July 7, 2023

Jenin, Jew-Hatred, and Incitement to Violence on Social Media 

Criticizing government actions is important in a democratic society, but criticism of Israeli military operations too often turns into violent antisemitism targeting all Jews, no matter where they live.

Violent antisemitism reared its head on social media as the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) carried out an anti-terrorism military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin between July 3rd and 5th. Known as Operation Home & Garden, the operation came after dozens of terrorists from the Jenin area perpetrated a series of attacks within Israel in the first half of 2023. It was the largest Israeli operation in the West Bank in the past two decades.

Criticizing government actions and policies is essential to a democratic society. However, criticism of the State of Israel on social media often devolves into hateful, anti-Jewish rhetoric calling for violence against Jews.

The online reaction to Operation Home & Garden proved no different. Since the beginning of Operation Home & Garden, CyberWell’s monitoring technology detected a sample of close to 120 posts with a high probability of being antisemitic.  About 90% of these posts were in Arabic and close to 10% in Persian and English.

This sample reflects a small section of the massive wave of antisemitic discourse on social media. Below we pinpoint the major antisemitic narratives that gained traction following the operation.

Inciting Violence Against the Jewish People 

This Tweet incites violence against Jews by quoting a known dangerous individual and including a photo with a deadly weapon. The quote comes from Abdullah al-Husari, whose bio and violent acts are praised on the al-Quds Brigades website. The al-Quds Brigades is the military wing of Islamic Jihad, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. This single Tweet reached more than 49,000 views in three days and more than 1,000 likes.

Screenshot of an antisemitic Tweet encouraging violence against Jews

According to the social listening tools that CyberWell employs, the hashtag سرايا_القدس# [al-Quds Brigades] was used on Twitter more than 6,000 times over the past seven days, with a potential reach of more than 66 million people.

CyberWell previously analyzed the connection between praising dangerous individuals and antisemitism on social media and submitted a policy recommendation on this subject.

Seven civilians suffered injuries after a ramming and stabbing terror attack in Tel Aviv on July 4th.  While Hamas took responsibility, the attack generated a wave of support across social media. 

Screenshot of a TikTok video praising the Tel Aviv terror attack that left seven civilians injured

Caption: “Tel-Aviv, we’ve come.”

Screenshot of an antisemitic TikTok video praising violence against Jews

Caption: “Invasion to Jenin, Allah suffices me, for He is the best disposer of affairs, the Jews [with a red X crossing out the word ‘Jews’].”

This TikTok video gained more than 3,000 views.

Religious Antisemitism 

Though CyberWell continually monitors for and consistently finds religious-based Jew-hatred online, this form of antisemitism became even more widespread following the Jenin operation.

In one example, the following tweet uses the Israeli operation to bring up the antisemitic claim that Jews killed Jesus.

This Facebook post groups all Jewish people collectively as the enemy of the Palestinians.

Antisemitic Incitement PRIOR to the Operation 

Another segment of posts in the sample CyberWell analyzed claims a religious justification for violence against Jews, combining the two previously described narratives.

These posts include the chant “Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, the army of Muhammad will return.” This chant refers to the battles of the prophet Muhammad against specific Jewish communities during the 7th century CE. Since these battles resulted in the mass slaughter of Jews, using this slogan today along with images of armed individuals represents incitement to violence against Jews as a collective. 

While this tweet received 1,002 views, according to social listening tools that CyberWell employs, over the past week on Twitter the hashtag خيبر# [#Khaybar], which is highly likely to include antisemitic content, had a potential reach of more than 850 million. It is important to note that the major uptick of 200% in the use of this hashtag occurred two days prior to the start of the Jenin operation — a provocation and not a response to the operation. 

CyberWell’s Recommendations 

Justification for and incitement to violence against any protected category of people is prohibited by the community standards of all the social media platforms that CyberWell monitors — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.  Yet these posts are still online, continuing to reach mass audiences with the potential to incite violence. 

What we see on media platforms is often a reflection of real-world events. Social media also can serve as fertile ground for the growth and spread of violent antisemitic ideas that lead to real-world harm. 

It is unreasonable and unfair to hold all members of minority groups accountable for the actions of one. It is also unreasonable and unfair to hold all members of a nation responsible for the actions of that nation’s government.  Yet it is normal today on social media to see posts referring to all Jews as “the enemy” and holding all Jews responsible for the actions of the State of Israel, whether or not they are Israeli and whether or not they support those actions.

Holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the State of Israel is antisemitic.  And calling for or glorifying violence against Jewish people is not only antisemitic — it’s dangerous.  

CyberWell urges social media platforms to enforce their own community standards and prevent the spread of antisemitic tropes and incitement of violence against all protected categories, including Jews.

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