President Donald Trump at the White House on June 1. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Trump’s post-London attack tweets are chilling — and counter-productive


In popular myth, South Florida was ground zero of the Great Email Explosion of 2008.

That was the year your great-uncle or long-lost cousin couldn’t resist passing on rumors, hoaxes and conspiracy theories about Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, the true causes of 9/11 or the insidious nature of Islam. It wasn’t the invention of Fake News, but it provided the template for how social media users in 2016 would ignore obvious red flags to pass on bogus stories that confirmed their worldviews.

What happened to that elderly snow bird, who interrupted his nonstop viewing of Fox News only to fire off angry messages and unfounded rumors about The Other? Apparently, we elected him president.

In the hours after Saturday night’s terrorist attack in London, the president sent off a series of tweets that transformed the kind of event that usually unites the West in grief and determination into yet another episode of Trump Vs. World.

Somewhere between citing an early Drudge Report link on the London Bridge killings and calling out London’s Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan, the president used the killings to defend his travel ban, toss scorn on gun control and decry political correctness. It was a typical week of his presidential campaign boiled down to a few hours of 140-character messages.

“We need to be smart, vigilant and tough,” tweeted a president whose administration is woefully understaffed and whose top law enforcement agency lacks a director. “We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!”

This came even before he extended condolences to the victims of the London attack or offered America’s support to Britain and its leaders: “Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U. K., we will be there – WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!”

That out of the way, it was back to politicizing the attacks: “We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don’t get smart it will only get worse.”

It’s not clear what Trump had in mind other than the court case over his attempt to ban travelers from several predominately Muslim countries. That’s the problem with Twitter and, increasingly, the Trump administration: Even on points where both sides ostensibly agree — protecting citizens from terror — the president governs by slogans, not policy. Some might argue that is a good thing: If his policy-making were as impulsive as his tweeting, who knows what kind of global mischief or military disaster he might lead the country into.

But like those emails from Florida, Trump’s tweets derail serious policy discussion. The talking heads line up on cable news, the editorials get written, and we’re no closer than we were before to understanding what really needs to be done in times of stability or crisis. Instead we talk about Trump. He isn’t acting presidential! He’s using disaster to score cheap political points! He’s still campaigning!

This sounds like a partisan gripe, although for the life of me I can’t figure out which side wins when Trump gets into Cranky Grandpa mode. Even his supporters argue that the daily crises of his own making are distracting from his broader agenda.

Perhaps most disturbing of all his tweets over the weekend was his unfounded but completely characteristic attack on Khan, by all accounts a popular mayor and real mensch. “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’” Trump tweeted Sunday morning, accusing Khan of being blase in the face of the attacks.

Perhaps Trump misunderstood what Khan had really said. The mayor, soon after the attack, told the BBC that he was “appalled and furious that these cowardly terrorists would target” innocent civilians. He vowed that “we will never let them win, nor will we allow them to cower our city.”

He then assured London residents who would see increased police presence around the city. “No reason to be alarmed. One of the things the police, all of us, need to do is make sure we’re as safe as we possibly can be,” he said. “I’m reassured that we are one of the safest global cities in the world, if not the safest global city in the world, but we always evolve and review ways to make sure that we remain as safe as we possibly can.”

In other words, “Keep calm and carry on.” If this were World War II, Trump might have accused Churchill of cowardice.

Except Churchill wasn’t a Muslim. There is no reason to give Trump the benefit of the doubt on this one. Remember the way he fired back at another Khan during the Democratic National Convention last year. When Khizr Khan, whose son died fighting for the United States in Iraq, criticized Trump’s policies and statements about Muslims, the then-candidate immediately played the religion card. Instead of defending his own policies or ignoring the remarks, Trump suggested that the dead soldier’s mother had not “been allowed” to speak at the convention, presumably for religious reasons. It was a chilling echo of a mindset that Jews find all too familiar, one that slots minorities, religious people and other “ethnics” into neat, defining categories. Muslim mom? Oppressed. A Muslim mayor? He must be soft on Islamist terror.

When Trump insists that we “must stop being politically correct,” he is defending this discredited worldview. Leaders from Paris to London to Washington, D.C. are aware that there is a radical Islam problem, and say so. The issue is not identifying the problem by name, but coming up with real-world solutions to a vicious offshoot of a vast religion. Critics of the travel ban aren’t pro-terrorism; in fact, many believe it is counterproductive precisely because it plays into ISIS’s notion of a world that hates Islam.

It has been tempting to dismiss Trump’s more Archie Bunkerish tendencies as a generational thing, just as we joked about those “Florida” emails as the work of retirees with too much time on their hands and too much Fox on their televisions. But a president has a responsibility to rise above petty prejudices and knee-jerk reactions and act — to use a by now tired word — presidential. That’s all the Jewish community was asking for during the spate of JCC bomb hoaxes and the weird Holocaust memorial contretemps, and what so many Americans are seeking in the face of the horrors in England, France and Portland, Oregon.

It’s not too much to ask for.

Screenshot from Twitter

Trump’s Twitter profile features his Western Wall prayer


President Donald Trump changed his Twitter profile’s background picture to feature a photo of his prayer at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

Trump or one of the people he trusts with his personal Twitter account posted the photo on Monday after Trump had prayed at the wall. The previous picture showed Trump seated in the Oval Office surrounded by staff.

Trump’s feed also included tweets reflecting his assessment that his Middle East tour this week was a success.

He thanked Israel’s leaders for their warm reception.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is criticizing YouTube for allowing the proliferation of videos such as this one, posted by an account associated with the terrorist group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

YouTube, Google graded poorly on hate, terrorism by Wiesenthal Center


The video-sharing site YouTube and its parent company, Google, fared poorly in the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s annual social media report card for their handling of hate- and terrorism-related material.

The Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that fights hate speech, says YouTube is being exploited by terrorists to encourage acts of violence and instruct would-be attackers in their methods. The site received a C- in the category of “terrorism” and a D for “hate.”

“Google/YouTube is rightfully under fierce criticism for placing digital ads from major international brands like AT&T and Johnson & Johnson next to extremist videos celebrating terrorist attacks that should never have been allowed on its platform in the first place,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, said March 28 at the media briefing where the grades were unveiled. It took place at the New York City comptroller’s office, four blocks from ground zero.

DTH grades17_Poster

Courtesy of Simon Wiesenthal Center.

He said the Wiesenthal Center awarded YouTube its low grades for allowing terrorism “how to” videos to proliferate on its platform, and for failing to take down thousands of posts by hate groups. He pointed to a number of videos posted on the site in the wake of a recent terrorist attack outside the Houses of Parliament in London, praising the attack and encouraging others to follow suit.

YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A more in-depth report, “Digital Terrorism + Hate,” available at digitalhate.net, details the ways in which terrorist groups use social media to recruit, network and instruct potential attackers. The report names a number of accounts, tactics and pages associated with terrorism.

“Frankly, one of the things that we need is for the companies to be more responsive to their responsibilities,” Cooper told the Journal. “Almost all the companies set rules, and some try a lot harder than others to live up to them.”

He lauded recent changes at Twitter, whose grades have improved since the Wiesenthal Center began issuing the report cards in 2015. The company’s grade for “hate” rose from a D to a C since last year. Cooper said the change was due to Twitter’s move to deactivate hundreds of thousands of accounts associated with terrorism and hate speech.

Facebook received the highest marks because of its “sophisticated in-house system of blocking” objectionable accounts and content, according to Cooper. Other platforms, such as YouTube and Twitter, are reactive rather than proactive, he said.

But in general, Cooper said Silicon Valley has demonstrated a lack of leadership when it comes to fighting hate online. He said the Wiesenthal Center hopes to convene social media companies to comprehensively address the problems of digital hate speech and web use by terrorists. Failing that, the nonprofit would look into other, more drastic measures.

“If they don’t get a handle on this, we can be looking at the horrible R-word — regulation,” he said in the interview. “I’m not particularly enamored with that solution. It’s always messy when you go to Washington.”

However, he said he will be educating public officials about the trends highlighted in the report.

At the press conference, Cooper also announced that the Wiesenthal Center will be offering tutorials for high school students “to empower young people to deal with the tsunami of hate.” The center plans to pilot the tutorials with teens in New York City.

He told the Journal, “Since they usually see [online hate speech] before the adults anyway, we’re going to do our best to try to empower them with some guidelines about how to deal with it.”

Photo courtesy of Reuters.

Twitter has most anti-Semitic content among social networks, survey finds


Twitter emerged as the social network with the most anti-Semitic content in a comprehensive analysis.

The study of the prevalence of hatred toward Jews on such platforms, commissioned by the World Jewish Congress and published this week, was conducted throughout 2016.

Nearly two-thirds of the 382,000 posts deemed anti-Semitic in the study appeared on Twitter, followed by 11 percent posted on Facebook, 6 percent on Instagram and 2 percent on YouTube. The posts were in various languages, according to the survey performed by the Israeli monitoring firm Vigo.

The study applied the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism in determining what content to include in the report, the World Jewish Congress wrote in a statement about the report.

“We knew that anti-Semitism online was on the rise, but the numbers revealed in this report give us concrete data as to how alarming the situation really is,” said the group’s CEO, Robert Singer. “We hope this serves as a wake-up call to all internet forums to maintain moral standards, rid themselves of offensive content, and make the digital world a safer place for all.”

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft in June signed a code of conduct with the European Commission that requires them to delete the majority of reported illegal hate speech within 24 hours.

The signing of the accord was hailed as major progress toward reconciling U.S.-based social networks’ adherence to American legislation despite demands by European governments and judiciaries that the firms limit themselves in Europe to the stricter laws on hate speech applied in much of the continent.

Monitor groups have reported failures to comply after the document’s signing. Twitter has been particularly reluctant to comply with European legislation.

In 2013 Twitter lost a protracted legal battle in France over its initial refusal to either disclose details of users who made anti-Semitic statements online or block them for continuing to do so.

The survey’s publication coincided with reports in Poland about the desecration of a cemetery of Soviet soldiers in Warsaw by vandals who spray-painted a Star of David emblazoned with a Nazi swastika inside the burial ground. Police are investigating the incident, the news site Ruptfly reported.

Chelsea Clinton speaks at an event, April 17, 2014. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Chelsea Clinton cites Purim in scoring congressman who says ‘demographics are our destiny’


Chelsea Clinton cited the lessons of Purim to chastise a congressman who said restoring Western civilization could not be done “with somebody else’s babies.”

“Clearly the Congressman does not view all our children as, well, all our children,” Clinton, the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, who lost the November presidential election to Donald Trump, said Sunday in a tweet quoting a tweet by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. “Particularly ironic & painful on Purim.”

Clinton’s husband, Marc Mezvinsky, is Jewish. Purim celebrates the triumph of Persia’s Jews over a deadly enemy, Haman. Some Jewish traditions cite its lessons as upholding diversity.

