September 14, 2021

Antisemitic conspiracies about 9/11 endure 20 years later - ADL report

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In the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, conspiracy theorists across the ideological spectrum dismissed the widely accepted version of events and instead crafted alternative narratives about the perpetrators, their motive, and other details about the attacks. Some of these conspiratorial claims directly implicated Jewish people and Israel in the attacks, in a continuation of centuries-old antisemitic tropes about Jews supposedly manipulating world events for their own benefit.

Two decades later, antisemitic 9/11 conspiracy theories continue to thrive. Although many of the original conspiracy theorists from 20 years ago remain active, a new generation of antisemites has joined them. This report highlights some of these themes and the many individuals who, despite their often-disparate ideologies, are united in their belief that Jews or Israel played a role in the 9/11 attacks.

A Web of Conspiratorial Beliefs

For twenty years, 9/11 conspiracy theories have served as a paradigm for conspiratorial takes on other tragedies and events. No mass shooting, natural disaster, disease outbreak, election or geopolitical incident occurs without a cadre of conspiracy theorists claiming that mainstream and scientific explanations for the events are “impossible.”

Conspiratorial “truther” subcultures, fueled by the internet and social media, wildly speculate about “false flags,” embark on amateur efforts to uncover “who benefits” and make allegations about national or international plots and coverups. Grifters, attention seekers and trolls present themselves as “experts,” and dramatically oversimplify complex phenomena for a global network of followers.

Unfortunately, the antisemitism that ADL has documented for the past twenty years regarding 9/11 conspiracy theories can also be found in many of these other “truther” communities. Antisemites attribute mass shootings in the U.S., including Sandy Hook and El Paso, as well as the Charlie Hebdo attack in France, to the machinations of Jews or Zionists. Some conspiracy theorists draw direct lines between alleged Jewish responsibility for the 9/11 attacks and the 2008 financial crisis. There has been an outpouring of antisemitic conspiracy theories regarding the involvement of Jews and Israel in the Covid-19 pandemic and in the development of vaccines. Jews and Zionists have also been blamed for the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

We know that conspiracy theories can motivate real-world behavior, including acts of extremism and violence. Pittsburgh synagogue shooter Robert Bowers was inspired to attack the Tree of Life synagogue because he believed in conspiracy theories regarding the involvement of Jewish people in mass immigration, and likewise, many participants in the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th were fueled by conspiracy theories.

Source: ADL