Exploring What is Behind the Rare Phenomenon of Jewish Anti-Semites

What is behind the rare-but-recurring phenomenon of Jewish anti-Semites?

For more than three decades, William Potter Gale warned the world that a satanic Jewish conspiracy disguised as communism was corrupting public officials and the courts, undermining the United States and wrecking its divinely inspired Constitution.

Jews, the self-described "reverend" taught, were offspring of the devil, while non-whites were "mud people" and whites were the real Hebrews of the Bible. By the time of his death in 1988, Bill Gale had spent half a lifetime energetically promoting his particularly bloodthirsty brand of anti-Semitism across America.

"Arise and fight!" Gale preached in one infamous sermon broadcast to Kansas farmers in 1982. "If a Jew comes near you, run a sword through him."

But William Potter Gale had a secret. It turns out that Gale, founder of the Jew-hating Posse Comitatus that raged through the Midwest in the 1970s and 1980s, was descended on his father's side from a long line of devout Jews.

In interviews with this author for a book being published this fall, Gale's daughters revealed with some bemusement the Jewish roots of their grandfather and his forebears.

Ironically, like so many other 19th-century Jews from Eastern Europe, Bill Gale's father Charles was fleeing Russian anti-Semitism and seeking economic opportunity when he arrived in the United States in 1894, changing his name from Grabifker in the process.

Four years later, Charles, then 18, lied about his age and place of birth in order to join the U.S. Army — but he was truthful enough to declare on his military enlistment papers that his parents' nationality was "Hebrew."

While Charles Gale eventually abandoned Judaism, married a non-Jew and raised his children as Christians, all of his siblings proudly embraced their religious heritage. Charles' younger sister, a practicing Jew, was often a guest in the Gale family household in Los Angeles when Bill Gale was a teenager.

Despite this and many other reminders of his father's heritage, Bill Gale had adopted Christian Identity theology and become an unrepentant anti-Semite by the mid-1950s.

Although it is in some ways unique, the remarkable case of Bill Gale is not unprecedented. Some of the most zealous anti-Semites on the American white supremacist scene have turned out to have direct family links to the religion and the people they have devoted their lives to hating.

Similarly, a self-described "Aryan" named Leo Felton, convicted this year in a conspiracy to blow up Jewish and black landmarks, turned out to have a black father (see From the Belly of the Beast). And uncounted white supremacists have sneaked across the color line to engage in sex with black women.

Jewish anti-Semitism, however, is a case unto itself.

Power and Powerlessness
Around the world, there is a sad and troubling history of Jewish self-hatred that has played itself out in a variety of ways. To even start to understand this history, it is necessary to understand the basic mythology of anti-Semitism.

As described by Norman Cohn — a leading scholar of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a classic anti-Semitic text — the political myth about Jewish world domination can be summarized as follows:

[T]here exists a secret Jewish government which, through a worldwide network of camouflaged agencies and organizations, controls political parties and governments, the press and public opinion, banks and economic developments ... in pursuance of an age-old plan and with the single aim of achieving Jewish dominion over the entire world.

On a more individual level, Jews are often stereotyped as unethical, dishonest, socially aggressive, conceited, clannish, stingy and obsessed with money.

Historically, these myths have been pervasive — so pervasive that they seep into the consciousness of many Jews as well as non-Jews.

"It is important to remember that western society has a heavy anti-Semitic underpinning, and negative stereotypes about Jews are part of the culture in which everybody grows up, Jews and non-Jews alike," says Sander Gilman, a University of Illinois at Chicago liberal arts professor and the author of Jewish Self-Hatred, a key text on the subject.

This view is echoed by Raphael Ezekiel, a psychologist and the author of The Racist Mind: Portraits of American Neo-Nazis and Klansmen.

"If you live next door to a cement factory, then inevitably cement dust gets into your body," says Ezekiel, who in recent years has worked as a senior research scientist and visiting scholar at the Harvard School of Public Health. "And the same goes for anti-Semitism and other prejudices. Everyone who grows up in a culture gets impacted by those beliefs that are deeply held, including the members of endangered groups."

These observations apply to Bill Gale. But there were other factors, too.

Like many other retired military officers in the early 1950s, Gale was drawn to the extremely conservative, anti-Communist politics of the time, which were often tainted by anti-Semitism and diehard opposition to racial integration. And because his idolized father had abandoned Judaism and lied about his immigrant status, Gale's adoption of anti-Jewish beliefs also may have been driven by a desire to preserve what he felt was his father's shameful secret.

Charles Gale also apparently endured subtle slights from his more financially secure Jewish relatives in Portland, Ore., and young Bill seems to have picked up on these resentments.