Brands that champion minorities fall silent when Jews suffer. Why?
Creative and comms strategist Cate Rubenstein expected solidarity from the masses, influencers and brands after Israel suffered its worst-ever terror attack. It didn’t happen - and then the war escalated.
Last week’s events were brutally seared into my memory. Hamas terrorists kidnapped, raped, mutilated, beheaded, dismembered, burned alive, massacred and debased their way through Israel. Innocent men, women, elderly, teens, children, babies, pets, and even Holocaust survivors were impacted. Some of it was proudly livestreamed. We won’t suffer these grisly scenes unchanged. Those who even bothered to look won’t unsee the savagery. But for those who didn’t look closely, think hard before going online to two-side this barbarity.
We say, ‘Never again’. Do we learn? Apparently not!
Online, you see people rationalizing or minimizing the attack. Or even casting doubt on verified footage. In doing so, they are both sidesing a unilateral, unprovoked pogrom on civilians. Some even cheer the depraved footage of maimed bodies. The hate is rising.
The question coming out of the Holocaust wasn’t ‘Where was God?’ but ‘Where was man?’. And now we know. Man was watching along.
Hamas’s specific articulated intent was not freeing Gaza but a cataclysmic Jewish killing spree. Those 1,400 (and rising) Israeli deaths have been lauded unsurprisingly by right-wing white supremacists, the KKK, and even left-wing progressives and universities. To be Jewish right now is an exercise in solipsistic philosophy. Only the Christian conservatives rally behind us; seemingly, they are unaware Israel supports women’s rights, reproductive rights, and a full spectrum of sexuality.
“Jewish” is but one part religion. We are an ethnoreligion. I know it’s befuddling; we don’t do it on purpose. We are also enduring culture and ethnicity. You can change cultures; you can convert religion. You cannot convert ethnicity.
We represent less than 1% of the global population, are underwater from conspiracy theories perpetually and are practically extinct due to hate. Yet, we are not seen as a viable minority. Our collective unending trauma is ours alone to grieve. Maybe that’s why aren’t people appalled by the maniacal butchering of Jewish people.
The Escalating Online War
Social is a hellscape of Jew-Hate. Eschewing declarative statements that ignore brutality towards an already marginalized group of people is bad for everybody, actually. Brands have been pussyfooting around. And people, at best, have shown shared sorrow for Israel or Jewish people but often justify, theorize, and make allowances for how this happened.
Meanwhile, social media, where any grade school diploma-holding idiot is a geopolitical expert and moral arbiter of the Middle East, is full of bad takes. Those influencers that express sorrow for Israel then cow easily, deleting solidarity. Jewish lives lost are less important than losing followers, or TikTok lipstick tutorial ad money. P!NK gets online threats because people thought she flew Israeli flags at a concert.
So why do brands and influencers that regularly speak up to defend all other minorities… go silent, both sides it, or victim-litigate? Brands that immediately call out hate for any other group make exceptions for Jews, not wanting to wade into what they perceive as complicated conflict. There is nothing complicated about the world’s oldest hate and the fact that there’s always some excuse for it.
Brands don’t want to alienate consumers whose sympathies are complex and nuanced but don’t forget that consumers are just people. Sometimes, you must alienate people if the people are racist or celebrate massacres.
The conflict is labyrinthine. Whatever happens here will affect everyone globally. So, your silence impacts you. As a public-facing figure, you just want to be ‘nice’; you hesitate to offend anybody… but haven’t worked up a useable ‘nice’ statement to publish yet. At best, you emit platitudes about peace and harmony and how this should not escalate. I wish for peace, too, for everybody’s sake.
But which country wouldn’t react to something of this magnitude? Do hate crimes against Jews hit differently? Because despite what we preach about love, light, unity and equity, rules of engagement exceptionalize Israel and Jews - always. Hamas gets a hall pass. Israel is blamed. It is mind-boggling. Israelis were viciously attacked in an abomination of human cruelty, and world leaders replied carefully, “Israel has the right to defense.”
