The Palestine Anti-Solidarity Movement: Spiked’s Coverage of Israel and Palestine PDF Print E-mail
Idrees Ahmad and David Miller, 14 July 2011

On 31 May 2010, Israeli commandos raided an aid flotilla in international waters off the coast of Gaza killing nine unarmed activists and injuring dozens more. Following worldwide condemnation, the Israeli authorities turned to a tried-and-tested strategy to limit the fallout: they blamed the victims.
 
The excessive use of force was justified on the grounds that the 600-plus passengers of the flotilla included alleged militant Islamists and ‘terrorists’ committed to destroying Israel. This explanation was unsurprising—and it had few takers beyond die-hard pro-Israel activists and friendly US media outlets. Less predictable however was the support it received from the self-styled contrarian Spiked magazine.

 
In a series of articles, Spiked writers have maligned activists using language as vituperative and categorical as the Israeli PR machine. The similarity between how the Israel lobby and Spiked describe the activists is remarkable: ‘a motley crew’ sporting a ‘weird mix of hippy, Islamist and imperialist sentiment,’ ‘a mish-mash of dinner-party liberals, radical Islamists and clapped-out left-wingers’, ‘Israel-bashers…European politicians, UN officials, left-wing activists, radical Islamists’)[1]. Neither is this an anomaly. Our investigation of Spiked’s output on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reveals that elision of context (illegal occupation, creeping colonization, indiscriminate violence) and an obsessive focus on activists’ presumed motives are a perennial feature of its coverage. It therefore becomes important to ask how Spiked can maintain a contrarian veneer while reinforcing the suppositions of power.
 
What is Spiked?
Spiked is a website set up in 2000 following the demise of its predecessor LM magazine, which was shut down after a libel action by Independent Television News following a dispute over its coverage of the war in Bosnia. LM had previously (until December 1996) been known as Living Marxism. Started in 1988, it was published by the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), an ultra-left organisation widely reviled on the rest of the left (both radical and reformist) because of its sectarianism and relentless attacks on the left itself, as opposed to its claimed enemies: capitalism and imperialism. Its positions, while sometimes having some purchase in the abstract, were often perceived as an indication that the RCP were objectively agent provocateurs. After the end of the Soviet bloc the party transformed itself, dropping Marxism in 1996—it thought the working class were not up to the job, thus the RCP dissolved them as an agent of history—along with the party name.[2] Between 1997 and 2000, the core of the party continued to organise together under the banner of LM magazine as a propaganda group promoting increasingly libertarian ideas. It has been well documented that they became very close to the libertarian right, opposing the green movement and allying with pro-corporate sceptics and Thatcherite free market think tanks on tobacco, climate, GM, food, alcohol and many other issues.[3]
 
Spiked emerged from the aftermath of the LM closure with another organisation called the Institute of Ideas; both remain based in the offices formerly occupied by Living Marxism/LM. They are still run by a core of interlocking personnel, almost all of whom were cadre of the RCP and include, in a variety of key roles, the former leader of the RCP and continuing guru, Frank Furedi, professor of Sociology at the University of Kent. This and the habit of creating a network of closely linked front groups, spin-offs and other ventures, with overlapping membership has led to them being dubbed the ‘LM network’.
 
They pursued and received corporate funding from the pharma, oil, food, alcohol  and other industries, including from Pfizer, Shell and Cadbury-Schweppes, whose activities are often criticised as harmful to public health and wellbeing or whose interests are threatened by activist campaigns. They also took support in cash or kind from controversial public relations firms such as Hill and Knowlton, Luther Pendragon and TechCentralStation.[4]
Spiked on Israel 2007-2010
This article examines all Spiked coverage of Israel-Palestine between 1 June 2007 and 1 July 2010. Between 5 January 2009 and 1 July 2010, Spiked published twenty-four articles falling into the Israel and Palestine category of its website. In addition to this, between 1 June 2007 and 1 July 2010, Spiked published at least a further nine articles also discussing Israel and Palestine archived elsewhere on its website.
 
