A Twitterstorm erupted on the social media site Sunday night after antisemitic accounts began posting tweets bearing the hashtag #JewishPrivilege – causing the term to shoot to the top of the site’s U.S. trending topics.
The source of the tweets was far-right, white supremacist Twitter profiles and bots, which used the hashtag to post a mixture of classic conspiratorial theories involving Jewish domination and control of the media, Holocaust denial and accusations of underwriting social unrest movements so that Jews could displace whites with minority groups.
Some of the tweets revived the attempt to pass themselves off as being Jewish and “confessing” their sins of privilege.
One wrote that he felt “guilty that our people’s role in slavery dwarfed Whites, but it’s important we pay for that dominant role that hurt so many millions of blacks. We jews are 1/3 of billionaires and MUST give much more to blacks.”
Almost immediately, Jews across Twitter pushed back, using the same hashtag to share their experiences with antisemitism. By early Monday, the hashtag had been largely “flipped”: #JewishPrivilege was dominated by reminders of antisemitism over the years and stories of struggles with modern antisemitism.
The responses that drew the most attention came from celebrities, including actor Josh Gad, television producer David Simon, comedian-actress Sarah Silverman and former presidential contender Marianne Williamson.
“Guess we’re at the #JewishPrivilege part of 2020 because Neo-Nazis have a social platform. Where to start? Is it the privilege of my mom never getting to meet her grandparents because they were murdered or is it her parents being robbed of their childhoods by being put in camps?” Gad tweeted.
Simon, best known as the creator of “The Wire,” wrote: “My #JewishPrivilege? Garden-variety stuff. Eleven dead relatives at Auschwitz and in the Russian woods and a father who was a hostage and suffered PTSD years after the Jewish non-profit where he worked was stormed by angry dudes with guns & scimitars who threatened to behead him.”
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After Silverman tweeted: “My dad getting the shit kicked out of him everyday at school 4 being a kike to kids in NH throwing pennies at me on the bus to pastors in Florida calling for my death and telling their congregation that knocking my teeth out and killing me would be God’s work. #JewishPrivilege,” Williamson responded with her own experiences: “It’s people emailing & tweeting to me that Jews need to be quiet now & that ‘that’s not just a suggestion’ or friends who don’t realize I’m Jewish making it clear how anti-Semitic they are or family members afraid to wear a Star of David in their own neighborhood.#JewishPrivilege.”
Many of the high-profile Jews tweeting experienced hostile backlash. Silverman in particular was called out for discussing racism against Jews, with many people tweeting out photographs from when she did an episode of her television show in blackface. She had apologized for that in 2018, saying she was “horrified” by the fact she had done it: “I don’t stand by the blackface sketch. I’m horrified by it, and I can’t erase it. I can only be changed by it and move on.”
Other tweets came from Jewish activists and representatives of Jewish advocacy organizations, as well as individual Jews sharing their experiences with antisemitism.
Rabbi Elchanan Poupko, for example, wrote: “#JewishPrivilege is my cousin Reb Nochum Moshe Twersky of the Chernobyl Hassidic dynasty being asked to come and bless Ukrainian soldiers just for them to shoot him dead later.”
The Jewish tweets triggered their own wave of reaction, both on Twitter itself and on Gab – the alternative platform infamous for its far-right users and tolerance for hate speech, with posters complaining that the Jews on the hashtag were engaging in “arrogant kvetching,” “whining” about discrimination, and “complaining about how persecuted they are for no reason.”