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Since its founding, the State of Israel has faced many boycotts, all aimed at leading an agenda in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or bringing about the elimination of the Jewish state. Political boycotts, such as the isolation of Israel amidst the countries of the world, economic embargoes which call for the boycotting of Israeli businesses and organizations, as well as cultural and academic boycotts.

The calls to boycott Israel, along with extreme displays of antisemitism, have spread on social networks like wildfire, and sometimes it seems that there is no relief: the networks do not take quick and efficient action to delete, remove or enforce any manifestation of antisemitism, and in the past month the numbers have increased exponentially: since taking over Twitter, Elon Musk has “thawed” many previously frozen accounts, including neo-Nazi profiles, and the number of anti-Jewish tweets has increased many times over. But Twitter is not alone.


“The Russian platform VK leads antisemitism on social networks,” claims Raheli Baratz-Rix, the head of the Department for Combating Antisemitism & Enhancing Resilience at the World Zionist Organization, and chairperson of the conference dealing with the challenges of boycotts against the State of Israel, who entered her position today (Thursday).

According to Baratz-Rix, “VK is most probably less monitored than English-language networks, but there are antisemitic calls and outcries for boycotts, and even more difficult issues than that, also on Tiktok, Facebook and YouTube. When this type of content surfaces on public networks, people need to take responsibility for reporting such occurrences.

Non-governmental organizations strive to solicit businesses, companies, institutions, and corporations to withdraw their investments in Israel. The entertainment community calls to denounce Israel and boycott performances here. This should concern us all because, in the end, it affects each and every one of us: in our private pocket – with increases in the cost of living, and in Israel’s cultural and political isolation.”

A bad November on Twitter

In November 2022, there was an extensive increase in the scope of anti-Jewish content on Twitter. According to the NCRI research institute, phrases referring to the term “Jew” were tweeted more than 5,000 times an hour. At the beginning of that month, during Musk’s first full week of management, there was an increase in the number of tweets that contained expressions of hate. For example, 2,598 tweets and retweets included the word “kike” [a derogatory term for an American Jew] – 23% more than the monthly average in 2022.

Among the violent antisemitic accounts that were re-instated, were those of the chief organizer of the neo-Nazi “Unite the Right” rally, of the leader of the white nationalist group “Evropa Identity”, and of Anglin Andrew who founded a neo-Nazi website. Musk announced his plan to unfreeze almost all previously-blocked Twitter accounts, a move applauded by far-right forums.

“We see a constant increase in the range of antisemitic dialogue, as well as in its severity – contempt, distortion, and denial of the Holocaust. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine it has increased,” explains Ruth Cohen-Dar, the director of the Department for Combating Antisemitism and Holocaust Remembrance at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“This is the business model of these platforms – the more extreme the content, the more traffic they attract; and the algorithm intensifies this trend. On the other hand, the platforms do not prevent the content, because they are not able to stop it. This is a sophisticated process of algorithms and it goes against their business model.”

Q: What could be done?

Cohen-Dar: “Governments are seventeen steps behind technological advancements. Legislation is not only against those who cross on a red light but also in the regulation of laws in cyberspace. The European Union imposed a considerable amount of responsibility on digital platforms. Germany has all-inclusive legislation against antisemitism. In France, the legislation failed on issues of freedom of speech. But freedom of speech is not the freedom to incite to racism and violence.

“We need legislation that defines what hate crimes are, also in cyberspace. This is just like terrorism. It is a violation of people’s basic right to liberty and freedom. This is from the legislative aspect. Another issue – people don’t complain and don’t report enough. It’s important to document hate speech so that we can build a database of information to develop a strategy and action plan, to deal with the challenge.”

“Another response that is required is support for the victims, to encourage people to file complaints and to help these people. Also, work must be done with these platforms to remove the content and prevent sharing of such content before they reach the general public. Employees need to be trained in this process and automatic filters should be employed. Kanye West has more followers on social media, that the number of Jews all over the world! One such person is enough to enable the unacceptable proliferation of toxic content.”

Q: How does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs work to eradicate these incidents?

Cohen-Dar: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs works in 108 locations around the world, and the battle against antisemitism and support for preserving the memory of the Holocaust is on the agenda in all of them. There are countries, with large Jewish communities, with which we hold an annual dialogue and we are always looking for ways to deal with the challenge”.

“There is also an ongoing dialogue with the hi-tech companies about improving the ways that they deal with antisemitism on social media. They are responsive and attentive to the problem; it is a work in progress. We need to make sure that the platforms are taken in the right direction, and that they enforce rules of conduct on their users, even when this is not comfortable for them. They do this when it comes to criminal content, but less so when it is about antisemitic hate speech.”

“Remove Harmful Content”

“Facebook has expanded its efforts in combatting Holocaust denial, by referring users to education material on the Holocaust in twelve languages, including Arabic, Russian and German,” says Baratz-Rix. “This is a message that is displayed to users the moment that Facebook’s algorithm detects search terms about the Holocaust or its denial, with the intention of directing the public to reliable information.” However, it seems that we still have a long way to go and we will experience many more expressions of hatred on social media until there is worldwide regulation on this matter.

Meta’s response: “Billions of people use Facebook and Instagram because they have a good experience on these platforms. We invest major resources in work teams and technology to find and remove extremist or offensive content as quickly as possible, and work with organizations and experts to constantly improve our policies and abilities to do so.”

“We have zero tolerance for antisemitic hate speech on Facebook and Instagram, and we remove such content that violates our community rules when we become aware of it. In recent years, we have installed important updates to our policy, including a ban on content that denies or distorts the memory of the Holocaust, as well as content that includes antisemitic stereotypes about Jews. We understand that there is still a lot more to do, and our quarterly transparency reports show that we are constantly removing more and more harmful content – even before someone views it and reports it to us.” Twitter had no comment.”

{Written by Sahar Avrahami and reposted from IsraelHayom}

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