Jews counter #JewishPrivilege vitriol on Twitter
Although many of the hateful statements appeared to be confessions of privilege from Jewish users, they were in fact nothing more than variations of the smear that Jews control the world.
One user wrote that he felt “guilty that our people’s role in slavery dwarfed Whites, but it’s important we pay for that dominant role that hurt so many millions of blacks. We jews are 1/3 of billionaires and MUST give much more to blacks.”
Others didn’t identify as Jews, but called Jews out for benefitting from slavery, creating the pornographic industry, massacring Europeans, and other claims.
“#JewishPrivilege is being able to shape-shift to white when doing something shameful and then back to Jewish when doing something who whole tribe is proud of,” said one user. Another tweeted that “#JewishPrivilege is when you blame atrocities on Caucasians and not your own kind” accompanied by a collection of images depicting mounds of corpses under the heading, “Victims of Jewish terror”, including Germans, Armenians, Russians, and Palestinians.
It has since been discovered that the tweets originated primarily from far-right, white supremacist profiles and bots.
“It seems the hashtag was originally used this week by conspiracy theorists to spread antisemitic content,” social-media expert Sarah Hoffman told the SA Jewish Report on Tuesday. “It trended yesterday in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, when a lot of the same conspiracy theorists joined the conversation.”
She said, however, there had also been a significant rise in the number of Jews on Twitter using the same hashtag to counter the vitriol.
“Many Jews are flipping the hashtag, and using it to expose and share stories of antisemitism and the Holocaust within the broader context of racism,” she said.
“Content like this violates Twitter’s hateful-conduct policy which specifically prohibits promoting violence or threatening other people. Sadly, Twitter is slow to take action even when it’s reported, so people are instead joining the ‘flip side’ by using the same thing to expose the truth and debunk the idea of Jewish privilege.”
Indeed, by early Monday morning, numerous Jewish celebrities and politicians from around the world had made tweets of their own, sharing personal accounts of antisemitism and family who had perished in the Holocaust or otherwise suffered for being Jewish.
Writer Hen Mazzig wrote, “#JewishPrivilege is when my grandparents were violently forced out of Iraq and Tunisia for being Jewish with only the clothes on their back. Along with 850 000 other MENA [Middle East and North Africa] Jews, they arrived in Israel with nothing, only spoke Arabic, and lived in a tent/tin shack for years.”
Personalities including producer David Simon, actress Sarah Silverman, and actor Josh Gad also spoke out.
Simon tweeted, “My #JewishPrivilege? Garden-variety stuff. Eleven dead relatives at Auschwitz and in the Russian woods, and a father who was a hostage and suffered PTSD years after the Jewish non-profit where he worked was stormed by angry dudes with guns & scimitars who threatened to behead him.”
Pro-Israel and Jewish advocacy groups also entered the fray, with parody account, The Mossad, sarcastically sharing photographs of oppressed Jews “enjoying” their privilege. One of their posts includes an image of a Jewish woman stripped to her underwear and fleeing from her assailants in Lviv in 1941, titled “Look at this woman enjoying her #JewishPrivilege”.
Veteran writer and journalist, Gus Silber, says that social media-hashtag campaigns can be a powerful way for people to share experiences, tell stories, and express their solidarity or support for a cause or movement.
“If a hashtag gains enough traction and momentum, it can win hearts and minds, and can even quite literally change the way the world works,” he says.
“In South Africa, the #FeesMustFall campaign brought about dramatic changes in the funding and structure of tertiary education. In America, the #MeToo campaign led to the downfall of major power-players in Hollywood, and shone a piercing light on the abuse and harassment of women in the film industry and beyond.
“The #JewishPrivilege hashtag is another example of how swiftly hashtag campaigns can take root and spread on social media.”
Because the hashtag was reclaimed by Jews, however, the phenomenon is markedly different, says Silber.
“The hashtag began to lose its negative power as a marker of hate, and instead turned into an affirmation of Jewish survival and resilience in the face of antisemitism and violence,” he says.
Silber explains that because no-one can claim ownership or authority over a hashtag, anyone who chooses can freely use the hashtag in their posts, whether their intention is to support a campaign or denigrate it.
“Because hashtags stand out in a post and are clickable, they have the effect of drawing attention and co-ordinating a stream of what might otherwise be unrelated posts. This is why hashtags can be so powerful. They are rallying cries that can be heard above the noise of the medium.”
This has certainly happened in the case of the #JewishPrivilege hashtag. “The hashtag has allowed people to tell their own stories, but it has also opened up a broader platform for discussion and debate.”