From its humble beginnings as a photo-sharing application to its dominance as an effective social media platform, Instagram has progressed both in size and function. Today, not only does it boast over 400 million users, but it’s also become a vital marketing tool for companies and organizations.
Of course, like other social media platforms, Instagram is also susceptible to corruptibility. Most recently, for example, ISIS has ostensibly used the app for purposes of recruitment and political rhetoric.
For the most-part, though, sifting through the images of selfies, ads, and tons of food, Instagram appears to be a happy space, where amateur photographers can practice their technique, and ever-day iPhone users can take selfies at different angles. And, thanks to hashtags, Instagram offers a platform that’s easily accessible and relevant to a younger generation.
For individuals and organizations advocating for Israel, it’s precisely the vehicle they needed to fight against anti-Zionism.
“Our Instagram account is not the magic bullet for building an authentic and meaningful relationship with Israel, but we believe it is a great first step”
Canada Israel Experience: Birthright Israel (CIE: Birthright Israel), already a popular name among young Jews in the Diaspora, has dedicated its Instagram account to advocating for Israel. CIE: Birthright Israel, the Canadian trip organizer for Birthright Israel, aims to foster Jewish and Israeli identity by offering trips to the State of Israel for young adults.
“We want young Jewish people across Canada to come and see Israel: see it, experience it, talk about it, and think about what Israel means for them and the Jewish people,” Aviva Sokolsky, digital communications manager at CIE: Birthright Israel told The CJN.
“Launching our Instagram account was an attempt to reach our target audience, as we learned millennials were using Facebook less and less.”
Sokolsky also noted the importance of the photo-sharing app specifically as a platform to advocate for Israel.
“So many young Jewish adults see Israel through the eyes of the news media or what others post on the Internet. Our Instagram account gives them an opportunity to see Israel through the eyes of people they know and trust – their friends. Our account is not the magic bullet for building an authentic and meaningful relationship with Israel, but we believe it is a great first step.”
StandWithUs, a 14-year-old Israeli advocacy organization, is also committed to Zionistic advocacy through social media, aiming to globally educate campuses and communities about Israel.
Where CIE advocates by sharing pictures of friends or family members engaging in Israeli culture, StandWithUs posts photos “that highlight the diversity of Israel, that correct misinformation, or that present Israel in a way that we don’t often hear about in traditional media,” according to its social media director Emily Schrader.
“Any platform we can use to spread the truth about Israel and interact with a diverse, young audience is helping the cause,” Schrader told The CJN. “We believe that education is the path to peace and the more truthful information that people see on social media, the more educated they will be.”
4 months, 25 innocents murdered in cold blood by Palestinian terrorists. Incitement kills. #stopterror #stopincitement #israel #palestine A photo posted by StandWithUs (@standwithus) on
Instagram also helps convert social media users who may be misinformed regarding services provided by the Israel Defence Forces or Israeli police, said Schrader.
“We’ve had quite a few people who follow us on Instagram who told me personally that they learned new things about Israel and received answers and information pertaining to current events that were left out of traditional media reports,” she continued. “On Instagram specifically, we have a lot of posts highlighting IDF soldiers that dispel the myths that Israel is the aggressor.”
Similarly, Truth_Israel is also determined to promote Zionism, posting pictures and news items that it argues is not commonly covered by mainstream media. Its creator, who wishes to remain anonymous, believes the onus of advocacy is both on the account itself and on its followers.
“[A] few years ago, as I was scrolling through random photos on Instagram when I came across photos from the Syrian war — with hashtags that read: “Free Palestine”/ “IDF,” the account creator told The CJN. “I wanted to raise awareness against those false accusations. I want the truth to be heard.”
The Instagrammer also elucidated on the follower’s role in Zionistic advocacy.
“Instagram is a great way to open the eyes of ignorant people. This can be done in various ways like spreading information across college campuses, blogs, social media, etc. You have the power to change the way the public views Israel.”
While CIE, StandWithUs, and Truth_Israel endeavour to advocate for Israel through the seriousness of facts, figures, and familiar faces, The.Struggle.Israel is an advocacy account that utilizes a different method. The.Struggle.Israel uses comedy.
“We’ve made each other laugh for years so we thought of creating a place where we could bring awareness to Israel and Jewish culture with a comedic twist. Our parents liked it so we kept it going,” explained Alex Arias and Maynard Breslow, the creators of The.Struggle.Israel.
“We’re a couple of yids from L.A. who have known each other forever,” Arias said. “Maynard became observant after encountering anti-Semitism on campus followed by an extended trip to Israel, and I identify culturally, but am non-practicing. We have different views on religion, but we bring both of our lenses to our comedy.”
Despite The.Struggle.Israel’s comedic tone, Arias underscored the personal and serious mission of the account.
8 posts of Hanukkah #2 A photo posted by #thestruggleisrael ?? (@the.struggle.israel) on
“We have received amazingly positive and overwhelming feedback from people telling us [that] we have helped them identify with their Jewish heritage on a deeper level,” Arias continued. “Anti-Israel groups use all forms of social media to slander the State of Israel, so it is only fitting for us to use this same tool in a positive way. We believe almost everything can be used for the good, and that is the stance we have chosen to move forward with.”