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July 5, 2016

Arabic-Language Social Media Glorifies Killing of Israeli Rabbi

On July 1, Rabbi Miki Mark was murdered by Palestinian terrorists who shot him from their vehicle as he was driving with his wife and three of their ten children in the Hebron area, near the settlement of Otniel where he headed the local Yeshiva. His wife and two of their children were wounded in the attack.

As was the case in the recent Tel-Aviv shooting, hash tags glorifying the attack began appearing on Arabic-language social media. They included #thehebronoperation, #theramadanjihad, #road60 (the highway where the shooting took place), as well as #thequickresponse, implying that this attack was in revenge for the killing of Sara Al-Hajjouj earlier that day, who according to reports, had attempted to stab Israeli Border Police soldiers at a checkpoint near the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Glorification of the attack was also referenced under hash tags relating to the ongoing wave of Palestinian terror which began in September of 2015, including #thejerusalemintifada and #theintifadacontinues.

Images posted on Twitter in aftermath of the attack showed the wrecked car (below) with the caption “A Settler is Killed and Three Others Wounded in a Heroic Shooting Operation in Hebron”, with the hash tags #road60 and #thequickresponse, along with the icon of the current wave of terror at the bottom left corner. Also appearing below is the caption “Your blood was not shed in vain. Blessed be your right hand, you who were quick to respond”. This refers to the killing of Sara Al-Hajjouj earlier that day.

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A cartoon links the attack to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by showing the rifle against the backdrop of a crescent, with the headline “Operation in Hebron in Retaliation for the Martyrdom of a Woman near the Cave of the Patriarchs.”

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Notably, Facebook pages claiming affiliation with Hamas student cells of Palestinian universities also circulated similar images. One proclaiming to be Al-Quds University’s Hamas student cell posted (July 1) an image of the attack’s aftermath, with the caption “This is the Pure Weapon … the Weapon of the Resistance: a settler is killed and three others wounded in a shooting operation on their vehicle near Hebron.”

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The same picture was posted (July 1) by another Facebook page proclaiming to be part of the Hamas student cell, this time of Hebron University. It also posted the following image, with the caption “The Month of Ramadan.. a Month in which the West Bank’s Men Recorded a Fierce and Heroic Battle.” Below appears the caption “A Settler is Killed and Three Others Wounded in a Shooting Operation on their Car near Hebron.”

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A Facebook page presenting itself as that of the Hamas student cell of Bir Zeit University in the West Bank posted (July 1) a picture of late Rabbi Mark with the caption “Crushed”. The picture even specifically states that represents the Bir Zeit University Islamic Bloc of Hamas.

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April 20, 2016

Why I’m Speaking to Students at J Street U

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium on April 17, 2016.

J Street U

This morning, I will speak to students at the J Street U National Assembly, the annual gathering of more than 200 young leaders from across the country who converge on Washington D.C. to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to exchange views about what they can do on campus to advance a two-state solution. J Street U reached out to me seeking to engage with the Jewish community, eager to establish a relationship with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) which it has never had.

As I begin to chart the course of my leadership, I felt it was important that I accept this invitation. I feel this way because of my conviction that it is vital to engage with all members of our community, even and especially those with whom we might have disagreements.

We can’t talk only to those who are aligned with us on every point.

In our time of hyper-polarization and the erosion of civil discourse, I believe it’s imperative that the organized Jewish leadership models the traits that we want to define the broader politics in our country. When I started my tenure as CEO, the country was locked in a bitter debate over the Iran deal. More than anything, the experience showed me that our community suffers from an inability to thoughtfully and respectfully engage across political divides.

I saw it firsthand as Jews who supported the deal as well as those who opposed the deal both were attacked viciously for their views, particularly by fellow Jews. I was dismayed by the self-destructive behavior — taking out newspaper ads, plastering municipal buses, excoriating others with ad homenim attacks — such attacks don’t advance the debate. They diminish all of us.

