Culture, Identity, Justice, Politics

Facebook, Holocaust denial, and Jew(ish) haters

I’m surprised Jewschool has missed the roiling controversy of Facebook deciding not to ban Holocaust denial groups. This came to light when I noticed (with a touch of schadenfreude) that David Appletree, founder of the bullying “Jewish Internet Defense Forces,” has been periodically kicked off facebook. There’s a lot to cover and this single post won’t do justice to the amount of discussion to date. 
On one side, there’s Facebook’s stance that unless groups directly advocate violence, asking Facebook to take down groups/individuals for Holocaust denial is a misunderstanding of its role. Their employees came out greatly on their company’s side, including Jewish ones. For example, employee Dave Willner very rightly explains that their company should not have “an official version of the world” against which to test hate statements. You can rightfully argue differently, although I agree such policing is the wrong road to go down.
On the other side is the nauseating activism of the JIDF and chief activist David Appletree, whose views are not separable from each other and were most easily summarized in an interview here. Regarding Obama: “We hope to continue to highlight the issues surrounding his terrorist connections…” On Islam: “99.9% of Muslims hate us…” On the conflict: “Palestinians should be transferred out of Israeli territories…”
Appletree’s ostensible goals for JIDF may be laudable (ending anti-Semitism online) but it’s used as a platform from which to spread reciprocal defamation. Islamophobes and Arab haters made poor representatives of the Jewish people for starters. But it’s particularly painful when it’s someone who’s advocating Arab transfer, selectively upholding self-determination, and makes insulting generalized claims about any people. My personal communiques with Appletree, presumably the admin behind JIDF’s Twitter profile, repeat those views.
Then there’s his misleading campaigns to Facebook advertisers that they’re “supporting” Holocaust denial. The JIDF web site manipulates the facts into an action alert targeted at 50 advertisers demanding they halt their Facebook ads. Several companies have since pulled their ads. The kind of defamtion we should be fighting becomes a tool in a campaign for retribution. More intelligent might be asking those companies to donate some proceeds to anti-prejudice groups who fight not just anti-Jewish hate but all kinds of hate.
Reinforcing anti-Arab stereotypes is also hatred. Spreading belief in a “global jihad” is the same as spreading belief in the Elders of Zion. Ignorance about Islam, Muslims and Arabs are unfortunately hatreds widely accepted as fact, especially in the Jewish community. Opinions such as “Arabs should be kicked out of Israel” and “Arabs already have 22 countries” are hatred. Those broadcasting such views should be denounced and then ignored.
Even if I could stomach the cause the JIDF is championing (in principle) or the methods it is choosing (not at all), then I still would never do so alongside Jewish haters like this. Personally, I’m against Jew haters as much as I am Jewish haters. Anyone interested in the Facebook-Holocaust denial debate best find a more credible organizer.

49 thoughts on “Facebook, Holocaust denial, and Jew(ish) haters

  1. Appletree is obviously an Internet Warrior with masculinity issues. Not ad-hominem, just observation.

  2. I think the JIDF is pretty rotten, but why does Facebook take down groups about breastfeeding if they aren’t being the thought police?

  3. Next time, look closer – that interview with Brian Cuban was with an anonymous representative of the JIDF. Also, that post about advertisers does not even say “they’re “supporting” Holocaust denial.”
    This “article” is nothing more than a sloppy smear campaign against Appletree and the JIDF.
    Get your facts straight.

  4. All the JIDF is is a sloppy smear campaign against anyone they deem to be “anti-Israel” or “anti-Judaism.” Usually fueled by, and hidden behind, anonymity.
    Fair is fair.

  5. In theory, I could understand Facebook’s stance of permitting the Holocaust denial groups if they were consistently protecting freedom of expression. Unfortunately, when they send takedown notices to people who post images of women breast-feeding, it makes me wonder why the Holocaust deniers’ right to freedom of expression is sacrosanct, but the female body is off limits. It just sends a bad message about what’s okay and what’s not.

  6. @feygele
    Why should David put himself and his family at risk when he gets death threats and harassment all of the time?
    Many people publicly support the JIDF.
    Your summation of the JIDF is false. They’ve done some amazing work.