Twenty-nine of this total of thirty-three articles were written by regular contributors to Spiked, namely commissioning editor, Nathalie Rothschild (twelve articles); editor, Brendan O’Neill (nine articles); senior writer, Tim Black (three); founder, Mick Hume (two); founder of the Revolutionary Communist Party, Frank Furedi (two); and Living Marxism contributor and Culture Wars contributor, Philip Cunliffe (one). The remaining four were written by four other individuals, not regular contributors. We also refer to a few other articles published on Spiked or written by Spiked authors in this analysis.
 
The articles reveal some common themes and a consistency in framing:
(1) the Palestinians are mostly missing from the picture;
(2) the focus is on the perceived motivations of solidarity activists, which are deemed suspect (narcissistic if not anti-Semitic);
(3)  the activism is framed as ‘anti-Israel’ rather than as ‘pro-Palestinian’;
(4)  Israel is presented as the real victim besieged by Western activists, subject to unjust censure, facing the threat of military intervention;
(5)  critics of the Israel lobby are presented as closet anti-Semites, their arguments caricatured;
(6) frequent references are made to Palestine solidarity activists as the ‘anti-Israel lobby’;
(7)  Palestine solidarity activists and critics of Israel are vilified using the Israel lobby’s ‘New Anti-Semitism’ charge which equates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism;
(8) the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS) is disparaged as hypocritical and anti-Semitic; and
(9) Palestinians are only peripheral to the analysis of Israeli current affairs, national psyche, defence strategy and so on.
 
In the next sections we examine the missing Palestinians, the straw man arguments of Spiked, its ‘anti-imperialist’ imperialism, its argument on boycott, divestment and sanctions, and the charge of anti-Semitism.
 
The Missing Palestinians
Much of Spiked’s commentary appears to focus on civil-society’s response to the conflict rather than the conflict itself. The commentary is presented as a radical critique of the excesses of the ‘anti-war lobby’ (a description that suggests institutional power) and of ‘anti-Israel’—not ‘pro-Palestinian’—activists (a description that would no doubt be welcomed at the Israeli embassy). Indeed, Palestinians figure only rarely in these articles. Because these activists are ‘anti-Israel’ rather than ‘pro-Palestinian’, they are motivated by many things, but not concern for the Palestinians. Spiked editor Brendan O’Neill, bemoans the ‘transformation of Israel into the whipping boy of a motley crew of Western moral entrepreneurs’ and he wants ‘nothing to do with the orgy of moralism directed at Israel.’[5]
 
Thus the symbolic attempt to break the siege of Gaza using aid ships becomes, for O’Neill, ‘a pompous, moralistic armada, fuelled by the self-righteousness of Western and Islamist activists keen to advertise their superiority over the new pariah state of the chattering classes: Israel.’ He describes it as ‘a physical manifestation of the shallow Israel-bashing that has become utterly unexceptional and uniform in respectable Western circles’. It combined ‘the narcissism, self-promotion, pro-interventionism and, ultimately, the pro-imperialist bent to the anti-Zionism that is now widespread in polite society.’[6] ‘The narcissism,’ he writes, ‘is captured in the fact that one of the ships is called the MV Rachel Corrie, named after the 23-year-old American activist who became a hero of the Western liberal media after she was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer during a Palestinian-pity trip to the West Bank in 2003.’[7]
 
O’Neill sees no reason to assume that the activists would be courting danger to assist Palestinians suffering under an Israeli siege. For him they were merely engaged in ‘naked self-promotion, the cynical depiction of oneself as a superior, humane, international-law-abiding citizen by standing, Kate Winslet-style, on the deck of a ship that is Against Israel.’ O’Neill even cites a scheduled discussion at the Hay Festival between the Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell (a survivor of the flotilla raid) and Jon Snow of Channel Four News on the topic ‘Palestinian humanitarian odyssey’ as evidence of the ‘respectability of contemporary anti-Israel rage.’[8]
 
