Canadian journalist and broadcaster Martin Himel sifts through the malodorous detritus of antisemitism, the world’s most persistent pathological hatred, in Jew Bashing: The New Antisemitism, his important four-part series starting on Vision TV on May 6 at 9 p.m.
In the first segment, Himel examines its Muslim variant in Pakistan, Iran, Egypt and the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Himel’s focus on the Muslim world is hardly surprising. “No group is as receptive to antisemitic conspiracy theories as Muslims,” observes Hebrew University professor Robert Wistrich, an expert on the subject.
Himel, based in Israel, uses Muslim surrogates to conduct many of his interviews, believing the interviewees will be more relaxed and candid if questioned by a fellow Muslim. It’s a valid assumption, judging by their answers. The anti-Jewish animus spilling from their mouths is shocking, even for a seasoned observer.
In Lahore, a Pakistani student openly calls for the destruction of Jews, while a cleric claims that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were perpetrated by Jews. No Muslim could possibly commit such an immoral act, he adds self-righteously.
Still other Pakistanis contend that Jews control America, wield too much influence and dominate commerce, even in Pakistan, where a Jewish community no longer exists. At a Shiite Muslim school, meanwhile, a bearded teacher accuses Jews of sowing tension in Muslim lands.
Himel’s foray into Iran is brief but telling. In his view, the Ayatollah Khomeini, the first supreme leader of post-revolutionary Iran, set an antisemitic tone by perpetuating the myth that Jews are ritually unclean.
The antisemitic rants of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi are already on the record. But digging deeper, Himel excavates file footage in which an Egyptian protester standing in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo holds aloft a placard reading, “The gas chambers are ready.”
This clip is but the tip of an iceberg.
The editor of a major Egyptian daily says, “The Jews are far from being our friends.” Another journalist claims that Jews recruited Osama Bin Laden, and that the Torah harbours nefarious plans for Jewish supremacy. A Sunni Muslim cleric even argues that Jews founded the Shiite sect.
In Gaza, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar claims that Jews were expelled from European countries because they committed treason. Ahmad Bahar, a member of the Palestinian Authority legislature, repeats the tiresome mantra that Jews seek world domination. “It’s either us or them,” he says ominously.
Christians in the Middle East are not exempt from Himel’s scrutiny. Christian groups in the region, he contends, engage in antisemitism by questioning Israel’s legitimacy.
In the second segment, Himel focuses on Europe. He interviews the sister-in-law of Tony Blair, the former prime minister of Britain. A convert to Islam, Lauren Booth is rabidly anti-Israel. People like her are careful not to express explicitly antisemitic views, yet their conspiracy theories smack of antisemitism.
Himel travels to France, where a Muslim fanatic of French nationality attacked a Jewish school last year, and to Malmo, a city in Sweden where Jews feel threatened by Muslim antisemitism.
The British novelist Howard Jacobson looks beyond the antisemitism clothed in anti-Zionist garb. The “new” antisemitism, he tartly observes, is really a newer version of the “old” antisemitism.
Episode 3 is on the United States and the impact of the Internet on the dissemination of antisemitism.
At a conference, a man claims that Wall Street and Hollywood are controlled by Jews: “They have tentacles everywhere.” Yet another accusation is that a major pro-Israel organization pushed the United States into invading Iraq in 2003.
Himel correctly argues that the Internet empowers antisemites and gives them unprecedented reach and influence.
He interviews three anti-Jewish bloggers, all of whom live in small town America. Alex Linder, soft-spoken and well-groomed, says quite openly that Jews should be exterminated. Brother Nathanael Kapner, an Orthodox Christian monk who was born Jewish, gloats that his website has received 14 million hits since 2007. He describes the United States as a “Jew police state.” Tom Metzger calls Jews “a key threat to the white race.”
Some left-wing activists dabble in antisemitism, too. Ken O’Keefe suggests that Jews orchestrated 9/11. The African American novelist Alice Walker claims that “Zionists” control Congress.
In the final episode, Himel deals with Canada, which, he admits, has one of the best records in combating this ancient scourge.
Himel analyzes the United Church’s critical attitude toward Israel’s controversial settlement policy in the West Bank, wondering why it singles out Israel for special opprobrium.
He also zeroes in on the Montreal chassidic community’s contentious relationship with some of its non-Jewish neighbours and studies the free speech vs. hate speech debate.
Himel, whose previous Vision TV documentary was on the plight of Christians in the Arab world, performs a valuable service in exposing the phenomenon of antisemitism in Muslim communities worldwide.
But Jew Bashing would have been more comprehensive and certainly far more informative had he also dwelled at length on neo-Nazism and traditional forms of Christian antisemitism.