King in his tweet praised Geert Wilders, the anti-Islam Dutch lawmaker whose party is among those competing in elections this week in the Netherlands.

“Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny,” he said. “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

The tweet was reviled as bigoted almost as soon as King posted it.

“This is so offensive, it’s hard to know where to start,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation League CEO, said in a tweet. “America’s greatness is the diversity of our culture, the dynamism of our demography.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., alluded to King’s closeness to Trump, and claims from Democrats that Trump’s election has spurred increased bigotry, in calling the comment “racist.”

“It’s no accident that communities across America have been threatened by emboldened racists,” she said in a statement Monday. “The GOP Leadership must stop accommodating this garbage, and condemn Congressman Steve King’s statements in the strongest and most unequivocal terms.”

In an appearance on CNN on Monday morning, King would not say whether he believed Muslims were “equals,” but defended the tweet from charges that it was racist.

“It’s the culture, not the blood,” King said. “And if you can go anywhere in the world and adopt these little babies and put them into households that were already assimilated into America, those babies will grow up as American as any other baby with as much patriotism and as much love of country as any other baby. It’s not about race.”

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London on Feb. 17. Photo by Toby Melville/Reuters

Daily Kickoff: Trump’s Shabbat Tweets | Israel – dubbed Jamaican bobsled team of WBC – upsets South Korea | Tony Blair as Trump’s Middle East envoy?


AND TRUMP TWEETED ON THE SEVENTH DAY… “Inside Trump’s fury: The president rages at leaks, setbacks and accusations” by Philip Rucker, Robert Costa and Ashley Parker: “President Donald Trump spent the weekend at “the winter White House,” Mar-a-Lago, the secluded Florida castle where he is king… His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner – celebrated as calming influences on the tempestuous president – joined him. But they were helpless to contain his fury.” [WashPost]

Mike Allen in Axios AM: “Six weeks (44 days) into his presidency, Donald Trump, when left alone because Jared and Ivanka are observing the Sabbath, still bangs out tweets (with episodic misspellings) making wild accusations based on flimsy or nonexistent evidence.” [Axios

Jason Zengerle: “Jared Kushner should really look into hiring a Shabbos goy.” [Twitter]

“Sabbath’s Tweeter: A scientific examination of the garbage Trump posts on Jared and Ivanka’s day of rest” by Andrew Kahn: “As of this writing, Trump has tweeted 1,257 times—plus anything he’s deleted—since he received his party’s nomination for president on July 19, 2016. If we skim off Trump’s copy-and-paste retweets, that number falls to 1,171. According to the conventional wisdom, only tweets sent from an Android device were written by Trump himself. There are 918 of those within this group. Seventy-seven were sent between sundown on a Friday and sundown on a Saturday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s sunset estimates at the longitude and latitude of Trump Tower. (Many observant Jews start Shabbat a bit earlier and end a bit later, but those rabbinically sanctioned cutoffs are not easily accessible in my statistical software.)” [Slate• All of Trump’s Saturday tweets since taking office [Axios]

Noga Tarnopolsky: “To proponents of the Shabbat Tweeting hypothesis: Jared & Ivanka Kushner are with Trump in Florida this weekend & it hasn’t really helped.” [Twitter

John Podhoretz: “If it is true that Trump needs the Kushners around on Shabbat not to be crazy, I hereby approve Jared’s conversion to goy.” [Twitter]

TOP TALKER: “Tony Blair’s secret White House summit in bid to work for Trump” by Simon Walters: “The former Prime Minister held talks with Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner on Wednesday with a view to becoming a Middle East peace envoy for Trump. This newspaper has learned that Blair and Kushner have met three times in secret since September, including their three-hour summit in the West Wing last week… A well-placed source said Blair’s role could be as Kushner’s senior adviser: ‘Blair has been pitching hard for this job and Trump’s people are taking him very seriously.’” [DailyMail• Tony Blair denies report he was offered job as Trump’s Middle East peace envoy [Independent]

Amid a wave of anti-Semitism, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo came to Israel yesterday to deliver a message of ‘Hineini’ — by JI’s Jacob Kornbluh covering Cuomo in Jerusalem: “New York’s principles are built on a rock. They will not change, and the political winds will not change them,” Cuomo said in a joint appearance with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, following a tour of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. “To the people of Israel, I say that these acts will not be tolerated. New York State has reacted aggressively with extraordinary measures, more aggressively than any other state in the nation – I am proud to say.” Cuomo said the purpose of this 24-hour trip was to send a message: “Hineini. I am here. I’ve been here before. I will be here again. Our relationship is enduring. The relationship between the people of the Jewish community and the state of New York is built on mutual support and respect. It’s built on love. And that will not change.” [JewishInsider

— During a press conference at the King David hotel, Cuomo also announced the launch of a 22-member joint commission that will explore new opportunities to strengthen economic and cultural ties between New York and Israel, chaired by Mort Zuckerman, along with Malcolm Hoenlein, Howard Zemsky, Linda Mirel and OU’s Allen Fagin who will serve as co-chairs. Members include Stuart Appelbaum, AIPAC’s Bob Cohen, Abe Foxman, George Klein, JCRC’s Michael Miller, Rabbi Joe Potasnik, Jack Bendheim, Burton Resnick, Bill Rudin, Charles Temel, Randi Weingarten, Sol Werdiger, Jeffrey Richard, Alisa Doctoroff, Sara Berman, and Howard Zucker.   

Addressing the U.S.-Israel relationship and erosion of support for Israel within the Democratic Party, Cuomo told Jewish Insider, that one of the reasons he formed an economic development cooperation with Israel is because “there are political divides that are getting harsher and louder and people now debate whether you need Israel as a strategic ally — even though I don’t believe there is anything to debate about. When I took the anti-BDS action, I can tell you there was quite a bit of opposition. I think fortifying the relationship with the cultural and economic aspects, will make the relationship even stronger and clearer for all Americans.”

Cuomo on Jerusalem Embassy: “Look, Jerusalem is the capital [of Israel]. But it’s certainly a security concern, and that would be a decision that you would have to talk to Israel about. And whatever is in their best interest, I think, should govern.”

PHOTO: Cuomo at the Western Wall [Pic

Dan Shapiro, who attended Cuomo’s business roundtable, tells us: “Speaking as a private citizen, I am touched by Gov. Cuomo’s decision to come on such short notice to hit a couple of very important notes. One is a message of solidarity at a time when the U.S. Jewish community is feeling vulnerable because of the anti-Semitic incidents over the last weeks, and tying that to the vulnerability Israelis always feel because of the threats they face. And the second, expressing his commitment to deepening the economic partnership between New York and Israel, of course as part of a larger economic partnership between the two nations. It’s a source of incredible opportunity, a mutual benefit already, and with the sky as a limit for what can be achieved. And on top of that, it is the best answer to the voice calling for BDS. Gov. Cuomo has been a leading voice to oppose BDS.”” 

HOW IT PLAYED: “Cuomo, in Whirlwind Tour of Jerusalem, Shows Support for Israel” by Jesse McKinley: “He toured. He prayed. He visited an ancient tomb. He broke bread, cracked jokes and even wedged in some Albany arm-twisting. And he prompted flags to appear all over, even in the middle of cobblestone streets… But as with all things Cuomo lately, the trip is also being seen through the prism of politics, particularly the continued speculation about the governor’s potential presidential ambitions. It is a notion he has been actively tamping down, even if his actions — such as a last-minute trip to a country that looms large in discussions of American foreign policy — seem to feed the idea. “It’s unfortunate in many ways because it suggests a political nature to everything, which frankly fuels the cynicism about the whole process,” said Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, who added that anti-Semitism was a personal issue: Two of his sisters are married to Jewish men. “If you really care, you show up,” he said. “And I really care.” [NYTimes]

“Former US envoy to Israel to join Tel Aviv-based think tank” by Alexander Fulbright: “Dan Shapiro will join the Institute for National Security studies as a visiting fellow… INSS cited Shapiro’s “rich experience” working on issues pertaining to Israel and the Middle East in its decision to hire him, pointing not only to his work as ambassador, but also as a member of the US National Security Council and an adviser on foreign affairs to Congress.” [ToI]

“In Israel, Lauding and Lamenting the Era of Trump” by Ian Fisher: “The unenviable challenge facing the Israeli government is how to express its visceral horror over the resurgence of anti-Semitism in the U.S. without becoming a pawn in America’s partisan debate or jeopardizing its critical working relationship with the administration,” said Shalom Lipner…” [NYTimes]

“US delegation in Israel to study relocation of embassy to Jerusalem” by Tovah Lazaroff: “”The delegation (led by Congressman Ron DeSantis) is in Jerusalem to learn first hand what it will mean to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” said Ruth Lieberman, a friend of DeSantis and a political advisor in Israel. “Its leadership intends to return to Congress with a report and a deeper understanding of what to expect, and of some of the decisions that have to be made as well,” Lieberman said… The delegation will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli political leaders during their visit.” [JPost• Will US move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem? [CNN

“Trump Team’s Links to Russia Crisscross in Washington” by Scott Shane and Andrew Kramer: “And Jason Greenblatt, a former Trump Organization lawyer and now a special representative for international negotiations at the White House, met last summer with Rabbi Berel Lazar, the chief rabbi of Russia and an ally of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin.” [NYTimes

“Trump pleads for cash at closed donor retreat” by Darren Samuelsohn and Marc Caputo: “At one point, he poked fun at Steve Wynn, the RNC finance chair and billionaire owner of a Las Vegas casino, for not backing him at the start of the 2016 campaign. Wynn, who initially backed Sen. Marco Rubio, wasn’t the only one in the room to have initially picked a different horse in the 2016 Republican primary race, drawing Trump’s scorn at the time.” [Politico

“Ivanka Trump Tours Holocaust Museum as Father Considers Visit” by Jennifer Jacobs: “Ivanka Trump took a private tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum this week without her father, who is considering his own visit… She was accompanied by her mother- and father-in-law, Charles and Seryl Kushner. Ivanka Trump’s husband Jared Kushner’s late grandmother, Rae Kushner, was a Holocaust survivor who helped found the Holocaust Museum.” [Bloomberg

THIS WEEK ON THE HILL: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on whether to confirm David Friedman as U.S. Ambassador to Israel on Thursday.  

