ADL Reports on Anti-Semitic Targeting of Journalists

When Israeli journalist Eylon Aslan-Levy logged onto his Twitter account in late August, he was shockingly confronted with superimposed images of his head peeking out of a crematoria oven.

“We’re coming for your tribe,” one of the tweets said, in what Aslan-Levy interpreted as a death threat.

“I made the mistake of asking on Twitter what the deal with the white supremacist frog was, and this provoked a non-stop barrage of neo-Nazi, white supremacist bile for several hours,” he later recalled.

The frog is a cartoon avatar used mainly by members of the so-called alt-right, a largely internet-based movement whose supporters reject mainstream conservatism and are generally supportive of Republican nominee Donald Trump. While the alt-right does not have any formal ideology, its supporters are opposed to immigration, multiculturalism and political correctness. The movement has also been associated with white nationalism.

Another tweet Aslan-Levy received was an image of Trump emblazoned with the words “will gas the Jews and make Israel pay for it.”

His case is hardly unique.

Anti-Semitic harassment online has increased significantly during the runup to next month’s elections with approximately 2.6 million such tweets logged by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) between August 2015 and July 2016.

In a comprehensive study published last week, the ADL noted a “significant uptick” in such vitriol between January and July, a period corresponding to media focus on the 2016 presidential election.

ADL officials are worried such tweets normalize anti-Semitic language in the public discourse. And while there is no indication that Trump supported the tweets, the online biographies attached to many of the offending accounts listed support for Trump alongside such tags as “nationalist,” “conservative,” “American” and “white.”

Reacting to the report, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, said social media, “is brand new territory, and we know that activists of all types, including ISIS and extremists of all ilk, are going online in order to get their messages out.”

More than 800 journalists received anti-Semitic tweets, with an estimated reach of 45 million impressions, according to the study. This hateful activity, “may contribute to reinforcing and normalizing anti-Semitic language on a massive scale,” the report states. The top 10 most targeted journalists, all of whom are Jewish, received 83 percent of the anti-Semitic tweets.

Sixty percent of the anti-Semitic tweets were replies to journalists’ posts, with 11 percent regular tweets and 29 percent retweets. “Anti-Semitism, more often than not, occurred in response to journalists’ initial posts,” according to the study.

The report found that 1,600 Twitter accounts generated 68 percent of the anti-Semitic tweets targeting journalists. Of those accounts, 21 percent have been suspended.


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