The disturbing normalization of antisemitic acts among young Americans
By Lucie Lespinasse
A swastika formed by plastic goblets, surrounded by students doing the Nazi salute and underlined by the legend “German Rage Cage » (“German pong beer” is the game of throwing a ping-pong ball into glasses filled with alcohol). This photo, taken on the first weekend of March at a party in Costa Mesa, California, quickly made the rounds of social networks in the United States. In front of the indignation of many Internet users, some of the young people of the photo apologized, others described their behavior as a «joke”but all deny any belonging or Nazi tendency.
The two schools concerned directly set up an investigation to punish the pupils, minors, of this behavior. And Costa Mesa High School organized a meeting with Eva Schloss, Anne Franck’s half-sister and Holocaust survivor. During this meeting, the youth again apologized and assured “Not having thought about the moment”, tells Release Peter Levi, Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League for Orange County (ADL). This lack of reaction worries him particularly. “When young people do not think, there is a normalization of antisemitic acts. And this is a phenomenon that grows in the United States, especially in schools, continues Peter Levi.
94% increase in schools
This behavior is indeed not isolated and antisemitism is more and more common in American schools and universities. Swastikas tagged on toilet doors, antisemitic flyers denying the existence of the Holocaust, harassing Jewish students, supporting Hitler … The list is long and shows growing antisemitism in schools, which report the increased hate activity among all social groups, according to the LDA’s latest report. In 2017, the organization recorded 457 antisemitic incidents in schools, compared to 235 in 2016 and 114 in 2015, an increase of 94%.
Comparison between 2016 and 2017 of the number of antisemitic incidents in schools (up to high school). Source: 2017 Audit of antisemitic incident.
On campus, the extreme rise is the same, as the number of antisemitic acts increased from 108 to 204 cases reported, an increase of 89%.
Comparison between 2016 and 2017 of the number of antisemitic incidents on university campuses. Source: 2017 Audit of antisemitic incident.
Jewish institutions and schools have also seen their number of incidents double. A majority of reported acts are vandalism, then come cases of harassment, very far from the attacks. However, Peter Levi fears that these incidents are only the “Foundations of a much bigger problem. The Holocaust was not realized in a day, it is based on centuries of antisemitism. Today we are witnessing the same process of rising hatred “. A hate process that could be the source of an increase in acts of violence similar to the Pittsburgh synagogue bombing. The attack, which caused eleven deaths in October, remained the deadliest ever in the United States against Jewish communities.
Hate speech on the Internet
And if antisemitism increases among young people, the Internet is no stranger to it. Jonathan Weisman, journalist at New York Times and author of the book Semitism: being a Jew in the United States in the era of Donald Trump, believes that social networks play a key role in spreading hate speech. At the heart of this trend are influencers and youtubers. Weisman quotes Sweden’s 89 million subscribers, PewDiePie, who, in 2017, published a video in which young Indians were dancing and displaying a sign reading “Death to all Jews”.
The video was quickly removed from the platform, but “The youtubeur presented this scene as a joke. However, when these hateful words are repeated, young people easily integrate it as a reality and think they can use these words too, ” continues Weisman.
Words that previously could not be kept in public. Yet for three years, “What was inappropriate seems to be appropriate,” for Jacques Berlinerblau, director of the Center for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University. Social networks leave the possibility of “To speak on all subjects and to be part of diverse groups, without being regulated by the authorities”.
Thus, young people follow the political debates on the minorities and they decide, then, to seize too the subject, on the networks but also in the real life. “Jewish people are not the only ones who are affected, even if they are the ones most affected. All minorities are the target of attacks », recalls Berlinerblau. In fact, in 2017, the FBI counted 140 more hate crimes than in 2016, an increase affecting all denominations.