Anti-Semitism is still on the rise despite lack of media coverage

Anti-Semitic+acts+have+been+on+the+rise+in+the+past+few+years%2C+fueled+in+large+part+by+social+media.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash via Creative Commons license

Anti-Semitic acts have been on the rise in the past few years, fueled in large part by social media.

Davi Jacobs, Features Writer

An issue regarding discrimination must be brought to light: Anti-Semitism in America.  

Although Jews make up 2 percent of America’s population, they are subject to over 60 percent of all hate crimes according to the FBI. Anti-Semitic acts, which encompass hostility to, prejudice or discrimination against Jews, reached an all-time high in 2019. An average of six anti-Semitic acts occurred every day according to the Anti-Defamation League

“It upsets me when prejudice against anyone occurs and people are blamed for all sorts of things that make no sense,” social studies teacher Noah Grosfeld-Katz said via Zoom. “It [anti-Semitism] comes in many forms, some are obvious and explicit and some are harder to detect because they reflect anti-Semitism on a subconscious level.”

The Holocaust, one of the worst atrocities of modern history, resulted in the death of over 6 million Jews and more than 35 million other groups of people during WW2. The genocide of the Jews was propelled by unparalleled hatred of the Jewish race, and the fact that 11 percent of U.S. Millennial and Gen Z respondents in September’s U.S. Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey believe Jews caused the Holocaust is a disturbing revelation. 

Approximately half (49 percent) of U.S. Millennials and Gen Z surveyed have seen Holocaust denial or distortion posts on social media or elsewhere online. Junior Julia Zawatsky has also witnessed this type of hate on advocacy and informative posts through Instagram. “It hurts to see people who try to spread the word about the dangers about any important issue, whether it be anti-Semitism, racism or misogyny, and then in the comments see people attacking each other as well as those who are trying to speak out,” Zawatsky said via text. 

It [anti-Semitism] comes in many forms, some are obvious and explicit and some are harder to detect because they reflect anti-Semitism on a subconscious level.”

— Mr. Noah Katz

Social media companies have not properly addressed the anti-Semitism on their platforms. TikTok, for instance, has overtly claimed their commitment to fostering a community where everyone feels safe and welcome. However, Jewish TikTok creators told NBC they face anti-Semitism nearly every time they post content. It comes in the form of comments displaying the nose emoji (regarding the stereotypical ‘big nose’ feature of the Jew), a shower and gas pump emoji in reference to the gas chambers during the Holocaust, and other insidious remarks.

Facebook in particular has been criticized for housing accounts that fund neo-Nazi and extremist groups. Facebook promotes more than 40 fascist and neo-Nazi pages that promote far-right merchandise. Mr. Grosfeld-Katz has struggled with what to make of this situation. “Mark Zuckerburg states that Facebook is just a platform for people to say whatever they want. I really am torn because we have freedom of speech. Lying is not a crime unless you’re under oath,” he said. “It’s our job to continue the discussion when we see ideologies contradictory to our values, not to necessarily dismantle the platform.”

Both Zawatsky and Mr. Grosfeld-Katz believe social media companies have a major influence on the spread of anti-Semitism. “People feel like there are no consequences for their actions, so they post whatever they want,” Zawatsky said. Likewise, Mr. Grosfeld-Katz referenced the leadership in the last four years and how former president Donald Trump created a safe space for people to act on their previously held beliefs about Jews and other races.

It is important to keep in mind that social media companies control the algorithms of their products; what users see on their screen is a result of data analyzed and tailored to create a personable digital world. “It’s not just a platform because on a platform you listen to everybody. Anybody can speak, but if the algorithm limits who you see in your news feed, then really it’s not a pure open platform and it serves as an incubator for violent acts if you’re only seeing things that affirm your world view,” Katz said. 

An anti-Semitic attack took place on every night of the eight nights of Hanukkah this past year. White nationalists and neo-Nazis at the Capitol insurrection displaying anti-Semitic symbols and sentiment has raised alarm among Jewish Americans. A photographer captured a man in the crowd wearing a shirt with “Camp Auschwitz” plastered on. The back of his shirt read ‘Staff.’ 4.1 million people died in the homicidal gassings that took place at Auschwitz.  Experts who track discrimination affiliated this disturbing behavior with an ongoing trend. Jewish voices must be amplified and these issues should be broadcast on national news to spread awareness.