Understanding the Islam in Islamic Antisemitism

by Andrew Bostom (June 2009)

Delivered to the New English Review Symposium, May 30th, 2009.


T
he only Marxist philosopher I appreciate—Groucho—once observed,
 
            Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it is too dark to read.
 
This morning I will cast light on subject matter long relegated to silent darkness.
 
During February of 2007, nearing completion of the manuscript version of The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, I took a brief hiatus and posed the following two questions, based upon my research, to a cadre of academics, independent scholars, theologians, journalists, and activists who opine, in writing and speech, about Antisemitism, generally, and/or within the Muslim world, specifically. I asked (via e-mail correspondence), “In your opinion, would this quote (below) exemplify racial, or at least ethnic Antisemitism? Moreover would you please hazard a guess as to where and when it was written, based upon the contents?” Here is the quote:
 
Our people [the Muslims] observing thus the occupations of the Jews and the Christians concluded that the religion of the Jews must compare unfavorably as do their professions, and that their unbelief must be the foulest of all, since they are the filthiest of all nations. Why the Christians, ugly as they are, are physically less repulsive than the Jews may be explained by the fact that the Jews, by not intermarrying, have intensified the offensiveness of their features. Exotic elements have not mingled with them; neither have males of alien races had intercourse with their women, nor have their men cohabited with females of a foreign stock. The Jewish race therefore has been denied high mental qualities, sound physique, and superior lactation. The same results obtain when horses, camels, donkeys, and pigeons are inbred.
 
Not surprisingly, the replies of my correspondents reflected the conventional academic (and journalistic) wisdom which continues to assert Muslim Jew hatred is only a recent phenomenon that began in the late 19th or early 20th centuries, and is a mere by-product of the advent of the Zionist movement, and the protracted Arab-Israeli conflict over the lands comprising the original 1922 Mandate for historical Palestine (i.e., modern Israel, Jordan, Judea, Samaria, and Gaza). Such thinking also contends that this strain of Jew hatred is a loose amalgam of re-cycled medieval Christian Judeophobic motifs, calumnies from the Czarist Russia “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” and standard European racist, or Fascist/Nazi propaganda. A prototypical assessment of this ilk was written by the journalist Lawrence Wright in The Looming Tower, his widely acclaimed investigative account of the events leading to the cataclysmic acts of jihad terrorism on September 11, 2001.
 
Until the end of World War II…Jews lived safely –although submissively—under Muslim rule for 1,200 years, enjoying full religious freedom; but in the 1930s, Nazi propaganda on Arabic-language shortwave radio, coupled with slanders by Christian missionaries in the region, infected the area with this ancient Western prejudice [antisemitism].  After the war, Cairo became a sanctuary for Nazis, who advised the military and the government.  The rise of the Islamist movement coincided with the decline of fascism, but they overlapped in Egypt, and the germ passed into a new carrier.
 
Wright’s statement was not accompanied by documentation—this was the accepted wisdom after all.
 
The contemporary pervasiveness of Wright’s flawed understanding was again manifested in the responses of my interlocutors. A representative sample of their comments demonstrates this phenomenon:
 
“Of course it's Antisemitism of the most vile racist stripe—which leads me to think it likely dates from the 19th century, at the earliest.  It also sounds like the sort of thing one would read in the  Antisemitic popular literature of the Edwardian period.  So, my guess would be somewhere between 1830 and the 1920s.”  
 
“I imagine this was written under the influence of modern theories of racial inferiority.”
 
“If I had to hazard a guess, I would say this is from a sermon in a Gaza mosque this past Friday..”
 
“Could be any mosque in the Muslim world, or Nazi Germany if it weren't for the first line. Definitely racial…”
 
“How about current Wahhabi establishment?”
 
“I have no idea who said it but I’ll hazard a guess just for sport: the Mufti of Jerusalem, circa 1940?”
 
“Probably last week from one of the mullahs in the UK.”
 
“Yes, racist to the point of being Nazi-like. I would say, the Mufti of Jerusalem or some other Islamofascist, or maybe contemporary Wahhabi.”
 
“…it's the usual (modern) boiler plate from the Middle East.”
“The source appears to be a Palestinian sermon”
 
Except for the final comment—“The source appears to be a Palestinian sermon”—I will not identify the commentators. None other than Princeton-educated (i.e., under the tutelage of a certain expatriate British Doyen who will go unnamed) historian Dr. Michael Oren, recently named Israeli Ambassador to the US, made the last remark.
 