  7. There’s a lot of defamation in this piece itself. Whereas the JIDF is highly critical of Islam, I don’t think it’s write to label them “Islamophobic” – also, they really don’t “hate Arabs” either. You claim the JIDF site “manipulates the facts” but then don’t bother to explain how. Pretty lazy/shoddy blogging if you ask me. Then you suggest, “Anyone interested in the Facebook-Holocaust denial debate best find a more credible organizer” – as if there is anyone else taking this on to any great degree? The JIDF exposed it and fought it before anyone even knew of it.

  8. Jonathan, here’s the answers to your questions and below is a challenge to you:
    The Brian Cuban interview — presumably this anonymous representative is Appletree. Jewschool isn’t a newspaper, it’s a blog, and I am free to make such speculation. As I said, my conversations with him on Twitter confirmed what was covered the interview.
    “Supporting” Holocaust denial / manipulating facts — JIDF’s action alert writes “Facebook’s strong stand in support of Holocaust denial material on its platform” which is where I pull the quotation. Facebook doesn’t “support” Holocaust denial, it permits its presence so long as it’s an intellectual discussion. This is manipulation of Facebook’s stance to roughride advertisers into believing they’re endorsing hate material. That is untrue, plain and simple.
    Appletree as JIDF — He founded the JIDF and remains its cheif (presumably only) spokesman, and in discussing with him, there seems to be no separation between the views of the two. He is JIDF. Even so, as JIDF’s director he is responsible for what it publishes, making my point all the more important.
    Also, substantiate your assertion that JIDF was doing this work first. I just tried to call the Anti-Defamation League to no luck, but their web site has press releases dealing with internet hate as far back at 1995. They’re YouTube’s official anti-hate partner, for example.
    My challenge to you:
    Turn anti-Semitic statements around and you have Islamophobia and Arab hatred: Claiming a “global jihad” exists against the West is like claiming the Elders of Zion exist. Saying “99.9% of Arabs hate us” and fighting “the war in which Islam has declared upon us” are like saying the war that Israel has declared on Muslims or that 99.9% of Jews think they’re chosen over non-Jews. This is all the same.
    This is hatred, simple. JIDF is not expressing simple or innocent ignorance, they’re very thoroughly researched and substantiated. They promote a worldview in which only .01% of Muslims are decent people. You can bicker over every adjective if you want — Arab hatred, Islamophobia, anti-Muslim sentiment — but the fact that it’s a sophisticated hate philosophy cannot be denied.
    I think the JIDF — and Appletree as it’s founder and director! — slander the legacy of the Holocaust. An event that was caused by senseless ethnic and religious hate cannot have a defender who spreads senseless ethnic and religious hate.
    Why are you defending this?

  9. “Facebook doesn’t “support” Holocaust denial, it permits its presence so long as it’s an intellectual discussion. This is manipulation of Facebook’s stance to roughride advertisers into believing they’re endorsing hate material. That is untrue, plain and simple.”
    Not quite. Facebook allows Holocaust denial even if it’s not in an “intellectual discussion.” Now matter they allow it on their platform, if they allow it, they certainly are supporting it, allowing it to grow, etc.
    Regarding the JIDF being on this issue first, I’m talking specifically about the problems in the Web 2.0 environment (YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook, etc.) The JIDF contacted the ADL and many others organziations about the problems on Facebook/YouTube, and those concerns were ignored, which gave rise to the JIDF, actually.
    From my understanding, if anyone was addressing these concerns suitably, the JIDF would have never come into being as it has.
    I simply disagree with your challenge and your perception of the JIDF completely. You’re relying mostly upon outdated information from an anonymous source which is not even found on the JIDF website itself, but on someone’s who also feels the need to unfairly criticize this new and innovative organization.
    Interesting you defend the Qu’ran and fail to mention that itself spreads “senseless ethnic and religious hate.”
    If you’re Jewish, you realize that the Qu’ran teaches that you’re the descendant of apes and pigs, correct? The JIDF has never dehumanized Arabs or Muslims like that.
    Perhaps you should redirect your undue criticism and look at facts and statistics. Over 13,000 deadly terrorist attacks have been committed in the name of Islam since 9/11.

