Fi­nan­cial cri­sis? That will be the Jews’ fault

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

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.”

PHOTO: AP

Guess who is be­ing blamed: a Lehman Broth­ers em­ployee de­parts af­ter the bank’s col­lapse last month

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