In a June 20 column titled "Dick Durbin's anti-Semitic rant," WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah had a most bizarre reaction to the Illinois senator defending Michelle Obama by noting that "The hottest ring in hell is reserved for those in politics who attack their opponents' families":
Since writing that column, it has come to my attention the phrase Durbin used has long and strong anti-Semitic connotations and roots.
The phrases "hottest ring in hell" and "the deepest ring of hell" and "the fourth circle of the ninth ring of hell" were 14th century literary inventions by Dante, author of "The Inferno" and "The Divine Comedy."
In the latter work, Dante reserves that deepest ring of hell for Judecca or la Giudecca – or, in plain English, the Jews.
In Dante's native Italian, the name was "Judecca" or "la Giudecca," the common name for the Jewish quarter of European cities from which they were forbidden to leave. Even the word "ghetto" is believed to be a derivation of this word for Jewish quarter.
Did Dick Durbin know this?
Has he used this phrase in the past?
Is it part of his lexicon?
Is Dick Durbin conducting a subtle form of Jew-baiting here?
Farah gets his Dante wrong in a couple major ways. First, he suggests that "The Inferno" and "The Divine Comedy" are separate works; in fact, "The Inferno" is the first section of "The Divine Comedy."
Second, Farah rather bizarrely ascribes anti-Semitic motives to citing "The Inferno." In fact, the ninth circle of hell is reserved for traitors, and scholars (here, here and here) have interpreted "Judecca," the fourth section of the ninth circle as derivative of Judas, not Jews -- other sections are named after Cain, Antenor and Ptolemy -- and is for those who betray their lords and benefactors. There's a hint of Jewish criticism in Dante's use of the name that arguably would not be out of character for a 14th century Christian; author Stephen Haynes writes that Dante portrays Jews as "a people comprised exclusively of saints and traitors" though there is an "absence of explicit anti-Judaism" in "The Inferno."
For Farah to claim or even suggest that Durbin hates Jews because he cited Dante's Inferno is offensive in the extreme, not to mention libelous. You'd think Farah would be sensitive to such things by now.