Laying the Groundwork For the Antisemitic Zeitgeist

Islamic terrorist groups have been using the internet as a weapon of war.
April 10, 2024
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Like most of us, I have found myself continually asking, “Hey, what about Hamas?” as I have watched the news coverage of the war in Gaza these last few months. Sometimes I’ve found myself speaking back to the television, which has caused some curious looks at the gym. It’s not just the media that has Hamas amnesia; it’s everywhere I turn. Even friends who never had an opinion about Israel have suddenly become quite vocal when it comes to their opinions—which often place the blame entirely on Israel—about the war.

I received some comfort when Secretary of State Tony Blinken said that it was striking to him that no countries were demanding that Hamas stop hiding behind their civilians, lay down their arms and release the hostages. Suddenly it hit me: “What about Hamas?” is a symptom of something much, much bigger and more dangerous. The question is how did we get here?  What factors went into creating the antisemitic tsunami that resulted in Hamas getting a global free pass after the most horrific massacre against the Jewish people since the Holocaust?

What has become clear is that the technology people use to learn about Aunt Betty’s gallbladder surgery, or to view their niece’s prom pictures, or to watch kitty cat videos is also being used as a weapon of war. Over the past 20 years, Islamic terrorist groups have been laying the groundwork for this fuse, and on October 7th they lighted the fuse. The aftermath, the antisemitic zeitgeist that followed, was planned with the same precision with which Patton executed the Battle of the Bulge. Empathy has been purposefully steered toward the perpetrators, by the perpetrators. If that’s not a winning war strategy, I don’t know what is.

Per esteemed author and Professor Gabriel Weimann at Haifa University, “The internet, the most contemporary of media has become the leading instrument of al-Qaeda’s communication, propaganda, recruitment, and networking.” The emphasis should be on the word “propaganda.”

In Weimann’s report for West Point Academy, al-Qaeda created their first website in the late 1990s. By 2008 they were operating 5,900 websites and growing exponentially every year. In addition to websites, their propaganda is strewn across numerous formats such as social media, chat rooms and blogs, etc.

There are variances among Islamic terrorist organizations. Hamas is considered nationalistic, which has caused some tension with al-Qaeda. Mary Habeck in her article on al-Qaeda and Hamas, writes, “A constant in al-Qaeda’s messages to Hamas is that the fight in Palestine is the business of the entire Islamic community, not the prerogative of one group, and that Hamas needs to carry out the jihad with all honest fighters (including al-Qaeda fighters). In short, Hamas, al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad all agree on the destruction of Israel; they just don’t agree on how best to accomplish it.

There is no one central figure in charge of the various Islamic terrorist factions, which means their propaganda is a free for all, which perhaps is a strategy of sorts. It’s also a form of psychological warfare. They spread an incredible amount of disinformation to drive a wedge between Jews and the State of Israel. This requires a fair amount of fabricating their own history (I could write a book on the co-opting of the word “Palestinian”).

They spread an incredible amount of disinformation to drive a wedge between Jews and the State of Israel.

Then there are hate-groups like the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement, which, while not a terrorist organization, pushes the false narrative that Israel is an apartheid state and urges people to boycott products and institutions from Israel. This group also has a strong online presence.

What is most startling is the drive to erase Jewish history completely by suggesting that Jews did not arrive in Israel until the 1940s. Sometimes it feels as if a whole generation woke up one morning thinking that Jews first arrived in Israel in 1948 and declared statehood out of nowhere.

A popular meme on social media during the Christmas holidays astutely pointed out that people were celebrating a Jew who they believe was born in Bethlehem over 2,500 years ago. How do anti-Israel protestors explain the discrepancy? Easy. The inherent quality of social media is to evoke emotion, not facts. They simply claimed Jesus was a Palestinian, even though such a designation did not exist in that era, and despite the fact that the Christian biblical account of Jesus refers to him as a Jew.

Lest anyone think I’m overstating a war being fought in plain sight, last November, 1,000 people were polled for the Daily Mail. It was revealed that 20% of the 18–29 year-olds had positive views of Osama Bin Laden. What was the major vehicle of the mistaken virtues of Osama Bin Laden, who orchestrated the biggest attack on American soil since World War II? TikTok. A portion of the Bin Laden letter went viral. By the time TikTok took it down, the damage was done.

In a huge show of bipartisanship, congress recently passed a bill to force the Chinese company ByteDance to sell TikTok or face a ban. The main impetus for the bill is for U.S. security reasons. TikTok responded by urging their 170 million users to protest the bill, resulting in one user threatening the life of North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis. The irony is that TikTok’s response has shown the government and the public exactly how a foreign entity attempts to sway opinion. The Senate is now considering holding a public hearing on the bill.

There is no regulatory commission, like the F.C.C. overseeing social media. Per a 1997 Nevada ruling, they’re not considered broadcasters. And yet a recent Pew survey states that more and more Americans are getting their news from, you guessed it, social media. Stay tuned as the most important ruling to date regarding how social media companies police themselves is coming down this summer from the Supreme Court.

Christine Shira Sheaks is a film producer and currently finishing her memoir, “A Wandering Shiksa.”

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