Facebook activists find new stars to defend

By: Debra Rubin

Creators of the “I Support Scarlett Johansson Against the Haters” Facebook campaign have some new acts for you to follow.

The three Rutgers graduates, who urged Facebook followers to support the actress’s endorsement deal with the Israeli-based SodaStream company, have launched similar campaigns for other entertainers, including Justin Timberlake and Neil Young, who have become targets of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

Timberlake performed in Israel in May; Young’s July 17 concert was postponed due to the current security situation.

The sites have had two million visitors and have served as a forum for discussion on Israel-related issues, while spawning copycat campaigns, like “I Support the Rolling Stones Against the Haters,” said Edison native Liran Kapoano, the driving force behind the pages.

“None of these things happen independently,” said Kapoano, director of Israel engagement for the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. “I believe we’ve had an impact on other groups. Others are referring to anti-Israel groups as haters, which is a term I believe we were among the first to apply to the BDS movement. I think we’ve really fed into the public consciousness since the Scarlett Johansson campaign.”

Helping him in the social media endeavor is “the old Rutgers crew”: Jake Binstein of Metuchen, a recent graduate who served as Rutgers Hillel’s Israel cochair; and Raffi Mark of Wayne, a former Hillel president. Kapoano, who graduated from Rutgers three years ago, was a founder and president of Scarlet Blue and White, a pro-Israel organization on campus.

Binstein, who plans to study this fall at the Machon Yaakov yeshiva in Jerusalem, said the trio has had to handle the sometimes difficult task of “staying away from the negative side of things.”

“We’ve made pages for celebrities that capitalize on creating a community of support,” he explained. “We start with the celebrity angle and then it becomes a community of pro-Israel people who not only want to hear good, but also want to discuss it.”

The forums have disseminated information on the three Israeli teens who were kidnapped and murdered this summer and on the recent divestment vote by the Presbyterian Church USA. The sites also promote other pro-Israel pages.

“We have almost 50,000 people who have really formed into a community sharing things and posting things among each other that has gotten some real results,” said Kapoano. “It’s really an opportunity for social media advocacy.”

Kapoano said the decision to launch a page for Young came after the pro-BDS Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East launched a petition urging the rock star, a Canadian native, to cancel his July 17 show.

After Young’s show was canceled on July 13 by the Israeli government in light of the rockets raining down on the country, Young released a statement expressing his disappointment and his hope that the appearance would be rescheduled.

“We don’t want to take full credit for their failure with Neil Young,” said Kapoano, “but a lot of people came over from our [Scarlett Johansson] page, so I think we certainly had some impact.”

Anti-Israel activists criticized Timberlake after he posted an Instagram photo of himself praying at the Western Wall. The picture received more than 254,000 “likes,” but Timberlake’s use of the Twitter hashtag “#Israel” garnered criticism from BDS supporters.

While other stars — including Lana Del Rey, Rihanna, the Pixies, Jay Leno, and Tony Orlando — have appeared or are planning to appear in Israel, Kapoano said, pages were not launched for them because they weren’t targeted.

“People come to our page to promote their own pro-Israel causes and businesses or to encourage support of Israeli businesses,” he said. “It’s something totally organic. We have no control over it. Somebody posts and dozens respond. Even if we don’t post for a couple of days, we have people visiting the site and sharing comments and pictures. It’s got a life of its own and it’s a great feeling to know I helped make that happen.”

This post originally appeared in the New Jersey Jewish News.

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