NY AG: New hate crime stats undercount antisemitism
Recently released statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation — indicating the highest number of antisemitic hate crimes in a decade — “severely” undercounted the number of incidents, New York Attorney General Letitia James said on Monday.
James and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost joined a webcast hosted by the American Jewish Committee to discuss the release of the FBI’s annual hate crimes report, which found that hate crimes targeting the Jewish community had increased by 14% in 2019.
James said she questioned the accuracy of the data, suggesting that underreporting from both local law enforcement and the impacted communities themselves led to a lower number.
The New York attorney general — who described herself as an “honorary member of the Orthodox community,” having represented Crown Heights in the New York City Council for 10 years — sees the latter issue as a particular problem in what she called the “insular” Orthodox Jewish community.
“Going forward, obviously we’ve got to do a better job, particularly in the Orthodox community,” she said. “We’ve got to inform them and educate them and encourage them with respect to reporting these crimes.”
Yost agreed that underreporting is an issue for many categories of crimes, not just hate crimes, but noted that the victims of hate crimes are more than statistics laid out in data.
“We’re talking about hate crimes. That’s measured one life at a time. One case file at a time. This doesn’t happen to X number of people, it happens to one person… Someone who’s going to carry that trauma with them, the rest of their lives,” he said. “As much as I care about the data, it’s not the numbers that move me, it’s the stories.”
The Ohio attorney general criticized New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for his particularly stringent enforcement of coronavirus mitigation measures in Orthodox Jewish communities.
“When you single out a particular group and other similarly situated groups are not called out, I think you’re really sending a subtle message that helps to create a fertile seed bed for antisemitism or for racism or what have you,” Yost said.
James and Yost diverged on recent discussions and protests over police accountability. While James saw them as a potential step toward rebuilding trust between citizens and the police — thereby increasing reporting of hate crimes — Yost painted a darker picture.
“The notion of law enforcement being a tool of the popular will frightens me and… it should frighten every American who knows anything about history,” he said. “The Holocaust, the things that happened in Nazi Germany were popularly supported. Law enforcement famously looked by while lynchings occurred in the South. Why? Because it was popularly supported… I’m really concerned that in our rush to make policing more responsive in some communities, that we risk unleashing the genie from the bottle.”
Eric Fingerhut weighs in on the election and next steps for pandemic relief
While Americans anxiously awaited the outcome of the presidential election, Eric Fingerhut, CEO and president of the Jewish Federations of North America and a former U.S. representative, called on the next administration and Congress to provide additional pandemic relief to “ailing non-profits” and increase funding for non-profit organizations’ security needs.
In an interview with Jewish Insider, Fingerhut — who represented Ohio’s 19th congressional district from 1993 to 1995 — said that at a time of deep divisions, he views the way that North America’s 146 Jewish federations function as a model for all Americans.
“Leaders of our community, many members of JFNA’s board and at most federations, are on both sides of this election,” he said. “This has always been the case.”
On Tuesday night, past JFNA board chair Kathy Manning flipped a redistricted House seat and will represent North Carolina’s 6th congressional district as a Democrat. Detroit oil and real estate magnate Max Fisher, a major philanthropist to Jewish causes until his death in 2005 and a member of JFNA’s board, served as an advisor to Republican presidents on Israel and Jewish concerns. Current JFNA board chair Mark Wilf, who co-owns the Milwaukee Bucks franchise, is a longtime Democratic donor who in March contributed $21,250 to the Biden Victory Fund.
“We have always had people on both sides of the political aisle, and always been a model of how we’ve worked together on matters of common concern for Jewish life, Israel and the Jewish people around the world,” said Fingerhut. “We have maintained that unity on that common agenda even as we’ve disagreed politically and worked against each other vigorously. We will continue to, no matter the outcome of this election.”
Fingerhut also noted that the Jewish community is “disproportionately deeply engaged in the civic affairs of the United States as candidates, campaign workers and as supporters of the democratic process, like as poll workers.” The community’s effort, he said, “reflects both our caring for the health and welfare of the country and our appreciation for the unbelievable welcoming and prosperity and success the Jewish community has achieved in this open, democratic society.”
