How Online Narratives Fuel Antisemitism

By Catherine Perez-Shakdam – Director Forward Strategy Ltd, Research Fellow at ACLS

In recent times, social media platforms have become fertile ground for influential rights activists who propagate a narrative that rationalises violent acts committed by Hamas and similar groups as a manifestation of ‘desperation’ rather than what they really are – a reflection of deep-rooted antisemitic and anti-Zionist ideologies. Such a narrative is not only misleading but exceedingly dangerous, as it risks legitimising acts of terror.

The logic employed to somewhat “understand” or “rationalise” the acts of terror is deeply flawed. Take, for example, the tweet by Peter Tatchell that reads, “War. What did Israel expect? It has confiscated Palestinian homes & farms.” The subtext implies that violence against Israel, including the abhorrent acts of kidnappings, sexual assault, and cold-blooded murders, is essentially a ‘reaping what you sow‘ scenario. This line of argument is not only rife with bias but also perpetuates a dangerous double standard. It echoes past instances where influential voices like Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein have argued that Israel’s policies have ‘provoked‘ acts of terrorism (Norman G. Finkelstein, “Beyond Chutzpah,” University of California Press, 2005).

If we were to extend this logic, we would be saying that violence and brutality, even against women and children, are permissible expressions of political grievances. Notably, such allowances are seldom made for other contexts; for instance, the well-documented atrocities of ISIS are rarely, if ever, explained away as the fruits of Western foreign policy. The inconsistency is glaring and serves only to perpetuate harmful stereotypes and legitimise acts of terror.

While it is crucial to critique and analyse the policies of the Israeli government, blaming them for acts of terror committed against their civilians dangerously misconstrues the nature of the conflict. The use of terrorism as a tactic is not a spontaneous reaction but the product of a deep-rooted ideology that is both antisemitic and anti-Zionist. Such acts should be viewed through the lens of extremist ideologies, much like the 9/11 attacks were seen as the result of al-Qaeda’s radical beliefs, rather than a direct consequence of U.S. foreign policy (Bruce Hoffman, “Inside Terrorism,” Columbia University Press, 2006).

The dangers of this skewed narrative cannot be overstated. At a time when antisemitism is surging globally, such a discourse does more than simply misinform; it contributes to a climate where hatred and bigotry can fester and grow. In line with Iran’s broader objectives, it shifts the focus away from the core issues and the nuances involved in a complex conflict that has bedeviled the region for decades.

Blaming Jewish Victims. Gunshots and bloodstains are seen at a house in Kfar Aza where members of a family were murdered in an attack by Hamas terrorists but are blamed in skewed narratives for their murders. (Phto Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Finally, framing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in a way that rationalises terrorism undermines legitimate peace efforts. This narrative not only vindicates extremist groups but also deters the Palestinian Authority and other more moderate elements from coming to the negotiation table, a sentiment echoed by experts such as Dennis Ross and David Makovsky (“Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East,” Viking Press, 2009).

The narrative that frames acts of terror against Israel as stemming from ‘desperation‘ rather than ideological extremism is perilous and warrants immediate challenge. Such a perspective turns social media platforms into a fertile ground for propagating a new form of hate. This not only gives a veneer of legitimacy to acts of terror but also pushes a peaceful resolution further out of reach.

The responsibility falls on all of us – policymakers, opinion leaders, and the general public – to scrutinise the information we consume and share, particularly on incendiary topics like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By refusing to legitimise or rationalise acts of terror, we take a stand for peace, justice, and the value of human life.

About the writer:

A co-founder and director of UK-based media and consultancy company  ‘Forward Strategy’, Catherine Perez-Shakdam is a frequent contributor to i24NEWS, Al Jazeera, the BBC, The Jerusalem Post, Politico, the Daily Express, and the Daily Mail.
In 2021, Chatherine gained international attention when news broke of her decade-long infiltration of the Iranian regime, during which she was able to gain access to the highest echelons of the regime’s inner circles. Despite the danger following being labeled an ‘enemy of the state’ by Iran, Catherine utilized her extensive knowledge and close-encounter insight to expose a system that had long operated under a shroud of secrecy. Her revelations have provided a unique perspective on Iran’s actions, challenging its narrative and exposing the true nature of its operations.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.