Targeting Jews is antisemitic

Friday was an exceptionally busy day as the Online Hate Prevention Institute was pushed into crisis mode. Here’s what happened:

Yesterday a list of Jews, an archive of their private WhatsApp group conversation, and their photographs and social media accounts, was published online by Clementine Ford. She previously promoted a smaller list of Jews to targeted to her over quarter of a million followers on Instagram.

As the Australian Jewish News tried to cover this story today, their Instagram account came under attack and vanished from the platform. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry with some additional support form the Online Hate Prevention Institute alerted Meta to this targeted of a Jewish newspaper, likely through false reporting.

This follows an opinion article earlier this week in The Age undermining efforts against antisemitism and seeking to declare blatantly antisemitism statements were ok.

For background on the targeting of Jewish creatives before this leak, we can’t recommend highly enough the opinion piece “Antisemitism Down Under Is Turning Vicious” at Newsweek earlier this week.

Before diving in, a reminder that our work is supported by public donations. On our donations page you can choose to make a general donation, or to allocating it tackling a specific type of hate (such as antisemitism). You can also join our mailing list where you can also see our past newsletters.

The Jew List and its removal

Antisemitism is known as the world longest hate. It is a form of racism and a violation of human rights. It puts people’s lives at risk. Publishing lists of Jews so they can be targeted is antisemitic. Targeting Jews, Jewish institutions, or Jewish property is antisemitic.

Yesterday Clementine Ford published a link on her Facebook account and on Instagram to two documents. One was the log of a private WhatsApp group of 600 Jewish artists and creatives. The other a spreadsheet with social media accounts and details of 100 Jewish creatives. Some people commented on the post in shock at this targeting of the Jewish community. Some of the replies, including from Ford herself, are simply chilling.

The file could be accessed via short URL from Bit.ly, until that company suspended the account used to create the short URL for a violation of terms of service. It could also be accessed via QR code that took you to the site hosting the documents. That site was Cryptpad.fr who then removed the file itself, deeming it was a breach of their terms of service against harassment and invasion of privacy.

The Facebook post

The post on Instagram was updated at about 3pm Melbourne time noting that it kept being removed “due to reporting”. Rather than accepting maybe there was something wrong with what she was posting, for example, a breach of the community standards, for puts it down to a conspiracy to silence her.

She continues, “I’ll also note that it is PREDICTABLE to see media players try to DARVO this with their ‘antisemitic doxxing’ spin”. DARVO stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender. Clinical psychologist Dr. Avigail Lev says, “It describes a manipulative tactic often used by abusers to avoid taking responsibility for their actions and shift the blame onto their victims”. The other possibility of course is that there is no conspiracy, the media is playing it straight, and it is Ford who is seeking to Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender as she seeks to blame on the her targets. We’ll get to the difference between what the group was going and what she has done shortly.

Ford goes on to further excuse herself by saying, “anti Zionist Jewish people were involved in collating this info into this link (and also were responsible for leaking it in the first place), not to mention the reasons it was leaked at all.”

Firstly, we have no way to know if that’s true. What we do know is that Ford has over a 252,000 followers on Instagram. There are four levels of social media influencers on Instagram, the largest, macro influencers, have 100,000 or more followers. Ford is well established at this super influential level and with that social power as a public figure comes responsibility. Arguing someone else did it first is meaningless when it is her influence that took it viral, and when she kept reposting it, across multiple platforms, it each time it was taken down.

Secondly, the religious faith of other people who engaged in an illegal act (publishing personal information to facilitate harassment and stalking) is completely irrelevant. Those people should be held accountable as well, but the damage was caused by Ford and through malicious and unethical use of her social media account. That should be grounds for permanent removal from both Facebook and Instagram, particularly given her pattern of misuse of social media to cause harm.

Third, she adds “not to mention the reasons it was leaked”. There is no good reason for what she did. The content was from a private WhatsApp group and the related spreadsheet was, by all accounts, a compilation of data identifying Jewish people (some apparently not members of the WhatsApp group) and their online accounts. This is not the diplomatic cables leak of government communications by Wikileaks, it is more in the style of the News of the World’s phone hacking scandal. The phone hacking case, like this one, involved the release of information from private communications of private citizens. This is also not 2011, and by now the harm in the actions taken should be known. Criminal prosecutions are in order.

