I would like to talk about StandWithUs, how it seems to attempt to accomplish its stated mission, and what I think is actually being achieved.

Its mission

Here’s a quote from its mission statement:

We believe that education is the road to peace.[1]

That is an absolutely beautiful mission and something I can’t disagree with. I think that education is key and the only way for a peaceful future. We must teach that peace is a possible and viable solution.

We believe that knowledge of the facts will correct common prejudices about the Arab-Israeli conflict…that can help promote peace in the region[1]

Again, I 100% agree. The way we view  certain “facts” or half-truths is a roadblock to peace. Education, gaining nuance, and turning these half-truths into a real understanding of what the actual truth is, as the mission statement says, is what will ultimately help promote peace in the region.

How I imagine the implementation of that mission

Beautiful mission statements unfortunately aren’t enough to change the world. So how would I, Binny Zupnick, go about implementing StandWithUs’s mission statement?

One thing, which I think is very important is education about the way of life of “the other”. Posting articles of Israelis living under rocket fire and living in fear of tractors, or people with large coats during the summer. Also posting articles of Palestinians living under the military control of Israel. What is the freedom of movement like for Palestinians? What’s it like to go through a checkpoint? Or how often are there house raids and arrests[3]? Giving historical and day-to-day living of the “other” is extremely important and gives context to actions, both good and bad, of the “other”.

My Facebook feed would also be about humanizing both sides which means showing the people, without favoring either side, that are striving  for peace. I would show the many grassroots organizations that work on building bridges between Israelis and Palestinians. Giving people hope that there is good in the world and that good will prevail.

It sounds dreamy, but that’s the point of education. To educate the younger generation about our dream that they will accomplish. Rear them knowing that the things we dream are possible for them.

I would post and teach about grassroots programs like Tiyul-Rihla, Heartbeat, YaLa, and others.

I would post heartfelt stories about Jews supporting Muslims, Muslims supporting Jews, Israelis and Palestinians supporting each other.

I would show that on both sides there are people who not only want peace, but go against the social grain to act on that want.

I would post amazing accomplishments of people on both sides.

I would show that on both sides there are people that simply live life. They win robotics and math tournaments. Show that Palestinians do more than just evil and show that Israel does more than just evil. Show the humanity on both sides.

It’s not all positive, though, and I think attention has to be given to the acts of terror and hatred on both sides. We shouldn’t shirk from it. To quote StandWithUs’s missions statement “knowledge of the facts will correct common prejudices”[1] and I agree. We have to show the bad that Palestinians do, and condemn it, and the bad that Israelis do, and condemn it.

The goal would be to create a place where both Israelis and Palestinians see that the other side is filled with compassionate, hard-working, honest civilians who want to live safely, peacefully, and in coexistence with each other. This creates trust, hence more dialogue, thus more personal relationships between “others,” which creates more trust, and starts the beginning of a necessary cycle to fulfill StandWithUs’s mission of “promot[ing] discussions…that can help promote peace in the region”.

Right now, the trust is so lacking between the two peoples, and every act of terror or violence pushes us farther away from each other. In a situation where we have a basic level of trust, dialogue, and friendships with the “other”, terror becomes less terrifying because you know not all of them are like that.

That is why I think my posts would be the way to fulfill StandWithUs’s mission of peace.

How StandWithUs seems to try to accomplish this mission

 

I follow StandWithUs on Facebook, and the post that got me started thinking on this subject was this picture. It shows a picture of the 13-year-old Palestinian getting arrested after stabbing a security guard with the words “young teen Palestinians committing acts of terror,” and a picture of two Israeli children with the words “young teen Israelis in community service youth programs. This whole meme is entitled “what did you do when you were 13?”.

The implication, I felt, was that all Israelis spend their youth in community service and helping their surroundings, and all Palestinians commit terror.

These pictures were posted recently in memory of the Har Nof Massacre. Don’t get me wrong, this should be condemned, but based on what I saw in StandWithUs’s Facebook feed, there are few-and-far-between posts showing anything good Palestinians do[2].

This picture is a picture of a Magen David Adom ambulance, with an added Israeli flag hanging, and the title of “we don’t see race.” On the other half of the picture is a Red Crescent ambulance, with an added Palestinian flag hanging, and the title of “we don’t see Jews.” This cartoon implies that all the Jews indiscriminately save all human beings, and no Palestinian would ever save a Jew.

Where’s any good thing Palestinians have done? Or bad that Israelis have done?

I’ll answer my own questions; it’s there. StandWithUs does post some bad things that Israelis do, some good things Palestinians do, and some beautiful joint activities. This is amazing and I’m really glad that they do this, but, as a general rule, I believe that StandWithUs mostly portrays the bad that Palestinians do and the good that Israelis do. The day-to-day postings of StandWithUs give mostly a one-sided view of the conflict and of the two peoples.

What I think they’re actually accomplishing

I find that StandWithUs’s posts are one-sided in regards to Palestinian and Muslim terror, and Jewish and Israeli successes and goodness.

Don’t get me wrong. Palestinians and Muslims have committed the terror that StandWithUs posted about, and Israelis and Jews have done the good things that StandWithUs posted about, but the one-sided posts give a one-sided view; “Palestinians and Arabs commit murder and terror. Israelis and Jews do good for people and the world.” When one is constantly exposed to images of Palestinians committing evil acts and has no other exposure to Palestinians, he or she will perceive all Palestinians as evil.

Being truthful isn’t only about posting only factual events, but also posting all types of events.

StandWithUs, instead of accomplishing their stated mission of “We believe that education is the road to peace,”[1] are using education to create a wider divide between the Israeli and Palestinian people.

They say they “inform the public about Israel”[1]. What information are they giving? Yes, they inform the public. But do they give the real full picture?

“We believe that knowledge of the facts will correct common prejudices about the Arab-Israeli conflict”[1]. Are they giving all the facts? Or are they giving pointed facts and half-truths that leave their followers with a very specific and extreme black-and-white point of view?

Conclusion

I think that if StandWithUs really wanted to accomplish their stated goals, they would give a fuller and more truthful portrayal of the Israeli people, the Palestinian people, and what goes on in the region.

I truly believe that the way StandWithUs uses its social media demonizes Arabs and Palestinians, idealizes Israelis and Jews, and pushes us further from each other and further from peace.

Very important postscript

Although I am singling out StandWithUs, they’re not the only person or organization at fault in the way I discussed above. I also read Shehab News Agency daily and to say it’s worse in every regard I’m about to discuss is a massive understatement. Unfortunately social media sites, and people in general, tend to give more of black-and-white portrayal of things as opposed to complicated nuance. I’m singling out StandWithUs because I follow their page, many of my peers follow them, and one of their posts made me particularly angry, inspiring this post.

 Notes

[1] the whole mission statement can be found at https://www.standwithus.com/aboutus/

[2] There are multiple posts about Israeli Arabs or Palestinians speaking good about Israel. I don’t think that serves the purpose of humanizing the masses of Palestinians. I think, instead, it sends the message of “look at these Palestinians who found the light” as opposed to sending a message of accepting difference of opinions.

[3] The very discussion of Israel’s military control of Palestinians is in it of itself extremely politicized. That’s not my intent. The fact is that there are house raids and arrests in the middle of the night. Do Israelis know that? Or know what that’s like?