O’Neill’s language also strongly implies that anti-Zionism is illegitimate and therefore out of place in ‘European polite society.’ He bemoans the fact that ‘[c]riticism of the “Zionist state” is widespread, not only in Arab regimes but throughout polite society in Europe.’ Worse, this ‘anti-Israel lobby’ has also won the backing of ‘academics, the serious media and the liberal bourgeoisie.’Without a hint of irony he adds, ‘[e]veryone talks about the siege of Gaza, but a more profound problem today is the intellectual, moral siege of Israel by the Respectable World.’[9]
 
A similar tack is taken by Spiked’s most prolific contributor on Israel and Palestine, Nathalie Rothschild, who replicates both O’Neill’s stance and his disparaging terminology. For her, the flotilla was a ‘self-serving political stunt’ orchestrated by ‘a motley crew of left-wing activists, politicians, writers and Islamists.’ She was equally contemptuous of the ‘narcissism-fuelled’ ‘fancy-dress protest in London’ during Israel’s December 2008-January 2009 assault on Gaza. For her it is ‘a vestige of diversity politics,’ a form of ‘spurious cultural affinity,’ by people who have ‘grown up in a society which encourages difference and cultural particularity.’ It seems, she writes, that ‘many Westerners on these marches are creating their own private Gazas – a place in which their disillusions are played out in the most nightmarish form possible.’[10] There are many explanations for the citizens’ protest it would seem, but not outrage over the conditions in Gaza.
Straw men and Insults
Presenting pro-Palestinian activists in the worst possible light, O’Neill often invents straw men and invariably couches his apologia for Israel in faux anti-imperialist rhetoric. For example, in several instances he alleges that activists are either calling for the ‘military invasion’ of Israel or are making such an invasion inevitable through their ‘Israel bashing.’[11] No examples of such calls are given of course, nor does he say which Western imperialist state he expects to lead the invasion. O’Neill also found similar bloodlust among activists following the flotilla incident, which ‘shows that some are extremely keen that their fashionable disgust with Israel be backed up by brute sanction or physical force.’[12] However, O’Neill provides no evidence of any activist calling for the use of physical force. The only thing that comes close is a Guardian editorial wishing that NATO, which was sending ships to protect the Somali shore from pirates, could do the same to protect the Gazan shore. He continues: ‘They are effectively demanding the punishment of Israel to satisfy their own puffed-up moral outrage against what they have decreed to be the World’s No.1 Pariah State.’[13]The source of the moral outrage—the flotilla killings—somehow escapes his attention.
 
Where facts fail, Spiked writers resort to wild allegations. For example, O’Neill finds the Israeli assault on the unarmed activists understandable because the flotilla ‘was powered by an underlying desire for Western punishment of Israel.’ For O’Neill, these were ‘fundamentally hostile boats – no, not because they purportedly harbour weaponry for Hamas or are packed with wannabe suicide bombers (though some on the boats have expressed their desire for martyrdom), but because they represent, fundamentally, the existential anti-Israel outlook that has manifested itself in the West in recent years. There is no nation on Earth that would not be at least concerned about the arrival of an intervention-demanding force near its shores.’[14]O’Neill does not say how a post-facto demand for protection of civilians by the Guardian’s editors turns independent activists into an ‘intervention-demanding force’.
 
Spiked’s description of pro-Palestinian activism is consistently disparaging and vitriolic. For O’Neill, it ‘poses as a political movement but is in fact more like a Two Minutes Hate against Israel.’ The same themes also pervade the writings of other Spiked contributors. Israel’s critics are paradoxically both pro-imperialist warmongers and ‘peace-loving’, ‘human rights-loving peaceniks,’ who, if Western, are invariably ‘narcissistic.’ During Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza in 2008-2009, O’Neill reserved his ire for protesters because they ‘fantastically and narcissistically believe that an attack on Gaza is an attack on them.’ For Natalie Rothschild and Tim Black, as well, narcissism explains why activists commit time, energy and, in the case of the flotilla, also blood and treasure to alleviate Palestinian suffering.[15]
 