“JFNA’s Sandler taking heat for support of David Friedman” by Eitan Arom: “The comments reported in the press were in response to a question directed to me about David Friedman and reflected my personal view, based upon my analysis of the situation and my personal contact with Mr. Friedman,” Sandler wrote in an email to JFNA trustees… Others in the community were more disappointed than angry about Sandler’s comments. “He’s done a lot for both the L.A. as well as the national Jewish community,” Adam Wergeles, a co-founder of the West L.A. congregation IKAR, told the Journal… “And it is upsetting to see someone like Sandler — who’s kind of using his stature — to support what felt to me like Friedman’s very convenient and self-serving retraction.” [JewishJournal]

“The End of the Libertarian Dream? Long on the fringes of American politics, small-government conservatives were closer than ever to mainstream acceptance. Then two things happened: Donald Trump and Jihadi John” by Tim Alberta: “I think the McCain-Graham wing of the party is withering,” Amash tells me in his office, referring to South Carolina’s hawkish senator. “It was dominant 10 or 15 years ago on foreign policy matters and surveillance and other things. But today, it’s a rather weak force compared to a decade ago in D.C. And it’s almost nonexistent at home.” And yet, Trump also pledged to oversee a massive military buildup. He threatened to “bomb the shit out of” the Islamic State; suggested killing the families of terrorists; expressed an interest in seizing Iraq’s sovereign oil; advocated the return of torture; and, in his inaugural address, declared he would eradicate Islamist terrorism “from the face of the Earth.” When I mention all this, Amash bursts out laughing. “Not exactly a libertarian philosophy,” I say. “No,” he shakes his head. “It’s not.”” [Politico

“Israeli Arab Leader Angers J Street by Criticizing Labor Party” by Chaim Levinson: “While addressing J Street’s national conference in Washington last week, Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh lashed out at the Zionist Union, saying the center-left party “failed” in its role as the opposition, and ignoring a request by J Street not to criticize the party. As Odeh left the podium following his speech, the visibly angry J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami demonstrably did not shake Odeh’s hand, sources present said.” [Haaretz

KAFE KNESSET — Buzz on Balfour — by Tal Shalev: Police investigators are set to arrive to the Prime Minister’s Balfour residence this afternoon for the fourth time to continue the probe of “File 1000,” concerning alleged gifts from millionaires Arnon Milchan and James Packer, and “File 2000,” regarding his contacts with Noni Mozes, the publisher of the Yedioth Aharonoth daily. For weeks the police have been waiting to continue questioning Netanyahu but due to his constant traveling lately it took quite a while to coordinate the meeting. Today, Netanyahu cancelled the weekly Likud faction meeting and will be facing some difficult questions instead. Police chief Roni Alsheikh said today that “we are at the end, and now conducting last supplements of the investigation. We don’t have much left to complete and the minute we are finished we will reach a conclusion and pass is it on to the Attorney General.”

Meanwhile, right wing pressure on Netanyahu is growing. The PM succeeded in postponing until next week the ministerial vote on the Maale Adumim bill, which seeks to apply Israeli sovereignty on that West Bank city.  Defense Minister Liberman told the Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affairs committee today that Israel received a clear message from the Trump administration that applying sovereignty to Maale Adumim will lead to a crisis. Meanwhile, the Jewish Home party is not sitting still and is also pushing Netanyahu to stand by his commitment to establish a new settlement for the Amona evacuees. 

Netanyahu has denied reports that he is reconsidering the Amona resettlement move due to White House pressure, but Bennet and friends apparently don’t believe him. Minister Uri Ariel has started to circulate a draft of a government resolution that will start the planning and construction of the settlement. Yesterday at the weekly meeting of coalition party heads, Bennet asked Netanyahu about what is happening with the new settlement and pointed out that the residents are now on a hunger strike. “Its complicated. We haven’t reached understandings with the US yet. We are committed to finding a solution and don’t need more pressure or any recommendations.” Liberman also weighed in, and with humor asked Bennet “Where are they on strike? I need to lose some weight, perhaps I’ll join them.” This reply provoked a strong and angry reaction from the Amona settlers. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

** Good Monday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

SPOTLIGHT: “Financiers Fight Over the American Dream” by Sheelah Kolhatkar: “Ackman grew up in the affluent New York City suburb of Chappaqua, where his father ran a brokerage firm. He graduated from Harvard College and then Harvard Business School, where he was on the rowing team, and had a reputation as someone who couldn’t keep his opinions to himself. He and the rest of the team had rowed with oars adorned with dollar signs. “Let’s face up to what HBS represents,” he wrote in the student newspaper. “We spend 90% of our studies at HBS pursuing the maximization of the dollar.” 

“Ackman wasn’t prepared for what came next, however. Two weeks later, the legendary investor Carl Icahn lashed out at Ackman and his Herbalife play on Bloomberg Television. “It’s no secret I don’t like Ackman,” Icahn said. “I think if you’re short you go short, and, hey, if it goes down, you make money. You don’t go out and get a roomful of people to bad-mouth the company. If you want to be in that business, why don’t you go and join the S.E.C.?” He went on, “I don’t respect him. . . . Don’t be holier than thou and say, ‘Look, I’m doing this for the good of the world, and I want to see sunshine on Herbalife.’ I mean, that’s bullshit.” “I’ve really sort of had it with this guy Ackman,” Icahn said. “He’s like the crybaby in the schoolyard. I went to a tough school in Queens, and they used to beat up the little Jewish boys. He was like one of these little Jewish boys, crying that the world was taking advantage of him.” [NewYorker]

“VCs, startups: Stop networking so much” by Bradley Tusk: “My advice to the venture and startup community is this: Stop talking so much. Stop meeting with each other so much. Stop drinking so much coffee. Focus on your product, your service, your technology. Focus on your investments, your portfolio companies, your value proposition. Just knowing lots of other people who do roughly the same thing you do is not all that useful.” [VB]

The rise of the useless class: “Historian Yuval Noah Harari makes a bracing prediction: just as mass industrialization created the working class, the AI revolution will create a new unworking class.” [Ideas.Ted]

“Do People Look Like Their Names?” by Daniel Akst: “In a series of intriguing experiments, [Yonat] Zwebner and colleagues at Israel’s Hebrew University and IDC Herzliya and France’s HEC Paris found that volunteers shown a headshot of a person and four or five possible names can pick the correct name at a significantly higher rate than chance… In one experiment, volunteers in Israel were shown 25 neutral photos of young, Israeli-born adults known by their reasonably common first names (not nicknames). Shown a picture of a young man, people might be asked, for example, if his given name was Yaakov, Dan, Yosef or Netanel. The volunteers got the right answer 30% of the time, compared with the 25% rate expected if everyone had simply guessed.” [WSJ]   

HEARD OVER THE WEEKEND – Jeffrey Goldberg discusses rise in anti-Semitism on NPR’s Weekend Edition: “These things happened before Donald Trump… What happened right now, I think, is because of a certain narrative just developed around Donald Trump. People are saying this is the cause of these incidents. And I just think that that might be a little bit premature or a little bit oversimplistic. We’ve had serious incidents of anti-Semitism in this country for years and years and years. They did not start on January 20.” [NPR

MEDIA WATCH: “The Declining Fortunes of Women at The Times” by Liz Spayd: “Men accounted for 61 percent of the bylines that appeared in the front section of The Times last year, according to data soon to be published by the Women’s Media Center… That put The Times in the middle of the pack, which is a vast improvement over the previous two years, when it ranked last. (Partial credit surely goes to political correspondent Maggie Haberman, whose byline, I’m told, drew more page views last year than any other reporter at The Times — an eye-popping 141 million.)” [NYTimes

TRANSITION: JI reader Herbert Block was appointed last week as the American Zionist Movement (AZM) new Executive Director. He is succeeding Karen Rubinstein who is retiring after 40 years with AZM.

DESSERT: “Israeli Cabinet Makes Move to Decriminalize Recreational Marijuana Use” by Ian Fisher: “Israel, which has been at the forefront of research into medical marijuana and the drug’s commercialization, took a major step on Sunday toward officially decriminalizing its recreational use. At a time when many American states and European countries are loosening marijuana laws, the Israeli cabinet approved a plan that would impose fines rather than criminal penalties on those caught using the drug in public.” [NYTimes]

SPORTS BLINK: “With Mirth and a Mensch, Israel Upsets South Korea in W.B.C.” by Ken Belson: “When Sam Fuld, a journeyman outfielder, hit a line-drive single to open an exhibition game between Team Israel and a squad representing the South Korean Army the other day, one of his teammates on the bench, third baseman Cody Decker, yelled, “Nobody, and I mean nobody, no-hits the Jews!” The exhortation was part bravado, part sarcasm, part siren call. Team Israel is one of the lowest-ranked of the 16 teams in the World Baseball Classic that began here in Seoul on Monday… But miracle of miracles, Israel won its tournament debut on Monday by beating South Korea, 2-1.” [NYTimes]

“Team Israel — and its mascot, Mensch on a Bench — is the Jamaican bobsled team of the WBC” by Eddie Matz: “Hollywood isn’t the only place where [Ty] Kelly’s networking skills have helped him. Last spring training in Port St. Lucie, a conversation with a couple of Jewish fans about Kelly’s background (his mother is Jewish) led to a phone call from Peter Kurz, president of the IAB (Israel Association of Baseball). Prior to that call, Kelly — whose father is Irish Catholic and who was baptized while in elementary school — had no clue that he even qualified for Team Israel. “I always figured that if I played in the WBC, it’d be based on my Irish or German ancestors,” he says. A year later, thanks to the Classic’s “Heritage Rule,” he’s rocking the Star of David on his cap, part of a decidedly anonymous roster that screams what-could’ve-been.” [ESPNUSAToday

BIRTHDAYS: Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006, Alan Greenspan turns 91… Actor, writer, director, producer and political activist, directed “When Harry Met Sally” and “A Few Good Men,” Rob Reiner turns 70… Musical theatre lyricist and composer, winner of three Oscars, three Grammys and received six Tony Award nominations, Stephen Schwartz turns 69… Actor, comedian and sports show host, converted to Judaism upon marrying Roseanne Barr in 1990, Tom Arnold turns 58… Head of Innovation Communication at Bloomberg LP, Chaim Haas turns 42… Former football quarterback who played on six NFL teams (2001-2012), member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Sage Rosenfels turns 39… Fourth generation developer, owner, and operator of commercial real estate throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region, Daniel Klein turns 36… Israeli fashion model who has appeared in international campaigns for many world-wide brands, Esti Ginzburg turns 27… Artist and founder / director of Tikkun Olam Journeys, introducing young Americans to a cross-section of social causes in Israel, Tova Suissa… Senior director for business development and client services at NYC-based Jewish Communal Fund, Michelle Lebowitz… Princeton University student who interned for Senator Marco Rubio, Theodore Furchtgott… University of Miami student who is a member of the Israel Project’s Tower Tomorrow Fellowship, Riley Clafton… Aliza Tendler… Sandra Brown… Nelson Katz

Gratuity not included. We love receiving news tips but we also gladly accept tax deductible tips. 100% of your donation will go directly towards improving Jewish Insider. Thanks! [PayPal]

Holocaust survivor Evi Blaikie denounces Trump over Nazi reference


Evi Blaikie, 78, does not use Twitter, but when she was made aware of President-elect Donald Trump’s tweet comparing U.S. intelligence officials to Nazi Germany she was astounded.

