Continuum of hate
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.