Iranian students hold anti-Israeli placards and Iranian flags during a rally outside the former US embassy in Tehran in 2009.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Wild anti-Semitic conspiracy theories floated by high-profile public figures and politicians – including heads of state – have been making headlines in recent weeks. It’s worth looking at these outbursts of Jew hatred in light of comments made by US President Barack Obama in a much-discussed interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg.
In that interview published over a week ago, Obama said that the “venomous anti-Semitism” of the mullahs of Iran should not be a barrier to rational decision-making.
We beg to differ. Hatred of Jews and Israel, particularly the conspiracy theories patterned after The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, prevent those who harbor such prejudice from perceiving the world rationally.
One of the most outlandish conspiracy theories to receive media attention recently was made by former FIFA vice president Jack Warner, who was arrested last week on bribery charges as part of a massive bust of top soccer officials.
He blamed “Zionism” for fabricating charges against him when he was first accused of corruption back in 2011.
The extent to which those connected to FIFA actually believe that “Zionism” is to blame for the corruption could determine how badly investigations proceed. Why bother looking for criminals when the real culprits are the Zionists? In May, Argentina’s President Christina de Fernandez Kirchner offered her own anti-Semitic conspiracy theory in summing up an article by Jorge Elbaum, a former executive- director of the Delegation of Argentinean and Israel Associations (DAIA) and a present Kirchner ally, published in the pro-government daily Pagina 12.
Entitled “Vultures, Nisman, DAIA, the Money Route,” the article claimed that right-wing Jewish “vulture” fund managers who made their fortunes by charging “usurious interest” and to whom Argentina owes millions of dollars have bought US Republican Congressmen to put pressure on Argentina to end all economic ties with Iran.
The Kirchner invective seemed to be an attempt, inter alia, to discredit Alberto Nisman, the (Jewish) special prosecutor assigned to investigate the 1994 bombing of AMIA, the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, who was found murdered in January 2015 a day before he was due to testify against Kirchner’s alleged role in the cover-up.
If enough Argentineans can be convinced that Kirchner’s conspiracy theories are true, the very claim that Iran and Hezbollah were behind the bombing of AMIA will be discredited, the truth will never be discovered, and corruption and subterfuge will continue to thrive in Argentina.
Turkey is another country in which rabidly anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are regularly aired. Last week The New York Times reported that thousands of Sephardic Jews, who make up the majority of the Turkish Jewish community, have applied for Spanish citizenship in anticipation of a bill that would grant nationality to Jews who were expelled in 1492 during the Inquisition.
Turkey’s Jews are looking for a way out in part because they are concerned by anti-Semitic comments made by the leaders of the Islamist Justice and Development Party. In 2013, for instance, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused an “interest rate lobby” of backing the widespread anti-government protests that he said were aimed at bringing down the economy and toppling his government. This was a thinly veiled attack on “Jewish banking interests.”
Last May, after Freedom House downgraded press freedom in Turkey from “partly free” to “not free” – thus putting the country in the same category as Libya, South Sudan, Ukraine, and Zambia – Erdogan said the move was motivated by Jewish and American interests.
“Could you expect a Freedom House ranking of world media to draft a positive about Turkey while David Cramer, a Jew, or James Woolsey, a CIA boss, or Donald Rumsfeld, a drug baron, are at its helm?” he asked.
Instead of admitting that there has been a serious crackdown on freedom of the press, Erdogan has instead deflected criticism by deploying conspiracy theories.
In Ankara and Buenos Aires, in the corridors of FIFA and Tehran, Jew-hatred blinds people to the facts, undermines the rational process of learning from mistakes and is ultimately self-destructive. Venomous anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism can only be obstacles to rational decision- making.
World powers should especially be reminded of this truth as they deal with the Iranian regime, which does not hide its hatred toward Israel, ahead of the scheduled deadline for a nuclear deal at the end of this month.