“Unfortunately, a comment on this thread has been deleted and the user banned for repeated antisemitic comments. Bigotry or any form of racial or religious discrimination, be it Islamophobia or antisemitism, simply will not be tolerated on this page.”
That was the commitment given by the SNP Friends of Palestine (FoP) on its public Facebook page in December of last year. It is a commitment that the campaign has spectacularly failed to implement.
Over the past ten months its Facebook page has carried a plethora of textbook examples of how traditional antisemitic tropes are incorporated into what passes for criticism of Israel and Zionism.
One of the most common of those tropes is that of wealthy, powerful Jews who, behind the scenes, control politicians and the policies of elected governments.
According to one contributor to the Facebook page, it is “the American Jewish Lobby” which bears the historical blame for the current “ghastly situation”:
“I was there while there was still a country called Palestine, although the poor Russian Jews chucked out of their own country were already infiltrating (Tel Aviv and Nablus at the foot of the Sea of Galilee) by courtesy of the American Jewish Lobby. Those are the people we have to thank for this ghastly situation.” (17/05/16).
Another contributor saw Rothschild money in play in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, when the British Foreign Secretary backed the creation of “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine:
“Jewish and Arabs had lived side-by-side for decades until Arthur Balfour was probably provided financial security by the Rothschild scum to enforce this on their behalf.” (22/02/16)
“Zionists” have continued to exercise a decisive political influence down to the present, and do so at a global level:
“Just confirms who is actually running world politics, make up rules only to suit themselves. We all know that Zionists have hijacked the Jewish religion for their own gains. Next law to come in will [make it] antisemitic to say anything against the Zionists.” (28/04/16)
Like Balfour, contemporary British politicians continue to be bought off by “Zionists”. (SNP MPs and MSPs are doubtless an exception.) This explains their supposed reluctance to criticise Israel, and their loyalty to Israel rather than Britain:
“Politicians are bought by Zionists and do more for Israel than they do for the UK. Labour Friends of Israel and Conservative Friends of Israel need to be banned. (UK politicians silent about Palestinian deaths.)” (17/04/16)
“We all know that the US and UK governments and their allies have been bribed by those Zionist supporters because they are part of the status quo. They have blood on their hands! The Israel state itself is a big lie!” (05/03/16)
“And of course the pro-Israel politicians will just go along with whatever any pro-Israel lobby group tells them. About time to kick Jewish/Israeli lobbyists out of British politics.” (25/02/16)
The expression “Jewish/Israeli lobbyists” is defended on the basis that one lobby is merely the new version of an older one. This is certainly true – in the sense that the contemporary trope of the powerful Israeli lobby is used as the direct successor of the older trope of the powerful Jewish lobby:
“It used to be called the Jewish lobby, now called the Israeli lobby. Same lobbyists and same people. So, yes, the two are the same. Politicians that are friends of Israel do what they can for Israel no matter what is against them. Sometimes it seems they do more for Israel than the UK, yet they are British politicians.” (25/02/16)
Accusations of antisemitism trigger particular indignation in posts on the SNP FoP Facebook page. Such accusations are denounced as further evidence of the behind-the-scenes power wielded by Jews.
The expression itself (first used by Wilhelm Marr in the 1870s, during the German-nationalist period of his political evolution) is dismissed as a Zionist invention which should now be dispensed with:
“The term ‘antisemitism’, coined in the 1880s by the Zionist movement to raise the perception of persecution among Europe’s Jews and so encourage them to make ‘Aliyah’, should now be consigned to its true position, merely a facet of racial and religious bigotry, and, as such, abhorred.” (18/02/16)
Accusations of antisemitism are used to cover up Israeli crimes by browbeating and intimidating opponents of Israel:
“The birth name of the new Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, was Freedland, the same as the apologist commentator of the ‘Guardian’. Different continents perhaps but …. Jonathan Freedland’s contrived argument is just that – a contorted apology for an apartheid state.” (03/05/16)
“Why does the world tolerate this? Because they’re terrified of being branded antisemites and bombarded with quite unnecessary warnings, like the one at the top of this page.” (23/05/16)
“It’s getting to the point in the UK to be scared to express a long-held sincere opinion in case there is a knock on the door at 3.00am.” (28/04/16)
Such views are not confined to contributors to the Facebook page. In April of this year the page administrators themselves posted a link to an article by SNP FoP member Craig Murray entitled “The New McCarthyism – The ‘Anti-Semitism’ Hysteria Gripping the UK”. According to the article:
“The attack on new NUS President Malia Bouattia is a truly horrible piece of witch-hunting. But it is useful in one thing. It makes the witch-hunt’s primary method, the conflation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism, absolutely explicit.
That is the entire intellectual basis of the current witch-hunt, which operates solely on conflating the anti-Zionism of Tony Greenstein with antisemitism. … I have yet to encounter any (antisemitism) in Scotland.”
Antisemitism can even be justified, provided that its proponents hate Jews for the ‘right’ reasons:
“If antisemitism is hating Jews for being born Jewish, then, of course, that kind of hatred must be opposed because it is utterly vile. However, if you oppose the support of many Jews for Israel, that is an entirely different matter.
