26 October, 2017

Trends of antisemitic hate speech online (by INACH)

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Category: Antisemitism, Country review, far-right, Fascism, Hate speech report, Holocaust, Internet, Report
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INACH_LogoExtract from Manifestations of Online Hate Speech. Reports on antisemitic, antiziganistic, homophobic and anti-Muslim Hate Speech by International Network Against Cyber Hate (INACH) You can download the full report with examples of online hate speech and national reports for the countries taking part in this study (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands and Spain).

Antisemitism is the oldest form of ‘racial’ discrimination known and has a long ugly history. Sadly, antisemitism is again widely prevalent nowadays, having gained a ‘new life’ by use of internet. The word antisemitism was first coined by the radical publicist and agitator Wilhelm Marr in 1879, in an anti-Jewish pamphlet called “Der Weg zum Siege des Germanenthums über das Judenthum” (The Way to Victory of Germanism over Judaism). The same year, Marr founded the League of Antisemites (Antisemiten-Liga), the first German organisation committed specifically to combating the alleged threat to Germany posed by the Jews and advocating their forced removal from the country. Marr’s racial theories about Jews became a cornerstone for the development of Nazi-ideology. This does not mean antisemitism was invented by Marr. Anti-Judaism, as it was known for some time, goes back 2000 years. The first anti-Jewish pogrom took place in Alexandria in the year 38 C.E., instigated by the Roman Governor, the Greek inhabitants and the Greek Publicist Apion, who wrote one of the first blood libels about Jews. From early Christian times, (3rd century C.E.), anti-Jewish feelings were institutionalised and canonized by the Catholic Church, mainly based on the accusation that Jews had been responsible for the murder of Jesus. In the post-Holocaust era, antisemitism still frequently presents Jews as responsible for “why things go wrong”: European history is full of sinister examples of this constant. Even if antisemitism is always prevalent amongst far-right extremists and branches of neo-Nazis, we can observe that new trends are becoming more popular among European societies and promote the antisemitic online proliferation: the resurgence of conspiracy theories; the popularity of Holocaust denial and Holocaust distortion theories; the stereotypes from the Middle Ages that are resurging today and the development of the trend called “the hidden antisemitism” whereby people who affirm that they are anti-Zionist are in reality antisemitic. This trend has taken its roots in the geopolitical situation of the Middle East and is linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but is also used and propagated by IS and other terrorist or extremist groups, but also by left-wing organisations, BDS8-organizations and radical Islam. This phenomenon is even more complex as the Muslim segment of populations can also be victim of online hate speech and offline hate crimes.

Antisemitism, originating from very different perpetrator groups, now metastasizes also in non-traditional places, like mainstream internet sites and the social media, in this way rapidly becoming ‘mainstream’ and ‘normalized’. There is an increasing overlap between Islamist, neo-Nazi and extremist left-wing rhetoric and even rhetoric by some of the mainstream labour parties, e.g. UK labour, the Swedish Social Democrats, and the Belgian PS when it comes to antisemitism and Holocaust denial, uniting old enemies. The common ground for online hate-mongers is called Jews.


The most recent definition of antisemitism was created and adopted in 2016 by the 31 member countries of IHRA, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Far-right “traditional” antisemitic speech

The first most prevalent trend is the constant online presence of the far-right “classical” antisemitic speech. Antisemitism has always been prevalent amongst far-right extremist and neo-Nazi speech. This trend is composed of historical-revisionist conspiracy theories, of distortion or denial of the Holocaust for antisemitic purposes, of promotion of Nazi theories with promotion of strict codes and symbols and of glorification of the Nazi regime. The farright traditional antisemitic speech is well organized and structured around several types of personalities: pseudo-Historians, political personalities, denialist activists, comedians, etc. It also promotes the use of the same concepts, as for example the “Holo-Hoax”, and of the same conspiracy theories, for example Norman Finkelstein and his book “The Holocaust Industry”. Another key element of this trend is the “pro-Nazi nostalgia”: glorification of the Third Reich regime, hope for the return of Hitler and idolization of Nazi symbols and codes. In addition, it may be noted that right-wing extremist speech is usually based on old sinister stereotypes and negative character traits from the Middle Ages. It has also integrated new elements as for example the “echo symbol”. The (((echo))) sign has been used online to highlight people with Jewish background. Google used to have a plug-in that could detect these triple brackets to make it easier for antisemites to find Jewish people on the internet.

