Reports Cite Old Bug in New Guise: Computers Spread Anti-semitism Virus

Jewish groups are highlighting the role of computer networks and other high-tech means of communication in promoting anti-Semitism.

“The growth area in ‘antisemitica’ in the 1990s is the dissemination of racist and anti-Semitic propaganda by electronic means,” according to “Antisemitism World Report 1994,” a 270-page document issued this week by the Institute of Jewish Affairs, the research arm of the World Jewish Congress.

“This extraordinary growth in electronic fascism is one important feature of the increasing internationalization of the far right,” said the report, a summary of anti-Semitic trends and incidents in 70 countries during 1993.

A similar finding is contained in a report to be published soon by the Project for the Study of Anti-Semitism at Tel Aviv University in cooperation with the Anti-Defamation League and with the assistance of the Israeli government’s committee that monitors anti-Semitism around the world.

“We view with great concern the international links of extremist groups,” said Dinah Porat, director of the Tel Aviv project, in a statement announcing the pending report.

According to the Tel Aviv University report, increased international cooperation, facilitated by means such as electronic-mail networks, is creating new types of anti-Semitic activities and poses additional threats to the Jewish community.

ELECTRONIC FASCISM ON THE RISE

The report registered with alarm the use by anti-Semites of such tools as video games and direct mail to spread their message, and the use of a computer diskette containing detailed instructions for preparing bombs.

The report from the WJC’s Institute for Jewish Affairs noted that the electronic dissemination of anti-Semitic material, hardly mentioned in its 1992 edition, has become a major phenomenon.

Examples include the sending of anti-Semitic material through computer networks and bulletin board systems, the distribution of racist and anti-Semitic computer games, the production and distribution of video cassettes, racist telephone networks and hot lines, public access television channels and radio programs.

“In the Netherlands, for example, the ministry of justice reported that over 10,000 computer games, thought to have originated in the USA, were delivered to over 200 shops, but were seized by the police before they went on sale,” according to the WJC report.

The WJC study also found that in Sweden, there are least 15 to 20 active neo-Nazi computer bulletin boards.

And in Austria, the class presidents of two schools in Vienna were sent computer disks featuring propaganda denying the existence of the gas chambers, trivializing the Holocaust, or containing crude anti-Semitic attacks on Austrian politicians and journalists, according to the report.

The WJC report also charged that an American neo-Nazi group, National Socialist German Workers Party-Overseas Organization, distributes its publication by computer to Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands.

The same group has also created a computer screen-saver calling for the freedom of Gottfried Kussel, a neo-Nazi imprisoned in Austria.

“The use of electronic mailboxes and computer bulletin boards has enabled neo-Nazis to establish an international network more or less inaccessible to law enforcement agencies,” said the report. Much of that material, according to the report, emanates from the United States which, unlike Canada and many European countries, has no ban on anti-Semitic or other hate speech.

The survey noted that authorities in various countries reportedly are seeking to devise electronic means of keeping such material off computer networks.

However, “this would mean restricting free access, which millions of general users would find objectionable,” according to the report.

Addressing anti-Semitism in general around the world, the WJC report cited Romania, Turkey and Ukraine as the countries currently facing the greatest general anti-Semitic threats.

It showed a decline in political anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, a continuing improvement in Latin America and a mellowing in the Middle East of official attitudes toward Jews and Israel.

It expressed worry, however, over the entrance of a fascist party into the Italian ruling coalition and the dangerous rise of Russian nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky in last year’s Russian elections.

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