Holding Antisemites Accountable.

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They criticized Israel. This Twitter Account Upended Their Lives.

Dani Marzouca was in bed trying to sleep when the phone started buzzing. An organization dedicated to publicly rebuking critics of Israel had posted on X a clip of Marzouca declaring that “radical solidarity with Palestine means … not apologizing for Hamas.”

The 20-second clip, from an Instagram live stream, rapidly garnered more than 1 million views. Soon, the group, StopAntisemitism, was calling Marzouca a “Hamas terrorist supporter” and tagging their employer, the branding firm Terakeet of Syracuse, N.Y. Hundreds of people commented on X, LinkedIn and email, including one who asked: “Do you really have antisemites like this working for you, @Terakeet?”

Within a day, Marzouca was fired — a development Terakeet announced as a reply to StopAntisemitism’s Twitter thread, 15 hours after the original post.

“Thank you for your swift action,” StopAntisemitism wrote.

Terakeet did not respond to a request for comment.

Marzouca, 32, is one of nearly three dozen people who have been fired or suspended from their jobs after being featured by StopAntisemitism, according to the group’s X feed, part of a wave of digital activism related to the Israel-Gaza war. Since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel responded by attacking Gaza, groups have poured resources into identifying people with opposing political beliefs, sometimes deploying aggressive publicity campaigns that have resulted in profound real-world consequences.

Within weeks of Oct. 7, “doxing trucks” prowled the campuses of Harvard, Columbia and Princeton, displaying the names and photos of students and professors who had signed statements declaring solidarity with Palestinians.In January, a Rutgers Law School student sued the university, alleging that he had faced discriminatory disciplinary action after sharing what he deemed “pro-Hamas” messages from his classmates with school administrators.

Six months into the war, the strategy has spread well beyond academia — and become especially potent among pro-Israel groups determined to call out any statement they believe to be antisemitic.

Among a bevy of small social media accounts, StopAntisemitism has become one of the most prominent — and widely followed. Though some groups are dedicated to surfacing anti-Palestinian speech, none has StopAntisemitism’s reach or impact. Founded in 2018 as a “response to increasing antisemitic violence,” StopAntisemitism has dialed up its activity on X since the war, and often provides its more than 300,000 followers with personal social media profiles and employer details for people it identifies as antisemitic.

“By publicly exposing antisemites, StopAntisemitism has created an environment where those who propagate hatred against the Jewish people are met with real-world consequences including but not limited to job loss and school expulsions,” StopAntisemitism’s website reads.

“StopAntisemitism gets results,” Liora Rez, the group’s executive director, boasted in a LinkedIn post in November.

“This is just a small sampling of the bigots StopAntisemitism has gotten fired or suspended in the past week,” she wrote next to photos of people featured by the account. “Sick of the legacy orgs doing nothing with your donations? DM me!”

Rez did not respond to a request for comment.

Activists have long used the internet to publicize comments they find offensive, and such pressure campaigns have been central to movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. But the complex politics and brutal violence of the Israel-Gaza war have created a particularly divisive moment. A slew of figures have faced consequences for making statements about Israelis, the Israeli state and the war, including a New York Times Magazine writer, law students entering the job market and Palestinian Israelis, who have been jailed in Israel for being perceived as sympathetic to Hamas.

Marzouca, who lives in Los Angeles and uses they/them pronouns, said StopAntisemitism’s X post triggered a stream of threats. People emailed Marzouca saying they deserved to be sent to Gaza to die and criticizing their appearance, with one person calling them a “disgusting, manipulative rat.”

In response to questions from The Washington Post about the group’s online activity, Marc Greendorfer, founder of the Zachor Legal Institute, a legal think tank representing StopAntisemitism, described the group’s activity as “reposting.” It “[repeats] verbatim, the public statements of people making antisemitic statements and provides opinion on those statements,” he wrote in a letter.

Some prominent Jewish advocates argue that groups like StopAntisemitism play an important role in cracking down on religious discrimination. “If an individual is going to publish or say hateful things — against any person or group — they should be held to account for them,” Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, told The Post in a statement. He added that the ADL directly confronts such individuals, “calling for consequences if they do not apologize or attempt to change their ways.”

Others view this type of sleuthing as a damaging form of online vigilantism. Joan Donovan, an expert in digital activism and an assistant professor at Boston University, argued that the group’s efforts are a form of doxing — the practice of posting personal information online to encourage harassment — which in turn chills debate.

“When the mob is the judge, jury and executioner, we all end up suffering,” Donovan added.

The high-stakes war has found especially fertile ground on social media, where some Palestinian rights activists say they are disproportionately named, shamed and punished.

