The largest Swedish newspaper publishes an article accusing Israel of murdering Palestinians so it can sell their body parts. The largest Dutch newspaper publishes an article accusing Satan-worshipping Jews of creating swine flu and other diseases to murder large numbers of people. The newspaper of the British elite publishes an article by a well-known philosopher calling Israel a Nazi state.
How does the Swedish newspaper’s editor respond to complaints about this sort of thing? Jan Helin responds:
It’s deeply unpleasant and sad to see such a strong propaganda machine using centuries-old anti-Semitic images in an apparent attempt to get an obviously topical issue off the table.
But what is the “strong propaganda machine” that is really using anti-Semitic images to get “obviously topical” issues off the table?
The answer is not, as Helin would have it, an Israeli-Jewish propaganda machine. Since media coverage is so extremely anti-Israel — often breaking the rules of proper journalism to smite that country — it couldn’t be all that powerful.
The propaganda machine is that of the other side: Middle Eastern Arab nationalists and Islamists, or their European leftist allies. These forces produce a constant barrage of anti-Israel stories which make headlines and then are never proven to be accurate. During the last decade, there has not been a single proven case of any war crime by Israeli forces.
Yet how many millions of people are convinced otherwise by irresponsible and propagandistic media coverage?
Helin himself embodies this situation. The first question he should have asked: Are the facts in this story correct and are the claims reasonable? Instead, his response was to choose sides. The fact that both the article’s author and the editor who published it are anti-Israel activists should have made him wary regarding whether or not this story was a reasonable thing to publish.
Moreover, Helin’s justification for why the story is legitimate was itself anti-Semitic. Helin pointed out that an American Jewish man has been arrested in New York and charged with illegal organ sales, with no hint of Israeli involvement or of murder. Helin’s chain of reasoning? Since a Jew has been arrested, Israel can be accused of involvement without proof. Israel’s government can be accused of official involvement in murder without any evidence.
And this is how anti-Semitism has always worked, going back to the Middle Ages. A Jew is accused of a crime, falsely or otherwise, and all Jews are guilty. A Jew is accused of an illegal commercial transaction, and this justifies accusing the whole Jewish community of systematic murder.
If a Swede, a Muslim, or an African was accused of a crime, would that justify accusing an entire country or people of an even worse crime without evidence?
There’s a popular word for that today:
This story is particularly personal for me. One hundred and twenty years ago, one of my ancestors was accused of ritual murder in Dolhinov, Russia, and a mob set out — unsuccessfully — to lynch him. A young Russian boy had been found killed, and my ancestor was accused of having done it using a “Jewish tool” — a barrel stuck through with nails for draining the blood to make matzoh.
Similarly, the Dutch story is an update to the old libels — Jews poisoning wells, worshiping money, and seeking world domination. And the British story is an update of the idea that the Jews pose as victims but are actually criminals equivalent to the worst evil in the world.
Anyone who cannot see the relationship of the historical ritual murder charge to its modern-day version is either not paying attention or is seeking the historical goal of anti-Semites: slandering the Jewish people in order to destroy them.
Some years ago, I did a study of the PLO and anti-Semitism The PLO Between Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism, which demonstrated how that group handled the issue. It simply ook traditional anti-Semitic themes and changed the word “Jews” to “Israel.” The Islamists of Hamas didn’t even do that.
For years, the main theme of Palestinian propaganda was generally:
The Jews are inferior — we will never make peace with them. We must defeat them and drive them into the sea.
Not surprisingly, this never had much appeal in the West. At some point, this was altered to the following framework:
The Israelis say we are inferior and that they will never make peace with us. They oppress our human rights and want to drive us into the sea.
This worked better.
A massive number of stories and tales are generated daily by this — to borrow Helin’s phrase — “powerful propaganda machine” aimed through a cooperative media to Western governments and public opinion. Some of its stories are not so successful in the West, perhaps in part because they are more directed at the local audience: Israel distributing poison candy or aphrodisiac chewing gum, for example.
Many stories stay more on theme: The Jenin “massacre”, Gaza “war crimes”, the deliberate murder of Muhammad al-Dura, and so on. These succeed.
We hear about it when one of the visibly crazy stories — like Israel’s government ordering Palestinians killed so it can profit from their organs — gets attention. But it’s really the more “credible” stories that do the most harm. Read the AP, Reuters, or Agence-France Presse any day and you get these productions, or at least the associated slant.
What should the media, governments, and human rights’ groups look for in avoiding propagation of slander? Simply what they are supposed to look for in every story:
Until there is some proof, stories shouldn’t be reported.
In Gaza, Palestinians charged Israel with using white phosphorus weapons. Amnesty International issued a report about the horrendous consequences. Yet while Palestinians claimed to have seen strange wounds, there were no medical records, photographs, or interviews with those who were so wounded.
The Jenin massacre, which became a huge story, was essentially based on the claims of one hitherto unknown (and afterward never seen again) ordinary Palestinian. That was enough to set the world howling about murderous Israelis.
Why not employ simple fact-checking and balance?
What fuels this kind of thing is a double standard. Not a double standard of demanding more of Israel than other countries — though that also exists — but a double standard regarding proof. Behind this are two underlying assumptions made by media, human rights’ groups, and governments:
— Israelis are capable of anything, so you can believe any evil of them.
This is an old staple of anti-Semitism. Would any other democratic government be accused of murder to obtain organs? Is it credible that, instead of seeking to win a war, Israeli soldiers were fixated on killing civilians for fun?
— Due to hatred of Israel, leftist ideology, and plain old anti-Semitism (which has been defined out of existence when it comes to Israel), a lot of people are prone to believe things which are either unproven, illogical, or obviously propaganda.
Thus, if you are a crackpot — like the authors of the Swedish and Dutch articles — you can get published saying things regarding Israel that would get you thrown out the door if on any other subject.
Beyond the two assumptions, it gets worse. A lot of the reporters on the scene, or UN officials, or supposed experts have become collaborators in fabricating and distributing such lies. In regard to this, of course, Jews and Israelis in particular are the only people not covered in the worldwide campaign against racism, against discrimination, for acceptance of the “other,” for self-censorship to avoid offending anyone, and all the other blessings of political correctness.
And if you want a nice little illustration, here’s an appropriate one: Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who has now emerged as a supposed defender of free speech for standing by the blood libel in his country’s leading newspaper, was the same man who shut down the Internet servers and tried to repress anyone in Sweden daring to publish the Danish cartoons about Islam’s founder.
What is so horrifying is not just the extreme cases of obvious anti-Semitism, but the daily slanders and conveyance of anti-Israel propaganda that is performed a bit more carefully. They laugh at the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion as they gleefully churn out the new Protocols of the Crimes of Zionism.