In the last week, #BringBackOurBoys has taken over the pro-Israel social media world, filling our social media feeds with news, any news, about the search for Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. There is a compelling argument, one which has already been raised, about the appropriateness of coopting a symbol of a suffering nation for expediency and pithiness. Putting that problem aside, I have another issue with the BringBackOurBoys campaign.
We live in the age of social media, and the Arab Spring (and the prior Green Revolution in Iran) more than anything else have brought home the salient impact of social media on politics. Social media has had positive and negative lasting images for athletes, politicians, pop culture icons, for hitherto unknown ‘’youtube stars”,’ for issues such as environmentalism, sexism, indigenous rights and racism. Beyond awareness, social media has been harnessed to coordinate activism and to implement political activist campaigns on national and international levels.
However, neither of these roles seem to be relevant here. A kidnapping which has already taken a nation captive, which was front and center in the news before anyone began posting selfies holding up signs, hardly needs awareness raised. Nor have the tweets, posts or emails really called for any action. After all, the Israeli government is already using every resource available to it in the search for the missing teens. Sans those two, what is the point of all of the posts? What do they seek to accomplish or to change, and how will they help?
One answer that lends itself is solidarity. The songs, the pictures, the posts, all are signs of solidarity, of the unification witnessed when a nation undergoes a tragedy of this saliency. They support the suffering families, their communities and all of those affected. But shouldn’t we expect more from a campaign of this scale?
What seems to be missing thus far is the link to action, to do something, to use our collective pain over our missing boys to take individual positive steps as part of a national/international effort. More than highlighting Eyal, Gilad and Naftali with songs, tweets and statuses, we should catalyze concern for their wellbeing into improving the lives of those around us.
Such a campaign can take many forms. There have been isolated calls for prayer, for religious identification (such as three extra Shabbat candles), for performing good deeds for one another. There have been a few rare, but noteworthy, interfaith efforts in spite of the tensions. Israelis and Palestinians who cherish life and desire peace have a common enemy in political (and often religious) extremists who scorn life. It may not be vogue, but likely nothing shows our enemies that they cannot prevail as much as a public, sustained effort to improve coexistence. Perhaps the most pragmatic campaign is an open-ended one which merely calls for doing good, allowing the individual to choose how to implement it.
One way or another, what has been largely absent from the twitter and facebook posts is the call to action, to doing, to effecting and implementing positive change. Hopefully the BringBackOurBoys campaign can be transformed to reflect such a spin and continued long after our boys are brought back.