Borrowing a page from Israeli propaganda, Rothschild referred to activists on the Gaza flotilla as ‘the self-appointed freedom fighters’ among whom ‘some reportedly expressed a desire to become ‘martyrs’, others had political and literary careers to further, and others had hungry egos to feed.’ For O’Neill, these activists were driven ‘not because they really care for Palestinian freedom’ but because they wanted ‘Israel reprimanded, sanctioned and possibly even invaded’ and ‘in order to have their identities validated and their moral convictions ratified.’ Having thus intuited their inner motives, O’Neill pronounced: ‘The narcissism is astounding.’[16]
 
Anti-imperial Imperialist
For O’Neill, solidarity with Palestinians is ‘a screech of moralism against Israel which relies very heavily on Western imperialist ideas.’ It is a ‘guise’ under which ‘[s]ome very dubious arguments, emanating from a motley crew of organisations, are being promoted’.[17] His modus operandi is to first conflate global solidarity action with Western imperialism and then to denounce it for its alleged ‘pro-Western, pro-militaristic’ sentiment. No mention is made of what the activists actually think of Western militarism or interventions. No distinction is made between people and states, and citizen action is presented as state intervention. Thus to pressure Western governments into withholding their military, economic and diplomatic support for Israel is to assume that ‘the West is fundamentally an honest, decent broker in world affairs.’ It is to create a ‘simplistic black-and-white framework in which [activists] get to pose as decent, morally unimpeachable citizens against the evilness of that demented rogue, Israel.’[18] In other words, citizens need not demand better behaviour from their government because it isn’t already behaving perfectly. In another sleight of hand, O’Neill disparages the suggestion that Benjamin Netanyahu be tried for war crimes because it will rely on one of the ‘powerful institutions of the West.’ But the International Criminal Court, signatories of which include 114 states (with the US notably absent), is seen by O’Neill as an instrument of the West precisely because it does not prosecute Western clients like Netanyahu.[19]
 
If Palestinians don’t figure at all in O’Neill’s analysis it is perhaps because he has higher concerns. Recent criticism of Israeli action by US and British leadership, and an off-hand comment by a French diplomat at a party in 2003, is, for O’Neill, evidence that anti-Israel activism is having an effect, even though he acknowledges that the West ‘still pumps billions of dollars into that state and provides it with arms.’ ‘Militarily, some Western governments still back Israel,’ he writes, ‘yet on the other hand they prop up their own moral authority by joining in the chorus of criticism of the Jewish state.’ He therefore warns anti-war activists to ‘rethink the nature of their campaigning on Israel’ lest they encourage the West to invade Israel![20]
 
Spiked appears to implicitly accept Western governments’ appropriation of key words and phrases, and condemns efforts to restore the association between words and their meanings. Thus, John Pilger is condemned for proposing that Israel be declared a ‘rogue state’ because the label has been used by the West to demonize states ‘Over There’. To use the label is, for O’Neill, to affirm the superiority of the West over ‘Them’.[21]This would indeed be true if Pilger were passing judgment while identifying as a representative of the British State (or his native Australia). But Pilger couching his argument strictly in International Law (hence his preference for ‘criminal state’).[22] Nor does he treat Israel as a state ‘Over There’. Indeed, he treats Israel as a state just like Britain, which he has also described in exactly the same terms—as a ‘criminal state’.[23]
 
O’Neill then adds:
 
In borrowing Western imperialist terminology, and explicitly demanding that Western governments stop dealing with the "rogue state" of Israel, antiwar activists implicitly bolster the idea that the West should be the moral arbiter of events in the Middle East and of world affairs more broadly. [24]
 
By foregrounding an apparent distaste for ‘Western imperialist terminology’, O’Neill of course cleverly elides the nature of the ‘dealing with the “rogue state” of Israel’, which includes multi-billion annual subsidies, advanced weaponry, preferential trade deals, and diplomatic immunity—in short, the means which sustain Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territories. O’Neill is thus able to present calls for an end to US-European military and diplomatic support for Israel as ‘accept[ing] the authority of Washington, London or Paris’.[25]
 
