Professor Barry Rubin recently posed the question “Who would have thought, say twenty years ago, that the Arabic-speaking world’s obsession with demonising Jews might go even further than where it was at that time?”
“For one thing,” he noted “in the 1990s, history seemed to be moving towards moderation; for another thing, who could believe it could become even more intense”?
Referring to recent discussions concerning comments by former US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, he observed “just at the moment when for the first time in all of history Americans are told that (some) Jews object to the use of the term ‘blood libel’ by someone falsely accused of murder, the same people are ignoring… blood libels generated daily in the Middle East, many with fatal consequences”.
Prof. Rubin took the example of a recent Egyptian television program which made the novel, bizarre, libellous and racist argument that “The (Roman) war against Cleopatra was Jewish in essence, and history repeats itself”, projecting Jews as eternal enemies of Egyptians and manipulators of world power from time immemorial (see p. 6).
On a balmy summer’s day in Sydney recently, a friend who is a respected intellectual figure and religious personality in a significant Muslim-majority country told me of some of the contemporary claims about Jews and Israel which he encounters, from leading public figures, on a daily basis.
They included: Judaism has moved from worship of G-d to worship of evil spirits; the Israelis have built a palace which is kept in pristine condition so when the Dajjal (a figure similar to the anti-Christ) arrives he will have a comfortable home; polygamy is widely practised by Jews because rabbis recognise that Jewish men have almost unquenchable sexual appetites which need to be accommodated; and Judaism teaches hostility to all Islam’s practices.
It might provide a modicum of comfort if these were restricted to a small number of societies or states which we would think of as culturally unlike our own, but anti-Jewish libel is hardly absent from public debate in western societies, including Australia.
In a must-read item published by the Community Security Trust in London, Mark Gardner commented “It is not as if her [Sarah Palin’s] use of blood libel will actually have much bearing upon Jews”, before identifying libels which have real effects.
There are the actual “blood libels” broadcast on media such as Iran’s Press TV whose presenters and employees, including some in Australia, escape popular outrage.
There are the indirect blood libels, which substitute “Israel” for “Jew”; “Zionism” for “Judaism”; cutting and pasting old defamatory caricatures.
Mr. Gardner added, “then you have the routine use of blood libel images, Jews as vampires etc. in much Arab media; and in rhetoric from Arab politicians and Islamic groups throughout the world.”
He further noted that “many of those leading the charge against Palin’s two word ‘blood libel’ remain mute on this deluge of hatred, and its impact upon relations between Muslims and Jews, and upon the chances for Israel and her neighbours ever finding peace.” But, he concluded, “for me, however, there is one blood libel, or death libel, that stands out above all others – the use of the terms Nazi and Holocaust in relation to Israel and Zionists. There are politicians and commentators on the literal left who have indulged in such filth; and many others who have stood idly by whilst others have wallowed in it”.
One example of the expression of this hateful, anti-intellectual, contra-factual slur came from the keyboard of one Australian commentator recently. It remained unamended after the fallacious premise which he used as a springboard for his warped and noxious conclusion had been exposed as anti-Israel propaganda:
“How Israel gasses Palestinian protestors and sometimes kills them. No historical irony here at all” with a link to a story misrepresenting the sad death of a Palestinian woman due to Palestinian medical errors.
This was a contribution to Australian debate by Antony Loewenstein.
I hope for, but do not anticipate, any of his supporters or promoters displaying decency by expressing their revulsion at this vicious libel.