By Jennifer Lipman
September 12, 2012
Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory, right? Aliens in Roswell, the moon landing that never was, Elvis alive and living in the countryside; we all like to stretch our imagination beyond the realms of what is possible or plausible.
Invariably, one notion that tends to figure high on the list for the conspiracy theorists is the "it's the Jews wot dunnit" scenario.
Throughout history, conspiracy theorists have chosen to speculate about the shadowy Jews and blame them for any and every scandal or disaster imaginable, from the medieval blood libels to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or the Jewish grasp on politics, world finance and the media.
As David Aaronovitch notes in his book, Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theory Has Shaped Modern History:
"Since 12 September 2001 there have been theories linking Israelis / Jews / Zionists (the names always indicating the same people) to the worst terrorist incident in history."
So it was somewhat ironic to read in the Evening Standard, on the 11th anniversary of September 11, this throwaway line in a piece investigating the tragic and brutal murders in rural France of three members of the Al-Hilli family and a cyclist.
"Perhaps more far-fetched still, Israel's notoriously uncompromising state security agency, Mossad, is said to have shown an interest in Al-Hilli, although nobody has a clue why."
A closer look, and it seems other newspapers are following this line too.
"The French police are also having to steer a course through a minefield of rumours, conflicting reports and wild conspiracy theories, including the suggestion that Saad was a spy who had recently visited Tehran and the massacre was a hit by Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency implicated in attacks on Iranian scientists," explains The Scotsman.
Are they? If so, I'd like to hear this from the French police.
If in doubt, it's got to be Mossad? So far as I can tell, the speculation about this is largely blogger-based, in that Mossad's name features heavily in the comments sections of reports on the killings.
"This is Mossad 100%," writes "Truthteller" below the story on The Week's website. "The French cyclist was a nuclear scientist and prime target of hitmen. Iran-related murder".
Or this, from "zzoo" on the Daily Mail site: "This looks very much like a Mossad hit. Israel must have thought Saad al Hilli was working on missile technology, and decided to kill him and his family."
Or "Odininasgaard" on Yahoo! News. "The professionalism of this murder makes me wonder if the MOSSAD knows something about this foul deed."
Is this how Mossad is "said to have shown an interest" in the Al-Hillis? Perhaps the Standard knows something I – and most newspapers – do not? If so, by all means provide the evidence for such speculation. But if not, and it just seemed to make sense – hey, he was of Iraqi descent, it's suspicious, must be those darn Israelis – then at least have the decency to put the allegation in context, as the Express did.
"It has also been claimed that the killings have all the hallmarks of action by Israel's assassins in Mossad but Western experts believe it unlikely that they would try to murder children."
Hopefully the investigators will get to the bottom of this tragedy, and the two girls will be able to rebuild their shattered lives. This is a horrible, nightmarish case, and questions abound. Perhaps it was a political assassination, but before we claim so, let's wait for the evidence.
Questions are not the same as ancient conspiracy theories, rolled out time and again to point a finger at the Jews.