The triumph of the blood libel

We’re seeing lots and lots of it these days. It’s worth recalling what a blood libel really is.

A scene from the 1922 film “Nosferatu,” directed by German film producer and screenwriter Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. Credit: Prana Film via Wikimedia Commons.
A scene from the 1922 film “Nosferatu,” directed by German film producer and screenwriter Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. Credit: Prana Film via Wikimedia Commons.
Caroline B. Glick
Caroline B. Glick is the senior contributing editor of Jewish News Syndicate and host of the “Caroline Glick Show” on JNS. She is also the diplomatic commentator for Israel’s Channel 14, as well as a columnist for Newsweek. Glick is the senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy in Washington and a lecturer at Israel’s College of Statesmanship.

According to Canada’s La Presse, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a vampire, and he is poised to suck the life out of the Palestinians in Rafah, Hamas’s final outpost in southern Gaza. The publication that was once a paper of record in Canada ran a political cartoon on March 20 portraying Netanyahu as a vampire, with a huge hooked nose, pointy ears and claws for fingers, dressed in Dracula’s overcoat while standing on the deck of a pirate ship.

The caption, written in blood-dripping red letters, read: “Nosfenyahou: En Route Vers Rafah.” Nosferatu, the Romanian word for vampire, was the title of a proto-Nazi German silent horror film from 1922 chock-full of anti-Semitic poison. The film, which became something of a cult flick, featured a vampire with a long Jewish nose. He arrived at an idyllic German town with a box full of plague-carrying rats that he released on the innocent villagers as he plotted to suck his realtor’s blood.

La Presse’s cartoon didn’t leave any room for imagination. It wasn’t making a political or military argument against Israel’s planned ground operation in Rafah. Its goal wasn’t to persuade anyone of anything.

The Netanyahu-the-vampire cartoon asserted simply that Netanyahu is a Jewish bloodsucker and, more broadly, the Jewish state—and Jews worldwide—must be vigorously opposed by all right-thinking people who don’t want Jewish vampires to kill them.

Nosferatu Netanyahu Honest Reporting
A political cartoon in the Canadian “La Presse” depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the character in the 1922 film “Nosferatu,” directed by German film producer and screenwriter Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. Source: Screenshot/Honest Reporting.

As the paper no doubt anticipated, the cartoon provoked an outcry from Canadian Jews and some politicians. And after a few hours, the newspaper took it off its website and apologized. Anyone who thinks that means that the good guys won misses the point of the move. The Jewish outcry and pile-on by politicians and media coverage proved the point. Jews are evil and control everything, even what a private paper can publish. Like Nosferatu in its day, the cartoon will become a piece of folklore, additional proof that the Jews are the enemy of humanity.

In other words, the cartoon was a blood libel.

We’re seeing lots and lots of it these days. And so, it is worth recalling what a blood libel is.

In its original form, of course, the libel was specifically about blood. About 1,000 years ago, Christians in England began accusing Jews of performing ritual murders of Christian children to use their blood to bake Passover matzahs.

The accusation was inherently insane. Jewish law prohibits murder. It prohibits cannibalism. It prohibits child sacrifice. It prohibits eating food with blood. But none of that mattered. Like the cartoon in La Presse, the blood libel didn’t seek to persuade anyone. It presumed that its target audiences already hated Jews or had a latent tendency to hate Jews, which the blood libel aimed to unleash. The purpose of the blood libel was to scapegoat the Jews and to incite target audiences from London to Damascus to act on that hatred. Over the millennium, hundreds of thousands of Jews were massacred in Europe and the Islamic world in response to blood libels.

Since the original blood libel, other ones have appeared. Whether Jews are accused of spreading plague, poisoning wells, controlling the banking system, the media, corrupting young people or spearheading a world Communist revolution, the common denominators in all of the accusations are the same.

“Nosferatu” Film Poster
A promotional poster from the 1922 film “Nosferatu,” directed by German film producer and screenwriter Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. Credit: Prana Film via Wikimedia Commons.

Blood libels appeal to emotion, not reason. They do not seek to persuade anyone; rather, they are geared towards unleashing the latest anti-Semitism.

They legitimize and incite violence against Jews, who—once slandered as the enemies of the good—have no moral right to live.

The numbers game

The nature and purpose of blood libels make them impossible to combat. Jews cannot disprove blood libels because they aren’t based on fact but on feelings or intentions attributed to Jews by people who hate them. Can Netanyahu prove that he isn’t a vampire? Of course not. If he bothered to try, it would be seen as proof that he’s covering something up. Can Jews prove that they aren’t evil? No, again. Because people predisposed to believe that Jews are evil see everything good that Israel does as an effort to cover up its foundational, immutable malevolence. “Pink-washing” is a case in point.

The discourse on Israel’s war in Gaza is suffused in blood libels.

Consider the accusation that Gazans are starving. USAID administrator Samantha Power issued a statement on Tuesday claiming that “famine is imminent in northern Gaza.”

Power pointed a finger directly at Israel, blaming it for the “imminent” famine. “The U.S. will continue to do everything we can to get food to people in Gaza, but Israel must do more to put an end to this mass—and preventable—suffering.”

Almost simultaneously, E.U. Foreign Minister Josep Borrell accused Israel of deliberately starving the people of Gaza. As he put it, “In Gaza, we are no longer on the brink of famine, we are in a state of famine, affecting thousands of people. This is unacceptable. Starvation is used as a weapon of war. Israel is provoking famine.”

