Alfred Dreyfus by Jean Baptiste Guth
Alfred Dreyfus by Jean Baptiste GuthVanity Fair, 1899

Gary Willig is a member of the Arutz Sheva news staff.

The Jewish people are used to lies being spread about them. Nearly a millennium ago, the first of many blood libels accusing the Jews of murdering gentile children to consume their blood emerged. This was joined by accusations that Jews committed ‘host desecration,’ the supposed mistreatment of Communion Bread, and the accusation that Jews poisoned wells causing the Black Death.

Each of these false accusations led to massacres of innocent Jews. Unfortunately, lies about Jewish evil did not end with the enlightenment, nor did their deadly consequences.

The false charges against Alfred Dreyfus in France in the 1890s, the publishing of the antisemitic forgery ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ by the government of Tzarist Russia in 1903, Henry Ford’s diatribes against the ‘international Jew’ in the Dearborn Independent, and of course, the originators of the ‘big lie,’ Adolph Hitler and his Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, whose lies dehumanized the Jewish people enough for the Holocaust to be committed.

As the world’s only Jewish nation, it is not surprising that Israel has frequently been the victim of many ‘big lies’ designed to foment hate and justify the murder of its citizens.

American readers will remember how in 2000, the Associated Press wrongly captioned a photograph of an American Jewish student, Tuvia Grossman, who had been beaten by Palestinian Arabs in Jerusalem as a Palestinian, leading readers of the New York Times and other newspapers to conclude that Israeli police had beaten an Arab man when the police had saved the American citizen.

This was nothing compared to the ‘big lie’ that was told two years later, when, after 30 people were murdered in a suicide bombing at a Passover Seder in Netanya, the IDF went into Jenin to put an end to the terrorism plaguing Israel’s streets. The Palestinian Authority and so-called human rights NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International accused the IDF of “war crimes” and a “massacre” of as many as 500 people. These claims were reported without question by British media such as The Guardian and the BBC, which worked to spread the ‘big lie’ of the non-existent massacre. In reality, about 55 Arabs were killed in the battle, most of whom were combatants, and 23 IDF soldiers were killed, in part because of the IDF’s efforts to prevent civilian casualties. But a ‘big lie’ turned an otherwise unremarkable military engagement into a crime that justified any actions taken against Israel, Israelis, and Jews.

The sheer abundance of lies about Jews throughout history makes it easy to draw comparisons to past instances where such lies led to Jews being murdered. It is common nowadays to look at the horrific scenes on American college campuses, the intimidation, threats, and assaults against Jewish students, the open calls for genocide against Jews, and the failure of college administrations to combat this hate, and say that we are now living in a repeat of 1938 Germany.

The current situation could also be considered reminiscent of France during the Dreyfus Affair. Indeed, one of the chief propagators of the ‘big lies’ against Israel deliberately invited such comparisons soon after the Hamas massacre of October 7.

In late November, less than two months after the worst massacre committed against the Jewish people since the Nazi Holocaust, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Territories Francesca Albanese published a book she titled 'J'Accuse: The 7 October Attacks, Hamas, Terrorism, Israel, Apartheid in Palestine and the War.’

‘J'Accuse,’ meaning “I accuse,” was the title of an open letter published by the journalist Émile Zola in the L’Aurore newspaper on January 13, 1898 in which he laid bare the facts of the conspiracy to frame Alfred Dreyfus for treason and to protect Ferdinand Walsin-Esterhazy, the man who had actually committed the crime for which Dreyfus was falsely accused.

As described in Maurice Samuels’ new autobiography, ‘Alfred Dreyfus: The Man at the Center of the Affair,’ Zola’s letter revealed to many in France and around the world how Dreyfus was accused and convicted based on nearly nonexistent evidence, how his trial was conducted in an illegal manner in which the defense was not allowed to see the supposed evidence against him, how when the real traitor was discovered, powerful forces in the military conspired to protect the traitor and keep an innocent man imprisoned rather than admit they had been wrong.

It revealed the truth that so many, as now, are thrilled to latch onto lies in order to justify their hatred for Jews.

Albanese, in her irrational hatred, probably thought she was following in Émile Zola’s footsteps, but in reality she was following in the footsteps of the villains of the Dreyfus Affair.