JFNA has representatives in Washington who lobby Congress and the administration on a wide range of issues, including funding for human services — most Jewish federations fund or manage facilities for senior citizens and the mentally and physically disabled — but usually refrains from commenting on specific policies. Earlier this year, the organization worked with the Orthodox Union, the Union for Reform Judaism, Agudath Israel of America, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups to push legislators to provide relief to faith-based charities and religious nonprofits struggling from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fingerhut was hopeful that the next president will sign into law the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, and ensure that Medicaid and Medicare programs are extended.
Fingerhut was quick to point out that today’s political climate bears resemblance to other tumultuous times in modern American history.
His 2004 run for Senate coincided with former President George W. Bush’s campaign for a second term, and the country, he said, was terribly split over the Iraq war. His state, Ohio, a swing state, was “deeply divided. The rhetoric was very acute.”
“We have had very close elections in our recent past, have been very divided over very contentious issues, and we’ve gotten through,” Fingerhut told JI, adding that Jewish values have something to teach all of America at this tense time.
“One of the things we have in our Jewish tradition is a commitment to civility and respect for differences of opinion. We need to exemplify that in our own behavior, and insist on it in others in public life.”
Former Labour leader Corbyn suspended from party
Former U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was suspended by the party on Thursday for rejecting the findings of a long-awaited report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that found “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination for which the Labour Party is responsible.”
The report detailed numerous instances of unlawful behavior, examining at least 70 complaints of antisemitism made since 2016.
In a press conference following the release, current Labour leader Keir Starmer accepted the findings, calling the report “comprehensive, rigorous and thoroughly professional.” Apologizing to the Jewish community, Starmer admitted: “I found this report hard to read and it is a day of shame for the Labour Party… On behalf of the Labour Party, I am truly sorry for all the pain and grief that has been caused.”
The EHRC report, which concluded the party “at best, did not do enough to prevent antisemitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it,” directed a series of changes to Labour’s reporting and investigation process. Under U.K. law, the mandates of the non-departmental government agency are legally enforceable.
In a statement, Gideon Falter, CEO of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), which submitted one of the first complaints to the EHRC, called the report “groundbreaking.”
“The EHRC’s report utterly vindicates Britain’s Jews who were accused of lying and exaggerating, acting as agents of another country and using their religion to ‘smear’ the Labour Party. In an unprecedented finding, it concludes that those who made such accusations broke the law and were responsible for illegal discrimination and harassment,” Falter continued. “The debate is over. Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour Party became institutionally antisemitic. It drove almost half of British Jews to consider leaving the country.”
In addition to finding a persistent culture accepting antisemitism, the report found that the party had a “practice or policy of Political Interference” in responding to internal reports of antisemitism. This included efforts to “smear” complaints as fake, incidents which the EHRC found to have violated the Equality Act of 2010.
Complaints of antisemitism first emerged not long after Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in 2015. A left-leaning longtime backbencher, Corbyn rose swiftly through the party’s ranks following the resignation of former leader Ed Milliband. The allegations of antisemitism continued through Corbyn’s time as opposition leader, resulting in the resignation of numerous high-ranking Labour MPs, who accused him of harboring antisemitic views and protecting others accused of antisemitism. The controversy was a major campaign issue during the 2019 parliamentary election, which Labour lost. Corbyn eventually resigned following Labour’s landslide defeat.
Starmer, who previously served in Corbyn’s shadow government, skirted calls to punish the former party leader after succeeding him earlier this year. On Thursday, Starmer, in response to repeated media questions, again refused to criticize his predecessor, calling the findings of the EHRC a “collective failure of leadership.”
Corbyn, however, appeared far less accommodating. In a statement released on Facebook, Corbyn — while denouncing antisemitism — claimed “the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media.”
The comment appeared to be the last straw for the Labour leaders who were already found by the EHRC to have unlawfully smeared and minimized complaints of antisemitism. Shortly after Starmer finished answering media questions — and reportedly after the Labour leadership failed to persuade Corbyn to retract his statement — a party spokesperson announced the suspension of the former leader pending an investigation.
The suspension sent shockwaves across the U.K. and U.S., where progressive politicians, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), had previously praised Corbyn. Neither Sanders or Ocasio-Cortez responded to a request for comment, but shortly after news of the suspension, the Democratic Socialist Party, of which the New York representative is a member, tweeted a message of support for Corbyn.
