Dr Oboler questions our commitment to advocacy

Andre Oboler, Have We Lost That Caring Feeling?, The Australian Jewish News, 22 April 2011

I wanted to write an open letter to Noam and Aviva, but I couldn’t. How could I say “we’ve given up, we’ve moved on”, “we no longer care?” It’s like the streams of people walking past a homeless person, seeing them, but not seeing them, eyes quickly sliding past. Don’t stop. Don’t think. Keep moving forward with your life. Is that’s what’s to become of our support for Gilad Shalit?

Over the last four months my team at the Community Internet Engagement Project has been working on a revolutionary new campaign to raise public awareness for Gilad. This new campaign was designed to build on the strengths of the Jewish community: our ability to organisations locally and to build networks of affiliates organisations, our ability to share ideas and join together in collective campaigns, our ability to engage globally, and our ability to maintain the local connection between leaders and the members of their communities. I’ve heard of an amazing community that ran a campaign over decades for soviet Jewry in the 1960s and 1970s. Is that community still there?

In building our campaign we took a lesson from the revolutions in the Middle East, and the way social media has spurred social change. First there was the local spark, then a technology catalyst, and finally an explosion of action. We built a platform that can work locally, so each local grassroots organisation could have a piece of it and use it to support their activity. We made it multilingual. We designed it not just to share through Facebook and Twitter, but as a tool to facilitate conversations in real life. As something that could be physically shown to a stranger using an IPad or laptop. Imagine sitting on a train and having the excuse to turn to someone and say, “Do you know about Gilad Shalit?” That’s how a revolution starts.

We wanted the campaign to make a measurable difference. We wanted each person who interacted with it to leave Gilad a personal message, and for t  he number messages, the number of conversations, and the numbers of strangers introduced to Gilad, to be displayed by state, country and globally. We wanted organisations to be able to see how they were contributing to the campaign. We built it so umbrella organisations could see how their affiliates were doing; who needed help, and who might have a secret to success to share with others. We built it so major global organisations and the local book club could both register and play their part. Any organisation can join for free.

The campaign will run until September, but we planned to quietly pre-launch it before Pesach, the Festival of Freedom, so organisations could connect it to their Pesach greeting. This year, in captivity, next year, we hope Gilad too will be free. But as we consulted community groups, eyes began to slide past us. Those who offered their enthusiastic support were indeed the exceptions; the Australian and UK Union  of Jewish Students, the Union of Progressive Judaism and the Zionist Council of NSW to name a few.

For many other, it seemed Gilad was just not a priority. People had “done that campaign.” They were “really busy.” “He’s probably dead” more than one person said. Those of us below the age of 50 have heard from our elders about the great campaigns of the past, like the battle on behalf of soviet Jewry. What happened to the community that ran those campaigns? Have our leaders, and our organisations, given up on more than Gilad? Have we given up on ourselves, on our community, and on our ability for real action? Have we reduced ourselves to empty symbolism?

I wrote this piece, indeed launched this campaign, while I was supposed to be studying for exams. I thought about putting off the fight until another time, then I thought about the great campaigns of the past, and those who I know took time out from their exams and their lives in decades past. I just couldn’t walk away, nor could I delay, while Gilad continued his solitary vigil. To leave him standing alone was just not an option.

So I pressed the button, and the new Meet Gilad 2.0 platform at www.meetgilad.com went live.  The invites to major communal organisations went out, with a request to pass the word on to their affiliates. This global campaign is a world first; a new type of campaign connecting community and technology. It’s up to the community to decide if they will make it work, if our youth movements will build it into programs, our schools will adopt it, our book clubs will share it and our synagogues will call on their members to support it. Participation is open to all organisations. This is the revolution the Community Internet Engagement Project was built to create.

If you’re in a leadership position, register your organisation and start preparing for the coming campaign. If you’re not, visit, leave a message and find an organisation to volunteer with for this campaign. Ultimately it’s not the Jews we need to introduce to Gilad, but the wider community.  In the lead up to the anniversary of his capture in June, we need to pull together and take the campaign for Gilad to a new level, and to a new audience. The campaign platform is there, so join us in this revolution, and let’s pressure the international community to stop standing by, doing nothing, as evil triumphs.  And why we’re at it, let’s show our leaders, and our children, that this generation too went out from Egypt. This generation too will stand up and be counted. We too will fight for the freedom of that one young man, Gilad.

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