With the resurgence of antisemitism and the increasing prominence of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) on social media platforms, one can expect Israelis to be vigilant and to support their beloved country, uniting with each other to save its reputation. Instead, some Israeli influencers go out of their way to tarnish Israel’s image online, which contributes to an Internet culture that is inherently biased against Israel.
A prime example of this problem can be seen when typing the word “apartheid” into Google. One of the first results shows the phrase “Apartheid Israel.” The official term, “apartheid,” refers to the situation in South Africa up until 1994, wherein official government policy instituted a system of racial segregation and political and economic discrimination against nonwhite citizens. Yet, the term “Apartheid South Africa” appears much further down than Israel in the search engine.
So why is Israel more commonly associated with apartheid, rather than its actual source? Let us illustrate with a case study.
Dr. Amiram Goldblum is a lecturer and researcher in the medicinal chemistry department at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He is also a bully. He clearly has little to no understanding of the real meaning of apartheid, because he has the temerity to label Israel an apartheid state. Surely he knows that Israeli Jews and Israeli-Arabs work together, sit next to each other on the bus, and are both involved in Israeli politics — among many other things.
“…some Israeli influencers go out of their way to tarnish Israel’s image online, which contributes to an Internet culture that is inherently biased against Israel.”
As a lecturer and an educator, you may expect professor Goldblum to pursue truth and objectivity. Instead, when scrolling through his Facebook profile, numerous allusions to Israel’s supposed apartheid nature can be found between birthday wishes and statuses disparaging Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel’s right-wing government.
Professor Goldblum also discriminates against his own students who espouse different political views. Specifically, those associated with the organization Im Tirzu. He has openly stated that he will do everything in his power to ensure those students are denied from different academic programs at the university.
A similar case of a discriminatory faculty member occurred in the United States at the University of Michigan, when Professor John Cheney-Lippol refused to write a letter of recommendation to a student who was going to study abroad in Israel. Unlike Goldblum, Lippol could not escape punishment for his actions. Approval for his two-year sabbatical was revoked, and the university indicated that he would face possible dismissal if he were to be involved in a similar incident in the future. Unfortunately, Professor Goldblum has not been penalized by the university for his discrimination against students who support Im Tirzu.
A deeper look into professor Goldblum’s posts on social media reveals numerous references to settlements being “terror factories” operated by Israelis, arousing and teasing his online acquaintances, and dragging them into a black hole of arguments and arrogance.
If Goldblum’s criticisms of Israel on social media contained a bit more civility and factual analysis, it would have a far more positive impact on the debate about Israel, and further dialogue between the opposing sides.
Of course, free political expression is the cornerstone of any democracy. And social media has become so integral to our lives that political conversations are ubiquitous on these platforms. But the false declarations and statements professor Goldblum utters about settlers can easily be interpreted as a fact by someone unfamiliar with the history and situation in Israel.
When professor Goldblum uses Holocaust references to disparage his own people, he is most certainly not bringing peace, but merely deepening the political divide among his countrymen. And if Goldblum and his extremist friends actually thought about the ramifications of the lies typed on their keyboards, maybe the list of Israel’s supporters would be longer today.
This brings us back to Google. By letting extremists like Goldblum go unchallenged when they spread lies and destroy their own country’s reputation, we allow the word “apartheid” to become unjustly associated with Israel.
And eventually, lies like that will become the truth.
Originally published in The Algemeiner.
Contributed by 2019-2020 IDC Herzliya CAMERA Fellow Noa Rekanaty.