“I was angry, I was really angry,” Blaikie, the founder of Hungarian Hidden Children of the Holocaust, told Jewish Insider outside City Hall on Thursday. “I was astounded that he would make such a statement that is so ignorant of what Nazi Germany was about.”

Blaikie came to the United States in 1960 at the age of 21 after surviving the Holocaust and being transferred from one orphanage to another. Her father and grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz, and her mother passed away shortly after the Holocaust.

On Wednesday, following the publication of unverified documents containing allegations about his activities in Russia, Trump claimed himself a victim of U.S. intelligence officials, invoking Nazi Germany. “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public,” Trump “>Trump’s reference to Nazi Germany, organized by the NYC Jewish Caucus and the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.

“I have a message for our President-elect: Mr. Trump when it comes to your prejudice attacks, shut your tweeting face,” Steven Goldstein, Executive Director of the Anne Frank Center, said as he was joined by members of the city’s three legislative branches. “Your words injure. Has our President-elect have no shame? He’s gone after Mexicans, he’s gone after Muslims, he’s gone after women, he’s gone after people of color, he’s gone after LGBT people, who would’ve thought he would go after Holocaust survivors. But he has, and our President-elect has reached a new low in American politics when it comes to the concept of mutual respect. Words injure. Words matter. It’s beneath the dignity of the office of President of the U.S., and it is an insult to Holocaust survivors and to our entire nation and its intelligence, for Donald Trump to equate the American patriots who fight for our nation with Nazi Germany. That is outrageous.”

Goldstein challenged Jare Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law who was just appointed as a senior advisor to the President in the new Administration, to reprimand his father-in-law for denigrating Holocaust survivors with his comments.

Digital hate: After the election, will this be our new normal?


It was February, right after the South Carolina Republican primary, and Donald Trump had been declared the winner. Bethany Mandel, a writer who usually focuses on politics and culture from a conservative perspective, was upset that Trump seemed to be emerging as a legitimate candidate. 

Observing that many Twitter users who proclaimed their love for Trump were just as generous with their anti-Semitic rhetoric and invective, she tweeted: “Another night blocking all the anti-Semites who are helping Trump make American [sic] great again.” 

Mandel, an outspoken anti-Trump Republican, had been a Twitter target before, so she expected some Twitter hate. But she wasn’t prepared for what was to come.

“The floodgates opened,” she said in an interview with the Jewish Journal. 

That first night she blocked an estimated 350 to 400 accounts that had begun sending her anti-Semitic and threatening messages, along with what she described as “a lot of Holocaust imagery.” There were images of her Photoshopped into photographs of Holocaust victims or concentration camp scenes, and cartoons depicting Jews being shoved into ovens. 

“It was impossible to keep up with; it seemed like a coordinated attack, not an organic thing,” she said, speculating that the perpetrator of the deluge was “a Russian bot farm, doing this to interfere with the electoral process. 

The ADL report

Last week, the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Task Force on Harassment and Journalism released “Anti-Semitic Targeting of Journalists During the 2016 Presidential Campaign,” a report that set out to document these attacks. Mandel makes the list as one of the “top ten most targeted.” 

The ADL report noted 2.6 million tweets containing language frequently found in anti-Semitic speech from August 2015 to July 2016, with a significant uptick starting in January as presidential campaign coverage kicked into high gear. At least 800 journalists received anti-Semitic tweets with an estimated reach of 45 million impressions. 

The report also noted that all of the top 10 most targeted journalists are Jewish. They received 83 percent of “overtly anti-Semitic tweets” “which may contribute to reinforcing and normalizing anti-Semitic language on a massive scale.” Offenders are even creating new words — such as using “skypes” instead of “kikes” — in order to evade spam and hate-speech filters. 

The ADL plans to publish a follow-up report outlining recommendations for how to respond to anti-Semitism online during its Nov. 17 event, “Never Is Now: The ADL Summit on Anti-Semitism,” in New York City.

Among the highest profile examples, journalist Julia Ioffe was targeted after writing a profile of Melania Trump for GQ Magazine in May. She was met with anti-Semitic responses from people musing that her face would look good on a lampshade; at a conference in June, she also said that people had ordered caskets and homicide cleanups to her apartment. (Mandel and Ioffe are advisers on the ADL task force that published the report.)

New York Times editor Jonathan Weisman tweeted about casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s support for Trump, and about the anti-Semitic response to Ioffe’s article, which made Weisman a target as well. In a piece called “The Nazi Tweets of ‘Trump God Emperor,’ ” Weisman reported that the only image he blocked and forwarded to Twitter was “a photo of my disembodied head held aloft, long Orthodox hair locks called payot Photoshopped on my sideburns and a skullcap placed as a crown. I let stand the image of a smiling Mr. Trump in Nazi uniform flicking the switch on a gas chamber containing my Photoshopped face.” 

Weisman subsequently disengaged from Twitter altogether, defecting instead to Facebook, “where at least people need to use their real names and can’t hide behind fakery to spread their hate.” 

Trump: Not the cause, but a connection

While the ADL report “identifies some self-styled followers” of Trump to be the source of these anti-Semitic Twitter attacks against reporters, it also states that “we cannot and do not attribute causation to Mr. Trump, and thus we cannot and do not assign blame to Mr. Trump for these ugly tweets … while we cannot (and do not) say that the candidate caused the targeting of reporters, we can say that he may have created an atmosphere in which such targeting arose.”

But other observers are more blunt in assigning blame to Trump and the forces his campaign has unleashed. Over the past few months, there have been incidents that paint a picture of the atmosphere in question. 

“Once Donald Trump entered the scene, something changed. … Suddenly a lot of people who were normally in shadowed corners of the internet felt emboldened,” said Jason Weixelbaum, a historian and a doctoral student at American University in Washington, D.C., who has also been the target of Twitter hatred for his work — his dissertation focuses on American businesses in Nazi Germany. 

More backlash — and questionable intentions

In June, Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Rabbi Susan Goldberg participated in “Stop Trump: Vigil Against Violence and Hate.” She tweeted a photo of herself and several other Jews bearing signs reading “Jews Against Trump” and used the hashtag #weveseenthisbefore, which has been in use over the past few months to rouse Jews to action against Trump’s campaign. 

The response to the tweet was immediate and vitriolic from white supremacists, Goldberg said. One said that “Jews have always been antagonizing the ethnic interests of white people,” while another gleefully tweeted that “Jewish rejections of Trump are his biggest endorsements.”

In early July, the Trump campaign re-tweeted an image of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with the words “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever” shown in front of a pile of money and accompanied by a red, six-pointed star. Was the image a reference to Jews and money, a well-traveled anti-Semitic trope, or was the star — as the Trump campaign alleged — benign, meant to evoke a sheriff’s badge? Was it just a careless social media share, an absence of due diligence by the social media team, or a willful oversight meant to appeal to the white nationalists who had identified Trump as their great hope to make America white again? 

The campaign eventually converted the star into a circle, but didn’t apologize or admit it made a mistake in sourcing the original image. Nor did it condemn the type of content or commit to increased vigilance about sourcing material so it wouldn’t happen again. 

Those who responded negatively to this image and the campaign’s lack of responsibility for circulating it were met with a barrage of anti-Semitic images and comments that invoked the Holocaust. In the case of 25-year-old Laura Silverman, one message read, “I would like you to take a nap in an oven”; another featured a pile of ashes with the caption “Straight Outta Auschwitz.” 

Just last week, media mogul Russell Simmons explained in a video for Fortune why Trump, his friend for 30 years, is not fit to be president: “I’ve heard anti-Semitic things, not blatant, but pretty clear that he was harboring some, we all harbor some hate, right? And the fear is that his statements would take people who would never even admit to having those seeds of hate in them and one of those seeds, in those people, would say things they’d never even imagine saying, and that became the norm.” 

How far does it go?

The hate, while disturbing and graphic and suddenly visible to many who might not have believed that such sentiments could even exist, may actually be louder than it is widespread. 

So said Ben Shapiro — a conservative columnist who is on record as being anti-Trump and who landed at No. 1 on the list of targeted reporters released by the ADL — on his internet television program “The Ben Shapiro Show” last week. He pointed out that the report links Trump support to what he characterized as “a small but loud amount of supporters who tweet gas chamber memes at people,” but that the “vast majority of Trump supporters find this sort of stuff absolutely reprehensible” and  “to overestimate the percentage of the population would be wrong and foolish.”

Mandel said that the most remarkable and valuable part of the ADL report was the finding that about 1,600 accounts are responsible for 68 percent of the hate. 

“It’s much sexier to say there’s an explosion of hate,” she said, “but that doesn’t seem to be the case. This is 1,600 very loud accounts that had an amplified voice this election season.” 

After the election

With the presidential election less than two weeks away, the question those on the receiving end of this rise of hate are asking is whether it will vanish or wane come Nov. 8, or if hate — and its amplification via social media — is here to stay, regardless of who wins the presidency. 

“The seeds have been present for some time,” said Steven Windmueller, professor emeritus at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where he taught courses on contemporary political issues and American Jewish affairs at the Los Angeles campus. 

“Election season itself, the campaign with both parties, has created a kind of ugliness and negativity where some of these voices have come to play and are more visible.”

Windmueller cited earlier attacks on Marco Rubio for “being too close to the Jews” or Bernie Sanders being seen as a spokesperson for “Jewish interests.” He also said that many factors contributed to the increase in hate speech: the rise of the alt-right, the development of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, and the fact that Jews are “suddenly being seen as the establishment — high-profile journalists and even as candidates.” 

The new normal?

Mandel predicts — and hopes — that after this campaign season, “the intelligence community takes a serious look at the varied and scary ways that Russia tried to interfere with electoral process this year.” 

While the media have been blaming Trump for the hate tweets, she believes that “this is more Russia than it is him. He might be asking [Vladimir] Putin to do this. The actions of the Russians that we know about [WikiLeaks and Democratic National Committee hacks] are certainly changing the way this election is playing out.”

One of the major shifts will be for the Republican Party, Weixelbaum predicted, explaining that the “rise of existential racism is a culmination of the Republican Party dealing with the entropy between its voter coalitions, social conservatives, evangelicals and business folks,” a tension that he called “not sustainable over time.”

“Trump is not an aberration,” Weixelbaum said. “He’s a culmination, that what was pulling all those coalitions together was racism. Racism is not going to be something that’s going to be successful in a society that’s made up of a lot of ethnic groups, so the Republican Party has to dissolve and clean its own house, get away from the racist common thread or they’re going to be a regional party that may have a seat in Congress but can’t win the presidency.”

