The Perpetrators, the Anti-Semitic Hate Motifs Used, the War’s Methodology, the Hate Distribution Mechanisms, and a Strategy for Countercombat
- The multiple ongoing attacks on Israel and the Jews in the new century combine into a system, as if controlled by an invisible hand, that is very similar to a postmodern “total war.” This complex whole is of a radically different nature than the war of the Nazis against the Jews in the previous century.
- The main perpetrators among the enemies of Israel and the Jews come from the Arab and Muslim world. They have allies of various kinds in the West. The anti-Jewish hatred is transmitted through conduits such as semantics, the Internet, and the media.
- In the Western world among the main distributors of the hate and discrimination are politicians, the United Nations, neo-Nazis, mainly left-wing members of the elite, the media, NGOs, academics, Christian churches (mainly progressive ones), and so forth.
- The main motifs used against Israel and the Jews are mutations of the ancient one that was strongly present in the Christian world, in which the Jews represent absolute evil.
- Any countercombat strategy requires more detailed study of the enemies. It has to focus on exposing them rather than on self-defense.
A Call for Genocide
The Jews are the Jews…. They do not have any moderates or any advocates of peace. They are all liars. They must be butchered and must be killed…. The Jews are like a spring – as long as you step on it with your foot it doesn’t move. But if you lift your foot from the spring, it hurts you and punishes you…. It is forbidden to have mercy in your hearts for the Jews in any place and in any land, make war on them anywhere that you find yourself. Any place that you meet them, kill them.1
This call for a genocidal war against the Jews was made in 2000 by Dr. Ahmed Abu Halabiyah, rector of advanced studies at the Islamic University of Gaza on PA TV, the official channel of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Many similar statements can be heard or read in the Arab and Muslim world. Halabiyah spoke in a Friday television sermon and his call is thus part of the governmental, academic, and religious spheres of the PA and Palestinian society.
Such an expression of Arab anti-Semitism recalls what was frequent in Germany and several other European countries in the first half of the twentieth century. There, like in the official Palestinian television, the calls were often not only murderous but genocidal in nature. Halabiyah’s words are among the more explicit manifestations of the extreme hate that now exists in many parts of the world against Israel and the Jews.
A Total War
In the first years of the twenty-first century, verbal and physical attacks on Israel and the Jews have increased dramatically. What has so rapidly emerged was partly based on an infrastructure that had latently been in place for many decades after World War II.2
The French philosopher, political scientist, and historian Pierre-André Taguieff was among the first to discuss in detail the fact that by the end of 2001, anti-Semitism had reached levels unprecedented in the post-Nazi period in both the Arab world and Europe. His insight was enhanced by living in France where, among West European countries, the anti-Semitic attacks were particularly violent.
He also exposed the widespread fallacy that at the time, Islamophobia was a worse problem than anti-Semitism. The risk for a Jew of being attacked in France was many tens of times greater than for a Muslim and has probably remained so until today.
Post-Holocaust anti-Semitic propaganda reached a new peak in September 2001 at the UN World Conference against Racism in Durban. There the main defamers of the Jews and Israel were Arab governments, supported by many Muslim countries and a considerable number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including Western ones.
At present, the assaults on Israel and the Jews continue unabated at a global level. Their perpetrators come from many walks of life, as do their allies and incidental collaborators. The attacks take various forms. Many aggressors collaborate among themselves; others, such as hate-mongers on the Internet may operate on their own.
The Defamers’ Methodology
Taguieff also understood early several key aspects of the methods used by the defamers of Israel and the Jews. He exposed the process by which the crimes of the allegedly deprived – to whom the Palestinians claim to belong – are condoned. He described the role of the media in justifying violence and portraying criminals as victims.
The next step in the distortion process is to declare the criminals – dressed up as victims – not responsible for their acts because these are determined by their socioeconomic conditions. This is an updated version of Marxist determinism. A further step is that the Islamist version of Islam becomes the religion of the poor and the victims. Another facet is to declare that Muslims or Arabs behave the way they do because they are supposedly humiliated or persecuted.3
The new myth of the “intrinsically good Palestinian” is coupled with an anti-Zionism aimed at destroying Israel. The Palestinians have become the standard-bearers of democracy’s enemies and the criminalization of Israel and of the West go hand in hand.
The dangers of blind pacifism are that it places the aggressor and his victim at the same moral level and turns legitimate self-defense into a crime. Abstract utopianism and “blind angelism” still tend to favor the multinational model, even though multinational states have led to partially ethnically cleansed states, as became particularly evident in Yugoslavia.4
A New Type of Combat
The multiple ongoing attacks combine into a system of combat, as if controlled by an invisible hand. This complex whole is very similar to a postmodern “total war” against the Jewish people and Israel. It contains elements that appeared frequently in the past, such as the aforementioned genocidal calls. Many other aspects are new and made possible by developments such as globalization, communication technology, the emergence of NGOs, and so forth. All these factors together produce a radically new system of warfare.
