Recently we marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Despite a solemn tone at many remembrance events across the continent, numerous reports from Europe, Russia and the UK reveal a real and disturbing rise in anti-Semitism. How, after all this time can such a horrific ideology still capture the minds of thinking Europeans? And why now?
Historically, the gradual transformation from medieval religiously charged anti-Semitism, consisting of blood libels, Christian polemics, and anti-Jewish metaphors, to the modern racial/genetic anti-Semitism cultivated by Hitler and his Nazi party, has fostered a shift in both Arab and European attitudes towards Jews.
The “new” racial anti-Semitism is built on the “old” Medieval one; the cycles of hatred towards Jews through Muslim and Christian writings still repeat many old anti-Semitic canards, but remains willing to embrace junk science and social Darwinistic tropes whenever possible. Europe today is seeing a slow but steady growth in anti-Semitism under the guise of anti-Zionism. Since 1945 there hasn’t been such a level of concern, anxiety, and even depression among European Jewry. As Robert Wistrich, the historian of anti-Semitism, explains, “Europe cannot fight anti-Semitism if it appeases terrorists or blackens Israel’s name. We need to insist that a linkage exists between blind Palestinophilia, being soft on terror and jihad, defaming Israel, and the current wave of anti-Semitic violence.”
Historically, Christians were by far the more actively anti-Jewish group. Muslims came to their anti-Semitism late, and were for literally centuries much more concerned about financial rivalries than religion due to the large economic role Jews played in the Magreb – the medieval Muslim heartland of North Africa and the Middle East. With the post-Ottoman evolution of anti-Semitism, the Muslim world began to spread the racial anti-Semitism it absorbed from the West and the Christian world.
As the historian of Islam, Bernard Lewis, writes, “The Arab reader had at his disposal a wide range of anti-Semitic literature, all of it Christian and European or American origin. It included the products of clerical and anti-clerical, right wing and left wing, socialist and fascist anti-Semitism. Some of these books were translated several times, and went through many editions. As well as books, there were articles in newspapers and magazines, broadcasts, public lectures, and exhortations, all of which helped to familiarize the Muslim Arab reader with the set of themes and images previously unknown to him – the Jew as a ritual murderer, as Freemason, as capitalist, as communist, as reactionary, as subversive, and as the center of an evil conspiracy aiming at the domination of the world.”
This most recent anti-Semitic evolution is primarily driven by the Muslim world’s engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the Arab media. The comparison of Israeli actions with Nazi actions trivializes the significance of the Holocaust: if the Israelis are no better than the Nazis, then the Nazis’ actions were no worse than the Israelis’. Such is the perception that the Arab world is trying to disseminate in the West.
The Palestinian leadership uses these similarities to stimulate Arab and Western support and sympathy. Moreover, this emphasis on a similarity between Nazism and Zionism bolsters Palestinian claims of oppression by Israel.
From an Islamist’s perspective, the alliance between America and Israel is seen as the connection between Satans great and small. Historian Barry Rubin explains, “The PLO never saw Israel as the sole adversary but rather as a dependent of “world imperialism, under the direction of the United States of America.” Anti-Americanism was an integral part of its program and activity, but there was a contradiction since the PLO also spoke of isolating Zionism “from the centers of power” – in other words, persuading the West to abandon Israel.”
Thus, extremist terminology of big and small Satans creates an environment that stirs popular hatred towards Israel and America and perpetuates the linkage. The “satanic connection” can be seen in the Arab/Muslim world’s theory that the attack on the World Trade Center was carried out purposely by a “global Jewish conspiracy” to solely blame the Arab world.
Thus, the Syrian foreign minister Mustafa Tlass, author of The Matza of Zion, a book that argues that Jews ritually murder gentiles for their blood for use in Passover festivities, claimed during a meeting in Damascus with a delegation from the British Royal College of Defense Studies that the Mossad planned the ramming of two hijacked airliners into the WTC towers as part of a Jewish conspiracy. Former Egyptian ambassador to Afghanistan Ahmad Al-'Amrawi told the Palestinian Islamic Jihad mouthpiece Al-Istiqlal that the Zionist movement and American intelligence organizations planned the attacks. He said the aim was both to extricate Israel from its current crisis and to give the U.S. an opening to take over the oil reserves in the Caspian Sea.”
