Antisemitic trope at the Indy: Israeli minister called “bloodthirsty”

The blood-libel motif originated in the twelfth century in England and alleged that Jews needed Christian blood for their Passover service. In today’s Arab world – and in some far-left anti-Israel circles – this staple image of unbridled hatred has mutated into Israel’s alleged quest for Palestinian blood.

The changing nature of antisemitism – whereby racists used to attack Jews qua Jews, but now attack Israel as ‘the Jew write large’ – resulted in the inclusion of such modern day libels into the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism

Though most mainstream British media sites stay clear of such overt antisemitic motifs or language, in 2013 The Sunday Times had to apologize following the publication (on Holocaust Memorial Day) of a cartoon depicting a bloody trowel wielding Israeli Prime Minister torturing innocent souls.

In response to some who argued, in Scarfe’s defense, that he previously depicted Syria’s Assad using a similar blood motif, Stephen Pollard of The JC aptly noted: “But there’s never been an anti-Alawite blood libel, and the context matters. The blood libel is central to the history of antisemitism.”

As even the Guardian readers’ editor has acknowledged in a column addressing another accusation of antisemitism, whatever one’s intent, in understanding modern day antisemitism, context and history matter.

The CST noted, in their 2010 report on antisemitic discourse relating to media reports on Gaza, that depicting Jews as “blood thirsty” represents a “deeply rooted antisemitic theme”.

This brings us to a column by Robert Fisk at The Independent on June 9th, commenting on the motivation of the two Palestinians who murdered four Israelis in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night.  Our intent is not to take issue with Fisk’s analysis or to defend Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman. We are instead concerned with the decision by the paper’s Middle East correspondent (and Indy editors) to use language associated with the classic antisemitism.

Here’s the headline:


In case you may think the language was the work of sub-editors, the term “blood thirsty” is repeated in the text:

Ever since Avigdor Lieberman was appointed to his new post by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the world – and especially the Palestinians – have waited to see if he would fulfil the bloodthirsty threats he made during Israel’s 2015 election.

Let’s be clear: When we talk about antisemitism in the British media, we’re not suggesting that the writer or editor in question is haunted by Judeophobic thoughts.

Rather, those of us who talk seriously about antisemitism are identifying common tropes, narratives and graphic depictions of Jews which are based on stereotypes and mythology which has historically been employed by those engaging in cognitive or physical war against Jews.

In short, we’re asking anti-racists to resist becoming, even if unintentionally, intellectual partners with those who trade in the lethal narratives associated with antisemitism which has caused us immeasurable pain to Jewish communities throughout the ages. 

As such, we’ve contacted Indy editors to ask that they remove the term “blood thirsty” from Fisk’s op-ed.

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