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Muslims and Jews in America

Consider these two questions:

Relevant Links
In Search Of Friends Among The Foes  John Mintz, Douglas Farah, Washington Post. According to the Washington Post, members of the Muslim Brotherhood launched the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in 1981.
Rant  Nathan Guttman, Forward. Leaders of the ISNA were quick to condemn an anti-Semitic rant given during the organization’s 2009 conference.
Libya: Ambassador Warns of Ethnic Violence  John Mintz, During the campaign against Qaddafi, an ambassador warned about the dangers of “age-old” Arab-Berber animosities.

During the past ten years, approximately 170 American Muslims have been arrested for plotting terror attacks against Jews or materially aiding other terrorists.  While the numbers are relatively small, the danger is real enough.  Isn't it only reasonable to wonder whether these individuals were moved by anti-Jewish passions that are shared by others in the American Muslim community?

On August 26, 2011, eleven American Muslim leaders and two Muslim congressmen addressed a letter to Hamas criticizing its treatment of Gilad Shalit and calling for Shalit's release.  Isn't it just as reasonable to wonder whether these individuals were moved by a humane sympathy for Jews that is shared by others in the American Muslim community?

To answer such questions, investigating American Muslim attitudes towards Jews might seem a natural enough pursuit for American Jews.  But to judge by the recently published collection of essays Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalities, Contentions, and Complexities, genuine investigation is being pushed aside in favor of a political agenda that marginalizes voices from the right and uses Israel as a punching bag in the name of inter-communal "dialogue."

Muslims and Jews in America takes pains to appear even-handed.  One editor is Muslim, the other Jewish.  The 16 essays are evenly divided between Jewish and Muslim authors.  But aside from these symmetries, the book has little internal coherence.  Some chapters read like advertisements for organizations such as J Street and Tikkun.  Others include an inquiry into assimilation and separation patterns among Iranian Jews and Muslims in Los Angeles and an exchange of letters on feminist theology between a Jewish and a Muslim feminist.

But there are deeper flaws than the book's patchwork character.  Though the volume is purportedly about America, Reza Aslan, the Iranian-American polemicist who is one of the co-editors, begins his introductory essay by describing Israel's security barrier:

Call it a security fence, a separation barrier, a seam zone, an apartheid wall. . . .  For Muslim and Christian Palestinians, the divide is merely the most physical manifestation of what they view as Israel's policy of ethnic and religious segregation. 

From Aslan's account, you would think that West Bank Palestinians are fighting a 1960's American-style battle to integrate Israel.  This is, of course, not true.  More important, the barrier has nothing to do with manifesting a "policy of ethnic and religious segregation"—20 percent of Israel's population is Araband everything to do with security.  It is outrageous for Aslan to claim otherwise.  (We should not be surprised: Aslan recently edited a collection of essays on Middle Eastern literature that included writings in Urdu but nothing in Hebrew.)  Muslims and Jews in America calls on both groups to "recognize each other's pain."  But, although Israel is fair game, you won't find a word in the book about the hundred-year Arab-Muslim war against minorities in the Middle East, including the mid-20th-century uprooting and shakedown of almost a million Jews.

The bias hardly ends there.  In a paean to brotherhood, the book includes a 2007 address by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ), to the 44th annual convention of the Islam Society of North America (ISNA) and the reciprocal address in the same year by Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of ISNA, to the URJ's 69th annual conference.  The problem is that the ISNA has a history of playing host to Muslim extremists; it was once deeply connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.  Is ISNA's Muslim Brotherhood connection a thing of the past?  Does ISNA allow the presence of Muslim extremists only because it seeks to be inclusive?  In an honest dialogue we would face and discuss these questions, but on this occasion neither Rabbi Yoffie nor Dr. Mattson did.  Instead, Rabbi Yoffie's address was a robust Enlightenment-style attack on the "profound ignorance" that he considers the cause of anti-Muslim passions in America.

The book's most egregious example of closed-mindedness posing as enlightened discourse is "American Jews & American Muslims of Love" by Rabbi Michael Lerner, the engine behind the "spiritually progressive" journal Tikkun.  Lerner feels no need to pose difficult questions in order to navigate a complex reality.  Instead, he strikes an emotional pose.  There are two kinds of people in the world, he says, those moved by "fear" and those moved by "love."  It's not hard to guess which side Lerner comes down on.  "Security," he blithely asserts, "comes from generosity and love."  If you think differently, you belong to the "Jews of Fear" (read "conservatives"), part of the fear-mongers in every society who hold back the spiritual evolution of our planet.

