Antisemitism is often referred to as the oldest hatred, spanning nearly 2,000 years. Antisemitic hate groups seek to racialize Jewish people and vilify them as the manipulative puppet masters behind an economic, political and social scheme to undermine white people. Antisemitism also undergirds much of the far right, unifying adherents across various extremist ideologies around efforts to subvert and misconstrue the collective suffering of Jewish people in the Holocaust and cast them as conniving opportunists.
In 2020, the SPLC first began designating hate groups under antisemitism as a subcategory within our General Hate category. Due to the number of active antisemitic groups, the distinctiveness of their ideology and the virtual omnipresence of antisemitism across the far right, 2021 is the first year that those groups are being featured as a standalone ideology.
Made up largely of hate groups that deny and obscure facts about the Holocaust and chapters of the Nation of Islam, the number of antisemitic hate groups dropped from 74 in 2020 to 61 in 2021. However, a decline in the number of active hate chapters should not be misconstrued as evidence of a drop in the prevalence of antisemitism in the United States.
The number of active Holocaust Denial hate groups has fluctuated only slightly over the past decade, with the SPLC documenting anywhere from seven to 11 active groups since 2009.
As in years past, antisemitic hate groups that specifically focus Holocaust denial remained relatively stagnant in 2021.
The number of active Nation of Islam chapters dropped significantly in 2021, most likely due to fewer in-person gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. With its history of antisemitism, the Nation of Islam makes up the majority of active hate groups in this category.
However, antisemitism reached far beyond the confines of hate group membership in 2021. As the backbone of many political, social and public health-related conspiracy theories, early reports on antisemitic hate crimes across the country are high. Similarly, a recent study from the Center to Counter Digital Hate found that social media platforms failed to act on 84% of antisemitic posts that were flagged via the companies own user reporting tools.
The online spread of debunked conspiracies and misinformation related to the Holocaust of Jewish persons should not be addressed separately from the offline impacts of antisemitism. Recently, notable figures on the right have fallaciously invoked the imagery and the history of the Holocaust to build a narrative of victimization around COVID-19 vaccine campaigns and mask mandates. While the U.S. government has not mandated vaccines for Americans, that has not stopped some from undermining the gravity and lasting impact of the Holocaust by comparing the genocide of 6 million Jewish people with efforts to protect fellow citizens from the COVID-19 virus and its variants. Jewish persons and houses of worship continue to be targeted with harassment, hate crimes and acts of terrorism.
Hate groups that deny and obscure the historical facts of the Holocaust will most likely remain relatively static in 2022. Further significant changes in the number of active Nation of Islam chapters are also not expected in the coming year.
The importance of dismantling antisemitism along with racism
We cannot dismantle racism unless we also dismantle antisemitism. Antisemitism revitalized the white nationalist movement in the 1960s. In Eric K. Ward’s article “Skin in the Game,” published in 2017 by Political Research Associates, he explains that antisemitism gave the movement a new theoretical basis for claims of white supremacy. “Antisemitism,” Ward explains, “is a particular and potent form of racism so central to [white] supremacy that Black people would not win our freedom without tearing it down.”
In addition to Holocaust-denying groups, chapters of the Nation of Islam account for a significant portion of the activity in this ideology. Listing active chapters of the Nation of Islam, a group with a history of antisemitism dating to its founding in the 1930s, in the Antisemitism category accurately defines the power dynamics endemic to white supremacy. Despite the deep history of alliance between Jewish people and Black Americans during the civil rights movement, white supremacy culture has continually sought to drive a wedge between would-be allies – often with much success. As “Antisemitism crosses every line of race, political party, and primary stances on a wide range of issues,” writes Ward, such a wedge can be described as an equal opportunity bigotry.
Background: Antisemitism and Holocaust-denial conspiracies
Antisemitism supports the belief that Jewish individuals are a separate race, making it a form of racism in itself. Harmful stereotypes uniformly portray Jewish persons as deceitful and predatory.
Antisemitism is a form of racism that is distinct from anti-Black racism or broader xenophobia. White supremacist adherents of the ideology contradictorily portray Jewish persons as simultaneously inferior and all-powerful, often by propagating myths of “globalist” agents with equally great, yet undue, financial influence who uphold a collective goal of subverting white, European cultures and nations. Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ individuals are often portrayed as tools of this grand subversion. In such groups as the Nation of Islam, antisemitism is used in a similar capacity, claiming Jewish people caused slavery, Jim Crow laws, sharecropping and other forms of Black oppression.
While the Nation of Islam also has a history of homophobic rhetoric, they are one of the most active disseminators of antisemitic materials and have a history of contributing to antisemitism both within and outside the Black community. Compiled by the Nation of Islam’s Ministry of Research, The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews is a foremost antisemitic book. Khalid Abdul Muhammad – a top official within the Nation of Islam – used the book as a source for his infamously antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ speech at Kean College in 1993.
The Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan claimed in his July 4, 2020, address, “[Jews] attempted to kill me non-violently, with radiated seed.” He then proceeded to call prominent Jewish individuals – such as Alan Dershowitz and Jason Greenblatt – Satan. “Those of you who say that you are a Jew, I will not give the honor of calling you a Jew, you are not a Jew,” he added. “You’re so-called [Jews], you are Satan. And it’s my job now to pull the cover off of Satan. The reason they hate me,” he continued, is “because they know that I represent the end of their civilization. I represent the uncovering of their wickedness.”