For the Jewish people and Israel to combat the attacks more effectively, a strategy has to be developed. Before doing so, it is necessary to grasp much better how this unprecedented total-war system operates. This includes where the major attacks originate, who their main perpetrators are, what key motifs of defamation they use, and how the distribution mechanism of the hatred and discrimination propaganda functions.
In other words, to expose and fight the enemy one needs to know him much better than the Jewish world and Israeli authorities do at present. Some studies on the methodology of specific aspects of the total war have been undertaken in recent years, mainly by a few individual researchers. Many others have occasionally made methodological observations. The anti-Jewish defamation and hate system has not yet, however, been explored in its totality.
A Complex Subject
The subject is highly complex. The total war does not only consist of direct verbal or physical attacks but also uses many other approaches to indirectly defame the Jews and Israel or distort their image. These include the neglect or belittling of major criminal acts of their enemies. In the decades after World War II this manifested itself, for instance, in Holocaust denial.
In more recent years its prime manifestations involve remaining silent about extreme anti-Semitic expressions against Israel. This includes Western neglect of explicit calls for genocide even if they appear in official Arab media, such as television stations or state-owned newspapers. Another aspect is the falsification of morality through the promotion of political correctness and concepts of moral equivalence.
This is frequently done by European and other democratic governments as well as leading human rights organizations. Several anti-Israeli Christian leaders, belonging, for instance, to “progressive” Protestant groups, may even express at length their “love” for the Jews in conversations of an anti-Semitic nature with Jewish representatives.
The analysis of such a complex subject requires at least a book. Here, a limited number of examples will be offered while laying some foundations for a more detailed study.
The Nature and Stages of the Total War
The propagators of the contemporary total war against the Jews have many precursors in Christian anti-Semitism over the centuries. Examples were the medieval monks who went from town to town spreading hatred of the Jews, often leading to their murder. The Crusades and their mass murder of Jewish communities had many elements of a campaign in a war. In the fourteenth century, many European Jewish communities were massacred after false accusations of poisoning water sources.
The twentieth-century Germans, under the ideology of political anti-Semitism and National Socialism, turned the mass murder of the Jews into a more global operation.
The total war against the Jews in the twenty-first century has a very different overall nature than its predecessors. It has both major similarities and differences with the total war that led in the previous century to the Holocaust.
One main similarity is that both wars encompass a large number of actors. Another is the considerable role of governments. In the first half of the previous century, this involved mainly Germany and the authorities of its sympathizer countries. Currently it is politicians, officials, and state-owned media of many Arab and Muslim states, including those with which Israel is at peace. The main difference between today’s total war and that of the previous century is in the character of the concerted hostilities.
The Total War of the 1930s
The total war against the Jews of the 1930s and early 1940s had at its heart a genocidal crusade against the Jews by the Third Reich – consisting of Germany and Austria – and its allies. It was of a modern, centrally directed, and continuous nature.
The main murderous propaganda against the Jews originated from one address, the leader of the German National Socialist Party and later German chancellor, Adolf Hitler. The major attacks and measures taken against the Jews were initiated or approved by him.
They were promoted and enacted through the bureaucratic systems of the German state and the National Socialist Party. From Germany the ideas and instructions flowed to sister parties, affiliates, as well as unorganized sympathizers and collaborators abroad, who, once World War II started, would assist the Nazi occupiers in encouraging and implementing the anti-Jewish measures and sometimes also in murdering Jews.
There was much other anti-Semitic propaganda as well. Some of its perpetrators collaborated with the Germans, others worked by themselves. One prominent Arab ally of the Nazis was Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who was considered by many the main leader of the Palestinian Arabs. “Openly and knowing about Auschwitz, he had advocated the Shoah. ‘Germany,’ he declared in 1943, has ‘decided to find a final solution to the Jewish menace, which will end this misfortune in the world.’”5
In the first half of the twentieth century, a substantial role in propagating international anti-Semitism continued to be played by the teachings of the Catholic Church, some other churches, and many other institutions. On a national basis, governments in the Soviet Union, Poland, some Balkan countries, and others also participated in propagating hate. There were also important anti-Semitic organizations, not linked to the National Socialists, in many countries of which France is a prime example. However severe their anti-Semitism sometimes was, it usually paled next to that of the murderous system Hitler controlled.
Different Ways of Spreading Toxins
The postmodern war against the Jews is of a different nature. It is multisourced, fragmented, and in large measure diffuse and discontinuous. There is no government, organization, or person that stands out as the prime propagator of the anti-Jewish hate.
One might compare the modern anti-Semitism of the 1930s to a toxin factory. From its large chimney, poison spreads constantly over a wide area. Postmodern anti-Semitism can be compared to the pollution caused by many cars everywhere, which at certain times run on types of fuel from which poisonous elements escape in limited quantities through a large number of exhausts, all over the place.