Such silliness hardly deserves a serious response, though it does highlight the foolishness at the heart of the book, which is especially evident in Peter Geffen's Afterword.  Geffen tells the story of how Jews fleeing Morocco left the key of their village synagogue with a local Muslim, who patiently held onto it until a rabbi finally visited the village 45 years later.  The Muslim greeted the rabbi with a hearty Hebrew welcomeand even knew how to chant the central Jewish prayer, "Shma Yisrael."  A gushing Geffen asks, "Can we in the United States recreate the gentle, subtle tone of Jews and Berber-Muslims living in mutual respect and tolerance?"

Aaah.  The Muslim was a Berber!  This, of course, changes everything.  Apparently no one told Geffen that Moroccan Berbers are an oppressed minority with little love for the 100-year-old Arab campaign to erase their identity.  It is no wonder that Berbers often identify with Jews.  That "gentle, subtle tone of Jews and Berber-Muslims living in mutual respect" needs to be heard against the martial music of the crusading Arab-Islamic fervor that drives these two Middle East minorities together.

Geffen and those who share his attitude give every indication that they are profoundly ignorant of such seemingly minor but hugely significant details.  So long as Muslim communities around the globeincluding Americaare investigated with kid gloves, such ignorance will remain depressingly common.

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Independent Patriot on October 10, 2011 at 8:04 am (Reply)
The Gordian knots that the left ties itself into in order to bring reality into their fantasy world are just amazing. This shows a dim future for the Jews of America if they actually follow these moronic leaders. It's why I left the reform movement and why we are now an unaffiliated family, simply Jewish-Americans. But at least we are some of the educated ones, not trying to turn reality on its head.

Peace and mutual respect is a nice thing to hope for , but first you need to have a partner that sees you as deserving of that respect.They have to see you as an equal, which they do not and never will. You can not force it and quite frankly I for one will not beg those that hate me to respect me.

What gets me is that these liberal Jews who so want the Moslems to love them. They turn a blind eye to Islamic Jew-hatred (historical and present day) and to the part of the Koran that insists we are lesser creatures, not even real people. Yet they rail against some past injustices of the Christian right, refusing to see Israel's and the Jewish people's true modern day friends. It never fails to amaze me how a People that is supposedly so smart is utterly devoid of common sense.
Jay A Friedman on October 10, 2011 at 8:22 am (Reply)
Why are you picking on the Muslims? What about the Jews? You didn't mention the mumber of Jews in America who committed acts of terrorism aganst Muslims and/or other members of the population. Come on! I Dare You. How Many?

(Oops -- I may be wrong. When I was 10 years old, my next-door-neigbor Marvin, 11 at the time, gave me a bloody nose. The next year, when I had grown a few inches, I walloped him. We were and are both Jewish. So, I guess we're terrorists, also.)

Craig J. Bolton on October 10, 2011 at 8:36 am (Reply)
Judging by this editorial masquerading as a news article, it looks like there is ample silliness on both sides of the question of whether Muslims are inherently monsters. Let's see:

(1) American Muslim leaders call for release--release, not merely better treatment--for Gilad Shalit. This is obviously a sinister plot.

(2) A book is published containing essays about matters of concern to Jews and Muslims. One of the essays calls for love. Imagine that. What depravity will be engaged in next by these leftist demagogues?

(3) One of the contributors to this book publishes another book with an essay in Urdu but none in Hebrew. By similar reasoning, or lack thereof, the medical and legal professions obviously need to adopt quotas on Jews.

(4) This book of essays fails to address the pressing question of the 800,000 Jews expelled from Arab lands, ah, 60 years ago.

And on and on and on.

It truly is a shame that not everyone has the black-and-white, angels-and-demons mindset of Mr. Tepper; perhaps he can produce better arguments for his position in the future.
Shlomo on October 10, 2011 at 9:37 am (Reply)
While some Muslims may be genuine liberals (perhaps on their way out of Islam), I see two causes for concern. (1) Islam is clearly anti-Jewish. There are many anti-Jewish comments in the Koran and other Islamic scriptures. This has been documented by Andrew Bostom. (2) Jihad is an essential component of Islam. Jihad entails relentless war against the non-Muslim world and the subjugation of non-believers. Bat Ye'or has documented this process as it has applied to Middle Eastern Christians and Jews. Jihad has characterized Muslim history from the beginning. In Europe today, where Muslims are more numerous than in North America, Islam has infringed on Jewish civil rights and safety. Many school teachers fear to teach about the Shoah because of opposition from Muslim students and parents. The Muslims have no shame about rewriting history. The endless war against Israel is part of this Jihad process. The disputes about this or that piece of real estate in Jerusalem are merely skirmishes.
Robin Rosenblatt on October 10, 2011 at 2:41 pm (Reply)
The passive Islamic invasion of Europe is turning EU countires into Islamic countries. Those counties are now faced with these choices: civil war, deporting huge numbers of their Islamic populations, or turning their countries into Islamic countries. Do you want that to happen here?