The quote in fact derives from a remarkable essay by the polymath Arabic writer al-Jahiz (d. 869), illustrating the anti-Jewish attitudes prevalent within an important early Islamic society—Baghdad, the seat of the Abbasid Caliphate—and composed over a millennium earlier than suspected by these interlocutors. It is also worth noting that al-Jahiz (described as a “skeptic,” who harbored “indifferent views toward religion in general”) included sociological observations—the quote cited—which reveal the interface between indigenous ethnic/racial discriminatory, and Islamic religious attitudes towards Jews (i.e., the essay’s major emphasis, which I’ll describe, very briefly), expressed a thousand years before any secular Western European Antisemitic ideologies would be exported to the Muslim Near East

Al-Jahiz’s full essay was actually an anti-Christian polemic believed to have been commissioned by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mutawakkil (d. 861), who inaugurated a literary campaign against the Christians. The author examines why the Muslim masses prefer the Christians to the Jews. This empirical preference (although decried by the author) is acknowledged by al-Jahiz from the outset:
 
I shall begin to enumerate the causes which made the Christians more liked by the masses than the Magians [Zoroastrians], and made men consider them more sincere than the Jews, more endeared, less treacherous, less unbelieving, and less deserving of punishment. For all this there are manifold and evident causes.
 
Al-Jahiz offers two primary explanations for this abiding hostility of the Muslim rank and file towards the Jews. First was the “rancorous” relationship between the early Muslim community, exiles from Mecca, relocated among Jewish neighbors in Medina.
 
However, al-Jahiz then identifies as “the most potent cause” of this particular animus towards the Jews, Koran 5:82 [“Thou wilt surely find the most hostile of men to the believers are the Jews and the idolaters; and thou wilt surely find the nearest of them in love to the believers are those who say ‘We are Christians’; that, because some of them are priests and monks, and they wax not proud.”], and its interpretation by the contemporary (i.e., mid-9th century) Muslim masses. It is important to note also that the gloss on Koran 5:82 in the classical Koranic commentaries by al-Tabari (d. 923), Zamakashari (d. 1143), Baydawi (d. ~ 1316), and Ibn Kathir (d. 1373), demonstrate a uniformity of opinion about the confirmed animus of the Jews towards the Muslims, which is repeatedly linked to the central Antisemitic motif in the Koran (verses 2:61/ 3:112)—their eternal curse for transgressing the will of Allah, slaying Biblical prophets, and resultant condemnation to permanent humiliation. Tabari, for example, states:
 
In my [Tabari’s] opinion, [the Christians] are not like the Jews who always scheme in order to murder the emissaries and the prophets, and who oppose God in his positive and negative commandments, and who corrupt His scripture which He revealed in His books.
 
Fast forward more than 11 centuries to Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders’ brief, powerful documentary film Fitna which simply holds up a mirror to Islamic societies by including examples of how various Koranic verses are used by contemporary Muslim clerics and political leaders to incite Muslim populations to violence. And Fitna is entirely faithful to classical, mainstream Islamic exegesis on the Koranic verses cited in the film, regardless of what cultural jihadists, and their witting or unwitting apologists and abettors, may claim.
 
Perhaps more disturbing than the images of jihadist carnage—and their Koranic incitement—portrayed in Fitna, was an example of how even young children are inculcated with these genocidal beliefs, and coached to repeat them for additional public consumption. Fitna included a May 2002 segment broadcast on Iqraa, the Saudi satellite television station, which claims at its website, “to highlight aspects of Arab Islamic culture that inspire admiration … to highlight the true, tolerant image of Islam and refute the accusations directed against it.” Iqraa’s The Muslim Women's Magazine program featured an interview of a three-and-a-half-year-old “real Muslim girl” about Jews. When the little girl was asked whether she liked Jews; she replied, “No.” Asked why not, she replied that Jews were “apes and pigs.” The moderator then asked. “Who said this?” And the child answered, “Our God.” “Where did He say this?,” asked the moderator. “In the Koran,” this three-and-a-half-year-old girl replied. At the close of the interview, the moderator stated approvingly: “No [parents] could wish for Allah to give them a more believing girl than she... May Allah bless her and both her father and mother.”
 
Tragically, this 3-and-a-half-year old girl’s Koranic reference is accurate—Koran 5:60 refers to the Jews as apes and pigs;  Koran 2:65 and 7:166, as apes, only. These verses and both their classical and modern exegesis by the most authoritative Muslim Koranic commentators are meant to inspire sacralized Jew hatred.
 
For over a thousand years, since its founding in 792 C.E., Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, has served as the academic shrine—much as Mecca is the religious shrine—of the global Muslim community. Al Azhar University (and its mosque) represent the pinnacle of Islamic religious education.
 