From a Jewish viewpoint, the importance of exposing and combating contemporary anti-Semitism cannot be detached from the insights learned from the Holocaust. As Israeli political scientist Peter Medding writes:
The Holocaust fundamentally changed the Jews’ age old understanding of the problem of anti-Semitism. The Nazi case showed clearly how in a civilized and advanced industrial society the systematic fanning and progressive intensification of anti-Semitism culminated in the Final Solution. The historical conclusion was inescapable: the Holocaust was the end-result of anti-Semitism, and without anti-Semitism the Holocaust could not and would not have occurred.
A major issue since then has been not so much “how to deal with actual instances of prejudice and discrimination and verbal and physical hostility against the Jews than of anti-Semitism’s ‘Holocaust potential’ and how to deal with that.”6
The Stages of War
Another important aspect of the total war to be studied is the development of its various stages. The war of the 1930s and thereafter had three partly overlapping phases. The first consisted of systematic extreme defamation of the Jews. The second aimed at their gradual exclusion from society. The third centered on the physical destruction of the Jews.
The total war against the Jews of the twenty-first century contains elements of all three phases. We are now mainly in the first stage, that of extreme defamation. Some elements of the other stages, however, are also in place. The assault is mainly aimed at Israel; Jews are a lesser but still significant target of contemporary anti-Semites.
Several elements of the second stage have emerged in recent years. These include a variety of attempts to exclude Israel or Israelis from international forums. Another aspect involves boycott initiatives of various kinds. Some proposals aim at Israeli universities and academics; others, in part initiated by some liberal Protestant churches, are directed at certain suppliers of Israel.
The elements of the third stage are (yet?) largely verbal in nature. They manifest themselves, however, in homicide attacks on Israeli civilians as well as Jews abroad. There are many, mainly Arab and Muslim circles, that aim at the physical destruction of Israel.
For example, in June 2002 Iran held the International Conference on Imam Khomeini and Support for Palestine, in which the country’s supreme leader Ali Khamene’i participated. “The Iranian organizer of the conference, ‘Ali Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur, declared, ‘Israel is a cancerous tumor in the heart of the Muslim world which should be removed,’ and lauded the attacks carried out by Palestinian suicide bombers.”7
Many political and religious elements in the Arab world support homicide bombing by radical Muslims against civilians. As far as specific backing for Palestinian suicide bombings is concerned, one of its best-known religious supporters is the Egyptian-born sheikh Yusef al-Qaradawi who currently heads the Sunni Studies Department at Qatar University.
Qaradawi reaches a wide audience as he appears frequently on the Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera. Among other things, he criticized the Imam of Mecca: “It is unfortunate to hear that the grand imam has said it was not permissible to kill civilians in any country or state, even in Israel.”8
One finds support for murder as well among some Western academics. Others express their anti-Semitic mindsets by stating their desire that the Jewish state should disappear.
An extreme example is Ted Honderich, a Canadian-born philosophy professor (emeritus) at University College in London. He has publicly stated that the Palestinians have a moral right to blow up the Jews. He even encouraged them to do so by saying: “To claim a moral right on behalf of the Palestinians to their terrorism is to say that they are right to engage in it, that it is permissible if not obligatory.”9 Honderich has repeated this position frequently, including at the University of Leipzig in Germany.10
In the methodological inquiry into the system of the total war against the Jews and Israel, attention must also be devoted to the historical development of the major types of anti-Semitism. These fall into three distinct categories.
The first consists of the classic religious anti-Semitism of Christianity. It was initially promoted mainly by Catholicism but later also by various Protestant movements. The National Socialists were the main, though far from exclusive, promoters of the second category, modern political anti-Semitism.
The third, more recent manifestation of anti-Semitism is often called “new anti-Semitism,” “anti-Zionism,” or “anti-Israelism.” It primarily targets the state of Israel. All three manifestations of Jew-hatred have many core motifs in common, even though these have expressed themselves in different forms over the past decades.
Frequent efforts have been made to define anti-Semitism. The emergence of “new anti-Semitism” created a need to define the subject anew. One reason for this was to clarify the boundaries between anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of Israel.
The Working Definition of Anti-Semitism
What new anti-Semitism embodies has been the subject of many discussions and investigations. Pioneering work on this subject has been done by Irwin Cotler, now Canada’s justice minister, as well as others.11
Natan Sharansky, until his resignation in May 2005 as Israeli cabinet minister responsible for the Diaspora, answered the need for a concise working definition of new anti-Semitism. He developed what he called the 3D test – demonization, double standards, and delegitimization – to separate legitimate criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism.12
In its 2004 report on anti-Semitism, the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) noted the lack of a common definition and requested one from a small group of Jewish NGOs. After lengthy discussions, this working definition of anti-Semitism has seeped into the public discourse. For instance, at the May 2005 OSCE conference in Cordoba delegates frequently referred to it.
