Considering its antisemitic DNA, it’s strange that Israelis would be attracted to the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Its core tenet is the idea that a satanic cabal of pedophilic elites (the “deep state”) is fighting a clandestine war against former US president, Donald Trump, the savior. The conclusion of this showdown between good and evil is the ever-imminent “storm”: an end-game reckoning, when the cabal and its affiliates will be arrested and executed.
The first cryptic messages of QAnon (“Q drops”) started appearing in 2017 between the porn, origami, Hitler enthusiasm, sports, and other topics found on the anonymous messaging board 4chan. Sprinkled with military lingo and allusions to unfolding world events, the Q drop prophecies struck a chord and QAnon started to gain traction in the US and eventually in at least 70 other countries, including Israel.
Over the next few years, QAnon evolved into a conspiracy theory of everything. Fake moon landing, 9/11 cover-up, Illuminati, COVID-19 hoax, whichever flavor you want, it’s all there.
Then Trump lost the 2020 election, the writers of the Q drops went silent, QAnon content was banned from social media, and the mass arrest predictions never came true. Yet despite these setbacks, QAnon still has a growing base of devotees – of which there are probably at least between 12,000 and 15,000.
Why does any of this matter? Why should Israelis care if a few other Israelis believe – or claim to believe – in QAnon?
For starters, there have been over twenty documented violent incidents that have a basis in belief in QAnon, nine of which meet the definition of terrorism. And notably, QAnon followers were numerous among the rioters at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Israel already has enough problems with terrorism and extremism. The last thing the country needs is a conspiracy theory to take root which is capable of radicalizing people and driving them to commit violence.
QAnon has already done damage by intensifying political polarization in the United States by framing those left of center as evil. How can one not hate his or her fellow American citizens if they vote for child-killing monsters like Joe Biden? Israelis are already significantly polarized along the religious-secular, Jewish-Arab, and left-right fault lines. We don’t need yet another source of polarization adding fuel to the fire.
And then there is the antisemitism. The world is controlled by a secretive group of evil people who consume the blood of children. They control the government, the media, and the banks. They’re trying to “dilute” the white race and bring about its demise.
These ideas, which are ingrained deep into the substratum of QAnon, were distilled in “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the blood-libelous text published in Russia in 1903. It’s the most influential antisemitic text ever written. It’s no coincidence that after the Nazis came to power in 1933, they taught a version of it to school children. Yet today, in Israel, there are Israelis spreading its tropes.
One Israeli conspiracy theorist, Yael, whose “work” circulates on Israeli QAnon channels on Telegram and on conspiracy theory websites, has written Hebrew subtitles for the sequel of the Fall of the Cabal series, a conspiratorial mishmash created by the Dutch conspiracy theorist Janet Ossebaard. It has been used in various forms and places to indoctrinate newcomers to QAnon.
Admittedly, the documentary’s shattered epistemology and some of its conclusions are so far-fetched that they are hilarious. But that should not blind us to its dark side: disinformation and lies, some of them nakedly antisemitic. “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, dismissed as a hoax, but we can assure you it’s not.” This is the opening line of one episode, for example. Another episode alleges that the Holocaust was perpetrated by the cabal in order to empower its puppet Zionists.
The authors of The Protocols had Jewish blood on their hands. What does this mean for those that peddle these antisemitic lies today?
When asked to comment on her translation of conspiracy videos and QAnon in Israel, Yael said, “Actually I am not very keen in sharing anything, I work for higher forces than myself… I do not take part in any groups of QAnon.” She says this despite having shared dozens of QAnon-related videos and documents which have accumulated tens of thousands of views.
It seems as though it would be particularly unlikely for QAnon to resonate with Israelis, given Israel’s history, its Jewish majority, and the conspiracy theory’s antisemitic underpinnings. But Mike Rothschild, a conspiracy theory expert and the author of The Storm Is Upon Us, has been tracking and writing about QAnon since 2018. He told me that believers “tend to sand off the parts of Q that don’t fit with their own personal politics or culture, and run with the general disdain for corruption and the “deep state” that controls the world.”
“It’s definitely an antisemitic movement,” Rothschild says. “But most Q believers don’t see themselves that way, claiming, falsely, in my opinion, that “patriots“ have no religion or skin color other than loving freedom. So Israeli Q believers will waive off the antisemitic elements and embrace Q as an anti-authority, anti-expertise movement,” he added.
QAnon’s presence in Israel is disconcerting, but there is no strong evidence to suggest that it could lodge itself into the minds of enough Israelis that its corrosive effects will manifest on the political level. And for now, there are no known instances of QAnon-related violence in Israel. Nevertheless, the proliferation of conspiracy theories and polarizing disinformation is unhealthy for democracy. Israeli QAnon should be heavily criticized before it gets the chance to connect with a wider audience.
One concerning aspect of this phenomenon is that the worldwide number of QAnon followers is growing. In an article in July 2021, I described Israeli QAnon for the first time. It has grown since then. Now, with the 2024 American presidential election (and its potential for QAnon-related violence) ominously looming on the horizon, the time is always right to call QAnon out for what it is – a dangerous political conspiracy theory – wherever it surfaces.