If you attended religious services this past weekend, recall, for a moment, the preacher's sermon. Did any portion of his or her message bear some resemblance to this: "Have no mercy on the Jews. No matter where they are, fight them….Wherever you are, kill the Jews, the Americans, . . . and those who stand by them. . . . It is forbidden to befriend Israelis or to aid them. Don't love them or enter into agreement with them. . . . They should be slaughtered. They should be murdered."
There's little likelihood of any listener dozing off during such a sermon, which was in fact delivered during worship services at a Gaza mosque on October 13, 2000 by Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya, a member of the Palestinian Authority's "Fatwa Council," and former acting Rector of Gaza's Islamic University. Sadly, its content is no aberration, but is representative of the vicious anti-Semitic bigotry regularly thundered from Muslim pulpits all over the Middle East.
At another Gaza mosque on August 3, 2001, Sheik Ibrahim Madhi delivered this message, which was broadcast by Palestinian Authority television: "The Koran is very clear on this: The greatest enemies of the Islamic nation are the Jews. . . . All spears should be directed at the Jews. . . . Allah has described them as apes and pigs. . . . Whoever can fight them with his weapons, should go out [to the battle]. . . . The Jews have exposed their fangs. Nothing will deter them, except the color of their filthy people's blood; nothing will deter them except for us voluntarily detonating ourselves in their midst. . . . Blessings for whoever has saved a bullet in order to stick it in a Jew's head."
The Middle East Media Research Institute reports that two months earlier, this same sheikh told worshippers: "Blessings to whoever put a belt of explosives on his body or on his sons' and plunged into the midst of the Jews, crying 'Allahu Akbar, praise to Allah.' " On April 19, 2002, the Chief Cleric at Mecca's Grand Mosque called Jews "the scum of the human race, the rats of the world, the killers of the prophets, and the grandsons of monkeys and pigs." An Egyptian newspaper recently quoted a preacher from Al-Azhar University stating, "I hate the Jews, so as to earn a reward from God."
Examples of such rhetoric emanating from the mouths of clerics are legion in Islamic countries. As Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes explains, "This is something that's part of the heart of the culture, unfortunately. This is a reflection of the depths of anti-Semitism now found in the Muslim world. . . . In many ways, the Muslim world today is comparable to Nazi Germany in the extent to which one finds anti-Semitic themes . . . pervasively throughout the culture. . . . Let's not fool ourselves into thinking that it's something marginal and fringe. It is absolutely central."
Dr. Robert Wistrich, professor of Modern European and Jewish History at Hebrew University, observes that contemporary Muslim anti-Semitism utilizes many themes and symbols from classic European anti-Jewish bigotry and from Nazi propaganda. Thus it is commonplace to see caricatures of Jews portrayed as devils with hooked noses and jagged, blood-dripping teeth. Cartoons depicting Jews sporting Nazi-style uniforms adorned with swastikas are familiar sights throughout the Middle East, where Jews are often compared to Nazis for their alleged cruelty. In recent months, numerous articles in the Egyptian and Saudi government dailies contained such quotes as these:
- "It seems like Hitler is alive again, and is following his old ways, but this time with the Palestinians. The student, [Ariel] Sharon, has learned in an extreme way from his teacher, Hitler."
- "There is no doubt that what is happening on the Holy Palestinian land… renews the Nazi phenomenon."
- "[The] horrible massacres [of Sharon] exceeded the Nazism massacres."
- "[Israel is] killing, plundering and destroying through a barbaric Hitlerism."
In the Middle Eastern press, the Holocaust itself is commonly dismissed as either a gross exaggeration or an outright fabrication. "With regard to the fraud of the Holocaust," writes Fatma Abdallah Mahmoud in the Egyptian government daily, Al-Akhbar, "many French studies have proven that this is no more than a fabrication, a lie, and a fraud. . . . Hitler himself, whom they accuse of Nazism, is in my eyes no more than a modest 'pupil' in the world of murder and bloodshed. He is completely innocent of the charge of frying them in the hell of his false Holocaust. . . . But I, personally and in light of this imaginary tale, complain to Hitler, even saying to him from the bottom of my heart, 'If only you had done it, brother, if only it had really happened.' " Notably, in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, Arabic editions of Mein Kampf are hot-selling items.
