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.”
These are people who stubbornly refuse to accept that Hezbollah and Hamas are violent terrorist organizations — radical Berkeley prof Judith Butler ludicrously defines them as “social movements” — that the Iranian leadership is admittedly genocidal, or that the Muslim Brotherhood is planning to transform America into a Sharia-based Islamist state, as its manifesto reveals. As noted above, they have embraced wholeheartedly the myth that the Palestinians constitute a separate people — when, as Barbara Lerner correctly observes in National Review Online, there were no “Palestinians” in 1948, only a congeries of clans, tribes and settlers who “adopted the nationality of whatever Arab state claimed sovereignty over the part of Israel they lived in at the time — Jordan, Egypt, or Syria.” These pro-Palestinian “activists” are busy launching flotillas and flytillas against a threatened country like Israel rather than setting out to embarrass the vicious theocracy in Gaza or the tyrannical and bloodthirsty regime in Syria.
They do not deign to notice the 180,000 Arabs from Palestinian-controlled territories who have received medical care at Israeli hospitals in the last year alone. They do not see that the West Bank and Gaza are professionally mendicant entities living largely off Western munificence, devoid of a viable middle class, an industrial base, and a legitimate electoral process — deprivations for which the Palestinians have only themselves to blame. Israel has embarked on an economic partnership program with the West Bank in an effort to build peace from the ground up via commercial incentives, but the most recent survey shows that Palestinians are not impressed. Sixty-one percent of respondents rejected the two state solution, 72% denied “the thousands of years of Jewish history in Jerusalem,” and 80% endorsed the Hamas charter calling for the annihilation of Israel. The major functioning concern in this region is the practice and export of terror.
Palestinians speak constantly about “the river and the sea” but they are wholly an estuary society. Of course, the blinkered left and miseducated liberal Democrats, along with their Palestinian cohorts, will turn their eyes away from the obvious to focus balefully on a reliable, vigorous, entrepreneurial, technically advanced, and world-contributing Israel which they perversely regard as the sum of all evils. “They limit themselves,” writes Belladonna Rogers in Pajamas Media, “to so few sources of information” that they resemble cult members “whose involvement forbids contact with anything that isn’t cult-approved.” They have their Index Expurgatorius by which they faithfully abide.
Nor will they recognize that there already exists a de facto Palestinian state, namely Jordan, ruled by a Hashemite minority. Mordechai Nisan’s recent Only Israel West of the River, in which he argues not only for the advantage of the Israelis but for the benefit of the Palestinians, would clarify and dispel much of their confusion — but this would require actually weighing the data rather than automatically vetting the narrative.
One can perhaps understand that ignorance, stupidity, and blind prejudice were features of less “enlightened” times. Grinding poverty and its resentments, the absence of education, and the tendency to scapegoat an innocent people to account for inexplicable suffering or to further the intrigues of unscrupulous authorities may partially explain the atrocities heaped upon Jews since time immemorial. But in a world united by instant communications, in which knowledge can propagate freely, with multitudes attending university, and with easy access to travel, books, archives, objective documentation, and legal instruments, there should be no excuse for such deliberate darkness and utter imbecility.
Instead, the means for disseminating knowledge and insight and for creating a vibrant tradition of historical literacy have succumbed to a paradoxical inversion, allowing themselves to be corrupted and applied to establishing the prevalence of the Lie. It is this aberration that stands out most starkly. A potential force for good has become a technology of deception and a cognitive malpractice. It is like using the breakthrough methods of medical science to produce poisons rather than cures, to infect rather than heal. Owing to the long-standing degeneration of the Academy, both at the primary and higher levels, and the philistine shallowness and bad faith of the media, a crisis of historical stupefaction has been visited upon the West, which gives rise to lethal thoughtlessness and free rein to inveterate prejudice. Certainly with respect to Israel and the Jewish people, the animus, irrational and unfounded as it may be, goes too deep, it seems, to be disinterred by scholarship, genuine attention, and plain common sense.
An “argument from knowledge is better than an argument from ignorance,” writes Richard Fernandez. “Yet there are some,” he continues, who hold the view “that a lot of knowledge, not just a little, is supremely dangerous.” The reason for this mental allergy is not hard to discern, for knowledge might prevent or at least inhibit such people from investing in and promoting an obscene agenda. The truth would not set them free, as the Gospel promised; it would shackle them and demand restitution for the culture of epistemological aversion they have nurtured and served. It would exact an indemnity they cannot afford. Clearly, knowledge is not a guarantee of right action in the case of the most devious and unscrupulous of Israel-haters, for whom truth is not an obstacle to villainy. But, ideally at any rate, it can operate as an antidote or remedy for the merely deluded, who therefore instinctively avoid it.
It has been said that truth is the first casualty of war. It is also the first casualty of hatred wedded to ignorance and confirmed by intellectual laziness. And yet history is an open book. The voice that Augustine heard in the garden, as he tells us in Book VIII of The Confessions, tolle, lege — “take, read” — can still be heard, if we would only listen. The truth is readily available to anyone who prides himself on moral probity and intellectual rigor, who is willing to see with his own eyes, consult real documentation, examine evidence, and check the facts against the agitptop and disinformation that floods the zeitgeist. Intelligent people with a strong ethical commitment should have no trouble penetrating a fraudulent narrative. Thankfully, such people can still be found. Regrettably, there are too few such honorable individuals amongst us.
* Listed in my Hear, O Israel!, these latter would include the head of the Arab Legion Sir John Glubb, who wrote in the London Daily Mail for August 12, 1948, “The Arab civilians panicked and fled ignominiously. Villages were frequently abandoned before they were threatened by the progress of war”; secretary of the Palestinian Higher Committee Emile Ghoury in the Beirut Telegraph for September 6, 1948, stressing that “these refugees [are] the direct consequence of the act of the Arab states in opposing partition and the Jewish state”; an article in the Jordanian daily Falastin for February 19, 1949, blaming the “Arab states which had encouraged the Palestine Arabs to leave their homes”; the Near East Arabic Broadcasting Station in Cyprus which reminded its listeners on April 3, 1949, that “the Arab Higher Committee encouraged the refugees’ flight from their homes”; and the Syrian Prime Minister Khaled el-Azm in his 1973 Mudhakkirat, or Memoirs, admitting “it is we who made them leave”; among a surfeit of such affidavits.