Gaza: The Goebsie Big Lie-Blood Libel Awards

Today, I will reveal the honorees for First Annual—okay, they might have to be more frequent—Big Lie-Blood Libel Awards, for the individuals or collectives who have done the most recently to promote the Big Lie and the Blood Libel against the Jewish people.

But first: Just as the holy, peaceful, month of Ramadan—including four sacred Fridays and the feast of Eid-al-Fitr—blessedly passed with none of the predicted Islamic violence on the Temple Mount (the Noble Sanctuary), in the Middle East, and throughout the world, so the martial, belligerent, massive, unprecedented attack on Israel last night passed with virtually no damage. The coalition that completely blocked the attack included the US, the UK, France, and Jordan shooting down Iranian missiles and drones and Saudi Arabia providing logistic support. Imagine the degree of cooperation that such coordinated response must have involved. Now imagine the formidable coalition that will follow the war, annealed by alliance against this attack. My brother likens the attack to an amateur boxer throwing a hundred punches none of which lands, then waiting with tired arms for the professional blow that will pop his lights out. Now we’ll see what punch Israel uses. Its stock market finished higher today.

Timeline of deaths with blood libelers

But back to our Big Lie-Blood Libel Awards, known colloquially as Goebbsies in honor of Joseph Goebbels, the master propagandist who put it to history’s most effective use.

The chart above shows today’s Goebbsie honorees against the timeline of the dramatically declining deaths in Gaza since the war started. These are total deaths in successive two-week periods (the blue line) as provided by the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry and reported by the United Nations. There are many reasons to doubt these numbers, which are almost certainly over-estimates, but I am accepting them for present purposes because I want to focus on the steep decline—by Hamas’s numbers—and the remarkable fact that the lower the number of deaths got, the bigger the Big Lie got and the Bloodier the Blood Libel got as well. Five of the six Big Lies and Blood Libels shown here were smeared on Israel and the Jews when the number of deaths was about one quarter of what it was in the first month of the war—and declining.

Some background. The Blood Libel is the accusation that Jews ritually kill Christian children before Passover and use their blood to make Matzoh. It existed by the 12th century and has occurred ever since, although not every year. It frequently resulted in pogroms and severe persecution of the Jews where the belief spread. It is also a Big Lie, since it was repeated so often that many believed it. It even became part of Nazi propaganda.

The Big Lie has always existed, but it was specifically named by Joseph Goebbels and separately by Adolph Hitler in Mein Kampf. Ironically, both used the idea to describe how Jews carry out their conquest of Germany and the world, and they emphasized that if you repeat a lie often enough the masses of people will believe you. However, both Goebbels, who was Hitler’s chief propagandist and one of his closest associates, and Hitler as the voice, purveyed the  Big Lie about the Jews—in one iteration, “Die Juden sind unser Unglück” (the Jews are our misfortune)—repeating it in speeches, radio, and film. It soon enough produced the consensus among “the masses” that led to the mass murder of Jews.

All of the honorees on the chart repeated the Big Lie now being leveled against Israel and the Jews, although in one case the grammar in which the Lie was couched was so convoluted as to be almost incomprehensible. The lie was also a Blood Libel, since the killing of innocents, including children, was supposedly deliberate. As far as I know, people are not yet accusing the Jews of using Palestinian children’s blood to make Matzoh, but I don’t use social media very much and with Passover imminent I would not be surprised to see this pop up somewhere.

In order of appearance, here are the nominees:

