It’s only one of the many stories I’ve read this week: “Israeli flags were burned in front of two synagogues in Germany and the words “Free Palestine” were spray-painted on another one in Spain. This came in the midst of an international reaction to the escalating conflict in Israel.
“Meanwhile, in London, thousands protested against Israel in a rally that turned violent when some demonstrators tried to lunge at a smaller gathering of pro-Israel protesters who had gathered there with the Israeli flag.” (JTA)
Although people taking to the streets is something we are used to, there is a second, much faster way this latest conflict is being commented on. Social media, from Twitter to Instagram, is a solid player when it comes to spreading (mis)information, sharing images in-or out of context and speaking your mind about who and what you think is right or wrong.
It’s nothing new: when the political tensions rise in Israel, protests erupt around the world. Usually, those protests are anti-Israel in nature. Never mind that the situation on the ground is considerably more complicated than a random person sitting in his Soho flat can imagine: people have opinions, and they will share them any way they can. But at the end of the day, there isn’t much difference between spray painting a synagogue and speaking your sentiments on social media. It does not create more truth; it just makes for more division.
The public square has changed so much in the past decades. Almost everyone can speak out, and leave a hashtag. We can spread the truth or falsehoods or a mixture of both; it all depends on how we feel that day. And with every opinion comes bias, with every tweet comes an agenda. How are we supposed to teach our children to know the difference when we often don’t even know ourselves? Do we have the bandwidth to pluck apart our news sources, read five versions of every story until we feel we have the real narrative?
And whose responsibility is it to point out every lie that is spread online, how do we defend Israel and its people while keeping our eyes wide open to the things we should not tolerate? If we see something wrong, with the IDF, with Bibi, with the Knesset, dare we speak out? Or do we assume we don’t ever know the whole story since we’re here and not there, and maybe this is a good time to just listen and read as much as possible but keep our opinions to ourselves?
Personally, I am always tempted to wait before I make up my mind, but the thing is: the anti-Israel crowd does not share that sentiment. When anything explodes in Israel, there are many who will immediately, eagerly point the finger. It’s irritating, repetitive and getting really, really old. Show me your hashtag, and I’ll see your bias. Free Palestine? Things are never that simple.
Opinions are not truth. Opinions come from sadness and frustration, from fear, anger, hate, love, optimism, hope, confusion and disappointment. They rarely come from pure and unadulterated facts. Maybe if we keep that in mind, we can stop being afraid of hearing what the rest of the world is saying. Just because you call Israel names, does not mean you have a point. Is Israel a perfect country? Of course not. But denouncing it just because you don’t like us as Jews, well, we’ve seen that before, haven’t we?