As online anti-Semitism grows, so do efforts to counter it

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A woman's shirt reads, "Boycott Israel Apartheid," during a protest in support of Palestine on Thursday (Aug.14) in Toulouse, France. Religion News Service photo by Raphaël Fournier / Divergence

A woman's shirt reads, "Boycott Israel Apartheid," during a protest in support of Palestine on Thursday (Aug.14) in Toulouse, France. Religion News Service photo by Raphaël Fournier / Divergence

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BERLIN (RNS) The Gaza conflict has sparked a wave of counter speech, with organizations debunking anti-Semitic myths and stereotypes on blogs, forums and social media.

  • Lles Nats

    Don’t like the lies the jewish state tells you about its reasons for killing and starving people?

    Don’t like giving your taxes to support israel or its economy and land expansion?

    Don’t like having congressmen who govern you and hold dual citizenship and allegiance to a different country?

    Don’t like that “semitic” does not describe todays jewish race in general, and that you are prohibited from pointing that out?

    If you answered yes to any of the above, you are an anti-semite…
    And that means you are the problem. You racist, bigot, hater. No be a good american and support israel!

  • Lles Nats

    “There has been a huge surge in hate speech on gaza”.

    This is absolutr insanity. Of course people there are going to hate you, and talk about it…thus the dreaded “hate speech”.

    Oh, it offends you that they say they hate you after you bomb their families? Was their a tunnel in their house? Hate is sooooo harsh compared to phospherous bombs, right “chosen ones”?

    Get over yourselves. Hasbara has you covered. You can thank am american taxpayer now.

  • Susan

    Lies Nat, you didn’t read this post. You have an obsession with Jews and Israel. There is a vast difference between criticizing Israel’s policies and screaming, “Death to Jews!” or believing that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian forgery created by the Czar’s secret police, is true. It is not OK to attack a French synagogue no matter what Israel does.

    You seem to think that Israel is purposefully attacking civilians. There have been photographs taken of Hamas launching rockets amid civilians and near UN buildings. There is no lack of food in Gaza. No one is starving., indeed the population is growing.

  • Rashid.M

    Of course anti Semitism is growing. Whenever the state of Israel is engaged in conflict and/or perceived injustice – hate speech, discrimination against Jews, vandalism, as well as actual acts of violence rise. How much of this anti Semitism is a reaction to current affairs, and how much is pre existing bigotry using the cover of situation specific anger, is an open question. The actions or crimes of the government of Israel though are no excuse for such behaviour. Vigilante actions, whether random or profiled, are senseless and unjust.

    But this is not a phenomenon exclusive to Jewish communities. Any Muslim living in Europe or the West generally, using the internet etc. will tell you they’re living the very same reality every day. That’s not to dismiss or even diminish the experience of European Jews, simply to point out that the experience is not unique.

    In fact the protection of Jews in France is arguably greater than other minority groups. France, through the Gayssot Act, and like some other European countries, outlaws and prosecutes the questioning or denial of crimes by Nazi Germany, including the holocaust. No comparative law drafted with the aim of protecting a specific ethnic/religious group from bigotry exists in Europe.

    I do question though an article ostensibly about European anti Semitism which ends with photos of a peaceful pro Palestinian march/protest. The oft parroted narrative that criticism of Israel is akin or even necessarily motivated by anti Semitism is simply false.

  • Susan

    There were “peaceful” protests where “Death to Jews” was shouted from the podium. I saw a sign at a London demonstration that proclaimed the truth of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This has been happening all over Europe.

    I believe that in many Eruopean countries there are laws against any sort of hate speech, but I can’t say how strictly they are enforced.

    I have never met a Jew who cried antisemitism when they didn’t believe it. This is an alternative narrative that is just as false. Criticism of Israel’s actions is not automatically antisemitc. Saying a Jewish state does not have the right to exist is antisemitic. It is the nature of the criticism that makes it antisemitic.

  • Rashid.M

    Hi Susan.

    The nature of public protests are such that they can be attended by anyone, and those that participate cannot all be screened. The protests against Israel were legitimate. To point to individual, minority or anecdotal instances of bad behaviour or intolerance amongst a majority of persons protesting peacefully, does not invalidate the protest movement as a whole. Just as bad behaviour amongst those that are pro Israel does not of itself invalidate their support for that country or mean that all such supporters hate Arabs.

    Yes all European countries have some degree of legal sanction against hate speech in general, but my point was that Jews were the particular catalyst for current holocaust denial laws. I am not a holocaust denier myself, but what concerns me is that freedom of speech is curtailed exclusively for the intended benefit of one group and not others. It’s the selectiveness rather than the intent which I question.

