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Muslim Anti-Semitism

The prevalence of deep anti-Semitism in many parts of the Muslim world is one of today's scarier phenomena. To some, it can also seem mysterious.  To be sure, Jews regularly suffered persecution under the Crescent as they did under the Cross, but not with the same sustained ferocity. Nor did Islam ever bring forth a racially-infused hatred of Jews like that of the Spanish Church—or, in our own times, the Nazis.

Relevant Links
The Nazis and the Arabs  Jonathan Mok, Global Comment. An interview with Jeffrey Herf on the shaping of radical Islam, and on the failure of Western liberals to confront the threat it poses.
Searching for an Arab Schindler  Judith Miller, New York Sun. As Robert Satloff has documented, some Muslim Arabs took risks to save Jews—a historical chapter that has itself been repressed in Arab lands.
The Holocaust in Arab Eyes  Francis R. Nicosia, H-Net Reviews. In From Empathy to Denial, Meir Litvak and Esther Webman compellingly analyze a sensitive and highly important topic.
On Muslim Anti-Semitism  Emmanuel Sivan, Jewish People Policy Planning Institute. A phenomenon with medieval roots but with virulent and specifically modern manifestations. (“Findings,” pages 9–19.)

Until, that is, the Nazis themselves got into the act. Since then, and to an extent previously unparalleled in Muslim history, Jews and Judaism have been demonized beyond all proportion by Islamic officialdom and Islamic masses, by religious clerics and Westernized intellectuals alike.

In a new book, The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, the historian Jeffrey Herf has unearthed a hitherto unknown side of the Holocaust: the massive broadcasting in Arabic of Nazi propaganda that mixed cynical anti-imperialism with sincere and impassioned hatred of Jews. We don't know how the broadcasts were received at the time, but they likely played a role in fostering a new Arabic rhetoric that hung in the air and came fully to life in the coming decades. By the 1950s, discussion of the Holocaust became entirely a function of the battle against Israel and Zionism; the events themselves were either altogether denied, or dismissed as providing any sort of basis for Jewish claims, or twisted into the argument that the Holocaust's true victims were the Palestinians.  

Today, although Holocaust denial does not figure much in the writings of al-Qaeda and other radical groups, it has been embraced by establishments from Tehran to Riyadh and beyond, and by groups like Hamas that are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.  In the view of Emmanuel Sivan, one of the world's leading historians of Islam, the migration of Holocaust-related themes into Islamist literature is a main factor behind the powerful toxicity of today's Muslim anti-Semitism and the transformation of the Arab-Israeli conflict from a political contest into a holy war. Unless the resultant demonization is undone, it will continue to pose a grave danger to Jews, to Muslims themselves, and to the civilized world.


Cheri on February 1, 2012 at 4:56 pm (Reply)
For 20 years, my husband's job took us in and out of the Muslim world. The anti-Jewish rhetoric there was very loud, even among those "educated" in the United States and Europe. Josef Goebbels would be dancing happily in hell to see how effective his work has been among Muslims. As a Jew with a very Christian sounding name, who could enage these so-called educated elites, I came away horrified at their genuine anti-Jewish feelings and with the chilling sense that if given half a chance, they would re-enact the terrors of 70 years ago. One of these people, who had been to Dachau, asked me--in 1998--why the ovens and gas chambers couldn't be used on the Jews again. Jews who are just now coming to terms with this Muslim anti-semitism are way late, just as we were way late in recognizing the Nazi threat.

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