Windmueller said that the Jewish community’s national organizations, as well as its local community relations agencies, will also have to “push back against this being accepted conduct and discourse.” He noted the importance of having grass-roots interfaith, inter-ethnic coalitions and communities of diversity speaking with one voice.

“The most important step is for those who believe that it’s OK to extol these kinds of words and views to see that they’re being pushed back not just by Jews who are upset but Christians and Muslims and others. There’s a great, angry divide in the country but the solutions will come in collaborative efforts, not with the language of the street or the language of hate,” he said. “The question is what happens on the 9th of November. Hopefully we will take a deep sigh and address these real serious challenges.”

Windmueller paused to point out that Nov. 9 also marks Kristallnacht, the anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass pogrom in 1938 that he called “the beginning of the end of German Jewry.”

“It’s so eerie when you put the date up against history. It struck me immediately as an interesting contrast,” he said, then paused again. “Hopefully a contrast.”

I got hate mail: Anti-Semitism on Twitter


On Aug. 31, I sat and listened to Donald Trump’s eagerly anticipated immigration speech in Phoenix. And tears began streaming down my face.

Trump’s speech was filled with racist, xenophobic slurs and fear-mongering. It was counter to the founding values of our country. It was also contrary to the primary teachings and values of Judaism. Providing welcome to the stranger (because we were once strangers) is mentioned more than 36 times in the Torah. 

“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself” (Leviticus 19:34).

I needed to speak out as a human being, as an American and as a Jew.

I went to Twitter, where I began to “live tweet.”

For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, a “tweet” is a comment of a maximum of 140 characters. To “live tweet” means that you are commenting on an event currently in progress. It’s like having a huge group of people discussing together from all over the world. It’s usually awesome.

Your tweets show on your Twitter friends’ “feed” and evidently, they are also public. I am uncertain about the algorithms of Twitter.

I’m conscious about who I accept as “Twitter friends.” I check to make sure someone is not racist or sexist or lurid. If so, I decline.

By the end of the night, I had begun to receive, from people I do not know, and with whom I am not “Twitter friends,” hateful messages that stunned me. I tweeted, sarcastically:

“Well that was fun. Just blocked 10 ppl with Hitler/racist/white supremacist/ views.”

I went to bed after posting a beautiful photo with the words, “I can’t go to bed without putting love & beauty out into the world,” because I didn’t want the ugliness of the evening to be how I ended the day.

By the next morning, my Twitter wall was littered with hundreds of messages, many accompanied by photos of Hitler, crematoriums, swastikas, caricatures of Jews, and transport trains.

These messages were not from friends. I don’t know these people.

It was landslide of enormous hatred.  Even though I was tweeting about immigrants and refugees from around the world, what was directed at me was about being a Jew. Maybe because my twitter handle is @RabbiJill. Maybe because Donald Trump’s candidacy has emboldened a sick undercurrent of hatred to emerge.

In my entire life, I have never experienced this volume of anti-Semitism. I grew up in a predominantly Jewish suburb of Chicago. However, as an adult, we lived in places where we were the only Jews on the block.

At first, I literally felt sick to my stomach. 

And then, I got angry.

These people, who don’t even know me, wanted to silence me.

And it’s not going to happen.

My husband and family were concerned. My grown kids checked my privacy settings to be sure our home address or phone numbers were not public. A few of the messages were absolutely threatening (like the one where someone took my profile photo and superimposed “Jewish Propaganda” on it.)

After some research, I had a plan. I took screenshots of each tweet. I blocked people and I reported many to Twitter. If a tweet is offensive or harmful, you can ask Twitter to investigate. If the user is found to be violating Twitter decency rules,  the account can be closed. 

I reported more than 60 people. I haven’t heard a word from Twitter (yet.) Its employees might be busy. There is an uptick in the amount of hate speech being reported. I’m not alone.

Some friends advised me to ignore the tweets and to not give them any attention.

I don’t agree. 

I believe it is our duty to expose this hate.

People need to know that Donald Trump’s candidacy has made it legitimate to spew this vileness. He has made it acceptable to be “politically incorrect.” The dike has broken and it’s ugly. Better that it be out in the open.

We say in Jewish circles, “Never again.” 

It’s not only “never again” for the slaughter of millions.

It is also “never again” to let this kind of hate spill over without comment.

Here are a few other gleanings from this experience: 1) Facebook is a love-fest compared with Twitter. When I posted about this situation on Facebook, I received so much loving support it made me cry (with gratitude).

I’m not quitting Twitter. I have made friends — Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists from all over the world. Good, kind, funny people. I’m not going to be chased away from relationships that give me hope and make me laugh. I also learn things on Twitter that I don’t elsewhere. Why let them win?

Except for Native Americans, we are all immigrants. The prosperity we enjoy in this country is only possible because our ancestors were able to come here and thrive.

When I see the pictures of the children of Aleppo, Syria, and other refugees wandering, looking for a safe place, my heart opens. It is my deep belief that we are better because of our diversity.

Our job on planet Earth is to build bridges, not walls. The country that I want to be in, is one that welcomes all, and where love is stronger than fear.


Rabbi Jill Zimmerman founded the Jewish Mindfulness Network (JMN). She was rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, Temple Beth El in Riverside and Etz Rimon in Carlsbad. In Jerusalem, she worked at the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Her website is ravjill.com.

Why are some of Donald Trump’s ‘worst’ tweets sent on Jewish holidays?


After the shooting death of Dwyane Wade’s cousin in August, Donald Trump tweeted, “Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!”

The previous month, he posted to Twitter a six-pointed star containing the words “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever” stamped on an image of Hillary Clinton and hundred-dollar bills.

A few weeks before that, the Republican presidential nominee responded to the Orlando nightclub massacre with a tweet saying, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.”

These tweets have more in common than just being ill-advised. They were also all blasted into the public discourse on Jewish holidays: Shabbat, Shabbat and Shavuot, respectively. And they suggest to at least one friend of Trump’s family that when the Republican candidate’s Orthodox Jewish daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are off observing the holy days, Trump loses two of his most important filters.

In her profile of Ivanka Trump published Wednesday in the Huffington Post Highline magazine, Hannah Seligson credits the theory to an anonymous friend of the would-be first daughter and her husband. (Seligson’s list also includes the example of a Shabbat tweet of an image of Donald Trump as a train, a meme “tangentially” associated with the white supremacist alt-right movement.)

According to Seligson, the friend’s observation was that “some of Donald’s worst tweets of the campaign” came on Jewish holidays when Ivanka Trump and Kushner were “off the grid.” The couple observes the rabbinic laws that proscribe work or the use of electronic devices, among other things, on Shabbat, Shavuot and other holidays.

“It could be a big problem if the people who make our president not crazy aren’t available one day a week,” the friend told Seligson.

Of course, Trump has sparked outrage on days with no special Jewish significance. This summer alone, he has said gun rights supporters could take action if Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, is elected; called President Barack Obama the “founder of ISIS”; suggested the mother of a Muslim-American soldier killed in action was not  “allowed” to speak at the Democratic National Convention, and accused a “Mexican” federal judge of being biased by his background.

Amid public outcry, Trump went on to tweet about all these subjects, in some cases repeatedly. But the controversies didn’t start on Twitter.

If the theory about Jewish holidays is true, then, Ivanka Trump and her husband are most effective at reining in Donald Trump specifically before he gets himself into Twitter trouble. Ivanka Trump “is extremely scared of her father, like everyone else,” an anonymous Trump adviser tells Seligson. “She knows you can’t push him. She knows once he goes off on these things, he won’t back down.”

Kushner, a real estate tycoon in his own right, is “deferential” to Donald Trump too, according to Seligson.

Trump is a prolific tweeter, lobbing thousands of insults at at least 258 different targets on the social network, according to The New York Times’s politics blog, The Upshot.

And tweets he made before the campaign — before, one supposes, Ivanka Trump and Kushner would have started weighing in — have since come back to haunt him.

As Clinton pointed out in her July foreign policy speech cum Trump takedown, her rival tweeted in 2012 that the Chinese invented global warming.

In April 2013, Trump criticized Jon Stewart in a tweet, referring to “The Daily Show”  host by his given name, Jonathan Leibowitz. Many observers took that as an anti-Semitic put-down.

And on Wednesday night, Trump was on the defensive during a candidates forum over a tweet he posted in May 2013, suggesting that military rape is the inevitable consequence of putting “men & women together.”

For what’s its worth, all three tweets went out on a weekday.

Bianca Jagger apologizes for tweeting link to neo-Nazi website


Bianca Jagger, a human rights activist and ex-wife of Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger, apologized for tweeting a link to a neo-Nazi website and later said she was “mortified.”

Jagger tweeted the link, which includes a list of British lawmakers who voted for the Iraq War, early Tuesday to her 54,000 followers. The tweet said “List of UK #MPs who voted for #IraqWar – Please read it carefully, understand why they want @jeremycorbyn out.”

The list was on the Metapedia website, which was founded by a Swedish neo-Nazi in 2006 and describes itself as an “alternative encyclopaedia.”

 

In addition to saying how each lawmaker voted, the list includes a notes section in which they are each identified by descriptions such as “Jewess,” “Connected to Labour Friends of Israel,” “married to Jew,” “openly homosexual,” “Negro” or “Negress.”

Jagger tweeted an apology two hours later after her first post, which had been set to automatically retweet.

“I’m terribly sorry for posting a despicable tweet by mistake, I posted it at 4.15 in the morning and didn’t properly read its content,” the tweet said.

Jagger, 71, runs the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation and also serves as a Council of Europe goodwill ambassador.

She followed that tweet with one saying “I’m mortified, I thought it was a list of members of Parliament who voted against the war in Iraq. You all know I am against racism, bigotry.”

Despite the apologies and deletion of the original tweet, followers continued to berate Jagger.

Trump defends Star of David tweet: ‘Just a star’


Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his controversial “Star of David” tweet, insisting the “sick” media stirred it up to cover up for Hillary Clinton’s FBI interview on Saturday. 

“It was a star. A star. Like, a star,” Trump said during a campaign rally in Cincinnati, Ohio on Wednesday. “It’s a star! Have you all seen this? It’s a star. My boy comes home from school, Baron, he draws stars all over the place, I never said, ‘Oh, that’s the Star of David, Baron, don’t!’ And it actually looks like a sheriff’s star, but I don’t know.”

In a lengthy rant, Trump blamed the media of “racially profiling.” 

“Behind it, it had money. ‘Oh but there’s money behind it,’” Trump said, imitating what he said was a report on CNN. “So actually, they’re racially profiling. They’re profiling, not us, because why are they bringing this up?”

“To me it was just a star,” Trump continued. “But when I really looked at it, it looked like a sheriff star.” 

