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Global anti-Semitism is on the rise. 2019 ended with a Hanukkah machete attack in New York, and 2020 began with a slew of swastikas being spray-painted on cars, buildings, and Jewish camps from Vancouver Island to Brooklyn. Just a few days ago, four people were hospitalized in Uman, Ukraine after a mob armed with sticks and knives stormed a synagogue.
While this violence is horrific, it does not exist in a vacuum. These attacks have been flourishing in an environment where anti-Semitism is widespread and unbound by political and religious affiliation.
Take NowThis, the self-proclaimed “progressive social media-focused, youth-oriented news organization.” No reasonable person would expect the wokest of the woke to casually drift into blatant Jew-hatred, let alone Holocaust denial. Yet, in a video posted on January 16, NowThis did just that.
During a 5-minute clip, featuring university students active in Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, one student made the remark that “Anne Frank didn’t die [in] a concentration camp. She died from typhus.” This canard originated with neo-Nazis.
Not only is this claim false–Frank died in Bergen-Belsen–the context of the statement, in service of an overtly political agenda, renders it a disgusting exploitation of the Holocaust.
Ironically, part of the agenda in question was to reject a widely accepted definition of anti-Semitism from the International Holocaust Remembrance (IHRA). This contemporary definition of the oldest form of hatred recognizes that Jewish conspiracy theories, Nazi comparisons, Holocaust denial, and denying Jews the right to self-determination (aka by claiming the State of Israel is a racist endeavor) are all anti-Semitic. Numerous countries have adopted the IHRA definition, including Canada this past June.
The statement, shared by NowThis with its over 2 million followers, is a crystal clear form of Holocaust denial that places the blame for the death of Jews not on the Nazis, the horrific conditions in which they imposed on Jews, and their genocide, but on an apparently spontaneous disease.
In the face of this overt form of antisemitism, NowThis did not apologize or remove the video. The organization simply issued a “correction,” removing the Holocaust denial line.
Unfortunately, the lightly edited video is not significantly better, and much of the rhetoric violates the IHRA definition.
In the extant version, the NowThis video undermines the fact that anti-Zionism is often anti-Semitic, while promoting BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns and a Palestinian right of return. Each of these, certainly in the rejectionist worldviews of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, effectively deny Jewish people their right to self-determination, hold Israel to a double-standard, and are therefore not, as the four students claim, “legitimate criticisms of Israel.” It turns out that the Neo-Nazi and anti-Israel rhetoric are not divergent–they are part of the same warped, anti-Semitic ideology.
For those who follow contemporary anti-Semitism, the impact of the NowThis video is unsurprising. We expect no less when, of all the diverse Jewish and non-Jewish voices on campus, NowThis chose to interview members of these two hate groups.
Jewish Voice for Peace, perhaps because of its name, often gets a pass on its anti-Semitism. In 2019, Rockefeller Brothers Fund gave them $175,000, and they had $3.7 million in revenue in 2018. This is the same Jewish Voice for Peace that promotes leading American anti-Semitic voices–Linda Sarsour, Ilhan Omar, Marc Lamont Hill. Yet activists from this group are the “experts” whom NowThis chose to interview on antisemitism.
If NowThis was genuine about righting its wrong of sharing neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic content, it would remove the video in its entirety and issue a formal apology. NowThis could partner with mainstream Jewish student groups to create a new short video about Holocaust education and promoting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.
Instead, millions of young people are left absorbing discrimination, hate, and lies courtesy of NowThis.
Becca Wertman is Managing Editor and Canada Liaison at NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute.