UK far-right extremist reactions to the Israel-Palestine conflict

17 November 2023

The ongoing Israel-Gaza crisis has emerged as an unprecedented flashpoint within the decades-long context of the conflict. Concerns about the conflict inspiring violent reprisals and revenge attacks internationally have prompted increased analysis of Islamist extremist reactions to events in Gaza, as well as analysis on the rise in antisemitism that often follows in the wake of military action by Israel. However, there has been less analysis of the response from far-right extremist networks – which contain both antisemitic and Islamophobic elements. In the UK, we have seen far-right networks engaging with ongoing events and reducing the conflict war into three simplistic narratives: anti-Muslim, antisemitic and anti-migration hostility. 

This is characteristic of a far-right that can be split into three broad categories. Cultural nationalists believe ‘Western culture’ is under threat from mass migration and a lack of integration by certain ethnic and cultural groups, and they predominantly frame this through an anti-Muslim lens. Ethno-nationalists are more animated by migration from ‘non-white’ populations and agitate for a white ethno-state, including by forced repatriation. Accordingly, their views are more influenced by the threat of migration than any specific race or religion, but the ideology is closer to white supremacy than cultural nationalism. White supremacists are those who believe white people are facing an existential threat; their views most closely align with those of the Nazis and are therefore immersed in conspiracies that target Jews as malevolent actors.   

Patriotic Alternative

Patriotic Alternative (PA) is arguably the most popular and influential far-right movement in the UK. Its origins lie in the fusion of the traditional white supremacy of the British National Party (BNP) and more recent white nationalist narratives promoted by Identitarian movements. While its success lies in the ability to package extremist rhetoric into an accessible narrative for mainstream audiences as well as its professionally organised group structure. PA has made no secret of its political ambitions, but its core mission is to influence what is acceptable and palatable in routine public discourse to creating a socio-political environment more tolerant of the white nationalist and Identitarian ideology. 

On 19 October 2023, almost 2 weeks after the Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel, we saw the first mention of the conflict on PA’s website. Their narrative is two-fold: white supremacist talking points are personified by a distinct anti-Israel stance and ethno-nationalist perspectives are promoted through their opposition to any migration that might occur as a result of the conflict. 

The first article was titled Taking Our Own Side and while they urge caution in commenting due to the volume of misinformation online, PA are firmly opposed to Israeli actions and accuse Israel of ethnically cleansing Gaza and the West Bank as the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) attacks Hamas. In order to bypass online misinformation, they recommend three individuals to follow for updates on the conflict: Keith Woods, Eric Striker and Warren Balogh. 

Keith Woods is an Irish YouTuber who and self-describes as a “raging antisemite”, while Eric Striker (who also goes by the name Joseph Gordon) is a white supremacist and co-founder of the US National Justice Party. He has written for a number of white supremacist outlets, including the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer. Warren Balogh is a white supremacist and secretary of the National Justice Party. His father is a former member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. Balogh recently flew to the UK as a guest speaker at PA’s Patriotic Alternative 2023 Conference in Derbyshire. 

On 20th October, PA posted another blog on their website titled Zionist Hypocrisy EXPOSED. This features a video by PA leader, and former Young BNP Chairman, Mark Collett as well as the full transcript of his talk. He accuses ‘Zionists’ of holding a “vastly disproportionate sway over Western governments and the Western media”.  

It is revealing that an organisation which purports to be white nationalist (who are historically strongly opposed to both Islam/Muslims and Judaism/Jews), has set out its stall on the Israel-Palestine conflict firmly against Israel and promotes white supremacists as voices of clarity. On the messaging app Telegram, one post by Mark Collett manages to condemn both the State of Israel and individual Muslims praying outside Downing Street with a message decrying the UK’s “slavish support for Israel and constant meddling in the Middle East”.

Figures 1 & 2: indicative Telegram posts by Mark Collett (16.9k subscribers) and Laura Towler (7.5k subscribers). Figure 3: screenshot from Patriotic Alternative website.

Laura Towler 

Another Patriotic Alternative member, Laura Towler, has been noticeably muted on Telegram regarding the conflict, potentially because the Hamas attack took place on the same weekend as the PA 2023 Conference. Much of her content relates to the conference, but in a series of since deleted posts, her first reference is on the evening of Sunday 8th October where she branded the decision to project the Israeli flag onto Downing Street as “vile”. 

She subsequently shared a post from Keith Woods accusing X (formerly Twitter) of becoming “a hotbed of Zionist misinformation”. She also posted a comment appearing to criticise comparisons between the Holocaust and the 7 October attack.  

There are multiple posts criticising the claims coming out of Israel and Gaza in relation to civilian deaths, but while there is explicit criticism or disdain for Israel (such as this post, pleased with the removal of Israeli flags from a town hall), there is no explicit criticism of Hamas or their atrocities. 