The updated Instagram Post

The site hosting the documents

The short URL

Liability

Although usually considered in relation to communications to a victim, it is possible Section 474.17 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code could be applied. There is nothing in the legislation itself that says the communication must be directly to the victim. This section makes it an offence when “person uses a carriage service” (such as the internet) “in a way (whether by the method of use or the content of a communication, or both) that reasonable persons would regard as being, in all the circumstances, menacing, harassing or offensive.” In this case the posting could be regarded as both menacing and harassing. We know it caused at least some people to go into hiding fearing for their safety, it left many deeply stressed and fearful with some closing their social media accounts or seeking to lock them down to prevent public engagement. The penalty is up to 3 years imprisonment.

The Privacy Act may not apply as Clementine Ford’s business is unlikely to have a turnover of over 3 million. An exception would apply if the Information Commissioner decided Ford was engaged in “a business that sells or purchases personal information”. While she is not selling the data for cash directly, she is using it to increase her viewership and that may be resulting in additional income. It’s probably a reach too far.

A range of other laws may also have been breached including state law related to stalking.

Responses to the publishing of the Jew List

In this section we look at some of the comments made on the Facebook post by Ford sharing the list. All these comments were made on that one post.

Multiple users requested alternative links and copies of the file. Some defended the right to create lists targeting Jews. The logic used was: “Israel is committing genocide”, “Jews who support Israel are Zionists”, “Zionist are Nazis”, “It’s ok to attack these Nazis / Jews”. A Jewish person who tried to call out the doxxing and this twisted logic was directly called a Nazi.

Blue, a longtime follower and supporter of Ford comments that they are appalled she would dox Jewish people and compared that to Nazi like behaviour. Red replies “She’s against Zionists. Zionism = Nazism. She’s ‘doxing’ Nazis”. Red replies highlighting that 600 people were doxxed regardless of their views and that it places people in direct danger. Blue replies, “what’s wrong with Nazis being in danger?”. Blue tells Red the Nazis must be Red’s mates. Red replies, “I’m not mates with any Nazi or Zionist. They’re the enemy.” Blue replies saying Red is defending the indefensible and “Don’t talk to me.” Red replies by calling Blue, who previously stated they were Jewish, a Nazi. Blue replies stating that the Nazis killed Blue’s family. Some further comments by Red appear to have then been made and removed or deleted.

In the next set of comments below, one comment with 19 likes thanks Ford for posting the private messages to “expose this BS”. It suggests its fair to do this because many Jewish people in the chat expressed the view Ford has been behaving in an antisemitic manner, and in response were seeking to ask her publisher to drop her. These actions are not equivalent as will be discussed below in the section “Comparing the actions”. Our focus here is the comments that followed.

First, we have someone wanting the doxxed information. Then Blue highlights that “doxxing Jewish people so Nazis can target them” is antisemitic. Red calls the victims of the doxxing “Nazi Zionists” and states it isn’t so Nazis can target them, it is “so antifascists can attack them”. Ask to clarify, Red explains their view that “all Zionists are Nazis”. The commentary is alarming and an example of violent extremism. It seems to give permission for violence against the Jewish community.

It is worth noting that the idea Zionism is a “political ideology revolves around ethnic cleansing and genocide” is a fantasy of the anti-Zionists. The vast majority of Jews, particularly in Australia, are Zionists. It would be absurd to think the vast majority of Jews support an ideology centred around ethnic cleansing and genocide, not unless one had a very negative and hostile attitude to Jews. Instead, as David Hirsh explains, “Anti‐Zionism tends to define itself against a notion of ‘Zionism’ that is largely constructed by its own discourses and narratives. The ‘Zionism’ that anti‐Zionist discourses typically depict and denounce is more like a totalizing and timeless essence of evil than a historical set of changing and variegated beliefs and practices.” It is this demonizing of Jews, calling Jews Nazis, saying this makes it ok for them to be targeted for attack, that has the Jewish community scared. Here it is in black and white.

In another thread of comments on the post Green noted that the link was said to be doxxing. This highlights an additional issue of media ethics, with the article in The Age that gave enough details to find the information being published on the front page of the paper before the harmful content was removed. In this way The Age, which also published an Op-Ed this week filled with disinformation to undermine understanding of antisemitism, helped facilitate increased risk to the Jewish community.

