Online trolls have targeted Jewish News in their thousands over its coverage of Malaysia being stripped of hosting a major sporting event for banning Israel.
Antisemitic comments, including Nazi imagery, has been posted on Facebook posts after it was announced the country was stripped of the right to host the World Para Swimming Championships.
More than 4,000 abusive comments were posted before it was removed from social media. Five hours after a second story was published, six hundred new abusive comments had appeared.
It comes after athletes from around the globe had joined communal figures and politicians in expressing concern over the prospect of the championships going ahead in Kuching this summer, without guarantees Israelis would be treated equally.
Following a meeting in London on Sunday, the governing board of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) decided to remove the event from Malaysia, saying guarantees had not been offered by the country’s home ministry over visas or the use of anthems and flags.
The abusive comments, many of which were from unidentifiable accounts, included pictures of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, cartoons and maps depicting Israel as illegitimate and hundreds of comments including the hashtags #standwithPalestine #FreePalestine and #SaveGaza.
After the decision was made to strip Malaysia of holding the competition, Syed Saddiq, Malaysia’s minister of youth and sports, defended his country’s position in a BBC interview. He said the country would have “lost our moral conscience and moral compass” in hosting the games, and that doing so would have shown it is “more important than safeguarding the interest of our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are being mutilated time after time again”.
After being challenged on his stance by a Jewish News journalist, who said Malaysia’s policy was antisemitic, Saddiq replied saying he “didn’t know it was “racist” to stand up for the Palestinians who have been systematically oppressed by the Israeli regime. They are treated like Prisoners in their very own country. Stop hiding behind the veil of “racism” to cover up the war crimes committed by Israel.”
His tweet got almost five-thousand retweets, led to hundreds more abusive replies on Twitter.
Andrew Parsons, IPC President, said the decision to strip Malaysia of hosting was made because it “excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons”, leaving them “absolutely no alternative but to look for a new Championships host.
“The Paralympic Movement has, and always will be, motivated by a desire to drive inclusion, not exclusion. “
Speaking at the Oxford Union a week ago, prime minister Dr Mahatir Mohamed confirmed that the visa-denial was punitive but restated his country’s right to bar visitors from countries whose policies he disagreed with, adding that if the IPC wanted to withdraw Malaysia’s right to host the tournament, “they can do so”.
He has also previously described Jews as “hook-nosed” and suggested four million, rather than six million Jews, were killed in the Shoah.
A Community Security Trust spokesperson said: ““This is a striking example of how overseas antisemites can, and do, use social media to mount concerted attacks upon British Jews. Knowing Jewish News, no doubt this will only strengthen its resolve to keep exposing and opposing antisemitism.”
Communal figures also criticised the decision to ban Israeli athletes, but they welcomed the move to strip Malaysia of hosting the game. Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said condemned the Malaysian PM’s “overtly racist comments against Jews” and said his “bigotry” deprived the country of hosting the games.
Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Simon Johnson said his organisation applauded the “firm and decisive action taken by the IPC”, noting that “discrimination in sport has not place”, Johnson expressed the hope that “other sports governing bodies will follow” the IPC’s lead.