[Published 3 November 2013]
The Internet has become one of the major contributors to the growing spread of Jew-hatred and assaults on Jews world wide.
The senseless attack by eight hooligans in Bondi, Sydney last week bashing five Jewish people - one a 62 years old woman - as they were walking home after enjoying a Sabbath meal with friends - has resulted in an outpouring of world-wide condemnation by politicians, the media, the public and other religious groups.
Yet it is only one of an increasing number of such similar assaults on Jews world-wide.
Jewish communities have for decades been required to place their synagogues, communal schools and organizations under 24 hour security surveillance.
The propensity of the Internet to become an uncontrolled vehicle for racial incitement has been allowed to escape under the radar. It is time that its capacity to so influence the minds of its readers was diminished.
What has become particularly disturbing is the ability of people to make whatever comments they like on the Internet without disclosing their full names and addresses to web editors when submitting their comments.
Newspapers require such details to be supplied – and only in exceptional circumstances will anonymous letters be published.
Why do Internet sites not demand the same standard of compliance?
Failure to do so has seen the publication of anonymous comments such as the following:
“The Jews will still occupy the West Bank and blockade Gaza and continue with their brutal, genocidal occupation. If the world were to be rid of the U.S. and Israel, there would be a chance of peace in our chaotic, conflicted world. Surely, anyone with half a brain can see that!"
Freedom of speech should not mean that people should enjoy freedom from prosecution or legal action for comments they make that defame people or groups of people or incite or are capable of inciting violence.
Should the following comment have been allowed to be anonymously posted?
“Racist Israel is more than an abomination in the Middle East, it is a threat to the 7bn people it considers not to be racially “special”. Us. All the more reason to stop keeping it alive, and to target it with overwhelming nuclear might if it retaliates against civilisation for refusing to back its play. The Zionists may be blinded by their belief that God will protect them. Nobody and nothing will.”
No doubt apologists will argue that objections can be lodged to delete offending comments – but its implementation inevitably leads to strident cries claiming censorship.
Securing the deletion of an objectionable comment also ignores the damage caused during the time that such comment has remained online before its removal.
These vile viewpoints – if authoritatively sourced – should be exposed to public gaze so that readers can understand the level and intensity of the hatred that exists – as exemplified in the following comment:
“Why should we [love Jews] given what they do to the Palestinians and have done since 1948? I don’t think that Jews are capable of love. Their religion gets in the road. Their god is loveless and punitive and so are they!”
Jews are not on their own in being singled out for such incessant abuse and vilification on the Internet.
Protecting free speech – no matter how denigrating or defamatory – can be safeguarded on the Internet - if web sites make it clear that no comments will be considered for publication unless they are accompanied by the writer’s full name and address - and a phone number supplied for verification purposes that would allow the site administrator to confirm the identity and address of the person seeking to have his comments published on that web site.
The writer’s name and general area location should accompany the comment when published.
Compliance with these requirements should become the minimum norm demanded by the administrators of every web site.
It surely is time for such a voluntary code of conduct to be introduced to end comments being made under the cover of anonymity on the Internet by using false names or pseudonyms to conceal the writer’s true identity.
If such standards were applied – the following comments would not have appeared on “Citizen Pilgrimage” – the blog page of Emeritus Professor Richard Falk – “UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967”:
1. “If Israel and the Jews hope to avoid the next shoah, they had better start learning a little empathy, because, while you are laughing now, things can change very rapidly, as we have seen in the last century (and the one before that, and the one before that….). Do you really want to be on the side that takes down our fragile civilization?”
2. “We can’t afford any more wars, especially ones to rescue Jews who have acted recklessly again and gotten themselves in trouble again with their big mouths and by flaunting their wealth in an unseemly manner.”
3. “The truth is that Jews have a terrible track record, and they seem to be obsessed with the (false) notion that people hate them for no reason. There are very good reasons for hating jews today, and that makes me sad. How can jews be acting this way so soon after the last catastrophe?"
Ending anonymous and unverified comments on the Internet is long overdue.
Paraphrasing Neil Armstrong’s immortal words – doing so would represent one small step for a man - but one giant leap for mankind.