by Richard L. Rubenstein (March 2009)
(An excerpt from Richard L. Rubenstein's upcoming book tentatively titled, Jihad and Genocide.)
Sheer rage has become an important element in the behavior of a sizeable number of Muslims toward non-Muslims, especially but by no means only Jews. Rage itself has been characterized as a “shame-based expression of anger.”[i] To experience shame, a person must compare his actions with some standard, either his own or another’s, and he must regard himself as having failed to meet that standard. Shame is the product of the very self that it condemns.[ii] In those societies in which the military caste enjoys dominant status, defeat in war can result in shame so painful that death is deemed preferable.
Rage has also been understood as “anger out of control.”[iii] Frequently, this kind of anger is related to “a perceived loss of control over factors affecting our integrity-our beliefs and how we feel about ourselves.”[iv] Put differently, rage is a response to the subject’s perception of his/her own impotence. Guilt is different. Like shame, it involves recognition of the fact that I have violated a standard, but, unlike shame, guilt focuses on those undesirable actions I seek to end and for which I would make amends. [v] By contrast, shame is not about specific actions but about myself. In shame I judge myself to be without worth. Put differently, shame is a painful, narcissistic injury in which corrective action is paralyzed and I am left only with an anguished sense of self-contempt.[vi]
In the past, Muslim anti-Jewish hostility could be characterized as the condescension or contempt of a dominant power toward a useful but powerless inferior. Today, Muslim, especially Arab, anti-Jewish hostility partakes of something entirely novel in the history of Islam, the rage of the defeated in the face of an enemy’s military victories and economic success. The situation was difficult enough when Christendom reversed centuries of Muslim dominance; Jewish military victories were far less tolerable. Even the ability of Hizbullah’s forces to hold their own against Israeli armed forces during the 2006 war in Lebanon has not really dissipated that rage.
Bernard Lewis took note of this phenomenon almost two decades ago in an Atlantic Monthly article, “The Roots of Muslim Rage: Why so many Muslims deeply resent the West and why their bitterness will not be easily mollified.” [vii] Long a knowledgeable observer of the world of Islam, the Princeton historian took note of the fact that the rejection of the West by an important segment of the Muslim world had generated emotions that could only be characterized as rage. Indeed, this rejection was becoming so unconditional that radical Muslims could think of no more fitting characterization of the West than “enemies of God.”viii]
According to Lewis, in its heyday the Muslim world saw itself as “the center of culture and enlightenment, surrounded by infidel barbarians whom it would in due course civilize.”[ix] I would add that, at least among Islamists, the same self-perception remains valid today. As Lewis has commented, the struggle between Islam and Christendom has consisted in “a long series of attacks and counterattacks, jihads and crusades, conquests and reconquests” that have lasted for fourteen hundred years. It was not until the failure of the second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683 that the world of Islam found itself on the defensive vis à vis the world of Christendom.
Particularly humiliating was the fact that Christian empires came to dominate much of the world of Islam. This was equally true of the expansion of the Tsarist Empire in the East and the Western European powers in the Middle East, Africa, India, and Indonesia. In the nineteenth century, Britain, France, Spain, Italy, and Holland divided up much of the Muslim world almost at will. The nineteenth-century efforts of the European powers to secure equal rights for Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire were especially galling. The world of Islam had been built upon an hierarchical system of structured inequality in which the religious and social dominance of Muslims over unbelievers was the uncontested first premise. Built into the very structure of Muslim identity was the system of dhimmitude, namely, “the comprehensive legal system established by the Muslim conquerors to rule the native non-Muslim populations subdued by jihad wars.”[x] No matter how brilliant, talented, or wealthy an unbeliever might be, the humblest believing Muslim was regarded as superior to all unbelievers, at least in the eyes of Allah.
In the nineteenth and much of the twentieth century, Westerners tended to regard their influence on Islam as essentially beneficial. The French, for example, spoke of their colonial expansion as a une mission civilatrice. Traditional Muslims regarded western influence as disorienting. To take but one example, confronted with the movement toward gender equality in the West, traditional Muslim societies have tended to react harshly. For example, the program of gender control under the auspices of the Taliban Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (al-Amr bi al-Ma'ruf wa al-Nahi `an al-Munkir) was one of the most draconian in modern times.[xi] Moreover, the Taliban Ministry was itself modeled after a similarly named Saudi agency and the Islamic Republic of Iran has its own version of religious police (Arabic, mutaween). One of the worst examples of mutaween abuse occurred in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on March 11, 2002 when members of the Saudi religious police prevented school girls from leaving their burning school building because they were not wearing headscarves and black robes and were not escorted by a male guardian. Fifteen girls died and fifty were injured in the incident.[xii]
Other examples of gender control include so-called “honor-killings.” In April 2001, a representative of Human Rights Watch took note of this phenomenon before the UN Commission on Human Rights:
Honor crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members who are perceived to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by her family for a variety of reasons including, refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce -- even from an abusive husband -- or committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has acted in a manner to bring "dishonor" to the family is sufficient to trigger an attack.