America's first cultural war was with the American Indians. It was almost a genocidal war for the American Indians and their culture.

The Middle East conflict is also a cultural war, which means Islamic culture must destroy western culture or western culture must destroy Islamic culture. It is a genocidal war.

The book "Culture and Conflict” explains it clearly. It shows that current cultural conditions in the Arab Middle East will not support internal development, advancement, or peace until there is a major cultural change. “It is critical that we understand our enemy. That is step one in every conflict.” Philip Carl Salzman, ISBN # 978-1-59102-587-0.
ben yaacov on October 10, 2011 at 3:05 pm (Reply)
As an Eastern Jew, I confess to no small amount of emotion on this subject. I also confess no small amount of anger when completely ignorant Ashkenazi Jews talk about how tolerant Islam is or how good the situation was for Jews in the Islamic world. Worse, some excuse and rationalise the current pandemic antisemitism in the Muslim world as an understandable reaction to Zionism. Their metric of antisemitism is the Nazis and the Holocaust, and anything less gets a pass.

Moshe Maimonides wrote from Cairo, in 1172, the most succint description of Jewish suffering in the Arab world: "G-d has hurled us (Jews) in the midst of these people, the Arabs, who have persecuted us severely, and passed baneful and discriminatory legislation against us . . . . Never did a nation molest, degrade, debase and hate us as much as they.
Therefore when David, of blessed memory, inspired by the holy spirit, envisaged the future tribulations of Israel, he bewailed and lamented their lot only in the Kingdom of Ishmael, and prayed in their behalf, for their deliverance, as is implied in the verse, 'Woe is me, that I sojourn with Meschech, that I dwell beside the tents of Kedar.' (Psalms 120:5)."

Eight hundred years later, nothing has changed.
michaelkrohde on October 10, 2011 at 8:53 pm (Reply)
The U.N. and a super majority of its members believe the 1967 borders are a starting place. There is no mention of the lives of the people in the camps. They are dying daily, and many thousands of children are malnourished to the point of permanent developmental disabilities. Israel has its boot on the throat of hundreds of thousands of poor Arabs. How do you expect them to react? Give you a better price on oil? That Jews could be so brutal after what European Jews suffered in WWII is not so suprising; it is incredibly sad. And there will be no peace without a land swap. Well over a million Arabs were displaced by force of arms from homes they had lived in for hundreds of years. The Torah is not a foreign policy starting point. It is a fiction that should remain in the Temple and out of foreign relations. God is not racist. He/She/Whatever doesn't choose favorites. AIPAC has fixed the American Congress. American voters don't know what is really happening in the Holy Land, and if they knew the truth of Israeli brutality in the occupied territories they would register their complaints with their votes. The Arab spring is going to bring reality to the American public, and Israel is not going to look good when the truth is known. That's why Jewish youth in America are not blindly pro-Israel. They know the reality on the ground.
warren on October 11, 2011 at 10:52 am (Reply)
"There are many anti-Jewish comments in the Koran and other Islamic scriptures. This has been documented by Andrew Bostom." Islam has only one scripture: the Quran. There are no "other Islamic scriptures." In case hadith was what Shlomo had mind, that is no more scripture than its Jewish counterpart, the Talmud, is Jewish scripture.

Bostom's work has been discredited; it is about as accurate when it comes to depicting Islam as Pat Buchanan is when it comes to Judaism.

Shlomo's understanding of Jihad is about as correct as the New Testament's understanding of Pharisaism.
Shlomo on October 11, 2011 at 5:00 pm (Reply)
Warren fails to substantiate his assertions or provide his credentials. He fails to explain where I misunderstand Islam and Jihad. He also fails to recommend alternative sources of information.

I find Bostom, Bat Ye'or, and ex-Muslims Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, and Ibn Warraq credible because they can explain Muslim political behavior: the unending Jihad against Israel, the ongoing persecution of Christians in the Middle East, the motivations of Osama Bin Ladin, and the backwardness of Islamic societies. I refer readers to Robert Spencer's for an introduction to Islam and updates on current events. Spencer is a Melkite (eastern rite) Catholic fluent in Arabic. Although I am a typical American Jewish (Ashkenazic) liberal and don't share his overall political economic conservatism, I find his explanation of Muslim behavior convincing.
Jerry Blaz on October 12, 2011 at 3:56 am (Reply)
The disagreement between Jews and Arabs is not a religious disagreement but a political one. Certainly, polemicists will bring in religion to make points, and certainly many Arabs have appealed to Muslim sympathies to create antipathies towards the Jew. And some of the replies exhibit the same behavior by Jews towards Muslims.

