By Ronn Torossian
Too often when Israel is featured in the news, it is for something negative. Yet the reality is that there are so many great stories always coming out of Israel, a great democratic country with a highly educated, diverse, and driven population. But against the backdrop of a hostile mainstream media, it’s necessary to tell one’s own story.
And among the myriad of Jewish organizations who kvetch about bad media, StandWithUs (SWU) is an organization that is doing a great job proactively protecting and promoting Israel online. They are dedicated to combating the negative perception created about Israel, and to counter it with facts correcting and redirecting the rhetoric.
More than just a social media presence, SWU markets Israel at conferences, rallies, and particularly at universities, where it is needed desperately.
Their social media is credible and amply accessible to the masses. SWU’s Facebook page boasts more than 900,000 likes, ensuring that the wealth of videos and stories reach a wide network of social media users. They post inspiring stories highlighting Israel’s news, heartwarming stories, business endeavors, and interesting citizens, and this serves to directly refute media bias.
And they do so in real time, as is vital in today’s fast-moving world. In response to a UNESCO vote denying the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a new Jewish history seminar for U.N. officials and diplomats. SWU circulated that information, and it generated more than 3,000 likes and nearly 900 shares within a short time.
On May 9, when there were simultaneous attacks in Jerusalem and Munich orchestrated by terrorists, SWU posted an image of both scenes with the caption, “Different countries. Same terrorism.” The picture was liked and shared thousands of times in just a few hours.
On the same day, SWU shared an article written about its collaboration with Ryan Bellerose, a member of the Métis tribe from northern Alberta, Canada, and founder of Calgary United with Israel, a pro-Israel advocacy group. In the interview, Bellerose mentions that the fight to change minds about Israel is challenging because “Jewish advocates are often apologetic. They are far less firm in their positions and identity, which can come across as disingenuous to non-Jews.” Israel’s detractors, by comparison, are often more confident in their false narratives, inevitably lending itself to convincing editing of the truth.
SWU publicized what so many intentionally leave out; they showed a memorial to the 191 Bedouin soldiers who have fallen while defending Israel.
To provide context to the controversy, SWU shares news about Hamas and Palestinian Authority hypocrisy, like how their own family members seek out Israeli hospitals for care and treatment, because they know Israel has excellent medical care. There is also the video of a school play performed by Palestinian children in Gaza in which the young actors’ presentation consisted of stabbing children dressed as Jews, to a gleeful audience. This of course comes against the backdrop of mainstream media coverage that often ignores the truth on Israel.
Then there is the technology piece on Israel’s world-leading surgery-assisting robots, Israel’s booth at the Buenos Aires Book Fair, letters of support received from all over the world, an investment company run by an Israeli Muslim and an Israeli Jew that only invests in diverse start-ups, and an Arab-Israeli couple that welcomed identical triplets on Mother’s Day. These are feel-good stories that demonstrate the reality—and the normalcy of daily life in Israel. Sadly, these narratives are rarely seen in popular media.
Like Israel, most normal countries have dedicated army personnel whose job it is to inform families of the deaths of their loved ones serving, just like Col. Yaffa Mor, whose story was shared on SWU. Israel even has cowboys similar to American ranchers.
Thank you SWU, for so often being the voice of rational pro-Israel social media users, for consolidating and disseminating stories, for bringing the truth onto the Internet, and for starting conversations that others are too timid to start. SWU deserves credit for showing the world that there is so much more to Israel than violence, chaos, and death, as many would have us believe. There is life and happiness; there are births and political debates; there are cancer research breakthroughs, businesses, and basketball.
SWU takes the time and makes extraordinary efforts to show that Israel is a great place where both regular and amazing things happen. Thank you.