The ramifications of this impunity for women are significant. For example, a woman in an abusive marriage must make the choice to stay in the marriage and hope that the violence will end, or leave the marriage and hope that neither her husband nor any male relatives will kill her. A women who is raped, even if she can prove that she was a victim of sexual violence, may be killed by her husband, father, son, brother or cousin.[xiii]
Honor killings can thus be seen as an attempt to erase the stigma of shame from a family by eliminating the offending member. No act of contrition will do. Only the death of the alleged offender will suffice.[xiv] Some of the alleged “offenses” seem trivial by Western standards. According to the Daily Telegraph (UK), a young Saudi woman was murdered by her father for chatting on Facebook , a social network web site. She was beaten and shot after her father found her in the middle of an internet conversation with a man.[xv] In a particularly bizarre case, a 16 year old Jordanian woman was murdered by her brother because another brother had raped her.[xvi] The victim, not the rapist, was seen as having brought shame upon the family. While such killings are not officially sanctioned and are not confined to Islam, the official penalties incurred for such crimes tend to be exceptionally light when and if applied. Moreover, honor killing currently appears to be far more prevalent among Muslims than among other faiths.
At the heart of all such behavior there appears to be masculine fear of loss of control, with all that such loss entails for personal identity. This is especially apparent among the kind of men most likely to insist on maintaining such control such as the Taliban. According to Ahmed Raschid:
The Taliban’s uncompromising attitude [toward women] was also shaped by their own internal political dynamic and the nature of their recruiting base. Their recruits-the orphans, the rootless, the lumpen proletariat from the war and the refugee camps-had been brought up in a totally male society. In the madrassa milieu, control over women and their virtual exclusion was a powerful symbol of manhood and a reaffirmation of the students’ commitment to jihad. Denying a role for women gave the Taliban a kind of legitimacy among these elements.[xvii]
The social stratum from which the Taliban recruiting base is drawn consists largely of boys and young men at the very bottom of the ladder. As individuals, they are powerless and count for little. As members of the Taliban, they count for a great deal. The very fact that women are subject to their authority infuses their identities with a sense of power otherwise unavailable to them. Few things are as likely to enhance the Taliban sense of power than the power of life and death over another human being.
We need not enter into psychoanalytic reflection about masculine fear of the feminine to explain the need for control over women found in strongly patriarchal cultures. When unable to control their women, some men in traditional societies are likely to experience feelings of impotence and rage. Unfortunately, impotent rage can be sated, if only temporarily, by injury and murder. All too often men deny their impotence by their power to kill.
German Defeat and the Birth of Hitler’s Rage
In important respects, Lewis’s characterization of Muslim rage is not unlike what Adolf Hitler and many right-wing, German nationalists experienced in the face of Germany’s defeat in the First World War. Before the war, Hitler had drifted for years without any definite vocation. The war gave Hitler his calling by giving him a “chance to defend his beloved Motherland,”[xviii] In the early nineteen-twenties, Hitler described his feelings when Germany declared war on Russia and France in August 1914:
To me these hours seemed like a release from the painful feelings of my youth. Even today I am not ashamed to say that, overpowered by stormy enthusiasm. I fell down on my knees and thanked Heaven from an overflowing heart for granting me the good fortune of being permitted to live at this time.[xix]
For Hitler, the stakes could not have been higher:
Destiny had begun its course…this time not the fate of Serbia or Austria was involved, but whether the German nation was to be or not to be.[xx]
Imperial Germany declared war on Russia on August 1, 1914 and on France two days later. On August 5, 1914, Hitler volunteered for service and served with the Second Reserve Battalion of the Second Bavarian Infantry, known as the List Regiment, for the duration of the war. The unit first saw combat on October 29, 1914. After four days of fighting, the regiment was reduced in number from 3,600 to 611.[xxi] The depressingly high casualty rate did not dampen Hitler’s enthusiasm for the war. He identified with Germany’s struggle in a deeply personal way. He found his element in his regiment and in the war itself. He was apparently content to serve as a dispatch runner for the duration. According to Ian Kershaw, one of Hitler’s most authoritative biographers, “from all indications, Hitler was a committed, rather than simply conscientious and dutiful, soldier, and did not lack physical courage.”[xxii] Wounded slightly by shrapnel in October 1916, he was hospitalized in Berlin until December 1, 1916. He returned to his regiment on March 5, 1917.[xxiii] On August 4, 1918, he received the Iron Cross, First Class, a rare achievement for a corporal.
On the night of October 13, 1918, Hitler was painfully wounded in a British gas attack. By the next morning he was blind and was shipped to a hospital in Pasewalk near Stettin. It was there that he learned “the shattering news of defeat and revolution,” what he called “the greatest villainy of the century.” [xxiv]
Hitler described his reaction upon learning of the way the war ended:
I could stand it no longer. It became impossible for me to sit still one minute more. Again everything went black before my eyes. I tottered and groped my way back to the dormitory, threw myself on my bunk, and dug my head into my blanket and pillow. I had not wept since the day when I had stood at my mother’s grave…. The more I tried to achieve clarity on the monstrous event in this hour, the more the shame of indignation and disgrace burned into my brow (emphasis added).[xxv]
Germany’s defeat was his personal defeat. For him the war would never end. He described his reaction when he first learned of the defeat:
And so it had all been in vain. In vain all the sacrifices and privations; in vain the hunger and thirst of months that were often endless; in vain the hours in which, with mortal fear clutching our hearts, we nevertheless did our duty; and in vain the death of two million who died.[xxvi]
Unable to bear the shame of military defeat, Hitler concluded that Germany had not been defeated but betrayed:
I knew that all was lost. Only fools, liars, and criminals could hope in the mercy of the enemy. In these nights hatred grew in me, hatred for those responsible for this deed.
