Pre-Genocidal Hate: How the Internet Supersized a Medieval Big Lie

Whenever Simon Wiesenthal, the late great Nazi hunter and iconic human rights advocate, would speak to college students, inevitably this question would be posed: Could the Holocaust happen again? His answer: "The history of humankind is the history of crime. The only difference between the Nazi Genocide and the Inquisition was technology. Had modern technology been available, no Jew had survived in Spain; no Catholic in England, no Protestant in France." He would add this warning: "Hate+Crisis+Technology can set the stage for a new genocide."

Mr. Wiesenthal knew first-hand of what he spoke. He lost 89 members of his family among the 6 million Jews mass murdered by the ultra-efficient Nazi death machine that recast old hatreds in modern outlets of the 1930s-- utilizing radio, posters, children's games, and colorful books to dehumanize "the enemy" and setting the stage for bureaucratized 'extermination' in the 1940s. Mr. Wiesenthal outlived most of his tormentors, passing at the age of 96, at the dawn of the Internet Era. Were he alive today, he would be worried, very worried. For today, old hatreds are being repackaged and supersized in a way that would have made Josef Goebbels, Hitler's Minister of Hate, drool with envy. In our time, the drumbeat of hatred -- like yesterday's precursors to genocide--is fueled by the 'Big Lies' that--that a generation ago served as the ignition key for the ultimate "weapon of mass destruction." The only difference between past and present is the speed of transmission. It used to be said that that lies, by means of newspaper or radio, could travel halfway round the world before truth has time to put on its trousers. Now, digital data and satellite dishes can bounce the lie to Mars and back almost before you can blink an eye. Just look at the global transmission belt that has transformed the libel that Jews drink the blood of their Passover victims from a medieval libel to a post-modern Cyberspace "truth":
  • The updated libel started small in the 1990s with ludicrous reports from the Palestinian territories, that Israeli soldiers were harvesting t organs of Palestinian civilians.
  • It next was given currency in the Muslim world in 2004 by Iranian Sahar 1 TV which serialized in both Persian and Arabic "Zara Blue Eyes"--the tale of how a Jewish doctor, modeled on Auschwitz's Dr. Mengele, poses as a UN official to target a particularly pretty young Palestinian, saying: " [Take] this one! Her eyes remind me of my wife."
  • Next it achieved orbital velocity over Scandinavia in the form of a story in Sweden's leading newspaper, Aftonbladet, under a headline in which grieving Palestinian parents scream: "They Plunder the Organs of Our Sons!" No matter that the reporter, Donald Bostrom, admitted that "whether it's true or not--I have no idea, I have no clue," while one Palestinian family quoted denied subsequently ever having made the accusation.
  • Now it's metastasized to Eastern Europe, where in Kiev a panel of intellectuals supported an anti-Semitic presidential candidate who accuses Israeli families who adopted Ukrainian orphans of being part of an international black market ring to harvest their organs for sale. Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that Professor Vyacheslav Gudin told the 300 attendees a detailed story about a Ukrainian man's fruitless search for 15 children who had been adopted in Israel. The children, Gudin charged, had clearly been taken by Israeli medical centers, where they were used for "spare parts."
Horrible enough that anti-Semitism has emerged as a factor in Ukraine's democratic elections--but this pig has wings. Iran's PressTV headline touts: "Ukrainian kids, new victims of Israeli 'organ theft'". "Alternative" media and a few other Middle Eastern sites quickly picked up the PressTV report as a real news--more than 300 outlets in 24 hours! There's small comfort that one online "white Nationalist" actually did the math, adding up the number of alleged Arab kids to the 25 thousand supposed victimized Ukrainian children. "I guess every person in Israel has had multiple organ transplants by now" -- was his comment. Why care if the lunatic fringe picks up on such garbage? Think again. There's this development from Israel's senior peace partner in the Middle East. Dr. Hamdi Al-Sayed, chief of Egypt's Medical Syndicate has banned Israeli doctors from attending a medical conference in Cairo, declaring, "We have no regard or respect for the Israeli doctors . . . due to their participation in the torture of Palestinian prisoners", adding, "Israeli doctors are also guilty of stealing the organs of Palestinian prisoners." What's been done to combat the Big Lie? So far, nothing! Sweden, currently rotating president of the European Union has ignored its moral obligation to condemn its country's leading newspaper for reviving the medieval blood libel by hiding behind a flimsy press freedom defense. The Jewish Forum of Ukraine is urging that the bigoted presidential candidate Ratushnyak be indicted under Ukraine's Criminal Code for inciting ethnic hatred. But the nation's paralyzed political and judicial systems seem incapable of preventing the January elections from being hijacked by a hatemonger.

U.S. Supreme Court Louis D. Brandies once said, "Truth is the best disinfectant." Given the cynicism and apathy in face of the re-birthed and digitized blood libel, don't expect the stench of this Internet-validated Big Lie to disappear anytime soon. Failure to act does guarantee that more pre-genocidal and terror-spawning "Big Lies" are on the way.

Think it can't bite us? Think again. Reacting to the arrest of 5 young American Jihadi-terrorist wannabees arrested in Pakistan, President Obama declared: "We have to constantly be mindful that some of these twisted ideologies are available over the Internet."

Dr. Harold Brackman, a historian who is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center contributed to this essay.