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Ministry report highlights backlash against world Jewry over 2021 Gaza conflict

Annual review of global antisemitism finds 31% increase in hate posts about Jews on Twitter in 2021 compared to 2020; during May fighting, content spiked six-fold

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators assault Jews at a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles, on May 19, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators assault Jews at a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles, on May 19, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)

A Diaspora Affairs Ministry annual report on global antisemitism has spotlighted a sharp spike in online hate posts against Jews during Israel’s May 2021 conflict with the Gaza Strip. The coronavirus pandemic also provided fertile ground for antisemitic outbursts, as some touted it as a Jewish conspiracy.

The report, presented to the government during the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, prompted Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai to urge the government to take greater responsibility for Jewish communities around the world, particularly when the country goes to war.

The paper was prepared ahead of the coming International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday, January 27.

Data for the report was compiled by the ministry’s Antisemitism Cyber Monitoring System (ACMS) by monitoring social media giant Twitter and four “alternative or extremist social media platforms” 4Chan, 8Kun, BitChute, and Stormfront,” the ministry said in a statement.

Last year ACMS detected 3.5 million social media posts with antisemitic content that were posted by some 430,000 users.

The vast majority of antisemitic content throughout the year was published on Twitter, with 3.34 million posts accounting for 94 percent of the content.

Of the total antisemitic posts on Twitter in 2021, 74% were defined as “New Antisemitism” meaning they included hate speech toward Jews but referred to “Zionists,” “Israel,” “the IDF,” or “the Mossad” instead, the ministry said. Another 21% was “Classic Antisemitism” and 5% was “Holocaust Denial and Distortion.”

Among the alternative sites, 4chan led with 57.2% of the rest of the hate speech recorded, followed by BitChute (28.6%), the ministry said.

The report found a spike in antisemitic content during May’s 11-day conflict with the Gaza Strip, when the Hamas terror group fired thousands of rockets at Israeli towns and cities, drawing heavy airstrikes from Israel in response.

Neighbors gather in a clearing strewn with debris from an airstrike during an 11-day war between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel, in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, May 26, 2021. (John Minchillo/AP)

Over the course of the month, ACMS spotted 450,000 antisemitic posts on Twitter, a 230% increase over the number during the same month in 2020.

Across all platforms, there was a six-fold increase in the number of posts calling for violence against Jews, Zionists, and Israel in May 2021 compared to May 2020.

There was also an increase in real-world antisemitic incidents, with the US Anti-Defamation League reporting a 115% rise over the figures for May 2020.

In Britain, the Community Security Trust, an umbrella group for the Jewish community, noted antisemitic incidents increased in the 30-day period from May 8, 2021 by 330%.

“When Israel conducts a military operation it has a tremendous impact on the lives of Jews around the world,” Shai said in the statement.

“Israel, therefore, has a moral obligation to take steps to assist Diaspora communities in coping with the antisemitism that accompanies such operations, be it communal resilience in the face of increased antisemitic attacks, clear information and reasons for Israel’s activities, or other appropriate forms of support,” he said.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai attends the Jewish People’s Lobby, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on November 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On the subject of the pandemic, the ministry found that “COVID-19 restrictions prompted opponents of such measures to attribute blame for the pandemic on Jews who were accused of benefiting from the global health crisis.”

Opponents of coronavirus restrictions and vaccines who compared restrictions on freedom of movement for the unvaccianted to Nazi restrictions on Jews were engaging in Holocaust trivialization and distortion, the ministry assessed.

“Use of the Jewish Star of David was also common at anti-vaccination rallies,” it noted.

The ministry warned that US antisemitic discourse is “penetrating the mainstream of national politics, campuses and the street. Far-right activists continue to pose a security risk to Jews and, on the other hand, a coalition of left-wing activists are working to exclude Jews because they see them as a privileged [group] who belong to the oppressive majority and who are supporters of Israel.”

The ministry said that it found the cities with the highest numbers of social media users posting antisemitic content to be Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC and Berlin.

German police recorded the highest number of antisemitic incidents nationwide since 2001, according to the report, with occurrences fueled by antisemitic conspiracy theories and Holocaust trivialization connected to COVID-19, as well as the May conflict with Hamas.

“Jews and people thought to be Jews were violently attacked during the Israeli military operation, and Jewish homes, synagogues and Holocaust memorials became the target of pro-Palestinian activists,” the statement said.

By contrast, preliminary figures showed that France recorded a 15% drop in antisemitic incidents compared to 2019. The ministry noted that 2019 was used as the barometer in this case, it being the last year before “COVID-19 lockdowns impacted antisemitic activity.”

On a more positive note, the ministry noted that the European Commission in October published a ten-year strategic plan to combat antisemitism, preserve the memory of the Holocaust and nurture Jewish life in Europe.

“Israel and world Jewry have a shared destiny, and the State of Israel, therefore, needs to take responsibility and do more to help combat antisemitism around the world,” Shai said in the statement. “If Israel is the home of the Jewish people then it needs to address their concerns wherever they might be.”

Alongside the report, the ministry also conducted a poll of Israeli attitudes towards antisemitism abroad. It found that 89% say they are troubled when learning of antisemitic incidents outside of the country and that 77% think Israel should allocate resources to campaigning against antisemitism.

Nearly two-thirds, 63%, felt that the government should offer assistance to Jews and Jewish communities that suffered attacks during or immediately after the Gaza fighting.

Half of the respondents said that when traveling abroad they hide any outwards signs of being Jewish or Israeli, and 20% said they do the same online.

The poll was conducted by Keilim Sheluvim between January 6 and 7, and sampled 500 Israeli Jewish adults with a sample error of +/-4.5%.

It came as another poll found that 94% of American Jews feel there is antisemitism in the US, with 42% saying they experienced antisemitism either directly or through family or friends over the past five years.

Swastikas were spray-painted on Montreal’s Congregation Shaar Hashomayim’s front doors, January 13, 2021. (Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center)

The Ruderman Family Foundation poll sampled 2,500 American adults in December 2019 and then a further 1,000 between October-November 2021.

Among respondents, 75% felt there is more antisemitism in the US today than there was five years ago. The poll also found a strong sense of shared fate, with 82% saying what happens to US Jews in general will in some way impact their own lives. Among Jews who are “uninvolved” in the Jewish community, 9% said that antisemitism is a reason to become involved.

“Our survey reinforces the urgent need for American leadership to formulate new strategies to confront the surge of antisemitism and increasing hate crimes against the Jewish community,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation said in a statement.

Just over a third (34%) said that the US-Israel relationship has weakened over the past two years, but only 12% saw the cause as being the May 2021 conflict with Gaza. A plurality of 32% said it was the rising power of right-wing or ultra-Orthodox parties in Israel that was driving the divide, while 25% said it was Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and 24% said it was settlement policies in the West Bank. Another 24% put it down to the ties between former US president Donald Trump and Israel’s former prime minister Bejamin Netanyahu.

The survey found gaps in the basic knowledge American Jews have of Israel, with 41% not knowing that Arab-Israelis have equal voting rights and 27% believing they can’t vote. Just 59% were able to name Naftali Bennett as Israel’s current prime minister, with 16% thinking it was still Netanyahu, who was ousted last June. A further 20% said they didn’t know who is prime minister.

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