Has social media fuelled more ignorance than tolerance during the current conflict?

Has social media fuelled more ignorance than tolerance during the current conflict?

Two Voices
Two Voices
Rabbi Aaron Goldstein
Rabbi Aaron Goldstein

Two Voices: our weekly Progressive Judaism debate:

Q. Has social media fuelled ignorance more than tolerance during the current conflict in Gaza?

• Rabbi Aaron Goldstein says…

Social media is fun, informative and allows citizens to organise and take on a larger entity, even a state.

Social media is great if you want to contact and gain the attention of a big fish when you are a mere minnow. Social media is what it says on the tin!

Yet when it comes to #Israel and #Gaza, I have to admit that I have largely switched off.

Unlike a crisis in Darfur or Burma, or an issue like the Ebola outbreak, I know where to find a balanced diet of news and comment direct from Israeli, Palestinian and other relevant media, left, right and centre.

Generally, we choose the media that agree with our thinking. Perhaps we do the same with social media, ‘following’ or ‘friending’ those whose world views we agree with.

Yet when it comes to this crisis, the polarisation has been so extreme and so negative that it is becoming impossible to hear a valid point of view in among the detritus. Unless pro-#Israel and pro– #Gaza hear each other speak, they do the same with words as those with guns and rockets.

As it states in the Talmud: “Why is gossip like a three-pronged tongue? Because it kills the person who says it, the person who listens to it and the person about whom it is said.”

• Aaron Goldstein is rabbi at Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue


• Gabriel Webber says…

The key principle to keep in mind when it comes to social media is that tools such as Facebook and Twitter do not offer people a facility they do not otherwise already have.

Gabriel Webber
Gabriel Webber

This isn’t to say social media has been a paragon of humanity and careful reflection. On the contrary. Ever since the conflict began, Facebook and Twitter have been overtaken by wave after wave of ignorant and often racist bile.

To be fair, it has been indiscriminate. I’ve seen many postings celebrating, in roughly equal measure, the violent deaths of Israelis and Palestinians.

But this is nothing new. The same ignorance has been visible from some of those marching through London, writing to the media, speaking at meetings or just overheard pontificating.

Last week, a large group on a Birthright visit to Israel were pictured posing and smiling on an Israeli tank – an ignorant and insensitive thing to do. It then went viral on social media, with some of the criticism going way too far and also being ignorant and insensitive.

It’s a sad fact social media enables people to publish and share ignorant bigotry far faster than otherwise.

But – and this side of it gets less credit – as in ‘real life’, social media also enables those determined to promote peace to air their views more effectively too.

• Gabriel Webber is an incoming movement worker for LJY-Netzer

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