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March 19, 2013

Why are we fighting Antisemitism Online?

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/why_are_we_fighting_antisemitism_online/

It is no secret that Antisemitism is bluntly on the rise in Europe, South America, the Arab world and almost everywhere in the world. So why would Facebook, the 3rd largest 'country' in the world with over a billion 'citizens' would be different? Why would Wikipedia, home for millions and millions of 'tourists' entering through its gates on a daily basis would be any different? Antisemitism doesn't stop on the borders of Europe or the Arab world. It crosses borders and boundaries, and infiltrates the cyber world as much as it infiltrates schools, mosques and community centers.

In its 2009 study on social networks, the Simon Wiesenthal Center showed a growth curve in the number of websites calling for violence against Jews In 2000, 1400 sites were identified, as opposed to 10,000 sites in 2009.

The reasons for this huge growth are many. But I would like to focus not on WHY online Antisemitism is on the rise, but on WHAT can we do, and HOW we can combat it. The Web allows unmonitored access to marginal groups' contents, and thus can greatly influence the various audiences exposed to that information, mainly young people who are easily influenced. Considering that the Internet is used as a significant instrument for spreading Antisemitism and hatred towards Israel and the Jewish people, it is also the proper platform on which we should battle the Antisemitic websites, undermine them, and spread credible and balanced information instead of them.

In 2011, a group of young leaders from the National Union of Israeli Students (NUIS) decided that for too long the cyber world was a failed warzone for Israelis and Jews all over the world. In this warzone, the invisible 'enemy' launches numerous attacks on us, inflicting damage and wounds on the image of Jews and Israelis around the world.

This is why our group – 'Students Against Antisemitism Online' was created. A group of young, professional and passionate students who spend hours every month working on various websites, social networks, blogs, Q&A websites and much more trying to spread positive materials and the other side of the story, alongside shutting down and getting rid of Antisemitic users online. These are our two main strategies – to make sure that mainstream websites, FB groups, blogs etc. will have a presence that contradicts Antisemitic claims as well as making sure that Antisemitism will be shut down and thrown off the cyber-map.

In this somewhat war of attrition it's hard to tell winners from losers. It's hard to know if you inflicted any damage on your invisible 'enemy', or if sometimes you are shooting your cyber-bullets on useless targets. But one thing is for sure – the very presence of young Jewish voices online, dedicating hours and hours every month is extremely important. The next neo-Nazi or KKK member will not be recruited in a dark basement in a god forsaken town in Europe or the US. He or she will be recruited after watching an inflammatory video on Youtube, reading a biased and Antisemitic article on Wikipedia or joining a Facebook groups delivering Antisemitic slur 24/7. This is why our presence is so important. This is why even if this war of attrition can't be won, and we are outnumbered by thousands of Antisemitic activists from all around the world we can't give up and continue with our activity. If us young people, who are native to the social media world are not going to do it – then who will?

This short introduction to the NUIS' 'Students Against Antisemitism Online' program will be followed by descriptions of our daily activity, the problems and struggles we face and sometimes also a 'call of action' for young Jewish students from all around the world to join our efforts and contribute a FB post, a small 'Like' or a positive comment. You can already start helping us by Liking our FB page:

https://www.facebook.com/students.for.israel.project

For any questions, comments or ideas don't hesitate to email me at:

Hasbara.st@gmail.com

Tal Dror

Program Coordinator

Students Against Antisemitism Online

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