Who put the world in charge of Israel’s permission? Permission to exist is navigated daily. What other country’s military needs us all to hold hands and agree? Did we tell Ukraine to relax and be cool? Did anyone tell the US post 9/11 to chill? Israel needs to worry about its image because the right to defense is a favor bestowed Internationally. Israel’s not great at PR. Granted. Its goal is to survive, not be elected Homecoming Queen. And what Israel does doesn’t matter; the world blames it anyway.
I’m no publicist nor apologist for IDF. Still, they warn civilians before strikes and ask them to leave [whether they have anywhere to go is another issue]. By regurgitating “an eye for an eye makes the world blind,” you are blessing the ‘retaliatory, revenge’ hellscape wrought on Jewish people. Hamas at least openly labels itself Jew-hating. Are you in alignment with that?
Almost one lifetime later, a huge proportion of the world is still denying the Holocaust despite the vast wealth of evidence, and even Germany literally acknowledging it, offering reparations, and using it as a cautionary tale in its education system.
If we ‘control the media,’ why is the hate so visible?
Hate on social might disprove the notion that ‘Jews control the media.’ If you post even the most innocuous support of Jews or Israel, you get attacked instantly in a rush of cyberbullying. Influencers and brands are intimidated into silence by this immediate dog-piling.
And personally, for years, I’ve reported profiles and comments with hate speech and death threats, especially last week. Social does nothing. Jew-hate never violates their standards of hate speech, though it would absolutely if you subbed any other minority. Free speech is an excuse for Jews isolating and othering. You can’t say, “Let’s kill all the ________” without being banned. Unless what you put in that sentence is Jews.
Meanwhile, schools told Jewish parents to delete social apps from kids’ phones this week. Glorifying last week’s violence against Jews is common. I hope these are mostly bots. If fellow human beings are saying these things, we’re in trouble.
So brands. Influencers. Where are you?
The people speaking up for Jews are... Jews. Mainly. Where’s the rest of the world marching with us in solidarity? As we marched with you. We support other minorities not because we expect reciprocity but because it’s the right thing to do. When brutality hits our communities, we know how it feels to be marginalized, oppressed, othered and deemed deserving.
How alone we now feel to your indifference and your business-as-usual social posts.
So maybe you were too busy to follow the attack closely. Or perhaps you are numb to all the suffering in the world. Here are some facts.
This is not an international conflict for your Jewish friends (assuming you have any). It’s family history. It is happening in real time. We have generations of terror encoded in our genes. This is war at home. We are furious, heartbroken, filled with revulsion and petrified. Your silence is deafening.
Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005. At that point, Hamas took control and has been diverting aid to Gaza for terrorist activities. This is known.
The EU, Canada and the US, who seldom agree on anything, have fully and independently recognized Hamas as a terror group. Branding Hamas “freedom fighters” taps into our universal need to fight for independence and FREEDOM! We all love an underdog… but it is false branding. The fight is for the destruction of Jews. It has been appallingly clear about that, to its credit.
Hamas does not care about Palestine. Don’t call them “militants” and water down what they’re doing. Murder is right there in its creed. It is allied with ISIS and Hezbollah.
Hamas controls Gaza; that’s why Israel monitors it. It’s an openly hostile entity hellbent on annihilating the world’s Jewish people, most of whom live in the world’s one Jewish state.
This isn’t about Muslims vs. Jews. It isn’t. If only it were so simple. Israel also has a significant Arab/Muslim population, many IDF. That’s right, Jews and Muslims fight together on the same side against terror. In a region that small, we are all commingled and intermarried.
We’re related. Most of us are friends, and most of us want peace. Most people are not terrorists. Most Muslims are not terrorists. Hamas does not represent all Muslims but is a group of Muslim terrorists. Terrorists are bad and need to be stopped. When your mission is wiping Jews off the earth, that is the definition of ‘ethnic cleansing.’