    The label of anti-Semitism is no different to labels such as homophobia, Islamophobia, racism etc. Its use is sometimes valid to describe bigotry and hatred, and sometimes simply used to impugn motivation and thus silence debate and/or criticism. Jews, homosexuals, Muslims and people of colour, use these aforementioned labels for either or both of these two reasons. Noone’s special in that respect.

  • Susan

    When the person on the podium is the one shouting “death to Jews” then that person was screened and sanctioned.

    “sometimes simply used to impugn motivation and thus silence debate and/or criticism. Jews, homosexuals, Muslims and people of colour, use these aforementioned labels for either or both of these two reasons. Noone’s special in that respect.”

    I have never heard or seen Jews using the charge of antisemitism to silence debate and/or criticism or to impugn motivation. The only times I have heard or seen Jews use the charge of antisemitism was because they believed it was antisemitic. You might completely disagree with them, but they are not lying. They are not charging antisemitism as a tactic. They are charging antisemitism because they mean it. You can say that they are being ridiculous or unfair, but you cannot accuse them of lying to silence criticism or debate.

  • In reaction to some of these comments, I scarcely know where to begin. Some of these suggest an inability to separate Jewish people and the State of Israel. If one does not like Israeli policy that does not provide license to be anti-Semitic. Most Jews around the world (including most Israelis) are to the left of the Likud government. However, Israelis will keep the party in power for as long as they feel threatened.

    I also doubt that some of these folks understand the history of this conflict. It actually has roots in World War I and the secret Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916. By the time World War II rolled around, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was literally at Hitler’s side. He even toured concentration camps.

    Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and that is worth protecting. Hamas was clearly the aggressor in the current conflict. Their stated goal is the total destruction of Israel. Israel has been fighting for survival since 1948 and will continue to fight its enemies. It has every right to protect itself.

  • I wonder what lies you feel that you are being told. Out of curiosity, which members of Congress hold dual citizenship?

  • Rashid.M

    David, if most Israelis are left of Likud as you say, then they would vote accordingly. They would not overwhelmingly support a party who is consistently and categorically opposed to any notion of the forming of a Palestinian state, and some of whose Knesset members support the ethnic cleansing of Gaza and the West Bank through the expansion of a greater Israel. And they would not support a party (Likud) which is in an alliance with other parties whose members advocate the killing of the mothers of dead terrorists and the destruction of their homes.

    Whatever its other crimes, Hamas was not the aggressor in the current conflict. The fact that Israel is a democracy simply means that what they are engaging in is ‘democratised’ military occupation and besiegement of a civilian population. Nor is Israel “fighting for survival”. With one of the most effective and advanced standing armies in the world, nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction, a top ten arms producer and exporter, and the military backing of the world’s only superpower, it takes a particularly Orwellian perspective to accept that they are under mortal threat from Palestinians, and are thus completely justified in brutally occupying and besieging them, and contemptibly disregarding any reciprocal rights of self defence.

  • Rashid.M

    If you are saying that the persons organising the rallies endorsed or knowingly allowed someone to shout ‘death to Jews’, then that is a grave charge. I have not seen that reported anywhere. Do you have a link? There are always extremists willing to attach themselves to a broader movement of criticism or support, but such a minority does not invalidate the movement itself.

    For instance, on 26th July 2014, in response to the Israeli bombardment of Palestinian children in Gaza, an Israeli mob in full view of the police chanted “In Gaza there’s no studying, No children are left there, Olé, olé, olé-olé-olé” ( The question is, does the fact that Israeli police took no action to stop such chanting, including that aimed at Arab Knesset member Ahmed Tibi – “Tibi – Ahmed Tibi, I wanted you to know, The next kid to be hurt will be your kid, I hate Tibi, I hate Tibi the terrorist, Tibi – is dead!” – do such views aired at a public gathering invalidate support for Israel on the basis of their targeting Arabs?

    You said: “You can say that they are being ridiculous or unfair, but you cannot accuse them of lying to silence criticism or debate”.

    I haven’t accused anyone of lying. What I’m saying is that the label of anti Semite is often used as a charge against someone for simply criticising or opposing the actions of the Israeli government. Since no one likes to be labelled by such a term, it can be an effective way to silence criticism. To suggest that this is never the case is nonsensical. And whether the person applying the label intends for it to have such an effect or is sincere in their belief, is almost always unprovable. But that doesn’t alter the reality of the effect itself, and people who use such labels are not ignorant of this fact. There will be those who use it to silence opponents who they genuinely feel are bigoted, as well as those who use it to silence criticism because it works. To assume otherwise is naive.

