Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Anatomy of a Blood Libel

The Internet sweepstakes for epic idiocy would be carried away by Charles Johnson, whose bigoted and insane Little Green Footballs, and its outsize popularity, stand in gaudy glory as a kind of totalitarian monument to the failed promise of the blogosphere. For this reason, I enjoy reading Dennis the Peasant's hilarious take-downs of Pajamas Media, the pompous and silly flagship enterprise of Johnson*, his comrade Roger Simon, and the whole smug sprawl of Cheeto-eating, Black Helicopter retards who compose the worthless Glenn Reynolds' "Army of Davids".

The other day Mr. Peasant noted a new milestone in the mouldering of Pajamas: Simon's decision to add Alyssa A. Lappen and Patrick Poole, a couple of transparently inept, pseudo-journalists, to its stable of writers. Pajamas was founded in a spirit of meretricious triumphalism emanating from LGF's success with Rathergate. Its content strategy was to sign incisive, maverick journalists -- both promising newcomers like Michael Totten and established figures like Ron Rosenbaum -- to provide the leading alternative to the "MSM", or "Mainstream Media". So using unknown tinfoil hatters is a significant step down, even from Pajamas' modest level of achievement.

I started blogging, mostly about issues pertaining to left-wing anti-Semitism, in late 2002. Due to the obscure and often squalid nature of the subject, I've spent a lot of time rooting through the compost of the Internet doing research. I remembered Lappen's name, as she was a frequent contributor to David Horowitz's horrible Frontpage Magazine. Like Alexander Cockburn's Counterpunch, which is its far-Left echo, Frontpage is a genuinely crazy patchwork of sub-scholarly sub-journalism, mostly by self-invented pundits and third-rate professors writing on subjects in which they have no training.

Lappen has done editorial work and a smidgen of writing for business publications. As a reporter, she boasts seven pieces for the Connecticut Weekly regional section of the Sunday edition of the New York Times between 1977 and 1980. On Frontpage, she stands out for a 2004 article entitled The Israeli Crime That Wasn't. It's about the relationship of the martyrdom of Mohammad al-Durrah (al-Dura) to the late-2000 lynching of IDF reservists Vadim Nurzhitz and Yosef Avrahami in Ramallah. In its opening paragraphs, Lappen summarizes what befell them:
Two weeks after the Al Durrah tapes aired, two Jewish soldiers lost their way in Ramallah, where they were savagely beaten to death, their innards eaten by hysterical and frenzied crowds screaming Allah Akbar -- God is great -- and seeking revenge for the supposed death of the boy.

Sadly there has been much Arab violence since the Second Intifada, of which the Ramallah lynching is a pièce de résistance, but Lappen's claim that the Ramallah mob ate the innards of Nurzhits and Avrahami was a red flag... flying on top of a tractor trailer speeding downhill toward the capacity for belief. I looked in vain for any source that might support her account. As I expected, the details of the lynching were horrendous, and all those Lappen mentioned that were plausible -- including the Allahu Akbars that adumbrated the butchery of Nick Berg by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- checked out. But of course I found nothing about cannibalism, besides notably (warning: goreporn) one scribbles-and-clip-art web page that described "cannibalistic mutilations" in which the reservists were "literally disemboweled and dismembered with the attackers' bare hands".

This looked like the work of the JDL, and sure enough, the page has undergone a series of transformations since it first appeared on JTF.org, the web site of Victor Vancier's Jewish Task Force, a JDL splinter group. The JDL is the most successful North American Kahanist sect, an openly fascist and formerly terrorist organization.

The best real account of the Ramallah lynching is by Deborah Sontag in the New York Times. It's grisly.
In a second-story office, visible to the chanting crowd below, men beat and stabbed one of the soldiers. Witnesses said they then hurled his body into the frenzied group below. The crowd stomped his body and beat it with sticks. His clothing was set on fire. Two men grabbed his feet, two his wrists, and they marched him through the thronged streets to Al Manara Square. Men rode on one another's shoulders, whistling and clapping.


... Palestinian youths danced on the bloody spot where one Israeli was tossed through floral curtains into the mob below. In a call and response, they chanted: ''Here is where we gouged his eyes! Here is where we ripped off his legs! [IDF photos of the bodies show no dismemberment. -ed.] Here is where we smashed in his face!'' One teenage boy joyously thrust in the air the oil dipstick from the charred carcass of the soldiers' car, which had been burnt by the mob and lay curled beneath a billboard that said, ''Rule of Law Project.''

There is no shortage of animalistic horror in what happened in Ramallah. So why would Lappen embellish this already horrendous murder with the absurd and vicious lie that Nurzhits and Avrahami were cannibalized? Since she's now one of Pajamas Media's maverick, non-MSM journalists, it pays to reevaluate her report.

