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!
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • 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.