On the Front Lines against Online Hate

August 14, 2014 by  
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The Online Hate Prevention Institute has found itself the victim of on line hate following the publication of a recent newsletter.

Dr Andre Oboler

Dr Andre Oboler

Dr Andre Oboler, the CEO pf the OHPI, told J-Wire: Our latest newsletter focuses on the problem of rising online antisemitism but I was hesitant in putting it together after our last newsletter saw one of our subscribers reply, “I hope you and your family and every other jew c**t gets their f**king head cut off”. As I added the final touches to the newsletter, a barrage of horrendous pictures began flooding our Twitter account. They were retweeted by accounts with names like “Fight4Palestine” and “Free Palestine”.”

The Online Hate Prevention Institute stands on the front lines against all forms of online hate. It is Australia’s only charity dedicated to this problem.

Dr Oboler explains: “We have produced the most comprehensive research available into hate on Facebook against Jews, Muslims and Indigenous Australians. We have also done significant work into hate against other groups in society, and into problems like trolling and cyberbullying which can impact anyone in the community. We will not be silenced by racists making threats of physical violence and we will not be diverted by those who feel some forms of online racism should be acceptable in our Australian society.

The sharp rise in online hate targeting Jews has been reported around the world over the last few weeks. OHPI’s research, and direct experience, shows that Australia is not immune. I doubt it is a coincidence that the language of the hate speech yelled at a group of Jewish primary school children on a bus in Sydney last week, specifically “Heil Hitler” and “Kill the Jews”, matches the racist language currently gaining prominence online. I’ve been warning about the potential for this to occur since coining the term “Antisemitism 2.0” back in 2008. Once you allow racism to become socially acceptable online, it doesn’t stay online.

The antisemitism we are seeing today is qualitatively different to what we have seen in the past. what we’re seeing at the moment is a lot of people posting under their real names… antisemitism has effectively been normalised, people feel that it’s okay to be spewing this stuff. That’s the danger of antisemitism 2.0 moving from theory to cold, hard, reality.

I’m surprised that as one particular form of racism rises sharply, as we receive threats, and children are attacked on Australian streets, people question why we are focusing on this problem. It’s clear many have not realised how serious the problem is, and that this is not a problem for the Jewish community, but a problem for the Australian community as a whole. That e-mail I received was not from an anonymous free e-mail account, but from someone in Australia using an account provided to them by a major Australian internet provider. The problem of online antisemitism is here, in our Australian community.

We’ve found that the most common form of online antisemitism appearing in otherwise acceptable discussions on Facebook has been the drawing of comparisons between Israel and the Nazis. Once this analogy has been made, the flood gates seem to open and other forms of antisemitism from “The Jews killed Jesus!” to “Hitler should have killed them all” start to appear. In response we’ve created a resource explaining why the Holocaust analogy is antisemitic. We’ve also produced a free guide to help users report antisemitism on Facebook.

On our own Facebook page some supporters have suggested the situation in Gaza is so bad that highlighting the rising antisemitism seems disrespectful to people in Gaza. Others have said they feeling uncomfortable raising the issue of antisemitism given the mood of those they would be speaking to. We’ve also seen suggestions that the situation in Gaza is so exceptional that should be no limits on what people can do in support of the civilians there, and that means using the language of racism should be ok. These concerns need to be addressed.

Someone recently said, “any sign of antisemitism should be challenged and opposed, wherever it occurs”. This was said not by a Jewish leader, but Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition in the UK; that’s the group running the pro-Gaza demos in London. He went on to say “it would be inconceivable to tolerate a form of racism on pro-Gaza demos that we would otherwise find utterly unacceptable”. The same must apply online, before the hate spills onto the streets, and that’s the message OHPI has been promoting. There is no excuse for racism.

I’ve also responded in The Australia to the idea that the situation in Gaza justifies an exceptional response in which racism is acceptable. In my article I show how both the reason for treating this situation as exceptional, and the push to use antisemitism in response, are part of a deliberate Hamas war strategy which is clearly outlined on official Hamas websites. Anti-racists who have fallen into line with this strategy have been both mislead and manipulated into acting against their values. We need to regroup and firmly declare that no form of hate speech, be it antisemitism or any other, will be accepted by us.

Despite the threats of violence and other attacks on OHPI, we will continue to challenge online hate in all its forms – without exception. With your support, we will continue to push for a safer online world; one where hate does not spiral out of control and end up putting Australian children at risk.


3 Responses to “On the Front Lines against Online Hate”
  1. Bella Ceruza says:

    I am opposed to 18C, but since it seems to be here to stay – It seems a no-brainer that the groups and individuals responsible for the numerous offensive, insulting, humiliating, intimidating occurrences against Jews need to be prosecuted….. Why isn’t our leadership insisting on prosecutions?

  2. Maurice Schlesinger says:

    I was disgusted with both Facebook and several Facebook friends and Palestinian and Arab groups who abused me as well as Israel, Jews and Zionists. Facebook should be ashamed to accept these miserable aggressive hateful and disgusting material on what should be an enjoyable platform for creative ideas and connections.

  3. Raoul Machal says:

    It is difficult to take someone serious who is so convinced of his own abilities that he tries to dance in white on two weddings at the same time.

    Andre does well to highlight and combat hatred of the Jewish people emerging on the internet. But he needs to step back and realise where this hatred comes from; and that this ideology of hate also has an increasingly negative impact on the wider Australian community.

    More and more Australians are concerned and alarmed what the growing Islamisation does to this society. If Andrew thinks that his vilification of those who express their concerns about Islam is helping anyone but the Ikhwan and the mullahs in Tehran, he is mistaken. Perhaps the a quote from Adolf Hitler will help to clear the fog:

    “The only religion I respect is Islam. The only prophet I admire is the Prophet Muhammad.”

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