Intersectional Antisemitism in America – Aish.com
Nicholas Young, a District of Columbia Metro Transit Police officer, was a fixture in the local DC neo-Nazi scene in the early 2000s. With an SS tattoo on his arm, he collected German World War II memorabilia and attended parties in full Nazi dress with like-minded Reich enthusiasts. But at some point Young also became interested in Islamism, eventually converting to Islam and spiraling down a rabbit hole of jihadist websites while never abandoning his Nazi sympathies.
He soon attracted the attention of the FBI, who targeted him in a sting operation that led to his arrest in 2016 for attempting to provide support to ISIS. He was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Anti-Semitism is now the conspiratorial glue that binds the many disparate ideologies poisoning America’s increasingly polarized society.
The Nazi-Islamist tie may seem like an odd one, but Young was ahead of his time—a forerunner of “intersectional antisemitism,” one of the key dynamics that characterizes today’s highly complex forms of extremism. Anti-Semitism is now the conspiratorial glue that binds the many disparate ideologies poisoning America’s increasingly polarized society. As a result of social media, which allows for an unprecedented degree of interconnectivity between extremists of all stripes, anti-Semitic tropes, texts and memes are shared across ideological milieus.
Nicholas Young, neo-Nazi and jihadist
New crises like COVID-19 or the war in Ukraine provide additional ammunition for cross-ideological, anti-Semitic propaganda to spread and grow. In this environment, it is not unusual to see neo-Nazis root for Hamas when tensions arise in the Gaza Strip and Islamists applaud white supremacy when they attack synagogues.
The belief that Jews are unique agents of evil, secretly manipulating world events, is the common denominator in virtually all forms of extremism present in America today. This is not entirely a new phenomenon, as ideological cross-pollination of antisemitism is an age-old cancer. But because of the web, we have fully entered the age of intersectional antisemitism.
The belief that Jews are unique agents of evil, secretly manipulating world events, is the common denominator in virtually all forms of extremism present in America today.
At these intersecting ideologies of antisemitic vitriol, Young was easily able to synthesize neo-Nazism and jihadism. In his home, investigators found a handwritten prayer for “Hitler, Skorzeny, Hajj Amin al-Hussaini, Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Prophet Muhamed, John the Baptist and all the companions.” Otto Skorzeny was an Austrian colonel in the Waffen-SS who later fled to Egypt, where he trained Palestinian paramilitary forces (counting Yasser Arafat among his pupils) to carry out raids in Israel. Haj Amin al-Husseini was the emir of Jerusalem who sought a political alliance with the Nazis in the hope of eliminating the Jewish presence in British-controlled Palestine. In addition to the prayer, Young had a poster in his room titled “The Alliance: Worldwide Association of Nazis and Islamists 1939-2004,” and the password to the Gmail account he used to contact ISIS members. was Adolf Hitler’s birthday.
In recent years, the biggest terrorist attacks against American Jews have come from the extreme right. The majority of these right-wing extremists, the FBI reports, do not belong to any structured movement, but operate as freelancers. These were the lone gunmen who stormed Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018 and the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in 2019.
But even when their targets are not Jews, Jews are often on the minds of America’s militant right-wing extremists. The individuals who carried out the attacks in El Paso in 2019 and Buffalo in 2022, which openly targeted Latinos and Blacks respectively, left behind manifestos talking about Jews. Like many others in their ideological milieu, they have embraced the so-called great replacement theory that portrays Jews as the sinister masterminds of a plot to replace white people in Western nations with other ethnic groups.
Like the right-wing militants who draw inspiration from jihadist attacks on Jews, American Islamists are just as interested in right-wing extremism. This was the case of Muslim convert Damon Joseph, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for planning attacks on two synagogues in the Toledo, Ohio, area. “Within a few months, Damon Joseph progressed from a self-radicalized, virtual jihadist to planning an actual attack on fellow Americans,” the FBI wrote.
Josef was inspired by the attack against the Tree of Life synagogue despite the fact that the shooter was not an Islamist but a right-wing militant. Joseph continued to publish an antisemitic manifesto and shared statements expressing his desire to die a martyr.
Many jihadists in America are drawn to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, but networks linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas have also created a broad web of organizations, mosques and schools where anti-Semitic rhetoric is common. Most of the antisemitism of this milieu typically takes on Islamic overtones, such as when the imam of Jersey City’s Islamic Center called Jews “monkeys and pigs” and urged his followers to “count them one by one, and kill them make it to the very last one. Don’t leave one on earth.”
