Re-ACT´s Comparative report on the phenomena of online antisemitism
by Camille Lhopitault, LICRA
In 1952, Frantz Fanon wrote this message, as true today as it was then and ever: “When you hear someone insulting the Jews pay attention; he is talking about you.” By these words, the intellectual warned people how antisemitism is a plague not only for Jews but for the whole society. History has engraved a key-lesson: antisemitism as a warning symptom of a larger problem for our human societies. The French Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur explained that “antisemitism is never an isolated hatred but the first symptom of a coming collapse. Antisemitism is the first exposure of a larger loophole, but it is rarely interpreted as a harbinger when it strikes”.
Antisemitism is an age-old form of hatred. According to the work of the former European Union Monitoring Centre (EUMC) and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) the working definition adopted by the European Parliament on 1 June 2017, antisemitism is defined as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individual and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities”; It is also “Manifestations [which] might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectively. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” European History is full of sinister manifestations of antisemitism: violence, hostility, and discrimination against the Jewish community led to the horrors of the Holocaust. Yet it is still present nowadays as if it were not possible to learn the lessons of the past. Furthermore, the global context of crisis aggravates the situation. The rise of antisemitism appears online and in the everyday life. The evidence of this rise cannot be ignored. In recent years, there have been deadly attacks in Denmark, Belgium, France, and Germany. These terrible acts founded their roots on words and various discourses quite prevalent online: from the spread of antisemitic conspiracy theories and myths about the Covid-19 on alternative platforms and obscure blogs to the massive dissemination of the hashtag #Hitlerwasright on mainstream social media such as Twitter. Online antisemitism has become disturbingly “normalised”. According to a Tel Aviv University Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry report, antisemitism is “no longer an issue confined to the activity of the far left, far right and radical Islamist’s triangle it has mainstreamed and become an integral part of life.”
The European continent is particularly affected by this reality. On the 2019 Anti-Defamation League survey (conducted since 1964), 25% of Europeans gave antisemitic responses to a majority of the 11 questions: “It is deeply concerning that approximately one in four Europeans harbour the types of antisemitic beliefs that have endured since before the Holocaust” according to Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s Director. The situation is even more serious in Central and Western Europe where conspiracy myths are prevalent. Jews are perceived as the “perfect” scapegoat responsible for “why things go wrong”.
Almost every societal event or problem may cause the rise of online antisemitic conspiracy theories. Furthermore, the popularity of the “anti-elites” and “antisystem” speeches have a direct impact on the spread of traditional conspiracy theories such as the “New World Order”. In addition to the online diffusion of a supposed global conspiracy, there is an increasing influence (online and offline) of far-right groups and governments as well as a general increase in the violence (also online and offline) of public discourse. For all these reasons, it is urgent to “take back the digital streets” since it has a direct impact on our “real” streets.
Throughout this comparative report, we would like to present the main drivers regarding the rise in online antisemitism in Europe while seeking to understand what the main challenges are in addressing antisemitism considering countries ‘specificity. This report includes case studies from several European countries that illustrate and underline the impact of transnational trends on the phenomenon of online antisemitism.
Please access the full comparative report: here.
 Frantz Fanon, “Black sins, White Masks” (1952).
 Delphine Horvilleur, « Réflexion sur la question antisémite », Grasset, (2019). Available at: https://www.grasset.fr/livres/reflexions-sur-la-question-antisemite-9782246815525 (last accessed
 “Anti-Semitic attacks rise worldwide in 2018, led by U.S., west Europe: study”, Reuters, May. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-antisemitism/anti-semitic-attacksrise-worldwide-in-2018-led-by-us-west-europe-study-idUSKCN1S73M1 (last accessed 31.08.2020)
 The survey, which drew on 11 questions the ADL has used in global polling since 1964, queried over 9,000 adults in 18 countries in Europe, Canada, South Africa, Argentina, and Brazil between April and June 2019. Available at: https://global100.adl.org/about/2019 (last accessed 31.08.2020)