"Why was the Torah given on a mountain called Sinai? Because the great sinah (‘hate’) – the tremendous hatred aimed at the Jew – emanates from Sinai."
- The Talmud
Anti-Semitism is a phenomena that can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome. It can be found almost anywhere in the world, even in places where there are no Jews. There is little agreement on why people hate or fear the Jews. Various theories have been put forward (e.g. anti-Semitism can be explained on economic, political, theological, racial, cultural, social or ideological grounds) but none of them can explain why anti-Semitism is so persistent and so mutable. However, it is possible to identify seven stages in the development of anti-Semitism:
· Anti-Judaism and ethnic prejudice in ancient Greece and Rome.
· Christian anti-Judaism (i.e. the belief that Judaism has been superseded by Christianity) and theological (the belief that the Jews had committed an act of deicide). This was the foundation of medieval anti-Semitism and the demonization of Jews.
· Muslim anti-Semitism, originating in the Quran and hadith literature.
· Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment anti-Semitism, which was political, cultural, social and economic in nature. Jews were caught in a net of competing discourses – anti-communism, anti-capitalism and pro-nationalism.
· The compounding of nationalist anti-Semitism by eugenics, resulting in full-blown racial anti-Semitism and Hitler’s Final Solution.
· Nazi-influenced Arab and Islamist anti-Semitism, directed at Israelis and Jews in general.
· New Antisemitism or Israelophobia, which is the hatred of the State of Israel and the demonization of Israelis.
The development of anti-Semitism did not happen in discrete steps. Each stage bled into the next stage or borrowed elements from an earlier stage. Some examples:
· Racial anti-Semitism played a part in the Spanish Inquisition. Purity of blood laws in medieval Spain meant that even Jews who had converted to Catholicism were nevertheless "tainted" by their blood.
· Nazi anti-Semitism leaned heavily on the rantings of Germany’s most famous 16th century protestant, Martin Luther.
· Economic anti-Semitism was present in the centuries preceding the Enlightenment. During the Middle Ages, one of the few occupations available to Jews was money-lending. This led to accusations that Jews were obsessed with money.
· From antiquity, anti-Semites have derided the concept of “the chosen people,” despite the fact that it simply means Jews are chosen by God to fulfil the 613 commandments. Many other religions, cults and nations have also claimed to be chosen e.g. Christians, Muslims, the Japanese.
· Conspiracy theories have been circulating for centuries. Rumours that Jews poisoned wells and consumed the blood of Christians began in the Middle Ages. In the second half of the 19th century, anti-Semites claimed that Jews were planning to take over the world or were influencing politics and economics at the highest level. This is still a widely-held belief on the Left and the Right, and in the Muslim world. Other conspiracy theorists claim that Jews control Hollywood and the media. A worrying trend is the growing belief that the Jews invented the Holocaust in order to provoke global sympathy. Once confined to the Far Right, it is now a popular belief in the Middle East. There are innumerable conspiracy theories about the policies and history of the State of Israel. Examples include: Israel uses animals and birds to carry out espionage activities; Israel ethnically cleansed Palestine in 1948; Israel was responsible for 9/11; Israel spreads aids among Palestinians; Israel is responsible for bird flu and swine flu; Israel is planning to take over the Middle East; Israel poisons well and kills babies; Israel harvests the organs of Palestinians and Haitians.
The changing nature of anti-Semitism and its persistence across cultures and throughout generations defies simple explanation. In 1882, Judah Leib Pinsker, an early Zionist, wrote that anti-Semitism is an incurable and hereditary “psychic aberration.” More recently, historian Paul Johnson described anti-Semitism as “a disease of the mind, extremely infectious and massively destructive. It is a disease to which both human individuals and entire human societies are prone.”
Anti-Semitism is perhaps the best example of a meme, which is an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. A meme self-replicates, mutates and responds to environmental factors. In fact, anti-Semitism could be described as a grand meme. That is to say, it is an overarching idea that encompasses several sub-memes. One of these sub-memes is Israelophobia.
