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Anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity

7 September, 2009

Introduction

This report tries to give an insight into how internet is used in the Netherlands to propagate anti-Israel rhetoric and anti-Semitic views.

The monitoring for this report was done in June, July and August- 2009.

We chose to monitor the social network group Hyves (Dutch counterpart of Facebook) and the talk back section of "de Volkskrant, one of the leading newspapers in Holland .
"de Volkskrant" publishes op-ed articles on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict on a regular basis.

HYVES

Hyves is a social network like Facebook. It is an open network where anyone can open an account.
Today Hyves counts more than 9 million members, a majority of whom are Dutch citizens.
Most groups are closed groups.
Among the public groups on Hyves are 35 groups that are either pro-Palestinian or anti-Israel.
One of the rules at Hyves is that racist remarks are forbidden. Users can alert the management in case of abuse.

We temporarily participated in a number of the closed groups to investigate the content of the articles posted there.
There are 26 pro-Palestinian Hyves groups and nine anti-Israel Hyves groups. A majority of those groups are run by young Arab immigrants or descendants of Arab immigrants living in the Netherlands
Those groups are very popular, the number of members ranges between a few hundred to almost 7000.
The anti-Israel groups are much larger than the nine pro-Israel groups, the largest of which has 900 members.

The largest pro-Palestinian group is "Stop the occupation of Palestine", with 6.900 members.
The largest anti-Israel group is "the Anti-Israel Hyve" with 5.300 members today.

Among pro-Palestinian groups anti-Israel bias is clearly present. Most posts are moderate in the way they criticize Israel but quite a few of the articles are of anti-Semitic nature.

Examples of anti-Semitic rhetoric

Posts which call for killing Jews are quite common. Others contain calls to burn Israeli flags.
We also noticed public calls for Hitler to "finish his job" or "to gas the Jews".
Libels are also published on these Hyves groups. An example is the story of a Palestinian girl telling the world about the horrors she went through because of the Israeli occupation. Here are some quotes from that story: "- They arrested my father last night and slaughtered him into pieces-"--------
"- My dear mother was beaten to death in front of my eyes by the beasts, by the Jews and I was not allowed to cry-"-----"-They cruelly took the honor of my sister, she cried until she died-"........"-They asked if I love my brother. Because of my love they hanged him-".

Another libel at Hyves stated that" Jews do not exist, because they all converted to Islam and Christianity" , and hence they do not have a legitimate right to Israel.

The Free Palestine Hyve is notorious for anti-Semitic remarks, here are some examples: " Hitler raise up from your tomb and finish the job" or "Let the Jews shut up or we will send them to the gas chamber."
Anther pro Palestinian group by the name of "the Jihad fighters" stated that it respects and honors the suicide bombings of the Shahids and wishes them a place in heaven.

Talkbacks at "de Volkskrant."

"de Volkskrant" is a respected left leaning newspaper which publishes op-ed articles about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict on a regular basis.
Those articles can count on numerous talkbacks. An average of 300 reactions is normal for these articles compared with fewer than 100 for other articles.
The paper uses the internet site as a forum for pro-Israel and anti- Israel views in an evenhanded fashion.
The website of "de Volkskrant" is visited by more than 200.000 visitors each month.

Compared to the social networks in the Netherlands the situation we monitored at the talk back section of the leading paper "de Volkskrant" was slightly better. There is no calling names, for example. Remarks like the ones we found on Hyves were not found at the Volkskrant forum.
This should be attributed to two factors: first "de Volkskrant" attracts a more- educated public, and, second the paper has a moderation system.
This system works with alerts to the editors which can be sent by the reader. Often anti-Semitic - or hate content was removed after such alerts.

In the period we monitored the talkbacks, an article about Israel and the Mideast conflict was published every week.

Methods of investigation

We participated in the talkbacks for a period of two months and registered the anti-Semitic content of the talkbacks.
In total we participated in nine discussions following the publication of an article about the Mideast conflict.
Anti-Semitic content was found in all but one discussion.
In some instances we asked a question about the intention of a statement when the anti-Semitism appeared to be concealed- .

Anti Semitic remarks and hateful content

Apparently because of the rules for participation at the forum, most anti-Israel activists seemed to be careful not to express straight anti-Semitic remarks. Jargon from the time of Nazi Germany however, was often used, as well as comparisons between Israel's actions and those of Nazi Germany.
Some of these posts were removed after we alerted the editors.

An article titled" Gaza is a ghetto" drew a group of respondents who had not participated in the talkbacks until then.
The discussion immediately went astray and anti-Semitic rhetoric was often posted.
One of the participants in the "-discussion-" posted remarks in which he stated that Auschwitz-Birkenau were in facts labor camps and the labor was for IG Farben , which had factories producing petrochemical products on the site next to the camps.
He doubted that there were ever gas chambers in those camps and even posted "proof" that the Polish government had built the gas chamber at Auschwitz only after World War II. He called Gaza the longest existing and largest concentration camp ever.
This post triggered alerts by other participants and was eventually removed.
Nevertheless this pattern was repeated three times, every day a comment was posted which contained outright Holocaust denial.

Later another participant posted a talkback in which he tried to prove that the number of Holocaust survivors after World War II was in fact much lower. He also claimed that "- Israel is exploiting the Holocaust in order to divert attention from the crimes committed against Palestinians-".
He based his information on a book written by Norman Finkelstein.
After we provided him with detailed information about the unreliability of this writer and with government figures about immigration of Jewish displaced persons to Israel and the USA, he eventually retreated from his claim and apologized. But this was the exception to the rule.

Other examples of remarks bordering on anti-Semitism were comparisons between the Holocaust and the "Zionist ethnic cleansing of former Palestine in 1948" and the supposed supremacist policies of Israel toward Palestinians and other minorities living in Israel.
Another example was the claim that Jewish children from early childhood are raised with a racist notion of supremacy toward others.
One of the participants earlier tried to prove that the Jews left ancient Israel on their own volition and, were never expelled by the Roman army. This was "- proof-" that Jews have no historical rights to live in Israel .
Harsh criticism towards pro-Palestinian activists at the forum was compared to the way Nazi's treated the Jews during "Kristallnacht" in Germany.

Summary and conclusions

Kifesh (14)
24 jun, 19:59
hou je mijl vieze joden Stuur alle joden naar de gasdouch !

Example of an anti-Semitic comment on Hyves (translation: Dirty Jews- send all the Jews to the gas shower)

From monitoring these two major media we can conclude that anti-Semitism and hatred toward Israel containing anti-Semitic content, is a common phenomenon at the internet in the Netherlands.
Remarks which were unthinkable only ten years ago are now common practice and do not seem to raise eyebrows anymore.
On Hyves the alert system that is supposed to stop racist comments does not stop anti-Semitic remarks and posts, nor does it stop outright hatred towards Israel.

The internet is an increasingly important medium, in Holland.
Hyves has more than half of the Dutch population as members.
Talkbacks at the websites of newspapers are very popular.

The climate in which the public debate about Israel and the Middle- East conflict is taking place on the internet is deteriorating.
Operation Cast Lead seems to have lead to a further deteriorating of Israel's standing in the Netherlands.

At - Hyves an effort should be made to prevent the publication of anti-Israel hatred and anti-Semitic content.
"de Volkskrant" should install a moderation system which bars anti-Semitic comments from being published on the talkbacks at the site.


Writers and investigators

Leah Visser - currently working at the Yad VaShem Museum , Jerusalem (information and education center)

Israel Facts Monitorgroup Efrat Israel http://www.noantisemitism.org/

In cooperation with Network on Antisemitism http://www.noantisemitism.org/

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