Recent events have highlighted a disturbing trend among some of the most extremist neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups: looking to Islamist terror organizations as a model and inspiration. This became noticeable with the August 2021 Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and with the Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) killing of U.S. soldiers there. It continued with the 20th anniversary of 9/11, when groups, including some Proud Boys affiliates, celebrated the attacks.
During the November 2021 Unite the Right rally trial, in which the jury awarded over $26 million in damages, defendant Matthew Heimbach, who at the time of the rally was leader of the neo-Nazi and white supremacist Traditionalist Worker Party and an early promoter of the neo-Nazi-jihadi bromance, was called to the stand, where he made news by joking about Hitler. Known for years as a fervent supporter of the designated anti-U.S. terrorist organizations Hizbullah and Hamas, he said in 2017 that he had modeled his organization's recruitment approach after them.
This follows the widespread support other neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups expressed for Hamas and Hizbullah during the May 2021 Gaza conflict; they remain some of their most vocal fans online and continue to post content lauding them. Another recent example highlighting the global aspect of this bromance, French extremist nationalist and presidential candidate Yvan Benedetti, leader of the "Les Nationalistes" movement, enthusiastically endorsed Hizbullah numerous times on his Telegram channel.
While countless media reports and research papers have discussed many aspects of the last Gaza conflict, a new disturbing phenomenon has been documented and exposed extremists' support for Palestinian terrorist entities and their cause. The Gaza events gave these seemingly opposing groups an opportunity to connect, communicate, and influence each other. These extremists – who are desperate for publicity – will not be named here.
Neo-Nazis and white supremacists shared online a great deal of content expressing this solidarity, along with hatred for Jews and Israel, and, most disturbingly, support for these views taken from Nazism – including admiration for Hitler. Their aim was to set the stage for future collaboration – a new strategy for attacking Jews worldwide – and they seized the opening provided by the conflict to jump on the bandwagon of virulent antisemitism and Israel-hatred.
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Influential leaders in these movements urged followers not just to find common cause with Palestinian terrorist groups, but to work covertly with the anti-Israel and antisemitic left – whose views were also reflected in attacks on Jews by Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. and other Western countries.
According to some of these leaders, the conflict could also be used to foment discord in those same anti-Israel and antisemitic sectors; one prominent neo-Nazi remarked, "it's our job... to stir up as much shit as possible." Notably, the California-based white supremacist Rise Above Movement stressed that exploiting the Gaza-Israel conflict "is a great way to cause divide" and that using any issue to "cause small cracks" is good.
Hashtags such as "#hitlerwasright" – also widely spread by left-wing antisemites – and "#together," for posts encouraging collaboration with jihadis, were circulated online, some with photos of Nazi officials with Muslim leaders. One such post on a neo-Nazi Telegram channel featured a 1943 photo of SS Chief Heinrich Himmler with Jerusalem Grand Mufti Haj Amin Al-Husseini, indicating a desire to revive the WWII National Socialist-Muslim alliance.
Neo-Nazi and white supremacists' expressions of solidarity with the Arab world against Jews and Israel, including widely shared livestreams, videos, and photos of their participation in rallies in the U.S. and abroad, were part of these efforts.
A Telegram channel associated with a prominent January 6 Capitol riot defendant wrote that it would livestream from pro-Palestine rallies. Capturing the zeitgeist, a white supremacist in a Hizbullah t-shirt was filmed at a Washington, D.C. anti-Israel rally giving a "white power" hand sign. A leading white supremacist website even posted an "open letter" by a senior U.S. neo-Nazi pleading for support for Hamas.
Many posts online referenced Hitler and other Nazis on the subject of Palestinians and recommended to "get over" distaste for collaborating with Arabs, even while acknowledging that they care nothing for the Palestinians. Also seen were explicit calls to support Hamas, Hizbullah, and others "strong enough" to "strike at the heart of our enemy."
A well-known U.S. neo-Nazi and white supremacist urged readers on Telegram to support "literally the only people today" who are actively and physically fighting the Jews – the Palestinians. He added: "If you consider yourself an enemy of world Jewry and want to see it destroyed, how could you not support their fight?"
Another figure, a founding member of a white supremacist organization with connections to the 2017 Unite the Right rally, was spurred by hatred for Jews to address the Arab world, in perfect Arabic, in a video, arguing that Arabs, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists in the West must join hands. Other prominent domestic extremists stressed that the Gaza crisis and the resulting antisemitic activity were too good an opportunity to pass up.
Hamas is "cool," wrote a neo-Nazi and former Marine with a large following on Telegram. The post showed rockets headed towards Israel and celebrated Jews' "getting bombed by Palestinians." He rejoiced at the Gaza conflict's making antisemitism "mainstream."
A recent discussion on a private neo-Nazi Telegram channel with American and European members – such international chatting and mingling is becoming common – included comments such as "Together we share the same jihad" and "may Hamas destroy them and turn them into ashes." This toxic terrorist bromance is growing, both in the U.S. and worldwide, and counterterrorism officials should act now on this threat before it grows out of control.
*Steven Stalinsky is Executive Director of the Middle East Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI.org). He is the co-author of Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists Attempt To Revive WWII-Era Nazi-Palestinian Alliance: Gaza Conflict Provides Opportunity For Them To Promote And Actualize 'Final Solution,' With Online And On-The-Ground Efforts, Emerging Support For Terror Groups Hamas And Hizbullah And For Their Shared Mission Of Attacking Jews Worldwide.