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May 4, 2016

The History of Anti-Semitism and the Shoah

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This article originally appeared on The Jerusalem Post Blog



As an organization dedicated to combatting anti-Semitism and fighting against all forms of bigotry, the Anti-Defamation League speaks often about the Holocaust both from a Jewish framework and from one that addresses hatred and genocide in the world at large.

The moral lesson of the Holocaust, or Shoah, is that we all must stand against hate wherever it surfaces. This moral lesson motivates us in our work every day.

On the occasion of this year’s commemoration of the Shoah, however, I would like to address the subject of anti-Semitism from a historical perspective, before the Shoah and after.

It has often been said that the Shoah could not have happened if not for the 2,000 year history of anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe. At the same time, it is noted, what happened during the Nazi period went far beyond anything that had transpired for millennia.

The striking characteristic about anti-Semitism for centuries, which did reach its culmination in the Nazi assault on the Jews, was its fantastical core.  Jews were accused of things, particularly being an evil power, which had nothing to do with the reality of Jewish life for centuries.

Let’s not forget that the tragedy of the Holocaust was that a maniacal regime committed to the destruction of the Jews gained control of Europe at a time when Jews had absolutely no power – no army, no state, no place to go, and little political influence.

That absence of Jewish power, however, had been true for 2,000 years.  During that time Jews were accused repeatedly of influencing history in an evil way, the killing of Christ, the poisoning of the wells, the murder of Christian children, even a plan to take over the world as embodied in the notorious forgery, “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.”  When the Nazis began their campaign against the Jews, the same fantasy of evil Jewish power was at work.

That horrid mix of accusations of Jewish power together with the reality of Jewish powerlessness created that worst of all moments for the Jewish people.

From then on, several things became clear.  First, there was a need to educate about what anti-Semitism could lead to, hence the broad range of activities focusing on the Holocaust.  Second, was the recognition that good people who stood up to rescue Jews must be honored to encourage that kind of behavior for future generations.

Third, and most significant, Jews could never again afford to be powerless.  While the legitimacy of the State of Israel rests on the 3,000-year connection of the Jews to the land of Israel, the need for Jews to have a home and be able to defend themselves was a powerful political factor immediately after the Shoah.

Which brings us back to the history of anti-Semitism: If that virus was based on fantasy before the Holocaust, how does one define it after when Jews now have a degree of power as represented by a Jewish State? By the incredibly effective Israel Defense Forces?  By a strong and vibrant American Jewish community that works for U.S. support of Israel?

What this new and positive reality, where Jews are no longer powerless, suggests is that anti-Semitism in the modern world is a much more complicated phenomenon.  Anti-Semitism as fantasy still exists.  A quick scan of social media will remind someone that the noxious delusions of bigots continue to thrive in the digital age, albeit the echo chamber now has much larger resonance.

Today, the locus of their attention is the Jewish state which stands in as a proxy for the Jewish people.  So called “anti-Zionism” offers a convenient garb of political respectability to disguise the age-old virus of anti-Semitism.

A wide range of haters, from the radical Islamists of Hamas and ISIS to odious white supremacists here at home to so-called polite political circles in Europe (as recently made clear by the scandal roiling the Labour Party in the United Kingdom), all accuse Israel of being responsible for all the problems of the Middle East and the world.  We also see a broad range of baseless conspiracy theories propounded by many in these groups that postulate Jews were the force behind the terrorism of 9/11 or that we somehow control the international economy or that we even concocted the Holocaust.

The other side of the coin, however, is that power begets responsibility, thus topics like the Jewish state can be a legitimate subject of criticism by those who may disagree with certain policies and behaviors.

It is essential that the Jewish community recognize that we can and should embrace such vigorous debate.  Such conversation only becomes suspect when the questions shift from the legitimacy of policy to the legitimacy of people or when Jews are held to a different standard by those who willfully dismiss or ignore the faults of other countries, particularly when they are more egregious.

The price of power is responsibility.  Again, this is a welcome change after millennia of Jewish powerless.  In the case of the State of Israel, living in a volatile region embroiled in conflict and surrounded with so many hostile forces, the need for strength is imperative.  When the Islamic Republic of Iran threatens to wipe Israel off the map or tests missiles inscribed with hateful messages in Hebrew, our grave history compels us not to ignore such genocidal rhetoric and to demand that others respond to it with equal fervor.  Still, one can be critical of Israel without any justification or accusations of anti-Semitism.

On this Yom HaShoah, as we remember those who perished, let us be thankful that Jewish powerlessness is a thing of the past.  Let us rededicate ourselves to fighting the real anti-Semitism that very much still exists.  And let us show that we know what it means to have responsible power by not concluding that every criticism is anti-Semitism.

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April 2, 2015

Hackers Directly Threaten Individual Israeli Citizens

As hackers proceed with OpIsrael, an annual anti-Israel cyber-attack campaign, AnonGhost, a prominent hacker group with an Islamic extremist agenda claims that they are sending some Israeli citizens threatening messages via various messaging apps including Facebook and WhatsApp. These messages include threats of violence, vile language, and anti-Semitism.anonghost-opisrael

While these claims remain unconfirmed, AnonGhost claims it acquired a large amount of personal information about Israelis including phone numbers and Facebook accounts. The group distributed a list of more than two hundred Israeli phone numbers supposedly associated with WhatsApp accounts and promised that there are more numbers to be released on April 7, the official start date of OpIsrael. Anonymous hackers have also shared the list of WhatsApp contacts obtained by AnonGhost on their social media platforms.

