Antisemitism is like a virus that mutates to survive in any given environment. This means that antisemitic conspiracies are ever-evolving — even if they do keep recycling the same themes.
For millennia, antisemites have scapegoated Jews — or a euphemism for “Jews” — for just about any calamity on earth, from the Black Plague to the world wars. It’s also important to note that because antisemitic euphemisms are so pervasive, we must pay attention when age-old antisemitic conspiracies, tropes, and stereotypes are projected onto the State of Israel — the one Jewish nation in the whole world — or onto Zionism, the Jewish movement for self-determination.
Unfortunately, with the great tragedy of 9/11, antisemites yet again adjusted their conspiracies to place the blame squarely on the Jews.
As early as 2003, only two years after the attack, the Anti-Defamation League began recording antisemitic 9/11 conspiracies. Over the years, these conspiracies have become widespread and are continuously evolving.
THE CONSPIRACY: MOSSAD DID IT
This is one of the most common 9/11 conspiracies, which arose almost in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. According to the conspiracy, five Mossad agents were arrested on 9/11 when the police noticed them filming, cheering, and dancing during the attack. This allegation is completely false. This particular conspiracy is known as the “dancing Israelis” conspiracy.
Antisemites also claim that the Mossad had forewarned Jews and/or Israelis of the attack and that allegedly 4000 Jews and/or Israelis did not show up to work at the World Trade Center on 9/11, preventing any Jewish casualties. Both of these allegations are completely false. Around 400 Jews died on 9/11, out of around 2700 World Trade Center deaths total. Given that around 18 percent of New York is Jewish, this is relatively proportionate.
The idea that the “Mossad did it” is a classic example of projecting the ancient antisemitic conspiracies of blood libel (originally meaning that Jews kill children for ritual purposes, though it has evolved to encompass any false allegation of calculated or ritualistic murder) and Jewish power and control (that Jews are so supernaturally powerful that they control world events for their own sinister purposes).
THE CONSPIRACY: THE "JEWISH-OWNED MEDIA" MANIPULATED THE COVERAGE OF EVENTS
Another pervasive 9/11 conspiracy is that the “Jewish-owned” media manipulated the coverage of 9/11 events to push its own narrative. Alternatively, they claim that Jews control the American government and have hidden the truth about Jewish and/or Israeli involvement in the events of 9/11. They claim that Jews manipulated the 9/11 Commission, which investigated the attacks.
The conspiracy that Jews control the media is rooted in the conspiracy that Jews control other things (governments, banks, even academia) for their own sinister motives. This conspiracy is based on the virulently antisemitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which inspired the Nazis and early anti-Zionists alike.
There are certainly many Jews involved in the media, and there are historical reasons for that, such as Jews being shut out from other industries. And it’s true that some Jews own large media conglomerates.
But even when a Jew does own a media company, that doesn’t mean every other Jew in the world has anything to do with it. Yet antisemites see Jews as a single collective, all working on behalf of a greater Jewish conspiracy. In reality, we are about 15 million different individual people, with a wide variety of views, politics, careers, and more.
THE CONSPIRACY: JEWS DESTROYED THE WORLD TRADE CENTER FOR INSURANCE MONEY
Conspiracy theorists have long fixated on Larry Silverstein, whose company had taken out a lease on the World Trade Center just prior to the 9/11 attacks, as supposed “proof” that 9/11 was an inside job, carried out by rich Jews as a ploy to receive insurance money.
Like all antisemitic conspiracies, this one also draws on ancient antisemitic tropes, most notably that of the “greedy Jew.” The “greedy Jew” conspiracy dates back to the Middle Ages, when Jews were shut out of most professions in Europe. However, the Catholic Church considered handling money a “dirty” profession, so Jews became moneylenders to survive. As tensions naturally arose between European peasants and their Jewish lenders, the idea of the “greedy Jew” was cemented.
Antisemites allege that after Silverstein became a leaseholder, he purchased terrorism insurance coverage prior to the attacks. In reality, what this means is that the World Trade Center insurance did not exclude “terrorism,” as some insurance plans do. It doesn’t mean that anyone purchased insurance specifically with terrorism in mind. Given that the World Trade Center was no stranger to terrorism before 9/11, it would make sense not to exclude terrorism in a coverage plan. The insurance money went into rebuilding the World Trade Center — in fact, it was not even enough to cover the new building — not into Silverstein’s pocket.
This conspiracy is ludicrous, but it’s worth noting that (1) Larry Silverstein was not the only leaseholder of the World Trade Center, so it’s interesting that antisemites so heavily fixate on the one businessman who was actually Jewish, and (2) every other Jew in the world is not responsible for what one Jewish person does.
THE CONSPIRACY: JEWS "DID" 9/11 TO JUSTIFY THE SURVEILLANCE OF AMERICAN CITIZENS, ARABS, AND/OR MUSLIMS
This conspiracy theory alleges that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were a ploy for world Jewry — or “Zionists” — to increase surveillance of American citizens, Arabs, and/or Muslims. Many antisemites point to Israel’s (real or perceived) treatment of Palestinians as “proof.”
Once again, this conspiracy draws upon the idea that there is some sort of secret Jewish cabal plotting to manipulate the world. It draws upon the idea that Jews have infiltrated or are in charge of the American government.
THE CONSPIRACY: WE DON'T REALLY KNOW WHAT HAPPENED, THE FACTS DON'T ADD UP, BUT SOMEHOW, WE KNOW THE JEWS WERE INVOLVED
In other words: “when all else fails, blame the Jews.”
Antisemitism isn’t exactly groundbreaking. For 2000 years, Jews have been scapegoated for just about everything to ever go wrong, from the death of Jesus to even the Holocaust. It was only a matter of time before similar conspiracies popped up regarding 9/11.
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