A front page New York Times story published Saturday January 10, 2009, included extracts from the Friday sermon (of the day before) at Al Azhar mosque pronounced by Egyptian-government appointed cleric Sheik Eid Abdel Hamid Youssef. Referencing well-established Antisemitic motifs from the Koran (citations provided, below), Sheikh Youssef intoned,
 
Muslim brothers, God has inflicted the Muslim nation with a people whom God has become angry at [Koran 1:7] and whom he cursed [Koran 5:78] so he made monkeys and pigs [Koran 5:60] out of them. They killed prophets and messengers [Koran 2:61 / 3:112] and sowed corruption on Earth. [Koran 5:33 / 5:64] They are the most evil on Earth. [5:62 /63]
 
In classical and modern Koranic exegeses by seminal, authoritative Islamic theologians the central Antisemitic motif of the Koran—their eternal curse for “prophet killing,” and violating Allah’s commands—is coupled to Koranic verses 5:60, and 5:78, which describe the Jews transformation into apes and swine (5:60), or simply apes, (i.e. verses 2:65 and 7:166), having been “…cursed by the tongue of David, and Jesus, Mary’s son” (5:78). Muhammad himself repeats this Koranic curse in a canonical hadith (Sunan Abu Dawoud, Book 37, Number 4322), {“He [Muhammad] then recited the verse [5:78]: ‘…curses were pronounced on those among the children of Israel who rejected Faith, by the tongue of David and of Jesus the son of Mary’ ”.}And the related verse, 5:64, accuses the Jews—as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did in a January 2007 speech, citing Koran 5:64—of being “spreaders of war and corruption,” a sort of ancient Koranic antecedent of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
 
Indeed the Koran’s overall discussion of the Jews is marked by a litany of their sins and punishments, as if part of a divine indictment, conviction, and punishment process. The Jews’ ultimate sin and punishment are made clear: they are the devil’s minions (4:60) cursed by Allah, their faces will be obliterated (4:47), and if they do not accept the true faith of Islam—the Jews who understand their faith become Muslims (3:113)—they will be made into apes (2:65/ 7:166), or apes and swine (5:60), and burn in the Hellfires (4:55, 5:29, 98:6, and 58:14-19).
 
The Koranic curse upon the Jews for (primarily) rejecting, even slaying Allah’s prophets (verses 2:61/3:112), including Isa/Jesus (or at least his “body double” 4:157-4:158), is updated with perfect archetypal logic in the canonical hadith: following the Muslims’ initial conquest of the Jewish farming oasis of Khaybar, one of the vanquished Jewesses reportedly served Muhammad poisoned mutton (or goat), which resulted, ultimately, in his protracted, agonizing death. And Ibn Saad’s sira account maintains that Muhammad’s poisoning resulted from a well-coordinated Jewish conspiracy.
 
It is worth recounting—as depicted in the Muslim sources—the events that antedated Muhammad’s reputed poisoning at Khaybar.
 
Muhammad’s failures or incomplete successes were consistently recompensed by murderous attacks on the Jews. The Muslim prophet-warrior developed a penchant for assassinating individual Jews, and destroying Jewish communities—by expropriation and expulsion (Banu Quaynuqa and B. Nadir), or massacring their men, and enslaving their women and children (Banu Qurayza). Just before subduing the Medinan Jewish tribe Banu Qurayza and orchestrating the mass execution of their adult males, Muhammad invoked perhaps the most striking Koranic motif for the Jews debasement—he addressed these Jews, with hateful disparagement, as “You brothers of apes.” Subsequently, in the case of the Khaybar Jews, Muhammad had the male leadership killed, and plundered their riches. The terrorized Khaybar survivors—industrious Jewish farmers—became prototype subjugated dhimmis whose productivity was extracted by the Muslims as a form of permanent booty. (And according to the Muslim sources, even this tenuous vassalage was arbitrarily terminated within a decade of Muhammad’s death when Caliph Umar expelled the Jews of Khaybar.)
 
Thus Maimonides (d. 1203), the renowned Talmudist, philosopher, astronomer, and physician, as noted by historian Salo Baron [from Baron’s essay entitled, “The Historical Outlook of Maimonides,” in Proc of the Amer Acad for Jewish Res, vol. 6, 1934-35, p. 82], emphasizes the bellicose “madness” of Muhammad, and his quest for political control. Muhammad’s mindset, and the actions it engendered, had immediate, and long term tragic consequences for Jews—from his massacring up to 24,000 Jews, to their chronic oppression—as described in the Islamic sources, by Muslims themselves:
 
Following an apparently prevalent usage [Maimonides] calls the founder of Islam a “madman,” [meshugga] with both religious and political aspirations, who failed to formulate any new religious ideas, but merely re-stated well-known concepts. Nevertheless, he attracted a large following and inflicted many wrongs upon the Jews, being himself responsible for the massacre of 24,000. Following his example the Muslims of the subsequent generations oppressed the Jews and debased them even more harshly than any other nation.
 
Muhammad’s brutal conquest and subjugation of the Medinan and Khaybar Jews, and their subsequent expulsion by one of his companions, the (second) “Rightly Guided” Caliph Umar, epitomize permanent, archetypal behavior patterns Islamic Law deemed appropriate to Muslim interactions with Jews. George Vajda’s seminal analysis of the anti-Jewish motifs in the hadith remains the definitive work on this subject. Vajda concluded that according to the hadith stubborn malevolence is the Jews defining worldly characteristic: rejecting Muhammad and refusing to convert to Islam out of jealousy, envy and even selfish personal interest, lead them to acts of treachery, in keeping with their inveterate nature: “...sorcery, poisoning, assassination held no scruples for them.” These archetypes sanction Muslim hatred towards the Jews, and the admonition to at best, “subject [the Jews] to Muslim domination,” as dhimmis—submitted infidels as per Koran 9:29—treated “with contempt,” under certain “humiliating arrangements.”
 
