Blood Libel, 2014 edition

Tom Doran

dove 300x199 Blood Libel, 2014 editionIt’s not easy being a liberal Zionist. In debate, our every utterance is attended by a meandering chain of qualifiers, squeezing us through two extremes like a fat man negotiating a rocky crevice: “No, I don’t like Netanyahu either but he’s hardly a fascist nevertheless his policies are extremely shortsighted however just look at the Palestinian leadership and yet the occupation is morally and legally wrong but look at what happened when they withdrew from Gaza still the settlers are scary people, I admit but they’re not suicide bombers…” and so on. As is the preserve of fence-sitting centre-left handwringers everywhere, we can have the whole argument alone in an empty room. I wrote about this in much more detail here.

But every so often, I come across something that reminds me: for all the despair-inducing complexity of the Middle East, this isn’t a perfectly two-sided issue. True, the Palestinians have been very hard done by; by Israel, yes, but also by neighbouring Arab states and, perhaps above all, their own leaders. But Israel, for all its wealth and military power, is the victim of an international campaign of defamation dating back thousands of years.

Every action taken by Israelis, as individuals and as a country, will be construed as sinister by someone. Israeli medical volunteers were among the first to arrive in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake; for their trouble, the rumour that they were doing so as a cover to harvest organs made the rounds. The Jewish state has an exemplary record on gay rights, which should mitigate its sins in the eyes of the Left; instead, in a bit of mental gymnastics worthy of Stalinism, this is claimed to be “pinkwashing“, a PR exercise to distract us from the occupation. In other words, Israel is nefariously posing as a liberal democracy by… behaving like a liberal democracy.

When you read and think a lot about the Middle East, you become hardened to this sort of thing. But sometimes, not hardened enough:

This surfaced, like the corpse of some hideous deep-sea creature that time forgot, in my Twitter feed yesterday, and should produce a jolt of nausea in anyone who knows their history. In case you don’t: among the many slanders used to stir up anti-Jewish hatred in medieval Europe, the deadliest of all was known as the “blood libel“. Jews were accused of kidnapping and ritually murdering Gentile children, then using the remains to bake matzos for Passover. This became the pretext for horrific orgies of antisemitic violence that continued right into the twentieth century… and beyond, as this example demonstrates.

To invoke a threat to children is to toy with powerful levers indeed. Since they carry our genes to the next generation, evolution has seen to it that such a threat almost bypasses the conscious mind and activates something ancient and primal; hence, for example, why we find the sound of a crying baby so uniquely distressing. When virulent homophobes accuse gay people of “recruiting” children, they know what they’re doing: they mean for society to close around the invented threat like a phagocyte.

This is why, even if it’s just a tweet, it’s vital for all who aspire to decency to sound the alarm when we see accusations like this. It must be nipped in the bud, then the bud uprooted and thrown on the bonfire. Antisemitism is protean and all-encompassing. Already, this vicious slander will be slithering its way into the Jew-haters’ alternative history of the world, alongside ZOG and the stab-in-the-back myth. There’s little we can do to stop that, but we can hold the line. We can and must hold disgusting specimens like this up to the light, to remind us that – whatever happens to the West Bank – the Jewish people and their homeland are targets of implacable, remorseless hatred simply for existing.

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  • Aaron Gross

    I don’t think you’re justified in linking it to anti-Jewish blood libels. There’s been plenty of propaganda about the enemy murdering defenseless children going back many years. Why link this to medieval blood libel rather than, say, the Hun bayoneting Belgian babies in World War I? To me, it seems closer to modern war propaganda than medieval Jew-hatred.

  • eastouest

    Great piece, Tom! I have to admit that as a ‘progressive’ Zionist myself, I’m often caught feeling the same kind of discomfort you describe, and am sensitive to the unexamined anti-Semitism of the Left. One could consider blog posts that insist on calling Ariel Sharon by his birth name, Arik Scheinerman (in a kind of weird dog whistle move), for example, to see that we have a problem ( And the blood libel thing is still pretty widespread too, unfortunately.

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