Israel Advocacy Movement insists it held debate with neo-Nazi 'to show how evil' far-right is

Pro-Israel group was criticised after it hosted a debate titled 'should Zionists support a white ethno state?' with far-right activist Mark Collett


A pro-Israel group has insisted a controversial debate it hosted with a neo-Nazi was done to show the world "how evil" his movement is.

The Israel Advocacy Movement was criticised after it hosted a debate with far-right activist Mark Collett, entitled “should Zionists support a white ethno state?”, which was broadcast on YouTube on Tuesday.

The Israel Advocacy Movement’s founder Joseph Cohen, who hosted the debate, said the decision to do so had been a "learning curve” after it attracted such a “volume and ferocity of anti-Jewish racism” that it was taken down by YouTube.

Some people on social media said the Israel Advocacy Movement had been used by the far right to spread hate.

One person tweeted: “I know you're all about engaging with everyone, but they are dangerous, harmful and shouldn't be given a platform or access to your followers.”

Journalist Oz Katerji said the video was “a new low for the Israel Advocacy Movement, as they platform a literal neo-Nazi to debate support for a 'White ethno-state'. This is an utter disgrace.”

Mr Cohen said: “We do understand that some might disagree with giving - or indeed sharing - a platform with racists. This was not done in partnership with them but to show the world how evil they are.

“We will take any lessons learned on board, without shying away from the central need to confront and expose the hate.”

He said the views expressed in the debate and by the audience were unlike “anything we’ve experienced in over a decade, the views were so extreme they violated YouTube content guidelines, so the video was removed”.

He defended the decision to share a platform with Mr Collett, who is a former chairman of the youth wing of the BNP and a director of publicity for the party.

Last year, the Anti-Defamation League labelled Mr Collett a "white supremacist". According to anti-racism campaigners Hope Not Hate, he has claimed a "white genocide" is taking place in Britain.

Raphi Bloom, from North West Friends of Israel, took part in the debate but said he was "shocked by the extreme level of antisemitism coming from the far right" and went to leave "nce it descended into the fantasy world of Jewish conspiracy theories".

“I believe very strongly in taking on and challenging antisemites and those who hate Israel wherever possible in public forums. I have done this with Miko Peled and regularly appear on RT and on other media to debate and oppose those who implacably hate us," he said. 

"Often we find amongst those who are watching these debates many neutrals or people who don’t have a strong opinion either way and it is to those people I wish to reach out by telling the truth about Jews and Israel and exposing their lies and hate."

He said the debate with Mr Collett "proved just what a physical danger they would be to Jews - and indeed any minority - should they come to power".

“I felt that during the time I was on I managed to get across the truth about Israel as the liberal democracy it is and also expose the hate towards Jews of the far right," he added.

"I commend the IAM for attempting this debate and whilst the comments where hugely hateful it has at the very least shown us what a danger the far right is and we must share that widely.”

Mr Cohen said: "It is our firm belief that whenever we are given the opportunity to publicly challenge and expose the hate, lies and antisemitism of either the left or the right we should take it.

"If we do not then these people are free to air their odious and evil views in an unchallenged manner.”

Mr Cohen said the intention had been to expose Mr Collett to those who were "neutral or undecided", saying he had hoped they would "hear the truth from us and the explicit hate from the other side”.

Mr Cohen said the debate, which was livestreamed online on Tuesday but is no longer available for viewing since its removal from YouTube, showed “how dangerous the far right would be for Jews, and indeed any minority, should they ever assume power.

“We must never stop telling the truth about Israel and Jews and Judaism.”

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