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A report on antisemitic searches undermines the idea of Wales as a tolerant nation

15 Jan 2019 4 minute read
Antisemitic memes and jokes highlighted in the report

Nathan Abrams

Those who believe that Wales is a ‘tolerant nation’ may be shocked to learn that a new report shows that Wales has the highest rate in the UK of Google searches with anti-Semitic content.  

“HIDDEN HATE: What Google searches tell us about antisemitism today”, authored by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, and commissioned by the Community Security Trust and the Antisemitism Policy Trust has found that anti-Semitic searches in Wales are 7.2% above average.

The report can be read here.

Wales’ 7.2% above average rate compares to:

  • England at 1.9% above average
  • Northern Ireland at 2.4% below average
  • Scotland: 6.7% below average.

The report analysed Google search data from 2004 to 2018 to show what people in the UK are searching for in relation to Jews, Zionism and the Holocaust.  

It determined a list of searches that express antisemitic intent (the Antisemitic Search Index) and measured where they are most popular – and how they have changed over time. 

The research looked specifically at violent searches about Jews, including searches such as “Jews must die,” “kill Jews,” and “I hate Jews.” These searches include racial slurs about Jews, including such epithets as “yid”, “kike” and “heeb”.

Of course, one might question this research particularly in how has it been measured. Is it per head of population? Or as a proportion of all searches carried out in that area? Or is the same person typing in the same anti-Semitic searches over and over again?   

Additionally, we can’t absolutely tell where someone is based from their IP address. For example, there may be an internet provider which serves the whole of the UK, but allocates all of its IP addresses through a single server located in Wales.

A page from the report highlighting the location of antisemitic searches

If the data is accurate and the methodology robust, then what might account for this high incidence of searches with anti-Semitic content? While events in Israel and Palestine might cause the searches to spike, pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel sentiment cannot completely account for these searches given their violent and racist content.

When asked for his opinion for why Wales might be higher than other areas in the UK, Daniel Vulcan, a former senior researcher for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and an expert in these areas told me, “No idea, I can’t really think of any cultural or sociological reason why there would be a higher level of anti-Semitic searches in Wales.”

He went to say maybe it is because there are fewer Jews in Wales than other parts of the United Kingdom, and hence fewer opportunities for encounters with actual Jews, which could perhaps be a factor.  

Additionally, comparatively higher levels of poverty concentrated in a comparatively smaller area may account for it, particularly in contrast to England which is not broken down into regions.

When comparing England and Wales, approximately 50 million people are effectively being compared with 3 million. 

However, this report, which was published on January 11th, has gone unreported in the Welsh press and broadcast media.

Maybe it has fallen under their radar, but it needs to be followed up and investigated to test the accuracy of this data. And maybe our party leaders would care to comment on how they are tackling this issue.  

Whatever the reasons, this is an awful statistic. It undermines the idea of Wales as a tolerant nation — online at least where people tend to be more honest in their searches.

And it shows that much more work must be done particularly given that we are observing Holocaust Memorial Day on the 27th of this month.  

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