Under the cloak of preparing for Y2K turmoil, extremists are calling on followers to take up arms against their enemies — the Jews.
So said Anti-Defamation League officials and political violence expert Brian Jenkins at a press conference last week at the Oakland Federal Building. They spoke before heading into an ADL-sponsored conference for about 150 Northern California law enforcement officials, including police and FBI agents.
The daylong conference was called "Y2K Paranoia: Extremists Confront the Millennium," the same title of an ADL report released last week. ADL sponsored the conference to educate law enforcement officials and potentially help them make connections on current and future cases.
Law enforcement officials "need to be prepared," said Jonathan Bernstein, director of the Anti-Defamation League's Central Pacific region.
Many of the extremists, for example, base their beliefs on Christianity's apocalyptic writings.
"You see a lot of the rhetoric," Bernstein said. "How they need to kill Jews now, before the millennium, to bring about the Second Coming. Others say that millennium fears are being caused by Jews to create confusion."
Many Christian fundamentalists speak of the "End Times" as prophesied in Revelations and other books of the Christian Bible. At the core of this belief: All Jews of the diaspora must be gathered in Israel and converted.
"Certain evangelical and fundamentalist writers have spoken of anti-Semitism as part of God's will — a punishment for not accepting Jesus as the messiah," said Jessica Ravitz, assistant director of the region's ADL office in San Francisco. "For example, they see the Holocaust as 'proof' of God's intention to punish the Jews."
According to the ADL, the groups also share a profound suspicion of technology.
Noah Hutchings, a radio preacher from Oklahoma City, has written a book called "Y2K=666," which posits that the computer is a tool of the anti-Christ. Walt Myers, author of "Technology and the Mark of the Beast," claims the devil couches his numerological acronym, 666, in supermarket bar codes — all the better to "trap the masses."
"In focusing on the Jews as the 'most important sign' of the End Times, some millennialist Christians not only believe but actually hope that the Jews will cease to exist as a unique people with their own separate religion, history and culture," the ADL report asserts.
Evangelist Jerry Falwell apologized earlier this year for having commented publicly that the anti-Christ is Jewish. Nevertheless, "his belief speaks to the central role that some Christians see Jews as playing the End Times drama," the report concluded.
Among the ADL report's grim and frequently bizarre findings:
*The Concerned Christians cult has been linked to the belief that violence in the streets of Jerusalem could hasten the Second Coming of Christ. Last January and earlier this month, Concerned Christian members were arrested and deported from Israel.
*James Wickstrom, a Christian Identity "minister" and former leader of the Posse Comitatus — a group known for chilling acts of violence — says "the Jew and anti-Christ world system" plan to create turmoil. However, according to the Christian Identity theorists, Jews are downplaying the impending crisis so as to avoid a run on the banks. That way, they say, the Jews can horde all of the cash when non-Jews cannot retrieve their own,
*The Christian Defense League based in Arabi, La., claims Y2K is simply a Jewish plot to take over the world.
Other groups predicting a doomsday replete with a stock market crash, a run on the banks, widespread violence and a Jewish political coup include the Missouri-based Church of Israel, the National Association for the Advancement of White People, and John Trochman's Militia of Montana.
"The approach of the third millennium and its related Y2K computer problem has provided militia groups and other anti-government extremists with a clarion call for their followers," Ravitz said. "The watchword for these groups is 'preparedness,' as their leaders urge their followers to be ready to protect and defend themselves against the impending breakdown in social order."
Apocalyptic leaders have called on followers to begin stockpiling weapons. While it is impossible to ascertain how many are doing so, gun sales have been picking up briskly in California, according to State Attorney General Bill Lockyer. Sales increased more than 30 percent during the first six months of 1999 compared to the same period last year. The biggest increase came in the sale of rifles and shotguns.
"Millennial cults, extremist groups and racial ideologues this year are bringing their assorted baggage to the Y2K happening," said Abraham Foxman, ADL's national director. "The heightened expectations of the year 2000, mixed together with the widely reported possibility of computer meltdown, have generated a barrage of predictions and hysterical propaganda from those on the farthest fringes of society."