Hizballlah, which literally means the party of God, and which was inspired by Ayatollah Khomenini, has been operating in Israel promoting the idea that Jews are the enemy of the entire human race. Hizballah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad operate openly under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority, eagerly promoting martyrdom through suicide bombings with the hope to “liberate” Palestine, destroy Israel and defeat the West. Sheikh Husayn Fadlallah, Hizballah’s most senior clerk, expressed his perception of Jewish world domination in these words, “Israel was not just a Jewish state in the formal sense of the word. It was the ultimate expression of the corrupt, treacherous, and aggressive ‘Jewish’ personality. Jews were indeed ‘the enemy of the entire human race,’ congenitally ‘racist’ and condescending in their attitude to other peoples, and ruthlessly bent upon global domination.”
This raises the question of whether there can ever be a sincere peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Any concept of peace is fallacious if the Arab-Muslim world truly believes that there is a global Jewish conspiracy such as the one described by the Protocols of Zion. The Protocols, first appeared in 1895, were probably written by members of the czarist Russia secret police based in Paris. Its authors’ goal was to persuade the Russian population of a Jewish plot to dominate the world. The Protocols gave rise to many spin-offs of Jewish conspiracies for global domination designed for different countries at different times. Bernard Lewis explains the American spin-off,
“The Protocols, though by far the most successful, were not the only anti-Semitic fabrication. Another, specially designed for an American audience, is a speech by Benjamin Franklin urging the Founding Fathers not to admit Jews to the new republic, and warning them of the dire consequences if they disregarded his words. The speech is a total fabrication, but was not without its effect. A less troublesome and widely used method was simply to assign a Jewish origin to anyone whom it was desired to discredit, and then to use that person to discredit the Jews.”
Finally, the cycle of anti-Semitism has occurred over and over with additions of radicalizations through religion, or genocide or a combination of both. The identification of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a primary source is significant, because when one wants to track anti-Semitism, all he has to do is look for “signs” from this document. Khomeyni, Hitler, pre-eminent Islamist intellectual Sayyid Qutb and Arafat are all graduates of the school of modern anti-Semitism, where they learned to circulate in many variations the Protocols’. A recent example of this very notion is described in the Palestinian weekly 'Al-Sha’ab’,
“The Jews are the decision makers and the owners of the media in most of the world’s capitals. Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, Athens and finally Russia, where the Jews worked for a long time to crush it underfoot…”
From an Arab-Muslim perspective, the fact that the State of Israel was established right after the Holocaust illustrates the linkage between Nazism and the continuation of Jewish domination. During the period of the Oslo Accords, the possibility of reaching a plausible peace between Israelis and Palestinians created a reduction in violence and anti-Semitism. But the anti-peace camps on both sides continued to spread ideas that proved The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to be true. The Protocols have attained the status of academic scholarship, not just a folk myth; this academic legitimacy fosters modern anti-Semitism, thereby, raising a new Arab-Muslim generation that religiously believes in these “facts.”
Finally, all of the above frame the Arab world’s characterization of the State of Israel and Jews. If any change is to be made in the Arab world it should be the anti-Semitic rhetoric that is so deeply rooted in the agenda of so many terrorist groups that yearn to commit more and more acts of violence against Jews.
Lewis, Bernard. Semites and Anti-Semites, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, P. 200.
Rubin, Barry. Revolution Until Victory? The Politics and History of the PLO, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994, P. 21.
Wistrich, Robert S. “Muslim Anti-Semitism: A Clear and Present Danger.” American Jewish Committee
Lewis, Bernard. Semites and Anti-Semites, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, P. 109.