Thursday, March 12, 2015
How European Myths Fuel Modern Islamic Antisemitism
The first was the blood libel, the mad idea that Jews kill Christian children to use their blood to make matzo, the unleavened bread eaten during Passover. The idea is absurd, not least because even the tiniest speck of blood in food renders it inedible in Jewish law. The libel was an English invention, born in Norwich around 1144, and was unsuccessfully condemned by several popes. It was introduced into the Middle East by Christians in the 19th century, leading to trials of innocent Jews in Lebanon and Egypt and, most famously, in Damascus in 1840.
The second European myth exported to the Middle East about Jews is "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," whose origins Rabbi Sacks succinctly described:
"The Protocols of the Elders of Zion"—a late 19th-century forgery about a supposed global Jewish conspiracy, produced by members of the czar's secret police and exposed as a fiction by the Times of London as early as 1921—become one of Hitler's favorite texts. In Nazi Germany, it became, as the historian Norman Cohn put it, a "warrant for genocide." The "Protocols" were introduced into the Middle East in Arabic translation in the 1930s by, among others, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, who spent World War II in Berlin, producing Arabic broadcasts for the Nazis.
The blood libel and the forged "Protocols" are taught throughout the Middle East, as Arabs and Muslims train their children to hate Jews. It is very important to understand that this hatred has nothing to do with political conflicts or land, as Rabbi Sacks pointed out:
According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, an Egyptian cleric, Muhammad Hussein Yaqub, speaking in January 2009 on Al Rahma, a popular religious TV station in Egypt, made the contours of the new hate impeccably clear: "If the Jews left Palestine to us, would we start loving them? Of course not. We will never love them…They are enemies not because they occupied Palestine. They would have been enemies even if they did not occupy a thing…You must believe that we will fight, defeat and annihilate them until not a single Jew remains on the face of the Earth…You will not survive as long as a single one of us remains."
Arab/Islamic enmity is directed at Jews for being Jews; it predates the creation of the modern State of Israel and has nothing to do with the policies of that state and/or any grievances (real or imagined) against Israel. If Israel were to accede to every demand of her enemies--up to and including ceasing her very existence--this would not end Arab/Islamic antisemitism, halt the mass production of Arab/Islamic antisemitic propaganda or stop Arab/Islamic terrorist groups from killing Jews.
Arab/Islamic antisemitism will only end when it is not tolerated both in theory and in practice. Arab/Islamic countries must stop teaching the blood libel and the "Protocols" to their young, lest another generation be lost to senseless hatred. Regimes who attempt to cover up their antisemitism by calling it anti-Zionism should not be allowed to get away with being disingenuous about their true intentions and policies. Iran does not promote Holocaust denial because of anything that Israel has done; Iran promotes Holocaust denial because the country's leadership is antisemitic to the core.
Why should anyone who is not Jewish care about this? What difference does it make if the Middle East is filled with people who are spewing antisemitic hatred? Rabbi Sacks offered a powerful response to such narrow-minded, cynical thinking:
At this juncture in the history of hate, we must remember what antisemitism is. It is only contingently, even accidentally, about Jews. Jews die from it, but they are not its only victims. Today Christian communities are being ravaged, terrorized and decimated throughout the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, and scores of Muslims are killed every day by their brothers, with Sunnis arrayed against Shiites, radicals against moderates, the religious against the secular. The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Garry Kasparov Lambastes West's "Weak" Response to Vladimir Putin's Tyranny
In a December 2014 Reason.com interview, former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov did not mince words when asked to assess the West's policies concerning Russian dictator Vladimir Putin:
We have been facing this problem for quite a while. And so many mistakes have been made. These mistakes created an impression for Putin and his cronies and also his clients like Assad and others in the world. Iranian Ayatollahs. The West is weak. The West is not willing to get engaged. So the West will give them anything they want. Before we talk about the right strategy, what the leaders of the free world must do, let's talk about what they must not do. You cannot project weakness. Yes, I know that America will never consider seriously boots on the ground in Ukraine. Why are you talking about it? Why do you say publicly that you will not do that?
