The threat to Israel is not the over three-thousand rockets indiscriminately fired upon major Israeli cities like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ashkelon, and Be’er Sheva; it is the millions of verbal missiles aimed at Jews and Israel from almost every major city in the Western Hemisphere. The uphill battle for Israel and pro-Israel organizations and people is a communications problem, outreach problem, and a shifting Western political problem. Israel’s existential threat is not used with weapons, but Hamas and pro-Palestinian organizations clear advantage in shaping the narrative and minds of the hundreds of millions, which will help them reach their ultimate goal much faster, and less violently.
Israel—thank God— clearly has the military and defensive capabilities that ensure the horrendous actions committed by Hamas, whose goal is to murder every Jewish man, women and child in Israel, does not evoke the fear of imminent annihilation. However, they are inferior in the communications they send out to the rest of the world.
The Israeli’s problem of effectively communicating their logistical operations is not anything new; it has been a recurring problem with every conflict that boils over once every couple years. But the current conflict has further exposed this long-time Israeli weakness.
Take the targeted bombing of the AP and Al-Jazeera’s offices as an example. Israel claims that Hamas was using the building for military operations, a believable allegation given Hamas’s long-standing tactic of using human shields to cause the higher death tolls and then frame the Israelis as murderous aggressors. But Israel making that claim without providing the proof is precisely the mistake Israel made.
Before ever dropping the bomb, all news outlets and government officials should have been told precisely what Hamas’s operations were in that building. It should have already been on foreign news platforms and social media for viewers to see, with irrefutable evidence that no one could reject. Instead, Israel opened the door for the media to claim Israel has the intelligence to prove Hamas’s presence but have failed to release said information. Israel said they passed along the information to American officials, but American foreign policymakers denied it at the time. Only now is Antony Blinken confirming that Israel provided him with the necessary intelligence, but the damage is already done.
Israel’s poor PR should not absolve the clear anti-Israel bias in the media, in fact it is the contrary. Israel already knows the clear anti-Israel and must factor that into their calculus. By improving their PR, and exposing the bias, they are able to gain far more support in the public eye, than they do allowing for organizations like the AP to cover for Hamas.
This also does not mean they must expose all their information or their intelligence methods, that would be extremely foolish from a strategic standpoint. Israel should divulge all information that is necessary to expose the ‘smoking gun’ that they possibly can. Israel must recognize the unfair light the international community puts on them, and recognize they might have to make such sacrifices in the short-term in order to help them in the future.
Instead, all it looks like is Israel bombing the location of two major news organizations, and to say that looks bad is an understatement. Israel allowed for the AP to deny all knowledge of such Hamas operations occurring in the same building. They allowed for Hamas to spin the narrative from purposely using journalists as collateral, to Israel does not want the world to see their crimes in Gaza. They allowed people in the West with the desire to see the Israeli state extinguished, like Rashida Tlaib, accessible bulletin-board material for the anti-Zionist movement. What might have been such a straightforward narrative win for the Israeli’s effort to gain allies in the West turned into a communications disaster that has left many journalists, pundits, and the impressionable population with a bad taste in their mouth. This incident shows how quickly the narrative can shift and why Israel needs to begin prioritizing the message as much as executing the operation.
Just as Israel has a communications problem with the West, Israel has an outreach problem. It is a far different task than just communications on military operations. This task involves consistent outreach to the large and politically active youth on social media. Like many of my Jewish friends, I have seen the overflowing spam of misinformed and anti-semitic infographics, videos, and pictures on various social media platforms. What has also been apparent is the clear one-sidedness of support against Israel by many of the celebrity class. Giving people like Bella and Gigi Hadid a pass given their ancestry and personal connection, celebrities like Mark Ruffalo, Trevor Noah, John Oliver, Kyrie Irving, and Susan Sarandon have been extremely vocal in the media and on their television shows against Israel. But where is that same defence for Israel by celebrities outside of Gal Gadot, Deni Avdija, Julian Edelman, and a small handful of political commentators like Ben Shapiro and PragerU? Although I believe it should not be necessary or needed to hear celebrities positions on complex issues, that is what we expect from them, good or bad. Celebrities determine the culture for the youth and they are not afraid anymore to be political and share their views, as proven in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder last year.
So where has this once strong coalition of pro-Israel celebrities gone? I believe the answer to this is twofold: one, Israel has not focused on proper messaging to the West enough, and two, their inability to adapt to the changing celebrity demographic.