Identity England

Perhaps a sign of the weakening support for Identitarian and white nationalist movements in the UK, Identity England is technically a third iteration of Identitarians, formed in 2020 from the remnants of both The Identitarian Movement and Generation Identity UK. 

Coverage of the protests by Identity England has focused on the issues of immigration and Muslim populations in particular, with multiple references for the ‘decolonisation’ of England, an intentional allusion to the language of decolonisation more popular with left-wing narratives. 

Their first post was published on 8th October and is a repost from former For Britain candidate and self-proclaimed citizen journalist Steve Laws, making no judgement on the ‘sides’ of the conflict but warning that the impact of a Middle East conflict will also affect migration into European countries. 

This remains a theme in subsequent posts, with the focus very much on the migration and asylum impact of Middle East conflicts. Coverage of the first pro-Palestinian protests makes references to “floods” of “colonisers” and for a plea for the UK to stay out of Middle East affairs.  

One post of a pro-Palestinian protest refers to an “Islamic Jihad in Europe” and labels the protests across Europe as “pro Hamas mass demonstrations”. 

They post a warning of a three-stage “tragedy” in Europe that encompasses mass immigration, diversity and multiculturalism and ends in “a sea of blood”; this is likely an allusion to Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech 

Figures 4, 5 & 6: indicative posts from Identity England’s Telegram channel (3.1k subscribers).

Steve Laws

With over 50k followers on X, Steve Laws has significant reach amongst far-right networks and sympathisers. Based in Folkestone, Laws claims to “expose the truth” on immigration and the refugees and economic migrants who arrive in the UK by sea.  

In keeping with his predominant focus on migration, his posts regarding the conflict have placed foreign nationals and migrants at the centre of his animosity. One post referring to the releasing of mice in McDonald’s by a pro-Palestinian activist refers to staff who are either ‘native’ or ‘invaders’. 

In one post, he quotes a post by former BNP leader – and now a presenter on the far-right Templar Report show –  Nick Griffin that appears deeply antisemitic and anti-Muslim, referring to ‘Talmudists’, ‘Goyims’ and ‘takfiri fanatics’. 

However, the vast majority of Laws’ posts are acutely focused on migration, multiculturalism and ethno-nationalism and he is not drawn into the complexities of the conflict. 

Britain First

Britain First is a far-right political party in the UK that fuses street-based agitation such as mosque-invasions with political activism and protest. They promote a form of cultural nationalism that prioritises the defence of Christian values, particularly in opposition to the UK’s growing Muslim populations. Historically they have had limited electoral success, although a recent local election in Tamworth saw their candidate (and Britain First chairperson) Ashlea Simon, finish in fourth place ahead of the Liberal Democrats, Green Party and UKIP. On the surface it seems like significant progress, but it should be noted they received just 580 votes, while Labour and Conservatives received 11,710 and 10,403 respectively. Third place was the Reform UK party with 1,373. 

Paul Golding, the leader of Britain First, was jailed in 2018 for religiously-aggravated harassment against members of the Muslim community, and in 2022 was convicted of a terrorism offence for refusing to give police access to his phone upon his return from a Russian Parliament event for far-right political parties. 

With regards to the Israel-Hamas conflict, Golding has been relatively vocal over the past two weeks but unsurprisingly, and in contrast to Collett’s anti-Jewish narrative, Golding has focused on an anti-Muslim outlook. He has posted numerous images of Muslims praying in Downing Street and Parliament Square in solidarity with Palestinians with captions ranging from “This is London” to “London is Lost” and making comparisons with The Great Replacement conspiracy theory. His “London is Lost” post has so far received over 7M views. 

Prior to this, his output largely promotes negative imagery of Muslims and migrants, in particular the protests that were perceived to be celebratory in the immediate aftermath of the Hamas massacre, and before Israel had responded with force.  

The overwhelming majority of his X posts relate to the Belgium Islamist attack, pro-Palestinian protests, some of which he frames in their entirety as Hamas supporters, and even retweeting a post by a Britain First colleague promoting Enoch Powell that proclaims, “every single day this man is proven more right”. 

The anti-Muslim bias is prevalent in almost all of his posts regarding the conflict. In one tweet he highlights that Jewish schools in London had to close over fears for the safety of its pupils, but Golding’s post juxtaposes this with the faith and heritage of the current London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is a Pakistani Muslim. 

The Christian element to Britain First’s narrative is not especially prominent in the majority of their responses to the conflict, but is evident in one post by Ashlea Simon which states, “Only Jesus Christ can bring peace to the Middle East” accompanied by an image of Jesus holding the hands of child representations of Israel and Palestine.  

