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Antisemitism on the Internet

The Internet is nowadays regarded as the main distribution medium for new forms of antisemitism


The Internet is nowadays regarded as the main distribution medium for new forms of antisemitism. In the context of a new research project, antisemitism expert Professor Dr Monika Schwarz-Friesel, who is in charge of the subject area General Linguistics at TU Berlin, is focussing especially on anti-Jewish forms of communication in social media, chat and Internet forums. Over the next three years, the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) will fund the project with more than 400,000 euros.

"Currently, hostility towards Jews is often expressed in the form of hostility to Israel: expressions such as 'criminal state' and 'system of injustice', comparisons with Nazi Germany, and superlatives such as 'the worst' and 'the greatest threat to world peace' can often be found in so-called 'criticism of Israel'," said Professor Monika Schwarz-Friesel. However, verbal antisemitism does not by any means only appear on the far-right of the political spectrum. On the contrary, she added: "... more than 60 per cent of the authors of antisemitic statements come from the centre of society. Quite often it is academics, who would never call themselves antisemites who use anti-Jewish stereotypes in their letters and project them onto Israel."
Three of her colleagues are dealing empirically with the issues of how antisemitic content is distributed over social networks, forums, comment sections, blogs and chat groups in the Internet, which types of verbal antisemitism can be observed in this context, and to what extent antiquated Judeophobic stereotypes occur in a modernly articulated manner. "For this purpose, we save large quantities of Internet texts with a special software programme and, as the next step, we conduct a corpus-linguistic analysis, which involves a quantitative as well as qualitative analysis of the texts. We take a look at whether and, if so, which traditional anti-Jewish arguments and stereotypes are articulated. In addition, we study the users' reactions to antisemitic comments," said Professor Schwarz-Friesel. The scientists do not use only the "particularly biased websites" for this purpose; instead, as a matter of principle, all websites are specifically searched for keywords and terms, such as 'Jews', 'Judaism', 'Israel', and 'Arab-Israeli conflict'.

Professor Schwarz-Friesel said: "What we have already learned from researches so far is that antisemitic slogans can be found not only on extremist and fundamentalist websites, but also in ordinary forums and comment sections. We are talking about 100,000 cases here."

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