This definition says:
Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.
In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.
Contemporary examples of anti-Semitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:
Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective – such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.13
The document gives many examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism may manifest itself regarding Israel, including: “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, applying double standards against Israel and using symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis.”
Anti-Semitic Attitudes in the European Union
The above definitions enable analyzing which cases mentioned throughout this essay reflect anti-Semitism. A survey released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in June 2005 found that strong anti-Semitic attitudes were widely held in Europe.14 It was based on interviews with six thousands adults, five hundred in each of the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
Among the findings was that 20 percent of those Europeans surveyed blame Jews for the death of Jesus. Forty-three percent believe that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own country. A majority of those surveyed in Germany, Poland, and Spain said they thought this assertion to be “probably true.”
About 30 percent of those polled believe that “Jews have too much power in the business world.” Thirty-two percent assent that “Jews have too much power in international financial markets.”
Forty-two percent think that Jews still talk too much about the Holocaust. There is a majority for this viewpoint in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland. Twenty-nine percent of those polled say that their opinion of Jews is influenced by Israeli actions. Of these, fifty-three percent responded that Israeli actions have worsened their opinion of Jews.15
A Poll in Germany
Because of its Nazi history, Germany draws special attention in assessing contemporary anti-Semitism. Much of the ADL data on the country were confirmed in a German opinion poll based on a much larger sample.
The 2004 GMF survey interviewed 2,656 representatively selected German-speaking people in the country.16 Thirty-two percent of these agreed, or largely agreed, with the statement: “Because of Israel’s policies I have increasing antipathy toward Jews.” Forty-four percent agreed that: “Given Israel’s policies, I can well understand that people have something against Jews.”
Sixty-one percent assented to the statement: “I am fed up hearing again and again about the German crimes against the Jews.” Sixty-eight percent agreed that: “Israel undertakes a war of destruction against the Palestinians.” Fifty-one percent agreed that: “What the state of Israel does today to the Palestinians, is in principle not different from what the Nazis did in the Third Reich to the Jews.”
The latter anti-Semitic submotif has appeared elsewhere in the European mainstream already for decades. Leading European politicians such as the late Swedish socialist prime minister Olaf Palme and the late Greek socialist prime minister Andreas Papandreou have accused Israel of using Nazi methods.17 18
The Main Perpetrators
A major methodological step in deconstructing the system of the postmodern total war is to identify the main originators of current anti-Semitism. The aggressors against Israel and the Jewish people can be divided into various categories. The most frequent and usually most virulent come from the Arab and Muslim world.
How deeply the racist attitude toward the Jews has permeated the predominantly nondemocratic Muslim countries was illustrated by the “Mahathir affair.” The then prime minister of Malaysia, Mohammed Mahathir, said at the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in 2003: “Today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.”19
He was applauded by all attendants at the conference including top leaders of all Muslim nations. An editorial in the French daily Le Monde noted that: “such words are common currency in the Arab Islamic world where they pass for evident truth…and this direct form of racism, purely and simply is practiced as a normal category of the ‘political debate.’”20
This incident was important for two reasons. First, this blatant statement of anti-Semitism was applauded by the senior Muslim statesmen who were present. Second, it concerned an attack on the Jews and not on Israel. When criticized subsequently by Western leaders Mahathir did not apologize, and many Muslim leaders supported him with few if any dissociating themselves from his words. There was so much discussion that any of those in attendance who had wanted to distance themselves from Mahathir’s words had ample occasion to do so. The Mahathir affair showed the profoundly racist character of the Muslim and Arab world at its highest levels.
There are many similar examples of propagating racism and hatred by Muslim and Arab political leaders. Mustafa T’las, the Syrian defense minister, has said repeatedly that Jews need blood for their religious practices. The Syrian blood libel is largely based on a major nineteenth-century calumny against the Jews of Damascus, who were accused of having murdered a Christian priest, Thomas al-Kabushi, to use his blood for religious purposes.21
Even in Egypt, which has signed a peace treaty with Israel, the state media produce a stream of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli expressions. Many of these are similar to Nazi propaganda.
Radical European Muslims
Various media of radical Muslims in Western countries propagate and support anti-Semitic hate. “There are a number of Muslim anti-Semitic websites in Swedish, the best known of which is that of Radio Islam. Already as a radio station in the 1980s, it broadcast Nazi-like anti-Semitism.”22 The content could have been taken from Der Stürmer or Mein Kampf, with the Jews accused of being sexually perverted, brazen, and greedy, committing ritual murders, having great influence over the media, and organizing a world conspiracy aimed at enslaving all other peoples.23 24
In another example, in 2001 the website of the El Tawheed mosque in Amsterdam published statements such as: “The Jews possess the weapon industry and on the other hand they are the ones which make the wars” and “The Jews, the Christians and the Communists…are working together to destroy the Islamic community.” The president of this mosque was also principal of a Muslim elementary school.25
Although in these particular cases the authorities took measures, it has been difficult to combat many other radical Muslim anti-Semites. The politically correct view in Europe often is that only white people can be racists, whereas Muslims (and blacks) even if they are extremists, can only be victims of racism.
