#NoSafeSpaceForJewHate… except at the ‘Jewish Chronicle’

When Wiley went on his anti-Semitic rampage on Twitter last year, the Jewish community was united in horror, and the #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate hashtag was born.

The President of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, demanded that “social media companies … be required to appoint a minimum number of staff … to moderate content that is harmful”.

The editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, tweeted: “You refuse to act against Jew hate, Twitter. You enable the likes of Wiley to spread their poison. You choose to allow it on here.

There were two values underpinning the community’s approach to anti-Semitism on social media:

  • It’s not ‘just words’. Hate speech against Jews endangers Jews.
  • Those who provide and control platforms have (at least) a moral responsibility to police and moderate the content that others choose to post on those platforms.

These are extremely sensible principles and I endorse them both wholeheartedly.

Unfortunately, Stephen Pollard does not endorse them wholeheartedly, because when it comes to other forms of hatred, on platforms controlled by Jewish institutions, these principles apparently go out of the window.

Earlier this week, the Jewish Chronicle published an article about the two new students who will be joining myself and my colleagues at Leo Baeck College in September. They’re both women, one a former campaigner for the Democrats and the other a founder of the Jewish chapter of Extinction Rebellion.

How did the Jewish Chronicle Facebook page react to the news that two left-leaning women are to be allowed to study for the rabbinate? The reaction wasn’t positive. Specifically, the page was a cesspit of hate. My new colleagues were repeatedly called “kapos” (Nazi collaborators) and “enemies of the Jewish people”. Those who gently spoke up for them were labelled “arseholes” and “insane”. Their Jewishness was questioned. The Jewishness of the Progressive movements in general was questioned.  I was even labelled a bad rabbinic student for having chosen the name ‘Omri’ for my son.

And what did the Jewish Chronicle do about it? Nothing.

At about 11pm that day I personally reached out to a Jewish Chronicle staffer I know (whose role is nothing to do with the social media side of things) and she very kindly and very nobly logged on there and then to delete the nastier comments. The next day there was another tranche of “kapo” filth, and honestly I felt too bad to approach her again, because it’s not her job.

Whose job is it? Stephen Pollard’s. He’s the editor. He’s the senior manager. He must “appoint a minimum number of staff to moderate content that is harmful”. And Marie van der Zyl must push him to do that, in the same way that she pushed Facebook itself.

He can’t shrug his shoulders and say it’s a case of sticks-and-stones, because we all (sadly) know that the real-world impact of sustained social media abuse against named individuals can be disastrous, especially women, who are so often the target for the most vicious abuse.

He can’t shrug his shoulders and say that he’s not responsible for what other people post, because it’s his estimable organ that’s providing the platform and allowing these vile people to come together and find an audience. What was it he said to Twitter about online anti-Semitism? “You enable the likes of Wiley to spread their poison. You choose to allow it on here.” Well, Stephen Pollard chooses to allow mental-health-related abuse, and the ‘kapo’ slur, in his newspaper’s online space.

Let’s remind ourselves of the two values that motivated the communal response to Wiley:

  • It’s not ‘just words’. Hate speech against Jews endangers Jews.
  • Those who provide and control platforms have (at least) a moral responsibility to police and moderate the content that others choose to post on those platforms.

These are both uncontroversial and sensible values, and indeed they find their root in Jewish texts. The Talmud says that someone who uses verbal insults in a way that causes another to blush, is tantamount to a murderer. The Mishnah says that we must not participate in the building of amphitheatres, because the blood sports that happen therein – even if we personally don’t take part in them – are morally abhorrent, and we would be enabling them to take place if we helped to construct the building.

The Jewish Chronicle must clean up its act, and stop providing a platform for hatred, bullying and (in the case of the word ‘kapo’) outright anti-Semitism. Unacceptable comments need to be deleted immediately. Repeat offenders should have their commenting privileges removed altogether. And if the newspaper lacks the budget to dedicate sufficient staff time to moderating its social media presence, it needs to shut down its social media presence. If Stephen Pollard can’t afford to run a Facebook page in an ethically responsible way, he can’t afford to run a Facebook page full stop.

#NoSafeSpaceForJewHate.