And now the response to Aryeh Tepper. He disregards the pluralistic nature of Muslims and Arabs. If he did not like the all the speakers who have addressed ISNA, the organization is a bad one. Just as their are Jews whose ideas repel me, after reading the responses I'm certain that some Jews will feel repelled by my words.

The most interesting moment in Tepper's article occurs when he relates that the Morrocan Muslim is not an Arab but a Berber. Suddenly, this Muslim Berber is a "good soul." It is true that the Berber resents the hegemonous aspects of Arab life, as is the Kurd in Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq, and the Christian in many countries of the area. But if you feel that Arab hegemony in these countries are unjust, blame the imperialist countries that created the Arab states after World War I.
ben yaacov on October 12, 2011 at 10:59 am (Reply)
Re: Jerry Blaz

Jerry Blaz demonstrates little, if any, knowledge of North African or Middle Eastern History or of their peoples. The ethnic and religious rivalries, as well as the clan and tribal rivalries, in all these countries go back centuries before the "imperialist countries that created the Arab states" got involved.

And, if one is going to talk about Imperialism, it should be pointed out that the Arabs before Islam resided in the Arabian peninsula; they now inhabit all of North Africa up through the East Mediterranean Levant.
sofia on October 12, 2011 at 2:45 pm (Reply)
Shlomo chides Warren for not providing credentials. What/where are Shlomo's credentials? None are cited in his posting.

Shlomo finds "Bostom, Bat Ye'or, and ex-Muslims Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, and Ibn Warraq credible because they can explain Muslim political behavior." That's like saying that Jews for Jesus--like Eric Cantor's cousin Ron, a "Messianic Jewish" preacher now living in Israel and working to turn the Jewish state into a Christian one--are credible in explaining Jewish religious behavior.
ben yaacov on October 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm (Reply)
Whether you agree with them or not, Bostom, Bat Ye'or, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, cannot be simply dismissed; they are respected commentators and academics who are considered to be authorities in their fields of research.

How in any world does that compare to "Eric Cantor's cousin Ron?"
Jerry Blaz on October 13, 2011 at 3:53 am (Reply)
I am sorry that anyone believes that I am a mere "bar bei rav d'had yoma" about the Middle East and North Africa. But to call the current Arab people in the Moghrab (which means west and is cognate with the Hebrew Ma'arav)invaders when they've been there so long, one has to be glad that the Ammonites and Edomites and Perizites are no longer around to complain about the Jews in Eretz Yisrael. (It's bad enough that we've also got to contend the Arabs, as does the Moghrab.) I can't hang out my credentials on a space made for comments.

The point is that the European powers who defined the current boundaries of most of the Middle East did not stay around to see what happened when they left behind hegemonic Arab countries with many other people excluded.
Craig J. Bolton on October 13, 2011 at 9:58 am (Reply)
Actually, neither Bostrom nor Bat Ye'or nor Ali nor Sullan nor Warraq has any academic position in a field having to do with religious studies. Bostrom and Sullan are doctors. Bat Ye'or and Warraq are journalists. Ali is a former politician who now holds a position at a right-wing think tank. None of the actual experts in this field, like Bernard Lewis, agrees with your claims.

The fact of the matter is that traditional Islam is no more inherently antisemitic than is Christianity and less so than traditional Christianity of either the Catholic or Lutheran variety. What has happened in recent years is due to the vast pool of money under the control of the family Saud and their Wahhabist partners. To try to transform those simple historical facts into some sort of historical confrontation between Judaism and Islam is simply silly.
Larry Z. Kaplan on October 13, 2011 at 2:06 pm (Reply)
Yasher Koach, Craig Bolton!
Shlomo on October 13, 2011 at 2:32 pm (Reply)
Anti-semitism is widespread in the Islamic world. See for current journalism. Christianity has an anti-semitic history, but anti-semitism is far more virulent and dangerous in the Muslim world today.

Most American mosques are dominated by the Saudis and Muslim Brotherhood front organizations such as CAIR and MSA.

Properly credentialed Middle East specialists who attest to Islamic anti-semitism include Daniel Pipes (Middle East Quarterly), Efraim Karsh (see his book "Islamic Imperialism"), and Martin Kramer (at

See for analysis of "Jews and apes" analogy.

See for list of Koran quotations about the Jews.

"Mosques are our barracks, minarets our bayonets, domes our helmets, the believers our soldiers," said Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan.