Figures 7 & 8: posts shared on X by Paul Golding (144.4k followers). Figure 9: post by UK Justice Forum (71k followers). Figure 10: post by Ashlea Simon (57k followers)

Knights Templar International

Jayda Fransen is a former member of Britain First and like Paul Golding, received a criminal conviction for inciting racial hatred in 2018. Fransen has since joined Knights Templar International (KTI), a far-right organisation with offices in the US and UK. In the UK it employs Fransen as a presenter on its show, the Templar Report. Their X account has 14.5k followers. 

KTI are primarily framing their Israel-Hamas narratives through a Christian lens, but the posts are noticeably more anti-Israel than they are anti-Hamas. Interestingly, they post (anti-Israel) misinformation gleaned from a website called Middle East Eye.1  

While the account does post anti-Muslim content it does not relate to the conflict. 

Paul Joseph Watson

Paul Joseph Watson is a far-right YouTuber and prominent conspiracy theorist. Previously an editor for Alex Jones’ website InfoWars, he was permanently banned by Meta (formerly Facebook) and Instagram in 2019 for violation of their hate speech policies.  

Watson is mostly animated by US politics on his Telegram channel, but he has been drawn into making specific posts relating to the Israel-Gaza crisis. One video draws attention to the controversy surrounding calls for ‘Jihad’ at a Hizb ut Tahrir demonstration and a man carrying the shahada flag, but with white writing on a black background, which is the style most often used by Jihadist groups such as AQ and ISIS.  

In another, he pivots to an anti-immigration narrative by framing 57% of Gazans as supporting Hamas and then stating that 1m Gazans are seeking asylum in the West. He also highlights an incident where two men who unfurled the St George’s Cross flag at a pro-Palestinian protest and were told by the Police to desist.  

On X, he posts under the moniker @PrisonPlanet. Most of his content mirrors that of his Telegram channel, with commentary that has undercurrents of racism, xenophobia and anti-immigration activism. At the time of writing, his pinned tweet claims to have uncovered a leaked Israeli intelligence document which reveals plans to ‘expel’ 2.2 million Palestinian refugees and send them to Europe, Canada and the United States. 

Figures 11 & 12: indicative posts shared by Paul Joseph Watson on Telegram (49.8k subscribers). Figure 13: post shared on X (@PrisonPlanet 1.3M followers).

Stephen Yaxley Lennon aka “Tommy Robinson”

Co-founder of the English Defence League (EDL) and subsequent ‘citizen journalist’, Stephen Yaxley Lennon is primarily interested in issues that he can use to frame Muslims negatively (the ‘grooming gangs’ phenomenon, Islamist terrorism) and those which highlight failings by government to grip the issues that animate the far-right. 

The ‘Tommy Robinson News’ Telegram channel supports Israel’s defence and counteroffensive, and many of the posts are curated to show all Muslims in an unfavourable light. For example the channel shares a Palestine-related post lampooning Islamic concepts (e.g. the 72 virgins awaiting in paradise) and a video of a man saying Canada should “get rid” of Muslims by sending “them back to a sharia s***house”. Lennon’s support for Israel is not surprising; he has previously visited the country and posed for photographs on a tank near the Syrian border, holding a machine gun. 

Robinson recently had his X account restored and has made multiple references to himself and his supporters ”defending” the Cenotaph and historical statues in London during Armistice weekend on 11 and 12 November, as well as highlighting the ordeal of poppy sellers who have been forced to leave rail stations or intimidated by pro-Palestinian protestors. Since his return to X, he has regularly trended each day.  

It remains to be seen if his return to X at a time of heightened tensions will revive his profile and popularity, but it is worth remembering that before the COVID lockdowns, there were over a thousand people marching in Manchester chanting his name.  

British Movement

Founded in 1968, British Movement (BM) is an openly National Socialist movement, deeply rooted in white supremacist ideology and antisemitism. Whilst the organisation is smaller and less active than it once was, the void left in the UK’s white supremacist scene by the proscription of National Action has allowed BM to sustain itself. It retains a semblance of structure, and according to Hope Not Hate’s 2021 State of Hate report, BM has regional units active in London, South Wales, the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Its Telegram channel has only 500 subscribers, but it publishes posts on a daily basis. 

The BM opposes both sides in the Israel-Gaza conflict. Similar to other white nationalist/supremacist groups, they see the conflict as likely to facilitate mass migration from a conflict zone into Europe and the UK, and prioritise anti-Migrant rhetoric in response to the conflict. However they also have repeatedly posted explicitly antisemitic content. 

The Houthi (Ansar Allah) Digital Ecosystem

This Dispatch analyses how the Houthi movement leverages social media amidst the Israel-Hamas conflict and Red Sea crisis, exploiting inconsistencies in government designations & platform policies to reach wider online audiences.