“The Polarization Pendulum,” an analysis of approximately 100 million tweets from January 1, 2020, to June 30, 2022, demonstrates the shifting popularity of antisemitic and anti-Zionist tropes on Twitter in response to real-world events. This “pendulum” or “turn-taking” effect highlights how these phenomena are affected, for example, with political circumstances and changes in leadership in the U.S. This may influence which narrative is favored, with each trope becoming the prevailing political climate, or with events such as conflicts in the Middle East or domestic unrest shaping the discourse.
The research also found that antisemitic and anti-Zionist tropes share virtually identical themes, such as bloodlust, dominance, covert control, and replacement. This similarity further highlights the connection between the two types of tropes and their impact on public perception and discourse.
The research revealed an immense double standard against Israel, as human rights terms used on Twitter target the country almost exclusively, perpetuating anti-Zionist narratives that mirror traditional antisemitic tropes. Based on the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, the research assesses that anti-Zionist campaigns and narratives on Twitter are largely antisemitic, on several grounds: a clear double standard against Israel, the identical hateful tropes that are being used both by antisemites and anti-Zionists, and the tweets’ strong correlation with real-world antisemitic incidents.
Shira Ruderman, Executive Director of the Ruderman Family Foundation, said: "The research we initiated and was conducted by the NCRI research institute reveals the enormous influence that social networks have and their ability to influence public discourse."
"This study focused on antisemitic and anti-Zionist discourse, and demonstrated the connection between the discourse on the Internet and its influence in the real world. In addition, the fact that Israel is measured differently from other countries in the world, using a double standard, requires us to place the issue on the agenda and insist on change in the world arena. This issue crosses political lines and worldviews and it is an opportunity for elected officials, from all sides of the political spectrum, to denounce the phenomenon."
Adam Sohn, CEO of the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), added: "Many people distinguish between anti-Zionism and antisemitism but our research suggests that the tropes they use are nearly identical. In the present as well as in previous analyses we’ve done, we found correlation with real-world antisemitic incidents. The tropes of anti-Zionism are used to justify a larger attack against Jews everywhere, and we urge proper measures to be taken against it."
Highlights of the study’s Twitter analysis include the following:
- Between January 1, 2020, and January 20, 2021, under right-leaning leadership in the US, there were approximately six times more tweets with antisemitic tropes than anti-Zionist on average per day (about 12,500 antisemitic tweets and 2,000 anti-Zionist tweets per day).
- Between January 20, 2021 and June 30, 2022, under left-leaning leadership in the U.S., there were approximately three times more tweets with anti-Zionist tropes than antisemitic ones on average per day (about 17,000 antisemitic tweets and 7,000 anti-Zionist tweets per day).
- Peaks of antisemitic tropes during the above time period include COVID-19 conspiracies, the January 6 events at the US Capitol, and more. The research found an over 500% surge from baseline in antisemitic tropes per day at such key moments.
- Peaks of anti-Zionist tropes during the above time period include the Israel-Gaza conflict (May 2021), Amnesty International’s February 2022 report, and more. The research found an over 500% surge from baseline in anti-Zionist tropes per day at such key moments.
- Double standards against Israel on Twitter are prevalent in relation to terms pertaining to human rights violations. On average, Israel is mentioned 10 times more than any other country in the top 10 associated with the use of these terms on Twitter (including the US, South Africa, India, Saudi Arabia, New Caledonia, Canada, Indonesia, Niger, and Bangladesh).
Following these revelations, the Ruderman Family Foundation and NCRI have determined that future research should continue to explore these tropes, their impact on society, and potential strategies for mitigating their harmful influence.
“The Polarization Pendulum” report represents the Foundation’s latest research effort to provide thought leaders and decision-makers with the data they need to properly understand antisemitism and its impact on the global Jewish community and on Israel-American Jewry relations.