Forward Thinking

After Caleb Jacoby Found, Twitter War Resumes

By Sigal Samuel

  • Print
  • Share Share

The disappearance of Caleb Jacoby — who was found, thankfully, safe and sound in New York last night — brought out the best in many people in the Jewish (and general) blogosphere and Twittersphere. And it brought out the worst in others. As the news that Caleb had been found hit social media, people shed the self-restraint they’d been exercising while the boy was still missing, and ignited fresh Twitter wars.

Mira Sucharov noted in these pages a couple of days ago that journalists, bloggers and tweeters had united in an effort to publicize the search for the missing boy. She also calmly noted that Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, “perhaps took the low road” when he tweeted about Caleb’s father Jeff Jacoby, the conservative Boston Globe columnist: “Jeff Jacoby is a hateful fanatic, but I very much hope his son is quickly found safe and sound.” After many people took Ibish to task online, he apologized, acknowledging that his initial tweet was “uncivil and unnecessary” as well as inappropriately timed, since now was not the moment to be airing his political differences with Jacoby, Sr.

But that apology — which was brought about, it’s worth noting, by calm interventions delivered in reasonable tones — didn’t stop the blogosphere and Twittersphere from continuing to hurl invective at him. It was the kind of invective that’s so offensive and ridiculously over-the-top that it makes the people meting it out look way worse than the person on the receiving end.

Take Pamela Geller, queen of Islamophobic subway ads, who jokingly suggested on Twitter that there was “real fear out there” that Ibish had eaten the missing boy. In a blog post, she wrote that Ibish is “a savage” and “a vicious anti-Semitic predator” who is guilty of “going in for the kill” with “Islamic Jew-hatred” and “Jew-bashing and defamation.” Because, obviously, an admittedly ill-timed tweet about a columnist’s political views is tantamount to anti-Semitism.

Since I’ve come to expect this from Geller, I wasn’t as struck by her diatribe as I was by the apparently Jewish tweeter who called Ibish by the name of Amalek — a reference to the ancient nation that Jews are commanded, in the Bible, to wipe out completely. The biblical passage warns that every Amalekite must be killed: men, women, children and even livestock. Nowadays, it’s impossible to know who among us is descended from Amalekites, but that hasn’t stopped Jews over the centuries from attaching this epithet to various perceived enemies — Haman, Hitler, Ahmadinejad and, of course, Palestinians.

It’s also a known fact that calling people Amalek isn’t just hurtful name-calling or incitement to hatred (though it’s definitely those things, too); it actually has a history of authorizing violence against the people so named.

For this reason, the Jewish community should be extremely wary of using this kind of term, online and offline. In fact, I’d suggest this is how Jews should interpret the biblical command to “blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.” Instead of taking these words as instructions to deal blows — whether physical or verbal — we should take them as a reminder that human beings here on Earth (“under heaven”) aren’t capable of telling who’s an Amalekite and who isn’t, so we should quit using the name “Amalek” altogether.

It’s not just bad for the people who have the misfortune of being tarred with this particular brush. As the recent dustup over Ibish and Jacoby shows, it also makes the Jewish community look hateful and nigh on insane. It is, in short, bad for the Jews.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: anti-Semitism, Jewish, Caleb Jacoby, Jeff Jacoby

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.