As also characterized in the hadith, Muslim eschatology—end of times theology—highlights the Jews’ supreme hostility to Islam. Jews are described as adherents of the Dajjâl—the Muslim equivalent of the Anti-Christ—or according to another tradition, the Dajjâl is himself Jewish. At his appearance, other traditions maintain that the Dajjâl will be accompanied by 70,000 Jews from Isfahan wrapped in their robes, and armed with polished sabers, their heads covered with a sort of veil. When the Dajjâl is defeated, his Jewish companions will be slaughtered— everything will deliver them up except for the so-called gharkad tree, as per the canonical hadith included in the 1988 Hamas Charter (in article 7). Another hadith variant, which takes place in Jerusalem, has Isa (the Muslim Jesus) leading the Arabs in a rout of the Dajjâl and his company of 70,000 armed Jews. And the notion of jihad “ransom” extends even into Islamic eschatology—on the day of resurrection the vanquished Jews will be consigned to Hellfire, and this will expiate Muslims who have sinned, sparing them from this fate. Moshe Sharon recently provided a very lucid summary of the unique features of Shi’ite eschatology, its key point of consistency with Sunni understandings (as reflected by Hamas) of this doctrine, and Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s deep personal attachment to “mahdism”:
.
Since the late ninth century, the Shi’ites have been expecting the emergence of the hidden imam-mahdi, armed with divine power and followed by thousands of martyrdom-seeking warriors. He is expected to conquer the world and establish Shi’ism as its supreme religion and system of rule. His appearance would involve terrible war and unusual bloodshed.
 
Ahmadinejad, as mayor of Teheran, built a spectacular boulevard through which the mahdi would enter into the capital. There is no question that Ahmadinejad believes he has been chosen to be the herald of the mahdi. 
 
Shi’ite Islam differs from Sunni Islam regarding the identity of the mahdi. The Sunni mahdi is essentially an anonymous figure; the Shi’ite mahdi is a divinely inspired person with a real identity.
 
However both Shi’ites and Sunnis share one particular detail about “the coming of the hour” and the dawning of messianic times: The Jews must all suffer a violent death, to the last one. Both Shi'ites and Sunnis quote the famous hadith [Sahih Muslim, Book 40, Number 6985] attributed to Muhammad: The last hour will not come unless the Muslims fight against the Jews, and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and the stone or the tree would say: “Muslim! Servant of Allah! Here is a Jew behind me; come and kill him!” Not one Friday passes without this hadith being quoted in sermons from one side of the Islamic world to the other.
 
 
Returning to the “humiliating arrangements” for Jews under Islamic subjection in the corporeal world, two particularly debasing “vocations” that were imposed upon Jews by their Muslim overlords in Yemen, and Morocco—where Jews formed the only substantive non-Muslim dhimmi populations—merit elaboration.
 
Moroccan Jews were confined to ghettos in the major cities, such as Fez (since the 13th century) called mellah(s) (salty earth) which derives from the fact it was here that they were forced to salt the decapitated heads of executed rebels for public exposition. This brutally imposed humiliating practice—which could be enforced even on the Jewish Sabbath—persisted through the late 19th century, as described by Eliezer Bashan:
 
In the 1870's, Jews were forced to salt the decapitated heads of rebels on the Sabbath. For example, Berber tribes frequently revolted against Sultan Muhammad XVIII. In order to force them to accept his authority, he would engage in punitive military campaigns. Among the tribes were the Musa, located south of Marrakesh. In 1872, the Sultan succeeded in quelling their revolt and forty-eight of their captives were condemned to death. In October 1872, on the order of the Sultan, they were dispatched to Rabat for beheading. Their decapitated heads were to be exposed on the gates of the town for three days. Since the heads were to be sent to Fez, Jewish ritual slaughterers [of livestock] were forced to salt them and hang them for exposure on the Sabbath. Despite threats by the governor of Rabat, the Jews refused to do so. He then ordered soldiers to enter the homes of those who refused and drag them outside. After they were flogged, the Jews complied and performed the task and the heads of the rebels were exposed in public.
 
Yemenite Jews had to remove human feces and other waste matter (urine which failed to evaporate, etc.) from Muslim areas, initially in Sanaa, and later in other communities such as Shibam, Yarim, and Dhamar.Decrees requiring this obligation were issued in the late 18th or early 19th century, and re-introduced in 1913. Yehuda Nini reproduces an 1874 letter written by a Yemenite Jew to the Alliance Israelite in Paris, lamenting the practice:
 
…it is 86 years since our forefathers suffered the cruel decree and great shame to the nation of Israel from the east to sundown…for in the days of our fathers, 86 years ago, there arose a judge known as Qadi, and said unto the king and his ministers who lived in that time that the Lord, Blessed be He, had only created the Jews out of love of the other nations, to do their work and be enslaved by them at their will, and to do the most contemptible and lowly of tasks. And of them all…the greatest contamination of all, to clear their privies and streets and pathways of the filthy dung and the great filth in that place and to collect all that is left of the dung, may your Honor pardon the expression.
 
