Antisemitism in New Zealand pro-Palestinian Facebook groups

By Maia Szecket

This briefing outlines some of the antisemitism that is present in Facebook groups and pages dedicated to solidarity for Palestine in New Zealand. This is not to say that advocacy related to Palestine is inherently antisemitic, but rather we highlight some of the ways that antisemitism has featured in it in the New Zealand context.

These Facebook groups and pages we looked at for this briefing range in demographics of users, from healthcare workers, to students, to the general public. The Facebook groups we looked at are all public and anyone can see the posts and comments that are made in them.

Example 1

The example here shows comments made on a Facebook post which doxxed a dual New Zealand and Israeli citizen who is serving in the IDF. The comment thread contains a number of types of antisemitism. It promotes traditional antisemitism, specifically blood libel, and applies it to Israel by implying that Israelis enjoy killing children. The comment attempts to show Israel’s mission in the war against Hamas as being motivated by targeting civilians and children. 

The next comment in the thread states that there are a lot of “them” in New Zealand. By them, they could be referring to either Jews or Israelis. We cannot know for sure who the Facebook users are talking about when they say “they” or “them”. However, in this context it is possible they are broadly referring to Israelis and/or Jews.

Another Facebook user claims that “they” have Mossad affiliations when they write “they are the real sleeping cells”. This commenter accuses Jews and/or Israelis of stealing identities to assassinate people. This is most likely referring to the 2004 scandal when New Zealand accused Israel of misconduct attempting to illegally obtain passports. While the reference made in the comment relates to a real event, they are using it to paint all Israeli citizens living in New Zealand as conspiratorial, untrustworthy and of malintent. 

Example 2

The post shown here attempts to shame, expose and “bring down” an Israeli-owned business. 

The Facebook user promotes ideas around Jewish control of society by sharing that the business runs ads on Facebook (which is portrayed here as trying to influence people rather than something that is common practice of businesses), and claims that they are “trying to influence people in favor of Israel” in a Facebook group that the business runs. The business owners are then accused of being part of a “Zionist cult”.

This commenter also denies Jewish right to self-determination by referring to Israelis as having a “total apartheid regime mindset”. The accusation that Israel practises apartheid or that Israel is an apartheid state is inaccurate and is used to denigrate Israel entirely and justify calls for it being dismantled. 

Example 3

In this post, the Facebook user refers to Zionism as “evil”  and thereby demonises the Jewish state and Jewish self-determination. The reference to Israel as the “Zionist regime” serves the purpose of delegitimising Israel as a nation-state, but rather uses the word “regime” to imply that it can be toppled or dismantled. This is an example of the denial of denying Jews the right of self-determination. 

The implication made in this post is that Israel and the IDF target civilians to harvest their organs. This is a modern-day example of blood libel myth. This trope is used to dehumanise and demonise Jews and Israelis. 

Example 4

The following post refers to the US college campus encampments and laude them as rising up “Against Fascist Zionist Dominance”. There are a number of problems with this statement. The Facebook user compares Zionism to fascism which is an attempt to delegitimise Jewish self-determination as an evil cause. Furthermore, calling the encampments a revolt against “Zionist Dominance” promotes the traditional antisemitic idea that Jews control everything, including higher education institutions. This idea perpetuates Jewish control and conspiracy tropes. 

Example 5

This post shows an example of the application of traditional antisemitism to Israel. In this instance, the idea of a world Jewish conspiracy is promoted. The Facebook user claims that Israel has an “iron grip on the world”. 

This Facebook user also denies Jews the right to self-determination in their portrayal of Israel as “apartheid” and only “sustaining itself on oppression, … hate, racism”. The existence of Israel is also delegitimised in the reference to it as a “hijacked state” that is “doomed to fail.”