Many questions have been raised about Julian Assange’s and WikiLeaks’s association with the anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist Israel Shamir. (See, notably, Michael Moynihan’s detailed exposé on Reason.com here.) Among other things, Shamir defends the “veracity” of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and is a proponent of the theory of ZOG or the “Zionist Occupation Government.” Allusions to “ZOG” are a commonplace of contemporary neo-Nazi discourse. The term refers, more specifically, to the Zionist forces that supposedly control America and that, on Shamir’s account, pushed the country into the war in Iraq.
Defenders of Assange and WikiLeaks have attempted to downplay the links to Shamir. It has been suggested, for instance, that even if Shamir has indeed done “work” for WikiLeaks, it might well have been Shamir that proposed his services. Hence, the association would not imply that Julian Assange was aware of the nature of Shamir’s writings.
But former WikiLeaks “no. 2” Daniel Domscheit-Berg has told me that it was, on the contrary, Assange who “sought out” Shamir and asked him to collaborate on the WikiLeaks project. Domscheit-Berg quit WikiLeaks in September of last year in a highly-publicized “break-up.” Along with my colleague Urs Gehriger, I met him in Hamburg last week, in order to interview him for the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche. According to Domscheit-Berg, furthermore, Assange knew Shamir’s writings and described them as “compelling.”
When asked whether in his experience Assange ever gave any sign of himself being an anti-Semite, Domscheit-Berg insisted that he had not, adding admiringly that Assange is “far too intelligent for that.” This is consistent with what Domscheit-Berg also writes on the subject in his new book Inside Wikileaks.
Nonetheless, some of Assange’s archived contributions to the Cypherpunks electronic mailing list certainly give cause to pause. For instance, in a laconic November 20, 2001 response to a post by one Tim May, Assange writes simply, “Quoting Jews again, Tim?” According to fellow list member John Young, Assange was a member of the Cypherpunks list from 1995 to 2002.
When one considers such details in conjunction with the latest reports of Assange complaining about a “Jewish conspiracy” to deprive him of support, it would appear that Assange’s association with Shamir is anything but coincidental.
UPDATE: Further searches of the Cypherpunks archives reveal that Tim May – the poster to whom Julian Assange was responding in the above-cited e-mail – had himself been accused by other list-members of engaging in “anti-Semitic rants.” This suggests that Assange’s post may have been intended as an ironic tweak. On the other hand, it may also have been intended as an ironic retort to May’s accusers, since May denied the charge of anti-Semitism and claimed that he was merely “anti-Zionist.” In any case, Assange would continue to engage in dialogue with May on other topics, suggesting that he was not too put off by his views on Jews and/or Israel.