Perhaps anti-Semites and Israel-haters are “simply” projecting their own negative features, characteristics and beliefs onto the Jews. Whatever the reason(s) for anti-Semitism, there is no excuse for it. Anti-Semitism is not a coherent response to some perceived Jewish demeanour, but is a social pathology characterised by hysterical conspiracies and paradoxical beliefs. No other group of people is hated for being lazy and power-hungry. No one else is held responsible for communism and capitalism. No other people is criticised for assimilating and maintaining separateness. Only the Jews could be blamed for killing Jesus and inventing Christianity. And only the Jews could be told to “go back to Palestine” and then told to “get out of Palestine.”
Criticism of Israel – like the criticism of any other country – is part and parcel of sensible public discourse. Indeed, Israel’s media is not afraid of critiquing its own society. But there are times when such criticism, usually stemming from the Left, Far Right and Muslim media, is motivated by anti-Semitism. The list below does not cover ‘classic’ anti-Semitic tropes such as the blood libel, global conspiracy theories or Holocaust denial, but deconstructs the elision between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
Natan Sharansky, writing in the Jewish Political Studies Review, states: “Whereas classical anti-Semitism is aimed at the Jewish people or the Jewish religion, ‘new anti-Semitism’ is aimed at the Jewish state. Since this anti-Semitism can hide behind the veneer of legitimate criticism of Israel, it is more difficult to expose. Making the task even harder is that this hatred is advanced in the name of values most of us would consider unimpeachable, such as human rights.”
Sharansky formulated the 3D Test of Anti-Semitism: Demonization, Double Standards, Delegitimization, which has been used as a guide to determine whether a piece of public discourse does or does not conform to anti-Semitism. I have taken the liberty of adding three more D’s, because the nature of this new form of anti-Semitism is becoming more widespread, more innovative and more virulent.
1. Demonization – comparing Israel to the Nazis.
· This includes terms of abuse such as "Zio-Nazi" and "Israeli fascists"
· Defacing the Star of David with a swastika
· Comparing Gaza or the "West Bank’"to a concentration camp
· Accusing the Israelis of ethnic cleansing and/or behaving as bad as – or worse than – the Nazis
2. Double Standards – singling out the Jewish state for discriminatory treatment in the international arena by requiring Israel to conform to a standard not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation. (Conversely, Palestinians – and Muslims in general – are not held up to any standard at all.) Double standards are at play when:
· Israel is singled out by the United Nations for (supposed) human rights abuses while the behaviour of genuinely oppressive regimes like Saudi Arabia, China and Iran are ignored
· When companies or organisations agree to boycott Israel but continue to do business in genuinely oppressive regimes like Cuba, Russia, China, etc
· When the West is silent about terror attacks on Israeli civilians but creates a fuss when Israel retaliates
· When the onus is firmly on the Jewish state to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and absolving the Palestinians of both blame and responsibility
3. Delegitimization – denying Israel’s right to exist and/or calling for the State of Israel to be dismantled or destroyed.
4. Defamation – Condemning Israel for human rights abuses which are untrue or turn out to have been falsely reported. Examples include:
· When the UN or the media condemn Israel for an incident that turns out to be untrue but then fail to retract the accusation (e.g. Jenin "massacre’" and Gaza flotilla incident)
· Accusing Israel of being an apartheid state even though Israeli Arabs have full voting rights
· The ‘can’t do right for doing wrong’ principle. This is when Israel’s motives are doubted. For example, when Israel sent a rescue team to Haiti, Baroness Tonge accused the Israelis of harvesting organs.