In his remarks, Starmer urged Jewish Labour members, including Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger, to return to the party after having been “driven out.” Neither Ellman nor Berger, who acknowledged speaking personally with Starmer, indicated if they would rejoin the party.
In a statement, Ellman called the report “devastating.” Calling for the party to create an independent investigations system and adopt the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism, the former MP added, “It is only by facing up to the enormity of what has happened and adopting these measures that the Labour party can be a safe place for Jewish people and a truly anti-racist party.”
Twitter CEO dismisses Ayatollah’s threats to Israel as ‘saber-rattling’
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sparred with Republican lawmakers over his company’s decision to permit tweets from Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling for the destruction of Israel and denying the Holocaust at a raucous Senate committee hearing on Wednesday.
During the Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee hearing, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) pressed Dorsey on why Twitter had not taken action against tweets from Khamenei threatening Israel. The Twitter founder responded that the company does not see the tweets as an immediate threat to Israel or its citizens’ safety.
“We did not find those to violate our terms of service because we considered them saber-rattling, which is part of the speech of world leaders in concert with other countries,” Dorsey said. “Speech against… a country’s own citizens, we believe, is different and can cause more immediate harm.”
Dorsey’s explanation echoes a letter from the company sent to Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen earlier this year.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt disputed Dorsey’s argument.
“Whether ostensibly aimed at Jews or Israel, his rhetoric is more than saber-rattling — it is antisemitism, pure and simple,” Greenblatt said in a statement. “We firmly believe that Twitter needs to apply its policy on hate speech against Khamenei as it would against anyone else who espouses antisemitism. His position is irrelevant when he is spouting prejudice — if anything, it makes his hate even more consequential.”
In response to a query from Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) over the company placing misinformation warnings on some tweets sent by President Donald Trump while allowing Khamenei’s tweets, Dorsey emphasized that Twitter does not have an overarching policy against misinformation or against Holocaust denial.
“It’s misleading information, but we don’t have a policy against that type of misleading information,” Dorsey said, specifying that the platform only bans misleading information relating to the coronavirus and voting, as well as manipulated media.
But Greenblatt highlighted that Twitter told Bloomberg earlier this month that it would remove Holocaust denial content under the company’s hate speech policy.
“Jack Dorsey’s statement today was confusing, because it appears to be in opposition to his company’s publicly stated policy and policy rationale regarding Holocaust denial,” Greenblatt said. “Twitter should clarify that their policy is that Holocaust denial is not just a form of misinformation, but an antisemitic conspiracy theory that is used to spread hatred of Jews.”
A Twitter spokesperson told JI that Holocaust denial is banned on the platform, and that the Bloomberg article was correct.
“Our Hateful Conduct Policy prohibits a wide range of behavior, including making references to violent events or types of violence where protected categories were the primary victims, or attempts to deny or diminish such events,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We also have a robust glorification of violence policy in place and take action against content that glorifies or praises historical acts of violence and genocide, including the Holocaust.”
Twitter did not respond to a question from JI about why Khamenei’s tweets about the Holocaust were not removed or labeled under this policy.
This post was updated on Friday, Oct. 30 to include a response from Twitter.
Facebook content policy chief explains Holocaust denial ban
Facebook’s recent decision to ban Holocaust denial content from its platform was prompted by an uptick in global antisemitism and antisemitic violence coupled with an increasing lack of awareness about the Holocaust, the social media company’s top policy staffer said on Wednesday.
“It’s that combination of these two factors… that prompted us to say we need to recognize this as hate speech and remove it from our services,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of content policy, said during an American Jewish Committee webcast.
This explanation echoes one provided by ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt earlier this month.
Bickert cautioned that, while Facebook began immediately removing Holocaust denial content when it announced the policy change on October 12, the company is still in the process of rolling out its subject-matter training for platform moderators.
The company will “be going full-force enforcing the policy” in the coming weeks, she added.
Greenblatt — who helped lead the “Stop Hate For Profit” campaign against Facebook — told Jewish Insider that officials at the social media platform “still have a long way to go” in reigning in Holocaust denial.
