Standing shoulder to shoulder at the Sara conference against misogyny and antisemitism
28 November 2018
CST was delighted to be a part of the Sara Conference, facilitated by the Antisemitism Policy Trust, at the prestigious Lancaster House, to inspire women to tackle gender-based racial hatred.
CST’s Northern Regional Director, Amanda Bomsztyk, CST’s Head of Policy, Dr Dave Rich and CST’s Digital Media Specialist were all in attendance and were joined later by several other staff members at a reception at Downing Street, addressed by Prime Minister Theresa May.
The name Sara was chosen after the name of the first Abrahamic matriarch and because female Jews in Nazi Germany were forced to adopt this name to make them easily recognisable if their given name was not considered Jewish enough. The conference and ongoing work to tackle the confluence of antisemitism and misogyny is an attempt to reclaim this name.
During the conference, several Members of Parliament who have faced gender-based hatred during their careers discussed their experiences. This included Jewish MPs Ruth Smeeth and Luciana Berger, who CST continuously support when they experience threats and abuse. Dame Margaret Hodge lamented that each incident of antisemitic misogyny appears to fuel more, as more perpetrators are emboldened to send her hate-filled letters, emails and social media messages. These include rape threats, messages claiming that feminism is nothing more than a Jewish conspiracy and calling her a “Zionist bitch.” Sara Khan, the Commissioner for Countering Extremism said that “the sheer scale of antisemitism in 2018, particularly that aimed at Jewish women, is a source of national shame.”
The need for digital media companies to recognise and tackle abusive behaviour was repeatedly raised. The Minister of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Margot James, said the time for self-regulation of the internet has run out in order to address the volume of hate online, including hateful language that is harmful but not currently illegal.
Several speakers examined research into the areas of hate speech online, specifically focused on gender-based hatred and antisemitism. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz presented research commissioned by the Antisemitism Policy Trust and CST that revealed Jewish women in parliament face a disproportionate amount of antisemitic abuse online compared to their male counterparts. The research also showed that the neo-Nazi Stormfront platform has hosted 9,000 threads focused on feminism, 60% of which mentioned also mentioned Jews or claimed that feminism is a Jewish invention. Stephens-Dawidowicz also found that Jewish MPs Luciana Berger and Margaret Hodge, were the most mentioned MPs since Stormfront’s inception and that in several American states, where there are very few Jews, many people were searching on Google for “proof that Jews are evil.” This was part of a larger research project that CST and the Antisemitism Policy Trust will publish in the coming weeks.
Angelo Carusone from Media Matters looked at the way that white supremacist and “men’s rights” content crosses over with gamer communities that are mostly made up of young men. As gamers watch those videos, then YouTube’s ‘Watch Next’ feature gradually recommends more and more white supremacist, antisemitic or misogynistic videos for them to watch. Carusone also revealed that there is a crossover on message boards and other platforms between conspiracy theories, gender-based grievance content, race-based grievance content and gaming.
Other speakers at the conference and at the breakfast event included actress Tracy-Ann Oberman, journalist Emma Barnett, global education advocate Sarah Brown, Metropolitan Police Commission Cressida Dick, Director of Demos Polly McKenzie, Facebook Policy lead Rebecca Stimson and human rights campaigner Seyi Akiwowo.
CST was delighted that long-term advocate for the Jewish community, Sally Sealey MBE, received an outstanding contribution award for her efforts to counter hatred and antisemitism.
Closing the conference was NUS President Shakira Martin, who has been inspirational in leading NUS to work closer with the Union of Jewish Students to tackle discrimination on all campuses. Shakira called for a “zero tolerance” approach and said that we must “fight shoulder to shoulder, with our Jewish brothers and sisters.” With the end of her second term as NUS president nearing an end, Shakira promised that “whatever I go on to do next, I will be your ally for life.”
CST would like to thank all those who attended for showing their solidarity with Jewish women, and all minority women, who face aggravated abuse based on both their religion, race and their gender.
If you have been a victim of misogynistic antisemitic hatred, please report it to CST. We must not allow this scourge to spread and continue.