Sep 28, 2021
JERUSALEM WEATHER

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The recent wave of anti-Semitic attacks that swept across the US was sparked by the conflict between Israel and Gaza. But the underlying basis of the attacks having nothing to do with Israel was evident on social media in which the message “Hitler was right” peaked. 

The conflict between Israel and Gaza led to spike in anti-Semitic attacks

The ADL recently reported that concurrent with the conflict in Israel, acts of harassment and vandalism, and violence surged in cities with large Jewish populations but also in less urban areas. They claimed a 75% increase in anti-Semitism reports to the agency after Israeli-Palestinian fighting began. The figure jumped from 127 incidents in the two weeks prior to fighting to 222 in the two weeks after violence broke out. Though couched in terms of anti-Zionism, previous Israel-Arab conflicts did not generate such a rise in anti-Semitism.

This was most evident on Twitter where variations of the phrase “Hitler was right” were posted more than 17,000 times (according to the Anti-Defamation League) in just a one-week span in May. In addition, the anti-Semitic hashtag #Covid1948 trended on Twitter in several countries, being shared up to 175 times per minute for over four hours on May 13. The hashtag, likening the birth of the state of Israel in 1948 to the COVID-19 virus, was frequently accompanied by blatantly anti-Jewish content. It often appeared alongside #FreePalestine and was associated with hashtags like #Hitlerwasright and #Zionazi.

Studies show that this disturbing online chatter can have real-world implications. In a  study published in the Jewish Journal, the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), reported that “extremist hashtags and slogans are upstream predictors of real-world violence and unrest.”

 

‘Fertile ground’

Professor Robert Rozett, a Senior Historian in the International Institute for Holocaust Research, explained that this recent violence was actually new seeds of hatred sprouting from “fertile ground.”

r. Robert Rozett, Sr Historian, Yad Vashem int’l institute for Holocaust research (screenshot)

“Targeting Jews in the US for perceived crimes perpetrated by Israel is the modern manifestation of the old anti-semitic trope that Jews have a dual loyalty,” Professor Rozett said. “On the surface, it is unreasonable to think that every Jew is a representative of Israel. But due to this old belief that Jews have dual loyalty, it seems reasonable to target any Jew for the perceived crimes of Israel.”

“Some people are more inclined towards anti-semitism and only need the barest excuse while others are more open to convincing. With the media reporting on the conflict between Israel and Gaza being so one-sided, the fertile ground for these anti-semitic attacks was well-prepared.”

Anti-Semitism in the US: Worse than you think and surging

Anti-semitism is far more prevalent in the US than most people would think. A recent survey by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which tracks incidents of anti-Jewish violence and bias, recorded that 63% of American Jews had experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism over the past five years — a marked increase from the 53% of respondents who expressed the same view in last year’s ADL survey. 59% of the respondents in the survey said they felt Jews were less safe in the US today than they were a decade ago, while 49% expressed fear of a violent attack at a synagogue.

The fears are justified. Attacks on synagogues have been disturbingly frequent in the US beginning with a spate of attacks in 1958, a phenomenon that reappears with disturbing frequency and occasionally deadly results. The perpetrators ranged from right-wing extremists to pro-Palestinians. 

This trend led to the motive for Rabbi Meir Kahane to form the Jewish Defense League in 1968 with the slogan, “Never Again”. The motto was a clear reference to the Holocaust as it was used in April 1945 when newly liberated survivors at Buchenwald concentration camp displayed it in various languages on handmade signs. The belief that the Holocaust could happen again in the US led Rabbi Kahane to oppose anti-Semitism by any means, even pro-active violence.

This fear was reawakened recently. In October 2018 when a gunman murdered 11 at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. In April 2019, a similar incident at a synagogue in Poway, California killed one and wounded 3. In December 2019, a gunman who was part of the Black Hebrew movement opened fired in a kosher market in Jersey City, killing five. In the same month, a black man entered a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi’s house in Monsey, New York, and killed one man. It was later revealed that he had expressed anti-Semitic views in his journals as well as material supporting the Nazis.

Anti-Semitism: right-wing or left-wing?

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Jason Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, noted that this recent wave seems to be coming from the extreme left-wing. 

“For four years it seemed to be stimulated from the political right, with devastating consequences.” But at the scenes of the most recent attacks, he noted, “no one is wearing MAGA hats.”