It has been 80 years this month since Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass” when Hitler’s followers destroyed and vandalized Jewish-owned stores and Jewish institutions throughout Germany.
While Kristallnacht is widely seen as the beginning of the Holocaust, hatred of the Israelites dates back to the days of Pharaoh in ancient Egypt and stands alone as the most insidious hatred known to humankind.
This is why it was so troubling, earlier this year, to see Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats fail to recognize the uniqueness of anti-Semitism in the House resolution they passed following the comments of Representative Ilhan Omar disparaging American Jewish support for Israel as “all about the Benjamins baby.” It is true that Islamophobia, which dates back to the Crusades, is still alive and well. But there are profound differences between anti-Semitic attacks and those targeting Muslims.
In New York City, home to the world’s largest Jewish population, members of Brooklyn’s Hasidic and other Orthodox communities are confronted with near-daily violent attacks and anti-Semitic threats as they walk to synagogue or enter the subway. Thank G-d, no such epidemic of hate has targeted the faithful en route to a New York church or mosque.
What both hatreds have in common is that they are fueled on social media, permeating the global public square as never before. In fact, when we recently asked three high-ranking NYPD officers, responsible for monitoring and combating hate crimes in New York City, how they account for the surge in anti- Semitic crimes in the city? “Social media,” they declared simultaneously.
Despite a surge in hate crimes against Jews that has happened in their own backyard, the New York Times recently chose to summarize a new academic paper, Islamophobia, entitled by the Times “The Online Cacophony of Hate Against Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.” Written by four communications professors, their study emphasizes the online threat of anti-Muslim bigotry. There is no discussion of the stark rise in anti-Jewish hate crimes that have been inspired by social media. Nonetheless, the authors do us all a service by analyzing how “a tiny band of Islamophobes” try to brainwash internet users with “a social media narrative of manufactured outrage . . . disproportionately Islamophobic, xenophobic, racist, and misogynistic.”
These manipulators “spread hate speech like a virus on social media through both human interaction and the use of bots, sockpuppets, and automated ‘cyborg’ accounts, poisoning the political narrative, drawing in both likeminded and unsuspecting individuals, and disproportionately amplifying — and, for some, normalizing — the message of intolerance.”
But this new study of online hatred has two major problems: First, it focuses on Islamophobia almost to the exclusion of its elder brother in bigotry, anti-Semitism. Given the recent anniversary of the Tree of Life massacre, we should all remember that genocide-minded perpetrators in Pittsburgh; Poway; Halle, Germany; and most recently in Pueblo, Colorado, where the attack was aborted, were fanatical consumers of online Jew-hatred who acted out on their anti-Semitism with devastating results.
Also, this study of “The Online Cacophony of Hate” seems to give a virtual free pass to Congresswoman Omar’s well-documented use of anti-Semitic tropes. Rather, it describes her almost as a modern-day Joan of Arc — “a female, brown-skinned, Muslim refugee immigrant who wore a hijab and had the temerity to run for national office.” In fairness, it does quote Omar’s 2012 Israel bashing tweet and Jew hatred: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” But it mentions this only to quantify how often critics of Omar who defend Israel also indulge in Islamophobia.
It is devastating to read an article in the “paper of record” that portrays Omar and her close ally, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, as martyrs without recognizing their overt anti-Semitism. Here are two basic truths about the differences today between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, especially online:
1. With approximately the same number of Jews and Muslims in the U.S., Jews are about three times as likely to be victimized by hate crimes according to recent FBI hate crime statistics. The spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes immediately after the 9/11 attacks was thankfully not massive and was short-lived.
2. Major studies of religious bigotry since the 9/11 attacks show a significant difference between Islamophobia and Jew-hatred. While attacks on Islam have remained mostly in the realm of ideological assaults, online anti-Semitism is increasingly translated into violent actions or planned actions — from the pews of synagogues to the streets of the Big Apple. To begin to turn back the anti-Semitic hate tsunami and lone wolf domestic terrorists who carry out murderous attacks, we will need more action from the social media giants to degrade the marketing capabilities of fanatics and terrorists.
Twitter’s announcement that they will block postings from terrorist Hamas and Hezbollah is certainly a welcome, if belated step. But the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s campaign urging Amazon and Facebook to once-and-for-all eliminate “live” streaming new-style online “flashmobs,” whether ignited by the mass murderer of Muslims in New Zealand or his American Jew-hating counterparts, has failed to make a dent.
Not even the recent Yom Kippur attack on a German synagogue, broadcast live on Amazon’s Twitch platform, has awakened the companies to their civic responsibilities. But others must join in denouncing history’s oldest hate. Politicians on Capitol Hill, the mainstream media, and clergy of all faiths, must fearlessly call out anti-Semitism, even and especially when it emanates from amongst their own ranks.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the Associate Dean, Director Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights organization. Abraham Cooper has been a longtime activist for Jewish and human rights causes. His extensive involvement in Soviet Jewry included visiting refuseniks, helping to open Moscow’s first Jewish Cultural Center, and lecturing at the Soviet Academy of Sciences and the Sakharov Foundation. In 1977, he came to L.A. to help Rabbi Marvin Hier found the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and for three decades Rabbi Cooper has overseen the Wiesenthal Center’s international social action agenda including worldwide antisemitism and extremist groups, Nazi crimes, Interfaith Relations, the struggle to thwart the anti-Israel Divestment campaign, and worldwide promotion of tolerance education. Widely recognized as an international authority on issues related to digital hate and the Internet, Rabbi Cooper was listed in 2017 by Newsweek among the top most influential Rabbis in the United States. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
Dr. Harold Brackman, a historian, is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
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