“One can still easily find pages on Facebook devoted to promoting Holocaust denial or raising questions about the veracity of Holocaust history,” Greenblatt said in a statement. “This is unacceptable, especially since they now have a policy that prohibits this form of hate speech. So there’s lots of room for improvement here.”
Responding to a question about the platform’s stance on anti-Zionist content, Bickert said the company is “taking input” from Jewish groups around the globe to decide where to draw the lines on content moderation, noting that regular meetings with Jewish groups are important to improving Facebook’s overall content moderation practices.
“We’ve increased our collaboration with groups like AJC and others who have direct relationships with stakeholders,” she said. “It’s us saying, ‘here’s how we’re thinking about this issue. Help us to know if we’re in the right place and to get better.’ And it’s those organizations saying, ‘here’s what we’re hearing from stakeholders.’”
Greenblatt said Facebook has not consulted with the ADL on this topic, adding that the company has not always been receptive to pressure and advice from outside groups.
“The fact that it took them this long to remove Holocaust denial, after Jewish organizations had been asking them to do so literally for more than a decade, doesn’t inspire much confidence in their ability to listen and take our concerns seriously,” he said. “Their efforts to try and better navigate these issues by consulting Jewish groups and others who fight hate is a crucial element of improving their platform, but too often it has been only surface level.”
Congressional Dems urge Biden to continue campus antisemitism protections
As the presidential election draws near, at least one House Democrat — Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) — is hopeful that a potential Biden administration will maintain protections for Jewish college students, introduced by President Donald Trump in a 2019 executive order on antisemitism.
Speaking during a webinar on antisemitism alongside State Department Special Envoy Elan Carr on Tuesday, Gottheimer expressed support for continued action from the executive branch to address antisemitism and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has become widespread on U.S. college campuses.
“As a policy matter, whether it’s through executive action or other forms of standing up to the BDS movement, I would hope that the next administration continues that effort, because the BDS movement is antisemitic,” said Gottheimer, who attended the executive order’s signing ceremony last year.
In December 2019, Trump signed an executive order adding antisemitism to a list of punishable offenses included in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The executive order originated as guidance in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama Departments of Education, but was made official by the president’s signature.
Since the executive order’s implementation, one school — New York University — has reached a settlement with the Education Department over its handling of antisemitism on the campus. It was announced last week that a similar complaint had been filed against the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, due to years of unchecked antisemitic activity at the school.
Gottheimer also spoke about legislative efforts to address antisemitism, emphasizing that the 2019 House resolution condemning the BDS movement received broad bipartisan support, which he believes will serve as a signal to a potential Biden administration.
“I would hope, given the strength of that message and that resolution, that it would be carried forth as policy in the next administration,” he continued. “I think it’s very important that we remain vigilant. Regardless of who is the next president, I believe this must continue in force… I wouldn’t see any reason why we wouldn’t continue that posture in the years ahead.”
Few congressional Democrats have explicitly praised the executive order, but many legislators who have spoken to JI indicated that they hope more will be done to address the uptick in antisemitism around the country
In a statement to JI, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) skirted directly addressing the administration’s executive order, but highlighted the importance of applying the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism in the Department of Education.
Rosen pointed to the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which she is cosponosoring, that would codify the Department of Education’s use of the IHRA definition. “To protect Jewish students and others on campus from antisemitic hate, we must have the tools to enforce federal antidiscrimination laws in education,” she said.
Malcolm Hoenlein on his burgeoning friendship with Nick Cannon
Three months after coming under public scrutiny — and his highly publicized firing from ViacomCBS — for making antisemitic comments on his podcast, actor Nick Cannon has worked to make amends with the Jewish community: He has devoured Bari Weiss’s How to Fight Anti-Semitism, hosted rabbis on his podcast and toured a Holocaust museum.
While much of Hollywood has moved on from the scandal, Cannon has continued his outreach to the Jewish community, including a growing friendship with Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
The pair first began talking, Hoenlein said, shortly after controversy erupted over Cannon’s podcast with rapper Richard Griffin, who was kicked out of Public Enemy in 1989 for making antisemitic comments. Cannon and Griffin engaged in back-and-forth commentary that included clear antisemitic tropes.
