From a Zionist storm to Mossad sharks: What are the most inventive antisemitic theories?

Full marks for creativity to the Tunisian president, who claimed this week 'Zionists' were behind the naming of Storm Daniel


Some antisemitic conspiracy theories merely require the believer to have spent a little time on X/Twitter; others require a little more creativity.

On that basis congratulations are in order to Tunisian president Kais Saied, who claimed on local television on Monday that “Zionists” were behind the naming of Storm Daniel, the violent weather system that brought death and destruction to Libya and Greece earlier this month.

“Did they not wonder about the naming? Daniel is a Hebrew prophet,” Saied said.

“The Zionist movement has penetrated to attack the mind and thinking, from Daniel to Abraham,” he added in a reference to the Abraham Accords, the series of “normalisation” deals between Israel and Arab countries that he vehemently opposes.

Antisemitic conspiracy theories, of course, are two a penny – albeit more rare from the mouth of a president – and some of the more common ones, such as “Mossad did 9/11”, by now look deeply mundane and unoriginal.

With that in mind, we’ve scoured the conspiracy theory galaxy to bring you ten of the more inventive hypotheses about Jews and Israel.

1. Mossad employs intelligence-gathering cows. The hypothesis that Mossad uses a menagerie of animals to spy on or attack Israel’s neighbours returns to the conspiracy charts every few years. Among our favourites in this genre was the “Mossad shark” sent to Egypt in December 2010 to attack tourists – it allegedly ate a German grandmother - and dent the Egyptian economy. In December 2022, an official newspaper of the Palestinian National Authority, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, carried the suggestion that Israeli cows were actually “recruited and trained” spies who wore “an eavesdropping and recording device”.  Similarly, in 2016, Imad Hamato, a professor of Quranic Studies in Gaza, said on Palestinian Authority television: “The Jews . . . control the media, the money, the press, the resources, the plans.” He later went a step further: “If a fish in the sea fights with another fish, I am sure the Jews are behind it.”

2. Pepsi is controlled by Zionists to fund Israel. A theory that has existed since at least the 1980s is the idea that Pepsi is an acronym for ‘Pay Every Penny Save Israel’ and is funding the Israeli state. This interpretation of 'Pepsi' was initially confined to schoolchildren in the Arab world. However, the meaning began to gain currency and spread to university students, anti-Zionist activists, Turkish journalists, Hamas members and onwards to Arab TV programmes. Pepsi is actually named after “dyspepsia” which is another word for indigestion. Ironically, in 1973, US Jewish organisations campaigned for a boycott of Pepsi products over the company's trade deal with the then-USSR, which was persecuting Jews and pushing antisemitic propaganda on a wide scale.

3. Mossad stole my shoe. Asghar Bukhari, a founding member of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK, wrote on Facebook that when his home was burgled, only a shoe was stolen. He went on to say it was a tactic of intimidation by Zionists. "I don’t know how they got in, but they didn't break in - the only thing they took was one shoe. Now think about that, the only thing they took was a single shoe - they left one shoe behind to let me know someone had been there," he said in a Facebook post which began "ARE ZIONISTS TRYING TO INTIMIDATE ME?".

4. Jews infected Palestinians with HIV. In March 1997, Nabil Ramlawi, the PLO representative to the United Nations in Geneva, accused Israel of a sinister plot to kill Palestinian children. “The Israeli authorities infected by injection 300 Palestinian children with the HIV virus during the years of the intifada,” he said. Ramlawi claimed that the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot had confirmed the report in January. However, Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram printed a full retraction on its front page of the same charges, "admitting that the story was completely false and that nothing of the kind had appeared in Yediot," Israel’s then ambassador to the UN, Yosef Lamdan, wrote. "This is a blatant barefaced lie, an absolute and total libel," he said. "The product of a sick and infected mind."

5. Interfaith is a Zionist plot. Palestinian Forum in Britain, which organises popular anti-Israel demonstrations, claimed in August 2022 that interfaith dialogue was a covert Zionist strategy to cover up Israeli “apartheid”. The group also branded interfaith work between Jews and Muslims “faithwashing”. In 2018, the pro-Iranian Islamic Commission on Human Rights, a UK-based organisation, claimed interfaith involved Jews “cosying up to mosques and Muslim groups” and was “nothing more than a deceitful attempt to normalise the continuing murder, maiming and dispossession of the Palestinian people”. And in May 2019, a talk by Rabbi Lea Mühlstein at the Mahfil Ali Mosque in Harrow was cancelled after claims she was “heavily involved in Zionist activities”.

6. Jews faked the Holocaust so they could create Israel. Common in the Arab world, this theory may have been popularised by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who wrote a doctoral dissertation suggesting the number of Jewish victims was significantly less than six million, and that the Nazis and the Zionist movement secretly cooperated to prompt Jewish immigration from Europe to Palestine.

7. Jews want to take over Poland. The idea has its roots in an 1858 book by Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, but did not gain currency in antisemitic tracts until around 1900. In 1912, author and literary critic Teodor Jeske-Choiński put the following words into the mouths of Jews in his book: "If you do not allow us to establish a 'Judeo-Polonia state' and a nation of 'Judeo-Polish people,' we will strangle you." This myth has been revived every so often in connection with the Bodenheimer plan (an initiative to create a league of East European states).

8. Jews hunt Christians for sexual torture. A largely forgotten classic. One of its early progenitors was German artist Michael Wolgemut (1434-1519), who produced a woodcut portraying the “Jewish” ritual murder of a Christian child named Simon in the Italian city of Trent. The artist organises the castration scene so that the viewer’s eyes cannot but focus on the gushing blood from the boy’s loins. His naked body, held and spread by lascivious Jews, is poked and pulled and pinched. The "lust libel" went on to penetrate Western culture and - tragically - has re-emerged as an inspiration for today's far-right terrorists.

9. Zionists kidnapped child slaves after the South East Asia tsunami. On January 20 2005, a Yemeni professor said in a TV interview: “As for the issue of child abduction in places hit by the earthquake and tsunami in Southeast Asia, this is what the organisations of global Zionism are accustomed to, and this is what they do. But it is done in secret. They commit a crime and then place the blame on the Arab and Islamic nation…Many studies have proven that a large per cent of the slave market belongs to the forces of global Zionism, whose octopus tentacles spread evil throughout the world.”

10. Jews use space lasers. In 2018 US author Marjorie Taylor Greene wrote an online post attributing Californian wildfires to “space solar generators”. Speculating on those behind the new technology, Greene identified a company she described as “Rothschild Inc”. Few people noticed the post at the time as Greene was not well known – she was a conservative activist and worked as a gym owner. However, when she was elected to Congress in 2020, it resurfaced on social media and was described as a rant about “Jewish space lasers” (a phrase she had not in fact used). Greene was widely ridiculed and accused of antisemitism. She responded saying she “didn’t find out until recently that the Rothschilds were Jewish”.

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