The Jewish historian Emanuel Brenner has shown that Muslim anti-Semitism and many other expressions of racism occur in French schools. Brenner does not deny that some Muslims are social victims, but points out that this does not place them beyond the law, particularly when their acts have a pogromlike character.26
Radical Muslim hate propaganda is of a widespread, international nature. Shimon Samuels, international liaison director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who participated in the 2002 UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg relates: “The evening before the conference we turned on the car radio and heard Radio Islam of Johannesburg (MW1548) broadcasting a hate speech against the Jews. The Imam of Johannesburg attacked the Jewish National Fund and demanded its expulsion from the conference because the JNF is stealing land from the Palestinians.”
Samuels adds: “I immediately wrote a letter to the South African Minister of Home Affairs, Mangosuthu Buthulezi, protesting the Imam’s position and stating that the JNF is an agency that is a model for the advancement of sustainable development.”27
After the 11 September attacks Sheikh Muhammad Gemeaha, leader of an important mosque in upper Manhattan made a series of anti-Semitic remarks including: “there is proof that Jews were the terrorists because only they had the capability to neutralize the automatic pilot, command the control tower, erase the black boxes and infiltrate the White House and Pentagon.”28
Gemeaha also stated:
Muslims do not feel safe even going to the hospitals, because some Jewish doctors in one of the hospitals poisoned sick Muslim children, who then died…. You see these people (i.e. the Jews) all the time, everywhere, disseminating corruption, heresy, homosexuality, alcoholism, and drugs. [Because of them] there are strip clubs, homosexuals, and lesbians everywhere. They do this to impose their hegemony and colonialism on the world…. But Hitler annihilated them because they betrayed him and violated their contract with him.29
Western Participants in the War
Many Westerners are committed to the total war against Israel and the Jews. In Sweden, for example:
Ahmed Rami, the man behind Radio Islam, was convicted of hate crimes because of the anti-Semitic content of his broadcasts, in 1989 and again in a court of appeals. Nevertheless, influential journalists and politicians supported him and even denied or exculpated his anti-Semitism.30 Jan Bergman, professor of theology at Uppsala University, testified in Rami’s defense and claimed, among other things, that for Jews it was indeed a religious duty to kill Gentiles.31
One of the most outspoken current promoters of anti-Semitism in France is a black comedian named Dieudonné. In an appearance on state-owned television, he dressed up as an Orthodox Jew and made the Hitler salute. He has since repeated this in performances for thousands of spectators. After a state prosecutor had requested a two-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of 25,000 Euros, both a lower appeals court and a Paris appeals court upheld his acquittal.32
Western perpetrators of anti-Semitism are found primarily but not exclusively among extreme leftists, neo-Nazis, and other extreme rightists. There are also fellow travelers who occasionally may play a minor role in this campaign. Others are opportunists, such as some Western politicians who make pro-Palestinian statements to attract Muslim voters in their countries or constituencies.
Taguieff has pointed out the similarity of the Islamist approach that the end justifies the means to Lenin’s and Trotsky’s doctrine. He posits that for the “Marxist orphans,” that is, the Leninists, Trotskyites, and Third Worldists, as well as for the anarchists, the new mutations of Judeophobia – an expression he prefers to anti-Semitism – meet their demand for meaning in life.
The next important step in understanding the methodology of the total war against the Jews and Israel is to identify the weapons and ammunition that are used. In its extreme form, these can be reduced to the use of a single core motif: the Jews are the paradigm of all evil. This can be phrased differently: the Jews are not only evil in what they do, but in their being. This motif characterizes extreme anti-Semitism throughout the ages.
As the perception of evil has mutated over the centuries, the attire of this recurring core motif has changed as well. In Christian anti-Semitism, the key accusation is mainly that the Jews have killed God’s son and their descendants are eternally responsible for this crime. The argument, then, is that those who are so abysmally wicked as to be God-killers must be the embodiment of Satan on earth. Once society internalizes this demonization, the way to virulent attitudes and extreme anti-Jewish violence is wide open.
That the Jews, who were maligned as having murdered God, are capable of all imaginable evils developed into many anti-Semitic submotifs over the past millennium. One well-known slander is that the Jews kill children out of a ritual need for blood. This blood libel had its origins in 1144 in the English town of Norwich and has been part of the Western world’s anti-Semitic heritage ever since. Another submotif, that the Jews poison wells, has been around since the early fourteenth century when it was propagated in parts of Germany and France.
The extensive demonization of the Jews often had far-reaching consequences. It led some Christians to the conclusion that if certain people, that is, the Jews, were the representatives of Satan, the world would be better off without them and they should be killed. Those who thought so proposed an escape option to the Jews: conversion to Christianity. During the Crusades this stark choice was offered in numerous locales; many Jews who did not want to convert were murdered.