This was not the first time that Spiked had attacked Pilger over his coverage of Israel. In another case, outside the sample period we used—in 2006—Pilger was attacked for raising the issue of the damaging effect of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian children.[26] ‘There was a time’, O’Neill wrote, ‘when something like the Israeli army’s incursions into Gaza would have been slammed by left-wing activists and commentators on the basis that they undermine Palestinians’ democratic rights’ or as ‘an affront to the idea of Palestinian self-determination.’ ‘Today, however’, he writes, ‘the focus of pro-Palestinian activists seems to be shifting, from campaigning for Palestinians’ democratic rights to campaigning for them to be protected from the psychological harm and post-traumatic stress disorder’.
 
Pilger’s crime was to describe how the ‘vulnerable people’ of Gaza are ‘suffering the worst acute mental and physical trauma as a result of Israel’s actions’. Palestinians are viewed, says O’Neill, ‘less as citizens who would be more than capable of running their own affairs if given the chance, and more as basket cases, “damaged goods”, the vulnerable children of the world who need the help and protection of the UN, NGOs and armies of therapists from the West.’ 
 
Concern for the negative effects of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian children is, according to O’Neill, tantamount to ‘the transformation of Palestinians into children’, which ‘undermines every old argument for Palestinian liberation.’
 
Of course, it is simply false to say that journalists such as Pilger have stopped calling in the clearest of possible terms for Palestinian rights. This appears to be recognised by O’Neill since he opens a recent column for The Australian with a quote from Pilger:‘Until the Palestinians are given back their rights we’re going to have instability throughout the Middle East.’[27]
Against BDS and International Law
Spiked writers have frequently attacked the international civil-society campaign that seeks boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel (BDS) following the precedent of the South African Anti-Apartheid Movement. As in the previous case, this civil society campaign seeks to hold Israel accountable in lieu of efforts by the UN to enforce Israeli compliance with international law. Frank Furedi lists this campaign as an example of the ‘new anti-Semitism’ that is infecting the West.[28]
 
For Tim Black, both the BDS campaign and the earlier Anti-Apartheid Movement were ‘both born of narcissism,’ and ‘the ultimate horizon of such narcissistic solidarity with spectacles of suffering is the boycott.’ He dismisses the notion that sanctions played a part in ending apartheid, a notion which, he insists, only exists ‘in the narcissistic fantasy world of the contemporary anti-war protester.’[29] To present the activists as hypocritical naïfs, straw man arguments are marshalled once again. Thus, Nathalie Rothschild writes of the protests occasioned by the Israeli assault on Gaza:
 
The main message of the demonstration was that the “international community” has a responsibility to step in, to take control of the situation and to punish Israel through sanctions or even military means. Ironically, the demonstration was co-organised by the Stop the War Coalition, which was formed in the run-up to the Iraq War to oppose Western intervention there. [30]
 
Brendan O’Neill extends the argument, noting that ‘[b]ehind the keffiyehs, behind the claims of being a peace movement, there lurks an ugly Western chauvinism…The great irony of today’s supposedly radical anti-Israel posturing is that it borrows so heavily from the language of contemporary Western imperialism, and pushes it even further than George W Bush ever dared,’ because ‘liberal commentators, left-wing activists, Islamists – are the same people who criticised the Bush regime for dividing the world into Us and Them, Good and Evil, Decent and Rogue. Yet the anti-Israel lobby does the same thing, only its pet rogue is Israel rather than Iraq…’[31]
 
Likewise, Tim Black asks ‘why, when British and American states are seen as the principal enemies in the eyes of those opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, would the same people seek the support of these states in opposition to Israel?’[32]
 
The assumption here is that Iraq in 2003 and Israel in 2008-2009 are two comparable situations and a variation in response therefore proves the hypocritical, perhaps anti-Semitic, motive of the protesters. By eliding context—including the fact that the West was hostile to Iraq whereas Israel is a favoured client state which relies on the West for economic, diplomatic and military support—Spiked writers obscure the fact that the aim of the activists in both cases was to oppose unjust wars and ensure compliance with international law.
There also appears to be a tacit acceptance of Israel’s claims on occupied Palestinian territory in equating the Guardian editor’s suggestion for NATO to protect the Gazan shore with a call for the invasion of Israel.
 
