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Neo-antisemitism

credit:Yoni Diller

Antisemitism has a long and painful history, with roots stretching back through the centuries. From ancient civilizations to the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, the Jewish people have often been the target of society’s fears, insecurities, and scapegoating.

In the Middle Ages, Jews were frequently vilified and blamed for societal woes, such as economic hardships and disease outbreaks. This pattern of persecution continued through the centuries, with Jews facing discrimination, expulsion, and violence in various parts of the world.

The 20th century bore witness to the darkest chapter in the history of antisemitism – the systematic genocide of six million Jews under the Nazi regime during World War II. The Holocaust stands as a haunting reminder of the depths of hatred and cruelty that can be unleashed when antisemitism is allowed to flourish unchecked.

The story of Esther and Mordechai in the Book of Esther serves as a powerful example of standing up against antisemitism. In ancient Persia, Haman, a high-ranking official, plotted to exterminate the Jews out of his hatred and desire for power. Esther, a Jewish woman who had become queen, concealed her identity and used her position to expose Haman’s treachery to the king. Mordechai, Esther’s uncle and a leader of the Jewish community, engaged in prayer and repentance, seeking forgiveness for the transgressions of his people. Together, Esther and Mordechai’s courage and faith brought about the salvation of the Jews, with Haman’s plot backfiring and leading to his own demise.

Today, we see echoes of Haman’s hatred in groups like Hamas, whose charter explicitly calls for the annihilation of the Jewish people. This deep-seated animosity can be traced back to ancient conflicts and rivalries, such as those between Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, and the Amalekites and the Israelites. The common thread among these historical figures and groups is a shared hatred towards Jews, often coupled with a relentless pursuit of power and a propensity for violence and brutality.

A Modern Resurgence

Despite the painful lessons of history and the collective vow of “never again,” antisemitism has not been eradicated from our contemporary world. Instead, it has adapted and found new ways to spread, often hiding in plain sight.

In recent years, both Europe and the United States have seen an alarming rise in antisemitic incidents, ranging from vandalism and verbal harassment to physical violence and deadly attacks on synagogues. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported a 12% increase in antisemitic incidents in the United States in 2019, with a total of 2,107 incidents recorded – the highest number since tracking began in 1979.

This resurgence of antisemitism is fueled by a complex interplay of factors, including the rise of extremist ideologies, political polarization, and economic instability. Far-right and far-left groups have both been guilty of promoting antisemitic tropes and conspiracies, often scapegoating Jews for societal problems and perceived injustices.

The Digital Frontier and the AI War

In the age of the internet and social media, antisemitism has found a new and fertile ground for growth. The digital realm has become a breeding ground for hate speech, conspiracy theories, and misinformation, with the anonymity and echo chambers of online spaces amplifying the voices of bigotry and intolerance.

The spread of fake news and disinformation has become a significant concern in recent years, with the potential to fuel antisemitic sentiments and conspiracy theories. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has added a new dimension to this challenge, as AI-generated content can be used to create and disseminate convincing fake news stories and images that are difficult to distinguish from real ones.

This “AI war” poses a serious threat to the fight against antisemitism, as it can be exploited by those seeking to spread hatred and misinformation. AI-generated fake news can be used to target and manipulate public opinion, reinforcing antisemitic stereotypes and conspiracy theories. This can lead to a further normalization and legitimization of antisemitic views, making it even more challenging to combat this age-old hatred.

Social media platforms, once heralded as tools for connection and understanding, have struggled to effectively moderate and remove antisemitic content. A 2020 report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that social media companies failed to act on 84% of posts containing antisemitism reported to them.

The spread of antisemitic memes, tropes, and conspiracies online has real-world consequences, as it normalizes and legitimizes hatred against Jews. The perpetrator of the 2019 attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, livestreamed his attack on Twitch and posted a manifesto online filled with antisemitic and far-right content.

A Call to Action

Confronting the resurgence of antisemitism requires a multi-faceted approach that involves governments, civil society organizations, and individuals working together to promote education, awareness, and action.

Education is a crucial tool in combating antisemitism, as it helps to dispel myths, stereotypes, and misconceptions about Jews and Judaism. Schools, universities, and community organizations must prioritize education about the history and consequences of antisemitism, as well as the importance of tolerance, respect, and diversity. Media literacy education is also essential to help individuals navigate the complex digital landscape and identify fake news and disinformation.

Governments and law enforcement agencies must take a strong stance against antisemitic hate crimes, ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable and that victims receive the support they need. This includes improving hate crime reporting mechanisms, providing training for law enforcement on identifying and responding to antisemitic incidents, and allocating resources for security measures at Jewish institutions.

Civil society organizations play a vital role in monitoring and exposing antisemitism, as well as advocating for policies and initiatives to combat it. Groups such as the ADL, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the European Jewish Congress work tirelessly to raise awareness, provide support to victims, and push for legislative action.

Individuals, too, have a responsibility to stand up against antisemitism whenever and wherever they encounter it. This means challenging antisemitic remarks or jokes, reporting incidents of harassment or violence, and showing solidarity with the Jewish community. It also means engaging in honest and respectful dialogue with others to promote understanding and break down barriers.

Technology companies and social media platforms must also take responsibility for combating the spread of antisemitism and fake news on their platforms. This includes investing in more effective content moderation systems, collaborating with Jewish organizations and experts to identify and remove antisemitic content, and being transparent about their efforts to combat hate speech and disinformation.

In Conclusion

The resurgence of antisemitism in our modern world, fueled by the rise of extremism, political polarization, and the spread of fake news and disinformation, is a sobering reminder that the lessons of history are never fully learned and that the fight against hatred and intolerance is an ongoing struggle. As we navigate the complexities of our time, we must draw inspiration from figures like Esther and Mordechai, who stood up against antisemitism in the face of great adversity.

By fostering education, promoting awareness, and taking action at all levels of society, we can work to create a world where diversity is celebrated, and where the bonds of our common humanity are stronger than the forces that seek to divide us. It is only through our collective efforts – from governments and civil society organizations to individuals and technology companies – that we can hope to banish the shadows of hatred and build a brighter, more just future for all.

About the Author
Yoni Diller is an Israeli terror attack survivor and advocate who focuses on Jewish resilience, fighting antisemitism, Israeli affairs, and geopolitics. He has a degree in political science and extensive experience in leadership, activism, and public speaking.
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