Hence, some think Jews should be grateful to the fifth-century church father Augustine. He said the Jews were not the representatives of the devil and saw their role as being witnesses of the veracity of the Old Testament. In his view this meant they were witnesses of the founding text of the superiority of Christianity.
In the neopagan thought and practice of National Socialism, the choice offered during the Crusades did not exist. Jews no longer had any escape option if they fell into the hands of their enemies.
The Core Motif in Political Anti-Semitism
In political anti-Semitism the core motif of the Jews as a paradigm of absolute evil reappeared in new guise. In an environment where nationalism increasingly became the prime value, the Jews were accused of being cosmopolitans without national loyalties, and thus evil actors against the interests of the nationalities among which they lived. This led to the accusation that the Jews conspire to control the world. Its main support document was the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forgery that has been reprinted until today in large numbers.
The criminal worldview of the Nazis restored the core motif that the Jews are the carriers of all evil. For the Nazis, mainly neopagans, the Christian allegation of killing God’s son was irrelevant; they perceived absolute evil differently, for instance, as Bolshevism. The Jews thus had to be branded, among other things, as Communists.
With their genocide of the Jews, the Nazis became the symbol of all evil in postmodern society. Their postwar sympathizers now had to falsify history and claim that the Nazis were not so malevolent. In its extreme form this became Holocaust denial.
This is a relatively new aspect of anti-Semitism. It developed almost immediately after World War II, mainly though not exclusively in France. Among its early proponents were Maurice Bardèche, a fascist and Paul Rassinier, who had been a Communist before the war, later became a socialist, and had been a member of the French Resistance. In subsequent years Holocaust-denial activities often centered on Robert Faurisson, a former literature professor at Lyons University.
Holocaust denial is one facet of contemporary anti-Semitism whose methodology, including the motifs used by the perpetrators, their motivations, and its mode of propagation, has been analyzed in detail. This was done by the American historian Deborah Lipstadt in her 1993 book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.33
In her analysis of Faurisson, Lipstadt wrote that he
regularly creates facts where none exist and dismisses as false any information inconsistent with his preconceived conclusions. He asserts, for example, that the German army was given “draconian” orders not to participate in “excesses” against civilians, including the Jews; consequently the mass murders of the Jews could not have happened. In making his argument, Faurisson simply ignores the activities of the Einsatzgruppen, the units responsible for killing vast numbers of Jews.34
Distorters of Contemporary History
Also in new anti-Semitism the core theme returned that the Jew is the carrier of all evil, or lurks behind the major evil acts committed in the world.
The motif of holding the Jews responsible for others’ misdeeds has reappeared in several new mutations in the twenty-first century. Many Arab spokesmen accused the Israeli secret service, the Mossad, of being behind the 11 September attacks. This had a double purpose: to blame the Jews for what happened, and to whitewash the actual mass murderers, who were all Arabs and acted out of an ideology that has a substantial following in the Muslim world.
Westerners propagate similar fallacies. French sociologist of religion Shmuel Trigano recalls that a few years ago there were no public protestations in France when the left-wing peasant leader José Bové claimed that the Mossad had initiated the anti-Semitic aggressions in France to hide what was going on in Palestine.35
The Core Motif Returns in New Anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitic distortion stereotypes focusing on Israel were initially promoted mainly by members of the extreme Left. They have by now been adopted by large parts of the European mainstream. The view of the majority of Germans that the Israelis behave like the Nazis is shared by many other Europeans. Jews are usually too polite to ask how it could be that after five years of Palestinian-initiated combat 99.9 percent of the Palestinians are alive, and of those killed the majority were combatants, and a significant number were killed by other Palestinians or in homicide bombings against Israeli civilians. In 2005, Palestinian sources said that in this year so far more Palestinians had been killed by other Palestinians than by Israelis.36
In the new century both religious and racist anti-Semitism are also very much alive. They are overshadowed, however, by a new mutation of the anti-Semitic core motif. For the new anti-Semites, Israel has become the symbol of all evil and anything bad that happens in the world can be attributed to it.
Another distortion variant of the same motif is that Israel is responsible for the world’s problems. For instance, in July 2005 when British-born Islamist terrorists carried out suicide bombings in London, some politicians said there was a solution to terrorism. It was necessary to end the supposedly major evil of the world: Israel’s behavior toward the Palestinians.
Another version of a major motif of anti-Semitic evil also recurs. Many Muslims, Western leftists, neo-Nazis, and others want to destroy the state of Israel. This is a new mutation of the Nazi wish to eliminate all Jews.
The Main Anti-Semitic Submotifs
The core anti-Semitic motif of the Jew as the paradigm of absolute evil has a set of submotifs. These, in turn, recur over the centuries but are differently cloaked according to the predominant narrative of the period.