But sometimes American Islamists borrow directly from other forms of antisemitism. It is a phenomenon that dates back decades. In the early 1990s, the now-defunct Islamic Society of Palestine, a Chicago-based organization linked to Hamas, published America’s Greatest Enemy: The Jew! And an Unholy Alliance!, a 32-page record reprinting various antisemitic essays. The first article in the collection argues that “Blacks are still begging for crumbs” while “the Jews, through their Zionist machinery, have power over all the agencies and organs of the United States government.”
Another article reproduces a speech by Austin J. App, a Nazi apologist and Holocaust denier. App delves into classic denial theories and argues that “the German concentration camps were internment and work camps, never, absolutely never, death camps.” Published by an Islamic entity and featuring writings by black supremacists and neo-Nazis, America’s Greatest Enemy is a perfect archetype of intersectional antisemitism. Similar texts are now widely available online.
Anti-Semitism is also a feature of various extremist ideologies within the African-American community. The Black Hebrew Israelite (BHI) movement, for example, which has recently dominated the news in the wake of several scandals involving Kanye West and Kyrie Irving, believes that modern-day African Americans are the actual descendants of the biblical Israelites and that white Jews fraudsters.
Additionally, some BHIs argue that Jews controlled the slave trade and that Jews “invented” the Holocaust as a hoax to distract from another genocide targeting African Americans. A fringe group that has traditionally limited its activism mainly to colorful street demonstrations, BHIs have used the Internet in recent years to spread their views to a much wider audience.
Some of the group’s supporters also carried out a series of deadly attacks on Jews. The two most notable of a long list of incidents occurred in December 2019 in the New York metropolitan area. In the first, two BHI followers became involved in a crime spree against Jews and police that culminated in a mass shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, where three people and the two attackers were killed. Two weeks later, a masked man heavily influenced by BHI propaganda attacked a Hanukkah party in Monsey, injuring four and killing one.
Some of the same narratives prevalent among white supremacy and Islamists have become increasingly popular within far-left and anarchist milieus, although it is rare to find people in these communities openly embracing the anti-Semitic character of their politics as Islamists and those in do the far right. More often than not, left-wing antisemites claim to act in the name of progressive principles while espousing the same hackneyed tropes that portray Jews as embodiments of soulless capitalism, colonialism (Israel is considered the last colonial state), and white privilege.
It is true that left-wing extremists have not targeted Jews with terrorist attacks as their far-right and Islamist counterparts have. But over the last few years, episodes of violence occurring at anti-Israel events organized by far-left and Palestinian groups have increased in frequency, such as the attacks on visible Jewish passers-by at two pro-Israel events in New York and Los Angeles which had no involvement in the protests themselves. The increasingly anti-Semitic and threatening nature of anti-Israel activity on college campuses — most recently illustrated by a rally at the University of Michigan where protesters held a sign saying, “There’s only one solution” and shouted “intifada” – does not bode well for the future.
Finally, antisemitism is also a defining feature of the latest development in American extremism, the growing trend that causes disturbed and violent individuals to choose elements of various extremist ideologies to rationalize their actions – a phenomenon that authorities call “salad bar extremism”.
In this climate, it is not surprising that, in 2019, 60% of all religiously motivated hate crimes were against Jews.
A textbook example is that of Ethan Melzer, an active duty member of the US military who pleaded guilty in June 2022 to several terrorism-related charges. Melzer was also a member of the Order of Nine Angles (O9A), a UK-based occult group whose members, according to US authorities, “advocated violent, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic and Satanic beliefs, and expressed admiration has for, among others, Nazis, such as Adolf Hitler, and Islamic jihadists, such as Usama Bin Laden.” The government also noted that “hatred of Jews was a unifying belief for members of the conspiracy and they frequently expressed anti-Semitic sentiments to promote trust and cohesion.” Melzer spoke of killing Jews and “to destroy Israel and to turn their people into dust inshallah and fashy [fascist] shariah” while frequently praising Hitler.
In this climate, it is not surprising that, in 2019, 60% of all religiously motivated hate crimes were against Jews. The federal government, law enforcement agencies and Jewish communities across the country understand the problem and know there is no easy solution. A good place to start would be with large-scale educational efforts: a 2020 national survey of millennials and Generation Z showed that 63% did not know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
We also need to see improved security protecting Jewish targets, and greater focus on the anti-Semitic content tolerated by social media platforms. These efforts are necessary to begin stemming the tide of America’s growing problem of intersectional antisemitism.
This article originally appeared in Tabletmag.com