  10. This article is junk. While the writer tries to make some good points, I believe that this is just a biased piece against the JIDF. As far as I’ve seen, most of the JIDF stuff has been critical but not islamophobic.
    The FACT is, many, many Islamic people (maybe not 99.99% – but 100s of millions of them) hate the USA and everything she stands for. These are the people that cheered 9/11.
    However, my main point here is this: Everyone should be reminded that there is no “freedom of speech” on Facebook’s servers. They remove many groups which would have the right to Freedom of Speech off of FB’s servers. The main point is that if FB allows these groups the space to collect friends & members and to share ideas, they are in fact, supporting them, in a round-a-bout way. Period.

  11. I’ve been closely monitoring the situation with regard to antisemitic FB groups for almost 2 years now. I have closely followed the various Jewish activists and their organizations. Without question, the JIDF has taken the most active role of any.
    David, along with John Cohen (creator of FB group “Facebook: Remove Antisemitism from Your Site”), were indeed the first ones to bring the Holocaust denial issue to Facebook’s attention long before others picked up this piece and shed more light on it:
    The JIDF has been the only Jewish organization that has effectively been able to remove as many hate and terrorist groups from Facebook that have been removed, and if you had been keeping a comprehensive list for over 2 years like David has been, you would know that. The ADL has been useless in combating hate online. And frankly, the ADL report about the consequences of hate on Web 2.0 has not convinced anyone about the threat it poses. The millions of dollars in donations they receive seem to go to utter waste. We need grassroots organizations like this one to launch massive activist campaigns to get policies changed or to step in when need be and manually dismantle groups calling for the death of Jews. Thanks to the JIDF there are far less antisemitic and terrorist groups on Facebook today than there were even a year ago.

  12. ” You’re relying mostly upon outdated information from an anonymous source which is not even found on the JIDF website itself, but on someone’s who also feels the need to unfairly criticize this new and innovative organization.”
    If that is referring to my blog you have to be kidding. While the source may be anonymous in the technical sense, it was rep from your group that I Interviewed. Are you denying you know this?
    The problem with your group is that you are the PETA of the Jewish activists. You will do some good work now and then but in between when you have no specific issue to hold yourselves together, your wheels come completely off in the form of bizarre statements, conspiracy rants, and your own brand of hate speech

  13. Mr. Cuban, you certainly protect your anonymous sources.
    (How credible.)
    From my understanding, you interviewed the source at a time of great activity for the JIDF and there were good reasons that anonymity was requested, as the JIDF was busy coordinating the dismantling the largest hate group on the internet and did not have the time to think through a lot of the responses which were quickly given to you.

  14. “Mr. Cuban, you certainly protect your anonymous sources”
    When you put it at issue you have no one but yourself to blame for the answer.
    My agreement was to protect that “actual” identity of the person I interviewed which I have. You can not have it both ways. If you are going to make statements like that you have to deal with the answer.

  15. 1. The JIDF is one person David […]
    2. According to David “… the only reason I am friends with Jessica F. is because she manages a large group with over one million … directing follower to the JIDF”
    3. Shimshom Ha Gibor means Samson the Invincible in Hebrew and you maintain a fake FB account.
    4. The reason Brian Cuban does not discloses information about David is because he made a promise and he is a man of his word unlike David hiding behind the apron.
    5. This is not about his family being threaten, this about something else.

  16. Brian, thanks for joining us and thank you for posting that interview. It’s plenty possible to gather the needed quotes from all over his and the JIDF’s Facebook and blog comments, but you put it in one place for the good of the conversation. Thanks. I second the PETA comparison, too.
    Jonathan, I think the conspiracy theory of Obama’s terrorist connections securely places the credibility of JIDF in the toilet.
    Jessica, the post you provide is from October 2008 — this is the earliest evidence JIDF went to Facebook?
    Shimshon, I think you assume we can all agree on what counts as Islamophobia, which we don’t. I count the statements you just made about Muslims hating us and that Jonathan made about the Koran as hate speech. Jonathan took one citation out of context to imply that all adherents of Islam believe Jews are not human. (As if Islam, like Judaism, doesn’t have a hundred streams of disagreeing teachings and thousands of teachers who emphasize different core principles.) I absolutely classify the vast majority of JIDF’s statements about Islam/Muslims/Arabs as hate speech.