“The intent here is not just to punish but also to have a chilling effect,” said Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, a think tank. “It’s to send a message to people that … if you dare speak out of line when it comes to questions related to Israel, you can and may face dramatic consequences — life-changing consequences.”

The bloody Israel-Gaza war has intensified the long-standing debate over when and whether critiques of Israel are antisemitic. Since the Zionist movement began in the late 1800s, with European Jews seeking a nation-state, it has drawn heavy criticism — and birthed common false conspiracy theories about Jewish power. But as critics of Israel, including many Jewish people, have denounced the state for its treatment of Palestinians, some supporters have countered with a broad argument that any criticism of Israel or Zionism is inherently anti-Jewish.

“There are a lot of reasonable differences,” said Lila Corwin Berman, a professor of Jewish history at Temple University. “[But] a lot of organizations [are] taking a pretty blunt-tool approach that any articulation of anti-Zionism is antisemitism.”

Greendorfer, of the Zachor Legal Institute, said StopAntisemitism uses the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, which includes denying Israel’s right to exist.

StopAntisemitism has flagged people for a variety of statements the organization considers antisemitic, including a college instructor who called Israelis “pigs” and a high school basketball coach who wore a shirt with a watermelon, a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian cause, to a game. (Both apologized, and the college instructor is “no longer with” their workplace, according to a StopAntisemitism post.)

The organization is ratcheting up its sleuthing abilities. As of early February, StopAntisemitism has been seeking a senior open-source intelligence researcher who has existing partnerships with law enforcement and is adept at monitoring social media and the dark web for antisemitic posts, according to StopAntisemitism’s website. (The role pays between $85,000 to $100,000, the job posting said.)

The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation lists StopAntisemitism as a “supported organization” on its website. The philanthropy is tied to Adam Milstein, a wealthy real estate investor who is theco-founder of the Israeli American Council, a prominent Jewish advocacy group.

According to 2022 tax filings, the Merona Leadership Foundation, where Milstein’s wife, Gila, serves as president, paid a $125,633 salary to Rez, StopAntisemitism’s executive director, and provides the organization about $270,000 to cover its expenses.

Greendorfer said The Post’s characterization of StopAntisemitism’s funding is a “misinterpretation” but declined to elaborate further. Nathan Miller, a representative for the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, declined to comment. The Merona Leadership Foundation declined to comment.

Donovan, of Boston University, said online efforts to punish enemies originate with activist accounts, such as those that identify unethical police officers. But as a flurry of right- and left-wing accounts used the tactic to publicize and shame people without public power, the strategy became diffuse, wielded to demonize everyone from supporters of transgender rights to Jan. 6 insurrectionists.

These accounts have become so widespread that it is difficult for social media companies to regulate them, Donovan said. When the billionaire Elon Musk took over Twitter, now named X, the platform’s attempts to rein in posts triggering harassment dropped significantly, she added. Representatives from X did not respond to a request for comment.

Greendorfer says that because StopAntisemitism doesn’t post “private information,” its methods don’t amount to doxing.

Posting identifying information about nonpublic figures can be harmful, according to Nina Jankowicz, an expert on disinformation and online abuse.

“When we’re thinking about … using social media to blow the whistle or to hold powerful people to account, that’s very different than [doing it] because you disagree with them or because they’ve expressed an opinion that you find repugnant,” she said.

Celine Khalife, a 25-year-old therapist, says StopAntisemitism shut down her career just as it was getting started. A video posted by StopAntisemitism shows the Palestinian American tearing down a poster of Israeli hostages. She said Israel kidnapped its own citizens, a false conspiracy theory.

Khalife, who fled Lebanon after Israel bombed Beirut in 2006, told The Post that she was flustered and misspoke in the video. She said she removed the poster because it contained the phrase “Hamas terrorists” — propaganda, she argues, meant to minimize the Palestinian struggle.

StopAntisemitism linked to Khalife’s therapy clinic bio and posted her Psychology Today profile, warning that “patients must be made aware of her intrinsic bias and hateful act.”

Dozens messaged her workplace insisting she be fired immediately; other notes poured into her cellphone and personal email. “What’s going on with your nutjob therapist, Celine Khalife?” one message viewed by The Post said.

Four days after the video surfaced, the clinic fired Khalife, according to an internal message viewed by The Post. On Facebook, the company announced it was aware of the “viral incident” and said it does “not condone violence or intolerance in any form, nor do we condone misinformation.”(Khalife’s former employer, the Grace Therapy and Wellness Center, did not respond to a request for comment.)

Khalife said it was “crippling” to deal with the harassment, job loss and damage to her professional reputation. She was not sure she could even pay her roommate $1,100 in rent.

“I felt like I couldn’t go lower,” she said. “And then I did.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2024/04/16/stop-antisemitism-twitter-zionism-israel/