fbpx

Combatting Online Antisemitism

This is a transcript of a speech that was presented to the Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism at the U.S. Congress on September 16, 2022.
[additional-authors]
September 21, 2022
Photo courtesy Noa Tishby

This is a transcript of a speech that was presented to the Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism at the U.S. Congress on September 16, 2022.

Distinguished members, ladies and gentlemen:

Thank you for coming together from around the world to commit to this crucial cause.  

To fight online antisemitism successfully, we need to be honest about what it is we are fighting. 

One of the special aspects of antisemitism is that it is shapeshifting: it morphs, mutates and adapts. 

Today, in the halls of this great democracy, we need to be clear about the shape that the vast majority of online antisemitism has shifted into today … and that is the extreme and fanatical demonization of Israel.

Anti-Israel hatred is the oxygen that online antisemitism breathes. 

My activism started online, back in 2010, after the events of the flotilla to Gaza. That was the first time I saw the flood of lies, hatred and vitriol towards Israel. I saw that facts didn’t matter. I saw that every horrific allegation that used to be pinned on Jews was now being pinned on Israel. 

The two-thousand-year back catalogue of antisemitic tropes, stereotypes and accusations has been transferred from “the Jew” onto the Jewish State. 

Author Yossi Klein Halevi has identified it perfectly. Throughout history, he said, “The Jew” was always used in order to describe whatever it is that is most loathsome in a society at any given moment. In the early days of Christianity “The Jew” was the Christ killer, under Nazism “The Jew” was the ultimate race polluter, at the time of communism “The Jew” was the capitalist pig, or the communist, depending on who you’re asking.

“The Jew” was simply a cipher onto which the antisemite could project whatever it was that they considered to be the ultimate evil.

In today’s online world, “the Jew” has been replaced by Israel. Israel is now the canvas onto which people project their version of evil: Racist. Colonialist. White supremacist … however far removed those descriptions are from reality.

The old antisemitism had very little to do with how Jews really are. The new antisemitism has very little to do with what Israel really is.

But as long as the explicit target of hatred is “Israel” or “Zionists” rather than Jews, then on social media it gets a free pass.

In fact, better than a free pass: it gets a celebrity endorsement. 

Today’s online antisemitism gets spread by people who would claim that they “don’t have an antisemitic bone in their body.”

People like, for example, Bella Hadid. Ms Hadid is a smart, energetic, successful woman. And a fierce pro-Palestinian activist with millions of followers across social media. 

So when Bella Hadid posts herself chanting “from the river to the sea Palestine will be free” it has an impact. She is, in effect, to an audience of tens of millions, calling for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state. But no one is going to cancel Bella Hadid. No social media platform is going to suspend her. 

Israel is consistently attacked as the ultimate evil. And it isn’t only easy to recognize Nazis in jackboots saying so. It’s beautiful, kind-hearted celebrities in designer clothing. 

Vilifying Israel makes you one of the good guys. Never mind if it includes age-old antisemitic tropes. Never mind if the outcome of your position would be disempowered and dead Jews.

But here’s the real-world impact: In an online space in which Israel is the ultimate evil, then we must suspect all Jews as they might be evil too:

The Jewish student on a college campus who hasn’t sufficiently renounced Israel.

Jewish diners in a Los Angeles sushi bar on La Cienega Boulevard.

Orthodox Jews on the streets of New York.

Online hatred needs somewhere to go. And the result are Jewish students silenced as “Zionists,” and Jewish people attacked.

Recent research has found that between 73 and 84% of online antisemitism takes the form of anti-Israel hatred.

Accusations that Israel is a bloodthirsty, genocidal state that must be destroyed are not just wrong and misguided. They are the modern-day blood libel and we need to fight them accordingly.

Accusations that Israel is a bloodthirsty, genocidal state that must be destroyed are not just wrong and misguided. They are the modern-day blood libel and we need to fight them accordingly.

The numbers are not in our favor. There are less than 15 million Jews in the world. That number is dwarfed by the followings of social media influencers demonizing Israel for likes and shares. 

Social media platforms need to do the right thing.

I call on them to re-evaluate and update their hate speech definitions: to call denying the Jewish people’s right to self-determination what it is. To call portraying Israel as some kind of a mythical evil what it is. And that is modern antisemitism.  

We need a campaign of education and advocacy, so that social media influencers and the platforms that host them, understand what it is that they’re perpetuating. 

And you, as parliamentarians, have a responsibility as well. When debate on Israel flares up, and it will, you need to hold to account those who cross the line from legitimate criticism of Israeli policy to antisemitic demonization of the world’s only Jewish state. 

Calls to destroy Israel are not merely free speech – they are an incitement to violence against Jews worldwide.

Let us call it what it is: modern antisemitism; a 21st century blood libel.

And today let us commit to doing everything we can to fight it.   

Thank you.


Noa Tishby is an Israeli American producer, actress, activist and writer and the author of “Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth (Free Press).” She is Israel’s first Special Envoy for Combatting Antisemitism and Delegitimization.

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

Sacrifice Works Both Ways

If Israel is to recognize a Palestinian state, then the Palestinians should be obligated to recognize Israel – as a Jewish state.

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.