Foreign Policy Blogs

Hate Feeding Hate



The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) is a global Jewish human rights organization that confronts anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, promotes human rights and dignity and among other things, stands with Israel and defends the safety of Jews worldwide. For the past three years, the SWC has been putting together an annual list of the “Top Ten Anti-Israel/Anti-Semitic Slurs,” what they say is mainstream anti-Semitism that threatens the world. In publishing this list, SWC wishes to “exposes the growing menace of Jew hatred from people and movements who wield real power” and asks the readers to: 1.) donate to the cause of stopping the spread of such hatred and 2.) spread the word.

Isn’t “spreading” this word — highlighting  hate-speech (whether the comments that are dubbed as such are in fact hateful, I will leave to your judgement) counter-productive to the SWC’s agenda?

In the 2010 and 2011 lists, there was a Palestinian, a German and a film director amidst the ranks. 2010 included the social media, in general, to it: Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo were all culprits — even though individual citizens, not the team that runs Facebook or Twitter, are responsible for the posts that go up there or the events that are created, such as “Kill a Jew Day.”

In 2012, seven out of ten to make the list were organizations or political parties or “European Soccer Fans” (ranked at number four). The three that weren’t groups were a Jakob Augstein (German writer), Carlos Latuff (Brazilian cartoonist) and Louis Farrakhan (leader of the Nation of Islam in the United States).  The Brazilian cartoonist responded to his being placed on this list by making another cartoon.

(Image From:

It is such a response that Muslim comedians across the United States have taken post 9/11, to dispell all myths about how threatening Muslims are. There is a thin line between freedom of speech and inciting hatred, a line that U.S. courts have been grappling with for years. It is this line that Jakob Augstein is accused of crossing in his representation of Israeli policies in his journalistic writings. One such example quoted by SWC is, “Gaza is a place out of the end of times.” Dieter Graumann, 62, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, in an interview with leading German newspaper, Spiegel, accused Mr. Augstein of focusing solely on Israeli policies and said, by analogy, that by ignoring faults of other regimes, he was being an anti-Semite.  In his response, Mr. Augustein said, “If I don’t write about something, it certainly does not conversely imply that the situation is any less grave elsewhere.”

Gideon Levy, the Israeli writer and journalist who has been traveling to Gaza to tell his readers about what really goes on there, hasn’t been placed on SWC’s list but has been shot at by the Israeli Defence Force, threatened, and faced demands from government ministers that he be tightly monitored as a security risk. In 2006 the Israeli government changed its laws which have stopped Mr. Levy from traveling to the Occupied Territories. His crime: attempting to “rehumanize the Palestinians.” In covering small stories of regular citizens in the Occupied Territories, Levy attempted to look beyond the few narratives that are a product of “a whole machinery of brainwashing in Israel.”

The entire concept of making this list is counterintuitive. It is giving importance to hatred that should be ignored in order to overcome it, not further spread and given the importance it was seeking in the first place. As Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said, “[s]ome famous people owe their fame to controversy.” Therefore, as important as it may be to recognize that some people are spreading hatred and as important as it is to curb such actors (Hungarian politician, Marton Gyongyosi’s remarks spurred other lawmakers to wear Jewish stars in protest and led to public demonstrations and Thilo Sarrazin the German Banker was made to resign from his post – both as a result of their anti-Semitic remarks), it is just as important for us not to give life to hate-speech by repeating or advertising it.

Alternatively, the SWC could use its funds and energies in promoting the other story, their story. As the Muslims in the U.S. have started doing, laughing at themselves in order to spread awareness of the fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, the SWC could promote such avenues that will help spread awareness of the good that Jews around the world are doing. Hate only further instigates hate.



Sahar Said
Sahar Said

Sahar, who grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, has obtained her Master of Laws degree from The George Washington University Law School, and worked with a non-profit in New York. She currently writes from Germany.

Sahar can be followed on Twitter @sahar_said.

Great Decisions Discussion group