A LexisNexis Academic full-text search of all English news sources for "(ramallah OR ramalla) AND (vadim OR ((yosef OR yossi) AND avrahami))) AND (entrails OR innards OR intestines OR organs OR cannibalism OR disembowel)" between October 10, 2000 and the present returns four results. Only three actually mention the Ramallah lynching, and only one partially supports Lappen's claim. It is a 2002 piece by Lawrence Kelemen in the online edition of the Jewsweek newsletter called "Learning from Sadism" (reprinted in slightly different form here). In it he writes:
Vadim Novesche and Yosef Avrahami, two Israeli reserve officers abducted by Palestinian police, were beaten until their heads were unrecognizable pulp and were then disemboweled by a waiting crowd outside the Palestinian Authority's Ramallah headquarters who then danced, entrails in hand, through the city's streets.

No mention of cannibalism, but now the claim of disembowelment has reached a comparatively mainstream source, one archived by Nexis, and we find Palestinians dancing through the streets with entrails in their hands. Nexis finds no account between 2000 and 2002 to corroborate any of this. Like Lappen later, Kelemen, an Orthodox rabbi who doesn't appear to care about the Ninth Commandment, might simply have looked at the (warning: goreporn) IDF photographs of the soldier's bodies. He chose instead to invent a claim of disembowelment.

Whether she was inspired by Internet Kahanists or Kelemen, two years later Lappen upped the ante with a charge of cannibalism. Why? You'd be right to guess it's because she's a terrible journalist and far-Right Zionist who hates Arabs, but there's more to observe. Lappen's lie about Palestinian cannabalism is, in form and substance, a blood libel.

A blood libel is a false and sensational accusation of ritual murder, often of children, usually involving cannibalism. The most famous example is the periodic claim that Jews kill gentile children and use their blood to make matzo. Few historical lies have been so vicious, and its wages are always baleful. The Nazis republished Martin Luther's blood libels to justify their extermination of Jews, and hoping for a recap, Baathists like Mustafa Tlass recycle it presently.

It appears some right-wing Jews want to turn it around on Arabs. I cringe to find Edward Said being vindicated, who wrote in Orientalism:
The transference of popular anti-Semitic animus from a Jewish to an Arab target [has been] made smoothly, since the figure was essentially the same.

In Lappen, it appears the methodology has transfered as well, and passed from her on to others. On August 29, 2007, Joanna Chandler, another Frontpage "journalist", published A New Dreyfuss Affair. Clearly cribbing Lappen, she also one-ups her:
Two weeks after the Al Durah hoax was publicized as fact, garnering worldwide condemnation of Israel in diplomatic, media, religious and human rights circles, two IDF soldiers made a wrong turn and inadvertently wandered into Ramallah, an Arab enclave under the control of the Palestinian Authority. The consequences of their fatal error are well known: they were tortured and beaten to death in the Palestinian Authority police station, and their lifeless bodies thrown out of the station’s second story window to a throng of men howling, Allahu-Akbar—God is great! They commenced to dismember and disembowel the soldiers’ corpses, and then passed the entrails on a platter to a hysterical mob numbering in the thousands who rejoiced as they literally chewed and swallowed the remains of their hated Jews. What is lesser known is that while eating the flesh and blood of their victims, in satisfaction and triumph, the good citizens of Ramallah chanted, not only, Allah hu-Akbar -— but the name of Mohamed al Durah! The supposed “death” of the child had become a pretext for revenge.

Now we've got a trifecta: dismemberment, disembowelment and cannibalism! (And apparently Palestinians, when performing ritual murder, come prepared with crockery.) The prolixity reminds you of a college student writing about sex for the first time. The hysterical gore reads literally like the screenplay for the conclusion of George Romero's (warning: goreporn) Day of the Dead. But neither fazed British journalist Melanie Phillips, a columnist for the Daily Mail and blogger for the Spectator, who cited Chandler's account on her web site. And just days before, Morton A. Klein, the President of the Zionist Organization of America, sent out a press release which cobbled together bits of Kelemen and Chandler's accounts. It claimed Nurzhitz and Avrahami "were murdered, their bodies disemboweled beyond recognition and their entrails passed around and literally chewed and swallowed at a PA police station in Ramallah."

The bedrock of nouveau conservatism is the use of righteous anger against jihad as a merkin for the simple hatred of Arabs and Muslims. In her use of a blood libel against Arabs, Lappen emulates the worst tormentors of Jews. Pajamas Media has abandoned any pretense to quality alternative journalism, because it can be no more than the sum of its parts.

* As of December 1, 2007, Johnson is "no longer affiliated with Pajamas Media in a management position".

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