Act Against Antisemitsm
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Following the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas, acts of hatred toward American Jews — mainly online but also with physical attacks — have risen globally by 438%, according to the British Jewish agency Community Security Trust.

If you have supported Israel on your social media channels by posting an Israeli flag in your profile picture only to receive a barrage of unsolicited hateful messages in your Facebook inbox or Twitter feed, or if you have been ousted or silenced in online professional forum groups after offering counterpoints to anti-Israel or antisemitic posts, you are not alone. 

Following the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas, acts of hatred toward American Jews — mainly online but also with physical attacks — have risen globally by 438%, according to the British Jewish agency Community Security Trust.

The Anti-Defamation League in May documented “disturbing antisemitism” on multiple social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. The group said its analysis of Twitter posts from May 7-14 found more than 17,000 tweets used variations of the phrase, “Hitler was right.” The ADL responded to the hatred by launching its #ActAgainstAntiSemitism online campaign and held an online rally May 27 to provide the public with information.

online stress

Carolyn Normandin, director of ADL Michigan region, said in the 10 days of the 11-day conflict, 14 incidents of hatred against Jews were filed to her local office. They include:

• At a May 22 anti-Israel protest in Flint, a demonstrator held a sign demonizing Zionists that read, in part, “being pro-Zionist makes you pro-genocide & pro-apartheid.”

• At a May 18 anti-Israel protest in Dearborn, a protester at a rally held a sign reading, “Zionists r modern-day Nazis.”

• Restaurateur Jeremy Sasson was targeted by pro-Palestinian activists who flooded Yelp with negative reviews. (See the story in the June 3 issue of the JN).

Normandin said it is the ADL’s position to support Israel and a two-state solution. She labels as “extremely disturbing” the calls she’s receiving about Jewish people being blamed for the actions of the Israeli government and making statements like “Hitler was right” as a rationale to call for the end of the existence of the Jewish state. She urges anyone who has received or viewed hateful online messages about Jews or any minority group to contact the ADL and file a report.

“It’s this vicious kind of ubiquitous blame that right now is troubling,” Normandin said.  “We have seen tremendous blame of Jews for all Israel’s policies. They are getting violent responses because they posted a statement in support of Israel or have been asked to leave online groups because they are Jewish.”

Locally, Jews say they have seen an increase of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish posts on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. The hateful rhetoric against Jews and Israel supporters lately has inundated every facet of life and is impacting all generations. 

Anti-Israel Action in Ann Arbor

On May 11, the U-M Central Student Government released a statement about the conflict that expressed complete solidarity with “indigenous” Palestinians, accused Israel of ethnic cleansing, and called for a divestment of all funding and academic collaboration with Israel.

Student Ben Moss of Bloomfield Hills, a junior, said it “caught the Jewish student body completely by surprise.” He and other Jewish students have created a petition to counter the statement and are asking the CSG for an apology. 

“The CSG is supposed to be representative of the entire student body on campus,” Moss said. “I understand if they want to take a stand for Palestinian voices, but the statement just stirred up a lot of anger because it was an uneducated opinion of a complex topic.”

Moss said when CSG was approached about the statement,  the organization said it did not view it as antisemitic. 

Benjamin Moss of Bloomfield Hills, a Junior at the University of Michigan
Benjamin Moss

“There are some Jewish members of the CSG, but none of them were consulted on the statement before it was released,” Moss said. “All it did was stir the pot and spark other student organizations to share hateful, inaccurate and antisemitic messages while Hamas’ missiles were flying into Israel.”

Looking ahead to the fall, Moss, a student in the School of Kinesiology, hopes the incident can be used as a learning experience and create more dialogue between Hillel and other campus organizations. 

“There is a surprising amount of people posting things who are uneducated on the topic,” Moss said. “We need to do fewer things online and hope this semester we can have more in-person discussions and debates. Social media shares a lot of misinformation.”

Professional Backlash

Others have seen a backlash in professional online groups. 

Brooke Lipman Weingarden, 38, a physician who lives in Orchard Lake, belonged to a physician’s mother’s discussion group on Facebook with more than 70,000 members. Since the conflict, she said there seems to be a double standard from administrators moderating comments made by Palestinians and Jews. 

