Meet the women facing down the trolls to stick up for Israel online

Many Jewish women have found their voice fighting hatred on social media in the months following October 7


Amid the tidal wave of antisemitism unleashed on October 7 we’ve probably all had a similar dilemma; do we hide, pretend we aren’t Jewish, keep schtum? Or do we put on our Magen Davids, wave an Israel flag and speak out?

There isn’t much to be happy about post October 7 but it has produced a new wave of articulate warriors. Just as TV presenter Rachel Riley and  actor Tracy Ann Oberman led the war against Corbynism, dozens of women are now at the forefront of this battle even if their  gender can mean they have to fight twice as hard to be heard and receive four times as much hatred.

South African-born Canadian Aviva Klompas, a former speechwriter for Israel at the UN, has become one of the unmissable voices to emerge post October 7. With 315,000 X/Twitter followers she is often on the frontline fighting the misinformation war. As her pinned Twitter post from October 23 says: “The IDF is going to attack our enemies by land, sea and air. And the rest of us are going to fight on the battlegrounds of academia, law, business, media and every other damn front we can think of.” And she’s leading the charge.

She says she is unperturbed by the haters and the death threats: “I don’t read the comments; I say to myself that anyone writing them is either a bot or pro Hamas – I don’t need to hear from either of them. People feel bad on my behalf – there are sexually violent threats and so much hatred. But the thing that keeps me going are the messages that say, ‘Thank you for using your voice, I feel so lonely and scared and we need an unwavering voice out there’”.

What does outrage her is how few people, even now, understand how dangerous the pro-Hamas movement is. “There is a greater war at play here,” she says. “The world is infinitely more dangerous because of the tepid response to what Hamas did. We saw just a few days of outrage and sympathy but the United Nations that won’t even call Hamas a terrorist organisation, social justice groups claim to stand for freedom and liberty while caring for terrorists who provide no freedoms or liberties for their people. There are the feminist organisations that say believe all women until its Israeli women. It is a dark time but we have done this before; we persisted, we persisted and we will persist now.”

Aviva has been an advocate for some time; for others, this is their first time around the block.

Tessa Veksler is a young student leader – just 22 – who is speaking out against antisemitism not only online (she has nearly 21,000 Instagram followers) but also on her university campus at the University of California where she has been singled out for hatred as the student body president.

On the day we speak she has just won a vote, after a six-hour meeting, in which a motion was put forward to remove her as president because she is a Zionist. On her campus there was a takeover of a building with posters including one calling her a ‘racist Zionist’ another said, ‘you can run but you can’t hide Tessa Veksler.

Tessa’s advocacy is partly fuelled from the fact that her parents were Russian immigrants who had left their homeland because of antisemitism. “Although the environment is hostile, it is important that people stand up and say this is wrong. We are outnumbered but when we show up for each other that can be really powerful,” she says.

It shouldn’t have to feel brave to speak up against antisemitism but another social media star, Bella Wallersteiner who works in public affairs and has 73,000 followers, has gone into the lion’s den. It started when she went to lay some flowers outside of the Israeli embassy in Kensington on October 8 and was faced with a demonstration of glee by pro Palestine supporters. She started to film it.

Since then, she has chronicled antisemitism at many of the pro Palestine demonstrations and is trolled mercilessly on social media as a result. “I had never really put my head above the parapet before October 7 but I saw how important it was to expose what was going on in the UK,” she says. “The comments are awful – people have also done creepy research into my family background, tried to find out where I live, contacted my work. I have made numerous complaints to the police but nothing has been done.

“I am now at the point where I have become immune to it – although my friends are shocked by what I have to tolerate. But I won’t give up; they try and silence us but leaving social media will mean they’ve won.”

The growth of antisemitism has changed the lives of many of these warriors. Entrepreneur Martine Davis, 57, has even set up a company to help Jews who want to wear their ethnicity proudly; with a range of T shirts (as well as dog coats) she sells on Instagram page @mejewtoo with profits going to Israel.

For Joanna De Guia, who formerly worked in children’s publishing, it heralded a move into fighting antisemitism full time. As well as regularly posting about Israel to her 6000 X followers – and reacting to trolls with humour – she’s taken a job at the London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism to fight what she saw among many of her friends in the left and the publishing world.

“It was Corbynism that started my journey into recognising what was happening,” she says. “I began to ask questions about the antisemitism and lost a lot of friends as a result but I made new ones and post October 7 I felt emboldened enough to speak.”

Losing friendships but finding new ones is something theatre producer Estee Stimler, 57, can also empathise with. She once hid her Judaism but after October 7 both her X (15,000 followers) and Instagram (also 15,000) accounts were turned to advocacy. “I try and be funny with the trolls,” she says. “I’ll write, ‘do you kiss your mother with that mouth?’” But it hurts when people troll her in real life.

“There was a young person I was trying to help in the theatre business. She’d eaten at my table many times; I introduced her to people. And then she wrote me this letter saying that she could no longer see me as I was advocating genocide.”

Actor Louisa Clein, 44, who has 12,000 followers on X, admits that she too has lost friends and is worried that it could even mean less work for her. But that won’t stop her.

“I feel that anyone who is Jewish and has some sort of social media platform has a responsibility to use it,” says the former Emmerdale star. “I do worry about being cancelled because of what I write but it is too important.

“I find it depressing how many people I admire in my industry are posting misinformation. When I try to talk to them, to make them more balanced, it can be difficult. There are a few friends I’ve lost but, at the same time, I’ve found some far more wonderful women who do support me. The people who have dropped out of my world have been replaced by people that I admire and am inspired by. That’s important too.”

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