Anti-Semitic propaganda is the warning we must all heed

Anti-Semitic propaganda has reached inexcusable heights infiltrating the minds of our world’s youth. In cases across the globe, it is presently leading to blatant harassment, street violence and even fatal extremist attacks.

Just this week on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews, a 27 year-old right-wing extremist carried out a terrorist attack against a synagogue in Halle, Germany. The attacker livestreamed the incident, a propaganda tactic that the Poway and Christchurch shooters in Poway, California, and Christchurch, New Zealand, both attempted to employ.

According to German authorities, the man who attacked the synagogue in Halle was inspired by similar attacks and hoped to inspire copycat strikes. He livestreamed the attack on Twitch, a game streaming platform, and after Twitch removed the video, it was posted on multiple Telegram channels considered popular among white supremacists.

The shooter used the video to share his chilling motive as widespread as possible. Just before the attacks, he chillingly turned to the camera and said: “Hi my name is Anon, and I think the Holocaust never happened. Feminism is the cause of the decline of the West, which acts as a scapegoat for mass immigration. And the root of all these problems is the Jew. Would you like to be friends?”

Imagine if Hitler and his propaganda machine spearheaded by Joseph Goebbels had access to all of the online platforms and livestreaming capabilities that today’s white supremacists rely upon. Leading up to the Holocaust, Hitler’s propaganda preached messages of national unity that scapegoated and delegitimized the Jews, beginning as early as the 1920s when the Nazi Party specifically targeted German youth. Abhorrent anti-Jewish imagery, stereotypes and lies were disseminated to incrementally make the case for genocide.

Islamic extremists have also relied on mass propaganda to indoctrinate their youth. Hamas has systematically brainwashed children to hate Jews, urging them to destroy Israel and encouraging children at camps and in schools to become suicidal martyrs.

And the mullahs in Iran, the world’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism, have used actual school textbooks to teach their youth to hate the West, especially America which they dub as the “Great Satan.” They also demonize Israel, all the while encouraging students to become martyrs in a global holy war.

This insidious propaganda is shaping the next generation of extremists who not only hate the Jews, but hate anyone that is the “other.”

The lessons of the Holocaust have tragically taught us what can happen when hate remains unchecked. Complacency and silence in the face of these powerful propaganda machines are not an option.

In the immediate aftermath of this week’s attack against the synagogue in Halle, the director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Sara Bloomfield said: “This shocking incident is hardly an isolated one. Complacency is not an option. The Holocaust is a not too distant reminder of the dangers of unchecked antisemitism, and Germany has a special responsibility to confront it boldly and set an example for the rest of Europe.”

I agree with Bloomfield, and believe that the time is long overdue to stop today’s white supremacists and Islamic extremists by preventing their indoctrination of our innocent youth.

The ADL has warned of the mainstreaming of white supremacist ideologies in the US and Europe, and the intricate systematized networks that are connecting these extremist groups and individuals, can broadcast on their laptops or smartphones from the confines of their own homes.

Antisemitic propaganda is spreading like wildfire, but let’s not forget that anti-Semitism is the canary in the coal mine, and is as old as history itself. The nexus between anti-Semitism and propaganda has reinvented itself in various shapes and forms for thousands of years. It’s a pattern that bears warning not just for the Jews, but for everyone.

The livestreamed video message to white supremacists throughout the world did not only name Jews as the source of the world’s ills. It also attacked feminism, berated immigration, and referred to the so-called decline of the West.

I cannot help but be reminded of the famous warning issued by Martin Niemoller, a prominent Lutheran pastor in Germany who publicly spoke against Hitler:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

Today, I am speaking out and we all must do so. An attack against Jews, is an attack against everyone who places sanctity on the lives of all people, believes in democracy and freedom and embraces humanity.

Racism and bigotry-fueled attacks that are taking place with shocking regularity across the world are harbingers of the clear and present danger that lies ahead.

We must all take heed of this accelerating trend, we must not become complacent, and we must be willing to speak out.

About the Author
Evan Nierman is Founder and CEO of Red Banyan, an international public relations and crisis management firm. For the past 20-plus years, he has helped leading companies, governments, business leaders and high-profile individuals accomplish their goals using strategic communications.