According to Hitler, Jews and Marxists, the so-called “November criminals,” were responsible for Germany’s ultimate disgrace, surrender. Since Hitler had no intention of accepting the “Versailles Diktat” as the permanent basis for Germany’s relations with its enemies, another war was inevitable were he ever to gain power, And, in such a war, there would be no place for Jews once again to “betray” Germany.
Hitler’s response to Germany’s defeat in November 1918 was a private matter. The official response of the German high command was not very different. On March 3, 1918, Bolshevik Russia signed a peace treaty with Imperial Germany. Less than three weeks later, General Erich Ludendorff launched the first of four German offensives against the Allies. By July 1918 the German offensive had spent itself. [xxvii] On September 29, 1918, Ludendorff summoned Germany’s political leaders and demanded that they ask for an immediate armistice.[xxviii] In seeking an armistice, Ludendorff and Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, the Chief of the General Staff, were partly driven by fear of the imminent collapse of German arms and its likely consequences, the worst being a Russian-type revolution in Germany.[xxix] Nevertheless, with the German army still in northern France, Belgium, and the former Tsarist Empire, a number of senior officers strongly opposed the armistice initiative.[xxx] Their resolve was strengthened after receiving Woodrow Wilson’s uncompromising replies to the German armistice request between October 10 and 14. Ludendorff and Hindenburg became convinced that the Allies would never offer peace terms Germany would deem acceptable.[xxxi]
According to historian Michael Geyer, the High Command became convinced that surrender was incompatible with German honor which could only be saved by an apocalyptic Endkampf (terminal struggle) involving the systematic devastation of the population and infrastructure of occupied French and Belgian territory, as well as a possible war to the death involving the entire German population. The Endkampf would be both a war of annihilation against the enemy and the self-annihilation of the German nation.[xxxii]
German defeat did not result in an Endkampf because the government of the newly appointed Chancellor, Prince Max von Baden, and the Reichstag majority rejected the High Command’s plans. Prince Max pointed out that the first responsibility of the government was to assure the survival of the nation. If that meant acknowledging defeat, the humiliation had to be accepted. By contrast, the High Command insisted that the Allied terms were dishonorable. Hence, total military catastrophe was to be preferred to a humiliating surrender.
In late October, Hindenburg and Ludendorff attempted to persuade the Kaiser to reject the armistice and call for a Volkskrieg, a total “people’s war.” The Kaiser refused and sent them with several other senior commanders, to meet with the Imperial Vice Chancellor Friedrich von Payer, Prince Max being unavailable because of illness. Ludendorff sought to persuade Payer to abandon peace negotiations and call for a popular insurrection. The issue for both the military and the German ultra-right was no longer victory or even territorial defense but the “honor” involved in preferring catastrophic national destruction to surrender.
Payer rejected Ludendorff’s demand for an end to peace negotiations whereupon Ludendorff declared, “Then, your Excellency, I throw the entire shame of the Fatherland into your and your colleague’s faces (emphasis added).”[xxxiii] In his memoir of the war years, Payer spelled out his fundamental disagreement with Ludendorff:
An army commander with his entourage may well end his illustrious career [Ruhmeslaufbahn] with a ride into death [Todesritt], but a people of seventy million cannot make the decision about life and death according to the terms of honor of a single estate [i.e., the military][xxxiv]
Geyer recounts that Rear Admiral Magnus von Levetzow, Chief of Staff of the Naval High Command, was also present at the meeting. In his memoirs, Levetzow described Ludendorff as “a majestic man, a representative of German honor" and described Payer as "a small, crappy party hack without a sense of national dignity and honor …weighing everything only from a petit bourgeois point of view ... sitting there cowering, with his beady, hate-filled eyes and clasped hands, under the powerful blows of the general.”[xxxv]
Geyer comments on this encounter, “One could call this [the encounter between Ludendorff and Paver] the pivotal scene in the formation of the stab-in-the-back legend.”[xxxvi] Although Payer was not Jewish, von Levetzow used classical anti-Semitic stereotypes to characterize him. According to historian Peter Pulzer, “In the eyes of the extreme Right Payer had long counted as an honorary Jew.”[xxxvii]
Neither Hitler nor the World War I German High Command invented the tradition of the ignoble betrayer who in stealth and treachery brings defeat upon the German military. It was deeply embedded in their cultural world. Although more Jews proportionally than their fellow citizens made the supreme sacrifice for what they mistakenly thought was their Fatherland, that sacrifice was invisible to Hitler, the German High Command, and, increasingly, the German public. On the contrary, in October1916, the German High Command ordered a Judenzählung, a “Jew census,” to demonstrate that Jews were less patriotic than what at the time were considered their “fellow Germans.”[xxxviii] The findings demonstrated the opposite. Approximately eighty percent of the Jews in the German army served in the front-lines. Over 100,000 Jews served out of a total German Jewish population of 550,000; 12,000 died in battle; 30,000 were decorated for bravery.[xxxix] Disappointed, German military officials suppressed the findings.
To repeat, a person who experiences guilt can make reparation for specific acts whereas a person who experiences shame cannot. In shame, reparation seems impossible as the whole person is self-condemned as worthless. Hence, the temptation to evade self-condemnation by projecting one’s shame onto another is almost irresistible. Instead of punishing oneself, one punishes another for one’s failings.
