Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of Dispatches From the Campus War Against Israel and Jews.
Jews have been accused of harming and murdering non-Jews since the twelfth century in England, when Jewish convert to Catholicism, Theobald of Cambridge, mendaciously announced that European Jews ritually slaughtered Christian children each year and drank their blood during Passover season.
That medieval blood libel, largely abandoned in the contemporary West, does, however, still appear as part of Arab world’s vilification of Jews—now transmogrified into a slander against Israel, the Jew of nations. But in the regular chorus of defamation against Israel by a world infected with Palestinianism, a new, more odious trend has begun to show itself: the blood libel has been revivified; however, to position Israel (and by extension Jews) as demonic agents in the community of nations, the primitive fantasies of the blood libel are now masked with a veneer of academic scholarship and published as politicized scientific study.
At a November 12th session at the UN’s annual assembly, for example, The World Health Organization (WHO) used the gathering to again bash Israel and accuse it of compromising the health rights of Palestinian during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even Iran—where gays are still hanged from cranes and women are stoned to death—chimed in, asserting that Israel’s pernicious role in Palestinian health conditions was worse than the fall-out from the pandemic in all other countries, and that Israel’s “chronic occupation has profound implications for the health of Palestinians. More than 12 years of inhuman blockade has had a profound effect on the health sector, worsening an already dire situation.”
Not coincidentally, only one agenda item targeted a single country for critique and discussion—that country being Israel. That obsession is noteworthy, particularly in light of the fact that we are in the midst of a global pandemic—involving all countries—not to mention other health crises elsewhere which, if a single nation was to be called out, might be more appropriately addressed. Yemen, for example, is a country currently experiencing what some experts have called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with over 17,500 civilians killed and injured since 2015, a quarter of whom were women and children. Of more immediate concern are the reports that over 20 million Yemenis are experiencing “food insecurity,” with 10 million of those at risk of famine.
And while the proceedings only mentioned Syria as a victim of Israel’s so-called occupation of the Golan, there was no discussion of that country’s civil war, a conflict that has already claimed some 500,000 people, including more than 55,000 children. With nearly 12 million people in Syria in need of humanitarian assistance, and millions who have become refugees, estimates are that 95% of Syrians lack adequate healthcare.
But, predictably, it was only Israel’s behavior that was critiqued and only the Palestinian’s purported dire health conditions that were highlighted. The WHO also voted to approve a resolution to adopt a report from the UN Health General, tellingly entitled “Health Conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Including East Jerusalem, and in the Occupied Syrian Golan,” which, among other subjective conclusions, found that “Palestinians living under chronic occupation are exposed to high levels of violence.” Of course, unstated is the obvious fact the “high levels of violence” experienced by Palestinians are largely the result of their unrelenting terroristic aggression toward Israeli citizens and the IDF, not to mention the showers of rockets and mortars Hamas has seen fit to arbitrarily launch toward civilian Israeli neighborhoods, or the incendiary kites and explosive balloons which have as their sole purpose to destroy Jewish property and, hopefully, take Jewish lives.
“In 2019,” the report continued, “134 Palestinians were killed and 15,492 injured in the context of occupation and conflict, [and] 80% of those killed and 76% of those injured were in the Gaza Strip, as violence towards demonstrators continued in the context of Gaza Strip’s “Great March of Return . . . .”
Of course, there is no mention of the Palestinian’s complicity in their own situation, no reference to the fifteen years of genocidal aggression by Hamas since Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, no examination of the failure of Palestinian Arab leadership to even attempt to start building a civil society and functioning government. Every pathology and failure, including the health and well-being of the entire Palestinian society, is the fault of Israel—as a result of its siege, its blockade, its oppression, and its various incursions to suppress some of the more than 15,000 Hamas rocket attacks that have targeted southern Israeli towns for years.
This is not a scientific report at all, but a politicized, subjective screed designed to demonize Israel and assign total blame for a very complex political and military conflict that is well beyond the expertise of these particular individuals. That did not prevent the report’s authors from claiming that not only the physical health of the Palestinians is compromised by Israel’s occupation, but their mental health, as well. “Mental health and psychosocial problems represent one of the most significant public health challenges,” the report found, and “. . . the occupied Palestinian territory has the largest burden of mental disorders in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. In 2019, WHO estimated that one in five people (22.1%) in conflict and post-conflict settings has depression, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. In the occupied Palestinian territory, this means that more than 250 000 individuals require essential mental health and psychosocial interventions.”
The entire “occupation” has become a target for health professionals and scientists who attempt to link the general oppression by Israel with a host of pathologies in Palestinian Arab society.
It should not be entirely surprising that the Palestinian culture which marinates children in a pathological hatred for the “Zionist oppressor,” promotes death and martyrdom as a positive cultural norm, rejects peace and any negotiations with Israel as treasonous and antithetical to Arab solidarity, and, in the case of Hamas, at least, involves living by a charter which explicitly calls for the murder of Jews wherever they are found—that given these many complex, troubling social and cultural pathologies, Palestinian Arabs may well experience “depression, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder.” The obvious but unanswered question, of course, is, what part of the occurrence of these mental health conditions are as a result of the Palestinian culture itself and have nothing at all to do with Israel and its so-called occupation?
