Anyone who regularly attends Palestine solidarity events in London will be familiar with a small circle of fanatically anti-Palestinian activists who gate-crash such meetings.
Possibly the loudest and most obnoxious are Jonathan Hoffman, a former vice-chair of the Zionist Federation, and the blogger Richard Millett. Both attempt to derail Palestine events by heckling and interrupting speakers.
David Collier, another blogger, is similar to both in his staunchly anti-Palestinian views but uses more covert methods.
A former businessman in Israel, Collier says he has “spent much of the last few years undercover, within pro-Palestinian movements.” He attends meetings and demonstrations in London, taking secret recordings and photos of events, attempting to dig up dirt.
Collier was a source behind several smear stories about “Labour anti-Semitism” which the mainstream media published around the time that Britain’s main opposition party held its annual conference in September.
Collier’s blog contains a considerable amount of virulently anti-Palestinian racism.
A panel discussion he took part in last year gives a flavor of his disturbing views.
Collier said that “the Palestinian refugee” – dehumanized as an “it” – was “a weapon” which was “created as an artificial entity.”
Echoing the typical racist language of hard-right Islamophobes, he said that “as demographics have changed in the West this weapon has taken up camp here [in the UK] too.” Palestinian refugees in the UK lead the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, he complained.
And yet he is taken seriously by the Israeli government and by sections of the press.
Palestinian cause a “disease”
In March, a formal investigation by authorities in the British Parliament rejected Israeli government claims that a British lawmaker had hosted an anti-Semitic event. The investigation had been launched based on media reports cribbed from a Collier blog post.
Facebook screenshots in a document Collier wrote in March show that he maintains a fake Facebook profile posing as a pro-Palestinian activist – likely under a false name.
This allows him to snoop on Facebook postings made by activists that were only intended for their “friends” on the social media website. He then puts screenshots online, or they make their way to mainstream media contacts – sometimes via Israel lobby groups like Labour Friends of Israel.
According to a right-wing website – which interviewed him recently – “Collier joined the Labour Party, specifically so he could attend its 2017 annual conference in Brighton” and “infiltrate” the main opposition party.
In his blog post about the conference, Collier makes his motivation clear. He seeks to misrepresent the Palestine solidarity movement – which had a strong presence at the Brighton conference – as “anti-Semitic.”
Concern for Palestinian human rights – or “Palestinianism” as he calls it – is “sectarian identity politics, that are anti-Jewish in nature” and “a disease.”
With such an extremist viewpoint, it’s no surprise to find that he saw appearances of the Palestinian flag at the Labour conference as part of an “anti-Semitic” conspiracy.
He claims in his blog post that he had to leave the conference center after he “began to feel intimidated by the number of those wearing lanyards supporting the destruction of Israel.”
Abuse towards pro-Palestinian Jewish activist
These were lanyards emblazoned with the words “Palestine Solidarity Campaign” and the Palestinian flag.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign director Ben Jamal told The Electronic Intifada that “many hundreds of delegates and attendees expressed their support and solidarity for the cause of justice for the Palestinian people” by wearing the lanyards.
Jamal added that it was absurd to allege that support for Palestine was anti-Semitic. Such an allegation “degrades the struggles against racism in which we should all be engaged,” he said.
Collier also claimed in the same blog post that Jewish supporters of Palestinian human rights are “unrepresentative of the mainstream Jewish community.”
He particularly singled out, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, a leading member of the group Jewish Voice for Labour, whose speech at the conference was warmly welcomed by delegates when she challenged the anti-Semitism smear campaign.
Collier denigrated her as a “blind and stupid” ideologue, questioning “her life choices” as she had “married a Muslim, and has a child named after a sura [chapter] in the Quran.”
Speaking to The Electronic Intifada, Wimborne-Idrissi responded that “It is a strange feeling to face racist abuse from another Jew affronted by my marrying a Muslim.”
She said that “My husband’s family, and indeed the wider Moroccan community in Amsterdam where they live, welcomed me as one of the ‘People of the Book’ with a magnanimity that David Collier is sadly unable to muster.”
“For Collier, it seems, loving someone of a different race disqualifies me from the right to have my opinions heard. If the party’s aims and values include respect for a wide range of ethnicities and views, Collier’s behavior is clearly inconsistent with them.”
Labour Friends of Israel denies link
Ben Jamal called Collier’s comments “of deep concern,” saying that “all decent members of the Labour Party and wider society will want to immediately distance themselves from such offensive remarks.”
According to a source who attended, Collier wore a Labour delegate’s badge, and spent at least an hour at the Labour Friends of Israel stall, having a “significant” conversation with that lobby group’s chair, Joan Ryan.
Ryan, a right-wing Labour lawmaker, came under scrutiny in January after Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation, The Lobby, revealed that she had outright fabricated an allegation of “anti-Semitism” against a Palestine Solidarity Campaign supporter at last year’s conference.
When contacted, Labour Friends of Israel failed to condemn Collier’s racism or his attack on Wimborne-Idrissi. But a spokesperson for the group – who did not give their name – replied by email that Collier’s “words are entirely his own.”
The group’s reply disputed the hour-long conversation, claiming that “not one” person stayed at the group’s stall for “more than 10 minutes” throughout the entire conference.
Labour Friends of Israel claimed that “Collier may have, like many others, approached the stall for a brief conversation, but there is no ‘association’ between him and LFI.”
Joan Ryan did not respond to a request for comment.
David Collier responded to a request for comment by publishing a rambling post on his blog which described this writer as an “animal.”
Collier claimed there was “no connection at all” between him and Labour Friends of Israel and said he “spoke to Joan for no more time than it took to exchange our names. Maybe a minute.”
Asked about Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi’s response to his blog post criticizing her for having “married a Muslim,” he deflected, pointing to an entirely different article, claiming it contained “no criticism there at all about her partner.”
Collier said that he had now resigned from Labour, and that the article that described him as having infiltrated the party had been “badly worded.”
He did not deny the characterization.