ISIS blood libel: A fast mutation of a major hate motif
ISIS blood libel: A fast mutation of a major hate motif

For many centuries Jews have been accused of embodying absolute evil by their most vile enemies. This motif formed the unifying thread passing through blood libels, accusations of poisoning, conspiracy theories involving Jewish financial and military manipulations, and suchlike. The central hate tactic used was frequent emotive, often religion-oriented repetition.

We are currently witnessing this process in action yet again, as modern anti-Semitic hate propaganda constantly reiterates the absurd proposition that Israel, the lone democracy in the Middle East, is associated with the most negative developments faced by people throughout the world.

From June 2014 the Islamic State movement ISIS became notorious worldwide for its conquests and cruelty. The latter was extreme, even for a Muslim terrorist movement. Soon after ISIS began to attract public notice, accusations arose that it was created by Israel or linked to it.

Extreme Iranian hate mongers were among the first to point the irrational finger. In summer 2014 Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency published a story accusing America of mounting its offensive against ISIS as a means of destabilizing the region to protect Israel. The article cited a fabricated “interview” with American whistleblower Edward Snowden. The authors of the lie attributed a statement to Snowden that the US, UK, and Israel collaborated to “create a terrorist organization capable of centralizing all extremist actions across the world.” Similarly, in June of that year the Iranian Fars news agency quoted Major General Hassan Firoozabadi, Chief of Staff of Iran’s armed forces, who claimed that ISIS “is an Israel[i] and America[n] movement for the creation of a secure border for the Zionists against the forces of resistance in the region.”[1]

The World Association for Al-Azhar Graduates is an umbrella group for scholars connected to Al-Azhar University. It is the leading academic institution of Egypt, a country which is at peace with Israel. In June 2014 this association published a statement on its website claiming that ISIS and other extremist groups were “[a] Jewish product under various names that change every now and then.” The statement also quoted the head of the association’s Pakistani chapter Sheik Sahab Zadeh Aziz, who said, “the terrorist organization ISIS is a Zionist plot which aims to murder Muslims,

When a new perception of absolute evil emerges, Israel is linked with it almost simultaneously.
shed their blood, and rape [their] women and girls.”[2]

Aya­tol­lah Sayed Mor­tada Al-Qazwini, a popular Shia cleric in Iraq gave a sermon in summer 2014 declaring ISIS a “ Jew­ish Israeli orga­ni­za­tion, estab­lished to tear apart the land of Muslims.”[3] In February 2015 Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir – wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide – referred to ISIS and Boko Haram: “I said CIA and the Mossad stand behind these organizations. There is no Muslim who would carry out such acts.”[4] Al Jazeera’s Arabic website, published in August 2015 an article claiming that Israel was behind ISIS.[5]

Many in the Western world are only gradually accepting the view that ISIS represents absolute contemporary evil. The Paris November 13 massacres have strengthened this perception. At the same time, additional elements have started to relate Israel to ISIS. Palestinians have been in the frontline in putting forward such claims. 

Abbas Zaki, a member of the Fatah leadership said that Israel and ISIS are “two sides of the same coin.”[6] The official Facebook page of the Fatah movement posted a cartoon depicting the Paris attacks, showing Benjamin Netanyahu, wearing a Nazi-reminiscent Jewish star armband and helping an ISIS terrorist aim his machine gun.[7] Another cartoon there showed two matches in a matchbox labelled “terrorism,” with the head of one match featuring an ultra-orthodox Jew and the other, an ISIS terrorist.[8] A cartoon published on November 15 in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the official PA daily, displayed an Israeli “beheading” the Dome of the Rock and an ISIS terrorist beheading a prisoner together, using the same elongated sword.[9]

The above illustrates that the false connection between Israel and ISIS has been fabricated and promoted primarily by Muslim sources. However, some others have also joined in, such as former Cuban President Fidel Castro, who in September 2014 accused US Senator John McCain and Israel of conspiring to create the Islamic State.[10]

In the Netherlands much media attention was given to a tweet by the  Muslim Yasmina Haifi, a low-ranking candidate put forward by the Labor party in the 2012 parliamentary elections. In August 2014, she tweeted, “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam…it is a plan of Zionists who want to blacken Islam.”[11] Haifi tried thus to dissociate the world’s most extreme Islamo-Nazi movement from Islam and to spread a conspiracy about Zionists. Haifi was employed as a project manager at the time by the Dutch Justice Ministry’s Cyber Security Center.[12]

As mentioned this idea of Jews being absolute evil is ensconced in history. Christianity has long promoted it by saying that the Jews were eternally responsible for killing the “son of god.” This was in their view the worst imaginable act. In his book, The Devil and the Jews, Joshua Trachtenberg wrote that medieval Christendom perceived the Jew as “sorcerer, murderer, cannibal, poisoner, blasphemer.”[13]

The perception of absolute evil has changed over time. The Nazi movement labelled the Jews as subhuman, thus justifying their extermination. For a long time after the Second World War and until now European society considers Nazis to be the embodiment of absolute evil.

However, as a result of a constant deluge of anti-Israel propaganda, over 40% of EU citizens of sixteen years and older consider Israel to be either a Nazi state or a state that conducts a war of extermination against the Palestinians. These poll results point to an active desire to equate Israel’s actions with absolute evil.

The relating of ISIS to Israel is an illustration of how, when a new perception of absolute evil emerges, Israel is linked with it almost simultaneously. Since this new incitement originates, for the most part, in the Muslim world, this process demonstrates how fast an ancient extreme anti-Semitic hate motif can mutate in that environment into a contemporary variant.


[1] “Why Iran Believes the Militant Group ISIS Is an American Plot,” Time, 19 July 2014.

[2] “Claims That ISIS Has Jewish Roots Grow In Muslim World,” The Anti-Defamation League, 26 August 2014.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Exclusive: CIA and Mossad are behind Boko Haram and ISIL, says Sudan president,” Euronews, 16 Febuary 2015.

[5] “Allegations That Israel Is Behind ISIS Emerge On Al Jazeera,” Anti-Defamation League, 24 August 2015.

[6]חבר הנהגת פתח: "ישראל ודאעש - שני צדדים של אותו מטבע", YNet, 22 November 2015. Hebrew.

[7] “Fatah cartoon: Israel together with ISIS behind Paris terror ‎attacks,” Palestinian Media Watch, 16 November 2015.

[8] “Fatah cartoon compares Jews to ISIS,” Palestinian Media Watch, 16 November 2015.

[9] “Cartoon that shows Israel beheading the Al-Aqsa Mosque compares Israel to ISIS,” Palestinian Media Watch, 15 November 2015.

[10] Cheryl K. Chumley, “Fidel Castro accuses John McCain, Israel of creating Islamic State,” The Washington Times, 5 September 2014.

[11] “PvdA-ambtenaar: ISIS is complot van zionisten,” Telegraaf, 13 August 2014. [Dutch]

[12] “Dutch gov't worker Yasmina Haifi tweeted: ‘ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. It’s part of a plan by Zionists who are deliberately trying to blacken Islam’s name,:’ “The Jerusalem Post, 16 August 2014.

[13] Joshua Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews (Cleveland: Meridian, 1961), 159.