Next we have Red, who in another comment was asking for the data, now saying “many in that group regularly do it to other people”. His argument seems to be that because people in a private group discussed particular people and what they have said in particular online accounts, that is the same as releasing private conversations and compiling a list of Jews to be targeted. It is astounding anyone could think those things are the same. Even more astounding is that we know Ford read these comments as she posted a reply.

Ford’s comment says “Are you appalled that this group coordinated to have people, including me, fired? Sit down.” In the next section of this article, “Comparing the actions”, we will look at this flawed comparison in more depth. What must be noted here is that Ford herself is justifying her action by claiming it is fair for her to harass and help target for attack anyone who is critical of her. Again read this in light of the comments in the previous post.

In the final comments Green asks Ford if she sees herself as complicit in exposing people’s private information, in doxxying them. Blue is more blunt asking how “placing Australians at risk of racist attacks is an appropriate way to tackle Israeli military policy.” This comes to the heart of it. The only word for attacking Jews as a strategy to express opposition to Israeli policy, is racism. It occurs as graffiti on synagogues, smashing of grave stones, and harassment in the streets. It has occurred here in the doxxing of a group of Jews and the claims it is ok because “all Zionists are Nazis” and should be doxxed so “antifascists can attack them.

In another set of comments someone posts a tweet linking to the NewsWeek article (discussed above) saying it is an interesting perspective. The tweet notes that in Australia “the Arts community is doxing & destroying the careers of left leaning Australian Jews and strident critics of the Netanyahu government”.

Ford’s response is to offer a “correction” saying: “The correction that in Australia, Zionists who’ve posed as left wing creatives are working to destroy careers of people call for an end to the Israeli occupation and genocide.” In this post she rejects the idea there are left-wing Jews in Australia who are critical of Israeli policy, instead calling them Zionists posing as left-wing creatives. This is another racist attempt to exclude Jews from the arts community. It seeks to impose a purity test on Jews, only those who are anti-Zionist are permitted. It follows the same sort of logic as the Zionist Nazi comments above, but this time from Ford herself. She further promotes a conspiracy theory that these supposed posers are there to “destroy careers of people call for an end to the Israeli occupation and genocide”. This both suggests a Jewish power conspiracy and seems entirely ignorant of the fact that many of these people are the same ones that have for many decades campaigned against Israeli occupation. What they are trying to stand up against is antisemitism… and for Ford that is a step to far.

Following Ford’s comment is another, this time promoting a new far-left Jewish group. The group includes the authors of a deeply problematic op-ed in The Age earlier this week which seeks to reject well recognised examples of antisemitism in an effort to increase the space in which antisemitism can thrive in Australia. More on the Op-Ed below. The post here claims the group fights “ACTUAL antisemitism while calling our BS false flag antisemitism”. The use of “false flag” rather than just “false” is interesting. It implies Jews are carrying our antisemitic incidents to get sympathy. This is the sort of deep antisemitism that claims October 7 was not a terrorist attack but an Israeli military operation create an excuse to invade Gaza. This sort of disinformation, like denial of the Holocaust, or of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in the US, is just sickening. The likes it gets says a lot about Ford’s followers. The post goes on to claim Jewish groups are foreign influence agents, drawing in another old form of antisemitism, the canard of duel loyalty.

Comparing the actions

Ford claimed in her updated Instagram post, “If you want an insight into how coordinated efforts are to silence Palestinian activists and their allies, you can read the leaked chat here.” She claimed her actions and those of others sharing the list were reasonable. In her case she saw it as a reasonable response to a petition to her publisher asking them to drop her.

A public figure like an author, and even more so a social media influencer, is not immune to criticism. Freedom of speech means people have a right to express displeasure at Clematine’s actions. They have a right to organise a petition calling on her publisher to sever ties with her, just as previous petitioners called on LifeLine to sever ties with her over her #KillAllMen posts (a campaign that was successful). People also have a right to congregate in groups, in person or online, and to discuss what concerns them. They have right to campaign, individually or in coordination with others. This is all part of our democratic system.

What’s not ok is using a troll army to target those who sign a petition (as she has done here), or to point her large supporter base at private people to harass them. It’s particularly problematic when she does it in public after people have contacted her privately to express concerns. She can block them, she can reply to them, but painting a target on people as an influencer must come with some accountability, at a minimum loss of her platform if not criminal accountability for incitement.

Ford in her updated Instagram post stated the list she leaked was “a group of ‘creatives’ working to silence voices calling for Palestinian liberation. Knowing that I will likely see some of these people at industry events is sickening – but not quite as sickening as knowing how many more peers I’ll run into who have maintained silence on Palestine AND the people trying to harm others because of it.”