Koran 9:29: Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth [i.e., Islam] among the people of the Scripture [Jews and Christians], until they pay the Jizya [tax imposed by Islamic states on certain non-Muslim inhabitants] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
Independent Patriot on October 13, 2011 at 5:11 pm (Reply)
First of all, Wafa Sultan grew up in Syria in a Moslem household. She is speaking from her own experiences and knowledge. She is an ardent advocate for women living under Islam. Ali's experiences are as a female in a modern Somali household. Again, her real-life experiences are invaluable as a guide to how Moslems think about and treat not only Jews but women. That she is a member of a right-wing think tank is irrespective of her ideals and knowledge. That anyone needs to put a political spin on her truth shows that he does not have an honest perspective of his own. You do not need an academic degree in religion or history to detail and understand the society in which you were raised.

Additionally, Bat Ye'or is speaking as an Egyptian Jew and uses her own experiences as a starting point as well. She is an honored and well respected author on the treatment of Jews and other minorities under Islam. Here is her Wikipedia bio:

Here is Ib Warraq's bio from Wikipedia: You will find that he is not just a journalist with no background in Islamic history , religion, or knowledge, being himself of Pakistani origin.

As far as Dr. Bostom, you do not need a degree in religion to understand the writings of another religion. He is considered a respected authority on the issue of Islamic history and, quite frankly, his issues with Bernard Lewis are well known. Bernard Lewis, while the "old man" of Islamic studies, has repeatedly changed his mind about the treatment of Jews in the Islamic world. Read his books on the subject, "The Jews of Islam" and "Semites and Anti-Semites." Also, he never said that Jews were well treated or well thought of in the Islamic world. Lewis said that under Islam it was never as bad for the Jews, or as good for the Jews, as it was both good and bad for the Jews in Christian Europe.

If you are actually interested in the topic of Jews under Islam, you might also like to read Ephraim Karsh and Edwin Black on the subject. Both have written many books on the subject. The respected Robert Wistrich has an interesting book on the history of antisemitism, "Lethal Obsession," and discusses Islamic antisemitism. You may also try Sir Martin Gilbert's book, "In Ishmael's House," for a full understanding of how Jews were treated under Islam.

Last, you may want to look at any reputable biography of the Rambam--the great Moses Maimonides, the medieval philosopher, doctor and rabbi. His journey from Cordoba to Jerusalem to Egypt because of Islamic antisemitism and the way in which he was forced to live subservient to his Islamic overlords are quite historical. You may also want to read some of his writings about the treatment of Jews under Islam. You can rest assured that he was not complimentary.

It is Islamist nonsense that somehow until the advent of Zionsism Jews and Moslems lived together in their Eden and the streets of Cordoba were a glory. Jews have always been dhimmis [non-Muslims in Islamic states], subject to abuse, taxation, forced conversion, expulsion, and ghettoization. There is a reason that the Arab and Muslim worlds are basically Judenrein today. It is not because Jews were treated well. This is not simply a result of Wahhabism. The Saudis are the end result of 1400 hundred years of persecution and the belief in the inferiority of the Jewish people, not the progenitors.

Remember that one of Mohammed's first acts was to slaughter the Jewish tribes of Arabia. The battle that the Islamists like to sing about today (Khaybar) resulted in the beheading of 699 Jewish men (one converted to Islam, so he was spared) and the selling of the women and children into slavery. Since the 7th century it has been forbidden for Jews to live in or enter Arabia. That is why the Saudis ask your religion upon your entering their nation--not because of Israel and not because of Wahabbism.

What may be understood is that the "Christian" version of antisemitism--blood libels, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, etc.--found their way into the Islamic world only with the coming of the missionaries. But as early as 1847 there were blood libel trials in Damascus. Again, this has nothing to do with modern-day Islamic antisemitism or the spread of Wahhabism.

If you would also like an understanding of the history of Sephardic Jewry, there is a terrific blog called Point of No Return. Intermingled with modern stories is a history of the Jews of Muslim lands. I recommend it to anyone interested in the truth.

The need and desire to defame and disrespect authorities on this subject merely because you do not like the reality that they discuss is either foolish or, at worst, uneducated. There is no strength in that.

And, by the way, I do have a degree in Political Science/Middle Eastern studies and a J.D.--just in case anyone wants to attack my educational background.
ben yaacov on October 14, 2011 at 5:44 am (Reply)
Re: Craig Bolton

You are not clever by half, Craig. You think you win by playing "gothcha",but you don't and didn't. Further, you lose on substance. I made no claim that these authors had academic credentials in "religious studies." Since religious studies are more philosophical and abstract, I am not sure how relevant they would be in any event. The issue here is history--whether they and their writings are respected by academics in that field, not necessarily by all but by enough so that they have credibility as commentators and authorities. Again, that doesn't require 100% agreement by said academics, particularly as to how they interpret the specific events; there is general agreement that the facts introduced in their writings are correct, even if their interpretation of some of those events is disputed.