Hackers have also shared what appear to be images of threatening messages they sent to Israeli citizens using Whatsapp, including “All your Private confidential details are in our hands, including your phone number/Your Home….we will kill you all of the Jews/Israelian.[sic].”

Other images show that hackers supposedly have made phone calls to threaten Israelis using the free calling feature on WhatsApp. It is unclear at this point what was said during the calls, but supposed screenshots of active WhatsApp calls indicate that this most likely is another tactic to intimidate Israelis.

Muhammed Nazmi (aka DonNazmi), one of the leaders of AnonGhost, posted images of what appear to be samples of messages he sent to Israelis. According to one  image, he initiated a conversation with an Israeli and once the Israeli responded, Nazmi sent a threatening message which included an image of an ISIS fighter with the caption, “We are coming O Jews to kill you.” Under the image, a message reads, “I am Donnazmi[blurred] from AnonGhost Team. Send This Msg to your GOV Israel you better get ready to be prepared #opIsrael 07/04/2015 is coming.”

Another image posted by Nazmi shows a message that includes what appears to be a personal family picture sent to a father with his children circled in red and a caption that reads, “I’ll stick a knife in their throats.”

Other hackers claimed that they hacked into Facebook chats with Israelis and posted images of conversations in which they injected comments such as “F**K Israel.”

As this campaign against continues, more Israelis will likely have to deal with such alarming messages.

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March 31, 2015

Rival Hackers Overcome Differences For Anti-Israel Cyber Campaign

Update — 4/2/15: For more information on OpIsrael, please see Hackers Directly Threaten Individual Israeli Citizens.

What has become an annual cyber campaign against Israel, “OpIsrael” – which coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day in previous years – is once again taking place this year; this time, by a broader coalition of hackers than ever before.AnonGhost OpIsrael 2015

In light of the uptick in attacks against Jewish institutional websites in the U.S. by international hacking groups over the past few years, both Israeli and Jewish websites worldwide are expected to be targets of the cyber campaign.

In 2014, “OpIsrael” was primarily led by an Arab sub-division of Anonymous, which called for a cyber-attack against Israel on Holo­caust Remem­brance Day, threat­ening to launch “elec­tronic attacks against as many Israeli web­sites as pos­si­ble.” The group also threat­ened Israeli cit­i­zens: “Your credit cards, your bank accounts, your servers … are ALL in a danger!” In 2013, the group called for a similar campaign timed with Holo­caust Remem­brance Day to “wipe Israel off the Internet.”

This year, the Arab sub-division of Anonymous, in one of the videos it posted on YouTube, described “OpIsrael,” as an “Electronic Holocaust.”

There are strong indications, however, that AnonGhost, a prominent hacker group known for targeting Jewish and American websites, is seeking to replace Anonymous in spearheading “OpIsrael.”

For example, earlier this month, AnonGhost launched and promoted software enabling users to conduct cyber-attacks against Israeli (and other) targets. The software appears to enable users to initiate denial of service (DOS) attacks. AnonGhost has already claimed responsibility for the hacking of several Israeli websites in the past week in the lead up to “OpIsrael.”

On March 31, AnonGhost members claimed that they started messaging Israeli citizens with warnings about OpIsrael. The threatening messages included an image of an ISIS fighter with the caption, “We are coming O Jews to kill you.” Under the image, AnonGhost members introduce themselves and ask the recipients to deliver the warning to the Israeli government.

An image of the threatening message sent to Israeli citizens featuring an ISIS fighter

An image of the threatening message sent to Israeli citizens featuring an ISIS fighter

By injecting itself into “OpIsrael,” AnonGhost may take the campaign into a more extreme direction. For example, AnonGhost has been unambiguous about supporting ISIS and has carried out hacks on its behalf. This activity differs from the Anonymous collective, which has launched cyber-campaigns to counter ISIS’ online presence. In January 2015, for example, theylaunched a campaign against Jihadist websites titled OpCharlieHebdo in response to terrorist attacks in France.

There are indications that AnonGhost and the broader Anonymous collective have even engaged in a cyber-conflict against each other; Mauritania Attacker, the ostensible leader of AnonGhost, claims to have hacked a group of Anonymous members known as “Anonymous Squad No.035,” the Serbian sub-division of Anonymous.Anonymous OpIsrael 2015

The apparent conflict between AnonGhost and the Anonymous collective, however, does not seem to have prevented them both from participating in this year’s “OpIsrael.” Opposition to Israel seems to be a common cause.

It is important to note that ADL is currently unaware of any specific cyber threat to the American Jewish community. Nevertheless, we are urging Jewish communities to revisit and reassess their cyber-security plans, measures, and procedures.

Related Information:

ADL Alerts U.S. Synagogues to Protect Against Online Hackers

ISIS Establishes A Cyber-Alliance With Anti-Israel Hackers

Hackers Post Anti-Semitism On U.S. Universities’ Websites

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