O’Neill also dismisses as ‘historically illiterate’ the ‘widespread attacks on Zionism as “expansionist and racist.”’ His own historical literacy however is hardly unimpeachable since he makes repeated reference to Moses Hess, a mid-19th century American Jewish leader who died in 1875, as a contemporary of Theodor Herzl. Herzl, the Austrian journalist, founded political Zionism in the last decade of the nineteenth century, suggesting O’Neill’s historical literacy is not beyond question.[33] O’Neill appears not to be aware of Israel’s discriminatory laws or its history of expansion from the 56 percent of historic Palestine allotted it in the UN partition plan to its present control over the whole of the territory and parts of Syria.
Anti-Semitism
As we have seen, Spiked writers are keen to echo the Israel lobby and the neoconservatives by labelling opposition to Israel’s human rights record or criticism of Zionism as the ‘new anti-Semitism’. Spiked writers are keen to imply that Palestine Solidarity activists are closet, or open, anti-Semites. As such, Frank Furedi accused George Galloway—then a British MP—of anti-Semitism for calling for a boycott of mobile retailer ‘Israel’ Shops. In his enthusiasm, Furedi mistakenly interpreted that as ‘Israel’s shops’. In a rare apology, published on his own website, Furedi notes:
 
In an article in The Australian newspaper, 15th January 2009, ‘Critics of Israel giving voice to anti-Semitism’, I stated that George Galloway, British MP for the Respect party, had called for a boycott of ‘Israel’s shops’ and that this meant that he was calling in practice for a boycott of Jewish shops. This was incorrect and I now understand that he was calling for a boycott of ‘Israel’ shops which is a mobile retailer operating in shopping malls and who sell Israeli goods and was not referring to ‘Israel’s shops’. I apologise to Mr Galloway for the mistake, and I withdraw the suggestion made in my article that he was showing or encouraging anti-Semitism in calling for this boycott. [34]
 
In another example, published on 19 January 2009, Furedi notes that:
 
recently, during a demonstration against Israel’s actions in Gaza, the Dutch Socialist Party MP Harry Van Bommel called for a new intifada against Israel. Of course he has every right to express this political viewpoint. However, he became an accomplice of anti-Semites when he chose to do nothing upon hearing chants of ‘Hamas, Hamas, all Jews to the gas’ and similar anti-Jewish slogans. Many people who should know better now keep quiet when they hear slogans like ‘Kill the Jews’ or ‘Jews to the oven’ on anti-Israel demonstrations.
 
He fails to note, however, that the politician concerned had—some four days previously—denied hearing any such thing.

Van Bommel told Haaretz he did not hear the calls, and that he'd have left had he heard them. "I was in front with a loudspeaker," he said. "They're saying people in the back shouted these things, but I never heard them."[35] 

As for the ‘many people’ who now apparently ‘keep quiet’ when such slogans are shouted, no specific demonstration or indeed country is mentioned and no evidence of any kind is produced.

The evidential basis appears not to worry those pursuing the LM network line. Thus, Irish journalist Jason Walsh, who has threatened legal action against those suggesting he is associated with the LM network,[36] has echoed the sentiments of Furedi, the guru of the network: ‘Anti-Zionist activists are… actually veering into anti-Semitism.’ Condemning the targeting of Marks and Spencer by BDS activists, he asks:

Why choose Marks and Spencer, though? … Marks and Spencer is not an ‘Israeli retailer’, it is a multinational enterprise. If a national label must be pinned on it then it is, in fact, British, not Israeli. In this case ‘Israeli retailer’ can mean nothing other than ‘Jewish retailer’. This is anti-Semitism.[37]

