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.
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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.
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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.


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