(March 18, 2019 / JNS) With today’s battleground against anti-Israel activity largely online, it has fallen to organizations and individuals to carry the burden of monitoring and combating it.
Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Information, headed by Gilad Erdan, has decided to join the fight, and is working hard to combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and other false propaganda. To that end, the ministry and DigiTell—a civic networking platform connecting pro-Israel organizations around the world—held the Digitell19 conference last week at the YMCA in Jerusalem.
Vijeta Uniyal, founder of Indians4Israel, is a pro-Israel activist in Germany, but originally from India. He told JNS that his organization aims to “give a platform for Indians to show solidarity,” and “create a bridge between Israelis and Indians.”
“We are always sympathetic to the cause of the Jewish people,” he said.
He explained that his pro-Israel activism is personal; his master’s degree in German studies allowed him to see anti-Semitism for the first time. And he said that as an immigrant, he felt he needed to something about it.
Bjarte Bjellas, an activist from Norway who works with “Med Israel for fred” (that translates into “With Israel for Peace),” said his organization has 11,000 paying members.
He told JNS, “For us, the most important thing is to bring the Israeli perspective to the Norwegian audience. The media is very pro-Palestinian, and we don’t often hear the Israeli side of the conflict, so we try to bring those arguments into the discussion.”
Bjellas said that due to the influx of Muslim refugees, coupled with Muslim terror attacks throughout Europe, the atmosphere in Norway has changed in the last few years, and “many people are beginning to understand what Israel is going through with regard to Islamic terror.”
Asked about how he intends to make inroads with his activism on behalf of Israel, he said “we try to focus on the people in the middle who can be swayed.”
Joseph Cohen, a British pro-Israel activist who runs the Israel Advocacy Movement in the United Kingdom, told JNS that “the Labour Party is very much anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian. The only thing U.K. citizens hear are negative stories from foreign outlets based in Israel.”
He also emphasized the need to get through to those who are in the middle and focus less on extremists who have a non-bending opinion on Israel.
“Most people do not have an opinion on Israel in my experience,” he said.
Reach out to those with no opinion
Kasim Hafeez is unique. Not only is he a Middle East analyst who works for Christians United for Israel (CUFI), but he is also a British Muslim of Pakistani origin, best known for founding “The Israel Campaign,” a pro-Israel advocacy organization.
A self-proclaimed Muslim Zionist, he agreed with Bjellas and Cohen, telling JNS that it is worth talking to the audiences who are most receptive. He said that pro-Israel activists should make an effort to reach out to the masses of people who do not have an opinion on Israel, instead of trying to get the most extreme opponents of Israel to change their opinion.
“Sometimes, there is a disproportionate obsession with getting the most fierce opponents to like Israel when there are millions of other people who just don’t know,” he said.
“The Christian community is our most powerful ally because today the modern Christian does not have the hostility that unfortunately exists in many Muslim communities because of a modern conflict,” he pointed out.
If Hafeez is unique, Big Daddy Liberty from South Africa is perhaps even more so. His real name is Sihle Ngobese, and he is a talk-show host and vocal activist, but what makes him unique is that he is a big supporter of Israel.
He said there is a difference between the political elite and the average citizen in South Africa. “The average citizen,” he explained, “is God-fearing, law-abiding, family-oriented and rather conservative. The political elite are not.”
He slammed those who claim Israel is an apartheid state, emphasizing his firsthand understanding of the apartheid system that existed in South Africa and the free society that is Israel.
He also vilified hypocrites who claim that Israel is the biggest problem and then say nothing about Arab nations that have terrible human-rights records.
“If you ask an ordinary citizen who they support,” he noted, “they will say Israel because they identify more with the Jewish state.”