Trump went on to defend his social media director, Dan Scavino, and pointed to his daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner and their three children to prove he’s not anti-Jewish. “Dan is a really wonderful guy. I didn’t get angry at him,” he said. “I said, ‘Dan, that’s a star! Don’t worry about it.’” 

On Tuesday, ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt 

Sarah Silverman target of anti-Semitic rant by ex-reality TV star Tila Tequila


Former reality TV star Tila Tequila accused Sarah Silverman and the Jews of killing Jesus before saying the comedian was next on a “celebrity sacrifice” list.

Tequila, born Tila Nguyen, was responding on Monday to a fan’s suggestion that a Donald Trump presidency would bring Jesus back to life.

“Jesus will come back too just don’t tell the Jews about it,” Twitter user Kaiser Poopfist I tweeted at Tequila.

The former “A Shot at Love” star wrote back that Silverman and the Jews should be informed.

The triple parentheses around “(((People)))” is known as the echo symbol, which is used by white supremacists and anti-Semites to identify Jews online. It was added to the Anti-Defamation League’s hate symbols database earlier this month after it appeared in a publicized anti-Semitic attack on Jewish New York Times editor Jonathan Weisman.

Silverman responded to Tequila’s attack in comedic fashion on Twitter.

As Raw Story reported, Tequila continued her rant by saying she would take vengeance on Silverman.

This is not the first time Tequila has expressed anti-Semitic views. In April, she claimed that she was the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler. Last year she was kicked off of the show “Celebrity Big Brother” for wearing a Nazi uniform.

NY Times editor leaves Twitter over anti-Semitic tweets


A New York Times editor has left Twitter after receiving a large number of anti-Semitic tweets.

Jonathan Weisman, deputy Washington editor of the newspaper, announced in a tweet Wednesday that he “will be moving to Facebook where at least people need to use their real names and can’t hide behind fakery to spread their hate.”

Weisman was sent tweets calling him a “kike” and threatening to put him “in the oven,” and asked Twitter to suspend the users. In response, the company said the examples did not violate its rules and the users would not be suspended, Weisman tweeted. By late Wednesday morning, however, two of the users were suspended.

Weisman has more than 34,000 Twitter followers. More than 2,800 people were following him on Facebook as of Thursday afternoon.

Last month, Weisman wrote in the Times about Twitter attacks from supporters of presumed GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

He recently put his name in triple parentheses known as the echo symbol, used by white supremacists and anti-Semites to identify Jews on Twitter.

Over the past several weeks, the echo has been used as part of a pattern of harassment against a group of journalists including Weisman, Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, Julia Ioffe of GQ, Bethany Mandel of the New York Post and Ben Shapiro of The Daily Wire.

“I will leave @twitter to the racists, the anti-Semites, the Bernie Bros who attacked women reporters yesterday. Maybe Twitter will rethink,” Weisman tweeted before signing off.

Donald Trump’s anti-Semitic troll army


At least in my world, it seemed the hackneyed Jewish conspiracy theories of yesteryear had finally died an undignified and well-deserved death.

That was, until I found my Twitter feed full of them last week.

It started with Donald Trump. Last week’s Jewish Journal included an article I wrote about a resurgence of anti-Semitism, mostly online, linked to pro-Trump activism and the so-called Alternative Right, or alt-right movement, a loosely defined set of far-right and ultra-nationalist ideologues.

The article was posted online on June 2 at 11:17 a.m. At 1:22 p.m., a Twitter user who goes by The Current Year tweeted at me in response to the question posed in the headline: Will Donald Trump Make America Hate Again? 

“(((@Eitan_Arom))) Yes. Nothing wrong w/ whites advocating for their own interests. #AltRight”

The triple parentheses — (((@Eitan_Arom))) — is the newest inside joke of the alt-right. The idea is that Jewish names echo through history — the parentheses are styled as “echoes” — since Jews are, as per the oldest motif in the racist’s handbook, the puppet-masters of the banks, the media, the government, etc.

So when The Current Year put my name in echoes, he was saying, in effect, “Hey, look at this uppity Jew; let’s troll him,” and the response was predictable.

The several dozen tweets that followed ran the gamut from the tired to the bizarre, but their basic premise is that Jews control the media, Jews control the government, Jews invented the Holocaust, Jews, Jews, Jews.

Perhaps the only new feature of anti-Semitism in the internet age is its application to today’s news cycle — members of the alt-right connect Jews with what they see as a globalist agenda of open borders and free trade.

“Did you really think your ppl could advocate open borders everywhere but israel and noone would notice?” Spencer asked me via Twitter.

It is the Jews, in the alt-right imagination, who are the cause of white marginalization.

As Twitter user Julius Ebola wrote me, “Pretty sure America has been hating whites for decades thanks your (((media))) and (((academia)))”

Based on my feed, the alt-right is not all, as Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos, writing in Breitbart News called them recently, a “fearsomely intelligent group of thinkers.”

Instead, I encountered a battalion of armchair theorists struggling painfully to summon up “white” as a nationality, even a cultural identity, and filling it with bigotry and hate.

With death rates and substance abuse on the rise in white America, it’s clear that hurt and loss are part of what has pushed people online in search of community. Too often, they have encountered instead a hateful parody of one.

For our idiosyncratic ways, Jews are now, as we have long been, an easy target. So what to do with the haters and their new vogue?

Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic last week offered an answer by encasing his own username on Twitter in a set of echoes, inspiring a number of others, including the Jewish Journal, to do the same.

“Thanks to everyone participating in this act of (((cultural appropriation))),” he tweeted on June 3. “Since the culture in question is Nazi, it’s permissible.”

For some on the alt-right, the sudden proliferation of Jewish Twitter users “echoing” their own names was proof in the pudding.

In the words of The Emboldening, a Twitter user whose avatar riffs on the Nazi storm trooper insignia: “The sheer volume of handles in parentheses proves the point: Jews are wildly over represented everywhere.”

The path that Goldberg set out is, of course, fraught.

When we roll around with trolls, don’t we dirty ourselves, and on top of it give them the fight they’re spoiling for?

Perhaps reversing their game runs the risk of emboldening them. But they are already pretty bold.

The haters seem to be multiplying.

Sure enough, their numbers have swelled to a disproportionate bloat on the internet, thanks to bored teenagers exploring a moral-free space, alongside the true, dyed-in-the-wool anti-Semites. But the web provides a mask for racists no less effective than a Ku Klux Klan hood.

Not only is the mongering of Jewish conspiracies alive, it has a new home and an online vernacular retrofitted to an old hatred.

The emboldening is underway, folks. Can’t say you weren’t warned.


Eitan Arom is a staff writer at the Jewish Journal. He can be reached at eitana@jewishjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Eitan_Arom.

Hackers hit two Mark Zuckerberg social media accounts


Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had some of his social media accounts hacked.

Zuckerberg’s Twitter and Pinterest accounts were hacked Sunday by a hacker group called OurMine, according to reports.

The group reportedly discovered Zuckerberg’s password during a breach in the LinkedIn database. His password reportedly was not very strong – the hackers said it was “dadada” — and was used on multiple accounts, which are cardinal social media sins. He also reportedly had not used those accounts very often.

The hackers tweeted from Zuckerberg’s Twitter account and changed the title of his Pinterest page. Both accounts later were returned to Zuckerberg and the posts were deleted.

Hackers also claim they have accessed Zuckerberg’s Instagram account, a Facebook-owned application on which Zuckerberg is active.

Jewish groups welcome Facebook, Twitter pledge to crack down on hate speech


Jewish groups welcomed a pledge by four internet giants to crack down on online hate speech, though some questioned the firms’ commitment to act.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft on Tuesday signed a code of conduct with the European Commission that requires them to delete the majority of reported illegal hate speech within 24 hours, The Telegraph reported.

The European Jewish Congress offered an “enthusiastic welcome” to code of conduct” in a statement Tuesday. The World Jewish Congress reacted more coolly in a statement the same day, voicing “skepticism about the commitment of these firms to effectively police their respective platforms.”

YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and others “already have clear guidelines in place aimed at preventing the spread of offensive content, yet they have so far utterly failed to properly implement their own rules,” the CEO of the World Jewish Congress, Robert Singer said in the statement.

“Tens of thousands of despicable video clips continue to be made available although their existence has been reported to YouTube and despite the fact that they are in clear violation of the platform’s own guidelines prohibiting racist hate speech … Nonetheless, YouTube gives the impression that it has been cracking down on such content. Alas, the reality is that so far it hasn’t.”

Last week, France’s Union of Jewish Students, or UEJF, and the anti-racist organization SOS Racisme sued Twitter, YouTube and Facebook for failing to remove anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic content, Le Parisien reported.

The two groups, together with SOS Homophobie, said that on March 31 and May 10, they found 586 examples of such content. Only 4 percent of the content was deleted by Twitter, 7 percent by YouTube and 34 percent by Facebook, the groups said.

In 2013, the Paris Court of Appeals issued a landmark ruling forcing Twitter to block the hashtag #UnBonJuif — which means “a good Jew” — and to remove the thousands of associated anti-Semitic tweets that violated France’s law against hate speech.

The ruling was a turning point in the fight against online hate speech in France and beyond because it caused Twitter to abandon its previous policy of applying as little censorship as is permissible in the United States, where Twitter’s head office is based and where there are fewer limitations on free speech than in many countries in Europe.

YouTube has since permanently banned videos posted by Dieudonne, a French comedian with 10 convictions for inciting racial hatred against Jews.

In 2014, Facebook removed the page of Soral, the Holocaust denier, for “repeatedly posting things that don’t comply with the Facebook terms,” according to the company. Soral’s page had drawn many complaints in previous years.

Despite complaints of partial compliance on hate speech removal by the internet giants, European Jewish Congress Moshe Kantor, celebrated the accord Tuesday as “a historic agreement that could not arrive at a better time.” It is “very important” that governments and online companies “work in tandem to make the internet a safer space for all,” he said.

The President of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, was also optimistic, saying in a statement that “Internet hate leads to a culture of fear. We hope that today’s announcement will be the first step in combatting that culture.”

France’s Jewish student union joins hate-speech suit against Facebook, Twitter and YouTube


France’s Union of Jewish Students has joined two other French groups in suing Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for failing to remove anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic content.

SOS Racisme, France’s largest anti-racism group, and SOS Homophobie, a gay rights movement, announced Sunday in a statement that they were taking legal action against the three social media platforms, according to reports.

In a social media survey from March 31 to May 10, the groups said they found on those sites “586 examples of content that is racist, anti-Semitic or homophobic, denies the Holocaust or seeks to justify terrorism or crimes against humanity.”

Denying the Holocaust, justifying terrorism, and propagating racist, anti-Semitic or homophobic messages are illegal in France.