People are entitled to their own views over the current conflict. They are entitled to choose not to do business with people based on their views. That goes of both sides. Publishing what is explicitly a Jewish group for targeted boycotts… that’s something else. Saying they are not welcome at an industry event, and that their presence would be sickening, that is something else again. The Holocaust Encyclopedia at the United States National Holocaust Memorial Museum explain how “The first wave of Nazi antisemitic legislation, from 1933 to 1934, focused on limiting the participation of Jews in German public life.” It explains how in 1933 a succession of laws limited the number of Jews allows in German schools and universities, then they were excluded from the medical and legal profession, then from accounting, and so it went on. Ford seeks both to exclude Jews from the arts, and to exclude anyone who is not as vocal as her.

As for those Ford alludes to who are harming others, some harm may be a legitimate concern. Coming from Ford with the harm she has and is causing, and her wilful blindness to it, even when it is pointed out to her, this looks far more like a demand that anything done in the name of Palestinians should be free of criticism or consequences. She argued much the same in the name of Feminism previously. #KillAllMen is not radical feminism, it is violent extremism. Too many of those engaging in antisemitism while supporting Palestine are similarly making demands they be given a free pass to engage in behaviours that would not be accepted from anyone else. They seek to undermine legitimate concerns from the Jewish community, to make false claims against the Jewish community (as we saw with the Burgertory incident) then to use this as an excuse to engage in intimidation of Jews. Once again, targeting Jews is antisemitism.

Earlier this week at The Age…

An op-ed at The Age on Tuesday by Sarah Schwartz and Max Elliott Kaiser titled “As Jews, we don’t accept that criticism of Israel’s government is antisemitic” highlights the problem we are facing. The issue is not that Jews are making false claims of antisemitism, the problem is that some are refusing to recognise very real antisemitism and seeking to give it a free pass by claiming it is simply part of criticism of the Israeli government.

In the op-ed the authors graciously accept that graffiti saying “kill jews, jews live here” painted on the mailboxes of a block of flats is antisemitism. They do this to show they are willing to recognise at least some antisemitism. Then they go on to claim such legitimate claims are “lumped in with” what they call false examples of antisemitism, such as “graffiti and placards reading “Zionism = racism”, or “end the Palestinian Holocaust”, or the chant “intifada, intifada”. Let’s look at each of those.

The antisemitism of Zionism = racism

The slogan “Zionism = racism” comes from an infamous 1975 UN General Assembly resolution, which was repealed in 1991 (the only UN General Assembly resolution to ever be repealed). It came out of Soviet antisemitism, Arab antisemitism, and the cold war. The connection to antisemitism was noted in a resolution passed by the Australian House of Representatives and introduced by Prime Minister Bob Hawke in 1986. The resolution expressed Australia’s support for rescinding the UN motion, but also noted how the US resolution, “remains unacceptable as a misrepresentation of Zionism” and “has served to escalate religious animosity and incite anti-semitism”. In the UK it led to persecution of Jewish university students with some Jewish student clubs banned.

David Hirsh has a detailed paper on anti-Zionism and antisemitism. In it he argues we should be, “looking at the ways that the Zionism=Racism claim is actualized in the movement and in the world beyond. How does the anti‐Zionist movement actually relate to ‘Zionists’, who are defined as racists? How does it license or encourage others to relate to ‘Zionists’? How does it, in practice, define the group ‘Zionists’, who are to be treated as racists, and how do others define the term?” He goes on to say, “The demonization of ‘Zionism’ appears to be part of an anti‐oppression politics, but it points in another direction: towards a totalitarian way of thinking whose language is that of conspiracy conducted by dark forces. A solution is often conceived not in terms of peace and reconciliation but rather in terms of destroying or uprooting the evil, wherever it is to be found.” The promotion of Zionism = Racism in modern times is directly feeding the attacks on Jews as seen above – and this is not something unexpected. Hirsh’s paper was published in 2007.

The antisemitism of “end the Palestinian Holocaust”

There is nothing antisemitic about expressing sympathy for Palestinian civilians harmed in the current war. The issue here is specific to the words “Palestinian Holocaust”. These words are a form of Holocaust distortion.