Hate literature rife with allegations of a Jewish world conspiracy — such as the infamous 19th-century forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion - has gained great popularity throughout the Arab world. Even the most preposterous fables are widely believed by hate-filled extremists. Israelis have been accused of selling hormonally altered fruit to Egyptian men in order to kill their sperm; of supplying Egyptian farmers with poisoned seeds and disease-bearing poultry; of devising and distributing carcinogenic vegetables and shampoos to spread cancer among Arabs; of promoting drug consumption and devil worship in Arab society; of poisoning Arab water supplies; of trying to throw Egyptian society into chaos by campaigning for the legalization of homosexuality; and of following rabbinical exhortations to kill Palestinians as a means of ensuring their own swift entry into paradise. "Hardly a mishap occurs in the Arab world," Daniel Pipes has written, "which does not get blamed on Jews."
As if all that were not enough, millions of Muslims accept the notion that Jews forcibly take the blood of non-Jews for ritual purposes. No less a personage than Syrian defense minister Mustafa Tlas once alluded to that "fact" in his 1983 book, The Matzah of Zion. This past March in the Saudi government newspaper Al-Riyadh, a King Faysal University medical professor contributed an article claiming that for the holiday of Purim, Jews "prepare very special pastries" filled with the blood of a Christian or Muslim adolescent. This, the professor explained, was in contrast to Passover treats, for which "the blood of Christian and Muslim children under the age of 10 must be used." The blood for Purim, he elaborated, is collected by placing the victim into "a needle-studded barrel" wherein his body is pierced on all sides, causing "dreadful torment — torment that affords the Jewish vampires great delight as they carefully monitor every detail of the blood-shedding with pleasure and love that are difficult to comprehend."
Any forms of artistic expression that cast Jews in a positive or sympathetic light are heavily censored throughout the Middle East. The film Schindler's List, for instance, is banned in Arab countries. Even the movie Independence Day, which has nothing to do with religious or Middle Eastern affairs, was condemned in the Arab media because it features a heroic Jewish character. In Lebanon the film's release was delayed until censors had removed all indications of the hero's Jewish faith, such as a skullcap and a Hebrew prayer. Even the brief appearance of Israelis and Arabs working cooperatively in a desert outpost was edited out of the film.
Given the vast breadth of Muslim anti-Semitism illustrated by the aforementioned examples, it is quite apparent that much of the Islamic world's current antipathy toward Israel is rooted simply in the refusal to embrace any nation — no matter how small — wherein "infidels" predominate. To justify this bigotry, Muslim fundamentalists can recite an endless litany of alleged Jewish transgressions — most notably Israel's "occupation" of Palestinian land. But let us reflect, for a moment, upon this lynchpin of Muslim grievances.
The purported need for a Palestinian homeland became a monumental issue only after the West Bank and Gaza came under Israeli control during the 1967 Six Day War — a conflict that was forced upon Israel when several Arab armies ringed the tiny nation with 250,000 troops, 2,000 tanks, and 700 aircraft. Prior to that, it was not an issue at all. When Jordan and Egypt controlled the West Bank and Gaza from 1948 to 1967, neither of those countries made the barest effort to establish a Palestinian state on those lands; and neither country was criticized for "occupying" those regions.
"The Muslim world," notes Daniel Pipes, "had little political concern with Jews until the period immediately preceding Jewish statehood. The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was a shocking, even a traumatic event, for it meant that at one stroke Jews had cast off their [lowly] status. . . . Christian power was bad enough, but to have Jews - the subject people par excellence — pushing Muslims around was too much. . . . Outraged by the creation of Israel, Arab Muslims turned to anti-Semitism."
That anti-Semitism now fuels not only the passion with which Arab nations bang the drum for Palestinian statehood — but also their adjoining hatred for Israel's strongest supporter, America. With near unanimity, however, Western religious and political leaders have been reluctant to acknowledge the shocking level of anti-Semitism in the Islamic world. Consequently, we are fed lots of palatable theories ascribing the murderous rage of Muslim fundamentalists to such seemingly plausible causes as the Israeli "occupation," American "arrogance," and the West's "economic exploitation" of the Arab world. We are further fed heaping portions of cheerful platitudes extolling Islam's purportedly tolerant and peaceful character, wherein bigotry has no place.
The refusal to face uncomfortable truths about those who seek our destruction only prevents us from comprehending the enormity of their hatred. And that is a recipe for disaster of a magnitude beyond words.