  17. From my understanding, the 99% figure was not about “us” or any group in general but was in reference to the guesstimate percentage of how many Muslims hate the JIDF itself. Regarding Obama’s terrorist connections, they are actually well covered and not so much of a “conspiracy” and I don’t believe the JIDF ever presented it that way, but were exploring those connections, as many various sources have done:
    Is anyone who asked these relevant questions during the campaign guilty of “conspiracy theories?”

  18. Confirmed from the JIDF, here are excerpts from the actual interview, confirming that the “99%” figure was a guesstimate of how many Muslims hate the JIDF itself.
    BC: Here are my questions:
    1. What is the origin of this organization
    2. What are its goals?
    3. What do you feel it has accomplished to date?
    JIDF: We’ve upset a lot of people and made a few friends along the way.
    4. What are some of its greatest accomplishments
    JIDF: See above.
    5. What are its greatest failures
    JIDF: See above.
    6. What has the reaction been from the Jewish community here and abroad.(if any)
    JIDF: Since the Jewish people are so diverse, the reaction has been diverse. Every reaction under the sun. From full support to full condemnation and everything in between.
    7. What has the reaction been from the non-jewish Middle Eastern Community here and abroad
    JIDF: 99.9% of Muslims hate us. 4 viable death threats—-not just from non-Jewish Middle Eastern community, but Neo Nazis, etc.

  19. Wow, could you please disclose your polling credentials, I did not know that about this new Gallup-ing source.

  20. bs – It is about maintaining the status quo and a credibility that otherwise would not last under real identity.

  21. Kung Fu,
    JIDF was on top of the issues before October of 2008. Do you need me to go through the whole historical time line with you regarding when and why the JIDF formed ?
    David initially formed 5 or 6 smaller mirror groups entitled “Facebook: Why do you aid and abet terrorists” and “Facebook: Why do you Support Antisemitism and Islamic terrorism?” and “Jews against the release of Terrorists from Israeli Prisons” etc. that later morphed into the JIDF. He began these groups at some point in 2007.
    He was the ONLY person to be keeping track of ALL of the antisemitic and terrorist groups on FB in a comprehensive list and getting people to mass report them. David achieved much success getting several of these hate groups removed. I know. I was there.
    John Cohen, now disabled by Facebook, began the group “Facebook: Delete the Group Israel is not a Country… … Delist it” in February 2008 (I co-admin that group) and soon thereafter joined forces with David to dismantle that very group on July 27, 2008.
    Dr. Andre Oboler has written an article explaining how this particular group was one of the most active, virulent antisemitic groups on all of Facebook. I was so glad to see it destroyed.
    The ADL made no mention of Facebook hate groups until July 2008 when it sent out a mass petition about this particular group. Too little. Too late. I have the documentation.
    The ADL was very late to the party. We had all been complaining eighteen months before the ADL stepped in . Further, Cohen formed the Facebook group a good six months before the ADL ever even bothered to mention the problem.
    Afterward, we changed the name of our group to “Facebook: Remove Antisemitism from Your Site” and soon thereafer brought David on to co-admin with us which he did while running his own JIDF.
    October 2008 is when JIDF sent the original Holocaust denial letter (written by Cohen and Appletree) to Facebook. I sent you the post about that particular issue.
    The Holocaust denial letter written by Cohen and Appletree inspired Cuban to write about the issue, which in turn inspired the mainstream media to cover the story.
    This is a team effort. I don’t know why any Jewish activist seeks to put down the efforts of another.
    Frankly, I find this testosterone-fest appalling.