This was especially true of Imperial Germany, a society in which the warrior caste stood at the very apex of the social hierarchy and military prowess was the emblem of superlative masculine virtue. By failing to achieve victory and by impotently standing by while Imperial Germany’s civilian authorities consented to what amounted to unconditional surrender, leaving the nation at the mercy of its enemies, the German warrior caste had failed its ultimate test. Nothing could be more shameful than to have been vanquished in a war in which approximately two million of their comrades were killed and 4,814,557 reported wounded.[xl]
The Stab-In-the-Back Legend/Prelude to Genocide
As the war came to a close, Germany’s military leaders prepared to reject responsibility for their catastrophic failure. It seemed inconceivable to them that Europe’s most advanced industrial power, with the best universities and scientific personnel, could collapse and surrender while the German army, numbering in the millions, still occupied the soil of its enemies. Moreover, the greatest humiliation was arguably yet to come. Article 231, the “war guilt clause” of the Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, stipulated that:
….Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.[xli]
During the nineteen-twenties, the Treaty of Versailles, especially Article 231, was viewed by the majority of Germans as a “dictate of shame” whose purpose was to keep Germany from regaining the status of a great European power. The compulsory signing was especially bitter because Germans of all political persuasion “had rushed to arms in 1914 in the sincere conviction that they were fighting a war of self-defense.”[xlii]
The stab-in-the-back legend (Dolchstoß in den Rücken) offered an enormously potent means of shifting responsibility so that German “honor” could be preserved. Nor was it difficult to identify a suitable “betrayer.” The legend had its roots in two powerful traditions, the Nibelungen Saga in which Siegfried, the dragon-slaying hero, is stabbed in the back by Hagen von Tronje, and the New Testament narrative in which Jesus is betrayed by Judas Iscariot with a loving kiss.[xliii] Over the centuries, Jews have been identified with Judas as the paradigmatic betrayer within Christendom. More often than not, whenever the stronger community met with grave misfortune, Jews were punished as calamity’s alleged authors.
Apart from its sources in myth and legend, the stab-in-the-back legend gained enhanced credibility in the German Right from the presence of left-wing Jews in the leadership of revolutionary movements that sought to end the war and establish socialist or communist regimes in its aftermath. Although Jewish loyalty to the Fatherland was real, it was all but invisible to right-wing German nationalists. What was visible was the Jewish presence in the Bolshevik leadership and in the left-wing regimes that managed to seize power temporarily in Bavaria and Hungary. For example, on November 7, 1918, Kurt Eisner, a socialist Jewish writer from Berlin, found himself at the head of the provisional revolutionary government of predominantly Catholic Bavaria. After Eisner’s assassination, a number of other Jewish intellectuals, literati, and revolutionaries took highly visible leadership roles in the succeeding revolutionary regimes in Munich.[xliv] At the time, Munich was home to Adolf Hitler and the embryonic National Socialist party.
As noted, advocates of peace negotiations came to be characterized as either “Jewish” or influenced by “a Jewish mentality.[xlv] By 1919 Ludendorff was committed to the “destruction of the ‘internationalist, pacifist, defeatists,’ namely, the Jews and the Vatican, people who ‘systematically destroyed’ our ‘racial inheritance and national character.’”[xlvi] Not surprisingly, Ludendorff took part with Hitler in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. A year later, the general wrote that Germany must be made judenrein, “free of Jews,” before the next war.[xlvii] The stab-in-the back legend thus became a prelude to genocide. If, as the legend asserted, the Jews had, succeeded in bringing down the mighty German nation by treachery and stealth, it was imperative to eliminate them for Germany to achieve success in the coming war.
Hitler saw the war’s outcome as did Ludendorff. He had no doubt that the cause of Germany’s defeat had not been the failure of German arms but betrayal by Jews and Marxists. He was resolved to enter politics to prevent a repetition of the alleged betrayal. Thus, the Jews of Europe were ultimately to pay with their lives for the monumental, and indeed cowardly, evasion of responsibility by Germany’s World War I military leadership in seeking to preserve their “honor.” In his Political Testament, written on April 30, 1945, the day before he killed himself, Hitler persisted in that evasion. “It is untrue,” he claimed, “that I or anyone else in Germany wanted the war in 1939.” On the contrary, “It was desired and instigated exclusively by those international statesmen who were either of Jewish descent or worked for Jewish interests.”[xlviii] From 1919 to 1945, a rage-obsessed Adolf Hitler gave powerful expression to that emotion for himself and his followers. His rage unappeased even by genocide and his own Endkampf, Hitler concluded his testament by charging “the leaders of the nation and those under them … to merciless opposition to the universal poisoner of all peoples, international Jewry.” To the bitter end, Hitler saw himself as the innocent victim of those who had conspired to bring him and Germany down.
Defeat and Muslim Rage
Like the rage of Hitler and the German ultra-right, the rage of contemporary Islamists and their fellow travelers against Jews, Zionism, America, and, ultimately, the entire Western world has its roots in military defeat. In the case of rage against the West, the roots can be found in the Battle of Lepanto (1571), the lifting of the Ottoman siege of Vienna by the Polish King Jan III Sobieski on September 12, 1683, and the Treaty of Karlowitz (1699). At Karlowitz, the Ottomans signed a peace treaty for the first time on terms “basically determined by their victorious enemies.”[xlix] The treaty set the pattern of Muslim retreat and defeat that continued until the middle of the twentieth century.