Israel and pro-Israel groups have not done a good job utilizing social media and other modern communication platforms. Unfortunately, many people learn things from a simple Instagram story or Twitter thread. It has played directly into the hands of Hamas and pro-Palestinian movements. It is much easier in an infographic to use buzzwords like words apartheid, ethnic cleansing, anti-Zionism, genocide, colonialism, and oppressed vs oppressor to get your message across. Compared to pro-Israel graphics explaining the true meaning of Zionism, the Balfour declaration, the 6-day war, and offers of land for peace with the Palestinians. This inability to get the message across is why we are losing the celebrity class. If we lose the support of notable celebrities because of our inability to advocate online, millions of the next generation of activists, policymakers, and businesspeople are lost as well.
This then bleeds into the second problem of outreach: the changing demographic of supporters on each side of the aisle. It feels like most of the pro-Israel celebrity caucus are older and do not use social media, compared to the the pro-Palestine side. As mentioned before, it has severe implications for what information is going out to the millions of impressionable young people. Israel and pro-Israel groups must begin reaching out and contacting actors, singers, comedians, athletes, social media influencers, etc., to become a part of a new pro-Israel coalition themselves. Whether that is bringing them to Israel, Jewish and Israeli events, or pro-Israel conferences to change the tide on the social media platforms. Otherwise, this is another path closed for Israel to change the minds of the future generation, leaving them exposed in the future to dwindling support of a Jewish state.
Shifting Politics Problem:
The need for a louder influencer voice on social media ties into shifting politics in western society that leaves Israel in a highly vulnerable position. For the last few years, everyone recognizes the extreme change that has occurred on college campuses, places of work, online, and even in the halls of Congress; the “woke culture”. However, woke culture goes far beyond just microaggressions, safe spaces, and cancel culture. It is the hotbed of an ideology that is detrimental to the future of Israel. Young, super-progressive, highly educated, urban-city-living youth comprise the Woke culture movement. They are well trained and versed in all leftist ideologies like Marxism, postmodernism, critical-race theory, etc. Much of society is viewed through colonialism, oppression vs oppressed, and white vs black (literally and figuratively). It is no wonder why these same people believe that the moral side is the side of Palestine—even when they are ruled by organizations that abuse human rights like Hamas. They view life in a binary, with no care for history, and believe one is only morally correct if they are “oppressed”.
We have this pervasive, abhorrent moral code with congresswomen part of “the Squad”, trying to compare the conflict with South African apartheid, the black civil rights movements of the 1960s, and protests in the wake of George Floyd against police brutality. What do those three comparisons have in common? It is all referring to the White vs Non-white binary, trying to resonate with people who fought against the other instances of egregious human rights violation. The issue is that it is a highly effective tool that trick people who want to be on the side of justice, and who don’t know anything about the conflict. All these talking points are straightforward to refute if given the right platform to debunk them. Their entire argument crumbles when you say that a large plurality of the Israeli Jews are of Mizrahi descent and come from Arab lands, and thousands of Ethiopian Jews reside in Israel. Or list the rights Arabs and Jews share under Israeli law. The “woke” movement has capitalized on the fact that social media is not the place to do that properly, allowing them to tie in Israel and pro-Israel struggles for communication and outreach to the youth.
The last important point about the “woke” movement is that they love to protest or organize demonstrations. It is more than just a hobby, it is a calling. It was evident throughout the summer in 2020, the sheer ability for progressive grassroots organizations to organize marches and protests throughout every major city in the blink of an eye. That skill is in full force again for the pro-Palestinian rallies across the world that have completely dwarfed even the largest of pro-Israel demonstrations. It is not something that can be overlooked either because the stage and the megaphone are powerful recruitment tools to the cause. Seeing hundreds of thousands marching for the exact cause, especially when one side comes out in more substantial numbers, is tough to overcome. It can send a signal to indifferent spectators that this is a cause worth fighting for, can send a message to politicians where the wind is blowing, and embolden the organizations like Hamas that they must fight on.
As much as demonstrations are a recruitment tool, they are also an intimidation tactic. At almost every major rally in Europe and North America, there have been disgusting acts of anti-Semitism perpetrated by demonstrators. Whether it was physical assaults on Jews, chants of “death to Jews”, and vandalism of Jewish institutions, it has a profound effect on people joining a pro-Israel coalition and on Jews from feeling safe to even stand up for their state. If there is a threat to your physical safety and psychological well-being, it makes it just as tough to come out in strong numbers to show support and counterbalance the other side.
While Israel might be “winning the war” on the battlefield, it is badly losing the war on information and facts. Military victories against Hamas and other terrorist organizations will not be enough to slow down the crashing tsunami of anti-Israel sentiment across Western society. Unless Israel and pro-Israel groups take more investment and initiative in improving their public relation skills and counter-act the other side, Israel will lose much of the Western hemisphere’s support. The message should not be read as an apocalyptic prophecy that the end days are near because there is still time to turn the tide. It is a question of whether we will take a greater stand than we have ever done before or sit passively by and wait for someone else to grab the megaphone out of their hands.