Last week, in his address to Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of the threat posed to the Middle East and to Jews by Iran and its proxies. One such proxy was Hezbollah, the internationally recognized terrorist group, and Netanyahu offered a quote from its leader by way of illustration:
For those who believe that Iran threatens the Jewish state, but not the Jewish people, listen to Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, Iran’s chief terrorist proxy. He said: If all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of chasing them down around the world.
Critics immediately pounced on this quotation, claiming it to be a complete fabrication dating back to 2002. Some pointed to the London Review of Books, where in 2006, former ABC News Chief Middle East Correspondent Charles Glass had dismissively labeled the quote a misreported “fabrication,” and suggested an individual citing it had “succumb[ed] to the disinformation that passes for scholarship and journalism in certain quarters in the United States.”
Nicholas Noe, founder and editor of the translation outlet MideastWire.com and co-author of a book on Nasrallah, quickly wrote a blog post making the same case. Noting that there were other documented anti-Semitic utterances from Nasrallah, Noe claimed that Netanyahu had deliberately chosen a false one for his own propagandist ends: “The problem for the PM is these two [other anti-Semitic] quotes don’t convey the idea of relentless terrorism on a global scale that the fabricated quote does… which is why they chose to use it of course!” This allegation that Netanyahu had put anti-Semitic words in Hezbollah’s mouth was subsequently repeated by reputable journalists at the Washington Post, among others.
It’s an intriguing theory, with only one small problem: there’s audio of Nasrallah’s 2002 speech, and he certainly says the words Netanyahu cited. Listen to the relevant excerpt:
Here is an English translation of Nasrallah’s words–somewhat more florid than Netanyahu’s paraphrase–followed by a transcript of the original Arabic:
But I’ll tell you. Among the signs […] and signals which guide us, in the Islamic prophecies and not only in the Jewish prophecies, is that this State [of Israel] will be established, and that the Jews will gather from all parts of the world into occupied Palestine, not in order to bring about the anti-Christ and the end of the world, but rather that Allah the Glorified and Most High wants to save you from having to go to the ends of the world, for they have gathered in one place–they have gathered in one place–and there the final and decisive battle will take place.
ولكن انا اقول لكم. من العلامات (….) و لكن من الاشارات التي تهدينا وتدلنا وتقول لنا، في النبوءات الاسلامية وليس فقط في النبوءات اليهودية، ان تقوم هذه الدولة (الاسرائيلة) وان يجتمع اليهود من كل انحاء العالم الى فلسطين المحتلة، ولكن ليس من اجل يحكم مسيحهم الدجال العالم، وانما الله سبحانه وتعالى يريد ان يوفر عليكم ان تذهبوا اليهم في كل انحاء العالم، فهم سيجتمعون في مكان واحد -–- فهم يجتمعون في مكان واحد — وستكون المعركة الحاسمة والفاصلة.
Of course, the fact that Hezbollah’s head would spout blatantly anti-Semitic bromides should surprise no one familiar with the organization’s track record. As Lebanese expert Tony Badran wrote in NOW Lebanon in 2013, “Debates concerning the group’s anti-Semitism should not hang on whether this or that statement can be verifiably attributed to Nasrallah. Hezbollah’s targeting of an Argentinian Jewish community center in 1994, for instance, should have settled the debate about Hezbollah’s attitude toward Jews regardless of the group’s rhetoric.”
To his credit, Noe has since appended a correction to his post on Netanyahu’s speech, though the London Review of Books has yet to notify its readers that it is not Nasrallah’s quote that is erroneous, but Glass’s sarcastic dismissal of it. One hopes that now that the audio of the Hezbollah leader’s speech has come to light, we can put this bit of anti-Semitism apologetics to bed.