Bernard Lewis, to whom you refer, had no problem citing bat Yeor as a primary source in his works. Benny Morris (does he meet your criterion of "actual experts in this field?") and many others have given both bat Yeor and Bostrom high marks for their work. Bat Yeor has been invited to speak at many universities. Dismissing Ayaan Hirsi Ali's work because she "holds a position at a right-wing think tank," with no comment on the substance of her work, is beyond contempt. Her essays are routinely cited by academics and frequently "required reading" at universities such as Harvard, Stanford, Humbolt University (Berlin), and the Free Univesity of Berlin.

You wrote that "traditional Islam is no more inherently antisemitic than is Christianity." This would be more a mea culpa than an exoneration. You further go off track by writing that "some sort of historical confrontation between Judaism and Islam is simply silly." Who is alleging this? Alleging this would be like saying there was a "historical confrontation" between black Africans and the white slave trading countries. A confrontation implies some level of symmetry, but there was no symmetry in Jewish/Arab or Jewish/Muslim relations. It is beyond dispute--it is a fact--that Jews were persecuted and suffered, often greatly, under Islam. The situation of Jews in Iran or Yemen was as bad as, and frequently worse than, anything that was happening in Europe.

It speaks volumes that a thousand years ago, the population of Jews in North Africa and the Middle East approximated one million. In the middle of the 20th century, the population of Jews still approximated one million. Compare that to the explosive growth of the Jewish population in Europe during that time, despite all they suffered.

The Rambam wrote 800 years ago, "G-d has hurled us [Jews] in the midst of this people, the Arabs, who have persecuted us severely, and passed baneful and discriminatory legislation against us . . . . Never did a nation molest, degrade, debase and hate us as much as they." Rambam wrote this long before Wahabis, petrodollars, or modern Zionism and before there was any concern for the situation of Jews in these lands by anyone but the Jews themselves.

Eastern Jews generally have great empathy for Ashkenazi suffering. There is, however, something profoundly disturbing and perverse about the way some Ashkenazi Jews (among others) have invested so much energy in trying to rationalize the wretched Dhimmi laws and have gone out of their way to reject history and minimize or dismiss the persecution and suffering of Eastern Jews.
ben yaacov on October 14, 2011 at 6:25 am (Reply)
Re: Jerry Blaz

Not withstanding his impressive Arabic, Aramaic, and Hebrew skills, his comments show no practical or demonstrable understanding of the region. I will say it again: The violent ethnic, racial, tribal, and religious rivalries long pre-date European intervention and are not a consequence of European imperialism. No borders could have been drawn that could have stopped the violence and rivalries from resurfacing; they have always resurfaced when there was a power vacuum. Blaming Europe for these rivalries is wrong and deflects from the real source of these ancient antagonisms.

I didn't say that present-day Arabs are invaders, nor was I was challenging the Arabs' right to be in North Africa or the Levant. I wasn't aware that there was a "statute of limitations," as it were, on the historical record of imperial expansion. Arab expansion by force of arms is a fact, so I find Mr. Blaz's singling out of European imperialism as the source of the region's woes not just wrong but suspect.
Jerry Blaz on October 14, 2011 at 4:33 pm (Reply)
I wasn't trying to impress you with my knowledge. The Aramaic is a talmudic expression denoting a neophyte, which, as I stated, I am not. Most of the Arabic that I've learned came from Jews whose native language was Arabic, and along with their speech, I learned of their lives in Iraq and North Africa.

Agreeing that the Jews living in Arab countries were not living in democracies, were not given equal status with Muslim Arabs, and were living in countries where the traditional clan structure still held powerful control over life, we have been influenced as Jews by all the countries of our vast dispersion over the millennia.

The Ramba"m himself was influenced by Islam's more pristine demands on monotheism, and they themselves were influenced by Greek philosophy. His 13 principles of faith could never have been formulated as they were if it were not for this influence.

Why did Sa'adya Hagaon feel it necessary to create the "Tafsir," the first complete translation of Tana"x from Hebrew to Arabic, if not because of the linguistic assimilation of the Jews of his time and place?

Sure, Jews living as a minority have suffered, and that is why we needed to regain our national state. But all Jews, both in Europe and in the Arab East suffered from that deprivation. Certainly there were very bad times, but we survived and, in some cases, prospered. I refuse to be a Xasid of a solely lachrymose Jewish history.

