The global financial crisis has brought with it a tidal wave of anti-Semitic sentiments, much of which has led to full-blown conspiracy theories postulating the crisis is part of a Jewish plot. While usual suspects Hamas and Iran have both put in their expected two pennies - with Hamas blaming the Jewish lobby in Washington and Tehran opting for a more far-reaching Zionist plot to control the entire world's economy.
That Israel's economy seems to have emerged relatively unscathed from the crisis has leant much ammunition to enemies of the Jewish state. As does the fact that many of the world's financial leaders are of Jewish descent. Figures such as US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, his predecessor Alan Greenspan, World Bank President Robert Zoellik, UK Business Secretary Peter Mandelson and the 2008 recipient of the Nobel Prize for economics, Paul Krugman, have all come under attack due to their heritage.
However the traditional extremists are not alone in their peddling of anti-Semitic diatribes. Content historically associated with the most virulent of racists has, it would seem, gone mainstream online.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported early in October that discussion boards and blogs dealing with the meltdown on Wall Street are being flooded with hate speech.
In hundreds of messages echoing rhetoric found on neo-Nazi and white supremacist websites, posters to mainstream forums promote centuries-old stereotypes and conspiracy theories alleging Jewish control of the economy, banking and the government.
The all-powerful RothschildsOne such popular 'study' asserts that banking giant Lehman Brothers transferred inordinate sums of money to Israeli banks shortly before its collapse. The work, hosted on a website maintained by a German-American holocaust denier, cites publications that reported Lehman lost properties worth over $400 billion in the months prior to its collapse.
On 'rense.com' the conspiracy hinges on the nationalization of insurance colossus AIG. Bernanke, who the website refers to as an extremist Zionist, coerced the American taxpayer into rescuing "the gang of Zionists behind 9-11," referring at least in part to the company's former CEO, Maurice Greenberg.
Another Bernanke-related allegation finds its home on 'realjewnews.com,' a website maintained by Nathanael Kapner, who identifies himself as a former Jew who converted to Orthodox Christianity.
According to Kapner, Bernanke reports to Greenspan, who in turn reports to the Rothschild family. "The Jewish House Of Rothschild has been in control of the world for a very long time, their tentacles reaching into many aspects of our daily lives beginning with their global financial power," writes Kapner.
The bailout, proponents of his website are told, was orchestrated by wealthy Jewish banks to their advantage by manipulating "their puppet" - US Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson.
Again, such tales are to be expected in these dank corners of the internet. What is worrying is that they are being quoted and linked to on legitimate news sites, which are struggling to delete problematic comments at the rate they are being posted.
'Myths resurrected after crises'
Articles published by news sites have also made anti-Semitic claims. The Russian Pravda News reported that French, German, and Italian leaders are bailing out European banks for the sake of the Jewish bankers' families, again evoking the Rothschild name.
A Spanish news site said the crisis was masterminded by "the cruel capitalism of Milton Friedman's Zionist students."
The ADL, which is responsible for bringing the worrying phenomenon to light, is concerned.
"We know from modern history that after any global financial crisis there is a surge in anti-Semitism, and this is what we are witnessing now," ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said.
"The ancient tales of Jews and money are always lying just beneath the surface. As we saw after 9-11, every time there is trouble and uncertainty in economics or worldwide events Jews become scapegoats, and ugly anti-Semitic myths are resurrected."