As noted above, no defeat visited upon Muslims by unbelievers has ever been as deeply felt as an offense against Muslim honor as the twin defeats inflicted upon the Arabs in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence and the Six Day War of 1967. This has been cogently expressed by the Israeli historian Benny Morris in the concluding paragraphs of his book on the first Arab-Israeli War:
But 1948 has haunted and still haunts, the Arab world on the deepest level of collective identity, ego, and pride. The war was a humiliation from which that world has yet to recover-the antithesis of the glory days of Arab Islamic dominance....The 1948 War was the culminating affront, when a community of 650,000 Jews-Jews, no less-crushed Palestinian Arab society and then defeated the armies of the surrounding states. The Arab states had failed to “save” the Palestinians and failed to prevent Israel’s emergence and acceptance into the comity of nations. And what little Palestine territory the Arabs had managed to retain fell under Israeli sway two decades later.” [l]
Since the 1930s there have been numerous attempts to “solve” the Arab-Israeli conflict. In recent years, there has been much talk about a “peace process.” Almost immediately after assuming office, President Obama let it be known that he intended to pursue it energetically. Perhaps in anticipatory compliance, Israel’s outgoing prime minister, Ehud Olmert, gave an interview on September 21, 2008 to the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth outlining the territorial concessions he believed Israel must make for the sake of peace with its neighbors.[li] Yet, no attempt to resolve the conflict has ever succeeded.
This writer is convinced that the fundamental flaw in all such efforts is the failure of both Western and Israeli policy makers to take into account the religious dimension of the conflict. This is especially true in the Middle East where Islamists regard their ongoing struggle with Israel and, for that matter, the entire non-Muslim West, as a jihad, a religiously sanctioned war with ostensibly religious ends. Although two Muslim countries, Egypt and Jordan, have signed “peace” treaties with Israel, a critical mass among both educated professionals and the “Muslim street” in Egypt and Jordan remain completely unwilling to accept any “solution” to the conflict other than Israel’s annihilation.
According to Gilles Kepel, Anwar Sadat’s address to the Israeli Kenesset on November 20, 1977 and the subsequent signing of a peace treaty with Israel on March 26, 1979 marked a decisive turning point for radical Islam. There was a widespread consensus among the Islamists that “a shameful peace with the Jews” must be rejected.[lii] Nor were they alone in rejecting peace. The treaty was hugely unpopular throughout the Muslim world. For a time, it resulted in the expulsion of Egypt from the Arab League. Sadat himself was gunned down on October 6, 1981 for having signed the treaty by Lieutenant Khalid Al-Islambouli during the annual parade commemorating Egypt’s “victory” over Israel in the 1973 war. Islambouli, a member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad movement, was condemned to death by an Egyptian court and executed on April 15, 1982. He has since been widely venerated by Islamists as a shaheed, a witness and a martyr in the cause of Islam. A Teheran street has been named after him.
Islamists make no secret of the religious dimension of the conflict. An extraordinary range of sermons, essays, newspaper columns, TV broadcasts, web sites, and other material in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu-Pashto has been translated into English, German, Hebrew, Italian, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese by MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, and made available on the Institute’s web site.[liii] This site is an invaluable resource for both the professional researcher and the informed layman.
Nevertheless, few of these sources convey the depth of uncompromising, religiously legitimated enmity toward Jews and Israel as the Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement, known by its acronym HAMAS (Harakat al-Muqäwama al-Islämiyya). The Covenant has been made available on the web in a reliable translation by the Avalon Project of the Yale Law School.[liv] Hamas itself has been designated by the United States Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. There is no doubt that the designation is well deserved insofar as Hamas has used and continues to use terrorism against civilians of all ages to achieve its political and diplomatic objectives.[lv] Nevertheless, while accurate, the designation may obscure the degree to which Hamas’s long-term objective, the destruction of the State of Israel and its people, is grounded in an unconditional religious imperative it regards as binding on all Muslims.
In the preface to the Covenant, Hamas spells out the radical difference between Muslims and non-believers. Muslims are described as “the best nation that hath been raised up unto mankind” whereas non-Muslims are depicted as “smitten with vileness wheresoever they are found.” (Preamble). The only exceptions are those who submit to Islamic domination as dhimmis, thereby obtaining “security by entering into a treaty with Allah.” Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, is then quoted in the text as promising the destruction of Israel which “will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." Lest there be any illusion that Hamas could be induced to make peace with Israel, the document explicitly asserts that “The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf [an inalienable religious endowment] consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgment Day.” (Article 11, Hamas Covenant) Hence, “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors. (emphasis added)” (Article 13)
Moreover, the Hamas Covenant rejects any distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Although some contemporary writers allege that Muslim anti-Semitism is a recent development that resulted from National Socialist influence, Hamas regards Muhammad himself as looking forward to a genocidal ending of the Muslim-Jewish conflict.[lvi] The Covenant cites a Hadith of Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari (810-870), the editor-collector of what is considered one of the most trusted collections of oral traditions concerning the life of Muhammad, (810-870). In the Hadith, the Prophet is depicted as declaring “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (Article 7)
In keeping with the spirit of al-Bukhari’s Hadith and in complete disregard for the truth, Hamas includes many of National Socialism’s most vicious, anti-Semitic falsehoods in its Covenant:
With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world… They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.
….They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it. (Article 22)
Hamas predicts that once the Zionists digest Palestine, ‘they will covet expansion,” first “from the Nile to the Euphrates” and then “they will look forward to more expansion.” As evidence, Hamas identifies the notorious forgery, The Protocols of Zion, as their authoritative source.[lvii] This is hardly surprising. For those who have experienced or identified themselves with those who experienced defeat, whether Germans after World War I or Muslims after 1948, the claim that defeat came from a deceitful, underhanded secret conspiracy rather than honorable combat mitigated the disgrace of defeat and was a source of enormous consolation.