5. Decontextualization – deliberately ignoring the geo-political reality of the Middle East; when no attempt is made to understand Israel’s security concerns; and when facts are rejected in favour of an emotional and irrational narrative of Palestinian victimhood. This includes:
· Downplaying the very real existential threat posed by nations and organisation which have repeatedly sought to destroy the Jewish state
· Deliberately misrepresenting Israel’s defensive actions against terrorism as acts of aggression or colonialism
· Deliberately ignoring the fact that Palestinian Arabs have repeatedly rejected ‘land for peace’ solutions
· Blaming Israel for the refugee crisis
· Misusing legal language in order to portray the Israelis as colonialists e.g. saying the West Bank is 'occupied' territory instead of ‘disputed’ territory
· Black and white reporting e.g. portraying the Palestinians as victims par excellence and the Israelis as war criminals
6. Dehistoricization – (a) the deliberate attempt to deny or sever the historical connection between the Jews and the land of Israel; (b) rewriting or ignoring the historical context/narrative surrounding the creation of Israel.
Examples of (a) include:
· Refusing to acknowledge the fact that the Land of Israel is the birthplace of Jewish identity
· Denying that there was ever a Jewish temple in Jerusalem
Examples of (b) include:
· Glossing over the fact that the Balfour Declaration called for Jewish settlement on both sides of the river Jordan.
· Downplaying the fact that the Arabs refused the 1948 partition plan, despite already having been given the land on the east side of the river (i.e. modern-day Jordan)
· Failing to acknowledge that Jews lived on the West Bank before Jordan invaded in 1948
· Inventing the notion of Palestinian peoplehood in order to undermine Israel’s legitimacy. Before the 1960s, the idea of a Palestinian people or Palestinian country was unheard of.
Coda: The EU’s definition of the "new anti-Semitism"
The European Union Monitoring Committee on Racism and Xenophobia has published a working definition of the new anti-Semitism.
The paper included examples (listed below) of the ways in which anti-Semitism “manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel."
· Denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour
· Applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation
· Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis
· Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis
· Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel
The EU states that criticism of Israel cannot be regarded as anti-Semitism as long as it is "similar to that levelled against any other country."
No laughing matter: Muslim/Arab cartoons depicting anti-Semitic themes
In newspaper cartoons throughout the Muslim and Arab world, Jews are routinely depicted as Nazis, spiders, vampires and octopuses. Another frequent depiction is that of the bearded Orthodox Jew with a hooked nose and dressed in black, which is reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. Jews are depicted as inhuman and an enemy of both Islam and humanity. Some cartoons repeat the well-worn canard that the Jews killed God. Another motif is that Jews are in control of the United States and the media. Other motifs include the rich Jew, the blood-drinking Jew, and Jews as killers of children.
Below are a handful of examples…
In the cartoon above, the anti-Semitic caricature of a Jew on the right says: “Say: ‘I hate the Arabs!’” and American president George W. Bush, resembling a parrot, repeats: “I hate the Arabs, I hate the Arabs.”
The cartoon above was posted on the website of the Palestinian Authority State Information Center in 2003.
Above is a cartoon published on the Arab European League's website in 2006.
Above: Published in United Arab Emirates newspaper Al-Bayan in 2005
Above: Published in Syrian newspaper Tishrin in 2002
This cartoon, by Khalil Bendib, a Muslim-American artist, God (Jehovah?) holding a bulging bag of money. On it are written the names of major Jewish organizations. God commands George W Bush to slaughter a Muslim child in order to increase his chances of a second term in office.
Top 5 conspiracies!
1. Zionists go wild
Is Mossad on strike? Why else would the Zionist entity sanction the use of wildlife to spy on its enemies? According to its neighbours, Israel is using birds and animals to gather intelligence. In May 2012, a Turkish farmer found a deceased European bee-eater with a tag on its leg saying “Israel.” What made the Turkish authorities particularly suspicious was that the bird had "unusually large nostrils.” This raised suspicions that the bird was "implanted with a surveillance device" and had been sent to Turkey as part of an espionage mission.
