It’s time to play that ancient game so many peoples have mastered over the millennia…. It’s the Daily Blood Libel! Yes, the Daily Blood Libel takes the day’s trendiest outrage — or any random problem — and blames it on the Jews – or Israel as the collective Jew. The game requires leaps of logic, torturous mental gymnastics, and a burning hatred for all things Jewish. Yet it’s been fun for all ages, throughout the ages, as people compete to bash that pesky people, the Jews, or their “sh*tty little country,” Israel.
Consider these last twelve months. Covid-19 strikes – and the Covid-48 meme emerges, 1948 being the year Israel was established. Far Left and Far Right decide that “the Jews” are spreading the disease or profiting from it – turning little Israel’s being in the forefront of the medical fight from an asset into a liability.
Then in May, racist cops murder George Floyd. Even as hundreds of thousands of Americans Jews march with Black Lives Matters, some BLM radicals blame the “deadly exchange” between the IDF and “the police.” Voila! Israeli army training becomes responsible for American police brutality. It doesn’t matter that the IDF doesn’t use the knee-to-neck maneuver – or that the training missions mostly concern counter-terrorism. It doesn’t matter that American racism pre-dated Israel’s founding by centuries, and bullies don’t need training in thuggery. Facts don’t count in this game. The blood-libeling-imperative kicks in, Israel: the ADL, the Jews must be targeted.
In November, lunacy from the Right competes with lunacy from the Left, as Georgia voters elect a wack-a-doodle to Congress who links the Jews to space lasers that ignite forest fires. It’s amazing. To medieval Jesus-loving Christians, we were Christ-killers. To bourgeois Marxist-hating Europeans, we were Communists, while proletarian Communists called us Rothschilds. To some anti-apartheid activists in the 1980s, little Israel was South Africa’s biggest backer. And now, Jews cause natural disasters too – from outer-space no less.
Predictably, today, with the question “to vaccinate-or-not-to-vaccinate” dominating, those most plastic of hatreds, Jew-hatred and Zionophobia, get form-fitted to the latest headlines. So Israel is “racist” for failing to vaccinate “the Palestinians.”
How can we discount this new big lie, this latest blood libel?
First, Israel is vaccinating millions of Palestinians – all “Israeli-Arabs,” as well as East Jerusalem Palestinians. The question stumbles into a compelling theoretical mystery, namely: what are Israel’s responsibilities to the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza?
Second, nations by definition define some people as “in” and others as “out.” Countries are making all kinds of random distinctions about who gets vaccinated when, based on age, profession, and yes, which polity and sub-sub-polity you belong to. America’s Canadian neighbors are in trouble because their Prime Minister bungled the vaccine launch. Are any Americans saying, “I’ll wait, please share my vaccine with our nice Northern neighbors?”
Within America, my sister-in-law’s Herculean efforts secured a vaccination appointment for my 91-year-old father three weeks ago, twenty minutes from his house, in Lanham, Maryland. Within two hours, it was cancelled. Why? He lives in Montgomery County and Lanham is in Prince George’s County. Apparently, Marylanders are “county-ists.” When I mocked this absurdity on Facebook, one “friend” responded indignantly that PG county had experienced shortages; why help outsiders? — my father is merely a fellow American citizens and Maryland taxpayer.
In short, we organize the world politically around all kinds of distinctions, some meaningful, others not. Perhaps we should reverse the question: which Israelis, whom so many Palestinians have targeted for so long, should have waited, deferring to Palestinians across what Palestinians themselves want to be their border?
If said Palestinian-line-jumper happens to be the male Arab nurse who vaccinated me – whom I just called a nurse! – I would say “absolutely”: he’s a medical professional within our sovereign borders; but do Israelis have a greater obligation to West Bankers than PGites have to Montgomericans?
Third, the Oslo Accords designate health as the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility – see Article VI of the original agreement and Article IV, Appendix 1, Article 17 which says “the Palestinian Side” handles vaccinations. Characteristically, the PA first rejected Israel’s help in securing vaccines – they ordered vaccines from the Russians. But, just as typically, when this new Blood Libel emerged, suddenly Palestinians started complaining about Israeli “racism” and “war crimes.”
As usual, reality is more complex. The New York Times recently reported that “the Palestinian Authority officially launched a vaccination campaign by giving frontline medical workers doses received from Israel.” Ultimately, Israelis understand that borders are imagined. True, you take care of your people first. But taking care of your people entails cooperating with your neighbors on pandemics, pollution and other phenomena that mock human borders. And taking care of your people in a democracy like Israel includes taking care of your soul and not leaving others to languish, no matter how many rockets and lies their extremists may launch against you.
Israel, like all countries, isn’t perfect. And Jews, like all peoples, are not perfect. But we’re perfectly fine scapegoats. At least the Daily Blood Libel performs a fabulous public service. Amid this great polarization, the Far Left and the Far Right keep cooking up conspiracies theories and crackpot charges to make against the Jews – and Israel. So hats off to Israel and the Jews! We’re offering a soothing, familiar, target, uniting extremists in a shared irrational hatred when they play the Daily Blood Libel game.
Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of the newly-released The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist.. A Distinguished Scholar of North American History at McGill University,and the author of nine books on American History, his book, Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, co-authored with Natan Sharansky was just published by PublicAffairs of Hachette.