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Responses to Antisemitism Online

When Birmingham University student Izzy Lenga found posters plastered around her campus that read “HITLER WAS RIGHT, ” she tweeted a photograph of one of them with this message: “And for those who dont think anti Semitism is a serious issue, these were plastered over campus on Tues.” She included the hashtag of the National Union of Students. Shortly after she sent the message, the antisemitic messages to her began. Lenga decided to speak out and to make the messages visible by reposting them.  Her efforts led to both more antisemitic messages and to an online campaign in support of her. The following Huffington Post article tells Izzy Lenga's story:

When Jewish student Izzy Lenga saw pro-Hitler posters plastered over her university campus, she decided use a National Union of Students conference to highlight the presence of anti-Semitism.

Using the #NUSzones15 hashtag, the Birmingham University student posted photos of the posters on Twitter to draw attention to the “serious issue.”

Birmingham University student Izzy Lenga used Twitter to expose an antisemitic poster that was displayed on her campus.

Birmingham University student Izzy Lenga used Twitter to expose an antisemitic poster that was displayed on her campus. 

But shortly after sending the tweet, Lenga was trolled with vile messages of anti-Semitism - which she re-tweeted to expose her harassers.

@pulke1 @izzyjengalenga Question 3: What colour is a corpse dead from cyanide gassing?
— Thomas F. Malone (@ThomasFMalone3) November 2, 2015

The bitch is the problem with the UK. Making everything about the Jews. #HitlerWasRight #FuckAllNonWhites
— Glengoolie Black (@GlengoolieBlack) October 29, 2015

@izzyjengalenga sieg Heil
— Barnabas Reynolds (@OneDegenerate) November 1, 2015

@TimGStevens @izzyjengalenga Nazi propaganda planted by ZIonists
— Smeggypants (@Smeggypants) November 1, 2015

@pulke1 @izzyjengalenga @christinazaba Never trust a Jew - Titus 1:14
— White Fort Myers (@WhiteFortM) November 1, 2015

@noahlevy94 @izzyjengalenga I’m dismayed (not surprised) that #Jews always play the victims and never try to end their parasitism on others.
— Fanfan (@Fanfan1911) October 31, 2015

In a message she posted on Facebook, Lenga described the tweets as a “terrifying read.”

“I decided [the NUS conference] was an appropriate time and place to demonstrate how antisemitism is still problematic on our campuses, despite many in the student movement not believing the claims of Jewish students who argue it to be so,” she wrote.

“However, the backlash to my tweet has been extremely nasty and deeply upsetting. This sets a worrying precedent. I am worried about the rise of antisemitism across Europe and the world, and at points I am worried for my safety and that of my peers, but I am most concerned for the Jewish student community.

Many Jewish students will now, and completely understandably, be apprehensive to speak up publicly about the antisemitism they may be facing, for fear of a similar backlash.”

Despite the onslaught of abuse, Lenga has resolved to stand strong.

I’ll still be continuing to retweet a handful of the tweets I am receiving for everyone to see.
— Izzy Langa (@izzyjengalenga) October 30, 2015

And the student has received numerous messages of support - including from Labour MP Luciana Berger - with some even deploying the hashtag #IStandWithIzzy.

Been off Twitter most of this week, catching up to see the vilest, darkest abuse directed at @jessphillips & @izzyjengalenga 1/2
— Luciana Berger (@lucianaberger) November 1, 2015

@jack @twitter when will your platform be free of racism, sexism and violence? #IStandWithJessPhillips #IStandWithIzzy 2/2
— Luciana Berger (@lucianaberger) November 1, 2015

Impressed with the way @izzyjengalenga is standing up to some of the vilest antisemitism on Twitter. Worked with her for a number of years
— Michael Freeman (@M_S_Freeman) November 1, 2015

@izzyjengalenga You are a brave, wonderful young woman, and I’m so sorry this is all coming down on you. Be strong, be happy.
— C.G. Griffin (@charlogriffin) November 1, 2015

If anyone thinks that the problem of social media trolling is overstated look at @izzyjengalenga timeline. Foul stuff. Brave woman. All the best.
— Garry Couts (@GarryCouts) November 1, 2015

Lenga has also received support from the National Union of Students, whose president Megan Dunn blogged on The Huffington Post UK about the incident.

“My Twitter stream has been a stark reminder of the very real and horrific reality of anti-Semitism that Jewish students face in Britain,” Dunn wrote. “This harassment is deplorable.”

She added: “It is time that we all stepped up and played our part in facing down this disgusting abuse - whether online or on the street, once and for all.”

Some of the things I’ve seen on Twitter this morning are barbaric remorseless. No one should face that kind of abuse. #IStandWithIzzy
— Eleanor Keiller (@ellekeiller) November 1, 2015

Deeply grateful and overwhelmed by the outpouring of support by everyone. Anti Semitism has no place on our campuses or in our society.
— Izzy Lenga (@izzyjengalenga) October 30, 2015

A University of Birmingham spokesperson confirmed to HuffPost UK the posters had been reported to West Midlands Police. “We unreservedly condemn racist graffiti on campus. We are working with [police] to identify those responsible.
“Discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated. We are therefore actively working with a range of groups to bring people together and ensure that our University is a place where diversity is celebrated and everyone plays their part in creating a vibrant and welcoming community.”

A spokesperson for the Union of Jewish Students told HuffPost UK: “No one should have to face the torrent of online antisemitic abuse that Izzy Lenga has had to face over the last few days. The tweets have been vile in their nature and show that antisemitism is still alive today.

“Izzy Lenga does an amazing job of not only standing up for Birmingham students but also represents students on a national level on NUS NEC where she will often speak up for issues affecting Jewish students when others won’t. It is important that Jewish students follow Izzy’s example and continue to seek representative positions both in the student movement and wider society.”1
 

  1. Citations

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