Farrakhan has also claimed, “Pedophilia and sexual perversion institutionalized in Hollywood and the entertainment industries can be traced to Talmudic principles and Jewish influence. Not Jewish influence, Satanic influence under the name of Jew.” Both Farrakhan and Khalid Adbul Muhammad have also used the word “bloodsucker” to dehumanize Jewish people, claiming they are “bloodsuckers of the poor.”
Holocaust deniers form another segment of groups and individuals whose ideology bolsters the antisemitism that permeates many hate groups. Adherents to this small segment of the far right seek to validate antisemitism and undermine the experiences of Jewish people by distorting the historical facts of the Holocaust, or outright denying it ever happened.
Holocaust deniers espouse falsehoods including that Jewish people died from disease, starvation and other indiscriminate challenges rather than a systematic genocide orchestrated and executed by the Nazi Party during its occupation of Europe during World War II. Holocaust deniers falsely claim that the gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps were used for recreation and delousing prisoners – and even that they were built after World War II. Holocaust deniers also exaggerate minor discrepancies in reported Jewish casualties and deaths during the Holocaust as evidence of sweeping historical fallacies. Adherents to this ideology often mask these claims behind the guise of pseudo-intellectual “historical revisionism.”
While Holocaust denial as a loose collection of antisemitic narratives existed prior, the first hate group dedicated solely to the spread of this ideology was the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), formed in 1978 by Willis Carto. The organization remains active today under director Mark Weber. After being ousted from IHR, Carto founded The Barnes Review and American Free Press, both of which are active SPLC-designated hate groups.
Antisemitism across the contemporary far right and mainstream
While the number of groups SPLC has listed under this category remains small and their tactics and ideology are relatively stagnant, the narratives and rhetoric these groups and individuals have long espoused permeate much of the far right as bigoted groups and individuals seek to portray Jewish people as manipulative and deceitful.
Most publicly, rhetoric, flyers, blog posts and memes from neo-Nazi hate groups often utilize Holocaust denial to attack Jewish people and serve their antisemitic agenda. Similarly, members of the Ku Klux Klan draw on the tenets of Holocaust denial that were largely introduced to the ideology by David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. These attempts at denying the facts of history seek to cast Jewish people as the conniving architects of a Zionist Occupied Government (ZOG), a conspiracy theory claiming that Jewish people control the U.S. government. Importantly, antisemitism has long been a facet of the Ku Klux Klan.
Belief in ZOG and denial of the veracity of the Holocaust are also ideological underpinnings of the white nationalist movement. Greg Johnson, the editor-in-chief of the white nationalist publishing company Counter-Currents, credits David Irving as instrumental in his conversion to white nationalism. Additionally, flyers from such groups as the New Jersey European Heritage Association claim that movements for racial equity and social justice like Black Lives Matter are controlled by Jewish-funded organizations.
The influence of Holocaust denialism spreads far beyond the increasingly murky boundaries of far-right ideologies. Just one week into Trump’s term, his administration issued a statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day that omitted any mention of Jewish people and antisemitism. This came just months before Trump alleged that there “were very fine people, on both sides” at the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where members of the far right chanted, “Jews will not replace us” and the Nazi slogan “blood and soil.”
White nationalist Nick Fuentes used antisemitism in a “Stop the Steal” rally in Atlanta in November 2020, when he claimed “global special interest groups” were responsible for Trump’s election loss. Fuentes pushed a coded conspiracy that the system is corrupt and more specifically that Biden will be used as “a tool by the same global interests who have very sick plans for [Trump supporters], your communities and your children.”
This narrative powers some of the QAnon conspiracy theories that motivated Trump-supporting rioters to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Some QAnon supporters claim that a secret cabal of Jewish people controls the world and sexually abuse and traffic Christian children for their blood, an antisemitic trope based on “blood libel” – the belief in a cabal of Jews kidnapping and murdering Christian children. President Trump pointedly refused to denounce the conspiracy theory when questioned about it in an August 2020 press conference and again during a televised town hall in his campaign for reelection.
During the attack on the Capitol, which was incited by Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud, numerous antisemitic slogans were on display. One protester who breached the Capitol wore a sweatshirt that read, “Camp Auschwitz” and “work brings freedom.” Another rioter was spotted wearing a shirt emblazoned with “6MWE,” which stands for “6 million wasn’t enough,” implying that more Jewish people should have died in the Holocaust.
Throughout 2021, prominent figures on the right such as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Tucker Carlson have compared mask mandates to the Holocaust and the COVID-19 vaccine to “Nazi experiments.” On Jan. 23, 2022, Robert Kennedy Jr. compared measures to contain the virus to Nazi-era restrictions instituted as part of a genocidal campaign. In response, the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum remarked that his exploitation of “the tragedy of people who suffered, were humiliated, tortured and murdered by the totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany” was a “sad symptom of moral and intellectual decay.”
In recent years, antisemitism has led to a deadly shooting at a Jewish market in Jersey City, New Jersey, another mass killing at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a hostage-taking at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas.