Combating anti-Semitism on campus? There’s an app for that

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A screenshot of the Combathateu application.

Photo courtesy of iTunes

A screenshot of the Combathateu application.

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(RNS) Students advocating for a Palestinian state scream “baby killer” and hit  a Temple University Jewish student  in the face.

Members of a Jewish fraternity at the University of Oregon awake to find swastikas painted on 11 Jewish students’ mailboxes.

Fliers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, declare that “9/11 Was an Outside Job,” with a large blue Star of David.

A screenshot of the Combathateu application.

Photo courtesy of iTunes

A screenshot of the Combathateu application.

These are a few of the rising number of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incidents at colleges and universities in recent years, according to watch groups that track these trends.

Now the Simon Wiesenthal Center, one of the nation’s pre-eminent organizations fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry, has developed a  “CombatHateU” app to deal with the problem.

“CombatHateU,” which the Wiesenthal Center recently released with Alpha Epsilon Pi, the nation’s largest Jewish fraternity, allows students to report an incident in the time it takes to text to a friend. The goal is to connect campus authorities, law enforcement and counselors with victims.

“We hope students download it, and we hope they never have to use it,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center.

The app “is someplace to go” for students who often don’t know what to do in the aftermath of an anti-Semitic incident, whether it’s verbal, graffiti or a physical assault, said Jon Pierce, spokesman and past president of AEPi. Although young people might not immediately think to call the Simon Wiesenthal Center, college administrators or the police, the app will be right there on their phones, he said.

With the war in Gaza last summer and the rise of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which aims to pressure Israel to leave Palestinian land in the West Bank,  came a spike in anti-Israel protests on campuses. Too often, Cooper said, BDS protesters question the right of Israel to exist, hurl anti-Semitic slurs and physically assault  Jewish students.

As one University of Maryland student describes in a video produced by AEPi on the subject, anti-Israel protesters have covered campus bathrooms with graffiti and shouted at Jewish students: “Go back to Palestine, you f***in’ Jews.”

Cooper and Pierce said the app is not designed to go after peaceful protesters of Israeli policy, but to flag violent or incendiary speech. “We’re not the thought police about the Middle East,” Cooper said.

To use the app, a student taps the shield in the center of the screen. Questions pop up, asking “when it happened” and “where it happened” and whether faculty, the campus administration, campus police and the media have been alerted. The app also wants to know if Hillel, the largest campus Jewish organization, or other groups have been contacted. A student then hits the “report it” button, and the details are sent to the Wiesenthal Center for evaluation.

In the weeks since the app was first offered, the Wiesenthal Center has confirmed hundreds of downloads, and a half-dozen legitimate reports.

“Most are graffiti-related. All but one have been off campus property near AEPi houses, and a couple have been very serious in that they are swastikas carved into or painted on vehicles,” said Cooper.

Students at the City University of New York, Ohio State, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania are among those who have filed reports with the app, he said.

CombatHateU is modeled after a high school version of the app released earlier this year called “CombatHate,” which was also developed by the Wiesenthal Center. Both apps are free and available for iOS and Android.

Jewish groups are not the only ones using technology to counter hate speech.

After the disputed 2007 Kenyan election, in which more than 1,000 people died in ethnic violence, a group of Kenyan software engineers and bloggers developed an Internet platform that allows instant sharing of violent incidents through Facebook, Twitter and other websites to help communities protect themselves. Its developers called the platform Ushahidi — Swahili for “testimony.”

It has since been adapted for use in other regions.

Below, a video produced by Alpha Epsilon Pi in which members of the Jewish fraternity report what they have experienced on campus.

YS/MG END MARKOE

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  • rob

    Their is a whole lot more anti- Christian Behavior.
    anti-Semitism is rather small in comparison since its of the world..
    .
    what does the bible say about this ..

    John
    18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

    http://www.Learnaboutjesus.com

  • rob

    I can tell you one thing..

    the Christian way is to forgive as Christ forgave ..

    he did not hold peoples sins against them ..
    he forgave them any way,,

    yet he never condoned sin

    the worlds way is the way of the famous Nazi hunters .. hunt them down use letter bombs if you have to .. but get them back.

    as my sins and your sins sent Jesus to his cross his way
    was father forgive them,, And he did for Jesus sake alone

  • Susan

    Rob, what would you an attempt to reduce the number of Jews by attempting to convert them to Christianity? I call it an attempt at spiritual genocide.

    It is perfectly possible to be forgiving and not believe in Jesus.

  • Jack

    Rob, for now, anti-Semitism, while rising in Europe, is down overall from centuries and millennia past. That’s partly due to the lingering effects of the Holocaust. Beyond our time, hatred of the Jews is perhaps the oldest, most widespread, and most tenacious hatred of history.

    Read a book on the history of anti-Semitism….it might prove to be a real eye-opener for you.

  • Jack

    Rob, you are misapplying Jesus’ command to forgive enemies. It is not a judicial command but a personal one. Forgiving one’s enemies does not mean we should allow mass killers to roam free or open the jails and let out all the criminals.

  • Jack

    Susan, I can’t tell from Rob’s posts whether or not he is trying to “convert” anyone. It sounds more like he’s talking about an ethic of forgiveness, one which I think he is misapplying.

    But regarding “spiritual genocide,” if an atheist convinced a Jewish person to become an atheist, do you think the atheist has committed “spiritual genocide?”

    Yes or no…

  • Susan

    There is a difference between expressing your personal opinions and beliefs and believing that your personal beliefs are the only way. It seems like Rob was implying the latter. I have no objection to an atheist explaining why he or she is an atheist, but I do have a problem with atheists who think that atheism is the only way and people who believe in God are stupid. I don’t think the two are exactly equivalent, I would have to give it some more thought.