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Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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Far-right figures are spreading antisemitism and conspiracy theories in response to news of a tunnel under a New York synagogue

White nationalist Stew Peters claimed that the tunnel was “built and constructed by pedophiles who wish to engage in child sex trafficking”

Content warning: This article contains numerous examples of bigoted rhetoric.

Following the discovery of a secret tunnel under a historic Brooklyn synagogue, far-right media figures have pushed antisemitism and conspiracy theories about the tunnel’s purpose, including accusing Jewish people of pedophilia and child trafficking. Many drew upon antisemitic tropes in their coverage.

  • The tunnel found under the synagogue was reportedly dug by a small sect to gain unauthorized access to the building

    • On January 8, a group of worshippers staged a protest at a synagogue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, as the synagogue tried to seal off a tunnel that had been discovered under the building. Police were called that afternoon to respond to a “disorderly group that was trespassing and damaging a wall,” resulting in the arrest of several people. [The Associated Press, 1/10/24]
    • According to reporting from Rolling Stone, the tunnel was the result of local tension within the Brooklyn Chabad Lubavitch community over the ownership of the building, with one sect creating a single 8-foot by 5-foot tunnel to gain unauthorized access to the synagogue. A Chabad Lubovitch spokesperson denounced the actions of the few “young agitators” who are believed responsible for the creation of the tunnel. [Rolling Stone, 1/11/24]
  • Far-right figures spread antisemitism in response to reporting on the tunnel

    • White nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes claimed on a livestream that “these Jews are weird. And they're up to no good. And they're not like us.” He also said that “they're maintaining sex trafficking blackmail rings” and equated the small Jewish community of the Brooklyn synagogue to the Israeli government, saying, “They go and drop bombs and kill 20,000 people and displace 2 million, the whole population, of that place.” [Rumble, America First, 1/8/24]
    • In another stream, Fuentes opened by saying that he will be covering the “rape tunnels” again and said he believes that “Jews run everything and they worship the devil.” He went on to clarify that “the problem is Jewish, Jewish, — it's all together. It's all of them together. It's not just the Zionists. It's not just the people that really care about Israel. It's a lot of them, OK? And it's the ones that even aren’t too fond of Israel.” [Telegram, American First, 1/9/24, 1/9/24]
    • Fuentes also claimed that Ashley St. Clair of The Babylon Bee did not cover the story, adding, “Oh, she's Jewish, by the way.” Fuentes also implied that she should have covered it because “they're raping everybody in town. They're raping everybody in town or digging tunnels under the city. And you're like um let's talk about Fauci and Biden.” [Telegram, American First, 1/9/24
    • Gateway Pundit’s Elijah Schaffer claimed that “this is pretty much comparable to getting video footage of remote controls controlling the plane on 911 or something.” [YouTube, Slightly Offensive1/11/24]
    • Right-wing streamer Sneako discussed the tunnel at length in a recent stream, asking his audience to “think about what else they're hiding.” He speculated and attempted to draw parallels to sex offender Jeffery Epstein’s island, saying, “What the fuck else is out there? Epstein’s Island, that was a crazy conspiracy theory and now everybody understands that he didn't kill himself and that the most influential, rich people in the world were all going on an island to go fuck kids and get blackmailed in order to support Israel. That's true now. What used to be a crazy conspiracy theory is now actually happening. So if they were able to keep doing that secret for that long, what else is out there? Think about it. How many people were on the same page?” [Rumble, 1/9/24]
    • “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander posted to Telegram, “We Creators are hunted by these Tunnel Diggers.” [Telegram, 1/9/24]
    • MMA fighter Jake Shields claimed that people are deemed “antisemitic Nazi[s]” if they ask questions about the tunnel. He also claimed that “if Muslims built tunnels under mosques we would ask questions. If Christians built tunnels under churches we would ask questions.” [Twitter/X, 1/10/24]
  • Far-right figures accused Jewish people of pedophilia and child trafficking while discussing the tunnel

    • During a livestream, Fuentes claimed that “they're building the tunnels to rape kids.” He went on to say “they're building the tunnels to rape kids or something like that. But, I mean, you understand. You understand what goes on, and then you -- then you learn about the influence of the Chabad Jews.” [Telegram, American First, 1/9/24
    • Sneako posted to X, “Who’s ready for the giant coverup when people realize the jewish tunnels connect to a sex dungeon?” [Twitter/X, 1/9/24]
    • Far-right “manosphere” influencer Jon Zherka posted to X: “May God protect your children from being ritualistically raped in an underground tunnel.” [Twitter/X, 1/10/24]
    • White nationalist podcaster Stew Peters tried to draw comparisons to the Epstein case. Peters said, “You know, let's be honest, over 8 million children in America alone go missing every year. Many of them end up in tunnels like this. The Epstein tapes have not come out that the FBI has, and now we're seeing this. I mean, how likely is it that this is connected to child rape? Child sex trafficking?” [Rumble, The Stew Peters Show, 1/9/24]
    • Vincent James Foxx, who was a guest on Peters’ show, replied that this scenario was “very likely” and went on to compare the tunnel to Pizzagate, a debunked conspiracy theory claiming that there were children being trafficked under a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C. Foxx continued, “They did a really good job of destroying that narrative with, you know, fake shooters and all sorts of crazy information to poison the well of information when it comes to it, to Pizzagate, which was like an actual, real thing. So tunnels, child rape, child trafficking. There's a long history of this.” [Rumble, The Stew Peters Show, 1/9/24; Vox, 12/8/16]
    • Peters also claimed that “what makes sense is that these tunnels were filled with kids that were being trafficked and molested and raped.” He added that “these tunnels were built and constructed by pedophiles who wish to engage in child sex trafficking. I'm gonna go out on a limb here, make that prediction, and I bet you that that will be accurate.” [Rumble, The Stew Peters Show, 1/9/24