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Anti-immigration groups use Israel-Gaza violence to push antisemitism and Islamophobia online

Online activists in Ireland have attempted to use the conflict to incite hatred of Jews or Arabs or, in some cases, both.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 15th 2023, 7:29 AM

IRISH ANTI-IMMIGRATION activists have seized on the ongoing conflict in the Middle East to push racist rhetoric, including antisemitic claims, online.

The wave of hateful speech coincides with Israel’s continuing attack on Gaza. According to the latest figures more than 11,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Gaza since the start of the conflict.

Israel’s attacks were launched after 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in raids by Hamas on 7 October. A further 240 people were taken hostage. 

The increase in antisemitic tropes comes on the back of a growing prevalence of such messages in recent years – a trend that has become increasingly clear in Ireland. 

Anti-immigration activists in Ireland have attempted to use the conflict to incite hatred of Jews or Arabs or, in some cases, both.


On Thursday last a protest organised by anti-immigration groups was held at Dáil Éireann.

Attendance was small and a number of relatively well-known conspiracy theorists and far-right organisers were amongst those in in attendance, although – similar to September’s larger, more violent protest at Leinster House – various, disparate causes were being championed by those gathered. 

Among some, conspiracy theories about Jewish people were repeated. 

While the fact wasn’t mentioned by organisers in any of the promotional material shared online about the protest, it happened to coincide with both the hundredth anniversary of Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch and the 85th anniversary of 1938′s Kristallnacht, where Nazi paramilitaries attacked Jews in Germany killing at least 91 people.

“They are pretending that they are afraid after they have injected the Irish population with poison,” one man at the protest could be heard to shout into a megaphone in livestreams of the event, apparently referring to disproven claims that Covid-19 vaccines were dangerous. 

“And they’re now trying to act as victims. The same as the Jews pretend they’re the victim,” he continued.

“Europe is next! A Jewish agenda to poison the world! A Jewish agenda to destroy our economy! A Jewish agenda that runs the central banks!”

Jewish people have long been the target of conspiracy theories – including through the Middle Ages where baseless accusations of blasphemy and ritual murder led to massacres of Jewish people across Europe.

Similarly baseless allegations that Jews had taken control of Germany in a plot to weaken it helped the Nazis come to power and, ultimately, led to the murder of millions of European Jews in the Holocaust.

A renewed interest in conspiracy theories during the Covid-19 pandemic also saw an increase in online antisemitism, according to a European Commission study, and the result of which could be seen amongst some of the protesters on Thursday in Dublin. 

The study identified a surge in antisemitic content, including “conspiracy theories presenting vaccines as a Jewish plot to sterilise or control populations” as the pandemic spread. 

“During the early months of the pandemic, there was a fast evolving narrative landscape of antisemitic conspiracies, with Jewish communities first being blamed for the creation of the virus, then blamed for its spread,” the study found.

“With the roll-out of vaccine programmes in Europe, antisemitism began to shift and expand, with a proliferation of online antisemitic narratives presenting vaccines as an instrument of Jewish control of populations or the presenting of trivialised comparisons between the Holocaust and vaccine programmes.”

Last September, an Irish Holocaust education group wrote to the Justice Minister about antisemitism in The Irish Light, a conspiracy theory newspaper edited by activist and former national newspaper journalist Gemma O’Doherty.

The Irish Light regularly contains conspiracies about Covid-19, vaccines, asylum seekers and migrants, as well as the Great Replacement theory, a white nationalist, far-right conspiracy which claims white citizens are being replaced by non-white populations.

The Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a counter-extremism think-tank, reported a further increase in both antisemitic and and anti-Muslim discourse online since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict in early October.

“ISD identified a 51-fold increase (4,963%) in antisemitic comments on YouTube and a 422% increase in language associated with anti-Muslim hate on X when compared to the days prior to the attack,” Ciaran O’Connor, a senior analyst with ISD said, noting that similar spikes were found across other social media platforms too.

“Extremists across the spectrum are using the conflict to further their own interests and ideologies — they are opportunists and some view the conflict as a perfect storm to ignite or revive racist and hateful claims and promote their own divisive, polarising and harmful agendas.”

Real-world antisemitism

However this hate against Jewish people has not been restricted to the internet or small-scale rallies.  

The Russian region of Dagestan has seen an antisemitic riot, while closer to home, France has recorded 1,040 anti-Semitic acts since 7 October and London police figures indicate a huge surge in antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents in the English capital compared with the previous year.  

There have also been accusations, echoed in numerous pieces published in the Jerusalem Post, that Ireland, which has tended to sympathise with the Palestinian cause, is especially antisemitic.

In contrast, surveys carried out by the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish anti-extremism group, suggests Ireland is less antisemitic than average compared with either Western Europe or the rest of the world.

There have been elaborate arguments over what statements are implicitly antisemitic, and which instead count as legitimate criticisms of Israel or expressions of support for Palestinians. One phrase – often heard as a chant – that has been particularly controversial is the expression “from the River to the Sea”.

Some pro-Palestinian groups have said that false accusations of antisemitism have been used to suppress criticism of Israel’s policies. 

However, a number of Irish anti-immigration groups have ramped up rhetoric that is unquestionably and explicitly hateful against Jewish people, sometimes simultaneously as they denigrate Arabs and Muslims.

“Jews are working especially to destroy Ireland,” a popular post on one new Irish Telegram group reads.

“Not only for our anti-Israel stance or our Catholicism but because we are the Whitest Nation in the World.”

The group has more than 700 members and is regularly filled with antisemitic and other racist content.