Returning to Morocco, circa the 1930s, Hugh Fitzgerald brought to my attention the description of a humiliating “fecal matter variant” from the Moroccan mellah witnessed by Pierre Van Paassen, and recorded in his 1939, “Days of Our Years”:
 
Once a month, when the dirt and offal in the bazaar—that is to say, the business quarter—begin to look like a mountain landscape and the weary wayfarer thinks how useful an alpenstock would come in for travel in and over those malodorous hills, the Moslems of the town foregather, pick it all up, and amidst much Oriental hilarity (which is ten times as noisy as any other kind of a racket), dump it into the Jewish quarter. That's an old custom with these people, something like getting a haircut, a regularly recurrent joy. They make certain to do the job on a Friday evening when the Sabbath begins and when they know that the Jews won't lift a finger for twenty-four hours. The Jews, who have a long memory, remember how the Pharaohs made them bring straw for the bricks for their pyramids. They clear away the piles of putrefaction on Sunday with philosophic equanimity.
 
And when the Jews were perceived as having exceeded the rightful bounds of this subjected relationship, as in mythically “tolerant” Muslim Spain, the results were predictably tragic. The Granadan Jewish viziers Samuel Ibn Naghrela, and his son Joseph, who protected the Jewish community, were both assassinated between 1056 to 1066, and in the aftermath, the Jewish population was annihilated by the local Muslims. It is estimated that up to four thousand Jews perished in the pogrom by Muslims that accompanied the 1066 assassination. This figure equals or exceeds the number of Jews reportedly killed by the Crusaders during their pillage of the Rhineland, some thirty years later, at the outset of the First Crusade. The inciting “rationale” for this Granadan pogrom is made clear in the bitter anti-Jewish ode of Abu Ishaq, a well-known Muslim jurist and poet of the times, who wrote:
 
Bring them down to their place and return them to the most abject station. They used to roam around us in tatters covered with contempt, humiliation, and scorn. They used to rummage amongst the dung heaps for a bit of a filthy rag to serve as a shroud for a man to be buried in...Do not consider that killing them is treachery. Nay, it would be treachery to leave them scoffing.
 
Abu Ishaq’s rhetorical incitement to violence also included the line,
 
            Many a pious Muslim is in awe of the vilest infidel ape
 
Moshe Perlmann, in his analysis of the Muslim anti-Jewish polemic of 11th century Granada, notes,
 
[Abu Ishaq] Elb?r? used the epithet “ape” (qird) profusely when referring to Jews. Such indeed was the parlance.
 
 
The Moroccan cleric al-Maghili (d. 1505), referring to the Jews as “brothers of apes” (just as Muhammad, the sacralized prototype, had addressed the Banu Qurayza), who repeatedly blasphemed the Muslim prophet, and whose overall conduct reflected their hatred of Muslims, fomented, and then personally lead, a Muslim pogrom (in ~ 1490) against the Jews of the southern Moroccan oasis of Touat, plundering and killing them en masse, and destroying their synagogue in neighboring Tamantit. An important Muslim theologian whose writings influenced Moroccan religious attitudes towards Jews into the 20th century, al-Maghili also declared in verse, “Love of the Prophet, requires hatred of the Jews.”
 
Here is but a very incomplete sampling of barely known pogroms and mass murderous violence against Jews living under Islamic rule, across space and time, all resulting from the combined effects of jihadism, general anti-dhimmi, and/or specifically Antisemitic motifs in Islam: 6,000 Jews massacred in Fez in 1033; hundreds of Jews slaughtered in Muslim Cordoba between 1010 and 1015; 4,000 Jews killed in Muslim riots in Grenada in 1066, wiping out the entire community; the Berber Muslim Almohad depredations of Jews (and Christians) in Spain and North Africa between 1130 and 1232, which killed tens of thousands, while forcibly converting thousands more, and subjecting the forced Jewish converts to Islam to a Muslim Inquisition; the 1291 pogroms in Baghdad and its environs, which killed (at least) hundreds of Jews; the 1465 pogrom against the Jews of Fez; the late 15th century pogrom against the Jews of the Southern Moroccan oasis town of Touat; the 1679 pogroms against, and then expulsion of 10,000 Jews from Sanaa, Yemen to the unlivable, hot and dry Plain of Tihama, from which only 1,000 returned alive, in 1680, 90% having died from exposure; recurring Muslim anti-Jewish violence—including pogroms and forced conversions—throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, which rendered areas of Iran (for example, Tabriz) Judenrein; the 1834 pogrom in Safed where raging Muslim mobs killed and grievously wounded hundreds of Jews; the 1888 massacres of Jews in Isfahan and Shiraz, Iran; the 1910 pogrom in Shiraz; the pillage and destruction of the Casablanca, Morocco ghetto in 1907; the pillage of the ghetto of Fez  Morocco in 1912; the government sanctioned anti-Jewish pogroms by Muslims in Turkish Eastern Thrace during June-July, 1934 which ethnically cleansed at least 3000 Jews; and the series of pogroms, expropriations, and finally mass expulsions of some 900,000 Jews from Arab Muslim nations, beginning in 1941 in Baghdad (the murderous “Farhud,” during which 600 Jews were murdered, and at least 12,000 pillaged)—eventually involving cities and towns in Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Syria, Aden, Bahrain, and culminating in 1967 in Tunisia—that accompanied the planning and creation of a Jewish state, Israel, on a portion of the Jews’ ancestral homeland.
 
