Thursday, March 12, 2015

How European Myths Fuel Modern Islamic Antisemitism

Last year, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks discussed the emergence of a new antisemitism that is spreading across Europe within living memory of the Holocaust. European antisemitism is not merely confined to the borders of Europe. In a recent article titled The Return of Anti-Semitism, Rabbi Sacks noted how "two classic myths imported from Europe" 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.

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