On Thursday nights, three Israeli teenagers went missing in Judea and Samaria, and on Saturday night were officially announced kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists. As the Israeli Defense Forces continue the search for Eyal (19) Gil-Ad (16) and Naftali (16,) a group of Israeli students have launched a viral campaign to help raise awareness for the story, which got little coverage on foreign media.
It uses the hashtag #BringBackOurBoys (a reference to #BringBackOurGirls used in a campaign aimed find the Nigerian schoolgirls captured by a terror group several weeks ago,) and encourages Israelis and supporters abroad to take pictures of themselves with signs calling to find the three missing teenagers and bring them back home, to their families. The campaign, launched Friday night, started a wave of support, but encountered a fair share of obstacles, including the “hijack” of the hashtag by anti-Israel activists who turned this into a call to release Palestinian prisoners captured in Israel and to stop the so –called “systematic killing” of Palestinian children by IDF soldiers. The final straw was a large number of false “reports” on the campaign official Facebook page, which was eventually taken down for “violating Facebook’s community standards.” It was later retrieved.
Ido Daniel, one of students leading the campaign, talked to “Israelife” about the idea behind the campaign, overcoming obstacles and not giving up on the three boys.
“The campaign launched on Friday, soon after the official statement saying the boys are presumed kidnapped. It is a collaboration between several students, Public Diplomacy activists. I, for instance, work with the organization WhatIsrael. We gathered after noticing that the foreign media almost completely ignore the story. Under the “Middle East” section on almost every major news website, there will be news about Iraq and the World Cup. Not a single word on the kidnap, because we’re facing a situation where Israel is the victim, not the aggressor.
We wanted to raise awareness to this important story, and in order to do so, we came up with this campaign. We based it on the campaign calling to bring the Nigerian girls back home. We thought this was a similar story, a terror organization kidnapping kids, and wanted to clear any misunderstanding regarding who is the attacker and who is the defender. Those boys were on their way home from school and someone abducted them. Overall, I think the analogy was clear to people.”
How long did it take for the campaign to go viral?
“It happened in almost no time. I was always curious to see how a virtual campaign goes viral. I participated in previous campaigns, such as the one during operation Pillar of Defense, but this time I was part of it from the very first post. At first, we opened a Facebook page, and I decided to open a twitter account. I started following many people, and just filled the Twittersphere with the #BringBackOurBoys hashtag. I shared photos from our Facebook page, of people holding signs with our message, and a few minutes later I noticed that each and every photo had 20-30 retweets. That was when I realized we got something good going on here. People were looking for that campaign, and really showed their support.”
When had you first noticed anti-Israel activists are attempting to hijack the #BringBackOurBoys hashtag?
“It happened on Friday night, but we saw it coming, because from the very first moment we received more than a fair share of swear words posted on our Facebook page. They really filled the Twittersphere with pictured of Palestinian children, and calls to kill Israelis, but we just ignored it. We decided not to respond, because our message still appears when searching “top tweets,” and because we believe people realize what they are trying to do, and what this campaign is truly about. There are many haters out there, but I think the calls to “kill all Jews” and the encouragements to kidnap more Israelis revealed their true colors.
I actually think this “hijack” is a victory of some sort. We initiated the campaign and they responded. This never happens to us on Twitter. It is a less popular social network here, and you can never find a campaign initiated by Israelis there.”
What do you think about Facebook taking down the page for “violating community standards?”
“I think it proves that when you have no brains, you got no worries. It shows that the folks at Facebook have no idea what incitement is. There are countless anti-Semitic pages on Facebook that they are not willing to take down, no matter how many times we report them. This, adding the fact our page was taken down due to “incitement,” got me wondering if they even know what incitement and racism are? This is, of course, a part of a much bigger issue, of anti-Semitism around the world.
We used several connections we had and got in touch with people on Facebook. A few hours after it was taken down, our page got back up. We now believe that it won’t be taken down again, because it’s clear that the reports were all false. There’s no incitement on our page, just pictures of people holding signs.”
What is your final goal?
“It is important to us to raise the awareness of the kidnap, and that people will know what is going on. The foreign media ignore this story, because Israel is the victim, and we want to fill the black they leave. Most importantly, though, we want the boys to return home.”