In the wake of the release of the IREHR and Montana Human Rights Network report, Ammon’s Army, People’s Rights leader Ammon Bundy was asked some tough questions about his new organization. Talking Points Memo, for instance, queried the far-right figure about People’s Rights leader Tony Pellegrino’s endorsement of openly antisemitic conspiracy theories.
How did Ammon Bundy respond to antisemitism by a prominent People’s Rights state leader – a leader with whom Bundy and far right “constitutionalist” KrisAnne Hall shared the stage at a recent event in Nampa, Idaho? After telling Talking Points Memo that he, himself, is fond of Jews, Bundy defended Pellegrino by saying that he “believes in God and believes that we should be good to each other.”
However, also according to Bundy, “not that all of them [Jews] have worked ethically inside the banking system…There’s criminals that are black, there’s criminals that are white, there’s criminals that are police officers, there’s criminals that are Jewish, there’s criminals that are reporters…People’s Rights would stand against all of them.”
If the argument that not all Jews have “worked ethically inside banking” furrows a brow, the claim that professing to “believe in God” absolves one of antisemitism rings hollow to open ears. Throughout much of its history, antisemitism has been professed by those who have equally loudly professed a belief in God. The two are not mutually exclusive and have long been fellow travelers in European and American history.
Bundy, and Ammon’s Army, have an even deeper problem with antisemitism. Like some who reject concern for the possibility of spreading the coronavirus to their neighbors, Bundy has spewed a form of cultural antisemitism while articulating the COVID-19 insurrectionist cause.
On August 10, for instance, after being asked to wear a mask at Costco, and refusing to do so, Bundy videoed himself and posted it on Facebook. In the video, he declared, “You can’t even go to the store without feeling like a 1933 Jew…I mean I really can sympathize with them a little bit.”
Comparing wearing a community-protecting mask to the experience of Jewish people in Nazi Germany is a form of cultural antisemitism, a crass and repugnant trivialization of Nazi atrocities against Jews—just ask the people at the Auschwitz Memorial.
When, in July, a Missouri woman speaking before the Springfield city council compared mask-wearing to Jews being forced to wear a yellow star by the Nazis, the Auschwitz Memorial responded that “A mask is not a yellow star. Such a comparison is disrespectful to Jews humiliated by it during the Holocaust.”
Bundy displayed even deeper delusions at an “Idaho is Open For Business” rally where he compared complying with COVID-19-related restrictions to the Holocaust, even appearing to blame Jews for being murdered by Nazis:
“Just look at the pictures of the Holocaust…It always amazes me how you see pictures of men and women stripped completely naked, lined up and facing a mass grave, where they are shooting them in the back of the head and falling in the grave…You must ask yourself: Why did the Jewish people not – how did they get in that position? I’m not someone to be a judge of another people, but we must learn from history. Because they thought that putting their head down and trying to not be noticed was the better way. They thought that compliance would get them through it, and it was just a period of time that they might just pass through and end up better on the other end…And that is a decision that we have to make right now. Is it better if we just comply? Is it safer to comply? If we comply now, they will go further … until we are lined up naked facing a mass grave and being shot in the back of the head.”
While widespread Jewish resistance to Nazi antisemitism, racism and violence is well documented, Bundy’s position, again, appeals to antisemitism. Jewish people were not responsible for the Holocaust. Widespread antisemitism in German society and its place in undergirding Nazi atrocities were responsible for the Holocaust. And complying with COVID-19-related restrictions is simply not the same as having your family members murdered by Nazi bullets or in gas chambers.
In an October 16 appearance on Sam Bushman’s Liberty Roundtable radio show, Ammon Bundy did it again. Describing the “hit piece they did on this” that “they called…Ammons Army,” Bundy mentioned that a People’s Rights leader had posted material by David Icke, alleging that someone in his organization agreeing with a “pretty good” statement by Icke had been used to claim that “we believe all these things.” Bundy added, “This is what these wicked reporters do.”
David Icke is a British-based antisemite known for the bizarre “theory” that “a reptilian race has controlled the planet for thousands of years and continues to do so today” and that reptilian “Jewish Rothschilds” lay behind Nazi atrocities against Jews.
IREHR challenges Ammon Bundy to find in the report, Ammon’s Army, any statement that all People’s Rights leaders believe all of Icke’s antisemitic lizard conspiracy.