  1. On January 11, South Africa argued its case in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Despite having members known to be consistently anti-Israel (one of those was just elevated to be the Court’s President), the Court could not conclude that Israel is or was committing genocide; that requires a years-long process, which has to happen. But the court did not implement this item in the case: “South Africa has requested an Order for the immediate suspension of Israel’s military operations in and against Gaza.” (p. 78) This was the most important practical request from South Africa. Surely, if the Court thought that South Africa’s accusation of genocide was plausible, it would have ordered a ceasefire as requested. Instead, it issued warnings that Israel should act so as to prevent genocide, and that it should submit reports showing that it has done so. Since Israel had always acted as such, the reports write themselves. Incidentally, among democracies, Israel is ranked #30, South Africa #45; among countries ranked least to most corrupt, Israel is #33, South Africa #87. South Africa has extensive and growing ties with Iran.
  2. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who I’m ashamed to admit is a Brooklyn Jew like me, told the Senate “The US should be working to end Israel’s genocide in Gaza, not aiding and abetting it,” and voted with 31 Republicans against aid to Israel; 67 Senators, including all Democrats, voted for the bill. Sanders has been anti-Israel in key Senate votes since 1988. His official and deliberate use of the word genocide to describe Israel’s actions makes him well worthy of the Big Lie-Blood Libel Award.
  3. Hollywood movie-maker Jonathan Glazer used his two minutes of fame accepting an Oscar, with 19.5 million movie fans watching, to say: “Right now we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation, which has led to conflict for so many innocent people.” Huh? Okay, it is possible with effort to parse this sentence, so awkward it’s almost opaque, but it’s not surprising that many thought he was “refuting” his “Jewishness.” What he is “refuting,” also speaking for his colleagues, is his “Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation” that “has led to conflict for so many innocent people.” He places the blame for the conflict squarely on Israel’s “occupation” and “refutes” Israel’s “hijacking the Holocaust.” Because he made a movie about it, he seems to think that the Holocaust belongs to him and that he has a right to decide how the word is used. The movie has been widely praised and won the Oscar, but The San Francisco Chronicle called it “a dead film,” the New Yorker an extreme form of Holokitsch,” and The New York Times “a hollow, self-aggrandizing art-film exercise set in Auschwitz during the Holocaust.”
  4. I’ve discussed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (AOC’s) use of the Big Lie-Blood Libel, following the Goebbels playbook by multiple repetitions. Adding that Israel had “crossed the threshold of intent” in mass starvation of the Gazan people, “half of whom are children,” she joined a long line of blood-libelers, although she stopped short of saying that Jews’ “intent” in killing Palestinian children is to use their blood to make Matzoh. When she issued this Blood Libel the number of deaths in Gaza (as estimated by Hamas) was about a quarter of what it had been early in the war, a change due entirely to the care taken by the IDF to reduce civilian deaths while learning how to fight an enemy hiding behind children.
  5. After three more weeks of declines in Gazan deaths, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), rival of Bernie Sanders for chief moralizer and most self-righteous advocate of all left-wing causes, followed AOC in the Big Lie-Blood Libel disinformation frenzy against the Jewish state. In an appearance at the Islamic Center of Boston, and referring to the ICJ, this supposed champion of truth and justice said, “If you want to do it as an application of law, I believe that they’ll find that it is genocide, and they have ample evidence to do so.” Three months earlier, the ICJ did not find sufficient evidence even to call for a cease-fire.
  6. Last but not least, Nicaragua, that lovely vacation spot—see State Department warnings— brought a case in the ICJ not against Israel but against Germany, for aiding Israel’s “genocide.” Clever of the corrupt, autocratic, violent, and refugee-hemorrhaging Central American country to level this charge against Germany, which—knowing full well what “genocide” means—has done more to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and the dignity of its victims than almost any other country. Again, among democracies, Israel is ranked #30, Nicaragua #143; among countries ranked least to most corrupt, Israel is #33, Nicaragua #172. Nicaragua and Iran have growing military cooperation.

And the Goebsie goes too…

Sorry, the committee (namely me) has found all six of these nominees so accomplished in the Big Lie-Blood Libel, it’s impossible to choose one. We will therefore take the unprecedented step of dividing the Goebbsie—a polished-lead non-working microphone—among them. They can take turns using it to try to spread their bloody, libelous lies.

Meanwhile, today alone, the US, the UK, Germany, many other Western nations, several Arab ones, and even UN Secretary General António Guterres have condemned Iran’s attack on and declared solidarity with Israel in this moment of crisis. Perhaps it is dawning on them that Iran, not Hamas, is the real threat, and that the world, not Israel, is the target.

Gaza War: A Visual Aid

(Blogging on the Gaza War since January 14th. Please link them on to others.)

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I shouldn’t have much more work to do this week. I started with the very good public website of Kevin Drum, who presented the first graph in the top half of the picture (panel a). Based on data from the (Hamas-run) Gaza Health Ministry via the UN, it displays the daily deaths (red dots) of Gazans from October 7 to February 19, with a linear function (dotted black line) fitted to the daily data. This function declines from between 300-400 in October to 100 in February.

The lower part of the figure (panel b, my responsibility alone) is my attempt to extend Drum’s excellent graph from February to today. The daily deaths (also from the Gaza Health Ministry via the UN) are shown as blue dots, with the red line representing the 7-day moving average. Please note that the two graphs are on very different scales. Continue reading

Gaza War: Hamas is Haman

(Scroll down to see earlier posts starting January 14th.)

