Responding to an eruption of deadly violence between Hamas militants and Israeli Defense Forces that threatens to claim many more lives in the days ahead, Donald Trump and far-right allies are using the crisis to push a familiar anti-immigration narrative back home. According to MAGA world, Hamas won’t stop at launching a surprise attack on Israel from Gaza — they’ve also infiltrated the U.S. via the Mexican border.
“The same people that raided Israel are pouring into our once beautiful USA, through our TOTALLY OPEN SOUTHERN BORDER, at Record Numbers,” Trump claimed without evidence on his Truth Social platform Monday morning. “Are they planning an attack within our Country? Crooked Joe Biden and his BOSS, Barack Hussein Obama, did this to us!”
The comment echoed many similar remarks from conservative politicians and influencers over the weekend, and drew further agreement from those circles. Anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer shared a screenshot of the post, adding, “It’s true. HAMAS has terror cells all over USA.” (She had already predicted “massive terrorist attacks” in major U.S. cities in the months ahead, as “the push to create a global Islamic caliphate has been activated.”)
On Sunday, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona also strongly implied that “Hamas sleeper cells” have “crossed our southern border under the Biden Administration’s policies,” warning, “We are not prepared.” Biggs is among those hard-right Republicans in Congress who denied the results of the 2020 election and recently voted to oust Rep. Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker. The day before, one-time Pizzagate promoter Jack Posobiec, who has likewise spread false claims of voter fraud in 2020, lobbed the same unfounded “sleeper cells” claim. On Sunday morning, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene appeared on Fox News to broaden the scope of the supposed threat, saying, “What happened to Israel could happen to America because our country has been invaded by millions of people from over 160 different countries.”
As a militia, Hamas has been estimated at some 10,000 fighters, though it can reportedly mobilize four to five times as many people during periods of intense violence. Even then, it would be virtually impossible for the group to mount the kind of large-scale attacks in the West that conservatives are imagining — not least because a long-standing air, sea, and land blockade prevents them from leaving the Gaza Strip. To suggest that a significant number have escaped the region, crossed half the globe and then secretly traversed the hazardous Mexico border into the U.S. is far-fetched in the extreme.
But it is certainly in keeping with years of MAGA fear-mongering about a porous Southern border, from Trump’s 2015 campaign launch (in which he smeared Mexicans as rapists and drug smugglers) to his false claims that entire American towns had fallen under control of the transnational gang MS-13, not to mention periodic panics on Fox News over migrant caravans and scapegoating of asylum seekers for the fentanyl crisis.
And some right-wing influencers are already using the alleged new threat of Hamas sleeper agents to reboot the kind of blanket Islamophobia that followed 9/11, an event that some in Israel have compared to the Hamas attack. On Sunday, Robby Starbuck, a former music video director and failed congressional candidate who voices anti-trans views, suggested that men at a pro-Palestine demonstration in New York could be “willing to” carry out violence “here on our soil.”
No matter how far from the U.S.-Mexico border the political news of the moment takes us, it seems that right-wingers can find a way back in order to harp on their anti-immigration agenda. It’s the usual racist theme: America overrun by invasive, nonwhite outsiders prepared to destroy our way of life. Only the smaller details ever change.