Posts from the group have been shared by influential conspiracy theory activists, such as Philip Dwyer, an anti-immigration activist and a self-described citizen journalist.

Dwyer has shared more than a dozen posts about Jews since the early October attacks, some of which which claimed that Jews control the west, that immigration is a Jewish plot, or that “Judaism at it’s [sic] core is about the Genocide of non-Jews”. 

Dwyer’s Telegram channel has more than 3,100 subscribers and is promoted on his other social media channels. His account has not posted the same antisemitic content, but has shared calls to unban Nick Fuentes, an American White Supremacist who praises Hitler.

Prior to October, Dwyer regularly shared posts that targeted Arabs and Muslims.

Separate to Dwyer, other active Irish conspiracy theorists have also put up posts that use antisemitic slurs, argue that the Holocaust didn’t happen, or include links to a neo-Nazi message board that actively encourages violence against Jews, as well as other minorities and women.

Another group with thousands of members shared claims that Jewish people were responsible for the “LGBT agenda”, noting that ancient Jewish thought recognised more genders than just male and female.

On 7 October, the day that 1,400 Israelis were killed in the attack by Hamas militants, a link to an antisemitic conspiracy theory calling modern Jews a “synagogue of Satan” (a term from the Bible regularly used by antisemites) was shared in another Irish fringe Telegram group with more than 8,200 members.

“Let the Jews and Arabs kill each other if they want,” a more recent post in the same group said, responding to accusations that racism against Jews may be growing in Ireland.

“Ballooning Antisemitism in Ireland[?] the left are far right now, you couldn’t make it up.”

Racist tropes 

The Journal was able to identify at least six fringe Irish Telegram groups spreading antisemitism that have posted more messages containing the word “Jew” since 7 October than they had in the previous ten months of the year.

All of these groups had at least a hundred subscribers; some had thousands.

Another Telegram channel, run by a prominent far-right Irish figure posting as ‘Keith Woods’ has also made multiple posts denigrating Jewish people and Judaism to his more-than-26,500 Telegram followers since 7 October. Woods, in a since deleted tweet, has described himself as an anti-semite. 

However, while the volume of these posts has increased, the channel has consistently been posting such content throughout the year.

Woods appears to be influential with well-known figures popular among the far-right. Tweets posted by Woods about Ireland’s proposed hate speech bill have been shared by Donald Trump Jr and Jordan Peterson, while Elon Musk has responded to Woods multiple times, often for his criticisms of the Anti-Defamation League.

Elsewhere on Telegram other Irish fringe groups, some also with thousands of members, had no noticeable surge in antisemitic comments.

“Antisemitism in Ireland always been there, promoted and pushed by fringe groups and far right influencers,” a spokesperson for the Hope and Courage Collective, an Irish anti-bigotry group, told The Journal.

“Post-7th of October, antisemitic organisers are foregrounding their arguments and conspiracies in the context of the attacks in Gaza, which the vast majority of people in Ireland are repulsed by.

“Those promoting antisemitism are much more ‘masks off’.”

Similar searches in for words like “Arab” and “Muslim” in fringe Telegram groups did not produce such clear-cut results – though largely because some groups had been posting anti-Muslim content consistently since before 7 October.

Ciarán O’Connor told The Journal: “Far-right actors, both in Ireland and internationally, have mostly reacted to the conflict by exploiting the situation as an opportunity to share racist tropes that reinforce existing dehumanising and distrustful perspectives about Muslims, typically portraying these as inherently violent, and Jews, typically portraying these (in line with global Jewish conspiracies) as sinister, powerful and coercive.

“There have been instances too of far-right actors openly supporting or sympathising with Palestinians or Israelis affected by the conflict,” O’Connor said.

“But these are often purely superficial and insincere attempts to capitalise on the conflict as an opportunity to further denigrate Muslims or Jews.”

The conflict in Gaza has also led to further discord between rival Irish anti-immigration groups, with activists that have expressed pro-Israel comments being accused of being part of a “controlled opposition” — referring to protest movements set up by the political establishment to siphon support from more extreme groups. 

The same charge was also made against both The Irish Inquiry and, media outlets whose work has previously been shared in anti-immigration groups.

“Gript [are] making the case that Irish people shouldn’t be allowed to Criticise Jews or Israel for their behaviour in any way as it’s ‘anti-semitic’,” a post in an Irish antisemitic Telegram group alleges.

“The purpose of Gript [is the] same as all other controlled opposition. [It] is to suck you in, to lead you down the harmless path.”

The editor of had published pieces defending Israel and its actions in Gaza, both prior to and since 7 October. 

In the same Telegram group, Hermann Kelly, the leader of the Irish Freedom Party, was also accused of being “controlled opposition” for not criticising Israel.

Instead his account regularly posts content critical of Muslims, including one saying “Muslims are taught to hate, dominate or annihilate all non-muslims” next to a number of images, including one of a war scene with an Israeli flag.

Irish Telegram channels that carry antisemitic content often also include anti-Muslim messages. “Hamas are Islamists and no, we don’t want Islam or Arabs coming to Ireland,” one post that goes on to denounce “Jewish power” reads.

“There has been a noted trend towards increased Islamophobia and antisemitism in recent years,” concludes Dr Eileen Culloty, assistant professor in the DCU School of Communications and deputy director of the Institute for Media, Democracy and Society.

“Over that time, there have been intense debates about what is or isn’t Islamophobia or antisemitic,” she told The Journal. 

“When you combine those two trends with social media, which has no room for nuance or depth and privileges fast responses, the result is a complex mess.”