Thousands of incidents of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are registered each day on the internet, according to the co-founder of a leading international network of organizations engaged in combating cyberspace bigotry.
“It is very difficult to make exact calculations because the internet is much bigger than most of us think,” said Ronald Eissens, who serves as a board member of the Dutch-based International Network Against Cyber Hate (INACH), which encompasses 16 organizations spanning the globe. “A thousand a day would certainly be true, and 5,000 to 10,000 a day worldwide could also be true.”
In an interview with Haaretz, Eissens said the number of complaints about anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial submitted to his network of organizations tends to rise when Israel is the focus of international media attention. “During the last Gaza War, we saw a big fat spike in online anti-Semitism, and I’m talking about pure anti-Semitism – not anti-Zionism,” he said.
Eissens, who also serves as director-general of the Magenta Foundation – the Dutch complaints bureau for discrimination on the internet – was a keynote speaker Tuesday at an international conference on online anti-Semitism held in Jerusalem. The conference, the first of its kind, was co-sponsored by INACH and Israeli Students Combating Anti-Semitism, a local organization.
Anti-Semitism, said Eissens, is the single most common form of bigotry on the internet, accounting for about one-third of all complaints registered with his organization, followed by Islamophobia. In 2015, though, for the first time, he said, Islamophobia surpassed anti-Semitism as the most common complaint in two countries: The Netherlands and Germany. Eissens attributed the rising number of complaints about Islamophobia to the refugee crisis in Europe.
Since its establishment in 2002, said Eissens, INACH succeeded in removing somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 hateful posts on the internet, about 25,000 of them anti-Semitic in nature.
In past years, noted Eissens, anti-Semitic posts were found mainly in dedicated neo-Nazi and white supremacist websites and forums. “Nowadays, most of the stuff has shifted to social media. It’s much more scattered, but also much more mainstream. You still find it on those traditional anti-Semitic sites, but more and more on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google.”
Although his organization does not monitor anti-Zionist posts on the internet, Eissens said he believed there was often a blurring of lines. “Nowadays, anti-Zionism has become part and parcel of Jew hatred, and often when people say they are just anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic, that is a cop out,” he said. “I’m not sure all those who identify as anti-Zionists are really anti-Semitic, but I think it’s heading in that direction, and that is dangerous.”
Asked whether he considered supporters of the international Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel to be anti-Jewish, Eissens said: “My problem with BDS activists is that almost all of them are of the opinion that Israel should not really exist. They’re talking about a one-state solution. They’re talking about giving Palestine back to the Palestinians, and they’re talking about all of traditional Palestine. When they say things like that, I often find BDS activists to be anti-Semites because what’s supposed to happen to Jews who are living in Israel if that happens?
“But if they say they’re in favor of a two-state solution, with Jews and Palestinians living side by side, that’s a whole other stance. But I don’t hear that nuance a lot among BDS activists.”