“Go Hamas Go”? Why Indymedia UK is losing support

Shift Magazine look into the politics of Indymedia. Is it possible that the Indymedia admins are blind to the anti-semitism on their site? Originally published in May 2008.

"Every time I log onto activist news sites like indymedia.org, which practice “open publishing,” I’m confronted with a string of Jewish conspiracy theories about September 11 and excerpts from ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’"
Naomi Klein

Sure enough, Naomi Klein is no-one to go by. However, in the past few months the site indymedia.org.uk has lost support from many activists for letting anti-Semitic posts go unchallenged. Most controversial and divisive proved an article by one Gilad Atzmon with the title “Saying NO to the Hunters of Goliath”. For many, Atzmon was an outright anti-Semite and the post in question racist and discriminatory. Some in Indymedia’s moderating collective however insisted that Atzmon’s article was a valid contribution to the newswire and refused, and even blocked, any decision to have it hidden. The Atzmon affair, as it became known, led to heated discussions, personal accusations and a loss of credibility for UK Indymedia amongst some of its moderators, in activist circles and even in the wider leftist movement. At the height of the affair, three active Indymedia moderators resigned from the collective, giving many readers the impression that the obsession with the Palestine-Israel conflict had gained the upper hand.

Indymedia’s editorial guidelines clearly state that “posts using language, imagery or other forms of communication promoting racism, fascism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia or any other form of discrimination” will be hidden, if not deleted, by the moderators. Indymedia.org.uk has been a target for anti-Semitic posts before and many have been hidden straight away with reference to the guidelines. In this latest affair however the guidelines did not seem conclusive enough to judge what is anti-Semitism and what isn’t.

The Atzmon Affair

Atzmon’s article “Saying NO to the Hunters of Goliath” was certainly such a case. Some thought it was anti-Semitic and wanted it hidden. Some thought it was on the borderline. A third group of Indymedia activists however were determined that this article should stay on the newswire. The issue was not helped by the appearance on the scene of Atzmon’s rival Tony Greenstein. Greenstein, an anti-Zionist himself, argued strongly for the post to be hidden. His campaign of personal accusations and harassment however did not help his cause.

Atzmon’s article argued that “Hitler was indeed defeated, Jews are now more than welcome in Germany and in Europe, yet, the Jewish state and the sons of Israel are at least as unpopular in the Middle East as their grandparents were in Europe just six decades ago.” For Atzmon, thus, Jews had not learned the lessons of history. Not anti-Semitism was to blame for the systematic persecution, internment and killing of 6 million Jews. No, it was Jewish unpopularity!

Those who knew Atzmon’s writings knew that this was a harmless expression of his beliefs. Previously he had let it be known that “American Jewry makes any debate on whether the ‘Protocols of the elder of Zion’ are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews (in fact Zionists) do control the world.” Such Jewish conspiracy theories are largely indistinguishable from Nazi ideology. For the Nazis, anti-Semitism was not just the hatred of the Jew. Anti-Semitism provided a whole worldview, a theory of powerful Jewish interest secretly controlling the economy and pulling the strings behind the scene. Jews were thus to blame for both capitalism and communism.

However an Indymedia activist decided to interview Atzmon to give him a chance to defend himself. Atzmon thus let it to be known that “There is no anti-Semitism any more. In the devastating reality created by the Jewish state, anti-Semitism has been replaced by political reaction.” Once again, thus, he affirmed that the hatred of Jews and Israel is simply caused by themselves. And, in an email to one Indymedia activist, he challenged Indymedia to expose the Zionist plan to dominate the world.

Resignations and resolution attempts

Three of the Indymedia moderators refused to take up the challenge. They resigned from the collective stating that they were “simply not functioning on the same planet as the rest of the most active site admins” and “did not want to be associated with a group that endorses such bullshit”. Other admins were shocked too, but remained in the collective. The rest of the Indymedia collective, on the other hand, did take up Atzmon’s challenge.

Many more articles appeared, some promoted some not, that attempted to prove that Jews had built “the last openly racist state on the planet”, or that “the situation of the Palestinians is little different than the situation of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto during WWII”. A classic anti-Semitic analysis. Another article by Atzmon himself was posted provocatively entitled “The Protocols of the Elders Of London”. Comments such as “Long live Palestine” or even “Go Hamas Go” were no longer hidden. Many were posted from agitators based in Canada and the US who have recognised Indymedia UK’s willingness to host their posts. “Go Hamas Go”? Isn’t that the same group of Islamist fundamentalists that have taken power of the Gaza Strip after a military conflict with the nationalist Fatah, and just recently issued a statement “blessing the heroic operation” of a gunman who had opened fire on 80 Jewish students sitting in their library, killing 8. Isn’t that the same Hamas party whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel and its replacement with an Islamic state? The Indymedia collective had clearly something to answer for.

