Fighting hate is all in a day's work posting for these Twitter warriors

They wake up at 6am and dive into cesspools to defend Jews against lies and abuse. But who are the people behind the Twitter handles?



When it comes to hunting down antisemitism within the Labour party, there is one Twitter account in particular that has led the charge, known only as @gnasherJew.

But in real life there is not just one person behind the account, but “four guys… former Labour party members”.

Originally, they were involved in “exposing far-right and Palestinian antisemitism”, but from the summer of 2016 they began to notice “the upswing in antisemitism coming from Labour members”, which led to them switching their focus towards antisemitism on the far left, setting up the @GnasherJew account in March 2017.

“The far right are far easier to deal with. They are blatant in their hatred of Jews. It’s coarse antisemitism,” they say, describing antisemitism on the left as “far more pernicious; it’s dressed up in a cloak of Soviet-style ‘anti-Zionism’.

“Left-wing antisemites, and especially the current leadership of the Labour Party, are intoxicated by their own piety.

“Their antisemitism is of the genteel Virginia Woolf type, not at all similar to the far right, who are honest in their hatred — if ‘honest’ is the right word.”

As former Labour members, they describe the current state of the party as “heartbreaking.

“We are faced daily with instances of horrific antisemitism which have been excused or ignored by the party.”

They are also unconvinced by the Labour party’s apparent attempts to rehabilitate members found guilty of making antisemitic comments by making them undergo training.

“We regularly see Labour members who have been for training, or who have apparently repented, in private Facebook forums still spouting vile antisemitism,” they said.

“The training has only served one purpose, to show them how to hide their racism better.”

It’s not easy work and it requires a great deal of time.

The people behind the account describe the number of hours they have spent monitoring online antisemitism as “incalculable. The four of us are monitoring social media accounts virtually every waking hour.”

It’s also not always rewarding. Although they “have some fantastic support on Twitter and Facebook”, they admit that “the violent threats and constant abuse from trolls is tiresome”.

So why do they do it?

“We are the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors and victims,” they say. “There isn’t much more of an explanation needed than that, really.”

Simon Myerson

Simon Myerson joined Twitter in 2012. The 55-year-old is a busy barrister but he has tweeted over 44,000 times, a lot of which has been about antisemitism.

Mr Myerson, who uses the Twitter handle @SCynic1, joined the platform originally to talk about the legal profession and to keep up with the news.

He noticed that the antisemitism got worse in 2016 after Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader.

“I would never have dreamed there would be a time in my life when I would be spending my time challenging antisemitism online. But I can’t stand by without saying something,” he says.

“I didn’t decide to do it, it just started to happen. Twitter always had its far-right neo-Nazis screaming into the void because it is the only place anyone would listen, but I started seeing it from people on the left who were using their anti-Zionism to disguise their antisemitism.”

Mr Myerson says he became shocked to see people he thought of as otherwise “sensible”, repeating things that were “obvious antisemitism. “If they examined what they were saying they would be horrified, but they weren’t, they were just parroting things they had heard.”

According to Mr Myerson, who lives in Leeds and finds the time to challenge antisemites during his breakfast coffee, “there is no coming back” for people who are silent about the antisemitism they see online.

“You start asking the question ‘what did you do in the war?’”

He says it is impossible for him to see antisemitism online and not say something, but sometimes that means he becomes the focus of a “pile on”, whereby someone he has challenged invites their followers to attack him.

“I don’t find it frightening, but I understand that some people do. I still do it because I think, however unlikely, there is always a chance of a debate. I always work on the basis that it can happen.”

His family are less convinced by the amount of time he devotes to the cause.

“I get a lot of aggravation. If I have a very busy day it is not the sort of thing I can devote hours to, but I can spend up to four or five hours in the day [on Twitter].”

Despite his commitment, he has no problem taking a Twitter break on Shabbos and during the Yomtovim. “Some people feel the urge to look at what is happening. I certainly don’t.”

Marlon Solomon

When Marlon Solomon joined Twitter in 2010, it was to promote the plays he was in and to talk about theatre.

But today, the 39-year-old actor from Manchester, who goes by the Twitter handle @supergutman, has come to use the social media platform for fighting antisemitism.

