Where Did the Israeli Blood Libel Against Arabs Come From?

An Israeli commentator's reminiscence about his grandfather's chilling acts in 1948 conjures the old axiom that Arabs would have done worse had the tables been turned – contrary to hundreds of years of co-existence.

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Arab prisoners of war, Ramle, 12–13 July 1948.
Arab prisoners of war, Ramle, 12–13 July 1948.Credit: Photography Department, Government Press Office, State of Israel
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

Like someone casually describing dinner, military commentator Yoaz Hendel wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth about how his grandfather would tell stories on Independence Day: Grandad would cut off Arabs’ ears during the 1947-49 war. Hendel’s indifference to those stories is astonishing. His piece in Yedioth’s weekend supplement a week ago doesn’t shed enough light on his grandfather’s chilling tales.

“There isn’t logic in every story, and perhaps the only truth was the clucking chicken he brought home as war booty,” Hendel wrote. And why is there no logic? Were the 700,000 Arabs who were expelled during the war sent on air-conditioned buses clutching vouchers for five-star hotels?

“He was nothing more than a Polish immigrant whose family was murdered in the Holocaust,” Hendel wrote. “Someone gave him a uniform and a gun and sent him to fight in the south.” The question is, did the people who sent him tell him he was going to fight evil people who wanted to murder Jews?

All this took place during the dizzying transition from death camps in Europe to the shores of Palestine. It’s safe to assume that these survivors, like a pilot who confuses the sky with the ground, suffered serious vertigo and thought of Palestinians as Nazis in kaffiyehs. And now, 67 years later, Hendel describes his grandfather as a “Jew in the chain of generations who learned firsthand that there’s us and the people who hate us.”

Either Jews or Jew-haters. Good luck to us all in the new world that Hendel is offering. In the past, he was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s director of communications and public diplomacy. Now with one sentence, Hendel has separated Jews from the peoples of the world.

After reading the article, I wondered whether Hendel, in light of these chilling details, thought about looking into the matter. After all, it’s not easy being the grandson of someone who chops off ears. Unfortunately, it appears his grandfather’s stories didn’t stir much of a reaction in Hendel. The grandson enjoys comparing his grandfather’s actions to those of King David, who brought 200 Philistine foreskins as a gesture to his beloved.

It turns out that Hendel’s conscience is eased in the next paragraph. “The great victory that founded the Jewish state is the Nakba of the Arabs who lived here,” he writes. “If it was the other way around, we wouldn’t be here.”

Under this logic, we could justify all of history’s injustices. After all, every criminal could say that if the tables had been turned, the other side would have committed a similar crime.

What, from this uncertainty he conjures an axiom that the Arabs would have murdered the Jews? All historians point out that even during the difficult days of the 1929 riots, many Arabs risked their lives to prevent the terrible massacres.

And Jews lived here with Arabs for hundreds of years, and they lived here as good neighbors without an existential danger hanging over them. No Arab thought to destroy a Jewish holy site. In many places, Jewish sites were even preserved, even when no Jews were living in the area.

If that’s the case, where did this blood libel against the Arabs come from? Not only were Arabs expelled in 1948, not only are they suffering systematic discrimination now, but according to Hendel, they’re all potential murderers.

So Jews, beware! Murderers are walking the streets. Really, what was our sin in our previous life that the grandson of someone who chopped off ears is preaching morality to us?

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