Stephen Sizer: “Herod’s soldiers operating in Bethlehem today”

In March 2010, Stephen Sizer posted this gallery of photographs on flickr.com [1]:

As the wording at the bottom indicates, they are pictures of Israeli soldiers in the town of Beit Jala. This is a Palestinian town near Bethlehem in the West Bank, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. What is problematic is the title at the top: “Herod’s Soldier’s (sic) Operating in Bethlehem today”.

Why is this problematic?

As you will no doubt know, Herod was the Biblical king who, according to Matthew’s gospel, ordered the massacre of all the baby boys in and around Bethlehem, with the aim of eliminating the infant Jesus.

Sizer’s title gives the impression that these Israeli soldiers had the same aims.

Ever since Matthew wrote his gospel, antisemites have twisted his words into two linked, antisemitic libels: the libel that Jews are Christ-killers; and the libel that Jews murder children. In the Middle Ages, these libels were combined into the blood libel, which charged Jews with murdering Christian children and using their blood to make Passover bread. This led to trials and massacres of Jews. Sizer’s caption is therefore loaded with dark, antisemitic resonances.

Isn’t he just criticising Israel? 

No. He could have made the same point (about Israeli military activity in the occupied West Bank) without referring to Herod. As it happens, at some point over the last 10 years, and no doubt in response to criticism, Rev Sizer has changed the title to “Bibi’s soldiers operating in Bethlehem today” – Bibi being the nickname of the Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. This is a non-antisemitic title: it would have been perfectly possible for him to use it first time round.

Implications

When Stephen Sizer titled this gallery of photographs, “Herod’s Soldier’s Operating in Bethlehem today”, he wasn’t simply expressing legitimate criticism of Israeli policies and military tactics.

The title was antisemitic.

References:

[1] Stephen Sizer, Flickr Account, March 14 2010, Herod’s Soldier’s [sic] operating in Bethlehem today, viewed on 27 September 2011 at < http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephensizer/sets/72157623675922174 >. Rev Sizer has since changed the title. This link to an individual photograph indicates the date it was taken.

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1 Response to Stephen Sizer: “Herod’s soldiers operating in Bethlehem today”

  1. Pingback: An Obfuscation Master Class | Large Blue Footballs

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