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Confronting antisemitism in the digital age

What we can learn about positivity, pride and identity from “DJ Raphi.”

“DJ Raphi.” Source: Facebook.
“DJ Raphi.” Source: Facebook.
Asher Stern
Asher Stern
Asher Stern is head of operations at the International Legal Forum.

The Internet is an infinitely expanding platform, where voices from all walks of life can converge and try to improve the world. The levels of connectivity we can access in 2024 should be used as a tool to foster understanding and bridge the divides between us. But these days, it feels like it is being used for the exact opposite. Antisemites are willing to exploit any platform to spread their message, a disheartening reality that Jews are forced to confront online at a frightening rate.

This time, the antisemites raised their heads via comments on the YouTube channel of one, Raphi Nathan, better known to the world as “DJ Raphi.” His goal is to create joy and spread positivity in the world through his music and dance videos—something he has been doing with roaring success over the last several years. His YouTube channel has more than 280 million views and 600,000-plus subscribers.

However, recently one of Raphi’s videos was besieged by a barrage of antisemitic comments that are so vulgar and hate-filled that I am disinclined to share them. His only offense? Celebrating Israel’s 75th Independence Day.

Raphi’s videos are aimed at a younger audience, encouraging them to learn, grow and be proud of who they are. He has reached audiences all over the world, building bridges with people in countries that don’t have relations with the Jewish state. He is also a proud Jew and Israeli, and it is this identity that seems to give antisemites the idea that it is appropriate to attack him online.

His case underscores a much larger issue—one we must be aware of. Antisemites will seize any opportunity to perpetuate their hate-filled agenda. In the “real world,” like on college campuses, they may be confronted, but they seem to have free reign in cyberspace. Their pursuit of spreading antisemitism and hatred is all-encompassing, smearing even the most innocent content with their poison.

This poison is a weapon that can seem overwhelming, but it must be confronted with proactive and multifaceted solutions—solutions that address both the root causes of antisemitism and allow us to go on the “offense” while also strengthening our defenses against its proliferation.

Education is seemingly the alpha and omega of countering extremism at its core. We must provide individuals with the necessary knowledge and understanding not only to recognize antisemitism but to stand up against it.

Hand in hand with this must come dialogue—something those hate-filled commenters on Raphi’s videos refuse to do because doing so would humanize the people they are trying to demonize. Our strength against hatred comes from our deep-rooted belief in our cause, as well as our ability to dialogue; our capacity to show we are open to debate; and that, above all else, we maintain our humanity and empathy against hatred. By promoting these values, we can transcend the artificial barriers erected by prejudice.

Moreover, online platforms have a responsibility to actively combat antisemitism just like they combat all other forms of hate speech and extremism on their platforms. Freedom of expression is a core right, but it cannot serve as a shield for bigotry, hatred and intolerance, nor should it be utilized as blinders, enabling these providers to ignore the antisemitism on their platforms.

While the tide of antisemitism feels like it may drown us, we have a responsibility to confront it and stand tall, wherever and whenever it rears its head. Despite an onslaught of antisemitic comments on his videos, DJ Raphi’s resilience in the face of hatred and his drive to continue spreading happiness represents a beacon of hope to us all.

Standing up to hatred and antisemitism is a daunting task at the best of times, made even more so since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel. However, it is a challenge that we must undertake. We cannot allow another outcome. To paraphrase “DJ Raphi,” for anyone scared to stand up to antisemitism, “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t. Be you. Be awesome.”

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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