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Facebook must act now to halt this appalling Holocaust denial


Facebook is ingrained in our culture. Like its social media counterpart, Twitter, it’s a quick source of news and a good representative of the zeitgeist if echo chambers are avoided. During a busy day it provides an easy way to connect with friends and opportunities for in-depth political discussions with a stranger living in a different hemisphere. Many businesses rely on Facebook adverts to create revenue, and websites such as TCW use it to attract readership. Facebook is an excellent tool for communicating.

But there is a darker side to Facebook. In the past few weeks devotees have been threatening to close their accounts because of its lack of action over the proliferation of Holocaust denial postings. Facebook is only now reviewing these but hasn’t removed them yet. Mark Zuckerberg’s obtuse excuses don’t help either. How disingenuous of him to plead ignorance on behalf of Holocaust deniers as the reason for this.

Anti-Semitism thrives on Facebook. Yet conservatives are censored. Facebook is also complicit in creating censorship tools to allow it to operate in Turkey, China, Pakistan and Russia.

Facebook’s inconsistency is also apparent in its insistence that Muslims are a ‘protected category‘ and Jews are not, despite the devastating consequences that anti-Semitism on social media has. Anyone looking for an excuse to harm Jews can find one very easily on Facebook’s many Holocaust denial pages.

Facebook guidelines say ‘hate speech’ can promote ‘real-world violence’. Holocaust denial is not included in this despite the damage it, and blood libels, inflict on Jews, both on-line and in the real world.

In the interests of free speech Holocaust denial should not be illegal. But the right to free speech should not extend to lies and incitement to harm and kill. Removing it from Facebook isn’t a threat to free speech but is a moral action. There is a particular evil in denying the Holocaust. By doing so the millions of Jews, Roma, political dissidents, the mentally and physically disabled, all slaughtered by the Nazi killing machine, are dishonoured.

Only the soulless, and those with a grandiose sense of self, would question the myriad evidence for this. Two thousand years of persecution culminated in the Shoah. Those who deny the Holocaust aim to wound Jews and diminish the impact of this genocide. They know exactly what they are doing and what the outcome of their hateful incitement will be. There is a bitter irony in hearing anti-Semites claim the Holocaust didn’t happen and at the same time advocate another Holocaust against the Jews. But anti-Semites aren’t known for their logical thinking.

Holocaust denial is also part of Islamist ideology. ‘Mein Kampf’ is popular in the Middle East. There the Holocaust is denied as a way to delegitimise Israel and diminish Jewish history, or if acknowledged, described as divine punishment for Jews. No wonder Labour members are so fond of Holocaust denial and blood libels – it is a signal to British Islamists that Labour is keen for their votes.

Labour Facebook forums abound with Holocaust deniers and blood libels. A Twitter account called ‘Labour Antisemitism’ keeps a useful tally of this. Recently (27 July) Damien Enticott, a Labour councillor, posted on Facebook that Jews drink blood and that ‘Talmud Jews’ should be executed.

Blood libels like this have led to Jews being murdered. My own great grandparents had to flee pogroms in the Pale of Settlement ignited by the very same blood libel Enticott promoted. There are strict Torah laws forbidding the consumption of blood yet it is shocking how many believe dangerous blood libels like this to be true. Facebook should be deleting these as they serve no other purpose than to inflame hatred against Jews.

By failing to remove Holocaust denial and blood libels posts Facebook is adding to the anti-Semitism we witness almost every day in the UK. Last week (24 July) an arsonist tried to burn down a synagogue. The Community Security Trust (CST), which monitors anti-Semitism in the UK, said that attacks on Jews continue at an all-time high. No wonder the majority of British Jews feel so beleaguered. The CST also provides security for Jewish schools, community events and synagogues. Its instructions on how to protect and patrol make for sobering reading. Why should Jews have to guard their synagogues and schools so heavily in 21st century Britain? Imagine going to church where handbags are searched before being allowed entry and anyone unfamiliar is subject to intense questioning.

Holocaust denial doesn’t only take the form of questioning the number of Jews who died or debating if it happened at all. Soft-core Holocaust denial, in the form of twisting historical facts and using the Shoah to insult Jews, abounds in our society today and is prolific among Labour party members. The most popular form of this is the false comparison between Israel and the Nazis.

This week (28 July) a Jeremy Corbyn ally accused Margaret Hodge of ‘weaponising’ the Holocaust. David Rosenberg’s insidious comments manage simultaneously to undermine the Holocaust and claims of anti-Semitism. And a member of the Jewish Labour Movement was told that ‘Hitler was right‘. Discourse like this inflames anti-Semitism and feeds the revisionist narrative of Holocaust denial.

Jews aren’t the only ones who should be worried by this resurgence of anti-Semitism. What starts with the Jews never ends with the Jews. Labour has already begun purging decent MPs, such as Frank Field and Kate Hoey.

All forms of Holocaust denial are attempts to rewrite history – a precarious activity because if history is falsely debunked its lessons are lost to us. The demonisation of Jews via Holocaust denial and blood libels is no longer slowly spread around by a village gossip. Instead they are rapidly escalated on Facebook resulting in real harm to Jews. By not removing Holocaust denial posts Facebook is complicit in inflicting irreparable damage on to Jews.

We all know where anti-Semitism can lead to if left unchecked. That’s why Holocaust denial and its grisly counterpart, blood libels, in whatever form they take must be deleted from Facebook. Ignorance and rights to free speech are no excuse for allowing such vile and dangerous posts.

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Karen Harradine
Karen Harradine
Karen is an anthropologist and freelance journalist. She writes on anti-Semitism, Israel and spirituality. She is @KarenH777on Twitter.

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