Jewish culpability always was – and apparently still remains – a key element in lending moral authority to any contentious cause. Jews have known this for millennia but the dispiriting fact of our existence is that it still goes on, unabated, in the 21st century and that it motivates not only declared and implacable enemies but also forces of supposed enlightenment and liberality in the West.
As it was from time immemorial – it’s just not a marketable story without that eminently salient Jewish connection.
The blood-soaked internecine turmoil convulsing the Arab realm – from the Maghreb to Mesopotamia – has nothing to do with Jews, with Zionism, the Jewish national liberation movement or with Israel, the Jewish state. The carnage is spawned by internal Arab ethnic, religious, clannish and political conflicts. Each side reinforces its case by recruiting throngs of volatile and violent demonstrators. This rent-a-mob fest is palmed off to clueless foreigners as democracy-in-action.
In some local arenas, as in Syria, the inner strife is exacerbated by blatant outside intervention, underscoring the broader and deeper schisms within the Arab/Islamic world.
In rational and realistic terms, all this cannot be remotely linked to Israel. But expediency can overrule reason and indeed create an inner logic all its own. It works like this: hatred of the Zionist endeavor had served since the 19th century as the powerful glue of Arab nationalism, crucially buttressed by prevailing religious xenophobia.
Insidious propaganda had raised this animosity to the status of an obliging sacred duty, a testament to personal/communal integrity, patriotism and spiritual fidelity. The more the Jewish state is reviled, the higher castigator’s reputation rises. Anti-Israel fervor is money in the political bank.
And so both the despot from Damascus and his Hezbollah minions accuse their antagonists of being Israeli hirelings. The al Qaida “volunteers” and assorted Syrian insurgents reciprocate with the identical charges but in reverse. To hear them, Bashar Assad is an Israeli agent. No less.
The gist of it is that uninvolved as Israel is, it’s dragged in as the monstrous bogey which everyone is honor-bound to abhor. Willy-nilly the contest for the public’s hearts and minds is on, with all sides striving to demonstrate that they are laudably more anti-Israel than their adversaries. Inter alia, the demonization of Israel and the Jews intensifies. It’s the unassailable axiom on which all other argumentation is based.
Syria is of course only one example. When a bomb devastated a Hezbollah installation in Beirut, the Lebanese government knew instantly, sans investigation, whom to blame – Israel, obviously. Hezbollah itself wasn’t as willing to absolve its Sunni opponents but the spirit of Arab discourse required it to add that these Sunnis perpetrated their murderous deeds at Israel’s evil behest. In any case, in the eyes of the indoctrinated Arab hoi polloi Israel is the source of all wickedness.
It was quite inevitable that the same would manifest in the Egyptian mayhem. Cairo’s warring sides strive their darndest to outdo each other in anti-Israel ardor.
The forces loyal to the military quasi-secularists clamor for abrogating the peace deal with Israel. Their dialectics almost make sense – in their universe. They are furious at the US and not groundlessly so. American President Barack Obama hasn’t missed a misstep from the outset of his first term to this day.
In his heart of hearts Obama seems to yearn for a utopian synthesis of pious Islam with Jeffersonian democracy. He’d like to show all of Islam’s detractors that the Muslim Brotherhood and associated offshoots (like those in Turkey, Gaza or even Iran) can conduct their affairs with gentleness, tolerance and justice for all. That was the gist of the paean of praise for Islam that he delivered at Cairo University in 2009 and which he later followed up in Turkey.
It was no accident that then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak absented himself from the milestone Cairo address. With his keen political antennae, pro-American Mubarak could feel the ill-winds blowing from Obama’s direction. He wasn’t wrong. Obama’s cold shoulder facilitated and expedited Mubarak’s ouster. Obama kick-started the disastrous Arab Spring.
And now, say the Muslim Brotherhood’s rivals, Obama continues to evince sympathy for the deposed Mohamed Morsi and his theocracy-boosting supporters. So how do the pro-military agitators propose to punish Obama? By hitting Israel, of course.
It goes without saying that they unreservedly subscribe to the perception of Israel as an American implant and lackey. Therefore, by striking out against America’s underling, they’d be socking it to Obama. There’s no point pointing out that Obama is likely the least friendly US president to Israel ever.
Cairo’s reality, like that of the rest of the Arab sphere, is comprised of layer upon shadowy layer, one concealed behind another. Cloaked schemers abound, each exploiting another schemer, each duping someone for secret ends. Life is an interminable complex of nefarious conspiracies in which it’s best not to trust anyone but suspect everyone. In the Arab Middle East one and all assume you’re conning them and you can never prove otherwise. Truth isn’t only immaterial; it’s downright undesirable.
