Sticks, Stones and Social Media…..

This post currently appears in the WIZO Lapid Magazine’s issue on Global Anti-Semitism:

http://fliphtml5.com/nati/tvko

“You have the intelligence of a garden potato”. “You are an evil Zionist witch”. “You should have been gassed”. “You are nothing but a vacuous bimbo who should be called Occupier Barbie”.

They sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me. These are examples of messages tweeted to me on my personal Twitter account. In this case the words are becoming increasingly harmful and are leading to more than just sticks and stones – They are resulting in acts of violence and terror against Jews and supporters of Israel around the world.

Social media platforms are being used as forums for hate speech. In a few characters and a hashtag, some of the most venomous invective has found an outlet. It seems that anyone with a mobile device and access to a Twitter account or Facebook page can launch an uncensored and hate filled diatribe.

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Anti-Semitism is rising to alarming levels that we have not seen since prior to World War 2. Social media has added another dimension and battlefield and this just increases to dangerous levels when Israel is engaged in any kind of dispute or conflagration.

Last year, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in response to incessant rocket attacks from Gaza. A new frontier opened up across the various social media sites and the level of venom was unprecedented. Social Media sites offer individuals an opportunity to opine without sanction and the immediacy of having a community to share this with as often as they want. It seemed that within minutes, groups and pages sprung up, calling for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people. Some of these extended into personal threats and the race to shut down and report some of the culprits was almost as quick as they originated. This called for extra vigilance and many have complained that longstanding friendships were broken over differing opinions.

Social media sites are the preferred playground of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement who pass up no opportunity to campaign against the Jewish state. In a short amount of time,  they are able to mobilise their minions and have propagated a climate of hatred on campuses around the world. By creating pages that advertise opportunities to protest and campaign against students and supporters of Israel, the BDS movement has successfully manipulated Facebook and Twitter as well as YouTube to serve their more nefarious aims. One of their infamous claims to fame is a carefully edited video of famed anti-Apartheid activist, Nelson Mandela saying that “we will never be free until the Palestinians are free”. The second part of the interview where Mandela endorses an Israel that exists with secure borders has been edited out so that the Nobel Peace prize winner seems biased in favour of what BDS extols.

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Even journalists claimed to be shocked by levels of anti-Semitism, although this does not stop some using social media to give their opinions which in some cases have passed the realm of legitimate criticism.

Where does the line between the freedom of speech and hate speech blur? Criticism of Israel and her policies is totally okay – it is even regarded as the national sport of the country but when the line is crossed and the type of speech used starts to rile up anti-Israel or anti-Semitic feeling amongst the general public we are dealing with something that is no longer journalistic licence but an expression of personal prejudice.

Veteran CNN broadcaster, Jim Clancy, discovered that irresponsible tweeting could costs even the most seasoned journalist their job. While it is important that journalists are able to express their opinions, there needs to be respect for journalistic integrity to report based on fact and not on personal prejudice. After a career that spanned several decades at CNN, Clancy has been summarily dismissed for a tweet that angered not just the pro-Israel activists but the disabled community as well.

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A similar incident occurred when the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen, angered Jews around the world when he accused Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of “playing the Holocaust card”  when he saluted Nobel Peace prize winner and survivor, Elie Wiesel during his speech to US Congress recently.  Bowen responded with a tweet where he claimed that “suggestions that I am an anti-Semite or denierof the Holocaust are untrue and offensive”. He did not apologise. The BBC offered a lukewarm apology by saying, “Jeremy was using Twitter and journalism shorthand whilst live-tweeting PM Netanyahu’s speech. The context of his comment is that a major part of PM Netanyahu’s critique of the proposed Iran deal was based on the spectre of another holocaust. Jeremy’s tweet was designed to reflect that context. He absolutely refutes any suggestion of antisemitism.” Still no apology for any offense caused.

It is not just Israel bashers that are using social media to their advantage. The Islamic State, which have fast become the world’s most frightening terror phenomenon also understand how important a role social media can play. They have turned YouTube into their own network of nasty, using the platform to upload their execution videos and messages of mayhem to the world.  These movies are extremely well- choreographed and scripted and for many, serve more as recruitment videos than horror films.  This death pornography is radicalizing more youth than the most vociferous Imam.

It is clear that “new media” has eclipsed traditional methods and if we do not get some sort of control on content we will find ourselves at the mercy of the radicals.

There is something that we can do! As media consumers we can play an important role in stopping flagrant abuse of social media.

Here is what you can do to help:

* Monitoring social media sites – report and block groups and individuals that violate social media codes of conduct or are just downright racists and offensive.

  • Reporting posts, articles, tweets to media watch dogs – try honestreporting.com or BBC Media Watch, CiF Watch and many others.
  • Start your own media response group – a group of knowledgeable, skilled, likeminded individuals who can respond factually and cohesively will give your community an opportunity to fight off growing ant-Semitism. Visit: mediateamisrael.wordpress.com or www.truthbetoldgroup.wordpress.com to see examples of citizen activism.

Social Media is playing a powerful role in disseminating hate – but it can also play its part to share facts! Get on your tablet, iPad, phone or computer and get tweeting, sharing and posting today.  It is time to become a pro-Activist.

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