We have passed not just the start of Ramadan, but the first and second Fridays, with today’s noon service considered particularly sacred. Forty thousand Israeli Muslim citizens and East Jerusalem Residents have come to the Noble Sanctuary—for Jews, The Temple Mount—each Friday to pray in one of its two great mosques, without a single untoward incident. Aside from a lone gunman in the West Bank, these Ramadan Fridays have been peaceful in the region and throughout the Muslim world. Estimates of Muslims visiting the Old City of Jerusalem today are up to 120,000. An Israeli journalist reporting from the crowded Noble Sanctuary as services let out described the atmosphere as reverent and celebratory.

Meanwhile, the tiny Jewish world—there are 100 Muslims for every Jew—is preparing for Purim, an irreverent, raucous, often drunken celebration of the survival of the Persian Jews, who came under deadly threat some 2,600 years ago. The Book of Esther,  chanted aloud in the evening and following morning in synagogues circling the globe, tells the story.

This year Purim begins tomorrow, Saturday, exactly 24 weeks after the Saturday (both the Sabbath and another Jewish holy day), on which Hamas terrorists committed grotesque mass atrocities against 1200 Jews and others in Israel, deliberately inviting destruction on themselves and the women and children they hide behind. Many say that this was the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust. That it was, but actually the Nazis rarely took the time to rape women with knives or cut off the limbs of children before killing them. The Nazis did torture Jews at times, but mainly aimed at efficient mass murder.

Continue reading

Anti-Zionism is Antisemitism

(Scroll down to see earlier posts in this series, beginning January 14th.)

This will be my most personal posting, since its wellspring is my childhood experience. Although I supply citations, I could have written this from memory. One example: during the years I was praying regularly (age 8-17), I said these words every day: V’tekhazena eyneynu b’shuvkha l’Tzion b’rakhamim—May our eyes behold Thy return to Zion in mercy. In fact, observant Jews said it three times every day for twenty centuries, as part of the Amidah,[1] the holiest prayer after the Shema (Hear O Israel). Along with God’s Unity and the primacy of Torah—the first five books of the Bible—the longing for Zion is intrinsic to the Jewish faith.

Let’s go back to, not the beginning of Judaism, but early enough: the composition of Psalm 137, roughly 2,500 years old, describing the exile of Jews in Babylon. Some may recall the 1970s Rastafari song that echoed the Psalm:

By the rivers of Babylon, where we sat down,

And there we wept, when we remembered Zion…

For the Jamaican singers, Zion stood for Africa, but, as with other African diaspora songs, they adopted the ancient Jewish narrative as a symbol for their suffering. But for the Jews in Babylon it was no metaphor. It was brutal exile and a desperate longing for home. The psalm begins as the song does, but in lines 5-6,

If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning…

Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

Continue reading

Gaza War: Academic Fairy Tales

(Scroll down to see earlier posts in this series, beginning January 14th.)

Fair Harvard, thy sons to thy jubilee throng,

And in faith with thy glorious past,

By these odious rites now surrender thee o’er

To the murders and rapes of Hamas.*

This rewrite of the first stanza of Harvard’s alma mater—find the original wording and the history here—is impolite but not unfair, given the recent outpouring of hatred of Israel and, to a lesser extent, of Jews, on this nearly 400-year-old American campus. Most pointedly, Harvard’s students and faculty have supported a terror group whose grotesque atrocities against Jews and others in Israel are unprecedented in modern times. Can Harvard students and faculty be useful idiots, shills for Hamas mass murderers?

Don’t get me wrong. I have no desire to limit the free speech of deluded or even malicious faculty and students. Only a few have gone so far as to merit a legal crackdown against them. I’m not saying it’s fine to spew hatred of Israel, Zionism, and Jews, merely that I have to weigh these wrongs against the wrong of muzzling them, and given the first amendment’s protections, letting them puke up their lies is the lesser of two evils. But that doesn’t mean there are no remedies.

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wisely said that the remedy for noxious speech is more speech, and Jewish students on these campuses can avail themselves of that opportunity—although at a risk of harm if they do or even if they let it be known that they are Jewish. They of course cannot have anything like the kind of college experience they signed up and paid for, just to stay in their rooms and go warily to class in groups and in daylight hours. That is the price they must pay for the first amendment protections of others, and ultimately their own, if they go to those schools.