“The group is generally respectful of all cultures, but, lately, like everywhere, there have been many posts from Palestinian members voicing their valid concerns about the conflict,” she said. “But if a Jewish member posts a comment of concern of antisemitism, their comments are removed, they are blocked from commenting and are eventually removed from the group.”

Public school teacher Brooke Leiberman, 40, of Farmington Hills said she believes she and other Jewish teachers were kicked out of a private Facebook group of Michigan educators called MI Core after they publicly contested that other teacher members were passing around infographics from a Palestinian organization supportive of the anti-Israel boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) movement that alleged that millions of dollars were being siphoned from Michigan classrooms to buy weapons for Israel to kill Palestinians. 

The infographic content, which alleged that $96 million that could have been going to use in Michigan schools were instead being diverted to fund the Israeli military, was created by U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. 

“The Palestinian movement is putting themselves into every activism cause,” Leiberman said. “They kicked me out of a teachers’ group because I was disputing misinformation. These are public school teachers who are upholding this false information being taken from pro-Palestinian organizations. There is no proof from the state that money is being taken from state funding to be sent to fund Israel military operations.”

Educator and MI Core Facebook page administrator Maria Logrosso-Gaitens said there had been a misunderstanding and that people in the group were removed because they were screen-capturing private conversations and sharing them externally on social media. Lograsso-Gaitens said the infographic does not represent the views of MI Core and has since been removed.

An example of the misinformation circulating on social media
An example of the misinformation circulating on social media

Nancy Harf, who has been a longtime volunteer and fundraiser in the Jewish community, said she was troubled that many of the small businesses in Detroit she likes to patronize came out in support of Palestinians without looking at the issue with nuance or balance. In the coming weeks, she hopes to make local business owners thinking about supporting BDS understand that by doing so, they will be supporting Hamas, recognized by the United States as a terrorist organization. 

“This is antisemitic, frightening and hurtful to the Jewish community, and it scares me to see how quickly this has taken off,” Harf said. “I think what needs to happen is instead of the back-and-forth yelling online, we have to visit businesses with information with a personal approach and educate them, and let them know that calling for a boycott of Israel is very hurtful language to their Jewish clients.”

Reaching out to Neighbors

Rabbi Asher Lopatin, director of Detroit’s Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC, said he has had encouraging meetings with faith leaders who are standing in solidarity with their Jewish neighbors and are planning a rally to stop all forms of racial and religious hatred in the near future. 

The Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity, for which Lopatin serves as convener, came out with a strongly worded statement supporting Israel’s right to exist and defend itself “against terror organization Hamas, which seeks the total destruction of Israel” and an end to the loss of the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians. (See last week’s JN.)

“We hope that (the upcoming anti-hate rally) leads to more of a dialogue and learning about Israel,” Lopatin said. “This is not about a war between Israel and the Palestinian people; it is a war between Israel and a terrorist organization. When people say Free Gaza, I say, ‘Yes, free Gaza from Hamas.” 

Kobi Erez, executive director of the Zionist Organization of America-Michigan, said that in the past it was easier to visibly stand up for Israel and that there always have been undercurrents of antisemitism domestically and globally. The ZOA blames the silence in the media as well as political leaders and fear of “cancel culture” for not taking a stronger stand against hatred geared toward Jews and Israel. 

“Everyone is afraid of being canceled,” Erez said. “What’s particularly disheartening is the silence among Jewish leaders. I chalk this up to them feeling torn between the social justice groups that they typically support and their support for Israel. The ‘woke’ culture is against Israel so, sadly, the Jewish leadership is afraid to speak up for it.” 

To train others on how to counter hatred toward Jews and Israel, ZOA will be holding a virtual educational panel on the topic and will also stage a live rally later this summer. Details for both will be posted on the organization’s website at mizoa.org. 

Erez advises against Jews trying to counter-protest at the many planned pro-Palestinian rallies happening in Dearborn and across the region. 

