Fueling Rage Over Anti-Islam Film

Filmmaker Counted on Hatred of Jews to Build Anger

Anger Spreads: The maker of a crude anti-Islam film correctly judged that claiming it was made by Jews would spark an explosion of outrage.
getty images
Anger Spreads: The maker of a crude anti-Islam film correctly judged that claiming it was made by Jews would spark an explosion of outrage.

By Daniel Jonah Goldhagen

Published September 21, 2012, issue of September 28, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

In the media’s coverage of the days of rage and violence against the United States that have swept the Muslim world, Jews and Israel have hardly been mentioned; yet they have a place in the beginning, the middle and, we can hope, the end of this story.

The beginning: Already seemingly forgotten is that the anti-Muslim film that incited the protesters was produced by a politically motivated Coptic Christian, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who lied to the press that he was a Jewish Israeli and that “100 Jewish donors” financed the film. This doesn’t pass the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” smell test, yet it was broadcast by the media, a fact that already says much about the state of the world regarding Jews.

First, Nakoula calculated (rightly so) that by casting the film as having Jewish origins, it would incite a greater reaction.

Second, he presumed that Muslims would believe such nonsense, owing to the prevalence of anti-Semitism in their communities.

Third, the media spread this canard around the world without a whiff of skepticism. When exposed, no necessary media soul-searching — for having helped fuel new anti-Semitism — followed.

Fourth, this highlights the essentialism of how people see Jews. Saying that the film’s financers were Jews was enough for people and for media outlets to treat their alleged participation as self-explanatory. One did not need to know anything else about them — not their countries of origin or their politics — for the tall tale of 100 Jews and not one Christian financing the film to be deemed sufficient. This is prejudice’s essence, deriving a person’s politics from just this one aspect of his identity: He’s a Jew!

And fifth, as is true generally with anti-Semitic fabrications, exposing it as a falsehood neither undoes its damage nor precludes its further repetition and incorporation into the general anti-Semitic litany.

The middle: Images of protesters burning American and Israeli flags abound. Even though the protesters have directed their ire and violence mainly against the United States and its embassies, protesters and media alike take it as self-evident that it makes sense to burn the Israeli flag, as well.

Why? Israel and Jews had nothing to do with the blaspheming of the Prophet Muhammad. Yet political Islamists’ hatred of Israel is so great that burning Israel’s flag doesn’t require explanation — not by them or by the media, or to the habituated public. When political Islamists attack the Great Satan (the United States) for some alleged transgression, the Little Satan (Israel) is also obviously implicated and targeted.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.