Anti-Semitic flyers spouting conspiracy theories about Jews appeared in Novato last weekend, sparking a unified, angry response from police, local politicians and community members.
The flyers, plastered on telephone poles, storefronts and a high school campus, made preposterous claims that Jews, and Israel, were behind the 9/11 attacks. Among the claims: that Israelis were seen dancing on the site of the collapsed twin towers, that a Jewish Israeli man made billions in insurance money, and that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the attacks.
At the bottom of the page it says, “Wake up USA!”
The flyers were reported on a downtown Novato Safeway and on the campus of San Marin High School, according to the Marin Independent Journal. The paper reported that Novato Mayor Eric Lucan quickly condemned them, saying “there is no room for this type of hate speech” in Novato, while Novato Police Chief Adam McGill urged citizens to “stand up to hate.”
McGill told the Journal, however, that the flyers are protected by the First Amendment and there would be no investigation.
Nancy Appel, senior associate regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Central Pacific Region, said her office received multiple calls about the incident.
“We are trying to see what we can find out,” she told J. “The flyer doesn’t say who is behind it. These are hoary old stereotypes about 9/11. It’s of a piece in the rise of anti-Semitism we’re seeing generally.”
Rabbi Menachem Landa of the Chabad Jewish Center of Novato speculated the culprits were “probably some teenagers in the first week of school. This is not something I felt overly alarmed by. This doesn’t stand for who we are” in Novato.
On Tuesday, the mayor, police department, school district and the anti-hate group Not In Our Town published an open letter condemning the flyers. It read in part: “The hate rhetoric on this flyer was an indication we must continue our work to stand up to hate in our community. We must show strong community support for those who have been targeted by this flyer and other minority or marginalized groups affected by similar hate speech.”
Landa said that though he has received unwavering love and support from the community, Jewish and non-Jewish, there have been other disturbing incidents in town. For example, a young Jewish teen he knows received a text last year reading, “Hitler should have finished the job.”
In the wake of that incident, Landa met with concerned community members and San Marin High School administrators. They pledged to do something, he said, including organize a Holocaust survivor speaker series, which has not yet taken place. “We’re still working on it,” he added.
Nevertheless, Landa is looking on the bright side. He said the flyers are “a reminder of what an incredible community we live in, that a couple of flyers are causing a ruckus and people are standing up to it. It reminds me how lucky we are to be living here that something like this will cause an outcry.”