“We all remember how the Jews used to slaughter Christians in order to mix their blood in their holy matzos.” — Osama Hamdan, Hamas spokesman; Al-Quds interview, July 28, 2014
This centuries-old blood libel, which is still repeated today in many parts of the Middle East, was used throughout the Middle Ages as an excuse to massacre Jews.
Myriad anti-Semitic blood libels have arisen since then, but in keeping with the times they’ve had to become more sophisticated. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the dominant blood libel was that a Jewish conspiracy secretly controls governments, the media, the banking sector, and the world’s wars — a libel that has been re-codified more recently in Hamas’ Charter. In 1929, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem incited Arabs in Palestine to murder Jews by accusing the Jews of scheming to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque — a blood libel that was revived a few months ago by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to encourage stabbing attacks against Israelis.
In the West today, where explicit anti-Semitism is politically incorrect, new blood libels thrive under the facade of anti-Israelism.
The latest blood libel: Israeli doctors perform “medical torture” on Palestinian patients. This accusation, made by a group of 71 British physicians in a letter demanding that the World Medical Association expel the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) as a member, is not supported by a single shred of evidence. It is no coincidence that this blood libel appears in the midst of widespread attempts to promote boycotts of Israeli products, researchers, and academic institutions.
This newest libel fails to account for the fact that a fifth of Israeli doctors are Arabs, and Arab doctors can be found in every single Israeli hospital. Are Arab doctors meant to be included in the accusation of torturing Palestinians? Or is the accusation directed only at Jewish doctors, in which case we’re expected to believe that the 20% of doctors who are Arabs either don’t notice the alleged torture or simply don’t care?
Israeli doctors, perhaps more than any other group of physicians in the world, uphold the World Medical Association’s policy declaration to provide medical care without discrimination. Despite Hamas’ mandate to destroy Israel and kill Jews, Israeli doctors frequently provide treatment to high-ranking Hamas terrorists and their family members, including Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh’s daughter, granddaughter, and mother-in-law. Israel also treats injured Syrians who seek help at the Israeli border, regardless of which side of the Syrian civil war they’re on, and has treated over 2,000 Syrians in the past three years. Are we to believe that the same Israeli doctors who treat Hamas officials and ISIS operatives from Syria for humanitarian reasons are also torturing Palestinian patients?
Further, the IMA has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to ethical principles. For example, in July 2015 the Israeli government passed a controversial law which permits doctors to force-feed hunger-striking prisoners. The IMA responded by vehemently condemning the law, taking the official position that “forced feeding is equivalent to torture” and releasing ethical guidelines for dealing with hunger-striking prisoners based on the standards set out by the World Medical Association. Are we to believe that the same Israeli doctors who refuse to “torture” Palestinian hunger-strikers through force-feeding are perfectly willing to perform “medical torture” on them instead?
In short, there is simply no foundation for this accusation — it completely flies in the face of reality, and was clearly designed to add support to the ongoing attempts to isolate the Jewish state from the international community. Anti-Israel libels such as this one are especially pernicious because, due to bias against Israel, sloppy journalism, and ignorance of the general public, they spread quickly through the media and become part of the canon of commonly-held stereotypes about Israel. And since these libels are technically against Israel, not Jews, any underlying anti-Semitism can be whitewashed as mere political opinion. It’s hard to imagine a blood libel getting any more sophisticated than that.