The Jewish Community Relations Council is calling to condemn the West Chester Tea Party for hosting a speaker with antisemitic conspiracy theories and spreading those ideas through email and social media.
On Sept. 5, the WCTP hosted author Harald Ziegler, who addressed the group for one hour, and over the course of his talk, made several antisemitic remarks. His full talk to the group was posted on the party’s public Vimeo account and shared in an email that included excerpts from his presentation.
“The West Chester Tea Party subsequently repeated many of these ideas in an email sent to their membership on September 9,” the JCRC said in a statement.
The West Chester Tea Party has not responded to requests for comment.
The JCRC was made aware of the incident over the weekend and, after conducting a review, found a history of antisemitic conspiracy theories on the party’s social media profiles and made a statement condemning the group’s antisemitism.
“We were informed that the West Chester Tea Party had platformed an extreme antisemitic speaker, disseminated antisemitic content to their email list, and posted much antisemitic content (over a long space of time) on their Facebook and Gab accounts,” said Rabbi Ari Jun, director of the JCRC.
A brief glance at the WCTP’s social media and website shows numerous posts that contain antisemitic conspiracy theories. The posts cover a range of antisemitic tropes, including the myth that Jews control world politics and banking, and control the media. The great replacement theory, a white supremacist conspiracy theory that claims Jews are attempting to replace white Christians with minority groups, which was behind the infamous chant at the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally in 2016. Blood Libel, a centuries-old antisemitic conspiracy theory that Jews sacrifice Christian children to use their blood in religious ceremonies. That Jews are disloyal, a conspiracy theory that claims Jews are only loyal to other Jews and pushing a Jewish agenda.
Ziegler is an author who was promoting his latest book. Ziegler claims on his website that he was born in East Germany and was a “card-carrying communist until his confrontation with god and meeting his wife who was raised in a Christian home.”
The Tea Party movement was founded in 2009 as an offshoot of the Republican Party. It rose to prominence during the 2010 midterm elections and was funded by Republican mega-donors like the Koch brothers.
The JCRC said in their statement Republican elected officials had voiced their support for the Jewish community and did not condone the group’s behavior.
“This isn’t about typical ‘left versus right’ politics, but about setting boundaries for reasonable discourse,” said Jun. “We cannot allow antisemitism to spread further into the mainstream.”
Antisemitism has been on the rise in the US for the past several years, and last week was in the news because of comments made by Elon Musk blaming the Anti-Defamation League for lost profits on Twitter (as well as for somehow being the cause of antisemitism). Several synagogues have been targeted with bomb threats over the past few months.
Addressing antisemitism head-on is the best way to keep it from spreading, Jun said.
“We might be tempted to not draw extra attention to this extremist group [but] ignoring antisemitism will not slow their spread or make them go away,” said Jun. “As Louis Brandeis said, sunlight is the best disinfectant.”