For the past few days, we at the World Values Network, have been locked in an epic and global battle with media and singing superstar Dua Lipa. The British entertainer maligned Israel as an apartheid state, guilty of ethnic cleansing, and we responded with a full-page ad in last Saturday’s New York Times.
It’s not exactly a fair fight. Dua Lipa has 66 million followers on Instagram. We don’t come close. But every Jewish person needs to do what they can to defend Israel and fight antisemitism amid a tsunami of hatred being expressed against our people.
An Israeli TV news magazine was interviewing me about the ad and the global reaction when they put this question to me: “Why do the Palestinians have so many celebrities with hundreds of millions of followers on social media who strongly support them, while we in Israel don’t have even one?”
Good question. I didn’t have an answer.
Outrage is mounting at New York Times coverage of the recent Israel-Gaza war, with prominent Israeli and American Jewish leaders…
The fight on social media is so lopsided, as to be almost embarrassing.
Here’s one of the reasons.
Even the Hamas terror organization understands the importance of celebrities and influencers. But we in the Jewish community put all our eggs in one basket: politics.
AIPAC and all the other large pro-Israel organizations have cultivated relationships with Senators, members of Congress, and presidents — but not with movie stars, singers, and celebrities. It’s never been a priority. We just never understood how important the culture is.
Go through the numbers for a moment and add it up. The three major cable news networks, on a good night, will get, say, 15 million viewers.
Dua Lipa is peddling her lies about Israel to 66 million people every single day. Add the hate-filled Hadid sisters, Bella and Gigi, and you have something in the region of 150 million followers. And they’re all young people, twenties and lower, for the most part.
These celebrities are helping to poison an entire generation of young people against the only free society in the Middle East, and we’re letting them.
And added to this is the fact — even as we don’t care to admit it — that many Jewish celebrities are scared of standing up for Israel. They’re intimidated, afraid to damage their brand, afraid to lose sponsors, afraid to be connected with Israel’s “toxicity.”
That’s right. Israel, one of the most righteous countries on earth, has become toxic on social media. And world-renowned Jewish celebrities, who have tens of millions of followers on social media, will not say even one really nice word about the Jewish state — even when they’re Israeli! — for fear of damaging their brand. (Or worse, because they agree).
This leads us to what needs to be done now to reverse this awful trend.
First, we have to neutralize the worst offenders who promote the most repulsive lies about Israel and the Jewish people. We have to challenge their defamation with ads in global publications and as much earned media as we can muster to defend against their lies. They have to know that there is a price to be paid for defaming the Jewish people.
Dua Lipa really believed that she could libel Israel with the most serious charges of war crimes and completely get away with it. She believed there was zero price to pay for defaming a people who experienced a genocide just 75 years ago. That’s how arrogant she is. But it’s also how cheap we have allowed Jewish life to become.
Remember, when the Jews in general, and Israel in particular, are defamed as a bunch of genocidal monsters, our humanity is compromised and it becomes easy to trace a line between such extreme defamation and Jews being beaten up on the streets of New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto, all of which happened last week alone.
Second, once we have neutralized the worst offenders, or at the very least made them accountable for their lies, it’s time to go forward with an inspirational message about Israel as a light unto the nations and especially a great beacon of freedom in the Middle East.
Would it were that all of our Arab brothers and sisters would have the freedoms and liberties of Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews. Would it were that Arab women could dress how they want, date whom they want, and study in any university they want, as can the citizens of Israel.
Would it were that all Arabs could freely criticize their leaders without any fear of retribution and could vote to elect their chosen leaders in the first place.
Would it were that all Arabs in the Middle East could participate in a robust and progressive economy, with well-paying jobs, rather than living under a tyranny like Hamas that condemns them to a life of misery and degradation.
And would it were that our Arab brothers and sisters would finally see Israel as a blessing and a vision of what their own societies could be, rather than scapegoating the Jewish state as the source of their own problems, when in reality, all those problems come from the murderous and tyrannical leaders who rip them off, tyrannize, and subjugate them.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is the author of more than 30 books and has just published “Holocaust Holiday: One Family’s Descent into Genocide Memory Hell.” Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @RabbiShmuley.