Pro-Palestinian protesters of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement in Germany interrupted a video call with Holocaust survivors by posting Nazi imagery and pornography while shouting anti-Semitic slogans.
The online memorial was being held by the Israeli embassy in Berlin in honor of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, which began Monday evening. Due to the coronavirus epidemic and restrictions on gatherings, memorial events were severely reduced, televised or broadcast digitally online.
BDS activists anonymously logged onto the Israeli embassy’s Zoom chat with Holocaust survivor Tzvi Herschel, who was set to tell his story of survival to the virtual audience. They spammed the meeting with images of Hitler, pornographic content and anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic statements.
After a short break the event was reconvened without the activists and conducted in an appropriate and respectful way. To dishonour the memory of the #Holocaust and the dignity of the survivor is beyond shame and disgrace and shows the blatant antisemitic nature of the activists. pic.twitter.com/t79gXPYkIO
— Jeremy Issacharoff (@JIssacharoff) April 21, 2020
“Unfortunately, even today, and even on Holocaust Remembrance Day in Germany, these shocking incidents of anti-Semitism still occur,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said. “It is our duty, as representatives of the Israeli political world, to fight anti-Semitism wherever it raises its head.”
“Zoombombing” has become commonplace lately as anti-Semitic activists interrupt calls and even Jewish funerals broadcast on the video conferencing service.
“Extremists never miss an opportunity to leverage a crisis for their hatred,” said Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “They’re now trying to bring it into our homes.”
However, several grassroots initiatives are countering the hate. One is Zikaron BaSalon, Commemoration in the Living Room, which allows Holocaust survivors to speak to people in their homes, workplaces or other environments.
Dana Sender-Mulla co-founded Zikaron BaSalon when she was in university in Israel a decade ago.
“Most people would either stand by their TVs and passively watch a movie or a ceremony, or in best case, if you’re in school or work you might participate in a ceremony,” Sender-Mulla explained. “A group of us young adults said, ‘this isn’t right for us anymore. This isn’t the right way to commemorate and this isn’t the right way to look into our present and into our future.’”
Now there are more than a million people using the format, Sender-Mulla said. Last year more than 3,000 survivors shared their stories on this format. Although this year, the number of survivors was down to 300 this year and they will mostly be on Zoom calls.
But that does not reflect the number of listeners.
“I honestly don’t know that it’s going to be different, except that it will be bigger or broader, and more people from the United States will be coming, because it’s on Zoom and people are at home when they’d usually be at work,” said co-founder Yael Bitton, whose grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. “That means our family in the United States can bring their friends and their communities. So our relatives have told us already that we should be attuned to the fact that there’s going to be a bit of a bigger crowd.’
“People unfortunately don’t have such an opportunity to hear from a Holocaust survivor who really went through the experiences and the camps and saw it firsthand anymore, so people are thirsting for that,” Bitton said.
As for her 90-year-old grandmother, Livia Bitton-Jackson, planned to tell her story as she traditionally does to her family — this time via Zoom to whoever will listen.