A Lexicon of Orwellian Newspeak about Jews

“War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength”

This is the slogan engraved on the walls of the Ministry of Truth in “1984”, George Orwell’s novel about a dystopian future. Newspeak is the official language that shapes human consciousness, inverting truth and reality to perpetuate the regime’s thought control.

If Orwell’s novel published in 1948 had instead depicted the demonization of Jews and Israel in 2024, I suspect that it would have been deemed surrealist.  Indeed, Orwell’s choice of a Jew, Emmanuel Goldstein, to be the maligned collective enemy of all “right-thinkers”, seemed to many at the time, only three years after the Holocaust, too unrealistic as surely the Jews would never again be so demonized.

It is devastating to acknowledge the extent of contemporary hatred of Jews and their tiny embattled state.  After October 7th, we have no choice but to confront the painful reality in which language and words are twisted to project this hate that leads to deadly consequences. What is so frightening is that whereas in the past the hatred against Jews was localized, i.e., Goebbels’s “big lie” in Germany, now the big lie is global. The pathology of anti-Semitism in the present is yet another stage in the long pattern of Newspeak. Identifying this pattern can help call it out and overcome it. Here are some examples of the deadly inversions of truth and reality of the past and the present:

Christ killers: For two millennium Jews have been held collectively guilty for the death of Jesus, leading to the perpetration of untold horrors against them. Jules Isaac in “The teaching of contempt: Christian roots of anti-Semitisms” details the historical process by which this hatred led to the Holocaust, in which Jules’s own wife and daughter were murdered.

The truth – Jesus, his family and all his students were Jews. In the gospel when asked for his major teachings, he quotes the verses of the Torah calling for love of God and humanity (Mark 12:28-31. He also affirms his commitment to the Torah (Matthew 5:17-20).  Jesus the Jew was executed not by Jews but by Europeans, Roman colonists. The Gospel indeed mentions certain Jews who supported this act, in particular the high priest but, as Isaac points, out the high priests were then corrupt vestiges of Roman Imperialism and despised by the Jewish masses with whom Jesus was popular. The modern canard of the “Palestinian Jesus” is both  ethnic appropriation and also an inversion of truth of the murderous Palestinian terror against Jews

Blood Libel:  For centuries Jews have been massacred because of the accusation that they murder gentile children to use their blood for religious rituals. This charge has continued into the 21th century and the accusation of deliberate and malicious murder of children by Jews has taken upon new and varied forms.

The truth – The blood libels first took hold during the crusades when the Crusaders during their religious quest to the holy land massacred entire Jewish communities — men, women and children. Whether because of their religion, race or nationality it was the Jewish children who have been brutally murdered throughout the ages.

 Apartheid: This false charge is hurled against Israel, where the reality is that Israel’s minority of more than two million Arabs citizens enjoy rights and freedoms denied to them in every other Middle Eastern country. It is the Jews who suffered racism and segregation throughout the ages, forced into ghettos and undergoing institutionalized humiliation

This list is a backdrop to the additional pernicious contemporary inversions. The Jews, victims of colonialism, ethnic cleansing and genocide are now the subject of global fury accused of these crimes while in reality they are defending themselves against genocidal enemies who loudly and proudly proclaim and dedicate themselves to their goal of annihilating Israel and its people.

The victims of this global obsessive hatred are not only the Jews. The cult of Palestinian victimhood to justify the atrocities they have carried out and absolve them from all responsibility is the obstacle to solving a conflict in which they too suffer. The obsession with Israel has hijacked all the energy and attention that should have been given to groups that are truly persecuted and whose plights are ignored. These groups include the 12 million Muslim Uyghur in the Xinjiang Provence of China, who are subjected to cultural genocide and forced into “reeducation camps” where they are tortured, brainwashed and sterilized. Who knows about the Uyghurs, who cares?

The 20th century gave us Hitler and Stalin, each of whom had a pathological hatred of Jews, but ultimately their totalitarian regime’s violence did not stop with the Jews and threatened all civilization. Today the hatred of the two bedfellows, Hamas and much of the global left, singles out the Jews and their collectivity in Israel. But, as before, it will not stop with us. All those for whom truth and human compassion remain values must speak out against the lies, the hate, the evil.

About the Author
Yakov Nagen is the Executive Director of the Ohr Torah Interfaith Center, a division of Ohr Torah Stone. He also heads its Blickle Institute for Interfaith Dialogue and Beit Midrash for Judaism and Humanity. He is a Rabbi at the Yeshiva of Otniel and has written ten books about Jewish Spirituality, Talmud and Interfaith.