Supporting Hamas does not help Palestine remotely. It tells Jews we’re not human. Our blood does not bleed.
I’m going through more than five stages of grief, and they aren’t linear but overlapping. My brain cannot make sense of what I’ve seen. I resent Hamas for putting Israel in this place.
There is no way to adequately address the sickening knowledge that to secure a barbarically attacked nation; innocent civilians will die. As I write this, there was even back and forth on who was responsible for the destruction of a Gazan hospital until President Biden confirmed Hamas caused the 500 reported deaths. This war is sobering and disgusting. We all hope for a better planet for our children that they can grow, thrive, and be happy. It is spectacularly unfair for people living in a region that needs so much help already.
Hamas’ leaders know this - they don’t live there either, full-time. They’re enjoying life in Qatar. Gaza is a pawn in a diabolical chess game. I don’t know how to solve this. Nor do I know how Israel gets the 200 hostages back (remember them?).
But it seems pretty clear getting rid of Hamas is long-term good for everybody. In the short term, it is going to be horrifically ugly. This is not retribution; there isn’t any way to equalize. I don’t know what “proportional” force would mean, destroying precisely as many families? This is ensuring the country and people are safe.
Doesn’t every other country have that right? You know it, and I do. If we don’t think Israel should act like any other country, that’s another troubling sign of things that aren’t about Palestine.
For my dear American friends in particular, most agreed that both-sides-ing Charlottesville Neo-nazis was a bad idea. They also believed that Jewish people were an abomination that should not exist.
Israel is the size of New Jersey and has about as many residents. Would you minimize the murder of 1,400 Jersey residents? Even if you hate everything about the place, the stupid bridges, toll roads and those awful malls. Now imagine being a NJ resident if Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, Connecticut and all other neighbors either actively hated you or openly planned to erase you from the map. No matter what you said or did, the rest of the world would justify it because you are just Jersey.
Bomb shelters are part of every Israeli home. Building codes require every dwelling to have a safe room. Where else is that necessary?
People are not their governments. Every country has a past or present leader we detest, maybe even one who’s universally despised. We’re no exception. Would you dismiss the mass murder of American people just because you disliked Trump? For example.
Hamas isn’t Palestine, Bibi’s not Israel. Hamas governs Palestine, which is awful for the Palestinian people. Hamas failed to lead Palestine for the good of its civilians. The conditions Gazans live in are squalid. Money meant for the building went to destruction. Then Bibi put together an almost fascist regime, which was abysmal for Israelis. It isn’t representative of Israel or the Jewish people.
War is desperately sad. No one but terrorists undertake it gleefully. I don’t know what Israel is supposed to do now. This is spiraling quickly. Hamas left Bibi with nothing but poor options. Hamas are barbarians who came to chaos joyfully. And they are thieves. Among all they stole, along with mass loss of life - they stole the choice of how to proceed. They stole dignity; they stole chance for diplomacy. They stole ongoing immediate hope for a Two-State solution, activating scenes from the Final Solution. They launched Jewish apocalypse.
So what can you do?
Stop demonizing people who’ve been victimized. Then, no one’s asking for aid; no one expects you to do much of anything beyond some virtue signaling. We’re asking you not to be OK with Jewish lives being meaningless; our violent deaths cheered and justified. You cannot look the other way or blame us for our torture, our screams playing on a loop across your screens. If you wring any rationale for any part of Hamas’s doing – you’ve lost the plot; you’re not for freedom. You’re against Jews surviving.
The Middle East is nuanced. I’m not asking that you study up on the whole geopolitical history. Terrorism’s not nuanced. There’s nothing nuanced about beheading children.
This isn’t about Palestine. Palestine’s been used as an excuse to open barn doors of crazy for as long as I can remember. This isn’t war anyone wants. It’s a war Israel was pushed into and now must reluctantly lead. Whether or not you’re with us. We don’t have a choice.