    “But when Jewish treatment of Palestinians is judged worse than the way any other dominant group treats a minority, when it is deemed worthy of unique sanction, when other horrors around the world are ignored — how can I believe that this isn’t about the Jews? And that, my Presbyterian friends, is anti-Semitism”.
    – Jane Eisner, responding to the USA Presbyterian Church’s decision to sell stocks in companies perceived to support Israeli occupation of the West Bank, June 25 2014.

    “But what about John Kerry? Will he get his due? What do you mean, Mark? John Kerry, you know the Secretary of State. Did you know that John Kerry is an anti-Semite? Did you know that?”
    – Mark Levin, US media commentator, April 28 2014, commenting on John Kerry’s criticism of Israel.

    “Anyone who proposes to boycott Israel — that’s an unacceptable approach. It’s a new form of anti-Semitism. Make no mistake: It’s not friendly criticism”.
    – Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, dismisses fellow Knesset member Moti Yogev’s politically sensitive charge of anti Semitism against John Kerry, but proceeds to lay it against anyone who dares to boycott Israel.

  • Nate

    We must start making a cultural distinction between Jewish cultural and religious identity and Israel as a political entity. We can love and protect Jewish people without transferring that love and dedication to Israel the nation-state.

    The propaganda of Israel and the American Religious right wants to fuse the two, as if Israeli citizenship is co-terminus with Jewish identity AND Israeli interests are identical to Jewish culture. They are not.

    Israel is the result of the ideology of Zionism, and Zionism is one of MANY political interpretations and applications of Judaism. Zionism is to Judaism as the Religious Right is to Christianity. Both ideologies truncate and simplify their vast religious traditions (which is the essence of heresy) in order to form a political power bloc to control their respective societies.

    Thus, we can rightfully despise Israel and its political and military actions, while also coherently loving and protecting Jews and the Judaisms (plural) they practice.

    The state of Israel is a failed experiment in constructing an apartheid-esque political system that exacerbates the existing hostility between the Arab cultures and Jewish cultures that inhabit that part of the world. The whole system needs to be dismantled and re-built as a pluralistic democracy. I hope that part of the world will take cues from the best of their scriptures and religious traditions, and prepare for a truly pluralistic society.

  • Diogenes

    Anti-Semitism is in many ways a unique phenomenon as cross cultural hatreds go. As a long time supporter of Israel, I none the less have never felt restrained from criticizing the State when such criticism was due. As an American at far remove from the current crisis I am ill equipped to judge either the actions of Israel or those of the average palestinian, however the leaders of Hamas seem to not have the best interests of their own people at heart, at least not when measured by their political strategy. But anti-Semitism does not exist in a political microcosm, in its most virulent form it extends to all Jews everywhere; this is not only irrational, it is unconscienable.

  • Susan

    “Zionism is to Judaism as the Religious Right is to Christianity.”

    Nate, that is just not true. First of all there are many types of Zionism. Modern Zionism is a secular response to the failure of assimilation to end antisemitism. German Jews once thought they had found a new promised land and look what happened to them Zionism is the legitimate national liberation movement of the Jewish people. I am a Zionist and I am also religiously and politically liberal. That is not a contradiction. I certainly know a lot of them. That doesn’t mean that I support whatever the Israeli government decides to do. I do support Israel’s existence and I want it to keep on thriving. It is not a failed experiment. Just because it is not perfect does not mean that it has failed. A Zionist state can be a pluralistic state, but Jews need one tiny space where they can control their own destiny. If you can’t see that then you are blind.

    Yes, the state of Israel is an important part of my Jewish identity. I make no apology for that. I can live in America because Israel exists. It does not mean that I agree with whatever the Israeli government does, but I don’t vote in Israel and have no say in the government of Israel.

  • Israelis vote according to their perception of who will keep them safe. The simple fact is that Israel is surrounded by people and countries unwilling to accept a Jewish state in Arabia. This was not a holy war until Faisal was unable to gain acceptance for the Faisal-Weizman accord.

    The only thing standing in the way of a two-state solution is for all parties to agree that Israel has a right to exist. That’s it. Hamas does not accept that simple precept. It is impossible for Hamas to negotiate anything in good faith. The entire Palestianian problem could be solved overnight if all of the actors agreed that Israel has a right to exist.