Of course the reason that protestors say they target Marks and Spencer (among other outlets) is for their political and economic support of Israel. Perhaps their research is mistaken and their information incorrect, but that is the reason the boycott campaigners give.[38]
Anti-imperialism Spiked?
Living Marxism, LM magazine and then, from 2000, Spiked and the Institute of Ideas, have always, however, prided themselves on their anti-imperialism. They called for unconditional support for liberation movements including the Irish Republican movement, though they were also dismissive of the liberation movements themselves, regarding them as petit bourgeois nationalists
 
Their anti-imperialism was the only vestige of an apparently left wing position remaining after a headlong rush to embrace a kind of sub-Atlas Shrugged celebration of risk taking by wealth makers and criticising actual capitalists and neoliberal governments for being ‘cowardly’ and not being capitalist enough.[39] Now it seems from the evidence we present here, that this last vestige of a sort of progressive politics is on the way out. All that is left is an ultra-free-market libertarianism and—in the end—an obeisance to great power.
 
Given Spiked’s dubious position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the curious politics of the LM network in general, of which Spiked is a part, it is odd to see it treated by some prominent leftists as a legitimate anti-establishment voice. Its columnists, such as Brendan O’Neill, are published in such anti-war publications as The American Conservative, Antiwar.com, and even The Big Issue. Its response to the Israeli assault on Gaza and the aid flotilla killings are symptomatic of its broader politics. It appropriates the language of the left for an assault on the left. Its concerns are not the concerns of the left; its concerns are the way that the left goes about its concerns. Its terms of opprobrium are borrowed from the right. It presents its attack on the causes that the left espouses as a critique of the tactics of the left.
 
Its response to the Israeli assault on Gaza and the aid flotilla is instructive. It responded to the first by presenting Israel as a victim and hosting a symposium of writers, including some from the Israel lobby, to debate contemporary anti-Semitism. It responded to the latter by maligning the activists aboard the flotilla, impugning their motives, dismissing their action as ‘stunts’, and suggesting that they had it coming because they were ‘fundamentally hostile boats.’ One might be forgiven for believing from some of Spiked’s article headlines following the two incidents that one had stumbled onto the website of the Israeli embassy.[40]
 