Nonetheless, Bundy used the remainder of his Sam Bushman interview to expound on alleged “political warfare” against People’s Rights, and further claimed that it is comparable to Nazi attacks on Jews and Roma people:
“Historically there’s many examples of, you know, isolation, censoring, book burning, ah, destroying, you know, focusing on a certain type of people… There’s lots of examples, almost always, they were trying to isolate those who were seeking to be free…They would then, you know, burn their books, they would create laws that made a certain populace where they couldn’t communicate about certain things, or, they couldn’t write certain things, not even poetry, it was illegal…And then there was a campaign to basically demonize these people, ah, to say they were dangerous, to say that they were, uh, you know, a national health risk. Even you know, we see the 1930s era where the Jews and the gypsies were demonized, saying that even their genes were inferior, so therefore they had to be… sterilized and then ultimately euthanized. Which brings me to the next step of political warfare…Once you’ve isolated them and they can’t defend themselves, because you have, you know, made it so their communication is limited to the rest of the public, once you’ve isolated them, then you can say whatever you want about them. You can say that they’re dangerous, you can say that they’re, uh, conspiracy theorists, you say that they’re trying to destroy something they’re not. You could say whatever you want. because now, you know, there is no counter to that because you’ve isolated them. and then the public starts to believe what, what they’re saying, starts to believe, oh, you know… maybe we do need to sterilize all the Jews because, because, ah, we’re being told and we believe what the… their genes are inferior and a national health crisis…You know, there’s tons of examples. And once they get the public to believe it, you know after they’ve isolated, now they’re demonized, once they get the public to believe, then the public will, will support the government, or whoever is doing it, that political entity, will support ‘em in destroying their enemy.”
Beyond the vulgarity of comparing the experience of having the well-documented bigotry that exists in People’s Rights exposed to the Nazi vilification and murder of European Jews, two things stand out in Bundy’s statement.
First, being called a conspiracy theorist is not the same as Nazis spewing the vile claim that Jews are a genetic threat to the “Aryan race,” a cornerstone of Nazi ideology. Rather, Nazi conspiracy theories directed at Jews were part and parcel of the bigoted madness that drove the Holocaust.
As Norman Cohen describes at length in his book, Warrant for Genocide, such vile racism was preceded and influenced by the antisemitic screed laid down in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion – a 19th-century Czarist-backed fabrication whose core arguments sound remarkably similar to the antisemitic conspiracy theory endorsed by People’s Rights California leader Tony Pellegrino.
Finally, Bundy’s ludicrous claim that being called a conspiracy theorist – again, documented in Ammon’s Army for several People’s Rights leaders – is comparable to having a violent and rabidly antisemitic Nazi party declare that one’s “genes were inferior” begs a critical question.
What does Ammon Bundy have to say about People’s Rights area assistants such as Amanda Vital in Oregon and Alicia Peterson in Idaho appearing to embrace the Proud Boys? For instance, the founder of this reactionary and racist organization, Gavin McInnes, has defended The Bell Curve, the 1994 book by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein that promoted a brand of genetic determinism. “Even The Bell Curve is #MAGA. It wasn’t about race and IQ. It was about getting over IQ and seeing it as a genetic trait, like being an albino or something,” McInnes wrote in 2017. In an article for the white nationalist American Renaissance, McInnes would describe the Bell Curve as an “anti-racist book;” cast it as a “surprisingly controversial tome of research that linked to IQ;” offensively argue that struggles against institutional racism do “more damage to black youth than the KKK;” and declare that, “If we could scientifically prove large groups are doing better or worse than others because of science, we could get over all this Orwellian obsession with insisting everyone should turn out exactly the same.” While not identical to the Nazi brand of genetic determinism, McInnes’ version is at least in the family tree.
Ammon Bundy can claim all he wants that he is fond of Jews and just concerned with “people’s rights.” However, as long as People’s Rights allows room for leaders like Tony Pellegrino, who endorse open antisemitism; as long as its leaders espouse far-right conspiracy theories and support paramilitaries; as long as it has space for the “constitutionalism” of a Krisanne Hall; and as long as the group draws offensive comparisons between actual genocide and taking precautions to not kill your neighbor’s grandma with a virus, there is no reason to offer Amon’s Army any respect at all. There are, however, plenty of reasons to stand up, oppose them, and make sure they do not define our communities’ aspirations and goals.
