Social Media Support for France and What It Means for Us

In some ways Facebook is truly incredible. Victims’ families, governments and populations can all view the spectacular statements of solidarity with worthy causes. Recently, Facebook bloomed with the splendour of the multi-coloured profile picture backdrop in celebration of gay rights.

Over the past few days, the blue, red and white have become the international colours of mourning, of grief, of sorrow. Yet beyond all else, they have come to symbolize solidarity as the citizens of the world have taken to their profile pictures to express their rejection of radicalism and to demonstrate that during these tear-filled days F stands not just for France, but also for freedom and fraternity.

As the death toll continues to rise, we are reminded that three days of national or international mourning may just not be enough.

One will commonly find that on the social media platforms, op-eds and the like, people, myself included, are saying that this is precisely what Israel goes through. It is awful. Most of us recognize this to be true and yet it is nothing to be proud of. If anything, it enables Israelis to weep at the thought of scattered limbs, of disfigured bodies moaning for help, of the ultimate manifestation of evil. This is not something Israelis say with glee but it happens to be true.

What is also true is that during the recent wave of terror attacks in Israel, the pro-Israel camps took to their social media page to explain why terrorists were being shot on the spot. They felt it necessary to justify their actions of responding to people who ran over innocent by-standers at high speed and then hacked them to death with an axe or a knife, to people who stabbed 13-year-old Israelis, who shot them on buses.

It was another one of those social media “wars.”

Meanwhile, many were looking to explain away the act of ramming someone over with such force that the victim’s bones are instantly smashed, his/her limbs unrecognizably twisted, his/her head bleeding from the impact of a crash so hard that death is probably the preferred choice to enduring the pain. This is not an unnecessarily graphic description for dramatic effect. It is reality and it was happening to human beings on a near daily basis.

Let’s be honest though, so the tale goes, Israel is a brutal occupier. They do leave the Palestinians with little choice. Something has to get Israel to the negotiation table.

Unsurprisingly, Israel never received its international social media solidarity campaign. Indeed, it certainly would have been received with  gratitude if the Israeli flag had occupied, in the literal sense, the world’s profile pictures. Instead what happened? They looked for reasons. They looked to justify it. Solidarity with Israels was never even an option. The Israeli flag has become too controversial and the murder of Israelis too rational.

How insensitive it would have been if anyone had sought to consider that perhaps ISIS has a legitimate grievance. After all, France is part of the war coalition against it. Does this sound like a moral analysis? Does this justify the maimed bodies, the cries, the begging for mercy, the loss of loved ones? Would it justify stabbing French civilians or running them over?

Does it take 132 deaths before we stand in solidarity with Israel too? Or can “occupation” explain that one as well?

Notwithstanding the loss of life in France, the saddest part in all of this is the pathetic and conspicuous failure, yet again, of many Jews on social media. To be sure, efforts were made to defend Israel without any doubt. This should not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Yet the lightning speed at which most will wave the colours of France, and rightly so, without so much as mentioning a word about Israeli victims, let alone proudly and colourfully displaying support for the country, is shocking. Little attempt was made to raise even a fraction of the awareness raised for France and yet they are clearly capable of doing so.

I am certainly not arguing that if you had no Israeli flag then you are a traitor. For a start I would be leaving myself open to charges of hypocrisy. But there does seem to be something disturbing about the fact that the flag campaign in support of France is joined by millions of Jews but when Israel faces multiple attacks it draws comparatively little attention.

While I cannot this understand this phenomenon, it can be explained:

In short, they suffer from the complex of wanting to be accepted. This goal is both understandable and desirable. It has its roots in being made to feel like an outsider for so many generations. The problem is that they seem totally incapable of accepting themselves, of understanding that Israelis and Jews deserve an expression of their support too, of their solidarity. Unfortunately, in this day and age to support Israel is to be an outsider – a Jew’s greatest fear.

Fortunately, Israel will prevail with or without the symbolic flag of support on Facebook. The real fight is settled outside the realms of social media and no amount of Shields of David will protect against the penetration of a knife or bullet. Nevertheless we could hold our heads much higher if the numerous enemies of Israel saw that Jews and all those guided by the principles of justice proudly wave the Israeli flag for all to see, from their virtual windows at least, if not from those of their homes.

It isn’t a case of don’t support France if you have not supported Israel. Rather, support both without fear or shame.

Perhaps it is a little late now. Perhaps not. For next time though:

RIP to all the victims of the Paris terror attack.

About the Author
Alexander Apfel holds a BA and MA in Modern History. He is an IDF reservist in the armored corps.