Con­tin­uum of hate

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT -

Ear­lier this week, the Prime Min­is­ter out­lined a se­ries of mea­sures de­signed to tackle ex­trem­ism. So­cial me­dia has given the ex­trem­ists a new tool through which to lure im­pres­sion­able young men and women to their vi­o­lent cause. And it has given hate-mon­gers a new plat­form through which to empty their poi­son into the pub­lic do­main. It is no sur­prise that the has had to re­port the grow­ing in­ci­dence of on­line an­tisemitism. Last year, Gar­ron Helm was im­pris­oned for a se­ries of vile tweets to Lu­ciana Berger, the Labour MP. This sum­mer, the rise of Jeremy Cor­byn led to an out­pour­ing of an­ti­semitic bile on so­cial me­dia that shocked many ob­servers. Some say that this on­line ha­tred car­ries no deeper mean­ing. Twit­ter and Face­book sim­ply pro­vide a plat­form that never pre­vi­ously ex­isted for a tiny mi­nor­ity of racists. ut this month’s vi­o­lence in Is­rael shows how wide of the mark that view is. The re­cent his­tory of an­ti­semitic at­tacks in the UK shows that ris­ing ten­sions in the Mid­dle East are soon re­flected on Bri­tish streets. The cur­rent vi­o­lence has not, as yet, prompted a sim­i­lar pat­tern here. But we should take no com­fort from that. Be­cause the mur­der­ous at­tacks in Is­rael have been sparked by the very same phe­nom­e­non that is now so preva­lent here: on­line hate. Day af­ter day, hour af­ter hour, ha­tred against Jews and Is­raelis has been posted on­line with the de­lib­er­ate in­ten­tion of in­cit­ing vi­o­lence. And it has worked. The vari­ant of an­tisemitism pushed here on so­cial me­dia is clearly not the same as that which is driv­ing the vi­o­lence in Is­rael. Here, it tends to­wards abuse rather than in­cite­ment. But, just as ris­ing vi­o­lence in and around Is­rael usu­ally leads to an in­crease in in­ci­dents here, so the on­line ha­tred di­rected against Jews both here and in Is­rael is on a con­tin­uum. That means that, just as we should not over-re­act to it, so we must not un­der­re­act. We should treat it as what it is: dan­ger­ous, un­ac­cept­able and wrong — and as the first step on a jour­ney into the abyss.

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