“Somebody close to him connected us, and then he reached out to talk to me and to begin a dialogue that has continued steady throughout this kind of for months now,” Hoenlein told Jewish Insider on Monday of their connection. “It’s led to many hours of discussion. He came even to Friday night dinner at my daughter’s house.” The Shabbat dinner in Teaneck, N.J., Hoenlein believes, was Cannon’s first. “He spent hours talking with my family — my children, grandchildren.”
Since then, Hoenlein has met with the actor numerous times, including a dinner at Manhattan’s UN Plaza Grill last week. Hoenlein and Cannon were also photographed holding up a poster that read “stop Jew hatred.”
In the interview with JI, Hoenlein praised Cannon for his commitment to not only engaging with the Jewish community, but also learning from his missteps. “He made a mistake,” Hoenlein said, “but he has faced up to what he did and publicly spoke about doing t’shuvah.”
“This guy is anything but an antisemite,” Hoenlein added. “He fasted on Tisha B’av. Because he didn’t know it started at night, he fasted until the next morning.”
“He speaks whole Hebrew sentences, because he studies it,” Hoenlein said of Cannon. “I have fought antisemitism for five decades. I see one and I know somebody who is not.”
Hoenlein was hopeful Cannon could help not just educate younger generations about antisemitism and stereotypes, but also encourage other influencers to use their celebrity status to raise awareness about antisemitism.
The Jewish communal leader cautioned against the reaction, observed in the aftermath of Cannon’s controversial comments, to immediately cast the actor as an antisemite.
“We all react to these things, as we should, and we have to condemn antisemitism in whatever way when it appears,” Hoenlein suggested. “But not to jump to a conclusion that this is some ingrained ideology or hatred of a [certain person]. We have to be very careful about the use of the term and not have the term so misused and thrown around in careless ways.”
Members of Congress launch international task force to combat online antisemitism
A bipartisan group of members of Congress will announce on Tuesday the creation of a new global inter-parliamentary task force to combat digital antisemitism.
Members of the task force include Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), along with elected officials from major parties in Canada, the U.K. and Australia. Another member of the panel is member of Knesset Michal Cotler-Wunsh from Israel’s Blue and White Party, the daughter of former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler. In July, Cotler-Wunsh challenged a Twitter spokesperson during a Knesset hearing over the company’s decision not to delete or flag a post by Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that she said was “calling for genocide.” In a May tweet, Khamenei called for “firm, armed resistance” to bring about the “elimination of the Zionist regime.”
In an interview with Jewish Insider, Deutch said the lawmakers coalesced around the issue of online antisemitism because as social media continues to grow, “it’s unfortunately more and more being used to spread hatred and antisemitism. And we know that what may begin as online threats in the virtual world can lead to violence in the real world.”
Deutch said conversations about combatting global antisemitism began when he attended the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem earlier this year, and felt “compelled to move forward” with more action after social media platforms — including Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and Google — failed to counter it. “We are aware that there are efforts by multiple groups, and non-governmental organizations who are trying to address this,” Deutch said. “We think that it’s important for elected officials from countries that are experiencing concerning and really upsetting increases in antisemitism to speak out.”
The goals set by the task force, as reviewed by Jewish Insider, include raising awareness about online antisemitism and establishing a consistent message in legislatures across the world to hold social media platforms accountable. The group will also work to adopt and publish transparent policies related to hate speech.
“Always and at this time in particular as we stand united in fighting a global pandemic, another virus rages that requires global collaboration and cooperation,” Cotler-Wunsh said in a statement. “By working with multi-partisan allies in parliaments around the world, we hope to create best practices and real change in holding the social media giants accountable to the hatred that exists on their platforms.”
Deutch maintained that “the power of having a group of elected officials” from different parties across the globe come together on this issue “will highlight the need for action by the companies and the need for action by our respective legislative bodies.” He added: “And most importantly, we hope this will help advance the conversation that’s premised upon the fundamental understanding that we just shouldn’t accept this spread of antisemitism that we’ve seen on social media platforms.”
The Florida congressman told JI that as the group gains traction, its organizers will look to expand “into many more countries.”
Kraft Philanthropies reveals its first antisemitism initiative: ‘Together Beat Hate’
Accepting the Genesis Prize from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a glitzy ceremony in Jerusalem in June 2019, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft announced his vision to “work to end the violence against Jewish communities.”