The survey found Twitter removed eight of the 205 “hate messages” flagged to administrators and YouTube took down 16 of 225 items, while Facebook removed 53 of 156 messages identified to the site by the groups, according to The Telegraph.

“In light of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook’s profits and how little taxes they pay, their refusal to invest in the fight against hate is unacceptable,” UEJF President Sacha Reingewirtz wrote in a blog post.

Twitter praised for cracking down on use by Islamic State


Officials with the nonprofit Simon Wiesenthal Center praised Twitter Inc on Monday for increasing efforts to thwart Islamic State's use of its platform for recruitment and propaganda.

The center's Digital Terrorism and Hate Project gave Twitter a grade of “B” in a report card of social networking companies' efforts to fight online activity by militant groups such as ISIS.

“We think they are definitely heading in the right direction,” the project's director, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, told Reuters in a telephone interview ahead of Monday's release of the report card at a press conference in New York.

He said the review was based on steps that Twitter has already taken and information that center staff learned in face-to-face meetings with company representatives.

Islamic State has long relied on Twitter to recruit and radicalize new adherents. The Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization, has been one of toughest critics of the Twitter's strategy for combating those efforts.

Some vocal Twitter critics have tempered their views since December, when the site revised its community policing policies, clearly stating that it banned “hateful conduct” that promotes violence against specific groups and would delete offending accounts.

Researchers with George Washington University’s Program on Extremism last month reported that Islamic State's English-language reach on Twitter stalled last year amid a stepped-up crackdown by the company against the extremist group's army of digital proselytizers.

The center gave Twitter grade of “C” in a report card last year, which covered efforts to fight terrorism along with hate speech. This year it gave two grades, awarding Twitter a “D” on hate speech, saying the company needed to do more to censor the accounts of groups that promote hate.

A Twitter spokesman declined comment, but pointed to a statement on the company's blog posted Feb. 5 on combating violent extremism.

“We condemn the use of Twitter to promote terrorism and the Twitter Rules make it clear that this type of behavior, or any violent threat, is not permitted on our service,” Twitter said in the blog.

Among other major Internet firms included in this year's survey, Facebook Inc got an “A-” for terrorism and a “B-” for hate. Alphabet Inc's  YouTube got a “B-” for terrorism and a “D” for hate.

Amy Schumer Twitter joke insults Jews, Gossip Cop says


Jewish comic Amy Schumer tweeted a Jewish joke criticized as “offensive and wrong” by the Gossip Cop website.

In a Twitter post Wednesday, the comedienne and actress made public a photo of herself standing between a clarinetist and a saxophonist, each holding his instrument. Her caption read “A Jew with horns.” She later amended the phrase to “I meant to say a Jew with 2 horns.

Gossip Cop, which says it polices Hollywood and celebrity news to separate what’s real from rumor, slammed the tweet.

“While comedy can provoke discussion, it’s purpose is not to perpetuate hateful and inaccurate stereotypes. And Schumer’s Twitter message, which plays off the misconception that Jews are horned creatures, accomplishes less comically than it does to reignite misguided prejudice,” the site’s commentary read.

“Undoubtedly, Schumer will justify her mildly amusing ‘joke’ by noting that she herself was raised Jewish and can poke fun at herself, as she often does with her comedy. But does that make it okay for her to spread untrue and hurtful stereotypes about Jews? Would jokes by a popular black or Latino comedian be considered funny if he or she tweeted to their millions of followers a wholly and historically painful stereotype about their people for non-minorities to laugh at?”

Gossip Cop staff called on Schumer to “grab her tweet by the horns and apologize for perpetuating this slanderous depiction of Jews for a mere half-laugh.”

 
 

In response to Jeb Bush gun tweet, NY mayor posts Jewish deli sandwich


New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to Jeb Bush’s controversial gun tweet by posting a photograph of a Jewish deli sandwich with the caption “America.”

Bush on Tuesday tweeted a photo of a handgun engraved with the words “Gov. Jeb Bush.” Like De Blasio’s tweet Wednesday, Bush’s was captioned “America.” The tweets highlight the two politicians’ very different views of their country.

Bush, a former Florida governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, was widely mocked online for the tweet, and The New York Daily News called him “Dolt .45” on its cover Wednesday morning.

De Blasio’s contribution was conceived by his spokesman, Peter Kadushin, after the mayor attended an event celebrating the reopening of Carnegie Deli, according to The New York Times. The famed Jewish deli had been closed from last June until earlier this month after its owner, Marian Levine, was fined for stealing gas for cooking and heating for over six years.

“The mayor and I talked, and agreed that America could use more pastrami sandwiches and less firearms,” Kadushin told The Times. The tweet was liked nearly 1,300 times and generally well received.

A New York Health Department spokesman cautioned in jest that the sandwich’s high sodium content makes it something to be eaten “in moderation.”

De Blasio’s jab came in the wake of the recent discussion about “New York values” — a phrase used by GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to criticize his opponent Donald Trump at a debate last month. Some saw Cruz’s remark as coded anti-Semitism.

Twitter suspends over 125,000 accounts for ‘promoting terrorist acts’


Twitter has shut down more than 125,000 terrorism-related accounts since the middle of 2015, most of them linked to the Islamic State group, the company said in a blog post on Friday.

Twitter has said it only takes down accounts when they are reported by other users, but said that it has increased the size of teams monitoring and responding to reports and has decreased its response time “significantly.”

When accounts are reported, Twitter said it looks at ones that are similar and uses spam-fighting tools to identify other violent accounts, which it said has resulted in more suspensions.

The announcement was especially notable because Twitter has said little about its efforts to combat Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and similar groups even though it has been criticized for not doing enough to stop Islamist militants and their supporters from using the service.

Islamic State, which controls large areas in Syria and Iraq, has heavily relied on the 300 million-person site, as well as others, to recruit fighters and propagate violent messages and videos.

Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University's program on extremism and a co-author of a report “ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa,” said Friday's report showcased an “impressive number” of takedowns, but he cautioned that Twitter still appears to police extremist content in a mostly “episodic” way.

The U.S. government has pressured technology companies to cooperate and help them identify terror-related accounts, though Silicon Valley has been wary of engaging with government officials.

In January, a high-profile delegation of top national security officials met tech industry leaders from Twitter, Facebook Inc, Apple Inc, and Google parent Alphabet Inc, but most companies, including Twitter, did not send their chief executive officers.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, called Twitter's announcement a “very positive development,” but said more was needed.

“Addressing the use of social media by terrorists will require a sustained and cooperative effort between the technology sector, the Intelligence Community, and law enforcement,” he said.

Still, Twitter said in a blog post that it has cooperated with law enforcement when appropriate.

“There is no 'magic algorithm' for identifying terrorist content on the internet,” Twitter added in its blog post.

It said that it tries to strike a balance between enforcing its rules on prohibited behaviors, the needs of law enforcement and the desire by users to share their views – including offensive ones. 

Among White House hopefuls, Trump least likely to hit ‘follow’ button on Twitter


The millions of Twitter users following Donald Trump shouldn't expect a “follow back” from the Republican presidential front-runner anytime soon. 

Trump's campaign account @realDonaldTrump has nearly 6 million Twitter followers, the most of any candidate running for president. But he is picky about who he follows, with just 49 accounts listed as of Friday. That means he has the highest ratio of followers to those he is following, in both the Republican and Democratic fields. 

In contrast, Ted Cruz, the U.S. senator from Texas who has emerged as Trump's strongest rival, follows nearly 14,000 accounts on Twitter and has 755,000 followers, according to his profile as of Friday.

The exclusivity underscores how Trump primarily uses Twitter to broadcast his message as opposed to engaging in a back and forth with users, experts in digital strategy said. While other campaigns use a similar approach, Trump commands the most attention on social media.

Trump's pickiness may indicate a surprising strategy for the freewheeling Republican front-runner: Playing it safe when it comes to pledging his Twitter allegiance with a “follow.” 

Candidates can't pick and choose their followers, but they have control over when to click the follow button.

“There is more risk in who you follow,” said Scott Talan, a communications professor at American University who teaches social media strategy. “If you’re actively following someone, you’re assuming it's not going to be some religious extremist … or a prisoner with a record.”

And, while some Republican candidates follow each other, Trump follows none of them. 

The accounts Trump monitors include those of his children and several hotel properties. Also on the eclectic list are musician Steven Tyler, basketball great Magic Johnson, Vince McMahon, chairman and CEO of WWE Inc, and sisters Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson, former Democrats who now stump for Trump and tweet under the handle @DiamondandSilk.

Despite Trump's highly public battle with Fox News over anchor Megyn Kelly's role as a moderator in last week's Republican debate, Fox shows or news personalities such as Sean Hannity account for better than 10 percent of the handles he follows. Kelly, not surprisingly, did not make the list, but the Fox handles still add up to a larger bloc than any outside of Trump's family or business.

Hannity and other Fox presenters are also widely followed by Trump's rivals for the GOP presidential nomination.

Trump's cautious approach to who he follows hasn't put a damper on his social activity. His account shows more than 30,000 tweets, the highest of any account reviewed by Reuters. 

It also hasn't stopped Trump from committing blunders with his retweets, like the one from an account called @WhiteGenocideTM, which gave its location as “Jewmerica” and featured an image that referenced George Lincoln Rockwell, a prominent figure in the neo-Nazi movement in the United States.

“A LOOSE CANNON”

Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, said that Trump operates his own Twitter account. “Everything you see on there is pretty much directly from him,” she said. “The strategy behind it is to tell the truth and to call it like he sees it.”

On Twitter, Trump goes where his opponents fear to tread. He uses it to launch unfiltered personal attacks on those who cross paths with him. For example, he did not shy from retweeting a post that included photographs of a skimpily dressed Kelly from a magazine shoot and the comment, “And this is the bimbo that's asking presidential questions?”

“He is definitely a loose cannon in terms of how he uses his Twitter account,” said Micah Sifry, co-founder of Personal Democracy Media, an online forum on technology and politics. “At the same time, he hasn’t been hurt by it yet because apparently a big chunk of what he’s saying is popular among Republican voters.” 

Trump is aware of his social media success. Following the seventh Republican presidential debate on Thursday, he tweeted Twitter data showing that he commanded the most traffic during the event. “Great Twitter poll-and I wasn't even there,” he said.

Twitter matters to campaigns – it is an increasingly important way for candidates to reach their most ardent supporters. 

But talking about the issues on Twitter may not always be the most effective means of engaging supporters. A recent Trump tweet wishing retired golfer Jack Nicklaus happy birthday received more than four thousand “likes”, roughly twice as many as Clinton’s policy-related tweets on the same day.

Trump retweets ‘White Genocide’ account, drawing outrage


Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump retweeted an account called “@WhiteGenocideTM” on Friday, prompting a backlash on social media over the real estate billionaire's sharing of an apparent neo-Nazi's depiction of rival candidate Jeb Bush.

