January 10, 2023

World Cup 2022: Sports Uniting Peoples or a Perfect Storm of Antisemitism?

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a deeply antisemitic text that has gained traction in the Arabic-speaking world – recently being quoted during the World Cup in Qatar. Social media companies must recognize it as such and remove it from their platforms.

December 9th marks the annual United Nations International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime. In 2022, the special focus was the role of sports in atrocity prevention. Ironically, December 9th also marked the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, an event rife with controversy, scandal, and numerous incidences of antisemitism against Jews and Israelis – certainly not a paragon of sports as a tool for good.

In addition to the real-world antisemitic incidences that took place, CyberWell closely monitored social media platforms during this timeframe for any spikes in antisemitic content online. We often see upticks online prior to large-scale events, where we then see this online discourse play out. Not surprisingly, CyberWell’s database identified an online campaign in Arabic, claiming that Jews use global sports and entertainment events, such as the World Cup, to distract people from their evil secret plans of world domination. The content in the specific campaign that we identified was rooted in the antisemitic text “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and social media

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (the Protocols) is a fabricated antisemitic document presenting an alleged Jewish plot to take over the world. It is written from the perspective of a secret Jewish cabal and lays out plans to achieve their goal of world domination. It is likely that the Protocols were written at the beginning of the 20th century in the Russian Empire, prior to a particularly bloody series of anti-Jewish pogroms that took place from 1903-1906. Even though the Protocols have since been proven to be a fraudulent document aimed at inciting Jew-hatred, to this day the text forms the basis for numerous antisemitic conspiracies, including Nazi propaganda. However, social media companies do NOT remove quotes or allusions to it, despite it’s clear antisemitic imperative.

The detected uptick in World Cup-related antisemitic content on social media platforms during November-December 2022 contains different variations of the same template of text, which is based on a quote from the thirteenth protocol of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion:

“In order that the masses themselves may not guess what they are about we further distract them with amusements, games, pastimes, passions people’s palaces… Soon we shall begin through the press to propose competitions in art, in sport of all kinds: these interests will finally distract their minds.”[1]

Some of the social media posts that CyberWell detected contain an additional excerpt promoting the same idea, which was attributed to “paragraph number seventeen of the Protocols” but was not found in the versions of the Protocols analyzed by our team:

We shall plunge the world into the madness of sport matches; so that the nations and the peoples will no longer be occupied with great things, but will descend to low levels, and get used to being interested in empty things, and forget the great aims of life… And that is what is happening today”.  In some similar examples of content, the last sentence of the alleged quote is replaced with “which will enable the Jews to destroy the goyim”.

To date, thousands of such posts have been published, achieving potential exposure of millions of views.

#ball_of_destruction_and_regret “distracts” from Jewish conspiracy

This campaign was marked by one particularly prominent hashtag related to the World Cup – #كرة_الهدم_والندم (#ball_of_destruction_and_regret). It is important to note that this hashtag was also used more than 1,000 times on social media prior to the World Cup, indicating an effort by Islamic religious elements to disseminate content against sports and entertainment in general, and against soccer in particular, using an antisemitic conspiracy.

In addition to the text template that was typically shared, a large number of the publications were accompanied by corresponding images, presenting the World Cup events as a pacifier, i.e. a method of silencing and distracting the people of the Middle East, created by Jews to take over the Dome of Rock or the entire world.

The actors behind the campaign

CyberWell identified that the first post to kick off the campaign was published on November 20th, 2022, at 11:07 PM, by an Algerian Facebook user called: “منابر الخير السلفية” (“The Salafi manabir of goodness” – manabir, meaning pulpits). Both date and time indicate that the post’s timing was deliberately aimed at achieving maximum exposure during the peak hour (Algerian time) of the main opening game of the World Cup.

“The Salafi manabir of goodness” is an Algerian religious Telegram channel that also operates a Facebook page that usually publishes Salafi Islamic religious content. During our research, CyberWell found that on other days during the tournament, many Algerian accounts with a strong connection to religious Sunni and Salafi identity also took an active role in promoting this campaign, posting the same content every evening throughout the World Cup.

Image: The main Algerian group that disseminated antisemitic World Cup-related publications, Facebook

World Cup related antisemitism among soccer fans and public figures

Not surprising, but deeply important, is the clear connection between the World Cup related antisemitism perpetuated by niche religious groups online and real-world antisemitic actions carried out by average soccer fans during the events themselves.

During the Netherlands vs. Qatar match on November 29th, (which one would assume would have nothing to do with Jewish world domination) masses of fans in the stands were recorded shouting the violent slogan “With spirit and blood we will redeem you, Palestine”.

A month later, Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) detected an antisemitic Tweeted video of West Bank Islamic Scholar Sheikh Yousef Abu Islam on the YouTube channel Al-Aqsa Call. During the video, Abu Islam cites the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and claims that Jews outlined a plan to use soccer as a distraction for Muslims from Jihad and liberating Muslim lands.

At the same time, highly ranked public officials in the Arabic speaking world have also joined in on spreading antisemitic Protocols related content. On December 26th CyberWell identified a Tweet by Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, the Lieutenant General and the current Deputy Chief of Police and General Security of Dubai (UAE), in which he referred to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Khalfan Tamim boasts 3 million followers on Twitter, and this specific tweet has been viewed more than 20K times as of the writing of this blog. Upon further investigation, CyberWell found that Khalfan Tamim has quoted or promoted the Protocols of the Elders of Zion at least 10 times in the last year and a half on his personal Twitter account.

Dhahi Khalfan Tamim’s tweet says “ولكل زمان إيمان يصح بصحته”- a quote from protocol 1 of the Protocols document, which in the English version of the Protocols translates as “Time was when Faith ruled” or, in this context: “In our day the power which has replaced that of the rulers who were liberal is the power of Gold. Time was when Faith ruled”. [2] Literally, the quoted phrase means “for each time there is a faith that is suitable for it”.  Reading the quote in its context emphasizes the conspiracy of Jewish world domination and economic control.

What happens now?

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a text clearly documented to have been created with the sole purpose of inciting violence against the Jewish people. It has been used time and again to stoke the fires of Jew-hatred throughout the last century. Its continued use in the Arabic speaking world remains in-line with this goal – promoting conspiracy theories aimed at blaming Jews for all manners of social harms, both real and imagined, and with real world consequences including violence against the Jewish community.

Social media platforms continue to allow the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to be posted and promoted with little to no recourse. This is appalling and must be stopped. CyberWell will continue to monitor the use of the Protocols online and demand action from the platforms themselves, and we ask you, our database users, to log in to our platform and report, report, report. The more we draw social media companies’ attention to where their policies fail to protect the Jewish people, the better chance we have at getting this hateful and inciting document, related quotes, and the hateful antisemitic conspiracies that it fosters, removed – permanently.



[1] Victor, Marsden [translated from Russian], The Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion with Preface and Explanatory Notes, Chicago: The Patriotic Publishing Co, 1934, p. 188.

**The Arabic source for the quote in the publications, with minor literal translation differences: Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion [بروتوكولات حكماء صهيون ], Cairo: Al-Huriyya, 2003, p. 190.

[2] Marsden, p. 143

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