“Originally I found Twitter quite boring… But in 2016 I started to notice a rise of antisemitism on Facebook.”

He says that shortly after Mr Corbyn was elected as leader of the Labour party “the typical conspiracy theories about Jews were being shared by people on my feed… they were my peers.

“I felt like I had fallen into a sewer of vile antisemitism and Holocaust denial.”

It was then that he begun to use his profile to “highlighting the antisemitism I was seeing on the wider left”.

Mr Solomon uses his profile to engage in debate with people who might have “unknowingly or ignorantly” shared antisemitic content because he thinks he might be able to change their mind.

“There are people on Twitter who are unashamedly antisemitic and they feed off you responding to them, so I tend not to engage with those accounts.

“But I have had some positive interactions with people who I disagree with politically but have come to help them understand antisemitism.”

Mr Solomon has more than 3,000 followers and his timeline is almost entirely devoted to challenging antisemitism or conversations about it.

The actor, who is currently touring with his show A Lizard’s Tale, which is about the conspiracy theories he challenges, says he likes to use humour wherever possible encourage debate.

“I do it mostly because it keeps me sane but sometimes anger gets the better of me. It is hard to work out who is arguing with you in good faith.”

Spending hours of the day arguing with racists can take its toll and Mr Solomon insists it is essential “to take breaks.

“It can be really unhealthy and distressing, and sometimes it is hard not to come away from Twitter thinking ‘so many people hate Jews’.”

One plus side is the support he gets from others who use their profiles in the same way. “People come up to me if I see them in real life and say, ‘I’m David360 from Twitter’ and that is really nice.”

Euan Philipps

Euan Philipps is the spokesperson and one of the founding members of the group @LabourAgainstAS.

He spends hours every day using the account to highlight antisemitism. He does the same on his personal account, @EuanPhilipps, which he set up in 2016.

But Mr Philipps is not Jewish. The 40-year-old Labour member set up the group with Jewish and non-Jewish Labour members in order to protest against Jackie Walker, the suspended Labour activist.

“She was taking her show around the UK and we started sending emails to people who were hosting her, drawing attention to the fact she had been suspended over antisemitism.

“We always thought it would be an anonymous group until someone leaked our letter to her and she posted about us on her social media.”

Mr Philipps says the group quickly turned into an investigations unit set up to report instances of antisemitism within the Labour party.

“We have a small team that spends hours on the research. At first I would get involved in a lot more interaction and debating but we don’t do so much of that any more.”

He says he goes online mostly to promote stories of antisemitism as they appear in the media, so that people “don’t think this is a niche issue that they don’t have to worry about. We don’t want these people in our party.”

Since joining Twitter, Mr Philipps, who joined the Labour party in 1996, has left a job in communications to study for a MA in political communication at Goldsmiths University. “Before 2016 I was the kind of Labour member to have sat in meetings and voiced opinions on Israel and Palestine that were probably quite questionable.

“It was just that lazy Labour attitude to the subject.”

It was after talking to Jewish members about their experiences and how they felt that he started to notice a real problem.

Gillian Lazarus

Gillian Lazarus, a retired 69-year-old grandmother of four is not on social media much during the day, but goes on at night “often until 2am”. Her speciality: documenting antisemitism on Labour party Facebook forums.

She says she’s “always been Labour”, but saw a major shift after Mr Corbyn’s 2015 election as leader, describing some of his online supporters as being “like the BNP on speed.

“I did not anticipate how quickly the left’s obsession with Israel would enter the party’s bloodstream, but there it was, a kind of sepsis, thriving on old Rothschild and Protocols fantasies and modern demonisation of Israel.”

She created two new Facebook accounts under false names and joined online Labour Party forums, describing them as “characterised by an almost constant outpouring of material about evils perpetrated by Israel, Rothschilds, Labour Friends of Israel, JLM, Board of Deputies and the ‘Lobby’, which they think runs the Blairites and Tories they hate so much.”

She says that “occasionally” she does change minds.

“My impression is that my interlocutors are young Muslims, usually male. “On the Labour forums, the grossest antisemitism appears to come from elderly white people. They often mention their age as a kind of qualification.”

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