In Germany, online anti-Semitism is going mainstream

Jew-hatred on the web has risen 22% in a decade, with bigotry masquerading as anti-Israel criticism and relying on classic tropes, research reveals

Private security personel with 'Aryan Brotherhood' on his T-shirt opens the gate at the venue of the 'Schild und Schwert' (Shield and Sword) neo-Nazi festival, in the small eastern German town of Ostritz on April 20, 2018.( AFP PHOTO / John MACDOUGALL)

Private security personel with ‘Aryan Brotherhood’ on his T-shirt opens the gate at the venue of the ‘Schild und Schwert’ (Shield and Sword) neo-Nazi festival, in the small eastern German town of Ostritz on April 20, 2018.( AFP PHOTO / John MACDOUGALL)

A long-awaited study by internationally renowned anti-Semitism expert Monika Schwarz-Friesel has found that the amount of German anti-Semitic content on the internet has grown massively in the last 10 years, permeates mainstream society, and is increasingly extreme.

Released Wednesday, the research project studied 300,000 pieces of German internet content between 2014 and 2018, with a focus on social media. During the first year of the study, slightly less than 23 percent of the content was classified as anti-Semitic. In 2017, this number had jumped to over 30%.

A similar study conducted by Schwarz-Friesel in 2007 found only 7.5% of the internet content examined to be anti-Semitic, indicating an increase of more than 22% over the last decade.

The latest results show not only a massive increase in the amount of anti-Semitic content found online, but also a radicalization in terms of the content’s quality. For example, anti-Semitic comments in response to news and other articles have not only grown in number, but have become more rabid.

The study was funded by the German Research Association, and the results were published today at a press conference at the Techinical University of Berlin, where Schwarz-Friesel is a professor of cognitive science.

Monika Schwarz-Friesel. (Marc Neugröschel/Times of Israel)

“Anti-Semitism is ubiquitous in online communication,” says Schwarz-Friesel. “It has also increased and intensified in regard to Web 2.0, and hyperlinks to photos, texts, songs, and films.”

In fact, campaigns against anti-Semitism themselves on social media networks such as Facebook elicit massive amounts of anti-Jewish comments. Thirty-eight percent of comments posted in response to a 2014 German Facebook campaign entitled #Never Again Jew-Hatred were actually anti-Semitic.

The study also found that much online anti-Semitism appears as stereotypes projected at the State of Israel.

Schwarz-Friesel says that Israel-related anti-Semitism can be distinguished from legitimate criticism of Israel through several quantifiable metrics. She says there is little ground for oft-voiced concerns that any criticism of Israel can potentially be viewed as anti-Semitic.

Pepe the Frog, an internet meme, has become a symbol of the alt-right. (Twitter/Lior Zaltzman)

“It has been scientifically proven that Israel-related anti-Semitism is based on classic anti-Jewish stereotypes,” says a statement by Schwarz-Friesel and her team of researchers.

Remarkably, the study also found that anti-Semitic statements masquerading as criticism of Israel often appear in contexts unrelated to the Middle East conflict.

The Israel-related anti-Semitism, according to the researchers, is especially worrying as it is often considered to be socially acceptable and therefore meets little resistance among the mainstream and elites of society. This causes it to play an especially integral role in the spreading and consolidation of anti-Semitic worldviews.

However, anti-Semitism related to Israel is not the most widespread form of Jew hatred online. Fifty-four percent of the anti-Semitic material reviewed by researchers was based on classic anti-Semitic tropes, such as, “Jews are humanity’s greatest woe.”

Countering assertions that Muslim anti-Semitism is largely a response to Israeli politics, Muslim anti-Semitism was found to be based on such classic stereotypes more often than on Israel-related topics.

Worryingly, the study claimed that the overall increase in online anti-Semitism was not coming from extremist elements. This signifies that bigotry against Jews is not confined to radical splinter groups, but rather permeates mainstream society.

Finally, the study found a uniformity in anti-Semitic notions among users regardless of political affiliation or ideological background, bearing witness to anti-Semitism’s social entrenchment and cultural continuity.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-germany-online-anti-semitism-is-going-mainstream-study-finds/

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