Conspiracy Theories & The Jews

From medieval blood libels to the attacks of September 11, Jews have been a favorite subject for conspiracists.

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The picture of American conspiracists would not be complete without Lyndon LaRouche, a perennial candidate for President of the United States. In the September 5, 1978 issue of Larouche's New Solidarity, the editorial argued that the "entire Zionist apparatus in the United States exists as an unchecked threat to national security" with "illegal and subversive primary links" to various elements in an international conspiracy, including the Israeli and British secret services. According to the editorial, there is only one possible counterattack against this alleged enemy: "The Zionist octopus must be eliminated. Leaders of the 'Jewish Lobby' must be investigated and their various organizations dismantled or registered as foreign agents."

September 11

The terror attacks of September 11, 2001 have generated scores of conspiracy theories, which claim that Israeli agents carried out the attacks, thus confirming the Jewish master plan to rule the world. Other conspiracists argued that 4,000 Israelis who allegedly worked at the World Trade Center stayed home on September 11, because the Mossad warned them about the destruction of the Twin Towers.

An Egyptian academic, Dr. Gamal Ali Zahran, head of the political science department at Suez Canal University, wrote shortly after 9/11 in the daily Al-Ahram that Jews who were stockholders in the airlines and insurance companies sold their stocks about ten days before the attacks and then bought them again at the lowest price, thus making huge profits. Finally, the fact that a Jewish businessman owned the World Trade Center supposedly added to the veracity of the plot, since he obtained millions of dollars in insurance money after the destruction. Here the anti-Semitic canard of the Jewish conspiracy meets the anti-Semitic stereotype of the greedy Jew.

Conspiracists in general are reinforced by popular culture, which commonly uses the theme of secret plots, codes, and plans. Books such as Dan Brown's Angels & Demons, films such as Independence Day, and video games like Lara Croft Tomb Raider build upon traditional conspiracy theories when they add underground networks, secret revolutionary plans, and other esoteric societies.

Conspiracists show no sign of losing their momentum. Within extremist circles, hatred of the Jews remains a unifying power between otherwise opposing groups, from white supremacists to Muslim and Christian fundamentalists to anti-globalization militants and far-right extremists.

 

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Brigitte Sion

Brigitte Sion is Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow in New York University's Program in Religious Studies. A writer, editor, translator, and teacher, she earned her Ph.D. in Performance Studies from New York University in May 2008.