WASHINGTON - Next week will see the second anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States, which also spawned a whole new branch in international anti-Semitism.
A survey published this week by the Anti-Defamation League finds that "hateful conspiracy theories" - claiming that Jews and Israel were behind the attacks in which 3,000 people were killed - are still being disseminated. In fact, these theories are gaining strength rather than dying out.
"The 9/11 attacks have fueled an entire new genre of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories leading to an environment where rumors about Jews are finding acceptance in the mainstream," says Abe Foxman, the league's national director.
The last year, for example, has seen radical right-wing groups in the United States publish two documents: "The truth about 9/11: How Jewish manipulation killed thousands" and "Did Israeli spies have advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks?" The documents seek to spread the theory that Israel was behind the terror attacks.
The ADL's survey, "Unraveling Anti-Semitic 9/11 Conspiracy Theories," finds that Arab and Muslim groups, and not just the radical right, are sometimes involved in spreading such theories.
The conspiracy theories, mostly disseminated over the Internet, had be categorized into a number of groups: first, there are those claiming the Mossad carried out the attacks. One such theory, for example, purports that the Mossad and CIA wanted to take over the "Afghan-opium-derived" heroin trade and thus cooked-up the attacks to provide "a pretext for an American overthrow of the Taliban, which gave the U.S. control of the country's opium production."
Other theories talk of an "Israeli art student spy ring" where Israeli spies passed themselves off as art students and tracked those suspected of carrying out the attacks but did not do anything to stop them or inform the authorities. There are also the claims that Israeli firms operating in the U.S. actually ran this spy ring and were used as a cover.
A more "classic" anti-Semitic theory claims that the Jewish owners of the Twin Towers orchestrated the attacks to get the insurance money. A number of Web sites also claim that the Jews carried out the attacks to get international attention and criticism over the intifada away from Israel.
In order to strengthen their theories, the groups use two "fables" that managed to gain a foothold in public opinion following the September 11 attacks. The first claims that "4,000 Israelis who worked at the World Trade Center were warned by Israeli intelligence to stay home on 9/11." A slight variation talks of "3,000 Jews" who received the same warning.
The second fable talks of the arrest of five Israeli "spies" who were "caught videotaping and celebrating the destruction of the Twin Towers." This is based on the fact that five Israelis were arrested shortly after the attacks after they drove their van toward Manhattan. The five, who worked illegally in the U.S., were eventually released without any charges being brought.
The ADL says in the report that what feeds such conspiracy theories are well-known anti-Semitic motives, a "modern manifestation of the anti-Semitic, [19th century] `Protocols of the Elders of Zion'."
The report concludes by saying that "anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists have gone beyond just alleging that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks. They have focused on Israel as an evil force ready to destroy anyone who gets in the way of its interests."
The ADL says it is concerned that the "success" of these conspiracy theories will fuel anti-Semitism and "have laid the foundation for the proliferation of similar conspiracy theories about other global disasters." Israel is already being blamed for the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster; apparently Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon was actually a "spy." Israel and the Jews are also being blamed for "pushing" the U.S. into the war in Iraq.