Antisemitism in Context
Reporting that leads to a greater understanding of antisemitism
In the days following the Hamas massacres in southern Israel, the group’s propaganda videos—including graphic, unedited streams of terrorists firing automatic weapons and the mutilated bodies of victims—proliferated unhindered on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
Social Media Stirring the Pot
On November 15, 2023, an X user with the handle @breakingbaht responded to an advertisement for Stand Up To Jewish Hate, an organization fighting antisemitism, with the following: “Jewish communties [sic] have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them/I’m deeply disinterested in giving the tiniest shit now about western Jewish populations coming to the disturbing realization that those hordes of minorities that support flooding their country don’t exactly like them too much./You want truth said to your face, there it is.” Elon Musk, X’s owner, responded to @breakingbaht with the simple post: “You have said the actual truth.”
This sentiment from Musk aligns with much of his online presence over the past few months—his threats against the Anti-Defamation League, his promotion of antisemitic misinformation, and his slow responses to hate speech on his platform have led many to doubt Musk’s repeated claims that he is “against anti-Semitism of any kind.” His latest response to @breakingbaht was followed by a second response accusing the ADL of “attack[ing] the majority of the West.”
Musk has the largest account of any user on X, with more than 160 million followers. His recent response (“You have said the actual truth”) received 2,000 comments and 30,000 likes. The comments, like most other comment threads on X, are a wildly mixed bag—plenty show outright support for Musk’s statement about Jewish anti-white sentiment, which forms the basis of the so-called Great Replacement theory, while plenty of others appear astounded that he could express such an opinion. Since Musk’s response to @breakingbaht on November 15, big-name companies including Apple, Disney and IBM have stopped running their advertisements on X, according to The New York Times.
Elsewhere online, the popular video-sharing app TikTok is at the center of discussions on antisemitism and Islamophobia. Since October 7, when Hamas launched its surprise attack on southern Israel, many Jewish and Israeli creators on TikTok have noticed a shift on the app. Fernanda Jampolsky, a Brazilian Jew who had been living in Israel until the October 7 massacre, remarked to The Times of Israel that “For Generation Z, the Gaza videos they are seeing on TikTok is their first exposure to Israel. They get a completely twisted idea of what the country is about.” The structure of TikTok’s algorithm creates a feedback loop, whereby the app shows more and more of the same viewpoints to a user who has engaged with a video depicting that viewpoint. Jampolsky and IDF reservist and creator Adiel Cohen have both had their videos blocked or removed because of the content, which has been supportive of Israel. They believe that TikTok’s algorithm has been working against pro-Israel voices like their own since the beginning of the war. To add another layer to the questions revolving around TikTok, “some critics [claim] that it is pushing pro-Palestinian content to align with the government in Beijing,” reports The New York Times.
In another criticism of TikTok, a number of celebrities, including actor Debra Messing and actors/comedians Sacha Baron Cohen and Amy Schumer, banded together to write a public letter to TikTok on November 1. The letter, titled “Dear TikTok,” opens with the line, “Your platform is not safe for Jewish users.” The letter addresses the increase in antisemitism since October 7 on the platform, but also looks at the longer history of antisemitism on TikTok: “Sadly, rampant antisemitism is a common problem that TikTok has failed to address for far too long.” The letter implores TikTok to “moderate content fairly, equitably, and safely,” to “fix [its] safety tools,” to “prioritize verified and objective content in times of crisis,” and to “provide swift and robust infrastructure to respond to physical threats.” The celebrities met with senior executives at TikTok on November 15, who reported that they were open to discussions about how to improve TikTok’s response to antisemitism but that they “couldn’t hit a ‘magic button’ and make the content completely disappear,” according to news site The Messenger.
United States, November 3, 2023
A student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, was arrested for punching a fellow student, who is Jewish, during a Hillel vigil on campus on November 3, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA). The offending student also spat onto an Israeli flag. The vigil included a solidarity walk as well as empty Shabbat tables with images of the Israeli hostages taken by Hamas at each seat. The suspect had allegedly been walking around the vigil, “aggressively giving people the middle finger,” according to the security message posted by Hillel after the incident. The student then waited for the event to conclude and for security to leave before returning to the site of the vigil, where he punched the other student and spat on the Israeli flag. Campus administrators as well as UMass Hillel expressed their support for the university’s Jewish community and their disdain for the suspect’s actions.
France, November 9, 2023
On November 9, a rabbi wearing a black hat and suit was kicked in the back by a teenager while riding the metro. This incident came right on the tails of a group of subway-riders chanting “We are Nazis, we are proud” on the Paris metro at the end of October. The teenager was arrested and is now “under investigation for assault” according to Reuters. Since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas War, there have been over 1,000 antisemitic incidents in France alone. In all of 2022, there were fewer than 500 incidents in the entire country—already a concerning number. Just a few days after the rabbi was attacked on the metro, thousands upon thousands of French people marched through the streets of Paris demonstrating against antisemitism, in a strong show of solidarity for the country’s Jewish population.
Canada, November 12, 2023
Yeshiva Gedola, a Jewish school in Montreal, Canada, was hit by gunfire two times in a span of four days, reports CBC. Shell casings were found on the ground around the school, glass was shattered and bullet marks were discovered on the walls. Premier François Legault and Mayor Valerie Plante condemned this attack and reiterated that Montreal is “a city of peace.” Legault added, “Let’s not import the hatred and violence we see elsewhere in the world.” Reports of gunfire also occurred at Talmud Torah Elementary School, less than two miles away from Yeshiva Gedola, on Wednesday, November 8. Nobody was injured in any of the shootings. Just up the road, McGill University released a statement regarding a planned pro-Palestine event on November 9, 2023 (the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht), citing that the event’s posters made unnecessarily violent allusions to Kristallnacht. The principal and vice chancellor of the college, Deep Saini, said in the statement, “I can only conclude that these posters are antisemitic.” And this event came just after a protest at nearby Concordia University that resulted in violence and the arrest of one student.
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