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Author(s): Bolton, Matthew
Date: 2024
Abstract: Accusations that Israel has committed, or is in the process of committing, genocide against the Palestinian population of the Middle East are a familiar presence within anti- Israel and anti Zionist discourse. In the wake of the Hamas attacks of 7 October 2023 and the subsequent Israeli military invasion of Gaza, claims of an Israeli genocide reached new heights, culminating in Israel being accused of genocide by South Africa at the International Court of Justice. Such claims can be made directly or indirectly, via attempts to draw an equivalence between Auschwitz or the Warsaw Ghetto and the current situation in the Palestinian territories. This chapter examines the use of the concept of genocide in social media discussions responding to UK news reports about Israel in the years prior to the 2023 Israel- Hamas war, thereby setting out the pre-existing conditions for its rise to prominence in the response to that war. It provides a historical account of the development of the concept of genocide, showing its interrelation with antisemitism, the Holocaust and the State of Israel. It then shows how accusations of genocide started being made against Israel in the decades following the Holocaust, and argues that such use is often accompanied by analogies between Israel and Nazi Germany and forms of Holocaust distortion. The chapter then qualitatively analyses comments referencing a supposed Israeli genocide posted on the Facebook pages of major British newspapers regarding three Israel-related stories: the May 2021 escalation phase of the Arab- Israeli conflict; the July 2021 announcement that the US ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s would be boycotting Jewish settlements in the West Bank; and the rapid roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine in Israel from December 2020 to January 2021.
Editor(s): Ermida, Isabel
Date: 2023
Abstract: This chapter introduces the notion of ‘enabling concepts’: concepts which may or may not themselves constitute a mode of hate speech, but which through their broad social acceptability facilitate or legitimate the articulation of concepts which can be more directly classed as hate speech. We argue that each distinct hate ideology will contain its own, partly overlapping set of ‘enabling concepts.’ In this chapter, we will focus on the enabling role of references to apartheid for the constitution of antisemitism in British online discourse around Israel. This argument does not rest on agreement as to whether the ‘apartheid analogy’—comparisons between contemporary Israel and the former Apartheid regime in South Africa—itself constitutes a form of antisemitism. The chapter draws on qualitative analysis of more than 10,000 user comments posted on social media profiles of mainstream media in the UK, undertaken by the Decoding Antisemitism project in the wake of the May 2021 escalation phase of the Arab-Israeli conflict. We will show how web commenters frequently use the apartheid analogy to trigger more extreme antisemitic stereotypes, including age-old tropes, intensifying and distorting analogies (such as Nazi comparisons) or calls for Israel’s elimination. The results will be presented in detail based on a pragmalinguistic approach taking into account the immediate context of the comment thread and broader world knowledge. Both of these aspects are relevant preconditions for examining all forms of antisemitic hate speech that can remain undetected when conducting solely statistical analysis. Based on this large dataset, we suggest that—under the cover of its widespread social acceptability—the apartheid analogy thus facilitates the articulation and legitimation of extreme antisemitic concepts that would, without this prior legitimation, be more likely to be rejected or countered.
Date: 2023
Abstract: Key findings
• Since 7 October, Decoding Antisemitism has analysed more than 11,000 comments
posted on YouTube and Facebook in response to mainstream media reports of the
Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.
• Our analysis reveals a significant jump in the number of antisemitic comments, even
compared with other violent incidents in the Middle East.
• CELEBRATION, SUPPORT FOR and JUSTIFICATION OF THE HAMAS TERROR ATTACKS make up the
largest proportion of antisemitic comments – ranging between 19 % in German
Facebook comment sections and 53 and 54.7 % in French Facebook and UK YouTube
comment sections, respectively – in contrast to previous studies where direct
affirmation of violence was negligible.
• The number of antisemitic comments CELEBRATING THE ATROCITIES rises in response to
media reports of attacks on Israelis/Jews themselves, compared with reports on the
conflict more generally.
• Beyond affirmation of the Hamas attacks, other frequently expressed antisemitic
concepts across the corpus included DENIALS OF ISRAEL’S RIGHT TO EXIST, attributing SOLE
GUILT to Israel for the entire history of the conflict, describing Israel as a TERRORIST
STATE, CONSPIRACY THEORIES about Jewish POWER, and ideas of inherent Israeli EVIL.
• As with the project’s past research, this analysis reveals a diversity of antisemitic
concepts and communicative strategies. The findings reaffirm that antisemitism
appears as a multifaceted mosaic, as a result of which it is not possible to deal with
all the elements. Only the most prominent tendencies are brought into focus here.
Date: 2022
Author(s): Bolton, Matthew
Date: 2020
Abstract: This article analyses the British left’s response to allegations of antisemitism within the UK Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. It uses as its foil a collection of essays on the topic written over the course of the Corbyn era for leading online outlets of the contemporary Anglo-American left, and given away as a free e-book by Verso, the world’s biggest leftist publisher, during the 2019 British election campaign. On the basis of this collection, the article suggests that the Labour antisemitism crisis was the culmination of a long process of political and theoretical degeneration within the left. It argues that the tendency to reduce of the question of antisemitism to that of class “interests,” with antisemitism understood primarily as an “instrument” used by the powerful to divide the “oppressed,” leaves many leftists unable to comprehend the possibility of exterminatory antisemitism as an end-in-itself. The appeal of this approach lies in the apparent alibi against antisemitism it provides for those on the left, like Corbyn, whose interests supposedly coincide with those of “the oppressed,” and means that accusations of antisemitism within the left can be similarly denounced as cover for the underlying ‘interests’ of those making the accusation. The article argues that the insistence that the State of Israel is “a racist endeavour,” a claim which lay at the heart of the Labour antisemitism dispute, rests upon an arbitrary and ahistorical rejection of the notion of Jewish peoplehood. This critique itself draws upon a long history of right-nationalist and liberal-republican antisemitism in which Jews were viewed as an illegitimate “anti-nation,” and in its partiality is radically distinct from a critique of the nation-state as such. The article suggests that this same partiality and ahistoricity reappears in the inability of a class instrumentalist perspective to apprehend the intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, relationship between Israel and antisemitism, and the genocidal antisemitism of the Holocaust in particular.