Antisemitic Stereotypes Fuel Anti-Israel Protests Amidst Gaza War
Examining the Use of Antisemitic Imagery and Rhetoric in the Current Conflict
The ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza has sparked a rise of antisemitism in Europe, the United States, and other parts of the world. In a legal claim by Jewish students against Harvard University, we can read that they witnessed hundreds of pro-Hamas students shouting antisemitic slogans and calling for the death of all Jews. After weeks of antisemitic threats and neglect for their feeling of safety on campus, the Jewish students at Harvard decided to sue the university on January 12th of this month. Their fellow students at other universities in the world have had similar feelings since October last year. In The Hague, The Netherlands, for example, Jewish students have had demands to condemn Israel. The Jewish students in Cardiff, Great Britain, complained in December 2023 that they feel unsafe walking around campus because they are intimidated, harassed, and abused.
Not only does the ongoing conflict in the Middle East affect Jewish students all over the world, but there has also been a wave of antisemitic incidents reported in the USA, the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, and Germany. During many pro-Palestine protests in the West and the Arab world, the entire worldwide Jewish community has been targeted while protests were actually against the state of Israel. But there is more. In the media, cartoonists have been drawing work that echoes age-old negative and hateful Jewish stereotypes. One such image appeared on 𝕏 January 21st, when the British award-winning illustrator and cartoonist Bob Moran who has published in The Guardian, The Telegraph, and Morning Star, to name a few large papers, drew Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu eating children. In Egyptian papers, Netanyahu has been depicted as a murderer of children too, but there were also cartoons portraying the entire Israeli people or the Jews as Satan, Hitler, and the puppet master.
Jews Are Liars
“I intended to gather up the severed sexual organs and the cut-off women’s breasts we had seen lying scattered over the floor and in the beds.”
The above quote is not from a journalist describing what happened on October 7, 2023, but from Dutch-Canadian journalist Pierre van Paassen (Van Paassen, Days of Our Years, Hillman-Curl Inc. New York, 1939) who wrote about the 1929 Hebron pogrom against the Jews in which men, women, and children were slaughtered, mutilated and raped. Rape was also used against the Jewish women of Baghdad during the massacre which is called the Farhud (pogrom) that took place in Iraq in 1941. And the lifeless, raped bodies of Eva Saad (18) and her three cousins Lulu (23), Mazal (22), and Fara (24) Zeibak, were found by a cave in Al-Zabadani, a few miles northwest of Damascus in 1974 during the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War. The women had tried to escape Syria, which had become more and more hostile toward its Jewish citizens but were caught and never reached the Israeli border.
There is a long list of violence against the Jews living in Arab nations, as well as during the Ottoman reign prior to the formation of nation-states in the early twentieth century. Some prior to the foundation of the state of Israel, and other massacres after that. Despite all the evidence from the past, there are still people who do not want to believe what happened, the cruelty Hamas and its sympathizers used against innocent civilians of Israel on October 7th last year as we have seen with the refusal of the United Nations Women to condemn the violence against Jewish women and girls, and when during a protest on January 20th when a protester argued all accusations of rape must be lies because Hamas simply did not have the time. Despite all the evidence that has been provided and the given witness testimonies, yet online, on the streets during protests, and in the media, we are told there is no proof.
Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah, and other Islamic terror groups often use Islamic sources to revive antisemitic stereotypes among their followers. Jews have been compared to apes and pigs by, for example, Heshmat Khalifa, the director of Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) in 2020. In Canada in 2019, imams called Jews ‘sons of pigs and apes’. Hamas leaders have also worded the same hateful stereotype of Jews. This is widespread across the Arab world and finds its origin in Islamic sources. Jews are also depicted as killers of prophets, liars, and that they love life, while Muslims love death. Spokesmen of Hamas and Hezbollah, two Islamist terror groups involved in today’s war, have also engaged in such rethoric.
The Puppet Master
From medieval times to our contemporary time, the Jews have been accused of dominating the world. This becomes apparent in the antisemitic conspiracy theory that they are in fact, like the puppet master, in control of everyone and everything in the world. The Nazis used this in their propaganda against the Jews, but today in some far-right circles Hungarian-Jewish billionaire George Soros is also accused of wanting world domination. In 2021 the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant had to apologize for a cartoon in which they portrayed Dutch-Jewish political pollster, Maurice de Hond, as the puppet master.
In newspaper cartoons we have seen Jews being depicted according to old stereotypes such as the blood libel, accusing Jews of eating children or drinking their blood. The cartoon by Bob Moran depicting Netanyahu eating children, as well as the Egyptian cartoons mentioned above, all echo the same antisemitic prejudice of old times; the blood libel. This is an antisemitic canard accusing Jews of murdering children, specifically Christian children, for religious purposes. The Nazis made use of this and we see it repeated again today.
The danger of such hatred of Jews that goes beyond critiquing the state of Israel or the Israeli government, is that Jews are inextricably linked with the state of Israel. This can, as we have seen over the past months, inspire antisemitic hate crimes aimed at Jews living anywhere in the world who are held accountable for what the government of Israel does. Indeed, this is what happened to Jewish students on campus in the United States, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. It is also what we have seen in France for example, where, according to the Interior Minister cases of antisemitic hate crimes have exploded. Just as what happened in Nazi Germany, Jewish citizens had their houses marked with the Star of David. Similar things happened in Germany.
We have also seen leaders in our societies struggling with condemning such hate crimes. Ivy League university presidents recently said it was all a matter of context. Harvard president Gay resigned at the start of this year, Magill, the former president of the University of Pennsylvania already did so in December 2023, but the damage has already been done. In short, in the media, at universities, the United Nations, and within politics, antisemitic hate crimes are rarely condemned while antisemitic stereotyping is printed and brought to a wider public, under the disguise of free speech. It seems many find it difficult to separate Jews from the politics of the state of Israel and in our outrage we rely on age-old anti-Jewish stereotypes to express our condemnation of the Jewish government.
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