Hence, like it or not, Israel is regarded as Obama’s darling and the way to get his goat is by getting us. This is much like the Polish response in 1938 to the wholesale Nazi expulsion of Jews with Polish roots. Jews from Poland and Russian territories that would later become Poland had been fleeing persecution to Germany since the 19th century. Their children, grandchildren and great-grandkids were German-born.
The same was true in Austria, which after the 1938 Anschluss became part of the Third Reich. On October 27 that year, the Gestapo began forced mass deportations of such hapless Jews across the Polish border.
Poland retaliated by stripping these Jews of their Polish citizenship and invalidating the passports of those who at all held Polish papers. The thousands, who were driven out violently – many bereft of anything, even a change of clothing – into the Polish domain, were not allowed in by Poland. And so they languished for long insufferable weeks without any amenities in the harsh cold of no-man’s land.
This was Poland’s way of punishing Germany. The reverberating Polish slogan then was “If you hit our Jews, we’ll hit your Jews.” Look at it any way you wish, the only ones getting hit were Jews. The world watched all this with remarkable equanimity.
It’s just as liberal world opinion in our day is hardly shaken, much less outraged, by the plethora of anti-Jewish/Israeli falsehoods emanating out of the conflict-torn Arab states – most of them synthetic fabrications concocted by European powers before the sun set on their empires. It’s almost as if anti-Jewish/Israeli calumnies are the way of nature and there’s no need to let these highly expected tall tales unduly ruffle any feathers.
Indeed, if anything, some of the most outspoken media outlets of international liberality make it their mission to seek and expose an Israeli connection to the bloodshed – even when none exists. Tarnishing Israel is a cause célèbre in some newsrooms – like that of the New York Times. Thus a recent page-one lead story by David Kirkpatrick, Peter Baker and Michael Gordon purported to reveal “How a US Push to Defuse Egypt Ended in Failure –Barrage of Diplomacy—Despite 17 Calls from Hagel, Cairo Chose Confrontation.”
The guilt is unequivocally pinned on Israel: “The Israelis, whose military had close ties to General [Abdel Fattah al-] Sisi from his former post as head of military intelligence, were supporting the [military] takeover as well. Western diplomats say that General Sisi and his circle appeared to be in heavy communication with Israeli colleagues, and the diplomats believed the Israelis were also undercutting the Western message by reassuring the Egyptians not to worry about American threats to cut off aid.”
There’s plenty more to suggest that Israel actively sided against the Muslim Brotherhood, but no sources were named to substantiate charges that could boomerang throughout the region. Israel’s official non-interventionist stance was dismissed as a thin, insubstantial cover-up. The entire conspiracy theory hinged on supposed whispers off-the-record by unidentified “Israelis” and “Western diplomats.” The latter are said to “believe” Israeli pro-Sisi meddling and the proof is that Sisi “appeared to be” in touch with Israelis.
This is the level of proof once required by the Spanish Inquisition. No real evidence is requisite when insinuations and guilt-by-rumored-association will suffice.
If one of the world’s most prestigious newspapers need adhere to no higher standards, then what’s to be asked of al-Jazeera? A few days ago it broadcast the most damning of accusations in the Arab context. They were made by the former media secretary to the General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood. And so said the significantly named Gamal Nasser:
“I discovered from the Algerian Al-Watan newspaper, that al-Sisi is of Jewish origin. His mother is called Mulaika Titani, and her brother was a member of the Jewish Haganah organization. Thus, we see that this man, by any standard, is implementing a Zionist plot to divide Egypt… Whoever reads The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the writings of [the Jews], including those who were writing in the US, realizes that this Zionist plot was premeditated.”
All this reminded me of a Polish friend of mine. She was born into a non-Jewish family but followed her Jewish boyfriend here, converted to Judaism, married and raised a wonderful Israeli family. At some point she decided to travel back to visit her elderly mother and sisters. I inquired about the nostalgic journey after her return.
She grew grim and told me she “was nauseated.” She couldn’t believe “the hardly-disguised anti-Semitism, even right in front of me. My family was watching electioneering on TV and the greatest insult they could hurl at a disliked candidate was that ‘you know, he had a Jewish grandmother.’”
She summed up: “The old Polish syndrome lives, the Jews are eternally to blame – even where none remain.” And that’s how it is in Egypt too.