Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Islamic antisemitism 'is Hitler's legacy'

This fascinating paper presented by Matthias Kuntzel at Yale in November 2006 argues that Islamic antisemitism in the Middle East is attributable to Hitler's continuing influence. Such antisemitism is of comparatively recent vintage:

"Prepare yourselves for a surprise: In the 1920s the Jews of Egypt were not isolated and hated, but an accepted and protected part of public life: they had members of parliament, were employed at the royal palace and occupied important positions in the economic and political spheres. The Egyptian population too were favourably inclined towards the Jews.

"It merits emphasis", reported a Viennese journalist, "that the Jewish shopkeeper and commission agent enjoy great popularity with the domestic population and are mostly considered to be very honest." How was this possible in a country where Islam was the state religion?

"Astonishingly, the century-long history of Islamic modernism is now entirely forgotten. This phase began at the start of the nineteenth century, reaching full bloom between 1860 and 1930. For example, in 1839 the Ottoman Sultan decreed equality for Jews and Christians and in 1856 this equality was established in law.

"This measure was motivated not only by pressure from the European colonial powers, but also by the desire of the Ottoman elite to draw closer to European civilization. Of course, the dhimmi status of the Jews meant that their situation did not improve everywhere and at once. Some Jewish communities in several Arab lands still suffered humilations. But at least in the urban centres, Jews were permitted to become members of Parliament, hold government posts and, after 1909, were recruited into the military.

"In the 1920s the bulk of the Islamic elites no longer lived under sharia law. Kemal Atatürk’s regime abolished it in Turkey in 1924. In 1925 Iran began to secularise under Reza Shah. In Egypt, sharia law only applied in the personal sphere, otherwise the legal code was of European provenance. In this period rather than the nation being a sub-unit of Islam, Islam was a sub-unit of the nation, in which Muslims, Christians and Jews enjoyed equal rights.

"The Zionist movement was likewise accepted with an open mind. For example, the editor of the Egypt’s daily al-Ahram wrote: “The Zionists are necessary for this region. The money they will bring in, their intelligence and the diligence which is one of their characteristics will, without doubt, bring new life to the country.”

"In the same vein, the former Egyptian minister Ahmed Zaki wrote in 1922 that, “The victory of the Zionist idea is the turning point for the fulfilment of an ideal which is so dear to me, the revival of the Orient". Thus in 1926 the Egyptian government extended a cordial welcome to a Jewish teachers association delegation from the British mandate territory.

"Later, students from the Egyptian University travelled on an official visit to Tel Aviv to take part in a sports competition there. When the conflict in Palestine escalated in 1929, the Egyptian Interior Ministry ordered its press office to censor all anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish articles. Even in 1933, the Egyptian government allowed 1,000 new Jewish immigrants to land in Port Said on their way to Palestine. No wonder, therefore, that the German Nazi party’s Egyptian section was in despair in 1933. "The level of education of the broad masses is not advanced enough for the understanding of race theory", declared a spokesman for the Cairo Nazis in 1933. "An understanding of the Jewish threat has not yet been awakened here."

"To summarize our first trip into history: thirty years after the founding of the Zionist movement and twenty years before the creation of the State of Israel relations between Jews and Muslims in Egypt, Turkey and Iran were better than ever before. This fact shows how flexibly the Koran can be interpreted in a given historical situation. Admittedly, under European influence Christian antisemitism had entered the region, but its influence was restricted to Christian circles in the East. It was during the 1930s that this began to change."

Kuntzel then claims that a new antisemitism, using 'dormant' anti-Jewish passages from the Koran was forged by the Mufti of Jerusalem in the 1930s. The Mufti fused the traditional Islamic view that Jews are inferior with the Christian notion that they are deviously powerful. At about the same time, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood also adopted antisemitic themes in their struggle against modernity and were later to act as the Mufti's postwar cheerleaders. All the while, Nazi antisemitism was being propagated across the Middle East from a short-wave transmitter in Zeesen, south of Berlin. It gained a regular listener in the 36-year old (Ayatollah) Ruhollah Khomeini, among others.

"The historical record gives the lie to the assumption that Islamic antisemitism is caused by Zionism or Israeli policy. In fact, it is not the escalation of the Middle East conflict that has given rise to antisemitism; it is rather antisemitism that has given rise to the escalation of the Middle East conflict - again and again.

"There is a sure way of identifying the real roots of such antisemitism, and that is to look at the current attitude in this part of the world to Hitler and the Nazis. If Germans in Beirut, Damascus, and Amman are greeted with compliments for Adolf Hitler, this can hardly be Israel’s doing. When Iranian cartoons show Anne Frank in bed with Adolf Hitler, what on earth has this to do with Zionism?

"Today Ahmadinejad is further whipping up Judeophobia with his Holocaust denial campaign. Those who deride the Holocaust as a “fairy tale” are implicitly claiming that the Jews have been duping the rest of humanity for the past sixty years. Those who talk about the “so-called Holocaust” are insinuating that ninety percent of the world’s media is controlled by the Jews, who are systematically preventing us from learning the “real” truth.

"Those who view the Jews as such kind of global force of evil cannot sincerely criticise Hitler’s Final Solution. Instead they will deny the Holocaust to the outside world while secretly drawing inspiration from it, as a kind of precedent that proves it can be done, that one can murder millions of Jews. Every denial of the Holocaust contains an implicit appeal for its repetition.

"This antisemitism cannot be mitigated by anything Jews do or by any conciliatory step an Israeli government may take. Those who have fallen prey to the demonizing delusions of antisemitism are bound to find their prejudices confirmed by whatever the Israeli government does or does not do."

See video link here

Dr Andrew Bostom takes issue with Matthias Kuntzel here. Islamic antisemitism dates back to long before Hitler and was rampant in 19th century Egypt, he argues.