Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Op-Ed: The War on Social Media

While rockets continue to divide the Israelis and Palestinians, a different kind of war is taking place, online

By: Daniel Koren

Published: July 14th, 2014 in Business » World

Op-Ed: The War on Social Media

Over the course of the last seven days, your Facebook feed has most likely mainly consisted of two topical items: the FIFA World Cup – which you can now expect to dwindle after Germany’s well deserved victory over Argentina yesterday – and the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.

It seems people, particularly in the United States and Canada, are far more interested in the conflict between the Israelis and Hamas than say the conquering of cities in Syria and Iraq by members of ISIS.

Here in the West, we have to consider ourselves pretty lucky. We are in no real threat or danger, and while it pains us and hurts us to hear of our friends and loved ones facing rocket attacks on a daily basis, we are not the ones facing war, at least, in the military sense of the word.

We are, however, fully engaged in another type of war, one that sees two sides hurling hatred-filled rhetoric at one another, cursing each other to the death: the War on Social Media, specifically, the war on Facebook and Twitter. It’s an angry, arduous and painful one.

On the heels of Operation Protective Edge, people have become ultra-nationalistic. Both Palestinians and Israelis have turned to social media to share their feelings on the subject, whether they be condolences or hate speech concerning the opposing side. In the last seven days, we’ve seen racism against Palestinians, anti-Semitism – the hashtag #HitlerWasRight trending on Twitter for example – hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.

For Jews here in Toronto, for example, a rally – such as the one taking place on Wednesday in support of Israel – will get multiple shares, comments, declarations of solidarity with the people of Israel, and declarations of the need to stop Hamas. We change our Facebook profiles and cover photos to depict the flag of Israel, we send our thoughts and prayers to our friends there, we are loud and clear of exactly who we are and what side we are rooting for.

But, just as in the physical world, there will always be those who disagree, if not entirely refute your opinions. We have friends who we might question our allegiance to when they post statuses on Facebook that openly condemn Israel, its right to exist, or blame the war squarely on Israel, statuses like this: “If a country has no army, no militia, and no airborne forces, its no longer a war, its genocide. #prayforpeace #prayforPalestine.”

Naturally, as this is an issue that touches us dearly, we respond, we say, “Actually, dear friend, Hamas had fired hundreds of rockets into Israel before they eventually retaliated. Would you not call that ‘airborne forces’?

In my particular scenario, I like to consider that both I and my Arab, Pakistan-born friend are open-minded individuals, who will calmly and completely discuss this issue in a level-headed manner, which was exactly the scenario that unfolded: my friend agreed that he was wrong on the subject and apologized.

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