This week, Hugo Chavez has denounced the Israeli response to Hamas aggression. It was Hugo Chavez who claimed that the Jews are ‘descendants of those who killed Christ,’ and accused Colombia of being the ‘Israel of Latin America.’
Spanish newspaper El Pais has published an anti-Jewish cartoon, attacking not just Israeli policies, but also mocking Jewish teaching that Jews are a ‘chosen people’, whilst depicting a Jewish man with a hooked nose.
Under the headline ‘The cradle of Christianity is today a big prison inside the Israeli wall,’ Spain’s ABC News interviews the mayor of Bethlehem, whilst Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia claims that ‘Christians in Gaza will not celebrate Christmas as a protest to the blockade,’ having spoken to Catholic priest Manuel Musalam. (Before the start of Israel’s operations in Gaza, Musalam claimed that Christians would have a sad Christmas in Gaza, blaming Israel entirely.)
Recently, former Roman Catholic priest and Nicaraguan Sandinista Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, current President of the UN general assembly, claimed that ‘Israel is crucifying our Palestinian brothers,’ in a textbook example of the new theological antisemitism.
On top of all this, many Spanish-language papers are accusing the modern Israeli government of repeating the crimes of King Herod, who ordered the Massacre of the Infants in order to root out baby Jesus, whom he perceived as a potential rival.
In many Spanish-speaking countries, ‘the Massacre of the Innocents’ is somewhat oddly celebrated as a day for pranks, much like April Fools’ Day. The Massacre of the Innocents festival takes place December 28th, and predictably, many newspapers are using this imagery in their condemnation of Israel.
Once again, certain critics of Israel are using traditional theological antisemitism in order to advance a political agenda. As I have said before, such people are contributing to what may be described as a new strand of theological antisemitism. The ‘old’ theological antisemitism (which nevertheless is still a widely-held opinion) regarded the Jews as Christ-killers, and the perpetual enemies of Christians.
Whereas traditional theological antisemitism is based upon interpretations of the Easter Story, the new theological antisemitism relates to Christmas. If this old theological antisemitism cast the Jews as Judas Iscariot, then the new theological antisemitism sees modern-day Israel as the evil King Herod, who ordered the massacre of the infants.