#AsAJew: the pervasive phenomenon of antisemites pretending to be Jews on the internet
JUDAISM IS A CLOSED PRACTICE
Jews are an ethnoreligious group, a tribe, and a nation originating in the Land of Israel, descended from the ancient Hebrews and Israelites. An ethnoreligious group is an ethnic group unified by a common religion. In the case of the Jewish People, the religion is Judaism. Jewish peoplehood, tribal identity, nationhood, and religion/spirituality (Judaism) are inextricable from each other.
Judaism is a closed practice. This means that Judaism — and Jewish identity — is not up for anyone to claim. You are either Jewish or you are not. You cannot just decide to be Jewish, in real life or on the internet. This applies even if you decide one day that you believe in the religion of Judaism. If you wish to convert to Judaism, there is a proper communal protocol for that.
You are Jewish if: (1) you are born to a Jewish mother, (2) you convert to Judaism, or (3) some movements accept patrilineal descent, so long as you were raised Jewish. Having extremely distant or even relatively recent “Hebrew,” “Israelite,” or even “Jewish” ancestry doesn’t make one Jewish.
Unless this person was born to a Jewish mother, which doesn’t seem to be the case, they are not Jewish. Yet they post to Twitter as an anti-Zionist “Arab Jew.” They use their anti-Zionist “Arab Jewish” status to speak for the Jewish community, validating the positions of antisemites which are at odds with the communal Jewish consensus. This is incredibly damaging and inappropriate.
Again, Judaism is a closed practice. It’s meant to be “gate kept.” That’s how our ancestors survived in the face of imperialism, colonialism, persecution, marginalization, segregation, ethnic cleansing, mass murder, and genocide.
TOKENISM IN POLITICS & SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES
Tokenism is when a given group (e.g. workplace, political group, etc) selects a person from a minority group to give the illusion that they are diverse or representative of the minority group’s opinion. Tokenism is racism, and, in the case of this particular post, antisemitism.
Tokenism is commonplace in political and social justice discourse. But an even stranger commonplace phenomenon is the online tokenism of marginalized people who don’t actually exist.
In October 2020, for example, Twitter suspended a mass amount of fake account impersonating Black “Trump supporters,” which posted tweets such as “YES IM BLACK AND IM VOTING FOR TRUMP.”
On November 10, 2020, Republican politician Dean Browning tweeted the following, pretending to be a gay Black man.
Of course, he was immediately accused of forgetting to log into his “burner account.” He later tried to claim that he was simply “quoting” a message he received from a gay Black man.
ANTISEMITES TOKENIZING ANTISEMITES: A HISTORIC EXAMPLE
In 1918, the Soviet Communist Party established a “Jewish branch,” with the consent of Vladimir Lenin. It was named “Yevsetskiya,” meaning “Jewish Sections of the Communist Party.”
The mission of the Yevsetskiya was, quite literally, the “destruction of traditional Jewish life, the Zionist movement, and Hebrew culture.”
From the outset, the Yevsetskiya began harassing Zionist Jews. Initially, the Yevsetskiya legally abolished the “kehillas,” the traditional Jewish community organisations. Sometimes, they even burned their offices down. They shut down everything from Jewish political groups to theatres to sports clubs. They raided all Ukrainian “Zionist” offices and arrested every single one of their leaders.
Until their dissolution in 1929, they imprisoned, tortured, and murdered thousands of Jews.
According to historian of Soviet history Richard Pipes, “In time, every Jewish cultural and social organisation came under assault.”
The Soviet government dissolved the Yevsetskiya in 1929, claiming that it was no longer needed. During Stalin’s Great Purge in the 1930s, virtually all its members were arrested and executed.
The fact that the Yevsetskiya was “Jewish” was central to its purpose. After all, the Soviet regime couldn’t be accused of antisemitism when those shutting down all Jewish cultural and spiritual life were Jews themselves.
For this reason, it would make sense that antisemites would pretend to be Jews online. The way their logic goes is: if a Jew is saying it, then it can’t be antisemitic, right?
AS A DISINFORMATION OR PROPAGANDA STRATEGY
Like Russia during the 2016 American presidential election, Iran is notorious for posting disinformation on social media, particularly Israel-related disinformation. They’ve also often posed as Jews, specifically Israeli Jews.
In 2018, for example, an Israeli cybersecurity company found that Iran created a number of fake Israeli Hebrew-language “fake news” websites, including Tel Aviv Times.
In 2022, Iran created fake ultra-Orthodox Jewish profiles on Facebook to run an extreme right-wing campaign with the stated purpose of fueling a “religious war” and creating “fear, hatred and chaos.”
For example, in one instance, they posted a video of a confrontation between an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian car parking attendant. The fake Jewish account captioned the video: “It's a shame he didn't give him one in the head.”
Below is an example of one of their fake Israeli Jewish accounts, for which they used photos of a dead Russian man.
WHITE SUPREMACISTS PRETEND TO BE JEWISH ONLINE TO SPREAD ANTISEMITISM
A common white supremacist tactic to spread antisemitism online is to pose as Jews, creating fake profiles with photos stolen from actual Jewish accounts. These attacks are frequently meticulously coordinated on websites such as 4chan, as was the case in August of 2019, when a white supremacist started an “operation” they dubbed “Operation My Fellow Jews.”
Their goal was to post politically charged Israel-Palestine tweets to “drive the wedge further between the left and the Jews.” Isolating Jews from our potential allies on the left is a common white supremacist tactic.
These, for example, are three fake Jewish accounts, behind which were a group of white supremacists.
Founded in 2014, IfNotNow claims to be “a movement of American Jews organizing our community to end US support for Israel's apartheid system and demand equality, justice, and a thriving future for all Palestinians and Israelis.”
There’s a catch, though: one of its founding members is an Episcopalian named Seth Woody.
IfNotNow not only often organizes with people long accused of antisemitism, but they have frequently expressed their support for terrorists belonging to Iran regime-affiliated Hamas and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, both of which are responsible for mass murders of Jews and non-Jews alike.
Seth Woody was listed as IfNotNow director in their 2017 IRS forms.
JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE
Jewish Voice for Peace is the most followed “Jewish” activist organization and account on Instagram. Over the years, the wider Jewish community has questioned JVP’s alleged Jewishness. Its views are, statistically, not representative of the Jewish community as a whole. Many of its chapters were started by non-Jews. In 2019, Facebook’s transparency feature revealed that the JVP page administrator was based in Lebanon, a fact that JVP later tried to hide. There are around 20 Jews living in Lebanon today, all of them elderly, which makes it unlikely that any of them have managed the page.
JVP has also hosted online panels on “antisemitism” ran by people who are not only not Jewish, but have also been accused of antisemitism in the past.
JVP sends email lists encouraging their followers — Jewish or not — to post “as Jews” on social media.
Hatem Bazian is a renowned Muslim university professor. When he recently posted “as a Jew,” Jews immediately accused him of forgetting to log into his fake Jewish alternative account. Whether to save face or whether he was being honest, he later claimed that he simply copy-pasted a JVP Action Alert that generates tweets. If that’s the case, why is JVP not vetting that those who post “as Jews” are actually Jews?
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