The prize, granted annually, has become an aspirational award for accomplished members of the Jewish community, honoring their achievements across a variety of fields. It is intended to have the simultaneous effect of encouraging Jewish activism, awarding a check of $1 million to its laureates who, to date, have shown no personal need for the money.
Before an applauding audience at the Jerusalem Theatre, Kraft used the occasion to announce the formation of the Foundation to Combat Anti-Semitism, an effort he painted in lofty terms as working to thwart the rise of antisemitism.
“To counter the normalization of antisemitic narratives that question Israel’s right to exist, disguised as part of legitimate debate on campuses and in the media. To educate, to inform, and to heal inter-communal relations,” Kraft said. “In combating the scourge of antisemitism, my solemn ambition is to counter all forms of intolerance in the spirit of the ancient Jewish value of tikkun olam — to heal and repair the world.”
Kraft immediately committed $20 million to the foundation, now a part of the larger Kraft Family Philanthropies. This was joined, shortly after, by a $5 million commitment from fellow billionaire philanthropist Roman Abramovich — all part of an initial plan to raise some $50 million for the new foundation. But despite the high-profile and high-dollar origins, little of the effort has been made public for over a year.
Now, the organization is going public with its first major initiative, [Together Beat Hate], or [TBH], an effort to engage youth in education, conversation, and activism around the meaning and reality of antisemitism.
“We’ve been saying all along, it’s not a Jewish issue, it’s a community and a society issue,” Josh Kraft, president of Kraft Philanthropies and Robert’s son, told Jewish Insider.
Kraft broke the general population down into three segments: those who hold antisemitic attitudes, those who are knowledgeable about and opposed to antisemitism and those with an incomplete or misconstrued understanding of antisemitism. This third group, which he believes is the most susceptible to learn about the issue, has become the focus for [TBH].
“We’re trying to reach that group in the middle specifically,” he explained. “We feel like we can influence their experience with the [Jewish] community.”
Institutional memory of the Holocaust is quickly fading as the number of survivors dwindles. A January study by the Pew Forum found that less than half of Americans can accurately approximate the number of Jews killed by the Nazis. Yet reports released by the FBI and the Anti-Defamation League show a rapid increase in antisemitic hate crimes in the United States.
In January, the foundation commissioned a study on the perceptions and knowledge of antisemitism among American youth — which they defined as those ages 13-35. The findings, according to the group, indicated a particular lack of familiarity with the terminology and history of antisemitism among those aged 13-17.
This age group appeared especially representative of the middle segment described by Kraft: largely unfamiliar with antisemitism and in need of education, but without any preconditioned antisemitic views.
“They truly just don’t know what we’re talking about when we say antisemitism,” Rachel Fish, the executive director of the Foundation to Combat Anti-Semitism added. “They say things like, well, ‘what’s a Semite?’ and ‘I’m not really sure what that is, but I’m anti-racist, I’m also against homophobia, I’m against Islamophobia, so I’m probably an antisemite,’ and they don’t understand that they’re actually an anti-antisemite. They don’t even understand the terminology.”
To address the issue, Kraft and Fish turned to Ryan Paul, an expert in digital media, to organize and run the outreach campaign.
Paul’s approach was modeled after the success of groups like Black Lives Matter, which attracted attention to its movement by exposing those without previous experience or knowledge to stories of racism. Through the [TBH] social media channels and website, the group built a platform that it hopes will bring attention to the issue of antisemitism.
“We’re encouraging people who may not be aware of Jew hatred or antisemitism to explore and to learn things, and we’ve provided content starters for them to have conversations with folks to share what those conversations have been like, in order to expose a broader group of people to this topic,” Paul explained.
Last week, [TBH] published its website, featuring glossy black-and-white photos and call-to-action quotes like “hatred is not a given.” The centerpiece of the site is a five-step plan for visitors to educate and raise awareness for themselves and others.
Step five — called “Act Together” — encourages visitors to submit their ideas for future campaigns or partnerships. Though the team did not mention any specific groups or opportunities, they repeatedly emphasized an interest in working alongside organizations dedicated to fighting other forms of hate.