Conspiracy Theories

Already present in the first trend, the antisemitic conspiracy theories go far beyond the far-right “classical” antisemitic universe. Their resurgence and proliferation on today’s internet reflect their popularity; despite the significant number of theories, the mechanism is almost the same: “Jews” are responsible for the most tragic historical and social events in order to supposedly control the world. Since the 19th century with the publication of the famous “Protocols of the learned Elders of Zion”, the idea of a Jewish – sometimes Judeo-Masonic – domination controlling the main powers (Government, Finance and Media) is the cornerstone of every popular conspiracy theory.

The “hidden antisemitism”, an anti-Zionism hiding a real antisemitism

The line between anti-Zionism, anti-Israel feelings and antisemitism is sometimes unclear. Anti-Zionism could be defined as “the refusal, in principle, to accept the existence of a Jewish State, independent of the Palestinian question”. Actually, it may refer “to criticism of Israel that questions Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State”. Anti-Zionismis not entirely associated to antisemitism. However, because of the influence of the geopolitical situation of the Middle East, sometimes anti-Zionism is used as “political correct” form of antisemitism. This new trend shares most of its traits with the old ones: caricatures, stereotypes and conspiracy theories. The influence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Europe has a lot of consequences in the development of the new trends: It is popular among some people from Muslim communities and also among some movements of the extreme left-wing.

The proliferation of the concept of the “double standards”

The concept of “double standards” has been popularized quite recently with the public debate of what constitutes freedom of speech. The general idea behind this concept is that the Jewish community is protected and it is forbidden to “criticize” them, “use humour” or provocation. However, this is not the case for other communities, especially for the Muslim community. The phenomenon is complex because the segment of the population who might be attracted by this concept can also be victim of hateful acts and speech. Indeed, those who denounce the idea of a “double standard” between Jews and Muslims are in fact directly encouraging antisemitism.30 They consider Jews as “untouchables” because they are Jews. When they intend to criticise this “double standard”, there is a risk for them to adhere to antisemitic theories (conspiracy theories mainly). This trend has a lot of negative consequences for the proliferation of cyber hate.

Antisemitism and terrorist groups

The internet is one of the perfect tools for spreading hateful and violent messages against a group and for “recruiting” people. The use of antisemitic vocabulary online is one key element of radical groups’ hateful communication. This is because violent antisemitic contents are easily accessible on a global level: from the social media to the dark web. Moreover, it is used as a driver for recruiting and radicalizing people online especially in countries where strong Jewish communities live as for example France and Belgium. Jihadist groups usually exploit the conflicts in the Middle East and connect these to the responsibility of Jews/Israelis. According to jugendschutz.net’s analysis, “each time when there were new outbreaks of violence in the conflict between Israel and Palestine the propaganda became more extensive and drastic. The Islamists present Israel as the sole guilty party in the armed conflict and as a state that slaughters innocent Palestinian children. They portray Jews as demons, as ‘infanticide nation’ and thus asperse them as inhuman. In this context you would often find statements reflecting conspiracy theories like: ‘The Jews are conspiring against Islam and intend to destroy all Muslims’.”


In conclusion, our analysis of the antisemitic online trends showed how this type of hate is a “social polymorph that is not minimized by its continuous re-invention in hatred”. Conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial, “hidden antisemitism”, amongst others trends, demonstrate this reality. Significantly, our research underlines the transnational aspect of each trends: Even if national peculiarities exist, there are real common antisemitic online trends. Moreover, their online proliferation and influence are significant in each country that participated in this survey.




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