Antifa, short for anti-facist, is an ideological movement with many strains of thought. In 2020, the movement caught public attention for the involvement of some local cells in violent riots in the United States.
Andy Ngo, a journalist who documents far left violence and radicalism, told the Magazine that Antifa is no friend of Israel.
“Most Jewish people would be sympathetic to any cause that claims to be antifascist, given history” said Ngo. “[Antifa] call themselves antifascists, but who they describe as fascist is anyone who dares to oppose them. It’s a strategy popularized by communists a century ago. And many Antifa adherents view the state of Israel as a fascist state, adopting the language of the far-left and calling them colonizing genocidaires. Antifa have also been involved in targeting people who have dared to show up to show support for Israel at demonstrations in the US.”
“Antifa ideology isn’t in itself antisemitic, but they claim to be fighting antisemitism while often trafficking in antisemitic tropes. For example, calling Israelis Nazis, fascists and white supremacists,” Ngo continued.
Ngo warns that Antifa’s goal is to abolish states.
This would include the State of Israel.
He also noted that the violence that they use to achieve this objective is familiar to Israelis. “Israelis will understand much better than anybody what Hamas and other violent extremists in the Palestinian territories do,” Ngo explained. “They intentionally embed themselves around innocent people who get killed or injured in the course of warfare and then use those casualties as propaganda against Israel. Advocacy groups and journalists often do not independently verify or contextualize those claims before repeating it to a global audience.”
“Essentially, a mild variation of that is what you see practiced by Antifa. Protesters, including children, are used as human shields. You can read about this in some of their literature they hand out before their riots. Civilian injuries during riots become propaganda gold to condemn police and the state. Obviously, people aren’t getting killed as they are in the Palestinian territories, but it’s the same strategy of propaganda and information warfare.”
However, an Israeli activist who supports Antifa disagreed with Ngo’s position.
“There is no organization called ‘Antifa,’” said the activist, who goes by the name Dagatz. “‘Antifa’ is an idea, not an NGO.”
“I know people who can proudly label themselves as Antifa all the way from communists, social democrats, liberals, and even religious conservatives who oppose the toxic and inflammatory rhetoric of such hate groups,” he continued.
“Saying Antifa is bad for Israel is like saying veganism is bad for Israel or feminism is bad for Israel. Antifa stands for ‘Anti-Fascists.’ Nothing more, nothing less,” the activist explained. “Antifa is a state of mind that basically says we need to face fascism, nationalism, racism and all these sorts of groups and ideas that tend to bully their way around scared and frustrated people... Be it Proud Boys in the US, Neo-Nazi skinheads in England, the White Wolves Klan in France, the Grey Wolves in Turkey, or Kahanists here in Israel.” He noted that Antifa stood against actual Nazis in Germany, characterizing worrying about it as “a sad relic of the McCarthyist attitude some folks in the US and even here in Israel still hold.”
The activist agreed that “Left-leaning people tend to criticize Israel more,” but “I still prefer my biggest critics,” rather than authoritarian strongmen.
“Americans and Europeans don’t tend to actually understand what is going on here in the holy land, in our small Israel, both Left and Right, that’s for sure,” said the activist. “Radical left-wing criticism can be out of touch and silly, but radical right wingers scare me a lot worse.”