‘Relentless’ Flood of Anti-Semitic Messages Blamed on Financial Crisis

By Julie Stahl | October 3, 2008 | 11:24 AM EDT

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) – The recent economic upheaval in the U.S. has sparked a “relentless” flood of anti-Semitic postings to financial and economic Internet discussion boards blaming the Jews for the country’s economic woes, the Anti-Defamation League said.
“We know from modern history that whenever there is a downturn in the global economy, there will be an upturn in the level of anti-Semitism and bigotry, and that is what we are seeing now,” said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman.
“The age-old canards about Jews and money are always just beneath the surface.   As we witnessed after 9/11, whenever there is trouble or uncertainty in the economy or world events, Jews become the scapegoats, and ugly anti-Semitic canards are given new life,” Foxman said in a statement.
Nevertheless, the “relentless” flood of messages on mainstream sites was a surprise, said Deborah Lauter, national civil rights director of ADL.
“We were not surprised by the extremists,” Lauter told CNSNews.com in a telephone interview on Friday. “What surprised us is the amount showing up on mainstream sites. The sheer amount has taken us aback.”
According to the ADL, hundreds of anti-Semitic posts about Lehman Brothers and other institutions affected by the mortgage crisis have been submitted to financial discussion board railing against Jews.
(Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc. declared bankruptcy last month – the first in a line of major financial institutions to falter over bad mortgages. Started by the Jewish Lehman Brothers as a dry goods store in the mid-1800s, no Lehman family member has been involved in running the business since 1969.)
Some have blamed Jews for the current economic distress because they say that that Jews control the government and finance as part of a “Jew world order,” the ADL said.
“[Jews have] infiltrated Wall Street and Government and have ruined our country,” one posting said hosted by Yahoo! Finance group.
“They [Jews] love money nothing else, no faith or religion can be so heartless to their victims,” read a third.
“That’s how they work they short the stock all the way making billions and then cover it right up sell and then taxpayers to the rescue and it is true all those institutions are ran by Jews ….” said a fourth.
“It’s difficult, if not impossible, for one honest investor to neutralize the efforts of thousands of Jewish swindlers,” said another.
Lauter described the problem of hate on the Internet as a “very difficult challenge.”
Hate speech is protected in the U.S. by the First Amendment up to the level where it becomes harassment or there is threat of violence. The courts have upheld a pretty high threshold, she said.
What the ADL does, Lauter said, is to work with the Internet service providers, helping them to be alert, training their staff and encouraging them to enforce their terms of service. Service terms include rules about what is acceptable in posting, which usually include rules like nothing hateful, no bigotry or anything that degrades a religion.
The “good news,” Foxman said, is that Internet service providers, message board monitors and individuals have been quick to react to anti-Semitism when it enters the forum. And service providers in most cases remove “offensive messages” quickly, he said.
“But in many cases – especially with online discussions that occur in real time and are closely followed by large groups of users – damage is already done,” he said.
Web sites that cater to white supremacists and neo-nazis have also received messages with anti-Semitic sentiments about the economy with “great frequency,” the ADL said.
In August, the ADL reported that white supremacists and anti-Semites not only continued their racist attacks against Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Barack (D-Ill) but also opened up a front against Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain (R-Ariz) painting him as a pawn of the Jews.
Foxman said then that both candidates are “equally unacceptable” to white supremacists who see both as being “tainted by the controlling hand of Jews” who they say control the government.
In one particularly offensive cartoon, McCain and Obama are shown kissing the buttocks of a hook-nosed, stereotypical Jew standing under an American flag with a Jewish star on it replacing the 50 stars.
According to the ADL, the number anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. declined by six percent in 2007 to 1,460 incidents of vandalism, harassment and other acts of hate against Jewish individuals, property and community institutions from 1,554 incidents in 2006.
But until now that annual audit has included only physical acts of violence or verbal harassment. Because of the high numbers of Internet hate, the incidents have not been included in the audit, Lauter said.
But the ADL may have to rethink that policy, she added, and find a way to better expose the hate on the Internet to the public.