International task force discuss online antisemitism

November 11, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The Inter-Parliamentary Task Force on Online Antisemitism met on Wednesday morning for its first virtual briefing with community organisations.

Australia was well represented by Josh Burns MP and Dave Sharma MP. Three Australian experts provided testimony to the Task Force, Alex Ryvchin (Co-CEO, ECAJ), Justin Kagan (Executive Director, CSG Victoria) and Dr Andre Oboler (CEO, Online Hate Prevention Institute). The Australian experts focused on the rise of online antisemitism, the impact on the Jewish community, and the path of radicalisation from online hate to violent extremism.

Alex Ryvchin highlighted how antisemitism was impacting children. He told the task force it highlighted “a failure of schools to adequately train teachers to protect the victims and discipline those responsible”. He highlighted that while there was no easy solution, Jewish communities could be protected through adequately funding for Jewish institutions’ security, increased efforts to monitor and regulate online activity including recruitment efforts by extremists, antisemitic harassment and the spread of antisemitic propaganda.

Justin Kagan highlighted the vulnerability of Jewish communities in both economic and security terms as a result of the global pandemic. He spoke of the rise in antisemitic incidents before lockdown and as Melbourne comes out of lockdown. He noted the rise in antisemitic online propaganda, a mix of traditional antisemitic messages and new COVID related conspiracy theories. He explained how antisemitism in social media was used by terrorists not only for propaganda purposes, but for recruitment and to inspire followers to deadly action.

Andre Oboler highlighted the importance of the forum itself and the changed reality we face now compared to similar gatherings in the past. Dr Oboler explained, “the world has changed since then. The Internet has changed since then. We’ve seen that the culture we’re dealing with, the position of the platforms, and most importantly the position of the public and the attitudes of what we’ll accept are different now to what they were then.” He highlighted how this created both new threats and new opportunities. He spoke of the concept of antisemitism 2.0 which he first raised in 2008, a manifestation of antisemitism that used social media to normalise anti-Jewish hate not only in social media but also back in society. Dr Oboler highlighted how the hate in social media had become a pipeline into radicalisation and the role Holocaust denial was playing in this process. He spoke of a letter from the American Jewish Congress to Twitter’s CEO in the last 24 hours highlighting gaps in Twitter’s policy that were allowing the microblogging platform to be used for radicalisation networks.

Australia’s experts were joined by experts from the US and Canada representing the American Jewish Committee, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Bnai Brith Canada, and Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. There was a strong push from the experts, including our own, for the Task Force itself to adopt and promote the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism and a recognition of the value common definitions provide.

Task Force is made up of Members of Parliament, Members of Congress and Members of the Knesset including: Congressman Ted Deutch (Democrat, United States), Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Democrat, United States), Congressman Chris Smith (Republican, United States), Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (Republican, United States), Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather (Liberal, Canada), Member of Parliament Marty Morantz (Conservative, Canada), Member of Parliament Randall Garrison (NDP, Canada), Member of Parliament Josh Burns (Labor, Australia), Member of Parliament Dave Sharma (Liberal, Australia), Member of Knesset Michal Cotler-Wunsh (Blue and White, Israel), Member of Parliament Andrew Percy (Conservative, United Kingdom), Member of Parliament Alex Sobel (Labour and Cooperative, United Kingdom) and former Canadian Member of Parliament Michael Levitt.

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