Twitter is a marvelous place. Often toxic and a huge time suck yes, but marvelous nonetheless. This website (and those who use it) has the power to shape political conversation, spread excitement, end careers and flip anti-Semitic rhetoric on its head, which is exactly what happened earlier this week.
On July 12, #JewishPrivilege began trending. A ploy by far-right (and some far-left) Twitter users and bots, the hashtag was used to spread anti-Semitic propaganda, all too common conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the media and Holocaust denial, among other hateful lies.
— Raq (@sephardisister1) July 13, 2020
Some of the initial tweets came from accounts pretending to be Jewish, writing about “taking responsibility” for their #JewishPrivilege and “admitting their sins” of privilege.
#JewishPrivilege is being born into a world where your ancestors have “progressive”-ly transformed an entire civilisation into a Jewish ‘utopia’ by inverting its formerly Christian values into their exact opposites.
— Colin McKay (@DerorCurrency) July 13, 2020
And if the tweets themselves weren’t evidence enough that the hashtag surfaced because of extreme right and left-wing inciters, screenshots of conversations on 4chan, an anonymous chat and image sharing web platform frequented by many white supremacists and hate groups, cleared things up.
4chan do not like that jewish privilege is trending. pic.twitter.com/QEM2tanstT
— أماني (@Amani90__) July 14, 2020
Appalled Tweeters immediately began responding, using #JewishPrivilege to share statistics about rising anti-Semitism and the increase in the amount of anti-Jewish hate crimes.
#JewishPrivilege is the implied notion that Jews aren’t a real minority and don’t experience any hatred.
Unfortunately the statistics paint a different picture.
~50% of all hate crimes in NYC this year were anti-Jewish.
Sadly, anti-semitism is still very much alive and well. pic.twitter.com/D41aJOFoNo
— Jesse Cohen (@JesseCohenInv) July 12, 2020
A handful of Twitter users tried to find some middle ground, by discussing the intersection of white privilege and Jewish adversity.
Correct, it is however slightly annoying when Jewish white people deny their own white privilege because they are Jewish. (We can’t see Jewish on someone’s face/skin, unless they are wearing orthodox garb, that’s why they are privileged).
— Francisco Silva (@DrCisco) July 13, 2020
But this smattering of clapbacks wasn’t enough, and, not long after the trend began, Jewish Twitter came up with an organized reaction, flipping the hashtag and taking ownership of a term often used in anti-Semitic discourse.
Israeli writer Hen Mazzig tipped the first domino by tweeting the story of his family’s expulsion from Iraq and Tunisia and encouraging his Jewish followers to share their personal and familial stories of religious persecution.
I want all my Jewish followers to share the “Jewish Privilege” them and their families experienced.
— Hen Mazzig (@HenMazzig) July 12, 2020
The idea quickly spread, and countless twitter users coopted #JewishPrivilege to share their stories, from those of Holocaust survival to anti-Jewish bullying in schools to pride in Jewish religion and culture.
#JewishPrivilege is being hated by white supremacists and Nazis, having our identities denied or redefined by Anti-Zionists, and being told by the Nation of Islam and Black Hebrew Israelities that we are satanic termites or not the “Real Jews.”
— Y.M., Esq. (@thursday_grl) July 12, 2020
My #JewishPrivilege was walking my dog when I was 10 yrs old and two teenage boys stopped me and picked up my dog telling we they were going to throw him in the garbage because he was a Jewish dog. That lasted about 10 minutes Then, but stuck with me for 35 years now.
— Etna Dixmont (@EtnaDixmont) July 12, 2020
— Rabbi Dan Lieberman (@_Rabbi_Dan) July 13, 2020
My greatest #JewishPrivilege is being a Moroccan Israeli adopted at 5 months and raised by amazing Ashkenazi parents and then returning home to Israel! I am blessed to have this heritage – and this future!
— Rolene Marks (@RoleMarks) July 13, 2020
The take-back-the-hashtag campaign extended beyond the Jewish Twitter world, reaching celebrities such as comedian Sarah Silverman, former Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, and TV producer David Simon.
It’s people emailing & tweeting to me that Jews need to be quiet now & that “that’s not just a suggestion” or friends who don’t realize I’m Jewish making it clear how anti-Semitic they are or family members afraid to wear a Star of David in their own neighborhood.#JewishPrivilege https://t.co/pYusLEa8NP
— Marianne Williamson (@marwilliamson) July 12, 2020
My #JewishPrivilege? Garden-variety stuff. Eleven dead relatives at Auschwitz and in the Russian woods and a father who was a hostage and suffered PTSD years after the Jewish non-profit where he worked was stormed by angry dudes with guns & scimitars who threatened to behead him.
— David Simon (@AoDespair) July 13, 2020
But most surprising of all was the reach it had outside the broader online Jewish community.
#JewishPrivilege is when a non-Jew like myself tried wearing a Kippah for a couple of months to understand how my Jewish friends feel only to face numerous anti-Semitic incidents, one of the instance being getting shouted by a white man: “stupid Jew, go get gassed.”
— Ryan (@ryanazr) July 13, 2020
Dear Non Jewish Twitter: as you can see, #JewishPrivilege is trending. Read our stories, look at our pain & sadness, feel our humanity. We’re no different, no less worthy of support, than any other marginalized group. We want love & acceptance, but not at any price. SEE US.
— AdinaZ (@lackboys3) July 12, 2020
Usually, seeing anything Jewish trending on Twitter makes my heart sink to my stomach. But these tweets by non-Jewish supporters, as well as the overwhelmingly positive reaction to calls for support from Jewish tweeters to their non-Jewish followers almost makes that feeling go away. Almost.