A hideous video titled “The Eternal Jew” was posted on YouTube this weekend, and, as of this writing, has been viewed almost 100,000 times. The video, created by the Samaria Citizens Committee, a far-right settler group in Israel, is an obscene, crudely anti-Semitic defamation straight out of the Nazi Jew-baiter-in-chief Julius Streicher’s notorious pornographic tabloid, Der Stürmer.
Indeed, a Stürmer-like caricature of a Jew—long-nosed, groveling, and money-grubbing—appears in the video as the obedient acolyte/agent of one “Herr Stürmer,” who pays his employee to engage in anti-Israel acts. The video ends with the image of the Jewish traitor—for that is how the Jew in the clip is depicted—hanged alongside the logos of Peace Now, B’Tselem, and other Israeli groups committed to Israeli-Palestinian cooperation and interaction and an Arab-Israeli peace process. “The Europeans may seem different to you,” a deep voice intones, “but to them you are exactly the same.” In other words, the twisted masterminds behind this abomination are accusing dovish Israeli groups and like-minded Jews of being in the employ of European anti-Semites, and not-so-subtly implying that members of these groups deserve to die.
The Samaria Citizens Committee is taking its lead from a 1940 film produced and disseminated by Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels called—wait for it—“Der ewige Jude,” that is, “The Eternal Jew,” which characterized Jews as “abnormal and depraved.” British filmmaker and historian Laurence Rees has described that original incarnation as “the most appalling film ever made” and “a disgusting and crude piece of work that demonstrates the Nazis’ anti-Semitic beliefs at their most base.”
The new version of “The Eternal Jew” is just as abhorrent. For Jews—any Jews—to hurl Nazi-like calumnies at anyone, let alone at other Jews, constitutes a political, moral and intellectual perversion.
We routinely condemn anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi publications and other forms of propaganda and demand that the international community take action against these (something the Director General of UNESCO has done with respect to anti-Semitic posters that are part of a controversial Palestinian poster collection). It is now imperative that all Israelis, regardless of their political leanings, and all Diaspora Jewish groups similarly condemn the incendiary propagandists who conceived of and unleashed the “Eternal Jew” video.
We must not allow the video to be dismissed as mere rhetorical excess in the midst of a heated election campaign. Rather, it must be unambiguously denounced as a despicable example of the vilest bigotry. Remember the placards with doctored photographs of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in a Nazi uniform that appeared at anti-Oslo rallies in the days and weeks before Rabin’s assassination? The “Eternal Jew” video appears to have been created in precisely the same spirit.
Benny Katzover, the chairman of the Samaria Citizens Committee, doubled down in an ill-conceived attempt to defend and justify his organization’s nasty screed. Israeli and Jewish doves, he contended, “are upset because they do not like what they look like in the mirror.”
Nonsense. What infuriates and repulses us is to see Jews adopt and spew out the very same venomous arguments and imagery used by the Nazis to justify the brutal, systematic murder of six million Jews. The relevant question that needs to be posed to Katzover and his Samaria Citizens Committee is whether they have any shame whatsoever or, to borrow a phrase from another context, whether, at long last, they have left no sense of decency.
As we mark the 70th anniversaries of the liberation of Nazi death and concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, let us not forget that the atrocities committed in these places were fueled by vicious incitement in the pages of Der Stürmer and similar publications. The “Eternal Jew” video belongs in the same category. Those responsible for disseminating this ignominy must be held accountable.
Menachem Z. Rosensaft teaches about the law of genocide and war crimes trials at the law schools of Columbia and Cornell Universities. He is the editor of God, Faith & Identity from the Ashes: Reflections of Children and Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors (Jewish Lights Publishing).