Revealed: Israel Monitors Online Anti-Semitism, But Doesn’t Fight to Have Them Removed

YERUSHALAYIM -
Likud MK David Bitan. (Olivier Fitoussil/Flash90)

​The three bodies in charge of dealing with expressions of anti-Semitism online – the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, the World Zionist Organization and the Ministry of Strategic Affairs – all monitor the phenomenon but do not take action to remove anti-Semitic and anti-Israel expressions from the Internet, it was revealed during Wednesday’s meeting of the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs.

Committee Chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) said the bodies must cooperate and utilize their workforce to complain about such content and work towards removing all anti-Semitic content.

“Haters of Israel are taking advantage of the corona crisis, as they have taken advantage of every crisis in the past, to increase anti-Semitism,” Bitan said. “This is a [dangerous phenomenon] that can draw more and more supporters for the idea.” Any successes of the anti-Semitic camp will draw more supporters, “and this will make the lives of Jewish communities around the world miserable,” he said. “Israel cannot trust any other country to deal with this issue, and it must act to eradicate the phenomenon.”

A senior Twitter official said, “Our policy is to allow all voices in society to be heard, but it is our duty to protect from hatred, incitement and discrimination in every framework.” She could not say how many anti-Semitic tweets have been removed at Twitter’s initiative.

Jordana Cutler, head of policy at Facebook Israel, said “the level of anti-Semitism is increasing all over the world. In no way do we treat anti-Semitism with over-forgivingness, but we are not free of mistakes.”

Yogev Karasenty, Director for Combatting Anti-Semitism at the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, said some 200,000 anti-Semitic tweets were found on Twitter in the past two months. The monitoring by the ministry is meant to help the social networks block such expressions, but the ministry lacks the manpower to file a complaint about each and every anti-Semitic tweet or monitor Twitter’s handling of every anti-Semitic post, he said.

Strategic Affairs Ministry Deputy Director-General Tzachi Gavrieli, who is leading the campaign on behalf of the government, said there are over 60 anti-Semitic organizations, as well as organized BDS activists, who post material on social networks portraying Jews and Israelis as evil people who are warmongers and spread diseases, including corona. They compare Israel’s policies with those of the Nazis and reject the Jewish People’s right to self-determination and Israel’s right to exist, he said. “We have to admit, as a country we are not handling the issue well enough,” Gavrieli told the committee.

Eitan Behar, Director of the World Zionist Organization’s Center for Diaspora Communications and Countering Anti-Semitism, said people on the Internet and social network executives hold Israel to a higher moral standard than is expected of other countries. Yoseph Haddad, the Arab-Israeli director of B’Yachad, an organization that works to connect the Arab sector to Israeli society, said the response of Twitter’s representative at the meeting “proves that we have no one to count on but ourselves.”

He said the 250 “Israeli patriots” who operate within the framework of the organization’s “Hasbarah commando unit” have been able to remove several hundred anti-Semitic tweets and posts in the month since the unit was established.