Acknowledgement
We thank Kyle McCallum for research support on this article.
Notes
[1] Brendan O’Neill, ‘Gaza flotilla: invasion of the moral armada,’ Spiked, 2 June 2010; Brendan O’Neill, ‘The antithesis of anti-imperialism,’ Spiked, 6 January 2009.
[2] Dave Renton, ‘The new socialism of fools,’ DKRenton.co.uk, 7 February 2006; Renton, ‘Living Marxism, spiked online and the RCP,’ DKRenton.co.uk, 4-8 March 2006.
[3]George Monbiot, ‘Far Left or Far Right?: Living Marxism’s interesting allegiances,’ Prospect, 1 November 1998;George Monbiot, ‘Flying Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ The Guardian, 13 January 2009;  Jenny Turner, Who Are They?, London Review of Books, 8 July 2010; Helge Ogrim, ‘Battle of Ideas, is the Revolutionary Communist Party still the vanguard?’ Norwegian Affairs, 6 November 2010.
[4] Spiked ‘Sponsorship packages’, http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/about/article/340/
[9] References in this paragraph: O’Neill, ‘The antithesis of anti-imperialism,’ op cit.; Brendan O’Neill, ‘The politics of anti-Zionism,’ Spiked, 19 January 2009; Brendan O’Neill, ‘What the Israel-bashers learned from Bush,’ Spiked, 7 June2010; O’Neill, ‘Gaza flotilla: invasion of the moral armada,’ op cit.
[10] Nathalie Rothschild, ‘The Flotilla Wars: one stunt begets another,’ Spiked, 10 June 2010; Nathalie Rothschild, ‘Creating their own private Gazas,’ Spiked, 14 January 2009.
[11] For example, as mentioned earlier, O’Neill talks of ‘the transformation of Israel into the whipping boy of a motley crew of Western moral entrepreneurs’ (O’Neill, ‘Gaza flotilla: invasion of the moral armada,’ op cit.), and states that ‘European politicians, UN officials, left-wing activists […] want Israel reprimanded, sanctioned and possibly even invaded’ (O’Neill, ‘What the Israel-bashers learned from Bush,’ op cit.).
[13] Loc cit.
[14] Loc cit.
[15] Brendan O’Neill, ‘Whose war is it anyway?,’ Spiked, 5 January 2009; Rothschild, ‘The Flotilla Wars: one stunt begets another,’ op cit.; Tim Black, ‘Sanctions did not liberate South Africa,’ Spiked, 14 January 2009.
[17] O’Neill, ‘The antithesis of anti-imperialism,’ op cit.
[18] Brendan O'Neill, ‘Rethinking the Antiwar Movement’s Israel Campaign,’ Antiwar.com, 13 August 2010.
[22] John Pilger, John Pilger on why he believes Israel is now a rogue state,The Mirror, 2 June 2010.
[23] See, for example, John Pilger, ‘War Comes Home to Britain,’ Antiwar.com, 5 March 2009.
[26] John Pilger, The war on children, New Statesman, 19 June 2006.
[27]Brendan O’Neill,Palestine an obsession of radical West, not Arabs,’ The Australian, 16 February 2011.
[28] Frank Furedi, ‘What's behind the “new anti-Semitism”?FrankFuredi.com, 6 March 2007.
[30] Nathalie Rothschild, ‘Rage against the Zionist Machine,’ Spiked, 7 June 2010.
[34] Frank Furedi, ‘An apology to George Galloway MP’, First published by Frank Furedi.com, 9 February 2009.
[35] Cnaan Liphshiz, ‘Dutch MP: I never heard Gaza protesters shouting “Jews to the gas”’, Haaretz, 15 January 2009.
[36]The reporting of the threats has now been removed from the internet, though a record of the original posting is available on Walsh’s Facebook page for Forth magazine.
[37] Jason Walsh, ‘Boycott Israeli Gays?’, Forth, 13 June 2010.
[38]For the Boycott Israel campaign’s reasons for targeting Marks and Spencer, see: http://www.inminds.com/boycott-marks-and-spencer.html
[39] An argument originated by the guru of the network, Frank Furedi who notes that 'what has been most striking about our recent era', has been the 'feeble moral, cultural and intellectual support that capitalism has enjoyed' ('Capitalism after the ‘credit crunch’: what is it good for? On capitalism’s half-hearted advocates and misanthropic critics.' First published by spiked, 30 October 2008 http://www.frankfuredi.com/index.php/site/article/259/). Furedi's arguments have been recycled in numerous books and articles by his followers - for example in Daniel Ben-Ami's (2001) Cowardly Capitalism, which argued against the regulation of international financial markets.
[40] See, for example, ‘After Gaza: what’s behind 21st-century anti-semitism,’ (Frank Furedi), ‘The politics of anti-Zionism,’ (Brendan O’Neill), ‘Creating their own private Gazas,’ (Nathalie Rothschild), ‘Sanctions did not liberate South Africa,’ (Tim Black), ‘Gaza is not Warsaw,’ (Nathalie Rothschild), ‘The antithesis of anti-imperialism,’ (Brendan O’Neill), ‘Whose war is it anyway?,’ (Brendan O’Neill), ‘Israel, Gaza and the politics of victimhood’ (Philip Cunliffe), ‘The Flotilla Wars: one stunt begets another,’ (Nathalie Rothschild), ‘What the Israel-bashers learned from Bush,’ (Brendan O’Neill), ‘Rage Against The Zionist Machine,’ (Nathalie Rothschild), ‘Gaza flotilla: invasion of the moral armada,’ (Brendan O’Neill), ‘The left must stand up to anti-Semitism,’ (Philip J Spencer), ‘Muslim alienation in the UK? Blame the Israelis!’ (Frank Furedi), ‘Yesterday’s anti-Zionism is today’s anti-Semitism,’ (Mark Gardner) and ‘Gaza and the White Journalist’s Burden,’ (Brendan O’Neill).