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Bay Area JCRC offers guide to counter hate speech at public meetings

It comes as antisemitic conspiracy theorists have sought to hijack official community proceedings.

San Francisco Bay. Credit: derwiki/Pixabay.
San Francisco Bay. Credit: derwiki/Pixabay.

With the advent of COVID-19 came technology to help isolated individuals get together, the most popular being Zoom. Those meeting publicly and privately still use the platform, though it has brought with it another scourge: antisemitism.

It turns out that viewers and commentators sometimes use question-and-answer sessions to spread hatred of Jews, as well as conspiracy theories. Early in the pandemic, there was also the case of “Zoom-bombing.”

For reasons not yet clear, a number of incidents have clustered around the San Francisco Bay area, prompting the JCRC Bay Area and the Bay Area Network of Jewish Officials (BANJO) to work with the Jewish Community Federation in creating a guide for officials to help curb this new trend of hate speech.

The organizations encourage city councils and other organizations offering open public comments to consider a variety of steps to safeguard their meetings. These include organizing comment sessions at the end of meetings; requiring speakers to provide their full names; putting forward resolutions condemning bigotry; and educating staff about Jewish identity and antisemitism.

For an in-person reaction to inappropriate speech, the groups recommend that board members “physically turn one’s back to hateful speakers to show opposition.”

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