Please read my post A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO ANTISEMITIC TROPES before this one. It’ll help with important context.
Something we hear a lot in online activist spaces is “Google is free.” And while that is certainly true, when it comes to antisemitism, the internet is a tricky subject.
That’s because conspiracy theories are the driving force behind antisemitism, and the internet is a breeding ground for conspiracy theories.
Misinformation has always had deadly consequences for Jews. In the 14th century, claims that Jews were behind the Black Death resulted in the decimation of over 600 Jewish communities in Europe. In 1840, the false claim that Jews murdered a Christian monk resulted in horrendous violence against the Jewish community in Syria. In the 1970s, propaganda that Jews held dual loyalties culminated in the repression and disenfranchisement of Jews in the Soviet Union.
On the internet, misinformation spreads like wildfire.
Social media, in particular, is notorious for spreading misinformation. But where it pertains to antisemitism, this misinformation is not new. In fact, it can all be traced back to well-known antisemitic texts and conspiracies from the late 19th centuries and early 20th centuries, such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, The International Jew, the Khazar Theory, and sometimes even Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
These misleading posts often use the code words Israel/Israeli/Zionist/Zionism as euphemisms for the word Jew, but the misinformation they spread is simply old, regurgitated, and reinvented antisemitic conspiracy.
Some examples are the false claim that Jews are not indigenous to Israel/Palestine, the claim that Israel is responsible for police brutality in the US, and conspiracy theories about George Soros being the puppet master behind the BLM movement.
Antisemitism is a phenomenon that ebbs and flows, surging during times of instability. As such, it’s no surprise that we are noticing such a scary uptick of antisemitism during COVID and the (important) fight against police brutality.
An example: in June and July of this year, 266,200 tweets were posted to Twitter from Europe. 14,210 of those tweets were overtly antisemitic in nature (in the vein of “die Jews”). That means that for those months, over 5% of ALL tweets on any and all subjects posted from Europe were overtly antisemitic tweets. Bear in mind that Jews form just 0.2% of the population of Europe.
And that’s just overt antisemitism. Twitter is notorious for antisemitic dog whistles, such as the (((trend))) which is supposed to insinuate the reach of “Jewish power.” Many Jews have taken that back, which is why you will see Jewish journalists using (((username))).
Recently, the hashtag #jewishprivilege spread all over Twitter. Both white supremacists and leftist antisemites used it to perpetuate antisemitic tropes.
Antisemitism on social media often targets journalists. If you read the post on antisemitic tropes, you’ll see why this is not surprising, as a common trope is that Jews run or control the media.
Following Donald Trump’s election, 19,000 overtly antisemitic tweets were directed at 800 journalists, 83% of whom were Jews.
Antisemitism on social media is not just a nuisance. It has direct real-life consequences. For example, the man who killed a woman and injured 3 people at a San Diego synagogue last year credited an 8chan forum notorious for its antisemitic conspiracies for “shaping his views.”
Just as misinformation was dangerous for Jews in the past, it continues to be dangerous today. What’s even more frightening is how fast misinformation spreads on social media.
But the problem isn’t “just” social media. Recently, Urban Dictionary removed the antisemitic definitions for “antisemitism” and “antizionism.” As of 2018, a simple Google search for “Holocaust denial” yielded results from the Institute for Historical Review, a seemingly legitimate organization that is actually a white supremacist organization with ties to neo-Nazis, Hamas, and Hezbollah.
Additionally, searches for information on Ashkenazi DNA yield bogus results from antisemitic “studies” spewing conspiracy theories masquerading as legitimate studies. It’s important to be discerning as to who conducted said “studies.”
Some antisemitic websites are overtly antisemitic, like Jew Watch. But the vast majority are not. There’s numerous websites infamous for perpetuating antisemitic tropes in the form of false or misleading claims, cartoons, and other antisemitic imagery. Some examples of websites that have published such content are Mondoweiss, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Electronic Intifada.
And that’s the thing about antisemitism. It’s very rarely overt. Instead it spreads insidiously, in the shadows, and that’s precisely why it’s so dangerous.
So if you want to educate yourself about antisemitism, what CAN you do? (Hint: asking for more free labor from myself or other Jewish educators is NOT the answer).
(1) The first thing you need to do is educate yourself on antisemitic tropes. That’s the baseline. If you don’t know the tropes, you won’t catch the antisemitism. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the tropes, utilize that information to read with a critical eye.
(2) Get your information exclusively from reputable Jewish sources (yes, even information on Zionism, as that is and has always been an ancient Jewish movement). Make sure your sources are diverse. Not everyone has had the experience of being a white-functioning Jew in the US, Canada, or Australia.
(3) Do not tokenize minority opinions because they match yours (see my post on the GOOD JEW/BAD JEW ANTISEMITIC TROPE). We see this a lot in activist spaces. If there’s an overwhelming consensus, go with the consensus, not the outlier.
(4) Look for reputable and well-established organizations, such as the US Holocaust Memorial Museum or Yad Vashem. Be weary of non-Jewish academic institutions, as there is institutionalized antisemitism in academia.
(5) Do not blindly believe what you read on social media. Not even this post. INSTEAD, use the information as a starting point for further research.