The Holocaust was a unique event in history. The industrial killing, transferring people across vast distances just to kill them more efficiently, in an effort to efficiently kill every single man, woman, and child, is something not seen before or since. To attempt to appropriate the term Holocaust distorts the understanding of the actual Holocaust. This is inappropriate even in the case of, for example, the Rwandan genocide in which 800,000 civilians were killed over a period of about 100 days. Each of these human tragedies should be understood on its own terms.

In the case of Palestinian claims that Israel is committing a Holocaust against them, this is known as Holocaust inversion. These claims are made regularly, they not only distort understanding of the Holocaust, but seek to cause harm to Holocaust survivors and their descendants. It is like, known a person is a victim of sexual assault, someone calls everything that person does that they disagree with “like being sexually assaulted”. Antisemitism expert Lesley Klaff explains, “By inverting reality and morality, and by recklessly spreading accusations of bad faith, Holocaust Inversion prevents us identifying the changing nature of contemporary antisemitism and is an obstacle to marshalling active resistance to it.”

The antisemitism of the chant “intifada, intifada”

Intifada means uprising. The Second Intifada (2000-2005) was a campaign of violence by Palestinians that included the use of terrorism such as suicide bombings. 644 to 773 Israeli civilians were killed along with 215 to 301 military personnel. The Israeli military killed between 2,739 and 3,168 Palestinians, and there is no breakdown between civilians and combatants available. 152 to 406 Palestinians were killed by other Palestinians and 34 Palestinians were killed by Israeli civilians.

In the context of that violence, and coming directly after the October 7 terrorist attack, calls for “intifada, intifada” and “intifada, revolution” are calls for a campaign of terrorism against Israel.

A frame of reference

We were surprised to see one of the authors of the Op-Ed listed as an expert in antisemitism, having not heard of them before. It turns out they earned their PhD just a few years ago and their thesis constitutes most of their publications. This is from the abstract of Dr Max Elliott Kaiser’s PhD from Melbourne University in 2018: “[This work] analyses the complex historical positioning of Australian Jews within Australian white supremacy and settler colonialism, and tracks the emergence of an Australian Jewish antifascist political subjectivity from a complex political ethic of Holocaust memorialisation.” It is certainly an interesting positioning of the Australian Jewish community, many of whom came to this country as Holocaust survivors. David Hirsh’s paper discussed above has a lot to say about this very fringe type of “antiracist anti-Zionism”, a fringe view even among the fringe of Jewish anti-Zionism. For the scholar of antisemitism this article is a wonder to read and would make for a great study. For the public it is nothing short of disinformation in the service of creating space for antisemitism to thrive.

Australian Jewish News Targeted

This morning, the Australian Jewish News sought to cover the story of the Jew List only to find their Instagram account has been removed from the platform. What followed was a panic across the community as the newspaper put out a call for help in various Jewish groups online and the news spread like wildfire.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), the peak body of the Australian Jewish community, has had direct contact with Meta for many years. In 2013 a complaint to Facebook (now Meta) by ECAJ, supported by the Online Hate Prevention Institute, and based on an OHPI report on antisemitism, helped establish permanent links to address serious instances of antisemitism online. The Online Hate Prevention Institute has strong relationship with Meta working across all forms of online hate: antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Asian racism, anti-Indigenous racism, countering extremism, etc. Both ECAJ and OHPI serve on an advisory group to Meta on online hate in Australia, along with a range of other civil society groups. We have direct access to speak to staff when crises occur. OHPI has worked to recover accounts for a range of community organisations (from a range of communities) and anti-racism groups in Australia when they have been targeted with false reports by those seeking to shut them down.

In this case the ECAJ and OHPI contacted Meta, altering them to the issue and securing a swift investigation into what occurred. Meta’s investigation led them to reinstate the account within hours. While we don’t know what triggered its removal, the most likely explanation is a campaign of false reporting to silence the Jewish media, followed by automated responses to those reports by the algorithm. There are supposed to be safety checks in place, and in this instance they failed.

Hours after the restoration of the account the panic caused its removal continues to spread through social media and the Online Hate Prevention Institute continues to get emails and calls from people to alter us to the (now solved) problem. We thank Meta for their swift action. We ask all organisations in Australia that are targeted in this way to please reach out to us for assistance. These issues can be fixed and mass panic don’t help. Jewish community organisation should contact ECAJ and may also contact the Online Hate Prevention Institute know.

Last updated: 12:27 am Saturday 10 of February, Melbourne time. This article was updated live and is now complete.