Xag SameaX
ben yaacov on October 16, 2011 at 7:36 am (Reply)
Re: re: re: Jerry Blaz

Since you seem to be addressing me personally, "I wasn't trying to impress you," I feel compelled to answer. I was only commenting on what seemed to be a tired repetition of a popular refrain that blames all contemporary problems of the Arab/Muslim world on Western interference, thereby making them unaccountable for anything that goes awry in their societies. I am not sure what point you are making in the above post. Has somebody suggested that Jews in Arab/Muslim countries lived in a vacuum isolating them from the influence of majority cultures? I certainly haven't. Jews, like most others in the Arab/Muslim world, did historically live in their own neighbourhoods and villages. However, there was still interaction, particularly in cities or larger towns, where Jews were frequently concentrated.
aryeh tepper on October 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm (Reply)

To follow up Ben Yaacov's point, the Arab dimension of Jewish culture has been explored on these pages--for instance, here ( and here ( But I fail to see how that question, important as it might be, is relevant to the present discussion.
Jerry Blaz on October 17, 2011 at 7:23 pm (Reply)
All this brouhaha began with a statement that anyone who said a positive thing about Muslims in America was overlooking the lives of the Jews who once lived in the Arab states and must be ignorant about them. I merely pointed out that not everything positive stated about Muslims in the United States is stated out of ignorance about Jewish life in the Muslim world. I am only too well aware of the political war going on between us and the Muslims over Israel. I cannot forget the concussion of the bomb explosions just a few feet from me.

Ben Yaacov is much too sensitive on this point and tends to read everything stated as a derogatory remark about the MisraXim. This is simply erroneous. Let me hope that I can conclude this apparent demonstration of talking past one another by stating an adage--"Kol Yisrael Arevem zeh b'zeh"--and let it go at that.
Mordecai Specktor on October 18, 2011 at 1:14 pm (Reply)
Tepper writes about the Islamic Society of North America and its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. I don't know much about the organization's history; however, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is now led by Mohamed Magid, who has publicly denounced anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. He was part of a delegation of Muslim leaders who toured the Nazi death camps last year and issued a strong statement against those who propagate lies about the historical reality of the Shoah. I think he's an inspiring figure. He recently visited Minnesota with Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. Department of State special envoy to combat and monitor anti-Semitism; the events here were organized by US Rep. Keith Ellison, the first-ever Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress.
ben yaacov on October 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm (Reply)
Jerry, again, I must respond since you single me out. I never made any comment(s), one way or the other, about anybody who made a positive comment about Muslim Americans. I commented about the general history of Jews in Arab and Muslim countries and on some posters who dismissed Middle Eastern commentators for political reasons rather than on substance.

Nobody here made any derogatory remarks about N. African or Eastern Jews, I fail to understand your point of me reading into any such meanings posted here. I did state quite frankly my sensitivity at the outset on this subject but it was more a full disclosure. I wasn't saying it as a comment of the then posts, it was supportive to the agenda that Mr. Tepper was alluding to. Many, primarily Leftist Jews dismiss the often harsh realities N. African and Eastern Jewish communities faced, presenting a fictitious and harmonious account of Arab/Jewish history, and if we (Jews) could just put this sad chapter of Zionism behind us, all will be forgiven and will go back to the way it was.

Jerry, I took you to task only over your references to European imperialism--nothing about Jews. However, I find you again showing a fundamental lack of understanding of the Arab world and culture. As I said, racial, ethnic, tribal, clan, and religious rivalries and antagonisms go very far back in the Arab world. The Arab and wider Muslim worlds are highly hierarchical societies. You said that the problem between Jews and Arabs is political, not religious. You are wrong, very wrong. In the hierarchy there is a place for the Jews, as well as other non-Muslims. Jews are not, nor can they ever be, equal to Muslims or Muslim Arabs. Jews do not have rights, they have certain "privileges" accorded to them.

Historically, most Jews occupied a very low and degrading position in Arab society> In the 19th century, European Jews who had advanced socially and economically established schools, Alliance Israel, throughout the Arab world. Due to a convergence of factors and a result of these schools, Jews were well placed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that became available in the late 19th century. Many Jews and Jewish communities became quite wealthy very rapidly--within two to three generations, with Baghdad as an example. Jews became over-represented in the civil service, professions and large business enterprises. This success was greatly resented by the Arabs and was punctuated by violent protests. This is why Nazi propaganda resonated so deeply across the Arab world in the 1930s. When Iraq became independent, the first Prime Minister demanded that the British take the Jews out with them. It had nothing to do with Israel or Zionism.

Israel and Zionism quickly exacerbated an already open wound for the Arabs: Jews had positioned themselves well above their "assigned station." This is as much at the core of the problem, probably more so, than the political dimensions.