In rushing to defend Hamas and blame Israel for the massacre of its own people, Albanese was following in the tradition of Édouard Drumont, the writer who did so much to develop and spread racial antisemitism in France in the late 1800s. He used the antisemitism whipped up by the Dreyfus Affair to get himself elected to the legislative assembly as a representative of Algiers and founded the “antisemitic caucus” in the legislature. She was following in the footsteps of Hubert-Joseph Henry, the officer who forged documents used by the French military court to prevent Dreyfus from being exonerated and who committed suicide in prison when his deception was uncovered.

The anti-Jewish riots which followed the original ‘J’Accuse’ were extremely reminiscent of the anti-Jewish protests and riots seen on college campuses across the US over the last two weeks and in cities across the world since October 7. The day after Zola’s letter was published, Catholic students demonstrated in Paris shouting “Down with the Jews!” The anti-Jewish protests continued to grow, with a mass demonstration ten days after the letter was published featuring shouts of “Death to the Jews! Death to the Yids!”

The homes of Jewish professors and Jewish-owned businesses were attacked, and anti-Jewish riots resulted in multiple Jewish people being killed in French-controlled Algeria. Many people who donated to the fund raised for Hubert-Joseph Henry’s widow wrote letters openly calling for the extermination of Jews. In his autobiography of Dreyfus, Samuels writes that these letters included such phrases as “Long live the saber that will rid us of all the vermin” and “For God, for his country, and the extermination of the Jews.”

The echoes of these calls to murder and exterminate the Jews of late 19th century France can be heard in the anti-Israel protests of today, in the celebrations of the Hamas massacre that began in the days immediately following October 7, and in the attempts to blame Israel for what Hamas did by more than 30 student groups at Harvard University before the victims’ blood even had a chance to dry. They can be heard in the cries of “From the River to the sea, Palestine will be free,” in the cries of “There is only one solution, Intifada revolution,” and “we are Hamas.” They can be heard in the voices of the protesters who declare that October 7 will be repeated “10,000 times” and “every day.”

Alfred Dreyfus’ captivity after his wrongful conviction was itself an eerie presage of the plight of the innocent people kidnapped by Hamas on October 7. Sent to Devil’s Island, kept in isolation for years in unsanitary conditions and chained to his bed while bugs crawled all over him in what today would be considered nothing less than deliberate torture, Dreyfus experienced frequent illness and continued to suffer medical ailments from his time on Devil’s Island years after his release.

Like Dreyfus, the hostages held by Hamas are also kept in unsanitary conditions, given little food, and denied medical care from the Red Cross. Former hostages who have been freed described a life of hell. Dozens of hostages are believed to have died in captivity, just as many hoped Dreyfus would die alone on Devil’s Island, and it is unknown how many of the 133 hostages remaining are still alive.

Like Dreyfus, many believe the hostages, including the smallest of children, to be guilty merely by virtue of their being Jewish. The hate it takes to tear down a poster of Kfir Bibas, the youngest hostage who was kidnapped at just nine months old, is unfathomable to all decent human beings. Just as unfathomable is the depth of the evil in condemning calls for Hamas to release little Kfir as “unacceptable” as Francesca Albanese has done.

Like the French military courts, the UN has attempted to cover up the truth and to defend the guilty while punishing the innocent. Outrageously, the UN has still failed to condemn Hamas for committing the massacre or for taking and holding innocent hostages.

Now there are rumblings that the International Criminal Court is considering issuing arrest warrants against Israeli leaders over fake war crimes, before an investigation has even been carried out and ignoring all of the evidence to the contrary. Much as Dreyfus was condemned for being a Jew in the absence of real evidence, Israel is condemned for being a Jewish State in the absence of real evidence.

The purpose of these lies and propaganda, of these protests and riots, is to facilitate the destruction of the State of Israel and another massacre of the Jewish people by delegitimizing their refusal to let themselves be murdered. If all self-defense is considered “genocide,” then the only thing the Jewish people can do is submit to another genocide as Hamas, Iran, and all of their supporters around the world fulfill their dream of finishing Hitler’s work.