Seemingly, there is a large variety of disparate contemporary submotifs of the central theme of the Jews as evil. Yet analysis shows that the main variants are few in number.
Deconstructing cartoons enables easy identification of the recurrent submotifs of anti-Semitism. The array of anti-Semitic cartoons from the Arab world is so large that it offers the best starting point. Subsequently, one can also see how such demonization has seeped into caricatures published in mainstream European newspapers.
Cartoons are an efficient tool for such analysis because their designer must appeal to a limited number of stereotypes that his audience is familiar with. As the reading public in the Arab world is largely uneducated, the ideas expressed in cartoons must be simple.
Several authors have carried out research on anti-Semitic Arab cartoons. Important here is the work of the Belgian political scientist Joel Kotek, whose analysis demonstrates that Arab cartoons use the same anti-Semitic stereotypes against Israelis and Jews.37
Categories of Cartoons
Kotek’s analysis well illustrates that many major submotifs in anti-Semitic cartoons are derived from the central theme that the Jew embodies evil. One is that the Jews and now Israel are the killers of God’s son. However surprising it may be, this motif, originating in the Christian world of imagery, now appears regularly in Arab cartoons as well.
Another recurring submotif also stems from the desire to present the Jews as the most evil people in contemporary society: Jews and Israelis are portrayed as Nazis. This common Arab theme has permeated Western cartoons as well. For instance, in 2002 a cartoon in the Greek daily Ethnos, which is close to the then ruling Pasok socialist party, showed two Jewish soldiers dressed as Nazis with Stars of David on their helmets, inserting knives into Arabs. The text read: “Do not feel guilty, my brother. We were not in Auschwitz and Dachau to suffer, but to learn.”
Al-Akhbar, the important Egyptian government daily, showed former prime minister Barak with a Hitler moustache and dressed as a Nazi, blood dripping from his hands. In addition to presenting the Jews as Nazis, here another ancient submotif of evil is introduced: the Jew is bloodthirsty. It is an Arab remake of the Christian anti-Semitic motif that the Jews needed Christian blood for their Passover service.39
Jews as Animals
Yet another anti-Semitic submotif frequently appearing in Arab cartoons is that Jews are animals. This zoomorphism expresses itself by drawing Jews as, for instance, snakes and octopuses. Kotek found that only Jews are represented in Arab caricatures as vampires. This embodies two submotifs: Jews are not human, and they need blood.
Again what is widespread in Arab media can occasionally be found in mainstream European publications. Steven Bell, cartoonist of the liberal British daily Guardian, in 2005 depicted Michael Howard, the Jewish leader of the Conservative opposition, several times as a dog. In April 2005 the paper published another Bell cartoon showing Howard with vampire teeth, one of which was dripping blood, and holding a glass of blood. The caption was: “Are you drinking what we are drinking? Vote Conservative.” A month earlier Bell had already represented Howard drinking blood.
Other anti-Semitic submotifs also return repeatedly in Arab cartoons. Kotek found many examples of caricatures expressing the standard conspiracy theory that the Jews control the world. The American Arab caricaturist Bendip, for instance, designed a monkey with a Star of David on its clothing, sitting on top of the globe on which small figures of the Pope and an Arab appeared.38
The Protocols, Bush, Pontius Pilate
The main anti-Semitic hate motifs found in cartoons are expressed in many other modes. The notion that the Jews aim to control the world was promoted by the inventors and distributors of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This forgery is still today a bestseller in the Muslim and Arab world and many other countries.
In the contemporary Western world another mutation of this motif can be recognized in the allegation that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld have no judgment of their own. The anti-Semites claim that the neoconservatives, often a codeword for Jews, control the decisions of the leading U.S. politicians who are presented as puppets.
This is a new version of an old Christian anti-Semitic motif according to which it was not the “puppet” Pontius Pilate, murderer of many Jews, who condemned Jesus to be crucified. Instead, the Jews told him what to decree.
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1. Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, “Kill a Jew – Go to Heaven: The Perception of the Jew in Palestinian Society,” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 17, Nos. 3 & 4 (Fall 2005), 127.
2. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Europe’s Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today’s Anti-Semitism (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Yad Vashem, WJCX 2003).
3. Pierre-André Taguieff, Rising from the Muck: The New Anti-Semitism in Europe (Paris: Ivan R. Dee, 2004). The original French version was published in 2002.
5. Speech on the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, 2 November 1943, quoted in Matthias Küntzel, “National Socialism and Anti-Semitism in the Arab World,” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 17, Nos. 1 & 2 (Spring 2005), 109.
6. Peter Y. Medding “Conclusion: Australian Jewish Politics in Comparative Perspective,” in Geoffrey Brahm Levey and Philip Mendes, eds., Jews and Australian Politics (Brighton: Sussex Academy Press, 2004), 234.
7. Yehudit Barsky, “Terrorism Briefing: Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine,” American Jewish Committee, 2002.