In 2011, Saudi Arabian officials detained a vulture on the grounds that it was an Israeli spy. The vulture, which was tagged by Tel Aviv University as part of a migration study, prompted rumours that it was part of a "Zionist plot.” And in the previous year, Egypt said it was “not out of the question” that Mossad had planted a killer shark in the waters off Sharm el-Sheikh in order to “hit tourism.”
In 2007, Iranian authorities blew the lid on what has to be the most devilish of Zionist-animal conspiracies. According to reports, intelligence [sic] operatives detained over a dozen squirrels which were operating on Iranian soil. Iran’s news agency IRNA stated: “In recent weeks, intelligence operatives have arrested 14 squirrels within Iran’s borders […] The squirrels were carrying spy gear of foreign agencies, and were stopped before they could act, thanks to the alertness of our intelligence services.”
Let's hope the squirrels weren't tortured.
Breaking news: I shouldn’t be revealing state secrets, but I feel readers ought to know that our Zionist overlords are currently in the process of training wild geese to drop bombs on Iran's nuclear facilities. I’ve also heard a rumour that stray cats in Jerusalem are being recruited to go undercover in Gaza and infiltrate Hamas. But as I said, it’s just a rumour. Or is it?
2. Zionists rule the world OK
According to some conspiracy theorists, the USA is secretly controlled by Jews. Consecutive administrations – both Democrat and Republican – are just puppet regimes.
The Zionist Occupied Government theory or ZOG came to light in 1976 in an article cleverly entitled “Welcome to ZOG-World” by American neo-Nazi Eric Thomson.
In the mid-1990s, the Aryan Nations accused the Clinton administration of handing over government power to “private corporations, White traitors and ruling class Jewish families."
The belief that Jews control the media, banks, corporations, governments and Hollywood is widespread on the Far Right and in the Arab world. But if Jews really did control all these institutions, why is the media so biased against Israel? Perhaps it’s a double bluff.
One cannot help but be reminded of the New World Order conspiracy theory, whereby a secret elite is scheming to rule the world through an authoritarian world government. Sounds like the European Union to me.
Between the two world wars, fascist propagandists popularized the myth of the Illuminati, a subversive secret society in the pockets of a Jewish elite. Apparently, in an attempt to divide the world, the Jews were the architects of capitalism andcommunism.
At the heart of many of these Jews-rule-the-world scenarios is the Rothschild family. A European dynasty, of German-Jewish origin, the Rothschilds established European banking and finance houses at the end of the 18th century. Since then, the Rothschilds have frequently been the subject of conspiracy theories, such as claiming that the family controls world capital or encourages wars between nations.
The Freemasons, often linked to international Zionists in the minds of conspiracy theorists, have also been accused of conspiring to bring about a world government, perhaps with Jerusalem as its capital.
A lot of this nonsense derives from notorious anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which not only had a compelling effect on Hitler, it is now required reading in the Middle East. It is also mentioned in the Hamas charter. Originally published in Russian in 1903, the Protocols alleges a Judeo-Masonic conspiracy to achieve world domination. The text claims to be the minutes of secret meetings in which Jewish masterminds plan to rule the world on behalf of all Jews.
The most famous of contemporary conspiracy theorists is David Icke who believes that a secret group of reptilian humanoids called the Babylonian Brotherhood controls humanity. Members of the brotherhood include George W. Bush, Queen Elizabeth II and Kris Kristofferson(!) In his book, The Robots' Rebellion, Icke introduced the idea that a nefarious plan for world domination is laid out in The Protocols.
According to Icke, being labelled an anti-Semite is “an honour these days.” Icke’s definition of anti-Semite is “someone who is against the Jewish criminal gang that dominates the global power structure.”
The question is where do Jews find the time to oppress the Palestinians, run the banks, control the media and rule the world?
3. Zionists and 9/11
Conspiracy theorists across the political spectrum claim that Israel masterminded the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A variant on the theory is that Jews in the Bush administration conspired with the Israelis to bring down the Twin Towers.
Such drivel derives from a rumour that Mossad contacted 4,000 American Jews before the attack, warning them to stay at home.