The people behind these lies and those who are actively attempting to bring about another Holocaust must be called out, condemned, and defeated. And so, in the spirit of Émile Zola, I accuse them.

I accuse Francesca Albanese of antisemitism and of using her position to support and defend Hamas in its war to exterminate the Jewish people.

I accuse the United Nations which employs Albanese of antisemitism in seeking to save Hamas so that it can murder again, in continuing to employ Albanese no matter how much evil she spews, and of complicity in Hamas’s campaign of genocide through UNRWA, which spreads, Nazi-like anti-Jewish propaganda and employed multiple terrorists involved in the massacre of October 7.

I accuse the International Committee of the Red Cross of abandoning the hostages by never visiting any of them even once or even putting in the effort to do so. The blood of any hostage who dies as a direct result of a medical deterioration in captivity is on the hands of the Red Cross.

I accuse the former human rights NGOs Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International of abandoning their core mission to defend the human rights of all in order to deny human rights to Jews. Like Hubert-Joseph Henry, they knowingly lie about evidence in order to blame the Jewish State while defending the guilty.

I accuse the anti-Israel protesters at Columbia University and at all the colleges where antisemitic protests have broken out in recent weeks of antisemitism and of demonstrating in support of genocide. Their claims that Israel is committing genocide are a smokescreen of the true goal of these protests – the complete destruction of the State of Israel and all 7 million of its Jewish citizens, along with as many Jews outside of Israel as possible. That is why these demonstrations turn violent so easily, why open calls for genocide and “10,000” October 7s, declarations that “we are Hamas,” and signs calling on Hamas to murder Jewish students on campus are features and not bugs of these protests.

There are many students at these protests who are simply ignorant of the true evil they are supporting through their actions, but there is no excuse for this level of ignorance when you are actively supporting a second Holocaust.

I accuse the university leaders who did not act decisively to stop these orgies of hate of cowardice in the face of antisemitism. Émile Zola welcomed a lawsuit by the military officials he accused so that he could further bring the truth to light, but these administrations will bend over backwards so as not to hurt the feelings of people who call for the murder of all Jews everywhere.

I accuse all those who defend these protests as mere displays of peaceful free expression of gaslighting the intended victims of the genocide the demonstrators so openly seek. Like those who defended Ferdinand Walsin-Esterhazy despite the irrefutable proof of his treason, they want us to deny the truth of our own eyes and the words we hear with our own ears, and if we listened to those who defend the indefensible and tolerate this naked Jew-hate, those who seek the lives of Jews will only grow more emboldened, and soon it really will be 1938 all over again.

I accuse the media of continuing to fall for lies by serial liars whenever the subject of the lies is Israel. After the fake Jenin massacre of 2002, they should have learned. After the false accusations that Israel bombed a hospital and killed 500 people on October 14, when it was quickly revealed that the blast was the result of a failed Islamic Jihad rocket and the death toll was a fraction of what was originally claimed, they should have learned. But they did not and refuse to learn.

And finally, I accuse Western leaders of failing to stand up for the truth and for what is right by failing to call out antisemitism when it is put on display, for telling liars that they “have a point,” for creating environments where police can threaten to arrest a man for being “visibly Jewish” rather than the people who would attack him, for pandering to the liars and people who hate everything a democratic nation stands for in the name of political expediency.

And the more they clash with Israel to appease the liars and genocide-seekers, the more emboldened the liars become.

It took many years, but in the end, the truth revealed by Émile Zola won out when Alfred Dreyfus was exonerated in 1906.

It also took many years and much death and suffering, but Hitler was ultimately defeated and his lies recognized for what they were.

The truth will ultimately have its day in the present conflict. But it is up to us to ensure that this happens as quickly and as painlessly as possible. If the lies of Francesca Albanese, the UN, the fake defenders of human rights, and those demonstrate in favor of another Holocaust are not confronted and defeated quickly, then it will be a long, drawn-out process as it was with France from 1894-1906, and as it was with Germany from 1933-1945.

If we let the liars and the antisemites win, even for a little while, it will be our children who accuse us of failing to defend not only the Jewish people, but democracy and the truth themselves.

In the face of evil lies, even if it is the entire world that is lying, never be afraid to say ‘J’accuse.’