  22. I don’t know why any Jewish activist seeks to put down the efforts of another.
    Bravo, Jessica. I, too, would like that question answered, and not in a superficial way. This appears to be much more of an emotional fight than an intellectual one, aimed at broadsiding an effective organization – JIDF – that is focused on its mission, not fighting off detractors.
    That these attacks are coming from a leading Jewish progressive blog raises serious questions about Jewschool’s agenda – certainly fighting rampant Holocaust denial, which KFJ seems to admit is a serious issue, seems not to be in the mission statement.
    If someone has a issue with JIDF, or any other Jewish org, the best way to effect the change they seek is to contact the leadership and exchange ideas with them in a respectful way. Publishing hit pieces that draw controversy is literary agitprop that only furthers divisions but achieves little else.
    JIDF, on a daily basis, deals with an battlefield of hate-filled message boards, personal threats and open derision. Is it so surprising that there are times when individuals respond to such a barrage of hatred in an inappropriate way? That does not diminish from JIDF’s overall success as an org.
    KFJ, you’re a sensitive enough person to handle this issue with more finesse, respect and understanding for an organization composed, at the end of the day, of imperfect but well-intentioned people doing the best they can – better than anyone else – to confront a serious problem.
    Honestly, some of the people knocking on JIDF… I’ve seen you express more empathy and understanding to the intentions of the leadership of Hamas. Take a chill pill.

  23. Guys, welcome to the internet. Home of 4Chan, GNAA, Encyclopaedia Dramatica, Stormfront, VDare, and Masada2000.
    There’s always going to be a differing opinion of anything anywhere. Sometimes statements are made in jest. This is why I scoff at any “Internet Defense Force”, Jewish or otherwise.
    No, not “scoff”, LAUGH. With extreme derision.

  24. PurpleMan and Jessica:
    Hate speech is hate speech. Either Holocaust deniers and JIDF deserve condemnation, or none of them. How many of those Holocaust deniers so blanketedly getting kicked off Facebook are doing “really important work” in their own choice charities? It doesn’t matter if David does good work if he’s still a purveyor of bigoted rhetoric.
    JIDF’s supporters seem blind to turning the tables around.

  25. Oh, I see KFJ. I’m relatively new on the site, so perhaps you can post a link to a few of your posts that condemn Holocaust denial using the same language you chose to employ against JIDF.

  26. @Bluewoman – that ought to do a lot of good [sarcasm]. The JIDF already tried to inform the ADL of the issues two years ago and the ADL did nothing. They only did something (in the form of press releases and commenting after the fact), after the JIDF was successful in inspiring many people to get concerned about this issue.

  27. Jonathan, Bluewoman’s post was vague enough that one could surmise she is referring JIDF to the ADL for anti-Islamist acts (and in the sense that some here feel the JIDF is misrepresenting the “good Jews”, anti-Semitic acts).

  28. @Jonathan -such is always going to be the politics of appeasement of the Jewish establishments. At a recent forum, the ADL promised to act upon, while concurrently engaging in conflicting and compromising policies with social media networks. Also an official stated an “unofficial” opinion regarding the JIDF.

  29. In essence, I provided the ADL information as to overstate the obvious: that they will NOT act as it compromises their funding. Now, this is not my opinion, but the unstated and disenchanted opinion of other organizations worldwide who participated in the discussions and witnessed the obvious inactivity of the ADL. While organizations around the world were prompting action against Holocaust denial groups on social media networks, the representative for the ADL dismissed the subject and was apparent that did not have EVEN a vague understanding. The ADL position was that in general they will not engage in any direct action with social media networks. My opinion is that the ADL has been very quiet and will not fuse or venture against FB. Besides, the ADL will not act as it could be (erroneously), perceive as an infringement on the 1st Amendment of future contributors.

  30. Bluewoman, I sincerely apologize for not giving you the benefit of doubt. After some of the ridiculous comments in this section, I was quite jaded by the “progressive” Jewish take on fighting holocaust denial, and thought your comment was possibly another snub at JIDF.

  31. bluewoman stated: “Also an official stated an “unofficial” opinion regarding the JIDF.”
    The JIDF has an official opinion of the ADL all over their site:
    On another note, one thing I don’t understand is how this article could be printed on Jewschool, especially in light of the quote below this comment box:
    “I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it.”
    Meanwhile, Jewschool is defaming Appletree and the JIDF with labels like “Islamophobic” and “Arab haters” and accusing them of “misleading campaigns” and “manipulating facts” and “reinforcing anti-Arab stereotypes.”
    Absolutely none of those labels or charges are true.