Israeli President Shimon Peres appeared flummoxed by Hamas’ intransigence in comments made to Haaretz, reported December 30, 2008. “This shooting has no point, no logic, and no chance,” Peres told Haaretz after Hamas’ open renunciation of the ceasefire agreement (not to mention its prior extensive violations throughout the course of the so-called “tahdiah”), and brazen resumption of missile and mortar attacks into southern Israel—which has triggered a dramatic, aggressive Israeli military response. Worse still, the elder statesman remains dangerously ignorant of Hamas’ intimately related motivations—the genocidal destruction of Israel’s Jews, as a prelude to regional, then global jihad conquest. “Nobody in this world understands what are Hamas’goals and why it continues to fire missiles,” Peres asserted.
 
Mr. Peres is tragically emblematic of Israeli leaders and policymaking elites who for generations have ignored how the living institution of jihad war—conjoined in Israel’s unique case to Islamic Jew-hatred—were always, past and present, the primary motivations for those masses in the Arab and non-Arab Muslim world seeking the Jewish State’s destruction. Indeed, what was billed as the first discussion of global jihadism by the Israeli security cabinet even in the current world (not to mention local Israeli) environment was only just held at the end of this past July, 2008. The open jihad against Israel waged continuously for two decades by Hamas, since the jihad terror organization’s founding in 1988, combined with the astonishing ignorance and/or denial of this phenomenon by Peres (and the lost legions who share his mindset), represents the apotheosis of this alarming trend.
 
Contra Shimon Peres et al, and underscoring their corrosive folly, historian David Littman has waged an heroic personal campaign—in public, at the United Nations Human Rights Commission, since January, 1989—to elucidate key aspects of Hamas’ genocidal ideology, demonstrating unapologetically how this annihilationist hatred is sanctioned by Islam’s foundational texts. Littman reminded us why it is so critical to focus on Hamas’ odious foundational covenant as a binding documentary record of the organization’s specific beliefs and goals:
 
Hitler understood this when he wrote in the preface to Mein Kampf: “the basic elements of a doctrine must be set down in permanent form in order that it may be represented in the same way and in unity.” [Hitler, Preface to Mein Kampf (Reynal and Hitchcock translation)]. After his release from an Israeli prison and return to Gaza in October 1997, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder and spiritual head of Hamas, declared that Israel must “disappear from the map.” He added: “We have an aim and an enemy, and we shall continue our jihad against the enemy. A nation without a jihad is a nation without a purpose.”
 
 
Hamas cleric Wael Al-Zarad during a television program which aired on Al-Aqsa TV on February 28, 2008 explained that the Muslims’ blood vengeance against the Jews, “will only subside with their [the Jews] annihilation, Allah willing, because they tried to kill our Prophet several times.” These allegations are part of a central antisemitic motif in the Koran which decrees an eternal curse upon the Jews (Koran 2:61/ reiterated at 3:112) for slaying the prophets and transgressing against the will of Allah.
 
And Koran 3:112 is featured before the pre-amble to Hamas’ foundational Covenant—it is literally part of the very first statement of the document. [Here is the Arberry translation of 3:112: “Abasement shall be pitched on them, wherever they are come upon…they will be laden with the burden of God's anger, and poverty shall be pitched on them; that, because they disbelieved in God's signs, and slew the Prophets without right; that, for that they acted rebelliously and were transgressors”] The recent annihilationist sentiments regarding Jews, as expressed by Hamas cleric al-Zarad, are also rooted in Islamic eschatology [end of times theology], and incorporated permanently into the foundational 1988 Hamas Covenant. (in article 7). This hadith is cited in the Covenant as a sacralized, obligatory call for a Muslim genocide of the Jews:
 
…the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to realize the promise of Allah, no matter how long it takes. The Prophet, Allah's prayer and peace be upon him, says: “The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: 'Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,' except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 6985)
 
Jihad is the other pillar of Hamas’ foundational Jew-annihilationist ideology featured in the 1988 Covenant. Once again, this is already suggested in the opening statement before the preamble which includes the following quote by Hasan al-Banna, founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood: “Israel will exist, and will continue to exist, until Islam abolishes it, as it abolished that which was before it.” Hamas, it should be noted, claims to be a wing of the International Muslim Brotherhood. Article 2 of the Hamas Charter, for example, states: “The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine. The Muslim Brotherhood Movement is a universal organisation which constitutes the largest Islamic movement in modern times.”
 