The worldwide success of the Protocols as an anti-Semitic tract dates from the period of 1919 to 1921. From 1919 to 1945 the Protocols were taken by German right-wing nationalists as “proof” of the stab-in-the-back legend, that the Jews were the hidden force that betrayed Germany and brought about her defeat in World War I. The pamphlet was also used to show that the Bolshevik revolution was the result of an alleged Jewish conspiracy to enslave the world and destroy Christianity.[lviii] Such beliefs gave a delusional coherence to Germany’s shattering experience of World War I defeat.
However, in 1921 Philip Graves, an English journalist writing in the Times of London, offered convincing evidence that the Protocols was a forgery. He pointed to the close resemblance between the text of the Protocols and a mid-nineteenth-century, political pamphlet Dialogue aux Enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu, ou la politique au xixe siècle (Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu or the Politics of the Nineteenth Century, 1864).[lix] The pamphlet attributed to Emperor Napoleon III the ambition to dominate the world. It contained no reference to Jews or Judaism, but in the last decade of the nineteenth century the pamphlet was transformed into an anti-Semitic tract by an unknown author working for the Okhrana, the Tsarist secret police. The "dialogue" became the "protocols" in 1905, the year of Russia’s defeat in the Russo-Japanese War and the first Russian Revolution. In its revised form, the Protocols described an alleged conference of the leaders of world Jewry who claimed that, under the cloak of democracy, they already controlled a number of European states and were close to their ultimate objective, world domination. In his Times article, Graves succinctly described the Okrana’s motives in publishing the Protocols in 1905:
They were designed to foster the belief among Russian conservatives and especially in court circles, that the prime cause of discontent among the politically minded elements in Russia was not the repressive policy of the bureaucracy, but a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. They thus served as a weapon against the Russian Liberals, who urged the Czar to make certain concessions to the intelligentsia.[lx]
Put differently, then as now, the Protocols served as an ideal vehicle by which decision-makers and those dependent upon them could evade responsibility and blame others, especially but not exclusively the Jews, for their catastrophic mistakes. In the case of the Tsarist government in 1905, it was responsible for the first major defeat of a European power by an Asian nation. The Protocols served as a relatively cost-free means of deflecting the anger and bitter resentment of the victims of those mistakes to a group unable to retaliate.
To make matters worse, the Protocols has historically served as a support for the conviction that genocide was a moral imperative. It has rightly been called a “warrant for genocide.”[lxi] Daniel Pipes has described the power of the Protocols as a propaganda tool:
The great importance of the Protocols lies in its permitting antisemites (sic) to reach beyond their traditional circles and find a large international audience, a process that continues to this day. The forgery poisoned public life wherever it appeared; it was "self-generating; a blueprint that migrated from one conspiracy to another.” The book's vagueness — almost no names, dates, or issues are specified — has been one key to this wide-ranging success. The purportedly Jewish authorship also helps to make the book more convincing. Its embrace of contradiction — that to advance, Jews use all tools available, including capitalism and communism, philo-Semitism and antisemitism, democracy and tyranny — made it possible for the Protocols to reach out to all: rich and poor, Right and Left, Christian and Muslim, American and Japanese.[lxii]
The fundamental objective of the Protocols was to depict the Jews - not just Zionists but all Jews - as the clandestine enemy of all humanity and thereby a legitimate target of all attempts to eliminate them. This in itself was an incitement to genocide. For example, Josef Goebbels reported a conversation about the Protocols with Hitler on May 13, 1943 in which Hitler expressed the conviction that “the Protocols were absolutely genuine” and drew the conclusion that “Es bleibt also den Modernen Völkern nichts anderes übriges, als die Juden auszurotten.” (There is therefore no other recourse left for modern nations except to exterminate the Jew….)[lxiii]
In the twenty-first century, the Protocols have again been put in the service of a radical assault on Jews, Judaism and the State of Israel throughout the Arab and Muslim world, this time on satellite TV. The subtext remains the same: Jews, Judaism and Israel must be destroyed. On November 6, 2002, at the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, Egyptian State Television Channel 2, Dream TV (a privately owned Egyptian satellite network), Abu Dhabi TV, Hizbullah’s al-Manar TV, Yemen TV, and others, all began screening “Horseman Without a Horse,” a 41 episode “historical” series covering the Middle East from 1850 to 1948. The entire series emphasizes The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as “proof” of an alleged Jewish plot to dominate and enslave the world and depicts the founding of the State of Israel as a major step toward that end.
The unprecedented use of the Protocols in a television series, reaching perhaps as many as 200 million Muslims continuously for 41 days, constitutes a radical escalation of both the scope and intensity of anti-Jewish propaganda in the Muslim world. No scholarly essay or newspaper article exposing the lie can possibly match the power of a widely-promoted, prime-time TV series scheduled immediately after the nightly meal that breaks the fast of the holy month of Ramadan. The Nazis and other earlier anti-Semites had recourse solely to widely circulated print editions. The producers of “Horseman Without a Horse” possessed a far more potent propaganda medium that combined visual and dramatic power and was capable of influencing millions possessed of varying degrees of literacy. The potentiality of the series for hateful damage was understood by Samir Raafat, a writer and chronicler of life in Cairo, who wrote: “Once it goes on television it enters everyone’s living room, and that’s where the danger is…You are spoon-feeding them more hate propaganda.”[lxiv] By contrast, Nabil Osman, an Egyptian government spokesman, rejected criticism of the series. Although, like the original Protocols, the series deals with an alleged Jewish conspiracy for world domination, Osman insisted that “There is a world of difference” between anger at Israeli policies and anti-Semitism. He added that the program had been reviewed by a government broadcasting committee that vets all television programs for pornography or the “desecration of religion.”[lxv]
As we note elsewhere in this work, both Adolf Hitler and National Socialism have long been held in high esteem in the Arab world and many of the most vicious Nazi war criminals found a welcome haven and new opportunities to carry on in post-World War II Egypt and Syria, as well as other Arab countries, in an attempt to finish Hitler’s assault on the Jews. The objective of the Islamists was and remains genocidal.