8. Haim Malka, “Must Innocents Die? The Islamic Debate over Suicide Attacks,” Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2003.
9. Jonathan Kay, “Hating Israel Is Part of Campus Culture,” National Post, 25 September 2002.
10. Ted Honderich, “Is There a Right to Terrorism?” lecture at the University of Leipzig, 19 October 2003.
11. Manfred Gerstenfeld, “The Deep Roots of Anti-Semitism in European Society,” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 17, Nos. 1 & 2 (Spring 2005), 3-46.
12. Nathan Sharansky with Ron Dermer, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror (New York: Public Affairs, 2004), 221-226.
13. Working Definition of Antisemitism, EUMC Discussion Papers – Racism, Xenophobia, Anti-Semitism, www.eumc.eu.int/eumc/index
14. ADL Press Release, “ADL Survey in 12 European Countries Finds Anti-Semitic Attitudes Still Strongly Held,” 7 June 2005, www.adl.org.PresRele/ASInt_13/4726_13.htm.
16. Aribert Heyder, Julia Iser, and Peter Schmidt, “Israelkritik oder Antisemitismus? Meinungsbildung zwischen Öffentlichkeit, Medien und Tabus,” in Wilhelm Heitmeyer, ed., Deutsche Zustände (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2005), 144ff. [German]. GMF stands for Gruppenbezogene Menschenfeindlichkeit (Group Targeted Misanthropy).
17. Moses Altsech (Daniel Perdurant, pseud.), “Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Greek Society,” Analysis of Current Trends in Anti-Semitism, No. 7 (Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1995), 10.
18. Per Ahlmark, “Palme’s Legacy 15 Years On,” Project Syndicate, February 2001.
19. News Desk, “Dr Mahathir Opens 10th OIC Summit,” The Star, 16 October 2003. (This article contains the full text of the speech.)
20. “L’editorial du Monde, Antisemitisme,” Le Monde, 19 October 2003 [French].
21. Raphael Israeli, Islamikaze: Manifestations of Islamic Martyrology (London: Frank Cass, 2003), 303.
22. Per Ahlmark, Vänstern och tyranniet: Det galna kvartseeklet (Stockholm: Timbro, 1994), p. 85 [Swedish].
23. Ibid., 100.
24. Mikael Tossavainen, “Arab and Muslim Anti-Semitism in Sweden,” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 17, Nos. 3 & 4 (Fall 2005), 130.
25. “De ongrijpbare islamitische school,” NRC Handelsblad, 20 October 2001 [Dutch].
26. Emmanuel Brenner, Les territoires perdus de la République: Antisémitisme, racisme et sexisme en milieu scolaire (Paris: Mille et Une Nuits, 2004) [French].
27. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Shimon Samuels, “Anti-Semitism and Jewish Defense at the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development, 2002 Johannesburg, South Africa,” Post-Holocaust &Anti-Semitism, No. 6, 2 March 2003.
28. “New York Cleric’s Departure from Mosque Leaves Mystery,” New York Times, 23 October 2001.
29. “A Fair Sheik?” Wall Street Journal, 24 October 2001.
30. See, e.g., Dennis Zachrisson, FiB-Kulturfront, No. 16, 1988 [Swedish]; Claes-Adam Wachtmeister, Expressen, 26 September 1990 [Swedish]; Sven Õste, Dagens Nyheter, 23 September 1990 [Swedish].
31. Ahlmark, Vänstern och tyranniet, 249.
32. Associated Press, “Court Upholds Acquittal of French Comic Accused of anti-Semitism,” Haaretz, 7 September 2005.
33. Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (Free Press/Macmillan, 1993).
34. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Deborah Lipstadt, “Denial of the Holocaust and Immoral Equivalence,” Post-Holocaust & Anti-Semitism, No. 11, 1 August 2003.
35. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Shmuel Trigano, “French Anti-Semitism: A Barometer for Gauging Society’s Perverseness,” Post-Holocaust & Anti-Semitism, No. 26, 1 November 2004.
36. Associated Press, “Sharp Rise in Number of Palestinians Killed in Internal Disputes,” 7 October 2005.
37. Joel Kotek and Dan Kotek, Au Nom de l’Antisionisme: L’image des Juifs et d’Israël dans la caricature depuis la seconde Intifada (Brussels: Éditions Complexe, 2003) [French].
38. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Joel Kotek, “Major Anti-Semitic Motifs in Arab Cartoons,” Post-Holocaust & Anti-Semitism, No. 21, 1 June 2004.
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Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is an international business strategist who has been a consultant to governments, international agencies, and boards of some of the world’s largest corporations. Among his ten books are Europe’s Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today’s Anti-Semitism (JCPA, Yad Vashem, WJC, 2003); American Jewry’s Challenge: Conversations Confronting the 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005); and most recently, Israel and Europe: An Expanding Abyss? (JCPA and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 2005).