In this age of information warfare, Israel and the global Jewish community once again find themselves at the center of a tragically ironic conspiracy theory.
The Kantor Center at Tel Aviv University recently published a study revealing that the coronavirus pandemic has “unleashed a unique worldwide wave of antisemitism,” including “a range of libels that have one common element: The Jews, the Zionists and/or the state of Israel are to blame for the pandemic and/or stand to gain from it.”
For Jews, this pattern is all too familiar. As American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris explains, “The basic antisemitic motif is usually the same. Jews are believed to possess demonic power and evil intent. Small in number, perhaps, but Jews are globally connected and act as one. The goal? To outsmart non-Jews, gain wealth and power, and control the world’s destiny.”
According to Harris, there are two factors that make antisemitic conspiracy theories “especially dangerous” during today’s COVID-19 crisis.
“First, there is the reach of digital platforms,” he says. “Those on the receiving end include people who are predisposed to conspiracy theories and feel empowered by them, as well as the impressionable who may not have the critical skills to separate fact from fiction. Second, this global crisis has brought much of the world to its knees in unprecedented fashion, quarantining vast numbers, fueling unemployment and shifting more power to governments.”
Committed anti-Semites won’t soon have a change of heart. But Israel can still win the hearts and minds of the non-committed — those who are largely unaware of the Jewish state’s untold stories. In fact, the same digital platforms that are utilized to libel Israel possess the capability to tell the latest improbable story emanating from the “start-up nation.” It’s a story which counters anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in the strongest possible way.
Tiny Israel is again punching far above its weight — creating masks, machines, medicines, and potential vaccines, while helping many other countries combat COVID-19. This unsung story needs a megaphone. Yet given their well-documented bias on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, major mainstream media outlets aren’t suitable torchbearers of this message. The social media initiative Untold News steps in to fill the void, spreading the word about Israel’s coronavirus response and before the pandemic, about various other aspects of Israeli contributions to the world. Untold News reaches millions of people via its social media campaigns, including paid Facebook posts. More than 725,000 followers (which includes the initiative’s main and Hispanic pages) are on board to comment, click, and help share the news. These campaigns provide a crucial counterpoint to the negative media bias against the Jewish state.
Israeli scientists, entrepreneurs, and firms have brought drive-through coronavirus testing to the Congo; developed a disinfectant tunnel that could pave the way for safer public events; sent antimicrobial washable facemasks to the U.S. market; developed a 30-minute COVID-19 test that could go global; secured FDA approval for COVID-19 solution trials; worked on inventions to purify the air of coronavirus; donated thousands of masks to Nigeria; and even developed a transparent mask which allows deaf people to read lips. Jewish and Palestinian researchers at MIT have teamed up to pioneer an at-home coronavirus test. Members of Congress have introduced legislation to enhance U.S.-Israel collaboration on combating COVID-19. Untold News has spotlighted all of these stories and many more during the pandemic, informing and engaging the crucial population of on-the-fence social media users.
The initiative was founded by former advertising executive Marcella Rosen, who understood the imperative to reach those who are not committed to a particular perspective on Israel through the media that they frequent. Rosen describes Untold News as “small and nimble, with a massive reach.” That reach goes beyond the Facebook page’s following, as it also includes the “Israel Is On It” advertising campaign; sponsored Buzzfeed articles; ads in college alumni magazines; an Instagram page; and two books about Israel’s global achievements, “Tiny Dynamo” and its Spanish version “El Pequeno Dinamo.” Across platforms, the Untold News campaigns have netted more than 3.4 million engagements.
How does it work? Untold News selects articles not just from Jewish/Israeli sources such as ISRAEL21C, NoCamels, The Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post, The Algemeiner, and Jewish News Syndicate (JNS.org), but also crucially from Christian, scientific, medical, technology, business, and mainstream sources that cover Israeli innovation news. The Facebook page’s manager reads all user comments and knows her audience’s pulse, which shapes strategy. When inspiring and persuasive news about Israel’s untold story is carefully selected in this manner, and continuously shared with the masses, it reaches the non-committed and influences their outlook.
Israel is well-accustomed to its role as the underdog. However, with initiatives like Untold News amplifying the story of Israel’s quest to solve the world’s greatest challenges, many more of the non-committed are poised to commit to the truth.