Alarming attacks of Jews, Israelis on American streets – and on social media: How anti-Semitism got a boost from influencers
Sticks and stones break bones, but words on social media may be instigating the violence
The recent Israel-Gaza war has ginned up a dormant yet simmering hatred – anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment in America – that has culminated in a wave of brazen attacks against Jews and a stunning demonization of Israel on social media.
Violent attacks against Jews in America have increased in both the United States and Europe, fueled by the 11-day conflagration between Israel and Hamas in Gaza which ended on Friday morning.
In one incident, men in Los Angeles attacked Jews eating outdoors at a restaurant. In New York, another group of men chanted anti-Israel slogans, harassed and spat at people they assumed were Jews.
After being urged by several American Jewish organizations to speak out against the attacks, U.S. President Joe Biden issued a statement today.
“The recent attacks on the Jewish community are despicable, and they must stop,” Biden wrote on Twitter. “I condemn this hateful behavior at home and abroad – it’s up to all of us to give hate no safe harbor.”
And in the midst of the violence, another concerning battlefront has heated up on the frontlines of social media.
While the Palestinian cause is being championed by supermodel sisters Bella and Gigi Hadid and British singer-songwriter Dua Lipa, who have a combined 180 million followers, no pro-Israel voice has risen with the same strength to counter them – not even Wonder Woman herself. Israeli Gal Gadot sympathized with the situation, but did not condemn Hamas with the same ferocity that these influencers have castigated Israel.
Lipa drew attention to the Jerusalem neighborhood where courts are deciding who – an Israeli organization or Palestinian families – truly has the rights to properties in Sheikh Jarrah. Lipa called attention to the issue accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing.”
Bella Hadid, who joined a pro-Palestinian protest in New York City last week, was previously criticized for sharing a graphic that said Israel was not a country but a “settler colony” that is brutalizing Palestinians and frequently uses the #FreePalestine hashtag.
The Hadid sisters, who live in the U.S., are of Palestinian origin.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, head of World Values Network, stepped into the ring against the star-studded line up taking out a full-page ad in The New York Times with photos of the three, addressing them by name: “Bella, Gigi and Dua, Hamas calls for a second Holocaust. Condemn them now.”
In an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post, Boteach called them “an unholy trinity of Hamas terror-splaining.”
“It-girls engaged in the outright demonization of Israel and the Jewish people,” he wrote. “Speaking to their nearly hundred million followers on social media, they have vilified the Jewish state with an all-consuming hatred.”
It’s no wonder where they got it from. Their father, Mohamed Hadid, equated Israel’s actions against he Palestinians to the Holocaust itself.
“This is the ultimate blood libel, falsely accusing Israel, the only free society in the Middle East, of genocide. Hadid shockingly compares the Holocaust of six million Jews to Israel fighting back against the Hamas rockets intent on murdering children,” Boteach wrote.
“Americans are used to seeing shallow celebrities peddling scams…or embarrassing themselves with their political ignorance. But serving as apologists for genocidal terrorists takes celebrity abasement to a whole new level.”
Lipa doubled down after the ad, saying that she stands “in solidarity with all oppressed people” and that “this is the price you pay for defending Palestinian human rights against an Israeli government whose actions in Palestine both Human Rights Watch and the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem accuse of persecution and discrimination.”
A statement from the World Values Network said that Lipa's “tantrums” on social media show “it seems she can dish out the anti-Semitic hatred, but freaks out when called out for her bias and bigotry.”
Amazingly, on support using social media to defend Israel is none other than the former Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan, who wrote on Twitter: “Hamas steals childhood and sacrifice children for their ugly cause which is eradicating the Jewish state. No ifs or buts.. know which side deserves your support? As long as Hamas exists Palestinian children will be without future, Hamas abuses them emotionally and physically.”
She also expressed horror over the hate-crime attacks against Jews in the U.S. – before Biden did.
“Jews are being attacked in Los Angeles by Palestinians who seek them out and beat them up! If you wonder what does the words radical Islamists mean? THIS IS IT! If you still wonder if this whole war is anti-Zionism or antisemitism, this is your answer,” she wrote and posted video footage of the attack.
SOCIAL MEDIA TAKES OPTICS TO A NEW LEVEL
Social media supports the familiar cliché “a picture” – or in this case, real-time video footage – “is worth a thousand words.”
This last war was characterized by “breaking news” video from civilian reporters: rockets, rocket interceptions, aerial bombings and even lynchings on the streets of Israel’s cities.
As long as the person uploading had working internet, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube – name your platform – produced countless personal narratives of the situation.
Pro-Palestinians say the social media posts are succeeding in making their cause more visible. One Twitter user, Tasha Kaminsky, started the #SaveSheikhJarrah hashtag which was picked up by Lipa.
“It’s one thing to read a story…but to see it is a very different experience,” Kaminsky said.
Avi Mayer, a pro-Israel advocate from the American Jewish Committee in Jerusalem, believes that social media provides “a benefit that we have that we didn’t have previously.”
Images, he said, are necessary to provide proper context to a situation. He cited a social media post showing an Israeli driver who ran into a Palestinian on a sidewalk outside the Old City of Jerusalem. However, security footage released later showed how Palestinians had showered the car with rocks just before the car ran onto the sidewalk. The driver, interviewed by Israeli media, had been injured, his head bandaged and blood on his shirt.
Yonah Lieberman, cofounder of IfNotNow – an American-Jewish activist group that opposes Israel’s position in the West Bank and Gaza – favors the use of social media to educate and inform viewers that there are two sides.
“Seeing images for yourself of al-Aqsa Mosque being tear-gassed or thousands of Jews chanting for the death of Palestinians are much more jarring and cut through a ‘clashes between Israelis and Palestinians’ headline,” he said.
However, Northwestern University’s Israel Studies professor, Sara Hirschhorn, noted that videos of the fire at the al-Aqsa complex were misleading because it was a burning tree, not the mosque itself.
“That’s sort of an act of disinformation that is troubling. It’s being tweeted as, ‘Here are ultra-nationalist Jews jumping up and down and dancing and singing as al-Aqsa burns in the background,’ and it’s not what’s happening in that photo,” she said.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.