Trump, who is campaigning for the first contests on Feb. 1 in Iowa and Feb. 9 in New Hampshire, is known for attacking other candidates competing for the party's nomination to run for the White House in November's general election.

Trump retweeted Donald Trumpovitz, who uses the handle “@WhiteGenocideTM,” gives the location of the account as “Jewmerica” and features an image that references George Lincoln Rockwell, a prominent figure in the neo-Nazi movement in the United States.

The tweet read, “@realDonaldTrump Poor Jeb. I could've sworn I saw him outside Trump Tower the other day!” and included a photoshopped image of Bush holding a “Vote Trump” sign. 

Tim Miller, communications director for Bush, tweeted in response on @Timodc: “The Godwin's Double: Trump's anti-Jeb retweets now include one from a Nazi's account and another calling Jeb a Nazi.”

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

In November, Trump retweeted and then deleted a collage attacking former Florida governor Bush that featured a swastika.

Some on Twitter were appalled and perplexed by Friday's retweet by Trump, who has not sought the backing of white supremacist groups but several say his success has helped them win new supporters.

Kris Hammond (@KrisHammond), who identifies himself as a civil rights attorney on Twitter, said: “#Trump retweets account with the words “white genocide” in the handle. Plays to #whitenationalism base.”

Natalie Borden (@Natalie_Borden) tweeted: “Guy, who likely will be a POTUS, retweeting a Twitter user named “White Genocide” who says he lives in “Jewmerica.” What a day…”

A week ago, a white supremacist group said it had placed thousands of automated phone calls in Iowa urging voters to support Trump's bid for the Republican nomination because “we don't need Muslims.”

The telephone campaign is led by the American Freedom Party, which on its website says it “shares the customs and heritage of the European American people.”

Illinois university settles with professor who criticized Israel


The University of Illinois said on Thursday that it would pay $875,000 to settle a lawsuit by a professor who lost out on a tenured position after he made Twitter postings critical of Israel.

Steven Salaita, 40, had sued the university for violation of his rights to free speech, saying that donors had pressured trustees to withdraw their offer due to public criticisms he made about Israeli military strikes in Gaza.

The settlement includes $275,000 for Salaita's attorneys. Salaita will not be hired by the university, which does not admit to any wrongdoing, according to a university statement. The settlement will be covered by the university's self-insurance and institutional funds.

“Although the amount is significant, it is less than what we would spend if the case were to continue and proceed to trial over the next year,” said Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson, in the statement.

The flagship state school, based in Urbana-Champaign in central Illinois, has already spent $1.3 million litigating the case, said spokesman Tom Hardy.

Salaita left a tenured position at Virginia Tech to take the job in Illinois and the withdrawal of the offer harmed his reputation and caused him economic hardship, according to his federal lawsuit, filed in January.

The suit sought both money and reinstatement to his position as an indigenous studies professor in the American Indian Studies program.

The university said examples of messages posted by Salaita included, “Zionist uplift in America: every little Jewish boy and girl can grow up to be the leader of a monstrous colonial regime.”

Salaita, who is married with a young son, said in his complaint that he is not anti-Semitic but “felt an obligation to speak out” after news reports of military action in Gaza. 

The messages Salaita posted showed he “lacks the judgment, temperament and thoughtfulness to serve as a member of our faculty in any capacity” the university said in response to Salaita's suit.

Salaita currently has a one-year post at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.

San Diego police surround ‘contained’ gunman, flights affected


San Diego police SWAT team members surrounded an apartment on Wednesday where they said a man armed with a high-powered rifle was “contained” after shooting at officers responding to a domestic incident, police and local media said.

San Diego International Airport nearby put a hold on all arriving flights while the situation unfolded at a home in the Bankers Hill neighborhood, directly east of its runways.

There were no immediate reports of any injuries.

“We have him contained … The officers were able to safely retreat and set up a perimeter around the apartment,” San Diego Police Department spokesman Lieutenant Scott Wahl told reporters at the scene in footage broadcast by CNN.

Local residents were asked not to leave their homes, police said, and two schools in the area were placed on lockdown as a precautionary measure.

Police said officers were fired upon as they responded to a report of a domestic violence disturbance shortly after 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The gunman fired sporadically thereafter, they said.

Local media at the scene said officers were later trying to use teargas to flush out the suspect.

The San Diego Union Tribune newspaper quoted an airport official as saying that arriving flights had been affected because they have to pass over the apartment complex in question in order to land. Departing flights take off in the opposite direction, the official said, and so were unaffected.

Haaretz Twitter feed hacked by pro-Palestinian activists


Pro-Palestinian hackers commandeered the Twitter feed of the Hebrew-language Haaretz news website, leaving anti-Israel tweets for more than an hour.

Among the tweets posted on Tuesday afternoon were: “The Holocaust of the Balfour Declaration will continue the knife intifada”;  “The mothers of our martyrs will drink the blood of your soldiers and settlers,” and “The memory of the Balfour Declaration has changed the situation, wait for the massacre that will be arriving soon.”

The posts, including photos of Israeli leaders covered in blood, came a day after the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which has been credited with helping pave the way for the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Haaretz, whose editorial position supports Palestinian aspirations for a state, thanked Twitter in a tweet for helping to resolve the situation so quickly.

Twitter replaces stars with hearts, but gets no love from users


Twitter Inc has replaced its star-shaped “favorite” icon with a heart-shaped icon called “like.”

“You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite,” Twitter said in a blog post on Tuesday.

“We know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers.”

The ‘Tweetifada’ hits Facebook with graphic videos of violence


This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

Facebook feeds of Israelis and Palestinians are being swamped with videos claiming to offer the “truth” of the series of Palestinian stabbing attacks on Israelis that have left seven Israelis and 32 Palestinians dead this month.

On social media some are calling it a “tweetifada.” This is a play on the Palestinian term for uprising, Intifada, and a nod to the videos and images that are being posted on social media on an hourly basis. During the Second Intifada, between 2000 and 2005, the internet was just emerging as a medium and a smartphone was unheard of. But today everything is recorded and uploaded quickly to the internet.

“There are videos circulating in two different networks…both sides in the conflict and their supporters… are distributing videos that they think make their case stronger,” Nicholas John, from the department of Communications at Hebrew University, told The Media Line. This is not a new field in the decades long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but what is different is the instantaneous speed with which images can spread.

The second change is the unfiltered images swamping social media.

“(This) completely bypasses any kind of censorship… we are exposed now to far more gruesome images than we would have seen on the news,” John suggested. This reduces the distance people feel from the violence, making it seem more real and intimidating, he said. Such was the case with the video below.

13th October Vehicle Attack in Jerusalem

The feelings of young Palestinians viewing images and videos online, “range from pride to fear to excitement to a feeling of abandonment,” Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist and columnist for Al-Monitor, told The Media Line. Three quarters of Palestinians are under the age of 29, and many are active on Facebook.

Videos being shared among Palestinian social media users tend to fall into three areas, Kuttab suggested. Those showing clashes between protestors and Israeli security forces; those showing alleged brutality by the Israeli military; and those demonstrating what Palestinians see as peaceful resistance by an underdog towards heavily armed Israeli soldiers. Of the most popular recent videos, Kuttab said, shows an elderly Palestinian man in a red headscarf scolding soldiers in Hebron for firing their weapons at Palestinian children. These videos show a “young person or a woman ignoring the fact that these men are very well armed and shouting at them – it gives people a sense of pride,” the journalist explained.

Inevitably, interpretations over what a video is showing and the context of the incident come down to the eye of the beholder. “We have this idea that a photograph (or video) should somehow tell us the truth of what actually happened but we know it hasn’t always,” John explained.

Shooting of Fadi Alon

The above video shows an incident where a 19 year-old Palestinian from Isawiya, Fadi Alon, was shot and killed by Israeli police on October 4. Two conflicting accounts of what happened immediately prior to the incident have immerged.

In the Israeli version, Alon stabbed and injured an Israeli and was neutralized by police in their efforts to end an ongoing terrorist attack.

In the Palestinian explanation, Alon scuffled with right-wing Jewish activists he encountered while they were marching in the street, shouting racist slogans. As the fight escalated police arrived and, urged on by the Jewish youths, shot the teenager while he posed no immediate threat to those around him.

Such differences of interpretations, and the narratives used to push them, make up a large part of the information being exchanged on networks like Facebook. People frequently view information that reinforces their existing political views.

Videos which clearly show Palestinians attacking Israeli civilians are shared less frequently on Palestinian social media networks, Kuttab suggested. When they are, an explanation is given for the action. “(The) narrative is described as attacks against settlers and soldiers, not against innocent civilians – “settler” is code word for justifiable resistance,” the journalist explained.

Israel conquered east Jerusalem in 1967 and immediately annexed it. Israelis see it as part of their capital; Palestinians as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Most of the 300,000 Palestinians who live in the city do not have citizenship, but their Jerusalem residency entitles them to Israeli health insurance and social security. Young Palestinians from east Jerusalem have been overwhelmingly responsible for the current wave of stabbings and shootings of Israeli Jews.

Some Palestinians view the stabbings as an understandable response to the ongoing violence of the Israeli “occupation”, Kuttab argued, asking, “Do people think these guys are heroes? Yes, they are heroes. We are an underdog population using low technology against an occupying power.”

Increasingly not just the opinions of the street but government narrative is also being pushed through videos and social media. The Israeli Government Press Office responded to allegations by Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas that Israel had “executed” a 13 year old Palestinian who stabbed two Israelis. Israel released a video showing a nurse feeding the youth jello in an Israeli hospital.

There are also the funny videos – often using black humor. Following a video showing an Israeli policewoman pointing her weapon at a Palestinian attacker in northern Israel while continuing to hold her ice cream in one hand, social media responded with the final video.

Ice Cream Satire

Snowden draws big crowd with Twitter debut


Edward Snowden has come in from the cold – on Twitter.

Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who leaked details about the U.S. government's massive surveillance programs, started a Twitter account on Tuesday from exile in Russia with a simple handle – @snowden.

He pulled in more than 171,000 followers in about an hour but was following only one other Twitter account: his former employer, the NSA.

Snowden's initial tweet was “Can you hear me now?” The message, a take-off on a cellphone provider television commercial, was retweeted 25,000 times in an hour. In his Twitter profile, Snowden described himself by saying, “I used to work for the government. Now I work for the public.”

He had a brief exchange of tweets with prominent astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson about the discovery of water on Mars and joked that his work for the Freedom of the Press Foundation keeps him busy, “but I still find time for cat pictures.”

Supporters see Snowden as a whistleblower who boldly exposed government excess but the U.S. government wants to try him for leaking intelligence information. Snowden left the United States in May 2013 and has been living in Russia since June of that year.