Two weeks ago, newspapers and newscasts across the world dramatically exclaimed – in top of the fold blaring headlines – that the Israeli Army had killed an 8-month-old baby girl named Laila al-Ghandour during the May 14, 2018 “protests” on Israel’s border. It was a lie.
The story was horrible. Setting aside the obvious question as to why any family would bring a baby to a riot, where people are burning thousands of tires (releasing toxic fumes into the air), throwing Molotov cocktails and trying to breach a well-defended border – at the incitement of known terrorist group – the story itself, of a little baby girl dying, was incredibly tragic and sad. It was also a lie.
But the media ran with it. Big time. Just a few examples:
- Business Insider magazine on May 15th went with this headline “An 8-month-old child’s death is one of the most devastating moments of the Gaza protests yet”
- The Independent’s headline was: “Gaza Protests: 8 Month Old Palestinian Baby Dies from Tear Gas Inhalation after Massacre at Border.”
- The Mirror went with the dramatic headline: “Angelic face of eight-month old baby Lila killed by tear gas fired during Gaza protests.” And it followed-up that heart-rending headline with: “This is the face of an eight-month old baby girl who has died in Gaza after breathing in toxic fumes from a tear gas canister.”
The problem with all of these stories and the myriad similar “news” stories that swept the world on May 14-17? The story was a lie. A big fat, mendacious, lie.
A few days ago we learned from The Guardian that poor Laila suffered from “heart defects since birth” that caused a “severe stop in blood circulation and respiration,” which means she died from a congenital heart defect (tragically just like her sister), and not from any tear-gas fired at rioters (which she should have been far away from in any event). In fact, we now know that there is no credible evidence that baby Laila was anywhere near the Hamas-incited and planned border riots; and that the entire story, not just regarding the baby’s cause of death, may have been a hoax.
Of course, as is always the case, the after-the-fact stories with the truth never get the attention of the sensationalist lies. And the bigger the lie, the more the media likes to run with it and the more inconsequential the correction appears to be.
In modern times, this is particularly true when it comes to Israel, the “Jew among the nations.” As Israel, just like the Jewish people throughout our years of exile and statelessness, has been a regular victim of modern-day Blood Libels and Big Lies.
It was in medieval times that the infamous “Blood Libel” against Jews took root.
The original Medieval Blood Libel traces its roots to the murder of a child named “William of Norwich,” a grandchild of William the Conqueror. In 1144, they found his body in a forest near Norwich, England. Lacking any credible explanation for his murder, they decided that local Jews murdered him. And why? They claimed it was because the Jews needed this child’s blood for their religious rituals. Greek Hellenists (some 1,500 years earlier), had originally promoted this libel. The Hellenists were deeply suspicious of what they viewed as a monotheistic cult. And the Hellenists also did not understand and were suspicious of the Jewish rituals related to getting every drop of blood out of meat before consumption.
This original Medieval Blood Libel persisted to gain strength in England and began to spread throughout Europe. And barely 100 years after William of Norwich was murdered, over 90 Jews were arrested and 18 Jews were hung, over similar allegations. These too were based on the discovery of a young boy’s body in a well in the English Midlands. And of course in the year 1290, two hundred years plus of persecution and depicting Jews as literally bloodthirsty murderers, led to the Edict of Expulsion, a royal decree issued by King Edward I of England expelling all Jews from the Kingdom of England. An expulsion that lasted throughout the remainder of the Middle Ages.
After all, if you believed a people murdered little children because they wanted to (nay, needed to) use innocent kid’s blood in their (as you were also always led to believe) outdated tribal faith, then wouldn’t you want them all killed or at the very least, evicted from being anywhere near your children?
But the persistence of the Blood Libel as a means of spreading inflammatory lies about Jews and thereby justifying enmity towards Jews, as well as their persecution, far outlasted both England and the Middle Ages in terms of reach and impact.
Blood Libel incited riots, murders and pogroms, have led to the torture and murder of thousands of Jews since the time of William of Norwich’s unsolved murder. From Blois, France (1171), Saragossa, Spain (1182), Fulda (1235) in central Germany (where 34 Jews were burned alive at the stake after being accused – without a trial – of draining and consuming the blood of the five children) through Damascus in 1840 and Vilna, Lithuania in 1900, generation after generation of Jews have been oppressed and massacred; and countless Jewish communities have been expelled or destroyed as a result of this awful lie.
The Nazis themselves also took full advantage of the Blood Libel. Julius Streicher, one of the earliest members of Nazi Party, and the publisher of the Nazi paper, Der Sturmer, was a big promoter of the Blood Libel. One of Der Sturmer’s most popular and widely read special editions was the 1934 Ritual Murder issue, which had an artwork cover depicting Jews collecting Christian blood. It also alleged a worldwide Jewish conspiracy to kill Christians and collect their blood for religious services.
Of course, the Nazis did not only rely on perpetuating the Blood Libel to promote their murderous agenda and scapegoating of Jews for Germany’s problems. They also employed, as first coined by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf, and later adapted by Josef Goebbels, Germany’s Minister of Propaganda, “the Big Lie.”
As Jeffery Herf, described in his book, The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II And the Holocaust, the Nazis and Goebbels used the Big Lie to turn “ordinary” Anti-Semitism, which was deeply engrained in the European psyche (after more than a millennia of Jew-hatred and crazy Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories) into a case for mass-murder.
The Nazis’ Big Lies were that Jews were responsible for World War I; Jews were in control of the USA, Britain and Russia; and that Jews were responsible for a worldwide campaign to exterminate Germany. Thus, the Holocaust was propagandized into self-defense. Wrong became right. Evil became good.