I could give you many examples where they violate the simplest rules of negotiation. The secret letter from Obama to the Ayatollahs, without mentioning the fact that it's an insult for Sunni allies. It's the first time that the United States and the free world had a great chance of creating a Sunni coalition to stop Sunni terror. Then stabbing them in the back by writing a letter to the Ayatollahs. By the way, they never responded. And now, at the time when the nuclear deal is about to be reached or not. He's asking them to help with ISIS. ISIS will probably be destroyed. You need more planes, maybe some soldiers, material resources. ISIS is not a global threat, it's very local. For the sake of Iranian cooperation, this relatively small issue to put at stake the global cooperation of Sunnis and also the non-proliferation policies, that's exactly what you're not supposed to do.
Kasparov's harsh and accurate words are particularly meaningful and timely considering the race to stop Iran's jihadist, expansionist regime from building nuclear weapons; this is vitally important, yet President Obama seems oblivious to the danger and downright hostile when anyone (most recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) points out just how catastrophic it would be if Iran builds nuclear weapons. The Middle East is ablaze with jihadist extremism and Iran is fomenting much of it. A nuclear-armed Iran would be a menace to the entire world. The damage that President Obama has done in abandoning America's allies and failing to stand up to tyrannical dictatorships will not be easy to fix.
This problem predates President Obama, though. Kasparov is equally unimpressed by Bill Clinton's administration:
Many talk about Clinton's presidency as a great success. I wouldn't doubt certain achievements in economy. But geopolitically, it was the greatest disaster among all because it's not about the final position. The game is still on. In 1992, America was all powerful. It could design the world map the way it wanted. In 2000, al-Qaeda was ready to strike. So what happened in these eight years?
Eight years of complacency, of doing nothing. Nobody formulated policies for Russia, for Soviet Union, for Islamic terrorism. It requires a global vision. The same way as Winston Churchill, Harry Truman had these policies designed in 1946, in 1947. The Marshall plan. There were plans. Plans they learned from World War II and they knew that to oppose Stalin and to oppose Communism, they needed to come up with a grand strategy and also leadership.
When I hear about potential dangers of confronting Putin today, my first question is, "Is he more dangerous than Joseph Stalin in 1948?" For 11 months, American and British planes had been supplying West Berlin besieged by Stalin's troops. And Joseph Stalin didn't shoot a single American plane. Why? Because Harry Truman already used nuclear weapons. And Stalin, as every good dictator, had an animal instinct. He knew where he could be repulsed. So he knew that Harry Truman could not play a game. It happened in 1962, when Khrushchev recognized that he pushed JFK to the ropes. And Ronald Reagan. And don't tell me that the Soviet Union in 1981, 82, 83, was less powerful than Putin's Russia today.
Harry Truman was a strong President, as was Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are not strong Presidents; they have convinced our enemies that America is weak and it will take a lot of work to disabuse America's enemies of that notion.
After Neville Chamberlain's cowardly appeasement of Adolf Hitler, Chamberlain declared that he had ensured "peace for our time." Chamberlain also said something that is eerily reminiscent of the rhetoric used by those who support President Obama's inaction while the world burns: "How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing." Instead of challenging Hitler early when Hitler's Nazi Germany was not at full strength, Chamberlain preferred to make broad concessions to Hitler, believing Hitler to be a reasonable man who had legitimate grievances that could be resolved through negotiations. Chamberlain did not think that it was worth it to fight Hitler or even to make preparations to fight Hitler merely to help "people of whom we know nothing." That short-sighted attitude persists today. Why should America intervene in far-away conflicts? Why should America care if Iran gets nuclear weapons? Isn't it true that by "imperialistically" dictating to other countries America creates enemies where none previously existed? That kind of thinking is what led to World War II and what made the Holocaust possible. Even 60 years ago, conflicts involving "people of whom we know nothing" quickly threatened the very survival of an America that felt safe because of being shielded by two big oceans.
Hitler took whatever he could take through negotiation and then sought to conquer the rest through war. Putin's Russia and Iran's jihadist regime are following that same blueprint today. Hitler did not have legitimate grievances nor could he be reasoned with or placated. Hitler had strategic goals and he made those goals very clear in his writings and in his speeches. The world was foolish to ignore his words.
When will the West wake up to the dangers posed by today's tyrants, who also speak quite clearly about their ultimate goals? When will a modern-day Winston Churchill or Harry Truman emerge?
Neville Chamberlain was wrong about Adolf Hitler and Chamberlain's mistakes precipitated World War II. President Obama is wrong now about Putin's Russia and about Iran. We can only hope that the consequences of President Obama's mistakes will not be as severe.
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