The organizational and educational work — fueled primarily through social media — will be supplemented by a digital command center currently under construction in Gillette Stadium, the headquarters for the Patriots and other Kraft-affiliated organizations. There, a team will track more than 300 million websites and social media platforms across the internet and dark web, compiling data on incidents and trends in antisemitism.
Though other longstanding organizations monitor and compile similar information, Fish claims [TBH] will be the first to tie that data directly into social media campaigns aimed at youth. The real-time information gathering will also work as a rapid-response effort, determining which sites and patterns to target.
Fish and Paul admitted this real-time and far-reaching approach straddled the line between drawing attention to the hatefulness of the content and providing emerging movements with undue publicity. But while the organization works to define that standard, Fish argued the information would still prove useful in dissecting the methods of their internet opponents.
“What we want to do is understand that messaging, so that we can refine the way in which we engage with our target audience so that they won’t be seduced by that messaging, but rather, would be positively predisposed to the kind of framing that we’re putting out there,” she said.
The foundation — which has also consulted with experts on youth psychology and the effects of social media — will use the resulting research to furnish its partnerships with similar groups.
Given the logistical restrictions of the ongoing pandemic, the team seemed unsure of an exact timeline for their work. Still, only a few weeks into the project, Kraft, Fish and Paul are impressed with the response from groups seeking to partner with [TBH].
“I really feel very strongly that it relies on people to use their voices right and it’s people from many different backgrounds,” Paul added. “And I can tell you as somebody who’s not in the Jewish community, this is new. It’s a learning experience for me.”
Lee Zeldin claims he’s never experienced antisemitism from the GOP
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) defended the Republican Party against allegations of antisemitism in its ranks during a web event Monday held in conjunction with the Republican National Convention, which kicked off today in Charlotte, N.C.
“I, personally, haven’t encountered any antisemitism within the Republican Party,” Zeldin, who is one of two Jewish Republican members of Congress, said. “From a personal perspective, I can tell you — from kindergarten through 12th grade, college, law school and four years of active duty, I never once experienced antisemitism at all.”
The New York congressman said during Monday’s call, which was hosted by the American Jewish Committee, that he’s only faced antisemitism in recent years, something he attributes to the current political atmosphere. He estimated “several thousand” instances of being called a Nazi or a Nazi sympathizer but added, “I’m not aware of any of it coming from within the Republican Party.”
Zeldin instead assigned blame to the Democratic Party, pointing in particular to comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in 2019. ”I spent four years in the New York State Senate, and through my first four years in the U.S. House of Representatives, I didn’t experience it inside the actual chamber until the beginning of 2019,” Zeldin said. “That became an issue within the House Democratic Caucus in the first half of 2019.” He recalled that the House of Representatives passed a watered-down resolution against hate following Omar’s comments regarding AIPAC and lawmakers’ support for Israel. Zeldin noted that a few months earlier, in January 2019, the House voted in near unanimous fashion on a resolution to condemn Rep. Steve King (R-IA) following comments from the congressman that appeared to defend white nationalists and white supremacists. Republicans “named names, there was a resolution that passed, that member lost his committee assignments,” said Zeldin. “We shouldn’t have double standards, we shouldn’t have moral equivalencies.”
Zeldin suggested that if Omar’s statements had been made by a Republican legislator, “I guarantee you that we would have passed a resolution that singularly, emphatically and forcefully condemned antisemitism. There would have been no moral equivalencies, that member would have been removed from her committee assignments, and it would have been basically a unanimous effort in doing so.”
A number of Republican candidates have faced criticism this cycle for promoting antisemitic stereotypes. Georgia Senator David Purdue, who is facing a tough reelection challenge from Jon Ossoff, came under fire last month for a campaign advertisement that appeared to enlarge Ossoff’s nose. In the state’s 14th congressional district, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has made claims about George Soros and the Rothschilds, won her party’s runoff and is all but guaranteed a seat in the next Congress.
Zeldin also suggested that the reason there’s not a major shift in support for President Donald Trump among Jewish voters is because Israel is “not popping at the top of their list” of priorities. “I’ll talk to a Jewish voter, and it’s possible that if I ask them for their top 15 issues, they might just not mention Israel,” he explained.