Everyone should read ‘The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine’ by Professor Ilan Pappe of Exeter University, himself an Israeli Jew. It is clear from his research that violent ethnic cleansing and racism were absolutely integral and necessary for the creation of a Jewish state. So, if you are a supporter of Israel, you condone racism and violent ethnic cleansing.” (23/04/16)
In fact, for some contributors to the SNP FoP Facebook page anyone who supports Israel’s right to exist is automatically deemed to be a racist:
“I’m afraid to say that the British Political and Media establishment (including leading members of the Labour Party and the ‘Guardian’) condone racism.
If you ‘support Israel’s right to exist’, if you support the ‘right of the Jewish People to self-determination’ you must also support the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 human beings in 1948. It is as simple as that.” (18/04/16)
Equating support for Israel’s right to exist with racism is a ‘logical’ consequence of the way in which Israel is portrayed and defined as uniquely evil in contributions to the SNP FoP Facebook page.
That portrayal and that definition go well beyond the parameters of ‘robust criticism’:
“Our only home has been made into a trap, prison and concentration camp, complete with seven decades of rampant barbaric extermination and torture upon the innocent natives by the blood-stained hands of Israel.” (27/04/16)
“Britain and America support Israel. This shower of shit are worse than ISIS. They murder and torture Palestinians and they have been at it for longer.” (06/09/16)
“Israhell is a state run by apartheid gangsters. How can the Zionist illegal occupiers act like the landowners? Go back to Europe where you belong, Israhell! … Shame on you, the filthiest state on this planet!” (01/05/16)
A comment posted on the occasion of a visit to Israel by a delegation of Scottish Tories (“Scottish Zionists, shameless and abhorrent”) made clear that such hostility is directed not just at Israel’s state policies but at its population as well:
“All the people I despise will be in one place then.” (06/08/16)
The antisemitic dissolution of the distinction between the perpetrators and the victims of the Holocaust is also a regular feature of contributions to the SNP FoP Facebook page:
“The Zionists are building up for more slaughter to be unleashed upon the Palestinian race. Disgusting immoral acts carried out by evil savages. Their desire to obliterate Palestinians cannot be denied, no matter how many times they say the opposite. The world needs to waken up to the new Nazis.” (06/09/16)
“They learned their tactics from the Nazis, but have forgotten that the ultimate result was defeat.” (01/09/16)
“Their paranoia about young children and torturing them and imprisoning them for longer than the evil Zionist bastard who incinerated a young boy’s parents and baby brother says it all about these modern-day Nazis.” (04/08/16)
“I’ve just been to Berlin and quite rightly seen so many images and read lots of text about the history of what happened to the innocent Jewish people. Sadly, when I was in Palestine. I witnessed many things from history repeating itself.” (19/04/16)
A comprehensive programme of boycott, disinvestments and sanctions against Israel is promoted by posts on the Facebook page as the appropriate political response to “the filthiest state on this planet”:
“Jews all over the world need to know that their murderous project in Israel is unacceptable. They have the best chance of reigning in Natty’s death squads. For the rest of us, we have BDS.” (28/04/16)
“Don’t listen to Israhell, keep on boycotting, disinvesting, condemning Israhell!” (04/03/16)
“Buy nothing from these apartheid murdering scum!” (25/02/16)
“Bargepoles at the ready, and take your reading glasses to the shops.” (25/02/16)
The SNP FoP is not a fringe organisation. Launched in mid-2015, it has the support of 29 of the SNP’s 54 MPs. Two MPs and two MSPs are members of its National Executive Committee. Its Facebook page is peppered with pictures of MPs and MSPs signing its statement “I’m a Friend of Palestine”.
The campaign can argue that not all the offending posts come from actual members of the SNP FoP. This is true. In fact, some of the worst posts appear to come from ‘Palestine solidarity’ activists outside of the SNP who have ‘discovered’ the SNP FoP Facebook page.
The SNP FoP might escape criticism for hosting some of these posts on its Facebook page if it used the less repellent ones as an opportunity to open up an argument about what is wrong with their politics.
But the campaign does not do that. And even such challenges as there are to the contents of some of the posts are given short shrift: “Take yer Zionist-fascist shit elsewhere.” (04/08/16)
As a result, the SNP FoP Facebook page ends up as an echo chamber for a collection of antisemitic tropes masquerading as ‘legitimate criticism’ of Israel:
Rich and powerful Jews; behind-the-scenes control of politicians and governments by the Jewish/Israeli lobby; equations of Israel with Nazi Germany; a denial of Israel’s right to exist, and a blanket dismissal of the bona fides of allegations of antisemitism.
According to SNP MP Stewart McDonald, a founder member of the SNP FoP:
“These worst excesses (of ‘naked antisemitism emerging in its vilest form’) have not been seen in the SNP Friends of Palestine but we must be constantly vigilant. Most antisemitism is not overt, relying on ancient tropes which are easily recycled into the modern age of memes and viral media.”
McDonald is someone who does not counterpose Palestinian national rights to Israeli national rights. In fact, he is currently being denounced by some of his erstwhile allies for supporting the creation of SNP Friends of a Two-States Solution.
But there certainly seems to have been a shortfall in the “constant vigilance” which he rightly advocates.