Our latest antisemitic incident report shows the increasingly important role played by social media in the spread of this very old hatred. The statistics, published today and covering the first six months of this year, show that the proportion of antisemitic incidents recorded by CST that took place online has gone up from 27 per cent in the first half of last year to 36 per cent this year.
This partly reflects the fact that a lot of antisemitism at the moment takes place in the context of arguments about politics, and much of that arguing happens on social media platforms. Social media means that an antisemite in Bristol can hurl racist abuse at a Jew in Manchester without ever meeting them face to face; and the Jewish Mancunian will hear them, which they wouldn’t have done when the antisemite in Bristol was just mouthing off to their friends rather than broadcasting their hate to the world.
Even worse, social media means that dozens of antisemites can send thousands of antisemitic tweets to the same Jew, leaving them feeling as if the world wants them dead.
There is a belief that this kind of thing isn’t ‘real’ antisemitism, because tweets are, well, just tweets. But the web is increasingly where we get our news and entertainment; where we stay in touch with friends and family.
If your world resides within a smartphone, and that phone is full of people telling you that you are a ‘dirty Zio whore’ who deserves to die, then social media is not a bit player in our fight: it is the main battleground and the engine of the new anti-Jewish hate we face.