Louis Farrakhan
Louis FarrakhanReuters

A newly released study found that online incitement, specifically the increasingly common use of the antisemitic term “synagogue of Satan,” has ushered in an era of increased physical attacks against synagogues and Jewish institutions.

“The Synagogue of Satan: Uniting Extremist Groups in the Revival of an Antisemitic Libel Online,” compiled by the Network Contagion Research Institute and Combat Antisemitism Movement, found that references to “synagogue” on Twitter have doubled since October 2022 along with negative comments containing the word.

Noting that the antisemitic libel “synagogue of Satan” makes up 20 percent of all Twitter comments containing the word “synagogue” and is “often accompanied by calls for direct action,” the study pointed out that longtime Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has been the “most influential” in the spread of the term along with Kanye West and basketball player Kyrie Irving.

While the term has its historic roots in Christian antisemitism, it has “found purchase across numerous modern conspiracy groups,” including QAnon influencers, Christian nationalists, white nationalists, the Nation of Islam and Black Hebrew Israelites, all of whom have also been instrumental in “amplifying” the term and falsehoods associated with it.

The study found that the spread of the term on Twitter correlates to increased instances of synagogue vandalism and threats across the US.

The use of “synagogue of Satan” is also growing into a “point of common convergence” between extremist groups, according to the findings.

This “bridge building” between otherwise unrelated extremist groups is especially apparent online. For instance, Farrakhan posting a video on social media quoting Christian evangelical minister Billy Graham using the term in a 1971 conversation with then-President Richard Nixon, or Kanye West disseminating the term in posts to his millions of social media followers.

The study found that due to use of the term frequently being accompanied by calls for direct action from notable extremist influencers, there is a direct correlation between using the libellous expression and physical attacks on synagogues.

The study warned that the “dangerous ‘synagogue of Satan’ narrative” has transcended traditional ideological divides, serving to unify disparate extremist ideologies. The causal link between the term and real world attacks is “concerning and the impact of such a toxic narrative should not be underestimated,” the study said.

As society becomes increasingly aware and willing to act against contemporary antisemitism, “it is crucial that efforts are made to counteract these narratives and protect the safety and well-being of Jewish communities.”