But the body of the Hamas Covenant includes unequivocal statements of Hamas’ irredentist commitment to the annihilation of Israel via jihad. Jihad martyrdom is lauded in article 8 “the Hamas slogan,” (in fact borrowed from the 1928 Charter of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood), which states, “Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its Constitution; Jihad is its path, and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.” Article 13 makes plain that Hamas’ jihadism is completely incompatible with any meaningful Middle East peace settlement:
 
Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. Abusing any part of Palestine is abuse against part of religion. Nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its religion. Its members have been fed on that…There is no solution to the Palestinian question except by Jihad. All initiatives, proposals, and International Conferences are a waste of time and vain endeavors.
 
Unfortunately, Hamas’ views on the jihad against Israel, and Islamic Jew hatred, are entirely concordant with those of the most authoritative religious educational institution within Sunni Islam—Al Azhar University, in Cairo, Egypt. Consider a fatwa written January 5, 1956—at the height of so-called secular Arab nationalism—by then Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Hasan Ma’moun, and signed by the leading members of the Fatwa Committee of Al Azhar, and the major representatives of all four Sunni Islamic schools of jurisprudence. [English translation from State Department Telegram 1763/ Embassy (Cairo) Telegram 1256 D441214] This ruling elaborated the following key initial point: that all of historical Palestine having been conquered by jihad, was a permanent possession of the global Muslim umma (community), “fay territory” (booty/spoils), to be governed by Islamic Law. The January, 1956 Al Azhar fatwa’s language and arguments are indistinguishable from those employed by Hamas (in its Covenant), revealing the same conjoined motivations of jihad, and conspiratorial Islamic Jew hatred:
 
Muslims cannot conclude peace with those Jews who have usurped the territory of Palestine and attacked its people and their property in any manner which allows the Jews to continue as a state in that sacred Muslim territory.
 
[as] Jews have taken a part of Palestine and there established their non-Islamic government and have also evacuated from that part most of its Muslim inhabitants… Jihad… to restore the country to its people.. is the duty of all Muslims, not just those who can undertake it. And since all Islamic countries constitute the abode of every Muslim, the Jihad is imperative for both the Muslims inhabiting the territory attacked, and Muslims everywhere else because even though some sections have not been attacked directly, the attack nevertheless took place on a part of the Muslim territory which is a legitimate residence for any Muslim.
 
Everyone knows that from the early days of Islam to the present day the Jews have been plotting against Islam and Muslims and the Islamic homeland. They do not propose to be content with the attack they made on Palestine and Al Aqsa Mosque, but they plan for the possession of all Islamic territories from the Nile to the Euphrates.
 
At present, the continual, monotonous invocation by Al Azhar clerics of Antisemitic motifs from the Koran (and other foundational Muslim texts) is entirely consistent with the published writings, and statements of Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi—Grand Imam of this pre-eminent Islamic religious institution since 1996.Tantawi’s case illustrates the prevalence and depth of sacralized, “normative” Jew hatred in the contemporary Muslim world. Arguably Islam’s leading mainstream cleric, Grand Imam Sheikh Tantawi, embodies how the living legacy of Muslim anti-Jewish hatred, and violence remains firmly rooted in mainstream, orthodox  Islamic teachings, not some aberrant vision of “radical Islam.”  
 
Tantawi’s Ph.D. thesis [Banu Israil fi al-Quran wa-al-Sunnah] Jews in the Koran and the Traditions was published in 1968-69, and re-published in 1986. Two years after earning his Ph.D., Sheikh Tantawi began teaching at Al-Azhar. In 1980 he became the head of the Tafsir [Koranic Commentary] Department of the University of Medina, Saudi Arabia—a position he held until 1984. Sheikh Tantawi became Grand Mufti of Egypt in 1986, a position he was to hold for a decade before taking on his current post, first assumed in 1996, as the Grand Imam of Al Azhar.
 
My book The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism includes extensive first time English translations of Tantawi’s academic magnum opus. Tantawi wrote these words in his 700 page treatise, rationalizing Muslim Jew hatred:
 
[The] Koran describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e. killing the prophets of Allah [Koran 2:61/ 3:112], [and see Sheikh Saqr’s Koranic citations, above] corrupting His words by putting them in the wrong places, consuming the people’s wealth frivolously, refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do, and other ugly characteristics caused by their deep-rooted lasciviousness…only a minority of the Jews keep their word…[A]ll Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims [Koran 3:113], the bad ones do not.
 
