Even Lily Ebert, a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor who educates the world about the horrors of hate on social media, was overwhelmed on her TikTok account by the most disgusting messages, including countless posts that praised Hitler.
By Nitsana Darshan-Leitner
Over the course of 11 days in May, Hamas fired 4,360 rockets and missiles at the population centers of southern and central Israel, killing 13 people. Dozens more were wounded and Israel, of course, struck back – precisely, carefully, and doing what was technically possible to destroy high-value Hamas targets without endangering the lives of innocent civilians.
Hamas knew that men, women and children would be killed in the fighting – that’s precisely why they launched their ordnance from apartment buildings, hospitals and schools. The use of the two million Palestinians in Gaza as human shields and insidiously intending that the dead serve their ghoulish propaganda agenda are the very foundations of Hamas’s strategy.
The usual suspects in the media – the Hollywood posers, the trolls and the woke progressive Left – swallowed the Hamas propaganda hook, line and sinker. Israel seemed unprepared to explain the conflict. The Start-Up Nation couldn’t find a stand-up English speaker to be the country’s singular voice to the rest of the world. But even the most articulate barrister of common sense pressed into hasbara (public diplomacy) service would have been unable to shield the Jewish state from what it would encounter on air and online.
Israel’s hardcore critics reserved never-before-seen toxicity in their venomous assaults for this go-round. Israel’s antagonists used terms such as “disproportionate use of force,” “illegal,” “immoral” and “ethnic cleansing” to redefine Israel’s right to self-defense as a crime. The pundits pressed into the Palestinian propaganda machine leveled the abhorrent accusations that Israel was an “apartheid” nation. Hamas, a terrorist army that sends young men and women to their doom as suicide bombers, was portrayed as the innocent victim, a protector of human rights.
Any lie repeated often and loudly enough eventually gains traction, no matter how utterly ridiculous. It was a nuanced distortion of reality.
Social media was key in spreading this rhetoric. But this time the tweets and posts were more than merely the usual anti-Israel garbage. This time the messaging was all about the hatred of Jews.
Fifty years ago, when the Arabs realized that their armies couldn’t defeat Israel in battle, and terrorism wouldn’t bring Israel to its knees, they resorted to the most ancient tactic of them all: anti-Semitism. Jews had been hated throughout time for their faith, and then, last century, as a race. It seemed a natural evolution to hate the Jews for their homeland.
Hatred of Israel and Jew-hatred: One and the Same
When United Nations Resolution 3379 declared that Zionism was a form of racism, it laid the groundwork for this current journey of online and back-alley anti-Semitism. The pillars of global morality – North Korea, Qaddafi’s Libya, and Castro’s Cuba – supported this abhorrent miscarriage of justice. Much of the developing world equated Israel as a colonial oppressor and they tried in all international forums to delegitimize the rights of the Jewish people to their homeland. Hatred of Israel and the Jewish people were one and the same.
Natan Sharansky, the former refusenik and Israeli politician, defined modern anti-Semitism with the “Three D” formula: The Demonization of Israel, the Delegitimization of Israel, and subjecting Israel to grossly unfair Double standards. The recent fighting in Gaza is slam-dunk proof of Sharansky’s thesis. The pro-Palestinian rallies in Europe and the United States that followed the Gaza fighting were marked by calls to liberate Palestine from the “River to the Sea,” a call to eradicate all Jews from Israel. Many of these rallies featured Palestinian flags flying alongside swastikas. In Los Angeles, in New York City, and Montreal, Jews were savagely beaten by mobs.
The dangerous rhetoric became the mainstream narrative. Actor Mark Ruffalo accused Israel of engaging in genocide (he later apologized). Congresswoman Ilhan Omar tweeted the age-old blood money trope that Jewish money was driving congressional support for Israel. “It’s all about the Benjamins,” she wrote (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made her apologize). Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib tweeted, “Stealing Palestinian homes and burning their lands. The actions of an apartheid state” (an anti-Israel form of a blood libel).
The fact that anti-Israel anti-Semitism is embedded in the halls of power should come as no surprise. When reason abandons the debate, the crazies on all sides feel empowered. Hatred for the Jewish people and Israel is the one thing that the alt-right and the woke Left agree on.
Gaza was just a convenient tripwire for this most recent explosion of rancor. The anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda that has exploded on the allegedly monitored platforms of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube recalls the most horrific expressions of hate not seen since the pages of Nazi Germany’s Der Stürmer, or sadly, the type of educational incitement that can be found in a Palestinian Authority first-grade textbook. Social media has spread the three Ds of anti-Israel anti-Semitism faster than a radioactive release from the burning Chernobyl nuclear reactor.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the words “Hitler was right” were posted more than 17,000 times in just seven days in May. Extremist hashtags against Israel and Jews were trending wildly. The vile knows no bound. Even Lily Ebert, a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor who educates the world about the horrors of hate on social media, was overwhelmed on her TikTok account by the most disgusting messages, including countless posts that praised Hitler.
Minimizing the horrors of the past promises that they’ll become part of our future. Synagogues were desecrated last month, and Jewish businesses vandalized. Jews around the world now think twice before wearing a kippah in public or having a mezuzah on their front door.
Business is Good Now for Anti-Semitism
But let’s not kid ourselves: Facebook and Twitter are monopolist businesses, and they’ve made billions off of this latest round of malignant incitement. The social media platforms did not stop designated anti-Israel terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah from recruiting and fund-raising online, so why should calling for the extermination of the Jewish people be any different? As the founder of an NGO that battles terrorists in court and who warned anyone who would listen that hatred on social media would lead to bloodshed, this handwriting was hash-tagged on the wall years ago.
In the hate business, anti-Semitism was always an easy sell and business is really good now. If hatred can’t be stopped and decency won’t win out over wokeness, perhaps legal liability – even criminal culpability – might be one way of getting the social media behemoths of Silicon Valley to stop their detestable practices. It isn’t a vaccine for the hatred, of course, but it will limit the spread of the contagion.
Until then, it’s a certainty that social media will promote more anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate. Terrorists will be emboldened and, in the process, many more innocent Jews will have to pay the price in broken bones and shattered lives.
This article first appeared in The Jerusalem Post. The writer is an Israeli civil rights attorney and the president of the Shurat HaDin Law Center.