 A special thanks to IREHR’s Leonard Zeskind and Devin Burghart for suggestions on this article. Among the things documented about Tony Pellegrino in Ammon’s Army are that the California People’s Rights leader described as a “TRUTH PILL” the antisemitic claim that the enforcement of a fantasized “TAX SLAVE” status under “marshal law” in the U.S. is carried out at the behest of “Zionist Banksters” who control the Federal Reserve; and that these “Satanic Zionist Jesuit Freemason scum” have foisted such a system on people by controlling the media, schools, the medical industry and Hollywood. Pellegrino also expressed the antisemitic view that liberal philanthropist George Soros lays behind “riots, anarchy, and domestic terrorism” and should be arrested. Other People’s Rights leaders have also placed Soros behind such ills. Pellegrino also posted a video of a speech by David Icke, a British-based antisemite known for the bizarre “theory” that “a reptilian race has controlled the planet for thousands of years and continues to do so today” and that reptilian “Jewish’ Rothschild’s” lay behind Nazi atrocities against Jews. Pellegrino has written that “leaders of CDC FDA need hung for treason” and asked, “ARE YOU READY FOR CIVIL WAR NOVEMBER 4?” And, the California leader has posted material by and promoted an event for Krisanne Hall, a self-proclaimed “constitutionalist” who has stated that “The 14th Amendment, the 15th Amendment, the 19th Amendment were not necessary. As a matter of fact, they were an unlawful expansion of federal power.” Hall also argues that U.S. Senator Kamala Harris is ineligible to run for president, despite the vice-presidential candidate having been born in Oakland, California
 Shuham, Matt. Malcontents ‘R’ Us! Ammon Bundy Unites Anti-Vaxxers, COVID Truthers, Sovereign Citizens. Talking Points Memo. October 15, 2020. https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/malcontents-r-us-ammon-bundy-unites-anti-vaxxers-covid-truthers-sovereign-citizens Ibid
 Bundy, Ammon. Facebook. August 10, 2020. https://www.facebook.com/1115723640/videos/10222257655246387/
 Auschwitz Museum. Twitter. July 17, 2020. https://twitter.com/AuschwitzMuseum/status/1284035787860979712; Kull, Katie. Auschwitz Memorial calls out Springfield woman for comment comparing masks to Nazi tactics. Springfield News-Leader. July 20, 2020. https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/local/ozarks/2020/07/21/auschwitz-memorial-museum-calls-out-springfield-woman-masks-nazi-tactics/3287769001/
 Kaplan Sommer, Allison. U.S Extremist Blames ‘Compliant’ Jews for Holocaust in Idaho Protest. Haaretz. May 5, 2020. https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-u-s-extremist-blames-compliant-jews-for-holocaust-in-idaho-protest-1.8821820
 Liberty Roundtable. October 16, 2020. https://www.libertyroundtable.com/2020/10/16/radio-show-hour-2-10-16-2000/
 Icke, David. The Biggest Secret: The book that will change the world. Scottsdale, Arizona: Bridge of Love Publications.
 See Cohn, Norman. 1967. Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World-Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. New York: Harper and Row.
 McInnes, Gavin. Charles Murray: Fighting Elitism from an Ivory Tower. Taki’s Magazine. March 30, 2017. https://www.takimag.com/article/charles_murray_fighting_elitism_from_an_ivory_tower_gavin_mcinnes/
See McInnes, Gavin. We are not doomed. American Renaissance. June 17, 2014. https://www.amren.com/news/2014/06/america-in-2034-7/. McInnes writes, “If we could scientifically prove large groups are doing better or worse than others because of science, we could get over all this Orwellian obsession with insisting everyone should turn out exactly the same…The white liberal ethos tells us blacks aren’t at MIT because of racism. They say blacks dominate the prison population for the same reason. They insist America is a racist hellhole where ‘people of color’ have no future. This does way more damage to black youth than the KKK. When you strip people of culpability and tell them the odds are stacked against them, they don’t feel like trying. White liberals make this worse by then using affirmative action to ‘correct’ society’s mistakes. When blacks are forced into schools they aren’t qualified for they have no choice but to drop out. Instead of going back a step to a school they can handle, they tend to give up on higher education entirely. Thanks to the Marxist myth of ubiquitous equality, this ‘mismatch’ leaves blacks less educated than they would have been had they been left to their own devices.”