Moreover, the psychological and physical effects of decades of Arab aggression, terrorism, and rage on Israel’s populace are undoubtedly profound and significant, too, even though reports like this never seem to include Jewish victims of the conflict; in fact, the report fails to examine the effect of the conflict on Israeli citizens, who may well share similar emotional stresses to their Palestinian counterparts as a result of the genocidal aggression against them from various jihadist foes. For example, the WHO’s concern does not seem to extend to Jewish children who have grown up under a shower of Hamas-launched rockets and mortars (75-94 percent of whom, living in Sderot and between the ages of 4-18, as one example, exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder), nor did they call for an end to the terrorism that necessary Israeli military operations in Gaza have attempted to curtail.
The WHO’s report and enmity toward Israel is not unique, and other organizations run by anti-Israel activists provide their own pseudo-scientific research as part of the cognitive war against Israel. One particularly corrosive Israel hater, Alice Rothchild, for instance, several weeks ago presented a lecture at Harvard University for a course called “Medicine and Conflict: The History & Ethics of Healing in Political Turmoil.” Rothchild, a highly-visible member of the toxic anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), is a retired doctor and a founder of JVP’s Health Advisory Council, whose sole purpose seems to be to weaponize health statistics as a way to demonize Israel. In her Harvard lecture, JVP’s overriding attitude toward Israel was made clear with Rothchild’s claim that the “crux of the problem” and the “fundamental issue” of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is the racism of Israeli Jews.
That view, that Israel’s policies and behavior are the source of all Palestinian suffering, is revealed in this typical finding in one of the Health Advisory Council’s reports. “Violence during military operations affects both men and women,” it stated, “but women often face a unique set of challenges.“ The report suggested that “For Palestinian women in Gaza . . . Israel’s blockade exacerbates the violence they face,” and “Palestinian women whose husbands have been directly exposed to political violence were 47 percent more likely to report experiencing psychological intimate partner violence (IPV), 89 percent more likely to report experiencing physical IPV, and 2.2 times more likely to report experiencing sexual IPV.”
This study, of course, never chose to examine the effect of the conflict on Israeli husbands and wives, who may well share similar emotional stresses to their Palestinian counterparts as a result of the genocidal aggression against them from various jihadist foes, and instead portrays Palestinian husbands who inflict sexual and physical violence on their wives as victims themselves, victims of the dreaded “occupation of Palestinian territory.”
The cultural traditions in the Middle East which enable men to totally dominate family members, treat women as property, and even commit “honor” killings when women shame male family members—all of these, of course, are not included in the emotional equation which might logically lead or contribute to Palestinian spousal abuse. It is the Israeli occupation, and that alone, that causes such deleterious mental health conditions, “intimate partner violence,” in Palestinian marriages. The unstated, but implied, conclusion reached in this specious report might have been, “The occupation made me beat my wife.”
In 2018, JVP’s Health Advisory Council issued a statement entitled “The Weaponization of Health Care” in which it condemned “the increasing use of the denial of permits and access to medications and therapies for residents of Gaza by the Israeli government.” The Council ignored the obvious fact that Israel’s actions were necessitated by the Palestinian’s deadly new technique of trying to kill Jews, namely, the incendiary kites and balloons being launched from Gaza into Israel, devices that caused an average of 12 fires a day—678 fires in total—and destroyed over 6,000 acres of forests and agricultural fields. JVP, of course, ascribed no blame to the sociopaths in Gaza who used these devices in an attempt to harm Israel and murder Jews. Instead, its conclusion was, unsurprisingly, that Israel was itself to blame for the terror waged against it, that “The kites and balloons are a symptom of a larger disease, the imprisonment of two million Gazans in an increasingly desperate humanitarian catastrophe.”
Supporters of the Palestinian cause have come to accept the fact that Israel will not be defeated through the use of traditional tools of warfare. Instead, the Jewish state’s enemies, abetted by NGOs and academic and media elites in the West, have begun to use different, but equally dangerous, tactics to delegitimize and eventually destroy Israel in a cognitive war. By dressing up old hatreds against Jews, as the WHO and JVP have done, combined with a purported goal of seeking social justice for the oppressed, and repackaging ugly biases as seemingly pure medical and health research, they and Israel’s other ideological foes have found an effective, but odious, way to ensure that Israel is still accused of fostering social chaos and bringing harm and death to non-Jews.
It is a vicious and ugly trope in the centuries-old history of the world’s oldest hatred: that Jews still harbor murderous, sadistic, and inhuman impulses against non-Jews and wish to injure or murder them — in the current day with the Palestinian Arabs as long-suffering victims of the Jew of nations, Israel.