What Israel advocates can learn from Taylor Swift – The Jerusalem Post

When the Taylor Swift-supported Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Superbowl LVIII on Sunday, it was another score for the international superstar, who was shown on TV every time the Chiefs had a big play in the most-watched telecast ever.

In December, she was named TIME magazine’s Person of the Year, following a record-setting international tour and a successful concert movie. She was the most streamed artist of 2023.

It is no wonder that both sides in the current conflict between Israel and Hamas have been trying to draft Swift and her star power to their cause.

Swift has wisely chosen to stay out of an issue she knows nothing about, for the most part avoiding falling into the trap that has ensnared celebrities who took either side.

Both sides have also accused her of joining the other, trying to paint her as an anti-hero (the name of her recent hit song).

 Taylor Swift attends a premiere for Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour in Los Angeles, California, U.S., October 11, 2023.  (credit: REUTERS/MARIO ANZUONI)
Taylor Swift attends a premiere for Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour in Los Angeles, California, U.S., October 11, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/MARIO ANZUONI)

Those on Israel’s side accused Swift of helping Hamas by attending a December 8 comedy show whose proceeds went to American Near East Refugee Aid, an organization that NGO Monitor has called “biased” and “anti-Israeli.”

Journalist Megyn Kelly said on her podcast that fans should boycott Swift, who has posted support for empowering women and the LGBTQ community. Kelly noted that Hamas executes gay Palestinians and harms women. 

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“You know what Hamas does to women?” Kelly said. “You think we have equal rights over there, Taylor? That’s what you’re supporting at your little fundraiser for Gaza. They’re taking the money that international forces are designating to help the suffering people of Gaza, and Hamas is using it to create more weapons.”

As her hit songs go, Swift has managed to shake it off, but her critics will go back to December all the time to keep accusing her of supporting Hamas.

An odd article on The Daily Beast website in 2015 called Swift “queen of the Zionists” when it was reported that she would perform in Tel Aviv that summer. That concert did not materialize, and she has yet to perform in the Jewish state.

Israel’s official X (formerly Twitter) account tried to enlist Swift to use her strong social media following to seek information on a kidnapped female soldier who was a fan of hers, but the soldier’s body was later found. An Israeli Swift bodyguard returned to Israel for reserve duty.

The hashtag #SwiftiesForPalestine has trended on X. Anti-Israel fans have expressed disappointment that she did not make a political statement supporting Gaza when she won the top Grammy award for Album of the Year two weeks ago.

How does Taylor Swift fit into the Israel-Hamas War?

SO, DESPITE there being no true love story between Swift and either Israel or Hamas, can there be a role for her in this war, or will she just remain a blank space facing bad blood from both sides?

The answer is that she and her followers can and should be role models for Israel advocates fighting on the important battlefield of social media.

Two weeks ago, fake sexually explicit images of Swift proliferated on social media. An image of the pop singer generated by artificial intelligence that was shared on X was viewed 47 million times before the account was suspended and disappeared.

Her dedicated fan base of “Swifties” quickly got to work, launching a successful counteroffensive on X. The hashtag #ProtectTaylorSwift flooded the platform with positive images of her, while accounts that were sharing deepfakes were reported to X and removed immediately.

Even the White House got involved, as press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the fake images “alarming” and said social media companies had a responsibility to prevent the spread of such misinformation.

X temporarily blocked users from searching for Swift. Searches for her name on Sunday yielded the error message “Something went wrong. Try reloading.”

The campaign to save Swift’s image and prevent the proliferation of damaging fake pictures of the star completely succeeded.

WHAT WORKED for the Swifties can also work for proponents of the Jewish state. They need to mobilize the way they did and remain vigilant until they succeed.

It is undoubtedly an uphill battle. There are a lot more Swifties on Earth than there are Israel advocates and Jews in general. But that is no reason to not try.

The key to success that can be learned from the Swifties is to combine efforts and speak the same language, because the sum is greater than its parts. Working together, the technical challenges of the social media companies’ algorithms can be overcome to effect change.

I just returned from a speaking tour, in which I lectured to communities in New York, New Jersey, and Florida that care deeply about Israel. I met countless people who have been fighting for Israel in the trenches of social media with all their heart and all their soul.

They did not see death and destruction or fire a bullet, but many of them neglected their jobs and have not seen their families since October 7 because they have been intensely following the news and responding to it. And they have plenty of scars to show for it.

Unlike on the military battlefield, where Israel has an advantage, on the media battlefield we are a small minority.

We are the underdog. And we don’t stop fighting, even when it looks like we’re losing badly.

The most common question I was asked on the trip was: “Why is it that when I post about Israel, I get only four likes; but if I post a picture of my grandson looking cute in a Halloween costume, I get 1,000?”

I have had to reassure these people that even if their friends did not click “like” due to peer pressure, their posts had been seen and they are educating people.

Countless people told me that my media watchdog organization, HonestReporting, has been an indispensable weapon, providing videos, carousels, and memes that they have shared.

HonestReporting’s social media content was seen by four million people in 2022. In 2023, impressions rose to 123 million, 45% of whom are under 25, and 89% under 45.

I did my best to give people who came to my talks hope that significant success can be achieved on the media battlefield, against all odds.

Taylor Swift’s hit album is called Midnights, and there are plenty of midnights hard at work left to go for pro-Israel advocates. But if they keep at it, I am confident that people around the world will be enchanted. 

The writer is the executive director and executive editor of the pro-Israel media watchdog HonestReporting. He served as chief political correspondent and analyst of The Jerusalem Post for 24 years.

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