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‘Soul-destroying’: Jewish Instagrammers deal with Gaza conflict, antisemitism

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JTA — Ilyssa Minkus usually spends a chunk of her day on Instagram. That’s where she promotes her business producing party decorations and Jewish-themed crafts.

But after Israel began trading bombs with Hamas in Gaza last week, she tried — often without succeeding — to stay away.

“I don’t want to go on because I’m just bombarded with anti-Israel message after anti-Israel message,” Minkus said a week into the latest conflict. “I felt so differently when the [Jan. 6] attack on the Capitol happened and when influencers were not addressing the issue. But this is something where I am holding my breath when somebody I like posts something.”

At one point, an influencer Minkus admires posted a video titled “Gaza is Under Attack.” Minkus reached out to let her know that the post felt one-sided and didn’t acknowledge the role that Gaza’s leadership had played in instigating the bombing. A firefighter extinguishes a burning vehicle in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon following a rocket attack fired from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Minkus, who lives in Chicago, wasn’t the only person to reach out: The influencer took down the video, saying that while she thought the post was clear and unbiased, she had heard from many people who disagreed.

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Minkus felt relieved that her advocacy had worked — but then she looked around and across her feed saw post after post that felt similarly slanted, or worse. She didn’t reach out to anyone else.

“It’s not good for my mental health,” she said. “I worry that I won’t have the correct answers to rebut what somebody says. And that makes me anxious.”

Minkus’s calculation was one that Jews on social media have made countless times over the past two weeks as an explosion of tensions thrust the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into international headlines. Influencers who are not Jewish or Palestinian and more often post about parenting, pop culture or their personal lives have posted about the conflict, sometimes sharing misinformation, while prominent Jewish account operators have waded into the conflict, sometimes with hesitation — and sometimes received antisemitic comments in response. Meanwhile, their followers have found themselves having to weigh the costs and benefits of taking a stand or combating misinformation on an incredibly fraught topic.

And now, with a ceasefire in place but antisemitic incidents cropping up across America, Jews on social media fear their decisions are becoming even higher-stakes. Pro-Palestinian protesters in New York City on May 20, 2021 (video screenshot)

“It’s important for people to know how exhausting and draining and soul-destroying it is to be constantly advocating for your right to exist, and your children’s right to exist and their physical, and your physical, safety, with this torrent of people who don’t understand the ways they’re inciting violence because they feel like they have to make a statement about things they don’t know anything about,” said Meg Keene, a Jewish businesswoman in Oakland, California, who frequently shares information about Judaism and Israel with the 6,600 followers on her personal Instagram account.

“The only way I can keep it........

© The Times of Israel

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