    Hamas was most certainly the aggressor in the current conflict. Those weren’t “welcome” rockets that they were firing and those tunnels were not part of a cooperative irrigation project.

    You’ll have to forgive the Israelis if they are collectively paranoid. Many are descendants of the Holocaust and Israel has been under constant attack since its inception. Their military might is irrelevant. The USA has greater military resources and that did not prevent us from being attacked on 9-11.

  • Huh? Zionism has nothing to do with religion. Christian Zionism is a major contributor to the strife. “Revelations” precludes them from accepting a two-state solution.

  • Fran

    Jesus gives us the best advice in this regard: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:34-39).

    Jesus also provided an illustration of a Samaritan man who showed true love and compassion for a man who had been robbed, beaten and left for dead. An Israelite priest and a Levite passed him on by, but the Samaritan poured wine and oil on the injured man’s wounds, left 2 denarii (about 2 days’s wages; Matthew 20:2) with an innkeeper for him to take care of him; and whatever else was spent, he would repay when he returned.”

    Who really was the true neighbor who had real love and compassion for his fellowman? How many people on this planet are following this example??

    What about our enemies? Jesus instructs us to “continue to love your enemies and pray for those persecuting you, so that you may PROVE yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens.”

    Paul confirmed this point when he said, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.” (Romans 12:20; Proverbs 25:21)

    It is therefore evident that “true” Christians follow these instructions and receive God’s blessings as well, no matter what nationality, race, culture or religion.

  • Rashid.M

    “Israelis vote according to their perception of who will keep them safe”

    If the chosen principles and method for keeping them (Israelis) safe involves the subjugation and brutalisation of another civilian population, then their choice is open to legitimate criticism. Likewise with the Palestinians choosing Hamas – their lack of options notwithstanding.

    Israel has firm peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, but in any case their relations with other neighbours is neither justification nor excuse for their own treatment of Palestinians. Nor is it valid to employ ethnic stereotypes, by implying that Israel is surrounded by a monolithic
    mass of Arabs with no aspirations other than Israel’s destruction at any and every opportunity.

    The current spike in the conflict was precipitated by two events. Firstly, the announcement of a unity government by Hamas and Fatah, a situation vehemently opposed by an Israeli government who perceived its own interests better served by disunited Palestinians.

    Second was the Israeli government air strikes, and its military incursions into the West Bank starting on the 15th of June, as a purported response to the murder of three Israeli youths. During these incursions, Operation Brother’s Keeper, Israel claims to have arrested 381 persons, including minors, of whom 282 were alleged affiliates of Hamas. At least half a dozen people were shot dead and over 100 injured. Such killing of Palestinians by the IDF had been a regular occurrence even before this operation, e.g. the murder of two Palestinian teenagers caught on camera just a few weeks earlier.

    Hamas then began to launch hundreds of largely wayward and ineffective rockets (ineffective due to Israel’s Iron Dome defence), to which Israel responded with its so called Operation Protective Edge. Israeli officials themselves concede that, rogue elements aside, Hamas
    itself had refrained from rocket fire since the last lull in hostilities in 2012

    Israel’s military might is not irrelevant. Firstly, highlighting it debunks the often stated claim that Israel is under a threat of being destroyed – it isn’t. Secondly, it highlights the military and economic imbalance in strength and resources between the occupier/besieger, and the
    occupied/besieged, i.e. a David vs Goliath conflict.

    What is irrelevant is your allusion to a similarity between this conflict and what the US suffered on 9/11. The US was/is not brutally occupying and besieging a civilian population, denying them statehood. The US is not expropriating its neighbours lands and resources to expand its own borders. The terrorist attack of 9/11 is not synonymous with this conflict – that’s absurd.

  • Rashid.M

    “The only thing standing in the way of a two-state solution is for all parties to agree that Israel has a right to exist. That’s it. Hamas does not accept that simple precept..The entire Palestianian problem could be solved overnight if all of the actors agreed that Israel has a right to exist.”

    No, unfortunately that’s not ‘just it’. Israel is/has been negotiating with Hamas on the current ceasefire, proving that negotiation (i.e. talking) was always possible, regardless of the starting positions/claims of both sides. There was a time when the PLO did not recognise Israel either, and it was dialogue which brought about a change to their charter in that respect – not a refusal to talk and ongoing belligerence. Hamas’s position, rather than set in stone, has been inconsistent at best, and statements from their Prime Minister and senior members have in the past suggested a conditional acceptance of Israel:

    ‘Hamas: We’ll recognize Israel within ’67 borders’,7340,L-3249568,00.html

    ‘Hamas open to considering recognition of Israel — official’

    To claim that it is only Hamas’s non recognition of an Israeli State standing in the way of a two state solution, is to belie both the facts on the grounds, as well as the stated Israeli government position. Israeli government statements make it quite clear that they do not support or
    recognise the right of a Palestinian State to exist. Period.

