A study has found a correlation between the amount of online incitement against Jewish places of worship and physical attacks on those places. (Photo credit: Pixelshot/Canva)

Last week, The National Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) and the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) released their first-ever reporting of online incitement against Jews and Jewish targets directly correlates with actual physical attacks. 

There has been a recent surge of antisemitic terms like “Synagogue of Satan” contained in tweets on Twitter in direct correlation toward Jewish Synagogues in recent months. This term was used and adopted by extremist groups such as QAnon influencers, Christian nationalists, White nationalists, Black Hebrew Israelites, and Nation of Islam supporters who are all associated with their antisemitic narratives. 

The study examined the number of texts containing the said term in the U.S. on the county level to determine whether these tweets might correlate to real-world synagogue attacks. Spatial regressions, often used in climate modeling and forecasting, are a statistical tool commonly used to analyze relationships between variables, and show that the term significantly correlates with synagogue incidents, an effect that remains robust even when controlling for population.

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These terms were adopted and spread by well-known figures like Kanye West, Kyrie Irving, and former U.S. National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.

CAM’s recent study demonstrated a sharp increase in recent months in direct attacks toward synagogues. It found 33 monitored antisemitic incidents in which Jewish institutions were targeted globally during the first two months of 2023—12 of which were U.S. synagogues. This marked a 71.4% increase from the seven such incidents involving U.S. synagogues during the corresponding time period the previous year. 

NCRI Director and Chief Science Officer Joel Finkelstein states “This dangerous ‘Synagogue of Satan’ narrative has transcended traditional ideological boundaries, serving as a unifying theme among diverse extremist groups. While a causal link between this online rhetoric and real-world violence, vandalism, or threats cannot be conclusively established, the correlation between the two is concerning and the potential impact of such a toxic narrative should not be underestimated. As society becomes increasingly aware of the spread of antisemitism in all its contemporary forms, it is crucial that efforts are made to counteract these narratives and protect the safety and well-being of Jewish communities”.

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CEO of CAM Sasha Roytman Dratawa states, “In identifying the significant correlation that exists between hostile rhetoric on Twitter about Jewish houses of worship, and real-world incidents targeting synagogues across the United States, important steps must be taken by both policymakers and social media platforms to enhance the safety of the Jewish community.”

“A key call to action in the report is directed at social media platforms such as Twitter, and their need to ensure that application programming interfaces (API) remain accessible to research institutions, monitoring organizations, and law enforcement agencies,” continued Dratawa. “Doing so, the report highlights, would allow for further research on the relationship between online antisemitic rhetoric and real-world incidents. Lawmakers should require greater levels of transparency from social media platforms to prevent the proliferation of antisemitism and violent acts of hate.”

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