An image posted during last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas by the #IsraelUnderFire social media campaign, which aimed to tell Israel’s side of the story during the conflict in Gaza. Credit: #IsraelUnderFire.
(JNS.org) The Israel education organization StandWithUs and the National Information Directorate of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office are partnering on the new “Social Media Ambassadors” program, which will educate young people (with an emphasis on university students) about how to use social media to educate others about Israel.
Participants of the year-long educational program—which will initially be offered in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Israel—will be trained to tell Israel’s story from their own points of view using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms.
The effort comes against the backdrop of a social media environment in which anti-Israel activists regularly target the Jewish state.
“Much of [anti-Israel social media users’] output has no basis in reality, but they don’t care about what is true or not, as long as they take aim at Israel,” StandWithUs Israel Director Michael Dickson told JNS.org. “But we can redress the balance and make an impact on social media for Israel, too. We need to expose these lies and, at the same time, reach out to people about the real Israel—democratic, diverse, and sizzling with creative energy and the ancient nation-state of the Jewish people that is also the modern, dynamic, start-up nation.”
In particular, anti-Israel activists took to social media after the recent Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris to float conspiracy theories that Israel was behind the attacks.
“Similar to every other forum, the Internet is a place where crazy theories regarding Israel and the Jews are often abound,” Dickson said. “We would advise participants in the [Social Media Ambassadors] program to judge each case on its merit. Some conspiracy theories don’t deserve the oxygen of publicity, but when a story gains traction it often needs to be exposed.”
StandWithUs, which operates social media accounts in 13 different languages, brings 4,000 followers on Instagram, 61,400 followers on Twitter (with tweets reaching more than a million users), and more than 500,000 “likes” on Facebook (with weekly posts reaching as many as 30 million users) to the ambassadors initiative. The Prime Minister’s Office chose StandWithUs as a partner “based on our experience and expertise, to deliver a program aiming at getting Israeli students, as well as some of their peers abroad, to share the reality of Israel,” said Dickson.
“The Prime Minister’s Office has rightly identified that the reality of Israel is best portrayed through the eyes of citizens and those who visit Israel,” Dickson said.
According to Dickson, StandWithUs set up the first-ever pro-Israel social media situation rooms in 2009 during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and has worked with partners to do the same for every similar conflict since, including last summer’s Operation Protective Edge.
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