Palestine Live is a secret Facebook group that has been running since 2013 and has around 3,000 members who use it to share news stories, organise events and network with like-minded people.
You will have heard of some of its members: Jeremy Corbyn, Baroness Jenny Tonge, Clive Lewis MP, and many of the leading activists in pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel campaigning in this country.
So what, you might ask; this is what social media is used for nowadays, and there are plenty of Facebook groups for supporters of Israel too (although they aren’t usually secret).
However, the reason why this particular Facebook group is in the news is because David Collier, an independent blogger who devotes his time to cataloguing the wilder excesses of the anti-Israel movement, spent several weeks researching and analysing what goes on in the group: and the anti-Semitism he found should worry everyone, whether they support Israel, Palestine, both or neither.
Collier’s research, which you can read here, found that many of the active members of the group – the ones who posted most frequently and who use the group for their offline activism – hold anti-Semitic views.
They deny the Holocaust, or spread conspiracy theories about “Rothschild Zionism”, or claim that jihadist terrorist attacks in Europe are in fact ‘false flag’ operations by Zionists.
Indeed, of the three ‘admins’ who run the group, one – the group’s founder – is a conspiracy theorist who shares material from Holocaust Denial websites; a second identified himself as a ‘9/11 Truther’ and posted a Holocaust Denial article that dismissed the “fictional account” of six million Jews dying in the Holocaust, claiming instead that “somewhere between 100-150 thousand people perished in Auschwitz mainly as a result of disease and starvation”; while a third admin posted an article in the group titled “Israel Control of USA Government” that quoted approvingly from Mein Kampf.
This doesn’t mean that most of the members of this group are anti-Semitic, any more than most people who sympathise with the Palestinians are anti-Semitic. But what it does confirm is the long-held suspicion that some anti-Semites use anti-Israel activism as a socially-acceptable outlet for their anti-Jewish prejudice; and that this includes some of this country’s leading anti-Israel activists.
It also supports the findings of Britain’s largest-ever survey of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel attitudes, published last year by CST and the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, which found that the more anti-Israel a person is, the more likely they are to also hold anti-Jewish attitudes.
And because the most active members of this Facebook group also tend to be the more anti-Semitic ones, their views set the tone for the group as a whole. Meanwhile, the other members of the group, including several Jewish anti-Zionists, rarely object to the anti-Semitism posted there. Instead, they just get on with using the group to organise their activities and encourage their comrades. This is how a political culture becomes anti-Semitic, even if most people in that world are not, themselves, anti-Semites.
Needless to say, many of the group’s members support Jeremy Corbyn and have joined the Labour Party since he became leader.
Corbyn has responded, as he always does, by saying he condemns anti-Semitism.
But until he understands that the political culture of which he is a leader fosters the very anti-Semitism he claims to condemn, this problem will only get worse.
- Dr Dave Rich is Head of Policy for the Community Security Trust and author of “The Left’s Jewish Problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism”