Most supporters of the Palestinian struggle won’t have heard of the Facebook group Palestine Live.
Yet in the past week that group has become the focus of an effort to discredit critics of Israel—as well as Jeremy Corbyn and the left.
Several people were suspended from the Labour Party last week over their alleged posts in the group where antisemitic content was apparently shared.
Jeremy Corbyn and MPs Clive Lewis and Chris Williamson also came under fire for being “members”.
They’re the target of a document by pro-Israel blogger David Collier, who sought to link Corbyn to antisemitic content posted by other members.
Palestine Live was a private group—meaning a user can only access it if they’ve been added by the administrator. Corbyn was apparently added before he became Labour leader.
Unfortunately the admin also apparently failed to remove several other posts in the group that were undoubtedly antisemitic.
Some members of the group used antisemitic language, or posted links to antisemitic conspiracy theories and even Nazi websites.
But it’s a massive leap to say that some antisemitic posts on Facebook indicate a far bigger problem with support for Palestine.
Facebook and other internet forums are places where people with no other outlet can amplify their voices beyond proportion. Conspiracy theorists can dominate online discussions through the sheer volume of their posts.
They have little connection with any movement outside of social media, but the right increasingly latch on to them.
Few argue that anti-racist Corbyn is himself antisemitic. Instead a much more pernicious claim is that his long-standing support for Palestinians means he is blind to antisemitism.
There’s a nasty Islamophobic undertone to the argument that implies Muslims are more likely to be antisemitic because of their sympathy for Palestinians
The same accusation is levelled at the broader Palestine solidarity movement. It claims that anti-Zionism—the criticism of Israel’s founding ideology—is the same as antisemitism.
Collier claims to establish “beyond doubt the indivisibility of anti-Zionism and antisemitism.”
Opposition to Zionism is not antisemitic. Zionism has always claimed that Israel should be an exclusively Jewish state—racism against Arabs is at its very core.
Zionism justified the expulsion of tens of thousands of Palestinians in 1948—and Palestinian oppresion today.
Opposition to that doesn’t mean denying Jews their right to live in a Palestinian state with equal rights for all.
The right want to discredit anti-Zionism in order to make it harder to speak out for Palestinians at all.
In the Labour Party that’s paved the way for the suspension of activists such as Glyn Secker—chair of Jewish Voice for Labour. He was suspended last week and then reinstated this Monday.
Outside Labour that’s meant the demonisation of boycott campaigns against Israel.
The tragedy is that such accusations detract from the very real antisemitism used by Nazis and the far right. They undermine the sort of united anti-racist campaigning that can halt its growth.
There’s a nasty Islamophobic undertone to the argument that implies Muslims are more likely to be antisemitic because of their sympathy for Palestinians.
Yet where one form of racism grows—such as Islamophobia—others such as antisemitism can grow in its wake.
Combating both requires campaigns that unite Muslims, Jews and others in a fight against all forms of racism.