For a people who elevated the notion of dissent as a bedrock principle of our religious practice, the unwillingness to countenance opposing views is counter to the best traditions of our people. As a leader, I will not engage in these tactics. Instead, as the CEO of ADL, I will be an active advocate for civility and avoid the politics of personal destruction.

Building from this frame, I see my remarks today as a major opportunity for ADL to accomplish two things.

The first is to deliver the message that, at ADL, we are committed to ensuring Israel remains a safe and secure, Jewish and democratic state, as enshrined in its proclamation of independence. It was that remarkable Zionist vision expressed from the cradle of Israel’s birth that captured the imagination of the Jewish people and the world, the notion that Israel would be a country unlike all others:

“…based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture…”

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That is why ADL has had a policy of support for a two-state solution for decades. This means advocating for the legitimacy and security of the Jewish state even as we support Palestinian dignity and equality of Arab citizens in Israel. These ideas should not be in conflict. Rather, they are consistent with our centennial commitment to civil rights and social justice.

Secondly, I see an opportunity to deliver an important message to these impassioned students who are galvanized by the imperative to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. At ADL, we equally want to see a resolution of the conflict. Israel must take real, meaningful measures to promote an end to the impasse. However, the idea that peace can be brought about only by applying pressure to one side of the conflict — Israel — is a strategy bound to backfire.

Further isolating Israel at a time of great local tumult and regional volatility will only reinforce the political psychology of Israelis who eye concessions made in the context of negotiations with the Palestinians as inevitably endangering them. And this fear is real. It is substantiated in the unraveling of the modern Middle East, the rise of violent non-state actors committed to the destruction of Israel, terrorist groups like HezbollahISIS and Hamas, and the regional power of Iran whose revolutionary ideology remains firmly rooted in anti-Semitism. As Israelis look around they see regional chaos engulfing their neighborhood: wholesale slaughter in Syria, chaos in Sinai, challenges to the stability of their friends in Jordan. Any reasonable approach to solving the conflict in order to be credible in the eyes of Israel must bear in mind this new reality.

Given these facts, it is only the constancy of American guarantees of moral and physical support that will undergird an eventual agreement. And undermining that support endangers the prospects of peace. While a responsible approach should recognize that there are steps that Israel must take to ensure the viability of a two-state solution, a reasonable approach must have expectations of the Palestinians as well.

Ignoring the steps they also must take, compromises they too must make to achieve peace, does a deep disservice toward that goal.

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The fact is that the Palestinians, under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas, twice rejected serious Israeli peace offers, once in 2008 during direct talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abu Mazen, and again under the Obama Administration — an administration which I was a part of. When President Obama offered President Abbas an American framework document for the resolution of the final status of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Abbas decided to ignore it entirely. That is an inconvenient fact for some who wish to portray the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a simplistic story of Israel’s unwillingness to make peace. But it is a fact that cannot be ignored.

The champions of Palestinian self-determination must hold the Palestinian leadership to task for its failures as well.

But even as I will make these points, I want to stress that despite this, we must find the areas where we can be partners.

It is vital to be in conversation with these students and the next generation of American Jewish leaders because it they who can credibly broker critical conversations on campuses rooted in a commitment to peace, while unmasking the damaging effects of BDS and anti-normalization.

The imperatives for social justice today do not lie in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations alone. We cannot let our differences over how to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace keep us from working together to address so many other challenges facing our nation. There are vital issues of structural racism that we must address now, matters of pressing racial injustice that wrack our own society. There are demagogues rising to power in Europe and the introduction of a terrible new type of political discourse that threatens our fundamental values.

The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 with an enduring mission that still rings true today: to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all. For more than 100 years, we have worked to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry even as we equally have fought for civil rights and social justice for Jews and other marginalized people.

But it always has been a shared struggle, one that we have not waged ourselves but that has been a product of alliances, coalitions and partnerships. And the work is not yet complete. There is still much to do be done. Hopefully we can do it, together.

