Palestinian Arabs recycling the poison motif
Palestinian Arabs recycling the poison motif

Kamal Al-Khatib, deputy leader of the outlawed northern branch of the Islamic Movement, claimed that Israel had placed dangerous chemicals in the walls of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in the days in which the compound was closed to worshippers. Prof. (Emer.) Raphael Israeli, an expert on blood libels, traces the history of the Big Lie and its manifestations in the 21st century.

“One of the classic anti-Semitic core motifs is the belief that Jews poison the drinking water of non-Jews. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recycled this anti-Semitic theme at a plenary session of the European Parliament in 2016. There he said that a rabbi had asked the Israeli government to poison Palestinian drinking water. 

“This was Palestinian fake news. There was no such rabbi. Nor did the Council he was supposedly the head of even exist.  At the end of his speech, including this extreme anti-Semitic libel, Abbas received much applause and a standing ovation from a large number of Europarlamentarians. The chairman of the European Parliament at that time, Martin Schulz --  now the Socialist lead candidate in the upcoming German elections -- tweeted that Abbas’ speech was ‘inspiring.’ A few days later Abbas said that he was misinformed about the rabbi..”

Raphael Israeli is Emeritus Professor of Islamic, Chinese and Middle Eastern history at the Hebrew University. He has authored over 50 books including, Blood Libel and Its Derivatives: The Scourge of Antisemitism and Poison: Modern Manifestations of a Blood Libel.

“Palestinian Media Watch has published a long list of contemporary Palestinian mutations of the ancient poison libel. These include the spread of AIDS by Israel -- more specifically by promiscuous women -- as well as the distribution of drugs and hallucinatory substances. Other libel mutations include the payment of doctors to spread disease among Palestinians.

"The poison libel is a fertile ground for the sick imagination of senior Palestinians.  A Palestinian Authority security forces spokesman has said for instance that Israel is responsible for the rise of illegal drug laboratories in the 'West Bank.'

“These anti-Semitic accusations can regularly be found on official Palestinian TV and elsewhere. Among those who have made them are Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor on Strategic Affairs, Husam Zomlot, the Hamas parliamentarian Marwan Abu Ras, the Chairman of the High Judicial Council of the Palestinian Authority Sami Sarsour, the governor of the Qalqilya district, Rafe Rawajbeh, and many others.  

“These evil accusations indeed have a long history. In the early 14th century, the false charge was made that Jews were poisoning wells in parts of Germany and France. This led to mass murders. This motif has returned again and again over the centuries. 

“In Stalin’s Soviet Union, Jewish doctors were arrested and indicted for their alleged plot to poison Stalin and the Soviet leadership. Several were executed, others exiled to the Gulag, all with the intention of decimating the Jewish elite and decapitating the leadership.

 “One of the most horrifying instances of a modern poisoning scenario occurred on the eve of Passover of 1983 in the 'West Bank,' which was then still entirely under Israeli rule. Suddenly Israeli media reported that at the girls’ middle school in the village of Arrabeh in the Jenin district, a mass poisoning had occurred and teenage girls were fainting and complaining of sore throats and breathing difficulties. Later on they felt headaches, drowsiness, and stomach pains. They went home, but within several hours more students complained of the same symptoms.  

“Israeli health authorities arrived. Israeli and Palestinian doctors inspected the classroom and detected a nauseating odor. When afterwards, an Israeli team of poison-pollution fighters arrived, no trace of poisoning was found and no odor lingered. At first, until the issue was investigated in depth it was thought that the problems had been caused by a defective lavatory. The next day, however, dozens of girls from Jenin were also hospitalized, followed by hundreds from all over the 'West Bank' cities and villages.

“Panic was aroused amidst the Palestinian population. The best epidemiologists in Israel concluded that ‘the poisoning’ was probably a case of mass hysteria among teenage girls. Palestinian and foreign journalists alike accused Israel of attempting to hide its hideous ‘crime.’ They detected a yellow substance on the windowsills of the school. It was analyzed and found to be simple pine tree pollen that was blown by the wind.   

“Arabs in general, Muslim countries, followed by the Red Cross, the Security Council and even friendly nations began castigating Israel. UN meetings and international condemnations followed, backed up by continued hysteria of press reports all over the world which, without investigation, indicted Israel for its ‘role’ in the affair, though no one was poisoned and no harm was done to anyone. 

“Israel then called in the authoritative and respected Center of Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. Two months later its findings confirmed what the Israeli epidemiologists had said from day one. It now seems that the entire hoax was the idea and the fruit of premeditation, planning, and execution by the Palestinians. 

“Decades later we still have to wonder that so many plied to that anti-Semitic libel against Israel. Those who did little or nothing to stand up and dismiss it, even when the hoax was revealed included the UN, its Secretary General, its Security Council, and the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, as well as the Red Cross.”.