    “This is our land, and it’s our right to apply sovereignty over it. Regardless of the world’s opposition, it’s time to do in Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank] what we did in [occupied East] Jerusalem and the Golan.”
    – Ze’ev Elkin, Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel, July 2012.

    “We must remove the idea of a Palestinian state in our area from the Israeli agenda immediately, if not sooner”.
    – Yair Shamir, Israeli Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, December 2012.

    “We are opposed to a Palestinian state… [Netanyahu’s declaration of support for a Palestinian state at Bar-Ilan University was] a tactical speech for the rest of the world.”
    – Tzipi Hotovely, Israeli Deputy Minister of Transportation, December 2012.

    “I will do everything in my power, forever, to fight against a Palestinian state being founded in the Land of Israel.”
    – Naftali Bennett, Israel’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, January 2013.

    “In this way, we will try, slowly but surely, to expand the circle of settlements, and to afterwards extend the roads that lead to them, and so forth. At the end of this process, the facts on the ground will be that whatever remains [of the occupied West Bank] will be merely marginal
    appendages… We fully agree and are completely united behind the prime minister’s position, which is to strengthen our foothold in the Land of Israel, to build in [occupied East] Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank].”
    – Yariv Levin, Coalition Chairman in the Knesset for Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party, January 2013.

    “The Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people. We oppose a two-state solution.”
    – Avi Wortzman, Deputy Minister of Education, February 2013.

    “One thing must be clear: A Palestinian state is not the solution. The state of Israel made a harsh mistake when it created the impression that it is prepared to accept two states for two nations.”
    – Uzi Landau, Israeli Minister for Tourism, May 2013.

    “The most important thing in the Land of Israel is to build, build, build [settlements]. It’s important that there will be an Israeli presence everywhere. Our principal problem is still Israel’s leaders’ unwillingness to say in a simple manner that the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel.”
    – Naftali Bennett, Israel’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, June 2013.

    “Gaza is part of our Land and we will remain there forever. Liberation of parts of our land forever is the only thing that justifies endangering our soldiers in battle to capture land. Subsequent to the elimination of terror from Gaza, it will become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. This will also serve to ease the housing crisis in Israel.”
    – Op-Ed by Moshe Feiglin, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party, July 15 2014.

    “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan [i.e. the area
    encorporating the West Bank]”
    – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, July 11, 2014

  • Rashid.M

    Link to the video of the murder of two Palestinian teens on May 17, 2014 should have been as follows:

  • rob

    There a whole protestant theology that thrives on calling other Christians ant-Semitic. And of course it is welcomed by some Jewish leaders because these protestants do generously give to Jewish agendas..

    Some of these protestants that hold to that theology USE THE Anti -Semitic LABEL of any one who want’s Jews to convert to Christianity..

    This has a lot to do with being labeled as Anti- Semitic even laughable.

    the word has been used so wrongly both by Jews and these protestants
    who advocate the use of it .. hardly no one takes it seriously any more until some Jewish person is murdered by some one who really is Anti-Semitic
    in the real racist sense of the word.

  • rob

    another reason for a rise in hateful speech about Jewish persons could also be .
    More people are just crude in the language they can use about fellow human beings .. they are able do to technology hide them selves behind there key boards .
    Yet as the person investigating ant Semitism found out that other person was just using crude hateful language ,,Yet that person would never even think of doing what they so easily said behind there key board.

    We all need to be kinder to each other on the key board to that is for sure..

  • rob

    yes they miss interpret revelation.. some even go so far as to call other Christians Anti-Semitic because we don’t think any other race in any better than another one..

  • Susan

    “Some of these protestants that hold to that theology USE THE Anti -Semitic LABEL of any one who want’s Jews to convert to Christianity.”

    Rob, those who want to Jews to convert to Christianity wants to reduce the number of Jews. Indeed if these people got their way, there wouldn’t be any Jews left on the planet. Some of the evangelical supporters of Israel really want Israeli Jews to convert to Christianity. These people say they are Zionists, but they want a Jewish state with no Jews in it. That is an attempt at spiritual genocide. You don’t have to murder someone physically to be an antisemite.

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