TikTok is being flooded with anti-Israeli videos, mainly produced by pro-Palestinian groups — and Jewish leaders say they’re poisoning the minds of the millions of young adults who get their news from the Chinese-owned platform.
“TikTok is wildly popular, short and to the point, and a brilliant marketing tool,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said. “But its main constituents are young people who have no collective memory and [these videos] are something that poisons attitudes toward Jews and Israel.”
The videos that one journalist dubbed “conflict porn” and another called the “Tik Tok Intifada” center on the ongoing and decades-long strife between on Israelis and Palestinians, focusing on the Israeli occupation and ongoing military bombardment of Gaza.
The majority of the TikTok videos show either Israeli soldiers shooting Palestinians or apparently forcing them from their homes.
A smaller percentage of the videos on the site are sympathetic to the Israeli side — and depict Israelis being knifed or attacked by Palestinians.
Pro-Israeli TikTok accounts such as _israel_under_attack show terror attacks carried out on Israelis by Palestinians.
But the most virulent videos make the Israelis out to be villains. Much of the anti-Israeli content can be found under the hashtag #FreePalestine, and some of the most venomous come from accounts with handles like “Ihateisrael5,” “freepalestine_hateisrael” and “ihateisrael1984.”
“Israel is apartheid,” reads the text accompanying a video from a #FreePalestine account. The clip shows what it says are Israeli police attacking a Palestinian person during a forced eviction in Sheikh Jarrah, a mainly Palestinian neighborhood in east Jerusalem. “Israel is killing Palestinians. Israel is stealing Palestinian homes. Help the Palestinians.”
Jewish leaders told The Post that the anti-Israeli content is harmful, often riddled with falsehoods and un-checked by TikTok moderators.
Cooper said that “not every video put out by Palestinians” is inaccurate. But he said a main problem with TikTok videos “is that they do not allow for debate or discussion. It’s all presented as the truth with no context.”
Activist Andrea Karshan of Crown Heights, whose father is Jewish and who identifies as a “Patrilineal Jew Ex-Muslim Jewish Convert,” told The Post that she is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. But, the active TikTok user added, the anti-Israeli content on the platform is troubling.
“The majority of them are saying Israel is the occupier and it’s an apartheid state and the IDF is killing Palestinian children,” Karshan told The Post. “It’s like a war … pro-Israel being drowned out by pro Palestinian content.”
Karshan said that a a number of pro-Palestinian TikTok users lash out at anyone they perceive as not aligned with their cause.
“Every pro-Israeli TikTokker is being attacked and doxxed by these people,” Karshan said. “They went after my children and said they would contact my son’s school. They knew my kid’s nickname.”
University of Haifa Prof. Gabriel Weimann told the Jerusalem Post that the videos contain fake news dominated by anti-Israel and anti-Jewish messaging.
“Since no one controls, regulates or checks these videos, you can post whatever you want,” he said. “There are a lot of lies.”
But there are many on the pro-Palestinian side who believe that Palestinian voices have been deliberately silenced for years, with some citing the late Columbia University professor Edward Said — a Palestinian-American who argued in 1984 that Palestinians have been denied “permission to narrate.”
In an essay for Al Jazeera, California-based writer and Palestinian activist Omar Zahzah said that tech companies “are now actively working to exclude Palestinian voices from their platforms, thereby expanding the calculated erasure and silencing of the Palestinians to social media.”
In April 2021, Zoom, Facebook and Youtube blocked the online academic event “Whose Narratives? What Free Speech for Palestine?” which was co-sponsored by the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies program at San Francisco State University, the Council of UC Faculty Associations and the University of California Humanities Research Institute.
So-called anti-apartheid activists from around the world, including Palestinian resistance icon Leila Khaled and South Africa’s former ANC military leader Ronnie Kasrils, had been scheduled to speak at the event. The social media companies cited Khaled’s affiliation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — a “US-designated terrorist organization” — as why they shut down the event.
“Don’t listen to the media. Go to the region and see it for yourself and talk to people,” Karshan said.
She said she is planning a trip to Israel for the first time soon.