Jewish activists have driven a Twitter trend to co-opt a hashtag used by anti-Semites, replacing conspiracy theories with actual stories of Jewish suffering.
The Twitter hashtag “#JewishPrivilege” has been used by anti-Semites and conspiracy theorists for years, but over the last few days has instead become a locus for personal accounts highlighting discrimination faced by Jews over the centuries and today.
The campaign, reportedly kicked off by Israeli writer and activist Hen Mazzig, has drawn Jewish celebrities and others, and brought attention to anti-Semitic hate continuing to spread on social media.
Mazzig used the tag to tweet about his family’s history of being evicted from their homes in Iraq and Tunisia, and encouraged others to use the hashtag as well.
“#JewishPrivilege is when my grandparents were violently forced out of Iraq and Tunisia for being Jewish with only the clothes to their back,” Mazzig wrote. “Along with 850,000 other MENA [Middle East and North Africa] Jews they arrived to Israel with nothing, only spoke Arabic, and lived in a tent/tin shack for years.”
“I want all my Jewish followers to share the ‘Jewish Privilege’ them and their families experienced,” continued Mazzig, who has over 30,000 followers.
The tweet has been shared over 1,500 times.
Mazzig later told the Jewish News: “The idea that there is an inherent ‘Jewish Privilege’ is anti-Semitic.”
“When I saw the hashtag trending last week I was dumbfounded,” he said. “I encouraged my followers to share family stories to flip the conversation and expose how insane this idea is.”
There have since been over 100,000 posts on Twitter with the hashtag, some still with anti-Semitic content, but many by Jewish people highlighting their own experiences.
As the trend spread across the US, Canada, the UK and Israel, comedian Sarah Silverman and other Jewish celebrities also joined the campaign.
Silverman recalled memories of children “throwing pennies at me on the bus” and “pastors in Florida calling for my death and telling their congregation that knocking my teeth out and killing me would be God’s work.”
My dad getting the shit kicked out of him everyday at school 4 being a kike to kids in NH throwing pennies at me on the bus to pastors in Florida calling for my death and telling their congregation that knocking my teeth out and killing me would be God’s work. #JewishPrivilege
— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) July 12, 2020
Silverman also retweeted stories with the hashtag that were posted by others.
UK Comedian David Baddiel tweeted that “Jews don’t always feel white, if by white you mean, to put it bluntly, safe.”
“I didn’t feel white when I was actually being beaten up in London in the 1970s”, he wrote, nor when a “man behind me at Stamford Bridge, the Chelsea stadium, started shouting repeatedly “F*** the f***** yids! F*** the f****** Jews”.
— David Baddiel (@Baddiel) July 12, 2020
Dov Hikind, founder of Americans Against Antisemitism, tweeted: “I had the #JewishPrivilege of growing up without grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins because my parents’ friends were nearly entirely wiped out by Hitler.”
Others said the hashtag should simply be removed because of its associated anti-Semitic inference.
Danny Stone, CEO of the Anti-Semitism Policy Trust, tweeted: “That #JewishPrivilege is trending makes me feel sick. It may not be a hate term but Twitter should know what this does to communities.”
The Campaign Against Antisemitism also spoke out against the hashtag in a statement saying, “The idea that Jews are a ‘privileged’ group is a slur designed to deny that antisemitism exists and to imply that Jews are a cause of racism towards other minorities.”
CAAS criticized Twitter for not acting against anti-Semitic content.
“The accounts spewing this anti-Jewish hatred will still be there tomorrow, retweeted in the thousands as Twitter predictably but disgracefully refuses to take any action, adding yet another entry to the platform’s long record of enabling racism against Jews,” the statement said.
Social media giants Twitter and Facebook are both facing boycotts from major companies who say they are pulling their advertising from the platforms in protest of the amount of hate speech online.
Sarah Personette, vice president of global client solutions at Twitter, said last month the company’s “mission is to serve the public conversation and ensure Twitter is a place where people can make human connections, seek and receive authentic and credible information, and express themselves freely and safely.”
She added that Twitter is “respectful of our partners’ decisions and will continue to work and communicate closely with them during this time.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.