Continue reading

Gaza: Collateral Tears

Scroll down to see my previous posts on the Gaza War, beginning January 14.

The phrase “collateral damage,” meaning civilian casualties, arose in the Vietnam War and became a standard of military vocabulary. It is, at least in theory, unintended and ancillary to attacks on military targets. There has been a lot of it in Gaza, and what it really means is blood, pain, disability, loss, grief, anguish, screams, sobs, and tears. According to the Hamas Health Ministry, as of February 21st, 29,313 people have been killed, including at least 8,400 women and 12,300 children; the wounded number 69,333, including at least 6,327 women and 8,663 children. Children have been dismembered by shrapnel, burned, blinded, and crushed under rubble, among other horrible fates. Some have probably died of fright.

So “collateral tears” must include the tears of countless millions of us who read these numbers and see photos of dead or suffering children and their bereaved parents. Someone said that the mark of a civilized person is the ability to look at a page of numbers and weep. If you can’t weep at these numbers, look in the mirror.

However, this is war. I hate war, and I assume you do too. But if you agree with me that war will not be eliminated soon, the question changes. Is Israel’s war in Gaza outside the range for wars since World War II, as measured by the ratio of civilian to military deaths? No, and it is far lower than the civilian casualties caused by the US and UK in Japan and Germany in that war.

Another measure is the civilian casualties per airstrike, using only airstrikes that caused at least one casualty. Reuters fairly criticized a graph that gave a misleadingly low figure for the Gaza War, and corrected the number to 10.1. For comparison, they offer the following numbers from recent wars: the Battle of Raqqa (2017), 9.8; the Battle of Mosul (2016), 12.0; and the Aleppo Offensive (2017), 21.2. So by this measure as well, Israel’s Gaza offensive is within the range for recent wars.

Nevertheless, our tears must lead us to ask Israel to do better. Since early in the war, international pressure has grown to force it to reduce civilian casualties, or even stop the war. Is Israel responding? My makeshift graph below suggests an answer. Continue reading

Gaza: Hamas Declares War

Last Tuesday I was privileged—or voluntarily burdened, by invitation of the Israel Consul—with the chance to view one of the restricted IDF videos documenting the atrocities of October 7th. This is a compilation of video recordings from bodycams, phone, and dashboard cameras belonging to attackers, victims, and rescuers as well as CCTV from the locations attacked.

As hard as this was to watch, it did not go as far as I expected based on reports by people who saw even worse video, surviving witnesses, and the unfortunately limited postmortem evidence. I will return to some of those. But first I want to describe this video. If you are squeamish, read no further than the next paragraph; even if you are not, you will probably be disturbed.

This is the paragraph anyone can read. What made the greatest impression on me in the video was the joy on the faces of the Hamas attackers as and after they did their atrocities. Because of the way the human brain is wired, the difference between video and verbal description is not as great for atrocities as it is for facial expressions. I had heard many descriptions of atrocities, and seeing them was important, but those facial expressions are seared into my mind—when these young men turned back toward their colleagues’ phones with faces bursting with smiles. Nothing diabolical here. The smiles were big, warm, and bright, conveying the  most spontaneous joy—pride, satisfaction, and triumph, yes—but most vividly, joy. Continue reading

Chanukah Miracles

We had come to New York partly to celebrate the holidays, but mainly try to help with a new grandchild, due officially on December 24th—the second day or third night of Chanukah, as well as Christmas Eve and our son Adam’s birthday—but expected any time. We came up on Sunday the 15th, and a week later, with twelve hours to spare before the first candle, my stepdaughter Logan and daughter-in-law Leah were blessed with their new son Rivers—naharot in Hebrew—at 5:36am, 7lb. 6oz., healthy and strong with a lusty cry.

Within a few hours he was enjoying the bounty of life (I want to say chalav u’d’vash, milk and honey) Continue reading

Is Genocide Now Maladaptive?

David Blumenthal, a good and wise friend who is a Jewish studies professor and a rabbi wrote me recently asking about the former adaptiveness and present maladaptiveness of xenophobia. The operative passage in his letter was, “In the global world, however, survival requires the cooperation of varying and different groups. Humanity, in its groups, cannot survive without the quintessential other. Xenophobia has ceased to be adaptive. So has antisemitism, racism, orientalism, and misogyny.”

I have little trouble agreeing that at some times in the past these behaviors were adaptive for the perpetrators. Continue reading