Anthony Julius: How the Jewish Conspiracy Myth Still Flourishes

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[The image below is by Amjad Rasmi and was published in Al Quds. It is by no means unique. Similar cartoons are published in the Islamic world on a regular basis. They are also found in European newspapers and magazines. For more, have a look at Dan and Joël Kotek’s, Au nom de l’antisionisme: l’image des Juifs et d’Israël dans le caricature depuis la seconde Intifada.]

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[from the Jewish Chronicle]

In 1887, the German rabble-rouser Thomas Frey composed the Antisemites’ Catechism. It contained the following article of faith: “All Jews of all nations and all languages work for the Jewish domination of the world.” Today’s antisemites tend to rewrite it as follows: “American Jews control America, and through America work for Israel’s domination of the Middle East and Jewish domination of the world.”

Ideas about illegitimate and conspiratorial Jewish influence over national governments have thus been floating around for some time. Though they are integral to the worldview of the modern antisemite, they also have a currency among the merely ignorant and uninformed. This second, much larger group is made up of proto-antisemites — that is, people with the disposition to believe the worst of Jews, if told suitable lies by persuasive or ostensibly authoritative individuals. The lies related by these individuals can be lethal in their ultimate effect, because they encourage non-Jews to believe that the Jews have them under attack. This in turn leads non-Jews to take hostile action against Jews in what they consider to be their own defence. There is a short line, then, between the lie and the assault, between the word and the deed.

So people need to be very careful if they want to write about the influence that Jewish and non-Jewish supporters of Israel — the “Israel lobby” — are said to exercise over the government of the United States. It is a proper topic for inquiry, but it has to be handled with caution. Make a mistake in the interpretation of a poem, and the world carries on as before. Make a mistake in the interpretation of the “Israel lobby”, and Jews can die.

Two American academics, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, have just published The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy. They do not approve of the Lobby, both because they think it has done harm to American interests and because they think that it does not always behave properly. They would like the Lobby’s power to be curtailed, and think the best way of doing so is to expose it, and thereby start a public debate on the topic. Their book is intended to initiate, or contribute towards, that debate. It is not then just a report on events; it is also an event in itself, or at least seeks to be.

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