A long-awaited IMC UK network meeting took place in Nottingham in February. The Atzmon-Greenstein affair and related moderation and process issues dominated the discussions, along with other pressing issues such as the new web design. A compromise solution was found that resulted in a new category of “disputed posts” for articles that were controversial, but where no consensus could be found for hiding. The issue was by no means resolved after the Nottingham meeting however. On the contrary. Blog reposts about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict multiplied and have since taken up a large part of the newswire. The remaining moderation collective however withstood the pressure to hide many of those posts despite an editorial guideline that sets out that “articles that are simply pasted from corporate news sites” may be hidden.


It thus became evident that the problem did not just lie with the open publishing format. Some Indymedia activists began to pursue an agenda that belittled anti-Semitism. In March, despite obvious discontent amongst many Indymedia users, the collective published a full feature on its website with the title “Israel keeps its promise of a Holocaust upon the Palestinians”. It argued that Israel’s deadly military raids aimed against some Hamas officials and Gaza gunmen amounted to plans to unleash a Holocaust and a “full-scale war” on Palestine. It was published together with a cartoon by the controversial artist Latuff, which compared the situation in Palestine to the extermination of Jews in the Nazi concentration camps.

For many readers, users and supporters of Indymedia, this was no less than a provocation. They responded in style. Within days, dozens of posts and many more comments accused the moderation collective of anti-Semitism and of having a “black and white” view of the issues. Some went further and described the website project as “Nazimedia”. Others vowed that Indymedia had finally lost their support and that they would stop using the site. All complaints were hidden within minutes. Some moderators had referred to them as an “organised disinformation campaign against Indymedia UK”.

Comments that supported Indymedia’s redefinition of Holocaust however remained on the newswire. Amongst others they denounced those complaining as “trolls aiming to silence any debate on Israel”, argued that “we can not command the zionist maniachs to stop killing and stealing until we can enforce it”, or even referred to Israel’s actions as “final solution” (a stark comparison with the Nazi attempt to exterminate Jews and their descendents.)

Nothing new

The allegations of being blind to anti-Semitism against Indymedia admins is nothing new, of course. They have troubled IMC projects around the world for a while. In 2003, for example, search engine Google temporarily stopped including some local Indymedia sites in Google News searches. Apparently it had received complaints that Israelis were labeled “Zionazis” in some articles. In particular the San Francisco Bay Area Indymedia was no longer indexed, with even the site moderators agreeing that some of its content “could be considered hate speech”. Nonetheless, some US American Indymedia sites continue to host articles by anti-Zionist conspiracy theorists, congratulating themselves on their willingness to speak the truth. At the time of writing this, for example, an article on IMC Miami has been posted claiming that “Israel was involved in the 9/11 matter, although few writers are willing to cover it.” Legal action also temporarily shut down Indymedia Switzerland in 2002. A Jewish anti-fascist group had threatened to sue the moderators over a series of Latuff cartoons which it saw as offensive and anti-Semitic.

What’s anti-Semitism?

The Indymedia UK collective is unlikely to agree whether Atzmon or Latuff are anti-Semitic. And in many ways it would be a futile endeavour. The question of what constitutes anti-Semitism and what doesn’t will not be settled by Indymedia admins.

More important is the question why controversial and provocative posts that compare Israeli policies to those of Nazi Germany find their way on the Indymedia newswires in the first place. It would certainly be wrong to deny that Indymedia has a problem with anti-Semitism. While the content of some articles is disputed by the moderation collective, some posts are clearly considered as anti-Jewish racism and are hidden or deleted straight away. So what attracts anti-Semites to the website?

Let me be very clear about one thing: Indymedia UK is not run by a collective of anti-Semites. The moderators strictly adhere to the anti-racist guidelines. Any racist post is immediately hidden or deleted. But many of the disputed posts are not racist. They do not follow simple anti-Jewish sentiments or prejudices. And still they are considered anti-Semitic by many.

One reason might be that the editorial guidelines are no longer up to date with current developments in radical politics. Anti-Semitism defined as anti-Jewish racism will not come to the crux of the problem. Anti-Semitism claims to have an explanation of the world as a whole. It is not simply about hating Jews, but rather about hating everything that Jews embody for the anti-Semites. While the objects of racism are seen as sub-human, anti-Semitism projects an image of the Jews as omnipotent, secretive, powerful.

Sadly, Indymedia offers a platform to invent caricatures of the Israeli state and of its policies. Instead of recognising the political context, it helps to perpetuate an image of Israel, and of Jews, as sinister conspirators with a secret plan to turn the world into one massive settlement.