Over the years, I have seen many people getting "accused" of having Jewish ancestry by their political adversaries. This tactic is used to discredit the person, throw doubts on their loyalty, and attribute undefined ulterior motives for their often controvertial actions.
These rumors are appealing to the masses because it offers a simple (wrong) answer to complex questions (actions of leaders).
People that I have seen in the Arab region and the Middle East accused of this include:
- Gamal Abdel Nasser, leader of the military coup in Egypt 1952, and later president and ruthless dictator. He abolished the political system and parliament, nationalized many companies, revoked land ownership by the rich, threw the economy into a recession, lost the Six Day War in 1967, oppressed countless people in prison and much more.
- Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, notorious for abolishing the Ottoman rule and the remnants of the Muslim Caliphates, suppressing religion in Turkey, changing the writing system from Arabic based script to a Latin based one, and much more.
- The Royal family of Jordan, descendants of the Sharifs of Makkah, whose King Hussein was an ally of Israel when most Arab countries were not. See the accusation here (Arabic).
- The Al-Saud Royal family of Saudi Arabia, who historically supported the puritan Wahhabi movement, and invaded neighboring areas.
- Yasser Arafat, revolutionary and resistance leader, as well as ineffective president of the Palestinian Authority.
- Saddam Hussein, president and dictator of Iraq.
- Marawan Hamada, Lebanese politician and cabinet minister. Accused of tipping Israel on the whereabouts of Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hizbulla during the Israel/Lebanon war in 2006.
- Youssef Wali, Egyptian politician, minister of Agriculture and vice prime minister for a long time. Accused of importing from Israel many crops and cultivars as well as importing cancer inducing pesticides into Egypt in a conspiracy.
- Fidel Castro, Cuba's revolutionary, president and dictator.
However, what prompted me to write this is not to do with the Arab region at all.
A story in circulation now by email claims that Che Guevara, the South American revolutionary leader and cult icon in the 1960s had a Jewish mother. Not only that, but that his cousin is Ariel Sharon himself, ruthless military leader, and hard line ex-prime minister of Israel.
His mother was Celia de la Serna Llosa. The rumor says she her parents are Russian Jews and she left to Argentina for reasons unknown. This rumor originated as an anonymous article in Russian. It is now making the rounds in Spanish in South America.
It is funny and sad to see how one's biases shape their view.
In this case, A pro-Zionist blogger translates choice quotes from the article, not approving any of it, lamenting the anti-Israel tone in it. Meanwhile, another blog opposing Israel sees this as Israeli propaganda!
Even Al Ahram, a leading newspaper in Egypt found it worthwhile to report on this story. They show a picture of the iconic Guevara with a beard and beret, but with the face of Ariel Sharon in the picture. To their credit, they correctly point to several sources who discredit the rumor. These include a Tel Aviv University professor who wrote a biography of Guevara. Another is Omri, son of Ariel Sharon who says no such great aunt of his exist. Another is the manager of the Guevara museum in Cuba, and the head of the Jewish community in Cuba as well.
It should also be noted that Guevara's maternal grandparents are Juan Martín de la Serna Ugalde [Serna] b. 1871, and Edelmira de la Llosa [Llosa] b. 1880?. These cannot be Russian nor Jewish names.