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Antisemitic flyers bear name of group run by Petaluma man who traffics in Nazi propaganda

Man has a prolific online presence in which he routinely denies the Holocaust, performs Nazi salutes and espouses hatred for Jews.|

Thursday morning, residents of the Old Town neighborhood just south of downtown Napa awoke to find bags of rice tossed outside their homes. The rice was meant as ballast, to keep a pair of antisemitic flyers from blowing away. One of the handbills pointed out the many Jews involved in U.S. health policy — drivers of “the COVID agenda” — while the other noted Jews with positions in the Joe Biden administration.

Lowell Downey, who lives in that neighborhood, found out he was included when a friend knocked on his door to show him. Downey called the incident “alarming and upsetting.” And he doesn’t believe it was random.

“We felt really targeted, because we’re a Jewish family,” Downey said. “We were the only ones on our block that got hit. My friend didn’t see any in front of anybody else’s house.”

Also receiving the hate-filled delivery that morning was the Congregation Beth Shalom synagogue, several blocks from Downey’s home. On the Nextdoor social media site, at least one resident of another Napa neighborhood, on the opposite side of town, also reported receiving flyers.

The Napa incidents are the latest in a string of Bay Area cities that have recently been plastered with vitriolic flyers. According to the Jewish News of Northern California, it happened in targeted areas in San Francisco on Jan. 23, Danville on Feb. 2, and Novato, Tiburon and Berkeley on Feb. 20.

It may be hard to determine exactly who is responsible for handing out the Bay Area flyers. They are shared on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app, and easily printed at home.

However credited at the bottom of the handbills is a media site, Goyim TV, that hosts videos and documents real-life stunts aimed at denigrating, ostracizing and harassing members of the Jewish faith.

According to public incorporation records reviewed by The Press Democrat, the man behind Goyim TV and its umbrella organization, the Goyim Defense League (“goyim” is a Hebrew-Yiddish term for non-Jews), is Jon Minadeo II.

While there is nothing specifically linking Minadeo to the flyers, he has a prolific online presence in which he routinely denies the Holocaust, performs Nazi salutes and espouses hatred for Jews.

According to his web postings and other public records, Minadeo is a 39-year-old actor and rapper who lives in Petaluma. His presence there is an open secret that has troubled members of the town’s Jewish community for several years.

“Of course it’s disturbing to have someone who thinks that way about our people in our midst,” said Rabbi Ted Feldman of B’nai Israel Jewish Center in Petaluma. “That’s all I can really say about it. As a community, we just want to stand strong, be who we are and move forward with our lives.”

Several phone numbers linked to Minadeo’s name had been disconnected, and a phone message left for a man believed to be a relative was not returned.

A man working in the yard at a Petaluma house listed as Minadeo’s home address in the incorporation records said Minadeo didn’t live there, but that he knew him and would pass along the message. A business address listed in incorporation records turned out to be a UPS box.

Petaluma Mayor Teresa Barrett said she had never heard of Minadeo and hadn’t seen the flyers.

“Clearly, I would be opposed to any hate speech in Petaluma, or anywhere,” Barrett said. “I don’t want to really comment on something I don’t know about. But my principle is that hate speech has no place in Petaluma.”

Minadeo may have a low profile in his own community, but he has built a large presence at the fringes of American bigotry, and has landed on the radar of the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors antisemitic hate groups.

According to the ADL, the Goyim Defense League was responsible for at least 74 antisemitic propaganda incidents in 2021. In December, the watchdog organization said, Minadeo’s group increased the pace with a nationwide campaign. Since then, it has distributed material in 17 states.

Much of the content is straight from the neo-Nazi playbook. According to the ADL, Minadeo’s team frequently claims that Jews control financial and media industries behind the scenes. They also accuse Jews of masterminding the 9/11 terrorist attacks, molesting children and advocating for pornography, abortion and gay rights. (Goyim TV’s rants often target LGBT+ groups, too.) Minadeo says the Holocaust, which killed 6 million European Jews, is a fabrication.

The COVID-19 pandemic has become part of the anti-Jewish conspiracy theory. In a December 2020 podcast, Minadeo referred to the coronavirus as “Jew flu” and told listeners, “They’re coming to do major torturing genocide. It’s the truth…These (antisemitic slur) are going to try to put a f**king needle in your arm!”

That line of thought doesn’t surprise Feldman.

“There’s a statement I heard once in our teachings: ‘When it’s bad for the world, it’s bad for Jews,’” the rabbi said. “Meaning, when there’s chaos in the world, people are looking to blame — and we have been one of parties to blaming through centuries, in different locations. In the same way, those flyers are a state of our world, with the pandemic and yesterday’s tragic news of war in Ukraine.

“As a Jew, it reminds me of the truth of that statement.”

Minadeo, who publishes commentary-and-interview videos on their website — some more than three hours long — under the heading of Handsome Truth, last posted on Dec. 21. They are aggressively repulsive, full of “Heil Hitler” salutes and references to Jews being subhuman.

And the Goyim Defense League goes far beyond internet rhetoric.

In August 2020, the ADL said, a group led by Minadeo drove through Santa Monica and Venice, in the Los Angeles area, shouting at masked pedestrians to take off their “Jewish face yarmulkes.” In November 2020, Florida members hung a Holocaust denial banner from an overpass, then ignited a burning swastika on a local beach. And in Austin, Texas, in October 2021, followers harassed a woman at a COVID-19 testing site and hung a banner from an overpass that read “VAX THE JEWS.”

The examples are from a recent ADL report on the Goyim Defense League.

And while they have outraged recipients, it isn’t clear that distributing them constitutes a crime.

“I don’t know what crime that would be,” Napa Police Sgt. Mike Walund said. “The milkman, the mailman, UPS, Amazon could all leave packages at your door. I don’t know why someone else couldn’t, just because you don’t like it or consider it hate.”

That doesn’t sit well with Downey, one of several Napa residents to report Thursday’s experience to local police.

“It is a hate crime,” he said emphatically. “He’s not burning a cross. But he’s instigating fear and violence. Encouraging violence.”

Feldman, in his 17th year at B’nai Israel, agrees that Minadeo’s words and publicity stunts are dangerous.

“Statements like ‘we don’t want violence,’ that’s wonderful,” Feldman said. “On the other hand, sowing discontent and sowing hate may not, in the moment, create violence. But it’s a seed. Just as there are seeds of violence contained in the national scene these days, with the rise of antisemitic violence in this country.

“One can say, ‘I don’t want violence.’ But that’s what it sounds like.”

You can reach Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @Skinny_Post.

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