  32. “My opinion is that the ADL has been very quiet and will not fuse or venture against FB. Besides, the ADL will not act as it could be (erroneously), perceive as an infringement on the 1st Amendment of future contributors.”
    You are entitled to an opinion but you do not know what you are talking about. I speak with people at the ADL and in fact have a meeting there in NYC on Tuesday on these very issues. Because they do not make inflammatory statements and needlessly alienate those in a position to make a difference does not mean mean they are not doing anything. Unlike the JIDF, the ADL is not in the business of hearing itself speak…
    One more thing as well “jonathan”…
    Your organization loves to throw around how your org is constantly being “defamed” like you are going to file a lawsuit or something. You use that term more than most attorneys I know.
    It that supposed to be some sort of threat or make you sound like a lawyer? Its insulting to those who understand the legal meaning of the term. Your org will never do s**t so please drop it. Its repetitiveness is boring. Move on…

  33. Brian, I wish you good luck at your meeting on Tuesday. However, my opinions are based on facts not on predictions.

  34. This seems like senseless bickering.
    The JIDF clearly fills a specific need, and has done so effectively, even by the standards of its critics. The ADL is an important organization – with a substantially more broad agenda, and greater corresponding resources. If anything, these two orgs should be working hand in hand.
    If the ADL is the old grandfather in the room who didn’t understand the importance of social networks, the JIDF should educate. If the JIDF needs a lesson in “talk softly and carry a big stick”, the ADL should impart its substantial experience.
    Having organized at my university and had to come up against the “organized Jewish community” – Hillel, Federation, Jewish newspaper, JCC, and the entrenched interests they sometimes represent – I understand that conciliation is not always an easy route. Often a new organization, like JIDF, is not taken seriously until it breaks through the established paradigm and is effective in its mission and self-sufficient in its funding. That can take years and a lot of bare knuckle fistfights. Only then, in my experience, does the “organized Jewish community” seek to integrate that org. In some ways, that’s a healthy process in itself, as it weeds out organizations too weak, or too leaderless, to ever survive in the real world.
    At this point in the game, this doesn’t need to be a battle of wills. Competition is healthy, but let’s remember which side we’re all on. The JIDF has enough on its plate related to its core mission. Broadsiding it the way KFJ did, blacklisting it in such broad strokes with strong negative terms, is irresponsible and uncharacteristic of the progressive JEWISH ideals this site is supposed to be all about.

  35. Purpleman, bigots in the Jewish family don’t deserve a kumbaya moment just because they have Jewish blood. Period. They get shown the door. That’s what I did in my post and what I will continue to do. If anti-Semites don’t get the same benefit of the doubt from you, then haters like JIDF/Appletree shouldn’t either. The double standards are part of the prejudice.

  36. The double standards are part of the prejudice.
    That’s part of what gets me, your double standards. With Hamas – who plan daily to murder Jews – you’re all about negotiations, reconciliation… But with fellow Jews fighting holocaust denial online (have you actually SEEN their site?), they’re “haters” who don’t deserve a “kumbaya moment”.
    Double standards? Prejudice? Perhaps you can clarify where your prejudice begins.

  37. @brian cuban states:
    “the ADL is not in the business of hearing itself speak…”
    apparently proving that he knows absolutely nothing about the ADL.
    Regarding your paranoid claims that the JIDF is “my” organization. That is false. I’m not a lawyer, but I believe that there is false information about the Appletree and the JIDF being written here and elsewhere online which is only meant to try to smear and defame the reputation of people who are actually doing excellent work, work that the ADL couldn’t and hasn’t touched. Considering that it appears that you get all of your research from the JIDF website and hardly have brought anything of value to the table on this front (other than your semi-celebrity status due to your family name), it’s odd that the ADL would want to meet with you, unless, of course, they just want your money (which is most likely the case).

  38. @Purpleman – I agree with you completely about KFJ’s unfair treatment of Appletree and the JIDF.

  39. Good article. The JIDF seems to be an organization dedicated to dividing the Jewish community, not uniting it; I wouldn’t be surprised if “David Appletree” isn’t even Jewish, but someone intent on causing so much infighting in the online Jewish community that nothing of importance gets done.

  40. there will always be haters, the point is not to live your life according to thier rules, as long as we grow as a culture and prosper, no one could touch us.
    just have faith.

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