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Editor(s): Ermida, Isabel
Date: 2023
Abstract: This chapter introduces the notion of ‘enabling concepts’: concepts which may or may not themselves constitute a mode of hate speech, but which through their broad social acceptability facilitate or legitimate the articulation of concepts which can be more directly classed as hate speech. We argue that each distinct hate ideology will contain its own, partly overlapping set of ‘enabling concepts.’ In this chapter, we will focus on the enabling role of references to apartheid for the constitution of antisemitism in British online discourse around Israel. This argument does not rest on agreement as to whether the ‘apartheid analogy’—comparisons between contemporary Israel and the former Apartheid regime in South Africa—itself constitutes a form of antisemitism. The chapter draws on qualitative analysis of more than 10,000 user comments posted on social media profiles of mainstream media in the UK, undertaken by the Decoding Antisemitism project in the wake of the May 2021 escalation phase of the Arab-Israeli conflict. We will show how web commenters frequently use the apartheid analogy to trigger more extreme antisemitic stereotypes, including age-old tropes, intensifying and distorting analogies (such as Nazi comparisons) or calls for Israel’s elimination. The results will be presented in detail based on a pragmalinguistic approach taking into account the immediate context of the comment thread and broader world knowledge. Both of these aspects are relevant preconditions for examining all forms of antisemitic hate speech that can remain undetected when conducting solely statistical analysis. Based on this large dataset, we suggest that—under the cover of its widespread social acceptability—the apartheid analogy thus facilitates the articulation and legitimation of extreme antisemitic concepts that would, without this prior legitimation, be more likely to be rejected or countered.