Some of their best friends are...

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - David Pr­ever

FACE­BOOK HAS never felt like a com­fort­able place to ‘do pol­i­tics,’ un­less ‘pol­i­tics is what you do.’ Over the past fort­night, Oper­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge has brought out the haters and de­fend­ers in equal mea­sure, but with some sur­prises. My so­cial me­dia time­line now in­cludes so­called friends — what­ever that means these days — sud­denly at­tack­ing Is­rael with a pre­vi­ously hid­den pas­sion.

And this from people who nor­mally only post pic­tures of their cats and kids. So what to do? Should you ig­nore or un-fol­low? Or worse, click the but­ton that says hide; an e-equiv­a­lent of turn­ing the other cheek. We’re not meant to do that, are we?

It can be ex­haust­ing, try­ing to en­gage in a de­bate with some­one whose anti-Is­rael ar­gu­ment be­gins with An­nie Len­nox quotes lifted from the Guardian.

One friend even pointed me to­wards ‘sonic land­scaper’ Brian Eno’s sup­port for the Pales­tinian cause, as if a ca­reer as a record pro­ducer qual­i­fies the for­mer Roxy Mu­sic man as an ex­pert in Mid­dle East af­fairs.

I’ve only com­mented on two posts — both about the BBC. The first, from Zion­ist friends un­happy with cor­po­ra­tion’s per­ceived proPales­tinian cov­er­age; the sec­ond, a non-Jewish friend un­happy with the lack of cov­er­age of Pales­tinian marches in Lon­don and else­where.

It’s as if the con­flict could be solved so eas­ily, if only the BBC would get it right.

It was this com­ment that riled me: the sug­ges­tion that BBC cov­er­age is bi­ased be­cause Danny Co­hen, its di­rec­tor of TV, is Jewish. It’s bor­der­line blood-li­bel ter­ri­tory and I couldn’t let it pass.

I could, of course, have pointed out that in re­spect of BBC News, they’d got the wrong Jew. But the ar­gu­ment was al­ready lost. In­stead I po­litely sug­gested that Danny Co­hen doesn’t have a say over ed­i­to­rial de­ci­sions in any BBC news­room that I’ve ever worked in. The sug­ges­tion is laugh­able.

I’m not a BBC staffer but I do present a daily pro­gramme. The prob­lem for any broad­cast jour­nal­ist is that ev­ery re­port, in isolation, can be heard or seen as bi­ased. Last week, I ran an in­ter­view with a Pales­tinian mother forced out of her home. It was com­pelling, fac­tual au­dio and de­served to be heard. It was bal­anced with anal­y­sis and back­ground to the con­flict that told the story

We are all Is­raelis now and we’re all in PR

from both sides.

BBC Stu­dios are now car­peted with hot coals. Lis­ten or watch most bul­letins and pro­grammes and you can hear the pain of pre­sen­ters and news­read­ers try­ing to say the right thing. This is no bad thing but the rush to be first means that mis­takes will some- times be made. Most of the time though, they get it right.

Back on Face­book, ar­ti­cles, links and videos are posted and re­posted, each pre­sented as in­dis­putable fact.

Strangely, I don’t re­call any of these ‘friends’ of mine stand­ing up for Syr­i­ans, Ukraini­ans, or any Iraqis bombed out of their home by ad­vanc­ing ISIS forces.

Once again Pales­tini­ans are the ‘cause du jour’ and they re­ally do de­serve bet­ter.

When you re­spond to a friend’s post, you are also open­ing your­selves up to all of their friends. It’s the stuff that so­cial anx­i­ety dis­or­ders are made of. One friend of a friend asked if I was the “dude that had writ­ten for the Jerusalem Post.” I con­firmed that I was.

It was in that piece, a decade ago, that I wrote about a PR vac­uum at the heart of Bri­tish Jewry. There was no Face­book or Twit­ter then. No easy ac­cess to well sourced video and eye wit­ness re­ports.

So­cial me­dia has pro­vided Has­bara with a new bat­tle­ground. The urge to un-friend ( sic) people is un­der­stand­able but we owe it to our­selves to en­gage, calmly and with em­pa­thy. Even when it feels like an im­pos­si­ble strug­gle.

In that sense, we are all Is­raelis now and we’re all in PR. The tools are there, we just need to use them well.

One word of ad­vice: don’t ac­cuse any of your friends of be­ing anti-semitic. I’ve al­ready made that mis­take. How can they be? Some of their best friends are Jewish. In­clud­ing you. David Pr­ever pre­sents the driv­e­time show on BBC Ra­dio Ox­ford and is the au­thor of The Blood Banker

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