Antisemitic libels may have historically been associated with medieval Christianity, but in our digital world, a simple tweet can have the same impact.
On Saturday, George Galloway took to Twitter, and told his 342,000 followers, that Israel had murdered a toddler, despite ample evidence that it was in fact a tragic accident.
The firebrand politician tweeted: “This child, aged 7, has just been fished out of a well dead in #Jerusalem Murdered by illegal Israeli settlers. Will anyone in power cry with his mother and father today? Will anyone check this evil rampage against the people of #Palestine? Anyone?”
He continued, “I strongly advise you to block Israel trolls. Many of them are paid to engage and confuse you.”
This child, aged 7, has just been fished out of a well dead in #Jerusalem Murdered by illegal Israeli settlers. Will anyone in power cry with his mother and father today? Will anyone check this evil rampage against the people of #Palestine? Anyone? pic.twitter.com/ifmEtaoC0M
— George Galloway (@georgegalloway) January 25, 2020
His initial tweet has so far got more than 5.7 thousand retweets in less than 24 hours, and he has pinned his tweet to the top of his feed.
This is in spite of the fact that Dr Hanan Ashrawi, a member of Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Executive Committee, who had shared a similar message, said: “My apologies for retweeting something that’s not fully verified. It seems that the news of his being kidnapped is not certain.”
My apologies for retweeting something that’s not fully verified. It seems that the news of his being kidnapped is not certain.
— Hanan Ashrawi (@DrHananAshrawi) January 25, 2020
This was not of course before Rashida Tlaib, a highly-influential anti-Israel politician in the US with almost 900,000 followers, had retweeted Ashrawi.
Haaretz then reported that the little boy, Qusai Abd Abu Ramileh, had died ”after falling into a flooded ditch a day earlier”, adding that “relatives initially claimed that the boy was kidnapped, while providing the police video footage in which he is allegedly seen walking alongside an unidentified man. Later, Abu Ramileh’s father said that the boy seen in the footage is not his son.”
So George Galloway should delete his tweet and apologise, like Ashrawi.
But he won’t.
Indeed, he hasn’t even unpinned the tweet from the top of his feed, which thousands of cranks will see.
This fake news is being not just shared, but given extra exposure and is being allowed to disseminated and embed itself as a fact.
How many of those people who see it will see the clarifications and retractions which have been published? And even if they do, how likely are they to accept the clarification, if it flies in the face of George Galloway’s claim?
This is how antisemitic conspiracies and rumours, based on lies, start.
It’s a blood libel for the digital age, and no doubt some poor soul who has read about evil Jews murdering a Palestinian toddler will take revenge.
Those with influence need to take responsibility for what they share before they do so, and those who deliberately spread malicious rumours should be held to account.