Friday, January 11, 2008


Seeds of Hate - "Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11" by Matthias Kuntzel - Jeffrey Goldberg (New York Times)

  • One day in Damascus not long ago, I visited the gift shop of the Sheraton Hotel, looking for something to read. There was a paperback copy of The International Jew, published in 2000 in Beirut, a collection of columns exposing the putative role of Jews in such fields as international finance, world governance and bootlegging, based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
  • Next to it was a copy of The Bible Came From Arabia, a piece of twaddle that suggests the Jews are not Jews and Israel isn't Israel. And then there was a pamphlet called "Secrets of the Talmud." Not knowing these secrets, I started reading. The Talmud apparently teaches Jews how best to demolish the world economy and gives Jews the right to take non-Jewish women as slaves and rape them. Anti-Semitic conspiracy literature not only posits crude and senseless ideas, but also tends to be riddled with typos, repetitions and gross errors of grammar, and for this and other reasons I occasionally have trouble taking it seriously.
  • The German scholar Matthias Kuntzel tells us this is a mistake. He takes anti-Semitism, and its most potent current strain, Muslim anti-Semitism, very seriously. His bracing, even startling, book reminds us that it is perilous to ignore idiotic ideas if these idiotic ideas are broadly, and fervently, believed. And across the Muslim world, the very worst ideas about Jews - intricate, outlandish conspiracy theories about their malevolent and absolute power over world affairs - have become scandalously ubiquitous.
  • The question is not only why, of course, but how: how did these ideas, especially those that portray Jews as all-powerful, work their way into modern-day Islamist discourse? The notion of the Jew as malevolently omnipotent is not a traditional Muslim notion. In subsequent centuries Jews lived among Muslims, and it is true that their experience was generally healthier than that of their brethren in Christendom, but only so long as they knew their place; they were ruled and taxed as second-class citizens and were often debased by statute. In the Jim Crow Middle East, no one believed the Jews were in control.
  • Obviously, then, these modern-day ideas about Jewish power were imported from Europe, and Kuntzel makes a bold argument: the dissemination of European models of anti-Semitism among Muslims was an actual project of the Nazi Party, meant to turn Muslims against Jews and Zionism. He says that in the years before World War II, two Muslim leaders in particular willingly and knowingly carried Nazi ideology directly to the Muslim masses. They were Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, and the Egyptian proto-Islamist Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • The former Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi once told me that "the question is not what the Germans did to the Jews, but what the Jews did to the Germans." The Jews, he said, deserved their punishment. Kuntzel argues that we should see men like Rantisi for what they are: heirs to the mufti, and heirs to the Nazis.

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