Anti-Semitism: The Same Old Lies Since 200 B.C.

When it comes to Israel and the Jews, the defamatory impulse never dies. The Iranians and their supporters claim there was no Holocaust. The Jews just made it up. Or if some magnanimously concede that the Holocaust did take place, then the death toll was unconscionably exaggerated for political and financial gain. Arabs and Muslims insist that the Jews have no lien on the Holy Land and are recent interlopers. Indeed, in clear violation of the historical muniments and the canonical texts, it would appear there never was a Temple in Jerusalem, as the director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque categorically states.

Anti-Zionists falsely contend that the Palestinians are an indigenous people displaced by European Jews who colonized the territory by force and that the Israeli war machine ethnically cleansed the original inhabitants during the 1948 so-called Nakba. There is no recognition of the fact that the Arabs were the instigators of the conflict and were mainly responsible for the flight of their own people, as attested in Mitchell Bard’s Myths and Facts and many other authentic sources.* There is no awareness or acknowledgment of the 4000 year-old Israelitic connection to the land, the continuous settlements even after the Roman expulsion, and the Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews who together outnumber their European Ashkenazi cousins.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas, dismissing the Jews as “incidental in history,” absurdly asserts descent from the Canaanites, a people who long ago disappeared from the historical record. Popular opinion in many Muslim countries blames the Israeli Mossad for 9/11. “Israel Apartheid Weeks” abound on university campuses, targeting the only true democratic and non-apartheid nation in the entire Middle East. Suppressing most of the relevant context and playing fast and loose with the facts, the notorious Goldstone Report and the UNHRC accuse Israel of human rights crimes in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. According to a Swedish newspaper, Israelis harvest the bodies of Palestinian youths for the lucrative trade in organs — the contemporary form of the ancient blood libel. The litany of lies, slanders and fabrications continues to proliferate without end as part of the “Palestinian narrative,” which has now become the anabolic locus of the campaign against the Jewish state. But such libels and denunciations are as old as the Judean hills. The ecstatic crusade against both Judaism and Zionism remains a historical constant.

In effect, the Palestinians and the antisemitic left have merely revived the ancestral libels going back at least as far as 200 B.C. when, as Raymond Scheindlin documents in A Short History of the Jewish People, “Egyptian writers circulated distorted and insulting accounts of Jewish history,” claiming that the Jews “originally came to Egypt as alien conquerors, set fire to Egyptian towns, destroyed their temples, and mistreated their inhabitants.” As usual, history proves otherwise. These putatively conquering Israelites who were said to have despoiled Egypt in fact constituted a slave population, notably under the Pharaoh Ramses II (c. 1290—1224 B.C.)

The obloquy didn’t stop there. The Seleucid emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem in 167 B.C., was the first historical figure to persecute the Jews for their religion as such, and the antisemitic virus has been gathering momentum ever since. Josephus tells us in Against Apion of a certain first century A.D. grammarian of that name who apparently started the hoary blood libel on its global career. Apion writes that “at a set time every year [the Jews] used to catch a Greek foreigner…and kill him, and sacrifice with their accustomed solemnities, and taste of his entrails.” Josephus comments: “Now this is such a most tragical fable as is full of nothing but cruelty and impudence.”

The “tragical fable” has traveled through the centuries and bred far more than “cruelty and impudence.” Whether considered as members of a religion, a “race,” or an ethnic group, Jews have rarely ceased to be persecuted, traduced, attacked, murdered, and portrayed as a malignant people bent on treachery or world domination or insidious designs of one kind or another. Today it’s the same old, same old as Jews are castigated as fiscal sorcerers or unrepentant colonialists and Israel as a Nazi state redivivus turning parts of the Holy Land into an open-air concentration camp. This is pure mendacity. Such visceral hatred as is discharged against Israel and Jews, along with the chamomile treatment reserved for the Palestinians, is predicated on a willful and near-universal ignorance of history, a reluctance to disambiguate the evident facts, including the dispensations of international law, and a sordid eagerness to adopt every “fable” and canard cooked up by the Arab and Palestinian propaganda factory and compliantly circulated in the mainstream media. Minds of this stripe, according to Robin Shepherd in A State Beyond the Pale, are principally “energized by the need to hate. The discourse, therefore, is hateful.”