The fact that a Manhattan synagogue lost six of its members and 130 Israeli nationals were killed on September 11th seems to have escaped the attention of the conspiracy nutjobs. In total, the number of Jews who died in the attacks is estimated at between 270 and 400.
The view that Israel was behind the atrocities is popular on the Far Right and in the Muslim world. Mossad, they claim, trained the 9/11 hijackers in order to provoke a war on terror.
Not only that, 9/11 was orchestrated so that America would clear the way for an Israeli takeover of all the lands in the Middle East from the Mediterranean Sea to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
Conspiracy theorist Michael Pardo, who refers to himself as “an independent researcher who revealed several years ago that the speed of light was not constant,” has made his views pretty clear:
“The real truth is that the entire Iraqi war ploy again exemplifies how the Rothschild family still has the upper hand and holds sway over the Illuminist element of the New World Order conspiracy, and can and will have their way whenever they want to.”
Left-wing sociologist James Petras believes that the truth about Israel and 9/11 is unlikely to become public knowledge. Why? “For the very reason that it would expose Israeli influence in the U.S. via its secret agents.” He also blames the Jewish diaspora for covering up Israel’s alleged involvement.
4. Zionist propaganda and the corruption of culture
The Iranians are very hot on uncovering Zionist plots. A new Iranian documentary claims that the Harry Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” is crammed full of symbols designed to brainwash the youth of Iran.
According to the film's narrator, the film “serves to spread the dark and evil essence of Zionism and its goals."
Did you know that the creators of Mickey Mouse have also produced Zionist propaganda? Apparently, an assortment of villainous characters in various Disney films (such as Aladdin) give Arabs a bad name. "Pirates of the Caribbean" is also suspect, according to the Iranians.
In 2007, things got even weirder. In a Hamas children’s cartoon, a Mickey Mouse lookalike called Farfour, who spent most of his time teaching jihad to kids, was killed by a Zionist "terrorist." "Farfour was martyred while defending his land," said Sara, the teen presenter. Poor Farfour. All he ever wanted was to destroy the Jewish state.
A recent report by Iran’s Press TV revealed that “Zionist lobbies are feeding mainstream British media.” Furthermore, the same lobbies “are also meddling in the book and music industry of the UK to silence anti-Zionist voices.”
Iran has also astutely observed that the London 2012 Olympic logo spells “Zion” and that the games are part of a Zionist plot.
Presumably, every gold medallist will be a Jew.
5. Zionism and disease
According to Iranian TV (yes, it’s Iran again), the creation of swine flu was masterminded by Zionists and Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense in the Bush administration. Egyptian government official Sheikh Ali Osman went further by issuing a Fatwa, stating that because the Jews are the source of pigs, they are therefore the source of swine flu. In order to rid the world of swine flu, it is permissible to kill all Jews, he said. Let's hope this guy never runs for the Egyptian presidency.
In 2006, a Syrian-run newspaper blamed Israel for the spread of bird flu. Are Jews the source of birds too?
Back in 2004, Saudis were warned not to buy Israeli melons in case they were infected with the HIV virus. The Israelis have also been accused of deliberately spreading HIV among Palestinians and turning them into drug addicts.
It is not just the finest minds in the Middle East that have rumbled Israel’s evil plans. Desiree Rover, a journalist from Holland, told De Telegraf that the bird flu pandemic was part of a Zionist conspiracy to reduce the world's population.
According to Rover, the descendants of the ancient Khazars who converted to Judaism 1,200 years are behind the conspiracy. Oh, and they also worship Satan.
There are many more Zionist conspiracy theories, not to mention a plethora of anti-Semitic canards that are centuries old. New accusations and libels pop up quite regularly, the latest one being that Zionists are in the business of harvesting body parts.
One thing concerns me, though. If there is a Zionist conspiracy, why haven’t I received my instructions?
Or maybe I have and I’m just not telling you.