The activation of Arab anti-Semitism has not changed for two centuries | The Jewish Press – | Fred Marron | 2 Elul 5782 – August 29, 2022


Photo credit: Hoheit/WikiCommons

Hamas election poster in Ramallah, West Bank, March 17, 2007, which reads “Palsetine From Sea to Rever (sic)”

In February 1840, the Capuchin friar Thomas and his Muslim servant disappeared, and the Capuchins claimed that the Jews had murdered the two men to use their blood for Passover. With the cooperation of the French consul (Catholics in Syria were then under French protection), local authorities fabricated evidence and obtained confessions by torturing and killing Jews and kidnapping 63 Jewish children. The incident was reported internationally and most media presented the unproven accusations as fact. Innocent Jews were held captive until August, when they were released due to pressure from the West, especially Western Jews. Despite the official withdrawal of the charges, many Syrian Christians continued to repeat them and claimed that the Jews were only released because of international Jewish influence. Several books have been written to perpetuate anti-Semitic accusations. In addition to local Jewish casualties, this incident was used as an excuse for more anti-Semitism internationally and made Jews everywhere increasingly afraid for their own safety. This historical event is called Damascus Blood Libel.

The most direct reason why this defamation is still relevant today is that the lie is still repeated in the Arab world. As written in the Jewish Virtual Library, “The idea that the ritual charge had been conclusively authenticated in Damascus in 1840 is repeated from time to time in the Arabic-language media and by diplomats representing various Arab states. The tomb housing (allegedly) the remains of Father Thomas is still in the Terra Sancta Franciscan Church in Damascus and bears the statement that he was murdered by the Jews on February 5, 1840.” As an example, in 1986 the minister Syrian Defense Mustapha Tlass wrote a book titled “La Matzah de Sion” which repeated the baseless accusations, and the book appeared in 2021 in Saudi Arabia at the largest book fair in Saudi history (along with several other books anti-Semitic works such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf), under the official patronage of the country’s ruler, King Salman.

The other, and perhaps most important, reason why this defamation is still relevant today is that the pattern it followed is still followed today in many cases when accusations are made by Arabs. against Israel. The boss consisted of:

  • False accusations: False accusations made by Arabs against Jews.
  • International Support: International diplomatic and media support for the charges.
  • False evidence: disinformation and fabrication of evidence against accused Jews.
  • Punishment: Punish accused Jews without holding perpetrators accountable.
  • Rise of global anti-Semitism: Continue to repeat false accusations and escalate violence against Jews everywhere.

A recent example is the latest war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, in May 2021.

False accusations: The Palestinian Authority’s position has always been that when Israel attacks terrorists in Gaza to stop attacks on its citizens, it is committing “war crimes” and even “genocide”. These accusations, however, do not stand up to scrutiny. As Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid explained, the war began due to Hamas’ unprovoked and politically motivated attacks on Israel, but the international media has mostly focused on the effects of the war. on Gaza while ignoring Hamas attacks and Israel’s need to defend its citizens.

International Support: British Labor MP Zarah Sultana backed the official Palestinian position by accusing Israel of committing “war crimes”. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, also asserted that “Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza may constitute war crimes”. Even the most pro-Israel foreign leaders have pressured Israel to end the fighting, but no significant action has been taken to prevent Hamas from provoking another similar war in the future, as it ‘ve done many times before.

Fake evidence: Fabricating evidence against the Jewish state was rampant on social media, but even the mainstream publication The New York Times indulged in disinformation about Israel’s actions in Gaza, as Robert Satloff explained, executive director of the Washington Institute. A UN commission has been appointed to investigate the Palestinian accusations, but the revelation that the commission includes at least one openly anti-Semitic member suggests the commission is more interested in criticizing Israel than finding out facts.

Punishment: Attempts to punish Israel for defending itself have not failed. Perhaps the most significant attempt was the vote in September 2021 of eight Democrats and one Republican in the United States House of Representatives against the law to fund the missile defense system that saves Israeli lives. In defense of the act, Democratic Rep. Richie Torres wrote“A missile defense system (i.e., Iron Dome) defends civilians against missiles. Hence the name. Only in a morally inverted universe would this be considered a controversy.

Rise of global anti-Semitism: False accusations and other forms of disinformation against Israel have been used as an excuse for increasing anti-Semitic violence around the world. The Times of Israel reported that “the conflict between Israel and Hamas has set the stage for anti-Semites in Canada to unleash unprecedented attacks fueled by social media – in person and online – including physical violence, incitement and harassment”. Similar stories came from the United States, Austria, the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. As an example of the depravity directed at Jews, in the UK an anti-Israel protester shouted from a loudspeaker: “F**k the Jews”, “F**k their daughters”, ” F**k Their Mothers,” “Rape Their Daughters,” and “Free Palestine.”

The similarities between this incident and the Damascus Blood Libel are striking, but there is one significant difference. While in 1840 the accusers were able to torture and kill the falsely accused Jews, and even kidnap their children, in 2021 the accusers tried to punish Israel but failed. The big difference between 1840 and today is that the Jews now have a state that can defend its citizens, and that state has powerful allies.

It is important to remember the Damascus blood libel, because if the Jewish state did not exist, all the elements that allowed this horrible anti-Semitic event to happen in the Middle East would still be there. Arab anti-Semitism has not disappeared, and in fact anti-Semitism increases everywhere when Jews dare to defend themselves. The only real protection Jews have is a strong Jewish state and powerful allies such as the United States.

I’m not saying that all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic or fits the pattern I’ve described. Criticism of some of Israel’s policies, especially Israeli settlements in the West Bank, may be legitimate, but too often anti-Semitism is accepted under the belief or excuse that it is a form of advocacy pro-Palestinian.

There is nothing inherently anti-Semitic about demanding a state for the Palestinians. There is nothing inherently anti-Semitic about expecting Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate an agreement that satisfies both the Palestinian right to self-determination and the Jewish right to self-determination. However, pro-Palestinian advocacy becomes anti-Semitic when it promotes policies aimed at destroying Israel, such as denying Israel the right or means to defend itself.

The distinction is essential because we should be able to advocate for Palestinian self-determination while fighting anti-Semitism. In fact, it is difficult to argue that justice is served by doing one without the other. Arab anti-Semitism has prevented pro-Palestinian advocacy from taking such a path, but pro-Palestinian advocacy will not succeed and should not succeed until it moves away from anti-Semitism and embraces an ethical approach to promoting Palestinian rights.


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