[ii] For the analysis of shame and guilt, I am indebted to Michael Lewis, “The Role of the Self in Shame,” Social Research, Vol. 70, No. 4 (Winter 2003), pp. 1181-1189.
[iii] W. Walter Menninger, “Uncontained rage: A psychoanalytic perspective on violence,” Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, Vol. 71, No.2, (Spring 2007), p. 120,.
[v] Michael Lewis, op. cit., p. 1188.
[vi] Michael Lewis, op.cit., pp. 1188-89.
[vii]Bernard Lewis. “The Roots of Muslim Rage: Why so many Muslims deeply resent the West and why their bitterness will not be easily mollified,” The Atlantic, September 1990.
[ix] Bernard Lewis, op. cit.
[x] Bat Ye’or, “Dhimmitude Past and Present : An Invented or Real History?,”C.V. Starr Foundation Lectureship, Brown University, October 10, 2002, http://www.dhimmitude.org/archive/by_lecture_10oct2002.htm; See also Bat Ye’or, Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide, trans. Miriam Kochan and David Littman (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002).
[xi] A list of Taliban restrictions and mistreatment of women supplied by the Afghan organization by the Revolutionary Associations of the Women of Afghanistan can be found at http://www.rawa.org/rules.htm. On gender discrimination by the Taliban, see Ahmad Raschid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press,2001), pp. 105-116; see also “Humanity Denied: Systematic Violations of Women’s Rights in Afghanistan,” Human Rights Watch, October 2001, Vol. 13, No. 5, http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/afghan3/.
[xiii] “Violence against Women and ‘Honor’ Crimes,” Human Rights News, April 6, 2001, http://hrw.org/english/docs/2001/04/06/global268.htm, accessed August 31, 2008; see also James Emery, “’Reputation is Everything: Honor Killings Among the Palestinians,” The World and I Online, May 2003,
[xvii] Ahmed Raschid, Taliban, p. 111.
[xviii] Robert G. L. Waite, The Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler (New York: New American Library, 1977), p. 241.
[xix] Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. Ralph Mannheim, (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1943) , p. 161.
[xxi] Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris (New York: W. W. Norton, 1999), p. 90.
[xxii] Kershaw, op. cit., p. 92. See also Waite, The Psychopathic God, p. 243.
[xxiv] Mein Kampf, p. 202; Kershaw, op. cit., p. 97.
[xxv] Mein Kampf, p. 204-206; Waite, The Psychopathic God, p. 244.
[xxvii] Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Culture of Defeat: On National Trauma, Mourning, and Recovery (New York: Henry Holt, 2003), p. 190.
[xxviii] Schivelbusch, Culture of Defeat, p. 197.
[xxix] Michael Geyer, “Insurrectionary Warfare: The German Debate about a Levée en Masse in October 1918,” Journal of Modern History, Vol. 73, No. 3 (Sep., 2001), p. 464 and 467-468.
[xxx] Geyer, op. cit., p. 470. These included Max von Gallwitz and Bruno von Mudra.
[xxxi] Wilson stipulated that the Central Powers would be required “immediately to withdraw their forces everywhere from invaded territories.” He further insisted on “absolutely satisfactory safeguards and guarantees” for the maintenance “of the present military supremacy of the armies of the United States and its allies in the field.” And, Wilson explicitly demanded a new government in Germany because “the nations of the world do not and cannot trust the word of those who have hitherto been the masters of German policy.” The text of Wilson’s replies are to be found in Oliver Marble Gale, Americanism: Woodrow Wilson’s Speeches on the War (Chicago: Baldwin Syndicate, 1918) , pp. 141-144. This book was digitized and made available by Google from the Harvard University Library.
[xxxii] Geyer, op. cit., pp. pp. 475-502.
[xxxiii] Wilhelm Deist, ed., Militär und Innenpolitik im Weltkrieg, 1914-1918 (Dusseldorf: Droste, 1970),Vol. 2, pp. 1338-40;I am indebted to Geyer, op. cit., p. 506 for this citation.
[xxxiv] Friedrich Payer, Von Bethmann Hollweg bis Ebert: Erinnerungen und Bilder(Frankfurt am Main: Frankfurter Societa?ts-Druckerei, 1923), pp. 142-43; I am indebted to Geyer, loc. cit. for this citation..
[xxxvii] Peter Pulzer, Jews and the German State: The Political History of a Minority, 1848-1933 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2003), p. 224
[xxxviii]Jacob Rosenthal, ”Die Ehre des jüdischen Soldaten". Die Judenzählung im Ersten Weltkrieg und ihre Folgen (Frankfurt/Main: Campus Verlag, 2007), pp. 63-89; see also Deutsches Historisches Museum, “Die Judenzählung von 1916,” http://www.dhm.de/lemo/html/wk1/innenpolitik/judenzaehlung/index.html, accessed September 30, 2008.
