So, another (Jewish) year passes and so does the latest antisemitic conspiracy theory to fan the flames of hatred and division.
There are three emotive responses to racist tales. You can reflexively accept them; you can reflexively reject them; or you can sniff them with suspicion, demanding to see the evidence, hoping that it is false and that you will end up castigating the bearer as an idiot or worse.
In this instance, we had a racist tale that was initially lapped up by the general media (and also by extreme Islamists and their Western sympathisers). This was an antisemitic conspiracy theory that fell upon the most fertile of ground; and decent people should consider its brief flourishing as a warning sign for our times.
These are the basics:
1. Man makes a movie in California that is hateful against Islam. It falls flat on its stupid face.
2. Islamist extremists belatedly use the movie to promote their own hatreds. Predictable vicious cycle of publicity and threats and violence ensues. Tragically, this includes the killing of America’s ambassador to Libya. (Although the attack would have been pre-planned and the date of 9/11 was no coincidence.) The story is now of global political significance.
3. As the above begins, Associated Press reports that the film-maker is an Israeli, who raised five million dollars from 100 Jewish donors. This is widely reported in print, television and radio. It is vital to the content and transmission of this racist tale.
4. Subsequently, Associated Press reports that the film-maker is actually of Egyptian Coptic Christian origin and the 100 rich American Jews are a figment of his imagination.
5. Attempts are made to shut the antisemitic stable door, but the Jewish conspiracy horses have bolted and long ago disappeared into the sunset.
Now, the warning signs:
1. These days, very few people recognise antisemitism.
Anybody with a sensitivity to antisemitism should have immediately recoiled with suspicion at the words “100 Jewish donors”: as we all immediately did here in CST’s office when the story started doing the rounds. For all the repeated protestations about how the world and its wife opposes antisemitism, the fact is that they don’t recognise it unless it comes wearing a Nazi uniform. (This could also be termed the New Statesman lesson.)
Note – this was about an Israeli and “100 Jewish donors”. It does not even have the usual conceit that replaces the word “Jewish” with the word “Zionist” or “pro-Israeli”. It is all laid out with lovely round figures – $5,000,000 from 100 Jewish moneybags.
2. Many people regard it as a given that Israelis and Jews would conspire to tarnish Islam.
For some, there may be an unthinking assumption that Israelis and Jews are basically mirror images of their supposed or actual Muslim enemies. For others, there would seem to be another assumption; and it is the very opposite of one that is unthinking. Rather, it is that those ‘in the know’ can see that Zionists (no particular need to mention Israelis or Jews, not even 100 rich ones) do control the media; and are responsible for a constant media diet of anti-Muslim stories and bias.
3. The truth came out: but the truth doesn’t really matter.
According to extremists of all stripes, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion does not need to be objectively true in order to reveal its deeper truth as to how Jews plot and rule the world; and so it is with this rotten film. The film-maker lied about his nationality and his rich Jewish backers but the notion of there being a deeper truth persists. This is but one battle in the ongoing war of ideas and actions between an American-led West and its Islamist-led opposition: all the more so, if you believe that Zionists bear much of the responsibility for America’s actions in the Middle East.
4. Jews and Muslims are hateful. Christians do not matter.
The media’s reaction, bias and ignorance stacks up against Jews, Muslims and Christians: but not equally.
It was entrely predictable that sections of the UK media that routinely ignore or downplay Muslim or Islamist antisemitism, including that in state media, would talk up alleged Jewish or Zionist anti-Muslim hate; and that they would fail to adequately ask why Jews would be blamed for this episode.
It was just as predictable that Muslim rage would be reported as if this is somehow a default position for over one billion people, as if Muslims are incapable of reacting to hate speech with anything other than mob violence.
In all of this, the most base common denominator is taken as typifying the very real concerns that are rightly expressed by both Muslims and Jews, in all of their diversity.
As for Christians: well, does anybody care? It would seem not.
The film maker’s links and motivations were of interest when he was Israeli, but now that he is an Egyptian Copt, nobody really cares any more: not really, not in the visceral sense, not like they do about Jews, not in the kishkes.