Antisemitic remarks have flooded China’s heavily censored online platforms and the Israeli government’s Chinese social media accounts since the Hamas attacks on Israel.
Scores of online Chinese commentators and netizens quickly rallied for Gaza after the Hamas attacks began Oct. 7, accusing Israel of oppressing Palestinians for decades and saying Israel deserves the bloodshed.
“In the past, Germany persecuted you. Now, you persecute Palestinians. In this world, do not force others to the corner because you would only be digging your own grave,” wrote Ziwu Xiashi, one of the biggest nationalist commentators with 1 million followers on Weibo, China’s equivalent of X, formerly Twitter.
Although the Chinese government has called on both sides to end the hostilities and condemned “all violence and attacks on civilians,” Beijing has long been a friend of the Palestinian cause.
It recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1964 and Palestinian sovereignty in 1988 before establishing full diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority in 1989. And, during a state visit to Saudi Arabia in 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping voiced frustration over the “historical injustice” suffered by Palestinians and expressed China’s support for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
“It is not possible to continue the historical injustice suffered by the Palestinians,” the Chinese president said at the opening of the Riyadh-Gulf-Chinese Summit for Cooperation and Development in Saudi Arabia.
In the wake of the attacks, official Chinese state media has blamed the U.S. for not playing a constructive role in defusing the tension.
“While the Biden administration warned any group against taking advantage of the #Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if any group stands any chance to exploit the conflict and profit from the violence, it will probably be the #US military-industrial complex,” the Global Times wrote on X.
But on China’s internet, instead of echoing criticism of the U.S, nationalist commentators and netizens have directed their ire at the Jewish people, which many netizens believe is the Chinese government signaling where it really stands on the conflict. Or as one poster wrote, “Based on how this trending topic was arranged, now I see where our country really stands.”
“Jews always talk about how badly they were treated during World War II and throughout history. But you can’t ask why. Otherwise, you are called a racist or that you envy their money,” said the username of Rabbit head senior Zhang Tiegen in a Weibo post with over 2,000 likes. “Actually, before the Holocaust during World War II, Jews’ reputation was down in the ghetto throughout Europe.”
“Wherever the Jews have gone, they have always been massacred. There’s a reason why. You only love Jews when they are not in your area,” wrote online commentator Vincent.
When asked about the antisemitic comments on Chinese social media, the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., referred VOA Mandarin to remarks made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman on Wednesday.
“I’d like to reiterate that to end the cycle of conflict between Palestine and Israel, it is essential to restart the peace talks, implement the two-state solution and seek a comprehensive and proper settlement of the Palestine question through political means at an early date, so that the parties’ legitimate concerns can be taken care of,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in the daily briefing.
Wang Yaqiu, research director for China, Hong Kong and Taiwan at Freedom House, told VOA Mandarin, “We can’t blame the Chinese government for all of the antisemitism on the Chinese internet, but the government contributed to it by actively promoting stereotypes and false narratives.”
Carice Witte, founder and executive director of the Sino-Israel Global Network and Academic Leadership, a think tank in Israel, told VOA Mandarin, “It comes from not having access to good information. It is not — I would not say that in China — real antisemitism or a hatred of Israel or the Jews. It is a kind of version of brainwashing that happens when you don’t really know really what’s going on and you’re only fed one side of the story. It’s understandable.”
Netizens have also filled the comment section of posts made by the Israeli government on Weibo with criticism and attacks, forcing the account run by the Israeli Embassy in China to close the comment section.
When Israel’s consulate in Guangzhou posted a report of a Chinese Israeli woman being abducted by Hamas militants, netizens accused the consulate of trying to drive a wedge between Chinese and Palestinians citizens.
“Impressive divisive tactic,” one popular comment wrote. “Is that girl even Chinese?”
Under a different news post about the woman, a comment with over 10,000 likes asked, “If she thinks she’s Israeli, this has nothing to do with us. Why even post it on China’s internet?”
The comments were at odds with a posting by the Chinese Embassy in Israel, which said, “Noa was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists when attending a peace music festival in southern Israel. She was dragged from Israel to Gaza. She is a daughter, a sister and a friend.”
Many commentators and influential accounts brought up the death of Du Zhaoyu, a Chinese military officer killed in a bombing conducted by the Israeli Air Force in 2006 while on United Nations duty in Lebanon.
Other comments praised “Little Mustache” as many Chinese people refer to Germany’s Adolf Hitler, who was responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews during World II, according to ThisIsWenhao, the X account identified as that of VOA Mandarin journalist Wenhao Ma, who collects and interprets Weibo posts and reported this piece.
“It’s really the fault of Little Mustache,” wrote a netizen. “If he had burned all of them (Jews), we wouldn’t have this much trouble.”
Online antisemitism in China didn’t appear out of nowhere. For years, there have been conspiracy theories about Jews circulating on China’s internet, claiming that the Jews have, through organizations like Freemasonry, secretly controlled the U.S. government and influenced the world.
A Weibo account run by China’s state-owned CCTV claimed the Jewish community dominates U.S. finance and politics and that the issue of Israel has often been a deciding factor in every U.S. election. The post has since been deleted.
At one point after the Hamas attacks, the hashtag “the 3% Jewish population in the U.S. controls over 70% of American wealth” became one of the top trending topics on heavily censored Weibo.
Adrianna Zhang contributed to this report.