Twin Peakes: How antisemitic conspiracy theories about the death of George Floyd are shared by far left and far right
26 June 2020
Rebecca Long-Bailey has lost her job as Shadow Education Secretary because she tweeted her support for an interview by the actor Maxine Peake, in which Peake said that “The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services” The implication was obvious: that Israel is somehow partly, if not fully, being held responsible for the death of George Floyd. The claim is as outrageous as it is dangerous, taking the issue of systemic anti-black racism in the United States and laying it at the door of Israel, and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer correctly identified it as an “antisemitic conspiracy theory”.
It’s a classic conspiracy theory, insofar as it takes two totally unrelated events, in this case the killing of George Floyd and the relationship between American and Israeli police, and tries to link them. This is how antisemitism works: at its heart antisemitism is a constant striving to place Jews and/or Israel at the centre of all that is wrong in the world, be it wars, economic downturns, terror attacks or in this case the murder of a black man at the hands of American police. Even something as enormous as racism in America, and as specific and long-standing as American policing of minorities, gets twisted to fit this conspiracy thinking.
This antisemitic conspiracism is not isolated to one particular ideology and can take root at both extremes of the political spectrum. Activists and ideas from the far right and the far left have often found themselves occupying the same spaces. This was evidenced in CST’s report with Hope Note Hate that exposed The Keep Talking Group, an antisemitic conspiracy group that brought together neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers with former Labour Party members and trades unionists, united by a common belief that everything in the world can be explained through conspiracy theories, and that Jews, or Israel, are usually to blame somewhere in the mix.
The death of George Floyd has sparked a flurry of articles that have been quick to highlight the relationship between American and Israeli police. Many of these have come from pro-Palestinian as well as left wing media outlets. Below are just two examples from Middle East Eye and the Morning Star:
However, this theory – and even this left wing content – implicating Israel in the killing of George Floyd is also popular with elements of the antisemitic far right. While some on the left cite examples of engagement between Israeli and American police to blame Israel for George Floyd's death, neo-Nazis take it a stage further and say this is all part of a Jewish plot to divide America and encourage attacks on white Americans. The underlying message, though, is the same: Jews and/or Israel are ultimately to blame for the racial division currently gripping America. This is where two versions of the same conspiracy theory meet.
For example, the American far right conspiracy outlet, TruNews, claimed that the murder of George Floyd was carried out in order to create “division”, “strife” and “civil war” between whites and blacks – and blamed Israel for this alleged plot to divide America.
In one part of the show, they even used the same headline from the Morning Star to illustrate their point, showing how this conspiracy theory straddles the political extremes:
Several more pieces of content from far right sources promote this same theory, including several videos on the alternative video sharing platform, BitChute:
One comment underneath the video links to a piece by Amnesty USA that discusses the relationship between US and Israeli police:
Content from the imageboard site, 4chan’s /Pol/ section, which stands for politically incorrect. This is where discussion of current affairs and politics takes place, often within an unfiltered environment of extreme antisemitism, racism, misogyny, homophobia and hate:
Several commentators, activists and politicians on the left have been quick to defend Peake or endorse her claim that Israel is somehow implicated in the murder of George Floyd. They may not realise that the same narrative is currently being pushed by the most conspiratorial elements of the far right, and at times this is even being done by using left wing sources and content. Presumably they would all be horrified and outraged that something they consider to be mere criticism of Israel is actually an antisemitic conspiracy theory.
But conspiracy theories about Israel (or “Zionists”) only have the appeal they do because they echo historic antisemitic ideas about Jews. Updating the language by swapping in Israel as the malevolent, secret force to blame for terrible things rather than identifying that force explicitly as Jews doesn’t change the way of thinking that lies behind it. So here’s a useful rule of thumb: if you are saying the same thing about Jews or Israel that neo-Nazis are saying, it’s probably not just ordinary criticism of Israel. It’s antisemitic, and you should stop.