White nationalists are using the Israel-Gaza conflict to spread antisemitism online
Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist and election-theft conspiracy theorist, delighted and surprised some of his far-right followers on Twitter Tuesday night with a tweet:
“Palestine isn’t the only country under Israeli occupation,” he wrote, trumpeting a conspiracy theory about Jews controlling governments.
Palestine isn’t the only country under Israeli occupation.
— Nicholas J. Fuentes (@NickJFuentes) May 18, 2021
As Israel and Gaza continue to trade rockets across their borders, many, like Fuentes, in the far-right corners of the internet, have seized on the conflict to foment antisemitism, according to groups and individuals who track hateful activity online.
Twitter users praised Fuentes’ tweet as “based,” a far-right term meaning impressive or enlightened, and some replied with antisemitic memes about the number of President Joe Biden’s appointees who are Jewish and antisemitic depictions of Jews emerging from underneath carpets.
It might feel like a contradiction that a man who celebrates the “Trump Revolution in 2016” and called Islam “a barbaric ideology that wanted to come over and kill us” is opposed to American support for Israel.
“This isn’t about these white supremacists actually believing in Palestinians’ right to dignity or to a state of their own; it’s using the Palestinians and the conflict as tools to advance their antisemitism and their white supremacy,” said Amy Spitalnick, the head of Integrity First for America, the nonprofit behind a lawsuit targeting the organizers of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, which Fuentes attended.
Experts have noticed the emergence of disturbing trends in the wake of the escalating violence in the Middle East.
A report by the Anti-Defamation League noted that 17,000 users tweeted “Hitler was right” — or variations on the phrase — between May 7 and May 14, as hostilities between Israel and Hamas ramped up. The phrase ultimately trended on Twitter.
Purveyors of antisemitism on social media have been spreading the conspiracy theory that Jews control the media. Users on the image-driven, anonymous forum 4chan, for example, have cooked up a theory that Jews are retaliating against Bill Gates for past criticisms of Israel by breaking the news of his sexual misconduct. Others opine that Jews “needed a distraction” from the conflict in the Middle East.
Some white nationalist groups on the Telegram messaging app are espousing support for the Palestinian cause because they overstate Palestinian sympathy for Germany during World War II, or because they believe that “Arab security in their own lands” will prevent the immigration of Muslims to the United States.
A channel connected to the racist and antisemitic group the Proud Boys juxtaposed photos of Palestinians and the Charlottesville marchers and wrote that the events were part of “one struggle.”
The president of the Jewish Student Union Germany has received death threats on social media, according to an ADL report.
But the chatter is not just confined to the internet. A loosely-organized antisemitic group called the Goyim Defense League demonstrated in front of the Holocaust Documentation & Education Center in Dania Beach, Fla., last week, chanting that “Jews control all of the media” and that “Jews lie, Americans die.” The group also hosted an antisemitic demonstration in front of the ADL’s offices.
Last week in Los Angeles, a poster at a protest depicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a Star of David on his forehead and blood dripping out of his mouth was captioned “Can’t get enough,” a nod to the antisemitic blood libel that depicts Jews drinking or otherwise using the blood of non-Jewish children.
Spitalnick, from Integrity First for America, said white nationalists and antisemites have also tried to draw comparisons between the far-right Israeli organization Lehava and what American far-right activists call antifa, a catchall for anti-fascist and Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
“It shows how they really try to pull from every possible antisemitic and white nationalist conspiracy theory and dogwhistle,” she said.