A few weeks ago, I had the “joy” of being verbally abused online. Now, as an outspoken Muslim woman advocating for feminism, LGBT+ equality and stronger Jewish-Muslim relations, it’s nothing new.
However, what I’ve increasingly noticed is how trolls will attempt to “attack” me by using antisemitic discourse e.g. talking about my “Jewish nose” or me “being Jewish” – as though this would be a bad thing or that I’m “not really a Muslim” e.g. a liar.
Take for example the following message I received when I objected to Islamic polygamy when attempting to buy a kaftan for Eid:
“I don’t need women who does not share husband when she is after women. Sharing women with husband you must be jocking [sic] telling me 3ib [shame on you].
“Please don’t try to be smart, Islam is clean and you don’t even look 33 plus you look juwish [sic]. Don’t say you are Muslim.. Anyway I ask Allah to guide you..
“Next time tell people you like to have sex with dogs and blame Allah that made you like that.
“Like your crazy EU people do get married to anything dogs cow animals…”Male, 40s, Algeria/UK
Yep, biphobia, antisemitism and misogyny rolled into one. There are a lot of elements there.
And once again, I was supposed to be offended by the thought of being “Jewish”. Ridiculous.
However, this isn’t just gibberish.
What this abusive rant reveals is that not only is antisemitism present in the Muslim community (as we already know), but that we need to be aware of the intersectionality of hate.
Yes, as a woman, he was going to make sure I got knocked down for being a woman too as well as an apparent Jewish “fake (queer) Muslim”.
And this got me thinking. What are the experiences of our Jewish sisters as women in an increasingly antisemitic climate?
A few years on, I now wanted to find out more.
Being a Jewish woman: the overlap of hate
Hate is intersectional – just as our identities are. And hate crime figures back this up.
In 2018/2019, the Home Office found that 12% of hate crimes were motivated by more than one factor. This can of course include religious identity and gender identity.
For Jewish women, misogynistic and antisemitic discourse are a sad reality – stemming from both the Far Left and increasingly the Far Right.
A recent report by Hope Not Hate (2021) explores these overlapping issues, noting how age is also a factor:
“The relationship between misogyny and racism and antisemitism is particularly concerning due to the pervasiveness of anti-feminist sentiment among young men in the UK.”Hope Note Hate (2021)
In their research of young people across the UK, they found that anti-feminist sentiment was most common amongst males. In fact, 78% of people in their research who claimed that “feminism has gone too far and makes it harder for men to succeed” were male.
At the same time, 19% of young men they surveyed parroted antisemitic negative tropes such as “Jewish people have an unhealthy control over the world’s banking system”.
This is worrying. And add to this the increase of online abuse, we need to take this seriously.
Further research into online abuse has shown that Jewish women in positions of power were 14% more likely to face abuse than their male counterparts. A further study conducted by the NGO Media Matters found that between 2015 to 2017 there was an 80% increase of posts containing both antisemitic and misogynistic abuse on the alternative platform 4Chan.
The research is there. The facts are there. And so are the lived experiences.
We need to shed light on these experiences and call the abuse out for what it is.
With that in mind, I spoke to three Jewish women about their experiences of antisemitism and misogyny. These are their stories.
Nicole is a Jewish freelance journalist based in the UK.
A few weeks ago, a photo of me and three other women who had vocally fought against antisemitism was posted on Twitter under the headline: “It was as a scam”. It also said: “Say hello to the GnasherJew troll group that gave you Boris Johnson”.
I know it was designed to hurt – and the popular Twitter phrase “it was a scam” about the Corbynite antisemitism claiming Jews made it up certainly does – but I just found it stupidly funny.
The sad fact is that I’ve become almost immune to antisemitic misogyny.
Jewish women have always been attacked the most in the fight we have had against the far left. This is not a surprise as this group are as misogynistic as they are antisemitic.
I’ve been called a b**ch, a w***e, stupid, a witch, a baby killing apartheid-loving Zio. To counteract their hatred, I try and use what we Jews have always used: humour.
We have no choice but to laugh at them, I won’t let them win. They do this because they think it will shut us up…. They don’t know Jewish women.
Laura Marks OBE
Laura is an interfaith activist and consultant based in London specialising in Jewish-Muslim relations and interfaith social action.
She is Co-Founder of Nisa-Nashim, Founder of Mitzvah Day and Chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
People say things to me as a Jewish woman that basically put me down but, they do it subtly.
An example the other week was of someone in a meeting explaining to other people there that I am Jewish and that this means that I am apparently “overprotective of my kids”.
She meant well but this is a negative stereotype and has left me struggling with what to do with such cliches.
We have endless examples at Nisa-Nashim of people talking about “powerful Jewish women”. It’s a trope and it is negative.
We are told we are “good with money” or we “look after our own” or we have “powerful networks”.
Jews are good at looking after themselves/each other. They are so well connected and networked. We’ve had to be.
This stuff is deep down prejudice. It’s an interesting issue as she didn’t mean to be negative – but it was in that context as it was othering me. I keep hearing: “the Jews are so GOOD at looking after their own, and SO good getting their kids into the best universities etc.”
This “positive antisemitism” a challenge.
Rabbi Charley Baginsky
Rabbi Charley Baginsky has been involved with the Liberal Jewish movement since childhood – as both a youth leader with LJY-Netzer and an educator.
She is now the Chief Executive Officer of Liberal Judaism. She is the mother to Joshua, Eliana and Cassia.
For about as long as I can remember sexist comments, inappropriate body language and mild-mannered groping were just part of the everyday of being a woman. But there are moments when I can almost look about them nostalgically in comparison to the new levels of online abuse bestowed on women today.
Abuse against women in the public eye has never been of more concern. Not only vile, it is prolific and without question focused on women. When two minority identities (not of course that women are a minority numerically you understand) intersect the potential material for the online trolls is multiplied.
Thus, as a Rabbi who happens to be a woman (often by the way still introduced by my gender before my title – female rabbi, Charley Baginsky – can you imagine that happening to a man, “and here we have male rabbi x?!”), I regularly see the cross over between antisemitism and misogyny.
Whenever I’ve spoken on a controversial issue, I’ve received abuse. Unlike the message my male colleagues receive on social media, which are focussed on the argument itself, the comments I receive are almost always about my looks and graphic descriptions of sex.
I’ve had these tweeted to me, emailed to me and posted on forums. Almost every female rabbi and faith leader I’ve spoken to has experienced the same thing – being told they are ugly or enduring repulsive sexual comments for having the temerity to offer an opinion.
This is then combined with comments about Jewish stereotypes or the common references to the gas chambers.
In a survey by the APPG, it was demonstrated that misogyny and antisemitism can be linked and that the language used in the abuse is particularly venomous as it combines hatred of women.
There is a distinct irony that two parts of my identity that I strongly believe enhance and strengthen each other are used together for such powerful hate filled words.
Standing in solidarity: What can we do?
Here at Muslims Against Antisemitism (MAAS), we see it our duty to stand up against antisemitism and support the Jewish community – including of course Jewish women.
So, how can we and you help?
Well, there’s a couple of ways you can offer support:
- Report abuse to the Community Security Trust (CST) (both online and offline)
- Send messages of solidarity to Jewish woman facing abuse
- Speak out (if safe to do so) – call out hate for what it is!
- Share this blog and help raise awareness of the issue
We stand in solidarity with our Jewish sisters – will you?
This blog was first published by Muslims Against Antisemitism (authored by Elizabeth Arif-Fear) on 27 July 2022.