Violation of this sense of social order is also part of what many Muslims and Arabs find so incomprehensible and contemptible about Western societies, which have allowed women and Jews to assume positions of tremendous influence and power. Leftist are fond of retorting, "Look at Iran! They guarantee a Jewish seat in the parliament!" That is the ceiling, though, not a floor (and never mind that the occupant of that seat is not selected by the Jews but, of course, appointed by the Muslim clergy).

I suggest that people read the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam for some perspective. This is Islam putting on its "best face," as it were, for the world, stating the declaration represents a goal and an ideal not attained. Yet the Cairo Declaration refuses to grant legal equality between Muslim and non-Muslim. Non-Muslims get "equal respect," not equal rights. Between genders, women are accorded only equal "respect." The Cairo Declaration states shari'a is the basis of all law and, naturally, takes precedence over man-made law (what we call civil law). There are no rights of religious freedom--e.g., a Muslim can't convert. There is no freedom of association--e.g., sexes can be segregated. There is no freedom of speech--e.g., there can be no apostasy or "defamation" of Islam or Mohammed.
Jerry Blaz on October 18, 2011 at 8:13 pm (Reply)
What you say about the Arab society is correct. It is basically a clan society, an expression I believe I used in a prior message. And I am aware of the dhimmi status of the "people of the book" in Muslim society. The big difference betweeen Europe and the Muslim East is that the latter never experienced a renaissance and enlightenment. These events took place over several centuries during which most of the Arab east was under the heel of the Ottomans. Beys, Deys, and Effendis were the rule of the day until the end of World War I, when the Ottomans were replaced by the Christian Imperialist powers. They weren't worse than the Turks; but they were Christian, which meant that it was like a return of the Crusaders, who didn't have a very glorious history in regards to either Jews or Muslims.
Craig J. Bolton on October 19, 2011 at 9:09 am (Reply)
Ben Yaacov,

The only parts of the world that have been relatively neutral toward Jews in the past two millennia have been in Central Asia; and even there, Jews have been treated as you portray them as having been treated under Muslim rule--in this case because they were regarded as "barbarians" (not Chinese).

As for conditions in Western Europe under "Christian civilization:"

(1) The Christian Scriptures are explicitly antisemitic. Jews were "killers of G_d" and, at best, hypocrites. The trend got worse as time passed and Jews and Christians started to compete for converts. With the exception of Augustine, who contended that Jews should be tolerated in Christianity as an example of perversity and persistence in error, most of the early Christian Fathers favored policies only slightly milder than those of Ferdinand and Isabella [who expelled the Jews from Spain].

(2) The [Roman] emperors after the three Great Revolts [in Judea] despised Jews and placed them under numerous legal liabilities. The edicts of Constantine, the first Christian Emperor, are notorious--providing, among other things that the penalty for a Jew who converts a Christian is death and forfeiture of all possessions and property.

(3) When the Crusaders of Germany and France went on their First Crusade, they stopped long enough to slaughter the Jews among them (which is generally why the remaining Ashkenazic Jews then emigrated Eastward).

(4) Then there was the expulsion by the above-mentioned Ferdinand and Isabella, which occurred somewhat later than the expulsion of Jews and confiscation of their property in other countries of Western Europe. The Spanish expulsion was followed by the Inquisition, which continued to torment any converts to Christianity who were suspected of preserving any "Judaizing tendencies."

(5) Skipping over several hundred years of more of the same, we come to the German Lutheran clergy under Hitler, who were strong supporters of his campaign for a "Jewish-free" Europe. Similarly, though without the aid of state power, the Catholic clergy of Poland have had considerable problems in harboring anti-semities in high positions. The Orthodox Christian clergy do not even make a pretense of not being anti-semitic, just as they are adamently anti-Muslim.

In short, the historical record of Muslims must to be judged not in a vacuum but against the historical record of the other societies in which Jews have lived and, largely, live today. Not only is this record "not good" but there is no reason to believe that those societies have permanently abandoned their traditional attitudes.
ben yaacov on October 19, 2011 at 12:44 pm (Reply)
The basis for this discussion is Mr. Tepper's piece about Muslims and Jews in America, not a piece about Christian/Jewish relations. No one has suggested that Jews didn't suffer cruelty and persecution in the West. This is not a contest to see which Jews suffered more or who was worse, Christians or Muslims. Mr. Bolton seems to suggest that the persecution of Jews was so much worse in the Christian empire that talking about Arab/Muslim persecution of Jews doesn't warrant a conversation and that the topic is, as he said earlier, grossly exaggerated and "silly." He dismisses the sufferings of millions of Jews over more than a millennium and shows no concern about what happened to Jews in the East--which leads to the suspicion that he doesn't really care what happened (or will happen) to Jews in the West, either.
elishebabb on January 13, 2012 at 9:05 am (Reply)
Slander does not lead to peace.

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