Financial crisis? That will be the Jews’ fault
A NEW anti-Jewish conspiracy theory was spawned on the internet this week, latching on to a wave of antisemitic online comments blaming Jewish financiers for the global credit crunch and then exploiting it.
According to the latest false theory, Jewish executives at Lehman Brothers sent $400 billion (£230bn) to Israel before the bank collapsed last month.
The story originated last Friday on an American website, tbrnews.org, and was linked to by high-traffic sites such as rense.com, belonging to Jeff Rense, a former journalist and talk-show host who has regularly published conspiracy theories relating to Jews and Israel.
Masquerading as an authentic news report under the headline “$400b Sent To Israel Ahead Of Lehman BK”, it carries the byline “The Voice of the White House” and a Washington DC dateline. The bogus report details how “huge amounts of money” were “frantically” transferred to Israel.
“It is not necessary to mention that the senders are all Jewish,” says the “report”, which goes on to explain how Israeli banking laws make it impossible for American authorities to track down the money and that “if the stickyfingered ones decide to make a quick flight to Israel ahead of FBI investigators, like their new accounts, they are entirely safe”, as “Israel does not extradite its citizens”.
The writer claims that “all this” is well known to US law-enforcement agencies. To lend authenticity to the story, it has been juxtaposed with a genuine report from the New Yorkbased Bloomberg news service about how Lehman Brothers lost more than $400bn in assets in the months before its bankruptcy.
Like similar theories, the “report” was quickly picked up by a range of antisemitic and conspiracy websites and blogs around the world.
Yet that story is merely the latest and most sophisticated example of the surge in antisemitic comments being made on internet forums and comment pages blaming the Jews and Israel for the current financial crisis. Other enemies of Israel have also got in on the act, with Hamas in Gaza blaming the crisis on “bad administrative and financial management and a bad banking system put into place and controlled by the Jewish lobby”.
Groups monitoring antisemitism, such as the American Anti-Defamation League, have reported hundreds of such messages, all suggesting that the Jews control the international finance system. Many of these comments mention the Jewish founders of some of the major American banks. In many cases, these messages were posted on popular mainstream websites, where editors are usually quick to delete them.
But with hundreds of messages be- ing posted hourly and few websites having sufficient staff to monitor them all, most sites have to rely on users to report offensive postings. Sometimes antisemitic messages can stay on the web for hours or even days.
This was the way the $400bn theory found its way on to a mainstream website. On Monday, The Independent published a piece by veteran columnist Andreas Whittam Smith, entitled “Time to put some bankers in the dock”. In response, one poster of comments, using the pseudonym “Errol Flynn”, wrote: “Enjoyed your article. Whilst Europe & America are troubled by similar dynamics, there are several unique aspects to the Wall Street collapse not yet understood. I will quote some words from an Internet source, giving reliable info in the past.” It then pasted in part of the “$400B Sent to Israel” post.
The antisemitic posting remained on The Independent’s website for over eight hours until the JC asked its editor for a comment. Minutes later, the entire comment thread was removed.
Other columns by Andreas Whittam Smith, although not themselves antisemitic, have attracted similarly anti-Jewishcommentson The Independent’s website. On a column entitled “The banks must clean up the mess they’ve created”, “Phil Ishmael” posted the message: “So the banks used to be Jewish-owned… has anything changed?” That comment remained on the site for three weeks until The Independent deleted it, again following the JC’s questions.
Jimmy Leach, editorial director of Digital Independent, told the JC: “Like many online papers, we work on a post-moderation basis, scanning comments ourselves and responding to complaints. The trouble with this approach is that it is liable to abuse when, for whatever reason, we don’t spot something or it isn’t complained about.”
He said they were putting in place systems to “help deal with the problem more thoroughly”.
“But the web is a two-way street these days and readers have the right to express their views on our site.” He added that such unacceptable views will be deleted. “But it’s an inexact science. On the [bankers] comment, for example, I’m not entirely sure of the point the poster is trying to make. It seems dubious and we’ve deleted it in response to your complaint.”
Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust said: “This is an example of how troubled times breed an antisemitic lie. It used to take time for such myths to take hold, but now they are instantly sent around the world by the internet. We saw this with Hizbollah’s accusation that 4,000 Jewish bankers were warned not to go to work on 9/11, and now it is happening again in response to the banking crash.”
Guess who is being blamed: a Lehman Brothers employee departs after the bank’s collapse last month