Conspiracy theories linking Jews and Israel to the global financial meltdown are taking on global reach as the financial crisis on Wall Street continues to affect markets around the world.
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which first reported a spike in anti-Semitic postings on U.S. financial Web sites, "anti-Jewish invective and conspiracy theories are spreading globally" in European and Latin American countries and the Middle East as a result of the global economic crisis.
One widely circulated conspiracy theory suggests that "$400 billion in funds was secretly transferred to Israeli banks" just prior to the collapse of Lehman Brothers and other major investment banks. Launched on an anti-Semitic Web site sponsored by a Washington, DC-based Holocaust denial publication, the false rumor has ricocheted across the Internet and around the world, appearing on numerous Web sites and comment boards with few questioning its veracity or citing its origins.
"One disturbing side effect to the global economic meltdown is the resurgence of the Big Lie," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "Anti-Jewish invective and conspiracy theories are spreading globally. While it is still early, we know from experience what can happen when anti-Jewish myths gain a foothold and move from the far fringes into the mainstream."
Mr. Foxman pointed to similarities between the "$400 billion" conspiracy theory and the myth that spread around the world after 9/11 -- that "4,000 Jews" did not report for work the day of the attack on the World Trade Center – which is today believed by many around the world. "Whenever world events are difficult to explain or understand, Jews are the most convenient scapegoat," said Mr. Foxman.
"This belief that only Jews could be responsible for something so catastrophic and damaging to the global economy plays directly into some of the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes," said Mr. Foxman. "The idea that there is Jewish control of the banking system and the world economy has its antecedents in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Nazi-era propaganda."
International Response: Europe and Latin America
Anti-Semitic expressions in response to the financial crisis are spreading in European and Latin American countries, with many appearing on Web sites as articles or comments from unidentified individuals who are angry and seeking to place blame for the spreading impact of the crisis. Some are accompanied by vicious anti-Semitic caricatures and images.
The following is a snapshot of the global anti-Semitic reaction that has emerged as a result of the ongoing financial crisis as compiled by ADL:
• United Kingdom: The Web site of the mainstream British newspaper, The Independent, featured in its comments section a post by a visitor identifying himself as "Errol Flynn" that repeated the claim about the alleged $400 billion transfer from Lehman Brothers to Israeli banks. In response to a second article on the economic crisis, another reader commented, "So the banks used to be Jewish-owned … has anything changed?" Both posts were eventually removed by the site's administrators.
• Russia: The Web site of Pravda newspaper published an article arguing that French, German and Italian leaders are advocating a bailout of European banks to benefit "Rothschild, Kuhn Loeb, and other banking magnates," a reference to well-known Jewish banking families. The article continued, "The trouble is most of Europe is sick of their Zionist puppet governments, the wrecking of the universities and the flood of third world immigration. Another Hitler, running a united Europe, could be elected in a heartbeat."
• Germany: Some discussion forums and blogs made casual linkage between the crisis and Jews or repeated anti-Semitic stereotypes of the "money-savvy" and "financially dominating Jew." One comment on Ariva.de, an independent provider of financial news, stated: "When it comes to money Jews are always in the say."
• Spain: Op-eds making reference to Jews and the financial crisis appeared in diario El Pais. While the articles did not directly accuse Jews of causing the crisis, the comments section following the articles contained several anti-Semitic entries. One writer declared, "The crisis is not a financial problem but an economic one … it is what is behind this gruesome scene of savage capitalism of the Zionist students of Milton Friedman." Additionally, several financial Web sites featured articles with anti-Jewish themes, including one stating that "Lehman's management board is made up of Jews who were only interested in results no matter at what price." (Cincodias.com).
• Venezuela: The host of a virulently anti-Semitic radio program claims that the fact that the U.S. Congress recessed for the Jewish High Holidays after voting on the $700 billion bailout proposal was evidence "that the U.S. government is controlled by the Jewish lobby."