Is calling the founder of a Jewish environmental group a Nazi not a form of Jew hate? Is stalking a rabbinic student’s family and using their 4-month-old baby as a weapon not Jew hate? Is saying that the Liberal and Reform movements are only ‘Jewish’, and only have ‘rabbis’, with sceptical quotation marks, not Jew hate? Is attacking a Jewish woman as “insane” and an “arsehole” not Jew hate? All of these epithets comprise hatred directed against Jews. The fact that they [well, some of them] were written by other Jews doesn’t affect that.

A communal newspaper is providing a safe space for Jew hate. I call on Stephen Pollard to set out an action plan for improving moderation of the social media spaces for which he has responsibility, and I call on Marie van der Zyl to hold him to the same standard to which she holds others.

Then, maybe, there will be no safe space for Jew hate.

‘The Apprentice’: the lost lockdown series

We all know that no series of The Apprentice has aired since the pandemic began. But that’s not because one wasn’t filmed…

With exclusive access to leaked BBC footage, this blog reveals what Team Immunity and Team Asymptomatic got up to when filming series 15-and-Three-Quarters of The Apprentice!

Episode 1 (filmed November 2019)

Lord Sugar flies sixteen new candidates off to test their sales skills in an unfamiliar environment. Landing in Wuhan, China, the teams enter the food business. Each team is given a stall in the city’s famous wet market. Team Asymptomatic’s pancakes fall flat, but Team Immunity bat away the opposition with their unusual meats. After Team Immunity enjoy their treat – a skiing trip to northern Italy – fifteen candidates return home, ready for the next task.

Episode 2 (filmed March 2020)

In a favourite format, the teams are given a list of ten items to buy while spending as little money as possible. Team Immunity gets a good price on pasta and toilet roll, but a calculation error leads to them buying a quantity 5 million times greater than Lord Sugar demanded!

Episode 3 (filmed April 2020)

In an unprecedented draw, the entire task is an unmitigated failure: despite working their socks off, the candidates fail to sell any theatre tickets whatsoever. But as Lord Sugar furiously tells the teams in the boardroom: “Business isn’t about accepting constraints. If I gave up the first time I ran into a problem, I’d have nothing. You get a problem? Solve the bloody problem!”

Episode 4 (filmed early May 2020)

The teams head to the North East, to set up a tourism enterprise in the historic market town of Barnard Castle. While Team Immunity focus on river tours, Team Asymptomatic’s plan to advertise in local GP surgeries, pharmacies and opticians leads them to success.

Episode 5 (filmed late May 2020)

Tasked with coming up with an advertising gimmick for the government’s ‘covid secure’ strategy, Team Asymptomatic focus on encouraging people to follow the rules, but Team Immunity completely wow the PR executives with their “Stay Alert, Stop the Virus” campaign.

Episode 6 (filmed June 2020)

Welcoming the remaining 11 candidates to Bucharest, Lord Sugar explains: “I’ve brought you to the ancient city of Bucharest because it’s in Romania. The word ‘Romania’ begins with an R, and this task is all about the R-number. Your mission is to go all the way back to the UK and reduce the R-number as much as you can. The team that has the biggest impact will win, and on the losing team, one of you will be infected.”

Episode 7 (filmed July 2020)

Entering into the world of food and drink wholesale, the teams have to come up with a marketing ploy to sell scotch eggs. Team Asymptomatic’s decision to sell them in airport departure lounges doesn’t quite take off, but Team Immunity scores a big win by securing an endorsement from Michael Gove.

Episode 8 (filmed early March 2021)

Personal brand representation is at the heart of this week’s task. Team Immunity and Team Asymptomatic are each given a client – Prince William and Prince Harry respectively – and set about doing what they can to improve their public image.

Episode 9 (filmed late March 2021)

Thrust into the pharmeceutical industry, the teams are tasked with marketing vaccines across Europe. Team Asymptomatic has a shot at selling Pfizer to the French, while Team Immunity has rather more difficulty persuading the EU to buy up AstraZeneca.

Episode 10 (filmed later March 2021)

Six candidates left, and it’s full steam ahead to the series finale. First, though, they must enter into the shipping business. Each team is given a container ship, which they have to fill, navigate and unload before the goods perish. Team Immunity confuse port and starboard, but it’s choppy waters for Team Asymptomatic as they choose to take their ship on a shortcut through the Suez Canal.

Still to come

Next week, it’s the interviews. Pitching a range of business plans from PPE wholesale (“I have very close connections with the Health department, I know I can make this work!”) to package holidays around Brazil and South Africa, which of the candidates will survive the final boardroom?