Today, the corrupt Palestinian leadership and their acolytes around the world have fully embraced both the Medieval Blood Libel as well as the Big Lie. Like Goebbels, they have plainly embraced the mantra, “the bigger the lie, the better;” and that “if you tell a lie big enough, and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
For the Palestinian Arab leadership, when it comes to slandering the Jewish people and the Jewish State, no lie has proven too big or too fantastic.
Even the Medieval Blood Libel itself has been a regular favorite of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas as well as other Arab dictatorships such as Bahrain, Kuwait and Syria, who still promote crazy tales that Jews use children’s blood in our matzah and Purim treats.
But sadly, that fantastical, mendacious lie is not where the Arab dictatorships’ slander against Jews and Israel ends.
The klepotocratic Palestinian Arab leadership has learned from experience that no matter how big the lie, there will be a willing audience for them in the form of the international media willing to quickly spread it, without reservation or qualification.
The Palestinian “Big Lies” come in many forms: The “Jews have no connection to the land of Israel” lies; the “Jews are trying to destroy Muslim religious sites” lies; the “Holocaust never happened, or was exaggerated, and/or was deserved” lies; the “Apartheid” lies; the “Genocide” lies; and their various “Nakba” lies. But the lies that the Palestinians’ corrupt leaders learned long ago get them the most mileage in the press, and help them perpetuate the other Big Lies even further, are derivations of the “massacre” or “murderous Jew” lies.
- On March 11, 1997, Nabil Ramlawi, the PLO representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, charged that the Israeli government had infected 300 Palestinian children with the HIV virus (literally a modern-day version of the “Jews are causing the Black Plague” medieval libel).
- On March 30, 2002, Jibril Rajoub, the former head of the P.A. Security Services and member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council until 2009, claimed that the Israeli Army “massacred 30 unarmed Palestinians” in Ramallah. Numerous news sites, including, of course, Al Jazeera carried this story. The truth turned out to be vastly different. In various battles that took place throughout that day in Ramallah during Operation Defensive Shield (which followed numerous actual massacres of Jews by suicide bombers), the Israeli Army killed nine terrorists, all of them armed.
- On April 7, 2002, the Palestinian Media Agency, Wafa, reported that Israel had committed the “massacre of the 21st century” in the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin. Following that report, which included Palestinian Authority spokesmen Saeb Ereket (still a favorite of the international media) claiming Israel had massacred at least 500 people, news outlets like CNN, BBC, NPR, etc. carried ridiculous tales of Israeli “massacres.” On CNN, the PA representative to the United Nations, Nasser al-Kidwa, added: “There’s almost a massacre now taking place in Jenin. Helicopter gunships are throwing missiles at one square kilometer packed with almost 15,000 people in a refugee camp.” And the international media just ate it up.
- On April 16, 2002 under the clearly fake headline “Amid the ruins, the grisly evidence of a war crime,” the Independent’s Phil Reeves wrote: “A monstrous war crime that Israel has tried to cover up for a fortnight has finally been exposed.” Reeves, like numerous other European reporters all quoted the same one “witness,” who said that he “saw the Israeli soldiers pile 30 bodies beneath a half-wrecked house.”
All of these claims, by al-Kidwa, Erekat and other Palestinian representatives, turned out to be as fake as the original Blood Libel in Norwich, England. The truth was that there was a horrible battle in Jenin. Israeli soldiers, mainly reservists who would have preferred to be home with their families or at their day jobs as doctors, engineers, lawyers, plumbers, electricians, etc. fought in difficult house to house and sometimes hand to hand combat to weed-out from Jenin Islamic Jihad terrorists who at that point had been responsible for over a third of the terrorist attacks against Israelis in 2002 (terror attacks that had killed 457 Israelis).
They did so at great risk to themselves in order to avoid civilian casualties. No other army in the world would have placed its soldiers at such risk. The actual death toll at Jenin was far from a “massacre”. The real total of the “massacre” was 52 Arabs, including 38 confirmed members of Islamic Jihad, and 23 Israeli soldiers. Yet for weeks, the international media, particularly in Europe, ran with stories of Israeli “war crimes” and “massacres.”
If all of this sounds sadly familiar, it should. On May 15, 2018, the media quickly ran with the false claim that the Israeli Army had killed baby Laila. In addition, the media, again especially the European media, ran numerous headlines and stories decrying the alleged “massacre” at the Gaza border. Breathlessly reporting as fact, everything the Gaza Ministry of Health (run by Hamas) told them.
Even after Hamas spokespeople admitted that fully 53 of the 61 people killed in the attempts to breach Israel’s border on May 14 were members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad (in response to criticism that they themselves were sending others to do their dirty work), much of the media continued to promote this “massacre” libel, though no military on earth has worked harder to avoid civilian casualties in asymmetrical warfare than the Israeli Army.
So the question is why? Why go with the lie?
Why after being repeatedly duped by Palestinian representatives, year after year, with lie after crazy lie, is the media so willing to continue to report their crazy claims as if they are factual? Moreover, why does the international media question more carefully and forcefully statements made by Israeli government officials, who are subject to one of the most aggressive free press corps in the world, than they do the tyrannical leaders of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas?
The answers to these questions are complex and beyond the scope of this article. But one of the reasons is certainly the same as the reason why the original Blood Libel worked so well and for so long, Jew-hatred. Irrespective of the cause, however, the willingness of the media to repeat these modern-day Blood Libels requires all of us who care, not only about truth, but about the future and safety of the Jewish people to be vigilant. For, as our history has all too often demonstrated, Blood Libels and Big Lies often paved the way for some of the greatest atrocities to befell the Jewish people and were often used to excuse even greater atrocities and attacks against Jews. As a result, we must resist these lies and call to task all who promote or repeat them.