[xxxix] Bryan Marc Rigg, Hitler's Jewish Soldiers (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press), p.72.
[xl] Richard Bessel, Germany after the First World War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 5-6.
[xlii] Wolfgang Mommsen, “Max Weber and the Peace Treaty of Versailles,” in Manfred E. Boemeke, Grald E. Feldman, and Elisabeth Glaser, eds., The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 535.
[xliii] On the Niebelungen tradition, Siegfried and Hagen, see Geyer, op. cit., pp. 506, 517-520; for a discussion of the role of Judas in transforming the Jews into the perennial betrayer of the Christian world, seeRichard L. Rubenstein, After Auschwitz, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), pp. 50-51.
[xliv] They included Gustav Landauer, Eugen Leviné, Ernst Toller, and Towia Axelrod. On the red revolution in Munich see Allan Mitchell, Revolution in Bavaria, 1918-1919 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965); Ruth Fischer, Stalin and German Communism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1948); Charles B. Maurer, Call to Revolution: The Mystical Anarchism of Gustav Landauer (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1971); Rosa Leviné-Meyer, Leviné the Spartacist (London: Gordon and Cremonesi, 1978); Richard Grunberger, Red Rising in Bavaria (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973).
[xlv] Wolfram Wette, The Wehrmacht: History, Myth, Reality, trans. Deborah Lucas Schneider (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), pp. 45-46.
[xlvi] John Weiss, The Ideology of Death: Why the Holocaust Happened in Germany, (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1996), pp. 211-212.
[xlvii] Erich Ludendorff, Kriegführung und Politik, 3rd ed.(Berlin: Mittler & Sohn, 1925), pp. 141, 322, 339. For this citation I am indebted to Wette, The Wehrmacht, p. 41.
[xlviii] Adolf Hitler, “My Political Testament,” United States, Office of United States Chief of Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality, Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1946-1948), Vol. VI, pp. 259-263, Doc. No. 3569-PS, http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/policy/1945/450429a.html.
[xlix] On Lepanto, see Michael Novak, “Remembering Lepanto: A Battle not Forgotten,” National Review Online, http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=YWVhYWJmMDJlNzQwZWFhYWViM2FmNjE3MDY3MjZmZWQ=#more , accessed November 18, 2008; on the Siege of Vienna and the Treaty of Karlowitz, see Bernard Lewis, The Middle East: A Brief Historyof the Last 2,000 Years (New York: Scribner, 1995), pp. 276-277.
[l] See Benny Morris, 1948: The First Arab-Israeli War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), p. 419.
[lii] Gilles Kepel, Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and Pharaoh, trans. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003) , pp. 70-71.
[lv] For an analysis of HAMAS as a multi-faceted organization, see Matthew Levitt, HAMAS: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006).
[lvi] On the significance of the relevance of this Hadith for contemporary anti-Semitism, see Andrew Bostom, “Why Islam’s Jew-Hating Hadith Matter,” Front Page Magazine, October 3, 2008, http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=5C31EBDF
-5E89-4572-91AB-EFCF84711E0C . On the theory of the Nazi roots of Islamic anti-Semitism, see Matthias Kuntzel, “Islamic Antisemitism and Its Nazi Roots,” April 2003, http://www.matthiaskuentzel.de/contents/islamic-antisemitism-and-its-nazi-roots. For an informed contrary opinon. For an exchange on this issue between Bostom and Kuntzel, see “Debating the Islamist-Nazi Connection,” Front Page Magazine, January 2, 2008, http://frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=1DC2117D
[lviii] The Protocols had originally been prepared by the Russian police and given to Tsar Nicholas II to influence policy. Although personally anti-Semitic, the Tsar detected the fraud and refused to use it. See Leon Poliakov, Article “Elders of Zion, Protocols of the Learned,” in Encyclopaedia Judaica, CD Rom edition (Jerusalm: Judaica Multimedia, 1997)
[lix] The text of Philip Graves dispatch to the Times was reprinted by the New York Times, September 4, 1921. See note 74. The complete text of the original Dialogue aux Enfers has been made available on the Internet by Google Books at
[lxi] This is the apt title of an important study of the Protocols, Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (London: Serif, 2005). The belief that the Holocaust was not only justified but was regarded as an urgent moral necessity is discussed at length by Peter Haas, The Nazi Ethic (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988). Fortress Press is the publishing house of the American Lutheran Church.
[lxii] Daniel Pipes, Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where It Comes From (New York: The Free Press - Simon & Schuster), p.85.
[lxiii] Louis P. Lochner, ed. and trans., The Goebbels Diaries 1942-1943 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1948), p. 377. The date of the entry is 13 May 1943. German text in Elke Fröhlich, Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels (München: K. G. Saur, 1993), Vol. 2, pt. 8, p. 287 (13 May 1943).
Richard L. Rubenstein is President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Religion at the University of Bridgeport and Lawton Distinguished Professor of Religion Emeritus at Florida State University. He is the author of numerous books and articles on Jewish theology, the Holocaust and other issues including After Auschwitz: Radical Theology and Contemporary Judaism, The Cunning of History, My Brother Paul and Dissolving Alliance: The United States and the Future of Europe.
To comment on this article, please click here.
To help New English Review continue to publish original and thought provoking essays like this one, please click here.
If you have enjoyed this article by Richard L. Rubenstein and want to read more, please click here.