The summer of 2014 has left many people feeling frustrated, outraged, scared, and helpless.
Daily, ordinary citizens are witnessing a dramatic spike in Anti-Semitism while simultaneously being bombarded with gruesome images and acts of Islamic militants. Global jihadists’ social media’s strategies are aimed at terrorizing opponents at home and winning recruits abroad. But there are increasing signs of pushback — both from companies swiftly censoring objectionable content and users determined not to let it go viral.
Stephen Ryde, a self-described “ordinary middle-aged Londoner,” has detailed his recent experiences of anti-Semitism in Britain and Ireland. His letter quickly went viral as people across the world shared it in outrage.
Ryde has a long history of writing to MPs, leaders and newspapers when he is concerned about a problem. “When I feel like something is wrong, I would usually write to that organisation or person to complain,” … “I write because I think it’s important. I’m not a prolific writer, but I write when I feel moved to.”
According to Ryde, the response to his letter has mostly been kind and supportive.
Check out the effects of contacting the responsible parties mentioned in Ryde’s letter:
“In a student hall in Manchester a friend’s son is asked to leave as the specially prepared food he chose to eat is not permitted because it carries a label written in a language used by a country that is ‘banned’ by the student union.”
Ryde told BuzzFeed that his friend’s son, a student at Manchester University, was in the student union (UMSU) eating kosher food. According to the student, after someone reported this he was told he was “not allowed to bring Israeli products” on site because of a boycott of Israeli products. When the student tried to explain that the food he was eating was bought in Manchester city centre and was Jewish, not Israeli, he was asked to leave.
A University of Manchester Students’ Union Spokesperson told BuzzFeed: “The University of Manchester Students’ Union have never received a complaint through our complaints procedure of such matter and would rigorously investigate any such claim that this incident occurred within the Students’ Union. We have a welcoming and inclusive environment for all University of Manchester students. There is no policy or boycott in place to ban Israeli sourced produce and we would not discriminate on these grounds.”
“In theatres in Edinburgh and London I am told to denounce my opinions or lose the right to perform.”
In Edinburgh earlier this month, during the Fringe Festival, a hip-hop opera called The City run by an Israeli theatre company was cancelled after only one performance when pro-Palestine groups protested the event.
In London, as BuzzFeed reported earlier this month, “the Tricycle Theatre refused to allow the UK Jewish Film Festival, which had been held at the venue for eight years, to take place there again unless the organisers returned £1,400-worth of sponsorship from the Israeli embassy. The theatre said the organisers should not take money ‘from any party to the current conflict’ in Gaza so the Tricycle could remain politically neutral, and offered to provide the lost sponsorship itself.”
The Tricycle Theatre has since lifted its ban on Jewish Film Festival.
“A sportsman in Ireland tweets if he sees my kind he’ll punch us in the face and recommends others follow suit.”
Footballer Tommy McGuigan tweeted: “If you are lucky enough to know or work with a Jew, punch him right in the nose tomorrow.”
He has since deleted the tweet and his account.
“Social media is rife with vitriol towards me (even from so-called friends). And in Bradford I’m told that I am not even permitted to enter the city.”
Ryde has reported anti-Semitic pages, groups, and tweets, and that friends of his have sometimes reported abuse directed at them to the police.
In Bradford, the MP George Galloway was filmed declaring Bradford an “Israel-free zone” in front of a Palestinian flag.
Local police have since launched an investigation into his comments.
The bottom line is that public authorities, institutions, and media companies have social responsibility in investigating incidents and removing offensive material, and everybody has the right to notify them.
James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies and director of its strategic technologies program, said companies have been taking down offensive imagery:
“Taking this stuff down off the social networks is important,” he said. “You shouldn’t suppress the facts, but you can suppress the image. That’s just pornography.”
Phillip Smyth, a University of Maryland researcher who tracks the social media activity of jihadists, has noted a modest but noteworthy rise in the speed with which rogue accounts are being removed from Twitter and terror-supporting pages are being pulled from Facebook.
The importance of blocking terrorists from abusing social media for recruitment purposes cannot be overstated. The statistics and facts are startling. Here are just a few:
- 1-in-800 young British Sunni men are fighting in Syria/Iraq
- Today, the Austrian government has detained nine people with alleged plans to join rebels in Syria.
- The first “all-American” suicide bomber self-detonated in Syria.
These examples are a few of the latest in a string of international jihadists — Britons, Australians, Chechens, Chinese and Indonesians — to appear in propaganda for Islamic terror groups.