There has been, not at all surprisingly, a lot of discussion in the past few days about a hate-filled film that has enraged Muslims around the world and has led, at least in part, to violent protests at American embassies in the Middle East.
Early on, a great many reports focused on the identity of the filmmaker, who had identified himself as an Israeli Jew living in the U.S., and on its donor base, who were identified as a group of Jews. Very quickly, a fair number of bloggers wrote about what they saw as the connections between Israel, Zionism, Jews, and this sort of revolting Islamophobia (here, here, and here, just picked quickly as a few of the thousands of examples).
Except, of course, it turns out that the film, its director, and its funders have nothing whatsoever to do with Jews or Israel. They’re just a bunch of extremists who tend to hate just about everyone who doesn’t share their own warped beliefs:
Bacile told the AP he was an Israeli-born, 56-year-old, Jewish writer and director. But a Christian activist involved in the film project, Steve Klein, told AP on Wednesday that Bacile was a pseudonym and that he was Christian.
Klein had told the AP on Tuesday that the filmmaker was an Israeli Jew who was concerned for family members who live in Egypt.
Officials in Israel said there was no record of Bacile as an Israeli citizen.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, said Klein is a former Marine and longtime religious-right activist who has helped train paramilitary militias at a California church. It described Klein as founder of Courageous Christians United, which conducts protests outside abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques.
It quoted Klein as saying he believes that California is riddled with Muslim Brotherhood sleeper cells “who are awaiting the trigger date and will begin randomly killing as many of us as they can.”
So … why the jump to blaming the Jews and Israel? Well, first of all, it’s a great disguise. As Juan Cole rightly points out, there are a bunch of now-prominent Jews who have made a career of saying awful and inflammatory things about Muslims. It isn’t too difficult for people to imagine that there’s one more such Jew who has made a film with some help from his Islamophobic Jewish friends.
But the bloggers who quickly bought into and repeated the claim that the Jews or Israelis were behind this latest Islamophobic garbage were buying into an old anti-Semitic trope that, Cole notes, the filmmakers took for granted:The group behind the film, in other words, managed to evoke all the classic themes of anti-Semitism as a way of disguising the Coptic and evangelical network out of which the ‘film’ came. When they weren’t busy picketing Mormons and defaming Muslims they were trying to get Jews killed for their own smears of Islam!
And, of course, the tenor of the criticism immediately took on the classic anti-Semitic tones about a shadowy group of nefarious Jews who use their wealth to finance hatred and violence while also ensuring, through their hold on American politics, that no one criticize Israel or question the Holocaust:
In one more instance, then, both the people who made the film and the people who hated the film took the easy, familiar anti-Semitic road and blamed the Jews.
Yes, all of this, entirely. A whole lot of Jews have been put in actual mortal danger because this scum went about loudly and visibly conflating individual Jews with some big sinister anti-Muslim conspiracy and by extension with the Israeli government. Ugh this is so infuriating.
I don’t know what is the truth behind all this, but this is just a friendly reminder that not everything is what it seems or is presented to be.
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