargy, that is thickening the outer shell of our bubble.
Our pro-Israel community is blessed with resources to teach us what we need to know, care, and take action. With the kind of knowledge and communication skills we have at our fingertips, the line between “passion” and “action” is not a hard one to cross. But in order for our masses to cross that line collectively, we must not let the inherent laziness that is part of 21st-century human nature create apathy among our generation that will keep us on the wrong side of that line.
After a barrage of recent rocket attacks on Israelis in the Negev, followed by Wednesday’s assassination of Ahmed Jabari, the commander of Hamas’ military wing, a storm brewed among the pro-Israel bubble on Facebook. Statuses went viral, from “wherever I stand, I stand with Israel,” to “12,000 rockets have been launched at civilians,” and how “you will not see that on TV.”
All true statements, and sentiments echoed in unison throughout the pro-Israel bubble.
At face value, this was a beautiful display of unity in a dangerous, uncertain time for our family and friends in the land many of us call home.
Social media is a great, maybe revolutionary outlet that lets anyone say anything at any time of the day. However, it is simply not enough when our audience is almost entirely people who feel the same way.
The fact is, “mainstream media” (a term I do not throw around lightly) does not echo the sentiments of the pro-Israel community, and more importantly, does not report the facts, either.
Posts to our social networks will not reach the people who only read the news outlets that undermine our very efforts.
My generation, the up-and-coming generation of our movement, is at a crossroads as we become fully immersed in the digital age. We must shape ourselves into the new leaders of our movement; Status posting does not qualify as leadership. We must live our message, not simply transmit it.
One particularly disturbing snippet of social media I stumbled across Wednesday rightly commended the pro-Israel community for their passion, but missed the point of how to effectively use that passion to make a difference. It said, “A status can change everything.”
Let me be clear: I do not discourage expression on social media. It does no harm, but it in no way “changes everything,” and to think it does is naïve, and potentially dangerous. An attitude that reflects this naiveté will send our generation down a slippery slope that leads to a lack of will to take legitimate action. As a community, our passion inspires me. But the thought that copying and pasting a status is what will pass for “making a difference” is disturbing at best, and scary at worst.
There is a level of complacency that turns into indolence in merely re-posting or “liking” someone else’s social media. It’s the difference between “marching” in 1963 and “occupying” in 2012. Occupying is passive; by its very nature it tells you to sit back and wait for something to happen. Guess what. It’s not going to happen.
Don’t occupy; march. Marching is active. It brings your voice into places it otherwise never would have reached. Dr. Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “you pray with your feet.” Such are the differences between copying and pasting a status, and taking up a pen, a phone, or even that same keyboard you were going to use to copy and paste, write an original, impassioned thought and share it with the world.
Back in my parents’ day, writing in to newspapers was known as the “power of the pen.” That’s right, they actually had to write a letter (on paper), put it in an envelope, send it off, and wait for a response, to even have a chance at their voices being heard.
Today, it’s as easy as trolling the comments section on a news site or calling in to a talk show; things that can be done in literally a half hour or less. In a country defined by freedom of expression, there are endless options afforded to us to relay the truth to the masses. To the impassioned Israel advocate reading this: I implore you to take a few minutes out of your week and write to your representatives, get in touch with pro- Israel organizations, or comment on an article.
If you’re particularly fervent, you don’t have to stop there. If a socially handicapped Harvard dropout could create Facebook in his dorm room, we can come up with new, creative ways to get our message across that will shape the future of Israel’s existence.
The list of ways to make a difference is a long one, but simply reposting social media is not on it. We must not hesitate to take the next step.
We in the United States of America are privileged with what most of the world is not: free press, free speech, and uncensored access to the Internet. We must go farther than the bare minimum to make our voices heard to those who wouldn’t otherwise hear our side of the story. It doesn’t sound like much because it’s so easy, but I guarantee you it will reach more uneducated people than that status you “liked.”
Posting to our own personal bubble is a start. But if it’s all we do, we are doing our passions a disservice. If our generation doesn’t get our act together before we fall down the slope to complacency, our children won’t have a Jewish homeland to defend. Don’t like, lead. As Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.”
The writer 18, is a student at Santa Monica College in the US.