How Social Media Is Undermining the Fight Against Antisemitism
When 11 Jews were murdered during a Shabbat service last week, the first response for most American Jews was to take to Twitter or Facebook. Most of them were compelled to share their sadness and sympathy, but others sought to make political arguments — and discussed how Donald Trump’s policies may have encouraged political violence and given shelter to antisemites.
The media took up this narrative, but I believe that it was the wrong course to take. We should be focusing on unity, not assigning blame.
I believe that Jews are under siege, and that we are threatened more than at any other time since World War II. And I also believe that the far-right is becoming more dangerous, emboldened by the belief that Trump is one of them. Neo-Nazis regard Trump’s failure to quickly disavow the movement and its leaders during his campaign and after the Charlottesville incident as an endorsement.
The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website published by Andrew Anglin, has not only been an enthusiastic Trump booster, but also one of the major agitators of antisemitic rhetoric. And too often, what Anglin calls his “troll army” weaponizes antisemitic feelings to assault Trump’s critics.
Journalists are frequent targets. And it is no wonder that many outlets that have received antisemitic hate mail and death threats are quick to draw the connection between the Pittsburgh shootings and the president.
Still, while Trump’s election may have made far-right antisemitism more visible on social media, it is not the principle reason Jews face growing danger. The Anti-Defamation League notes that the number of antisemitic incidents has been growing since 2013, and surged in 2017 by 57 percent to reach a total of 1,986 cases. At the same time, the most recent antisemitism report from Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs reports a similar trend throughout Europe.
Indeed, part of the recent spike in antisemitic incidents and attacks is due to Leftist actions on college campuses against Israel and Jews. While Jew-hating on the right, the kind that inspired the Charlottesville rally, the 2014 murders at the Overland Park JCC, and the Pittsburgh murders needs no help, liberal anti-Israel activism is enabling right-wing antisemitism.
German neo-Nazis recently expressed their solidarity with the Palestinians by unfurling an antisemitic banner and waving PLO flags, as well as banners with the colors of the Israeli flag that said, “The state Israel is our misfortune.” The protest appears to have been held against both the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the founding of the State of Israel.
In the US, David Duke took to Twitter to state that Israel destabilizes the entire world, is the greatest sponsor of global terrorism, and that its crimes against humanity place the US homeland at risk.
And as The Algemeiner reported, Duke has also “endorsed” UK Labor party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s past statements on Jews and Israel. The Daily Stormer actively supports the BDS movement. And last year, Anglin organized an armed march in Montana “against Jews, Jewish businesses, and everyone who supports either,” noting, “a representative of Hamas will be in attendance, and will give a speech about the international threat of the Jews.”
We are making a serious mistake if we believe that the recent rise in antisemitism has been inspired solely by Trump or one political party. The murders in Pittsburgh are the product of yet another generation of enemies that has risen up to destroy the Jewish people. This time around, the extreme right and left share the goal of not just attacking individual Jews but marginalizing the Jewish presence on the world stage. And our response is making matters worse.
Menachem Begin noted that “the seeds of Jewish destruction lie in passively enabling the enemy to humiliate us. Only when the enemy succeeds in turning the spirit of the Jew into dust and ashes in life, can he turn the Jew into dust and ashes in death.” Today, the angry words and threats we fling at each other on social media embolden those who wish to humiliate us and undermine our survival once more.
Robert Goldberg is co-founder and vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.