“Though it is our right and often our responsibility to counter an unfair anti-Israel rally, at this time, we cannot, in good conscience, put anyone’s life at risk,” Erez said. “Jews are being assaulted all over the world right now. Hate crimes against Jews in London were up 500% (according to the nonprofit Community Service Trust). This is serious and, while it pains me to say it, we will not be organizing a counter rally.”

Miles Eichenhorn
Miles Eichenhorn

Miles Eichenhorn, 22, of West Bloomfield said he was alarmed at the social discourse and distorted and inaccurate information about Jews, Zionism and Israel in the form of memes and infographics appearing on his social media feeds. 

In a heartfelt Instagram video post, he expressed his feelings not to sway people one way or another about their opinions on the most current conflict, but instead to be very careful and to think and research things before people hastily share them on social media. 

“Jews, who have our own conflicted feelings about the conflict, don’t owe others a prefaced opinion nor should we be asked to condemn something before you respect us as human beings,” said Eichenhorn, a senior at New York University.

“It is not wrong to want to wish for an improvement in the lives of Palestinians and recognize that the actions of the Israeli government may be wrong. But the idea that you saw a post that delegitimizes or demonizes the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel — you don’t know the source of that post, you have not done your own research on the history and you share it widely as fact, this is inappropriate.” 

Act Against Antisemitism

On May 27, elected officials across the political spectrum, religious leaders of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, celebrities, ethnically diverse leaders and athletes alike spoke out against the troubling rise in hatred against Jews in “Act Against Antisemitism,” a global online rally. 

The event was coordinated by a partnership of the ADL, AJC, Hadassah, the Jewish Federations of North America and the organizational and rabbinical bodies of Orthodox, Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Judaism. 

Speaker after speaker assured Jews they are not alone in this fight against hatred and urged Americans to contact their representatives in Congress to urge action. For more information and a ready-to-use online toolkit on this campaign, go toactagainstantisemitism.org. 

Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO StandWithUs, said the nonpartisan educational organization created an online emergency situation room to provide accurate information about the ongoing Israel/Hamas conflict. They also have links to letters urging Congress to sanction governments that support Hamas. 

“StandWithUs immediately mobilized our ‘Situation Room,’ which is based at our education center in Jerusalem,” Rothstein said. “Volunteers work around the clock with our social media team to counter misinformation propagated by anti-Israel groups as well as mistakes in media reports. The Situation Room contains fact sheets, including important information about the contested Sheikh Jarrah Jerusalem neighborhood and Hamas, as well as informative videos and briefings.”

Rothstein added that SWU’s college campus and high school directors are empowering students with techniques on how to engage in difficult conversations with peers and family members. They are holding workshops on a variety of issues, including responding to the anti-Israel rhetoric and antisemitism encountered online and at school.

To report a hate crime, either one witnessed or experienced online or live, contact the ADL. It takes minutes to fill out an online anonymous complaint at www.adl.org. With data collected, the ADL states it has been able to help communities across the country by reporting on trends, educating lawmakers and law enforcement, and advocating for stronger protections from incidents and crimes. 

social media

Fighting Online Antisemitism

• File a report with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) if you see hateful posts or images online. Michigan.adl.org or (248) 353-7553

• If you witness hateful actions or statements on campus, contact the campus Hillel to work through the student government or the university administration. 

• If you feel you have been silenced by professional organizations and Facebook groups regarding your pro-Israel posts or reactions to anti-Israel posts, contact the organization and Facebook group administrator directly. 

• Become educated and trained on countering online hatred. Contact the Michigan Zionist Organization of America (mizoa.org), which plans to hold a training this summer; the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (jcrcajc.org); and the ADL (michigan.adl.org).

• Carefully consider the accuracy of your own posts. Do your research.

• Speak directly to a media outlet if you spot inaccuracies in its reporting on Israel. 

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Stacy Gittleman is an award-winning journalist and has been a contributing writer for the Detroit Jewish News for the last five years. Prior to moving to Metro Detroit in 2013, she was a columnist and feature writer for Gannett's Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, NY. She also manages social media pages for other local non-profit organizations including the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. Contact her with breaking news and feature story ideas that impact Detroit's Jewish community at stacy.gittleman@yahoo.com