Across the nation, neighborhoods are being littered with antisemitic disinformation about the pandemic. Bowie and Vienna reported leaflets in neighborhoods over President’s Day weekend.
“It is always upsetting when we see this kind of antisemititc hate, or any kind of hate, in the community, said Meredith Weisel, the ADL’s Washington regional director. “It creates fear and anxiety in not only the neighborhoods where these fliers are showing up, but in the larger community when they hear its happening,”
The ADL has identified the group leaving the material as a “loose network of antisemites and white supremacists” known as the Goyim Defense League, Weisel said. The group is usually known to frequent California, Colorado and New York, but has recently expanded to the Washington area.
“They’re provocateurs more than anything,” she said.
Weisel said that the group is small and are most known for recording public antisemitic stunts to harass Jews. They use the content from these incidents on their video platform, GoyimTV, to raise money.
The recent flier incidents are part of coordinated propaganda campaign by the group that the ADL first noticed in December 2020. Weisel said that over the last three months her organization has counted more than 50 incidents by the hate group in about 17 states.
“It’s this consistent thing of white supremacy that they embrace,” she said.
Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said that although he would prefer to ignore the group’s antics, it’s important that society to weaken the spread of their hateful rhetoric.
“Antisemitism is a disease without a cure,” Halber said. “It’s transmitted from generation to generation and across different cultures across the world. You can’t fully eliminate it, but you can manage it.”
Halber said the Goyim Defense League and other like it have taken advantage of the current polarized state of the nation.
“As our country becomes more divided, it’s allowed those voices that would’ve been previously embarrassed to exhibit that bigotry on social media,” he said. “Social media has allowed the spread of these terrible ideas, because now every individual has a megaphone as opposed to before where you could just shun these individuals.”
Halber said that there are several ways to act against the hate like providing security to Jewish institutions so that people are not hurt, ensuring that there is public condemnation by leaders and making sure that media covering with the clear message that hate isn’t allowed in society.
“The key is to make those individuals who do this outcasts in our society. You have to make sure that they don’t get a foothold,” he said.
He has held three security programs — in Fairfax County, Montgomery County and the District. Because of the incident in Bowie, the JCRC is planning a security program in Prince George’s County.
“Despite the fact that they have a much smaller Jewish population in Prince George’s County than in Montgomery County, we don’t want them to feel left out or isolated. It was really important for us to reach out for them and let them know that their concerns are real and that the Jewish community can provide them with the support they need,” he said.
“It’s the responsibility of each generation in the United States and worldwide to pull out their toolbox, use the tools that are available and to remain vigilant against it. Society has to be resilient.”