Antisemitic Conspiracy Theories Link Jews with Paris Attacks

Published: 22 December 2015

Region: Europe

Soldiers_on_patrol_in_Jewish_quarter_in_ParisConspiracy theories linking Jews and Israel with Paris attacks and the refugee crisis have been emerging in social media, the media monitoring of the MDI project Get the Trolls Out! reveals.

Not only users on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook spread antisemitic ideas, but Get the Trolls Out team has reported on some politicians and public officials in Europe who have been recorded expressing publicly antisemitic conspiracy theories.

The Greek Panos Leliatsos, former member of the right wing populist Independent Greeks party, claimed that “Israel and French Jews knew in advance” that the Paris attacks on 13 November would happen. While sharing an article about  migration of thousands of French Jews to Israel in 2015 (the same article appeared earlier this year on Time of Israel), Leliatsos wrote that “the leading Rabbi of Jerusalem”had warned French Jews about the upcoming attacks with the results that thousands left the country. This idea resonated within the public and was later published in the Greek populistic blog Anemos Anatropis. Rachel Mackri (former MP for SYRIZA and former MP for Independent Greeks) shared the blog post on her Twitter account contributing in spreading these mischievous theories. To reinforce this theory, the same blog posted an article which implies that the Jewish previous owners of the Bataclan theatre, one of the sites where the Paris attacks took place, sold the theatre in September because they were informed about the upcoming terrorist attacks.

Conspiracy theories evoke preposterous scenarios to find an alternative explanation to disastrous events. “In a complex, changing world, it is tempting to reduce multifaceted issues to the us-and-them narrative,” wrote the Guardian columnist Natalie Nougayrède earlier this week. But why so many conspiracy theories converge to Jews?

“One simple reason is that Jews are quite hard to spot, compared with most minorities,” asks the British comedian David Baddiel. “This allows them to be unmasked, and unmasking – to be able to say, “I and no one else (apart from all my mates on have spotted something hidden” – is the principal drive of the conspiracy theorist. But more importantly, within racial stereotyping Jews occupy a somewhat unique position, with a two-pronged status – both low and high.” In other words, Jews are slandered with all sorts of derogatory insults, but also blamed to be pulling the strings behind the scenes, especially in the financial and political sector. A significant current example spotted by the Get the trolls Out! monitors in a far-right wing Hungarian blog, is an image portraying Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as “IS boss”, the king of Saudi Arabia as “ISIS boss’s boss”, US president Barak Obama as “ISIS boss’s boss’s boss”, and the Prime Minister of Israel Netanyahu as “ISIS boss’s boss’s boss’s boss”.

Get the trolls out! monitors new and traditional media to keep an eye on both antisemitic hate speech and more complex antisemitic discourses, with the aim of reacting through satirical cartoons, radio interviews, videos, inclusive journalistic articles and complaint procedures. Every month, CEJI – A Jewish Contribution for an Inclusive Europe, one of the organisations in the project, collect the reports submitted by young monitors in five European countries (Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary and United Kingdom) and compile a list of the most significant results. The list, called Media Monitoring Highlights, debunks myths and stereotypes explaining where they originate.

Both the statement of Laurent Louis – Belgian left wing politician who blamed “the Zionist” and Israel of causing the refugee crisis with the purpose of facilitating the project of “Greater Israel” –– and of Gábor Huszár – mayor of Szentgotthard, who blamed the Israeli-backed “business circles” (i.e. Jews) for the Paris attacks for example – fall within the antisemitic theory that makes Jews and Israel responsible for the evil of the world. “It is a particularly absurd distortion of reality since Jews were and are key targets in the deeply antisemitic jihadist ideology,” says the Get the Trolls Out website.

VaroufakisHungarian news outlets have condemned the statements by the mayor, and broadly speaking, mainstream media in Europe – at least in the five monitored countries – do not seem to give space to antisemitic theories. But there are exceptions. The daily TA NEA, one of main newspapers in Greece, published an antisemitic caricature of Yannis Varufakis in October. Though the drawing clearly recalls the stereotype of the “money-lender and banker Jew”, the paper strongly denied any accusation of antisemitism. On the behalf of Get the Trolls Out, Symbiosis has written to the editor of the newspaper to reaffirm the danger of spreading such antisemitic stereotypes and asked for their apologies. TA NEA has not replied to this request so far.