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!
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • 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.