As the conflict in the Gaza strip has slowed following a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, violence appears to be ratcheting up in the streets of New York City, Los Angeles, and Florida. A social media campaign urging TikTok users to record and post video footage of themselves beating up Jewish people may have spread across the Atlantic.
The violence began in Israel, according to the UK-based magazine The Spectator. “In Israel last month, a video on the social media platform TikTok encouraged users to film themselves assaulting Orthodox Jews,” reported James Ball.
“Why would any ordinary person get pleasure from assault?” Ball wrote. “‘There is a competition for likes and views,’ a 15-year-old victim told an Israeli news organisation. ‘A video of an Arab slapping an ultra-Orthodox man will get you both.’”
As the Israel-Gaza conflict intensified this past week, so did attacks on American Jews — many of them recorded and shared widely on social media. Multiple alleged assaults against Jewish people took place nationwide during the Middle Eastern conflicts, often featuring large groups of people said to be Palestinian rights activists.
There were 193 anti-Semitic attacks “in the week after the crisis began,” the Anti-Defamation League reported on Thursday, “up from 131 the previous week,” an increase of 47%.
Two attacks took place late Tuesday night in the same vicinity of Los Angeles. A roving gang of Palestinians were reportedly cruising L.A.’s Beverly Grove neighborhood, yelling anti-Zionist epithets. Eyewitnesses said the men pulled up to the Sushi Fumi restaurant and asked, “Who’s Jewish?” before commencing to attack Jewish men in a violent incident police in Los Angeles are investigating as a potential hate crime.
Footage of another incident was reportedly “shared by the perpetrators themselves, along with security footage.”
“The Zionist flipped us off for supporting Palestine. We went after him,” the video states.
🚨 More EVIDENCE this time shared by the perpetrators themselves, along with security footage:
— Sia Kordestani 🦁 (@SiaKordestani) May 19, 2021
New York City — already home to dozens of anti-semitic attacks this year — also experienced anti-semitic violence throughout the week. As two demonstrations supporting different sides of the conflict converged in Times Square on Thursday night, a truckload of people flying a Palestinian flag reportedly threw two commercial fireworks into the pro-Israeli gathering of mostly Jewish people. The blasts injured a 55-year-old woman, according to the New York Post. A freelance reporter named Oliya Scootercaster uploaded video footage of the altercation, which took place near Manhattan’s Diamond District.
BREAKING: Explosive device goes off during Palestine/Israel protests in NYC.
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) May 20, 2021
The same evening, in the Diamond District, a crowd of Palestinian supporters surrounded a Jewish man, knocked him to the ground, and beat him in the face with a crutch. “My whole face… felt like it was on fire for hours,” the victim, 29-year-old Joseph Borgen, told local media. Borgen said he “wore my yarmulke, wore my kippah,” but “I never made it to the rally.” He “saw someone start chasing me from behind, and next thing you know, … I was surrounded by a crowd.” Video of that horrifying incident also made social media.
— Rob Bertrand (@Robertrand77) May 20, 2021
“The chronology of the two videos is unclear,” reported The Times of Israel.
On Friday, the video may have helped land the perpetrator. “23-year-old Waseem Awawdeh was arrested for using a crutch to assault a man in front of 1604 Broadway,” the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force announced May 21 on Twitter. “He’s been charged with hate crime assault 2, gang assault 2, menacing, and criminal possession of a weapon.”
Does social media help capture perpetrators by crowdsourcing the ability to identify assailants? Or does the addictive thirst for online affirmation drive people to commit acts of violence they might otherwise not commit? “A recently published study suggests that ‘likes’ on Instagram work in similar ways to the delivery of food to a hungry rat pressing a lever in a Skinner Box,” according to Phil Reed, D.Phil., at Psychology Today. “The faster that ‘likes’ are received, the more postings are made.”
The greater the feedback, the more likely the poster was to follow up with similar content. “Receiving a ‘like’ was related to shorter latencies to make the next post,” Reed wrote.
When the media favor one side of the conflict, viewers may seek to “right the scales” by taking matters into their own hands against anyone associated with the other side — in this case, those associated with the world’s only Jewish state. Meanwhile, the Chinese-owned platform TikTok provides a potential audience of 732 million people searching for a virtual front row seat at a violent altercation — something Balls called the “TikTok Intifada.”
“Welcome to the TikTokisation of global politics,” Ball wrote.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.