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October 20, 2015

This Intifada is in Your Social Media Feed

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This article originally appeared on The Times of Israel Blog

The knife, brandished in the air and dripping with blood, is the icon of the current wave of Palestinian violence against Israelis. This visual is the new symbol celebrating the seemingly non-stop proliferation of attacks by Palestinians against Israelis – many of them stabbings – and incites more hate, more terror, more violence to an audience primed to act on it.

“The Social Media Intifada” is the title being used for the current spate of terror attacks, featured on Facebook and other social media platforms, where Palestinian attackers are celebrated as martyrs, heroes and even as victims of Israeli brutality. On Twitter, potential terrorists are exhorted to stab and kill Jews. Videos of Muslim preachers calling for attacks on Jews (one while holding a knife),even instructional videos on how to stab effectively, go viral. Proliferating on social media are cartoons of attacks on Israelis and allegations of a Jewish/Israeli conspiracy to take over the Al Aqsa mosque.

Palestinian incitement to violence isn’t new, but the medium and the method is. During previous periods of Palestinian violence – such as the Second Intifada – we saw calls for violence and widespread anti-Israel and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Public squares, parks and schools were named in honor of those who perpetrated terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. Popular songs celebrated the attackers. But behind most of the prior violent chapters of the conflict, it was the Palestinian leadership – the PLO, Hamas, Fatah, the Palestinian Authority, and others – who were promoting and enabling the hate-filled messages and the violent action. Last Autumn, while social media emerged as a means of celebrating and encouraging violence against Israelis, its impact was limited.

To be sure, in this current period, PA President Abbas and other leadership are poisoning the atmosphere with incendiary rhetoric. His fantastical allegation last week that Israel had “executed” a Palestinian boy – who was in reality being treated in an Israeli hospital after stabbing a 13-year-old riding his bicycle near his Jerusalem home – is only the most recent example.

However, at present, Israeli security experts say social media – not Palestinian leaders – is the primary force driving the violence. The incitement, the misinformation, and the hate that inspire the stabbings, shootings, rock throwing and car ramming attacks are spreading via smart phone — and constantly. Terrorists who were killed mid-attack are upheld as heroes and martyrs, their deadly actions ignored.

And, yes, there are also Israelis who are posting hate-filled incendiary messages, including calls for “death to Arabs” and a “second Nakba.” While there have been only a handful of violent attacks by Israelis against Arabs in recent weeks, the risk of more Israeli violence increases as this crisis goes on.

Social media can mobilize for good and for evil. Democratic forces in the Jasmine Revolution and Tahrir Square used Twitter and Facebook to organize against authoritarian rule in the Arab Spring. Viral videos of people dumping ice water on their heads raised millions to find a cure for ALS. Social media has raised public awareness of a plethora of social justice issues – from #BringBackOurGirls to #BlackLivesMatter. But social media has also enabled ISIS and other extremist terrorist groups and their supporters to recruit youth from around the world to join their violent cause. And on this side of the ledger, we can add the current wave of violence.

ADL promotes two approaches to address this problem: removing incendiary speech and challenging hate speech with good speech. For years, we have been working with social media companies to improve policies and protocols for the removal of content that incites violence or bigotry, content that is contrary to the companies’ terms of service. But we also promote counter-speech, where activists and all concerned people use social media to condemn violence, to urge moderation, and even to try to dissuade potential terrorists before they move to action.

The reality is, what happens online reflects what’s going on in society. In order for counter-speech to be an effective tool addressing the “social media Intifada,” those with influence, whether in the online world or in world capitols, need to condemn Palestinian incitement and terrorism clearly and unequivocally. Internet users who come across calls for violence online, should report it immediately to the internet provider (see our guide to learn how). In many cases, such content violates their terms of service and the page will be removed.

The social media companies we work with are making good faith efforts to enforce their policies, but the content that appears online cannot be divorced from real-world hate. It is still too early to know how this current chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will develop. Let’s hope responsible voices and action prevail.

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