Tantawi was apparently rewarded for this scholarly effort by being named Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University in 1996, a position he still holds. These are the expressed, “carefully researched” views on Jews held by the nearest Muslim equivalent to a Pope—the head of the most prestigious center of Muslim learning in Sunni Islam, which represents some 85 to 90% of the world’s Muslims. And Sheikh Tantawi has not mollified such hatemongering beliefs since becoming the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar as his statements on “dialogue” (January 1998) with Jews, the Jews as “enemies of Allah, descendants of apes and pigs” (April 2002), and the legitimacy of homicide bombing of Jews (April 2002) make clear.
 
Tantawi’s statements on dialogue, which were issued shortly after he met with the Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Israel Meir Lau, in Cairo, on December 15, 1997, provided him another opportunity to re-affirm his ongoing commitment to the views expressed about Jews in his Ph.D. thesis:
 
…anyone who avoids meeting with the enemies in order to counter their dubious claims and stick fingers into their eyes, is a coward.  My stance stems from Allah’s book [the Koran], more than one-third of which deals with the Jews…[I] wrote a dissertation dealing with them [the Jews], all their false claims and their punishment by Allah.  I still believe in everything written in that dissertation. [i.e., Jews in the Koran and the Traditions, cited above]
 
 
Unfortunately, Tantawi’s antisemitic formulations are well-grounded in classical, mainstream Islamic theology. However, understanding and acknowledging the Koranic origins of Islamic antisemitism is not a justification for the unreformed, unrepentant modern endorsement of these hateful motifs by Tantawi—with predictably murderous consequences. Within days of the Netanya homicide bombing massacre on a Passover seder night, March 27, 2002, for example, Sheikh Tantawi issued an abhorrent sanction (April 4, 2002) of so-called “martyrdom operations,” even when directed at Israeli civilians.
 
And during November, 2002 (“Tantawi: No Antisemitism” Associated Press 11/19/2002), consistent with his triumphant denial, Sheikh Tantawi made the following statement in response to criticism over the virulently antisemitic Egyptian television series (“Horseman Without a Horse”), based on the Czarist Russia forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”:
 
Suppose that the series has some criticism or shows some of the Jews' traits, this
doesn't necessitate an uproar…The accusation of antisemitism was invented by the Jews as a means to pressure Arabs and Muslims to implement their schemes in the Arab and Muslim countries, so don't pay attention to them
 
Last January 22, 2008, it was reported that Tantawi cancelled what would have been an historic visit to the Rome synagogue by the imam of Rome's mosque (Ala Eldin Mohammed Ismail al-Ghobash). The putative excuse for this cancellation was Israel’s self-defensive stance—a blockade—in response to acts of jihad terrorism (rocket barrages; attempted armed incursions) emanating from Gaza. The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, commenting aptly about these events, observed that the cancellation proved, “…even so called Muslim moderates share the ideology of hate, violence and death towards the Jewish state.” Al Azhar, Corriere della Sera, further argued, which constituted a “Vatican of Sunni Islam,” had in effect issued “a kind of fatwah.” The paper concluded by noting that “What the Cairo statement really means is that Muslim dialogue with Jews in Italy is only possible once Israel has been eliminated.”
 
Thirty-six years ago (1973) Bat Ye’or published a remarkably foresighted analysis of the Islamic Antisemitism resurgent in her native Egypt, and being packaged for dissemination throughout the Muslim world. The primary, core Antisemitic motifs were Islamic, derived from Islam’s foundational texts, on to which European, especially Nazi elements were grafted.
 
The pejorative characteristics of Jews as they are described in Muslim religious texts are applied to modern Jews. Anti-Judaism and anti-Zionism are equivalent—due to the inferior status of Jews in Islam, and because divine will dooms Jews to wandering and misery, the Jewish state appears to Muslims as an unbearable affront and a sin against Allah. Therefore it must be destroyed by Jihad. Here the Pan-Arab and anti-Western theses that consider Israel as an advanced instrument of the West in the Islamic world, come to reinforce religious anti-Judaism. The religious and political fuse in a purely Islamic context onto which are grafted foreign elements. If, on the doctrinal level, Nazi influence is secondary to the Islamic base, the technique with which the Antisemitic material has been reworked, and the political purposes being pursued, present striking similarites with Hitler’s Germany.
 
That anti-Jewish opinions have been widely spread in Arab nationalist circles since the 1930s is not in doubt. But their confirmation at [Al] Azhar [University] by the most important authorities of Islam enabled them to be definitively imposed, with the cachet of infallible authenticity, upon illiterate masses that were strongly attached to religious traditions.
 
The intellectually honest assessment and understanding of Islamic antisemitism, and the anti-Jewish violence it begets, must begin with an unapologetic analysis of the motifs of Jew hatred contained in the foundational texts of Islam—Koran, hadith, and sira—while identifying those, like Al Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Tantawi, who continue to preach and sanction this religious bigotry, regardless of their “stature.”



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