The re-emergence of anti-Semitic conspiracies
It is dangerous to speculate about the motivation and ideology of the Toulouse killer. Following Anders Breivik’s attack in Oslo, many commentators wrongly assumed al-Qaeda were responsible. We tend to view the most recent attacks through the lens of the last.
The target – a Jewish school – does not reveal much, because both al-Qaeda and the far-right are obsessively anti-Semitic. Indeed, as we argued in The Power of Unreason, anti-Semitism is one of the few things that unites the far-right, al-Qaeda, and occasionally the far-left.
That is what makes it so worrying. It is worth making a broader point about anti-Semitism and far-right terrorism. Over the last three years there has been a definite increase in the activity among neo-Nazi groups across Europe. Security services are certainly taking the threat more seriously now. A number of neo-Nazis have gone through the government’s de-radicalisation ‘Channel’ project in the past two years. Combat 18, and various off-shoots in the Blood and Honour scene are more active than they were, especially online.
Neo-Nazis are obsessed with Jews and Jewish conspiracies; their ideology is addled with them. It is one of the (many) differences between the new populist right wing parties – such as the Front National – which now tend to be pro-Israel and anti-Islam. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber, the Ku Klux Klan, Combat 18, Ayrian Strike Force, Martyn Gilleard: all believe that a small Jewish cabal controls the world’s press and media and international governments: this is known as ‘Zionist Occupied Government’.
For neo-Nazis, this provides both a justification and impulse to violence. The belief that a small group of Jews control the world demands that an urgent and dramatic response is needed to break their iron grip. What prompted McVeigh to blow up the Olkahomo Federal building in 1996 was his view that the United States was on the verge of imminent gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and the establishment of Jewish controlled ‘one world government.’
These Jewish conspiracy theories are on the increase, partly as a result of the ease with which they can be attractively packaged and shared online. Although I suspect that the perpetrator is a far-right neo-Nazi, weaned on Internet conspiracy theories and spurred into action by the belief that France and French culture are on the verge of a precipice, I would not bank on it. Anti-Semitism is equally at home in al-Qaeda inspired groups. That is why it is so worrying,
dangerous and damaging. That is why we should be doubly concerned by the re-emergence of this prejudice.