The Times of Israel published my new article “Let’s Talk about Tik Tok Antisemitism against Our Youth”
Online antisemitism is nothing new but now it seems to be widely targeting our vulnerable youth more than ever before. Hidden under false identities, haters freely reveal prejudice, bigotry, and antisemitic views across virtually all the unruled space of social media.
Teenagers who identify as Jewish complain of constant hostility on platforms such as Tik Tok, which are increasingly popular among youth. What would be the best way for them to react and deal with this? First of all, understanding what lies behind such hatred will empower them to turn the hostility into acceptance and embrace.
Since the beginning of 2020, more than a staggering 380,000 videos and over 64,000 hateful comments have been removed in the US alone for violating hate speech policies, according to Tik Tok officials. But the reality shows that although some efforts are being aimed at controlling online hostility, this poison rapidly renews itself and spreads worldwide like a virus.
Young American Jews say that in the past when they uploaded content to the platform without disclosing their background they received rave comments, but as soon as they revealed the fact that they are Jewish, the compliments turned into insults and antisemitic outbursts. The comments they continue to receive include praises for Hitler, Nazi salutes, anti-Israel jabs, and Holocaust denial. Tik Tok also recently faced controversy over history trivialization due to a “Holocaust challenge” that appeared on the app in which users flippantly portrayed themselves as concentration camp victims.
Such controversies and antisemitic manifestations are eye-openers to people’s true nature and sentiments toward Jews. Therefore, it is important they are revealed. It is as futile to bury our heads in the sand about this as it is trying to escape Judaism, leaving our youth rootless and without a sense of belonging anywhere. The disclosure of hatred can be a positive thing if it awakens in young Jews the vital question of why the Jew-hatred exists. Only an understanding of the foundation of this phenomena and an awareness of what the world expects from Jews can provide young Jews with the basis for solving the problem of antisemitism.
How to React?
Jew-hatred is irrational, so a war of words or altercations are worthless. Antisemitism by character requires no justification, although one will always be found. Many believe the hatred stems from envy: Jews are smart, successful, and innovative; they control the media, the entertainment industry, banks, and commerce. But these are no more than superficial rationalizations that both we and our haters use in order to justify the animosity. The root of the animosity is much deeper than that.
Humanity instinctively feels that the Jewish people hold the key to a better world. Why the Jews? And why the increasing pressure now? The Hebrew word for “Jew” [Yehudi] comes from the word for “united” [yihud]. Unity is the very essence of our people which was established according to the tenet, “love your friend as yourself” in order to become “a light unto the nations.” As the world endures escalating divisions and conflicts, there is a subconscious expectation that Jews should unite and be like a conduit to funnel this positive unifying force from nature to the whole world.
The problem is that we have completely lost awareness of the importance of our Jewish unity, and instead, frictions and separation prevail. And the more that people of the world feel problems and crises stemming from the divisiveness in human society, the more they will subconsciously feel that Jews are to blame.
Antisemitism thus surfaces as a natural phenomenon among the nations of the world in order to pressure Jewish people to unite. In other words, by becoming a good example to the world of positive connection, harmony, and support, the general attitude toward a unified Jewish people will become favorable and encouraging, and confidence within society at large will rise. Now that we realize that we hold the key to a good future for our own youth and the entire world, it is time for us to walk the talk.