These allegations were regurgitated in every language at multiple forums throughout the week. The fact that they are untrue is of no interest.

According to data from COGAT—the Israel Defense Forces’ unit responsible for aid deliveries to Gaza before Oct. 7—an average of 70 food trucks entered Gaza daily. In March, an average of 126 food trucks entered Gaza daily. That’s an 80% increase.

But facts are for losers. And anyway, if no one dies of starvation in Gaza, that means that the good-hearted people of the world foiled Israel’s evil plans. Whatever happens, Israel’s ascribed criminality retroactively justifies Hamas’s invasion and slaughter of Israelis on Oct. 7, and supports the now-open U.S. position that Israel must lose the war. It also justifies assaults against Jews throughout the Western world.

Then there is the claim that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, or at a minimum, has deliberately murdered upwards of 30,000 Gazans—70% of whom are women and children. U.S. President Joe Biden credited this allegation when he said in an interview with MSNBC, “You can’t have another 30,000 Palestinians dead as a consequence of going after Hamas. There are other ways to deal with Hamas.”

There are three problems with the number 30,000. First, its source is Hamas, and so there is no way to check it. Second, assuming it’s true—since Israel’s assertion that it has killed more than 13,000 terrorists can be verified and is true—the ratio of terrorists to civilians among the dead in Gaza is 1:1.3, the lowest militant-to-civilian ratio in the history of modern warfare. And third, as was demonstrated earlier this month in a study by Abraham Wyner, a statistics professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Hamas’s data is “not real.”

Wyner wrote that the Hamas data “is highly suggestive that a process unconnected or loosely connected to reality was used to report the numbers. Most likely, the Hamas ministry settled on a daily total arbitrarily. We know this because the daily totals increase too consistently to be real. Then they assigned about 70% of the total to be women and children, splitting that amount randomly from day to day. Then they in-filled the number of men as set by the predetermined total. This explains all the data observed.”

Just how bad things really are

Despite all of these provable, easily demonstrated facts, Israel stands in judgment for genocide at The Hague, and Jews are chased, harassed and beaten; and Jewish institutions are vandalized and burned in cities across the United States and Europe for their support for “genocide” of Palestinians.

Another allegation that is gaining prominence after being propagated by the U.N. Human Rights Commission claims that Israeli prison officials sexually abuse Palestinian female prisoners. There is literally no evidence, let alone any proof, of such claims. Indeed, there are no allegations that can be checked in any way. All the same, they are making the rounds.

IDF Brig. Gen. (ret.) Amir Avivi reported on a meeting that he held Thursday at the U.S. State Department, where he was confronted with the accusation head-on.

On his X account, Avivi wrote: “It’s hard to leave me speechless and shocked, but that is precisely what happened in my meeting at the State Department when the representative responsible for the Israeli-Palestinian dossier accused Israel of systematic sexual abuse of Palestinian women entirely on the basis of a concocted U.N. report that was written to try to find something to balance the atrocities of Oct. 7.”

Israelis and Jews around the world were stunned by the swiftness and ferocity of the propaganda campaign Hamas’s supporters in the West launched in the immediate wake of Hamas’s orgy of murder and sadism in southern Israel. Less than 24 hours after the news broke, Hamas supporters at Harvard University kicked off the hate campaign by getting 31 student groups to sign a statement blaming Israel for Hamas’s atrocities.

As details of the crimes began to flow, Hamas’s supporters in the West responded with violent denials of all of them. No rape. No immolation of children. No torture. No nothing. It was all Israel’s fault, they said. Israel killed and raped its own people. And now the Jews are raping Palestinian women. How do we know? Because they are Jews.

On the face of things, the rapidity and shamelessness of the projection of blame and culpability onto Israel was shocking. Normal people could be forgiven for assuming that in the face of crimes of this enormity, Hamas’s supporters would lay low. But that assumption misses the point.

Oct. 7 was one battle in a larger jihad to annihilate Israel. Propaganda in the form of blood libels is a central component of the war. The libels against Jews and the Jewish state today play the same role as they played in the Middle Ages, just on a national scale. If Jews deserved to be killed because Jews are evil, then the Jewish state deserves to be annihilated because it is the evil Jewish state. Everything that happens to Israel is proof of its evil. Every crime committed against Israel is a crime Israel committed. And if Israel doesn’t commit crimes attributed to it, then that’s because good people like Power and Borrell stood in its way.

The depressing thing, of course, is that Hamas’s strategy is working. The latent Jew-hatred in the West was widespread enough to support their crimes. The propagation of the blood libels by the United Nations, the European Union and the State Department is a disturbing indicator of just how bad things really are.

The question is what can Israel—and Jews more broadly—do in the midst of this avalanche of blood libel? The answer is twofold.

First, Israel must stop trying to prove a negative. No one cares if we are really blood-thirsty vampires. Persuasion doesn’t work with people moved by emotion, particularly hatred. Instead, Israel and Jews worldwide need to concentrate on rallying the people who viscerally understand what is going on and aren’t taken in by anti-Semitic cartoons and Hamas propaganda, even if it is spoken by Samantha Power.

As for the haters, countering them means going on the offensive. On the battlefield in Gaza, it means destroying Hamas completely so that everyone understands that attacking the Jews is a bad idea. And on the battlefields of the United Nations, the European Union, the State Department, Harvard, Berkeley, New York City and London, the answer is to expose the haters with as much vigor and ferocity as they demonize the Jews.

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