Earlier this week, the government of Israel organised  the three-day #DigiTell18 conference aimed at formulating strategies to counter anti-Israel campaigns, hosting 60 pro-Israel advocates from 15 different countries in Jerusalem. I had the privilege to represent my grassroots group Indians For Israel at the event.

“For the first time, BDS [anti-Israel boycott campaign] groups are on the defensive,” said Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister for Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy, highlighting the recent successes of the pro-active approach adopted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to combat these vicious and well-coordinated online campaigns.

The conference was a unique opportunity for the participants to interact and learn from each other’s experiences. Many of the attendees had guided and supported my group in running our online campaigns.

Alex Traiman covered the event for the Jerusalem News Syndicate:

“For the first time, BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] groups are on the defensive,” declared Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy to a group of more than 60 social-media experts gathered in Jerusalem on Monday and Tuesday for the three-day #DigiTell18 Conference sponsored by the Ministry. (…)

Erdan said the most powerful asset the group has at its disposal is the truth, and congratulated the conference participants for coming together to strengthen their skills. He encouraged the group to continue to publish and promote innovative content because “the work is urgent.”

David Keyes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign-media spokesman, discussed at length the powers of persuasion in communicating Israel’s messages in a nearly impossible messaging environment. “We are facing a ‘disinformation apocalypse’ unlike anything we have ever seen,” he stated.

Journalist Aryeh Tavor gave the context to the conference writing for the Israeli news website Lev Haolam:

The #DigiTell18 conference is the latest social-media related effort by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs to combat the rise of online anti-semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric. (…) Last year, Gilad Erdan announced the launch of 4il, which he called “the Iron Dome of Truth,” a reference to the highly-effective missile-defense system that Israel uses to shoot down enemy rockets.

Our group Indians For Israel was initiated in 2012 following the Gaza conflict and the accompanying wave of antisemitic sentiment in Europe. We initially created Facebook and Twitter accounts to offer a platform for the members of Indian diaspora in the West to express their support for the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

We have carried out several successful operations, including the Twitter hashtag #IndiaWithIsrael Twitter that trended during the 2014 Gaza conflict and the ongoing grassroots mobilization to urge the Indian government to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the embassy to the Holy City. Last month, we joined hands with like-minded Hindu activists to hold a 70,000-strong pro-Israel rally in the Indian city of Calcutta.

Our advocacy work is not merely based on our deep admiration for the Jewish people and the State of Israel, but also on a realistic assessment that antisemitic hatred and violence currently on the rise in Europe and elsewhere will someday be directed against the Hindu diaspora as well.

I was delighted to meet the actual people behind these leading social media accounts and strengthen the bonds of camaraderie. Apart from sharing anecdotes and stories, it was disheartening to see many of them receiving hate mails and death threats for the simple ‘crime’ of defending Israel and standing up to antisemitic hatred online and out on the streets—a phenomenon not unknown to me. It is particularly viscous when such threats are directed at our families and loved ones. But that’s the nature of the enemy we face.

Despite their diverse backgrounds and geographies, I met men and women resilient in their beliefs, united in their love for Israel, and determined to challenge the growing campaign of lies and hatred against the Jewish people and the Jewish State.

In conversation with Awi Abelow, director of the Israel Video Network, after the DigiTell18 conference:

[Cover image via Twitter 4IL]


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