Who said: “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”?
Was it Herzl? Ben-Gurion? Jabotinsky? None of those. These words were spoken by Ahmed Zaki, a former Egyptian minister, on the fifth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration in 1922.
For a mainstream Arab politician to pronounce his support for Zionism nowadays appears to be revolutionary and heretical. But in 1922, and into the 1930s, Egypt stood aloof from pan-Arabism and Islamist movements. Even in 1933 it allowed 1,000 Jewish immigrants on their way to Palestine to pass through Port Said.
In his passionate, perspicacious and articulate book Jihad and Jew-hatred, the German political scientist Matthias Kuntzel describes how fundamentalist discourse, with, at its core, Nazi-inspired antisemitism powered by conspiracy-theory propaganda such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, adopted the Palestinian cause of Nazism’s local henchman the Mufti of Jerusalem, insidiously took over Arab politics, and has driven them ever since. Even nominally secular leaders like Nasser and Arafat had been infected with Islamist ideas. Arafat was a disciple of Hitler’s ally the Mufti of Jerusalem, a distant relative, and Nasser had been brought up in Young Egypt, the para-Nazi youth group. Hamas, the Gazan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood with its blatantly antisemitic Charter, holds power today. As Kuntzel says, it is virtually impossible to graduate from Gaza’s Islamic university without being antisemitic.
How quickly is it forgotten that in the 1920s Jews were at the very centre of Egyptian politics, culture and trade. The Jews Cattaoui and Castro were finance ministers - Castro was a spokesman for the Egyptian Wafd party. The Egyptian author Hisham al-Tuhi has recalled the role the Jews played in the Egyptian renaissance: they founded the Salt and Soda company, the Egyptian Petrol Company, the Egyptian Real Estate Bank, the Family Bank, as well as being prominent in music, singing, cinema and theatre. But within 30 years Jews were being marginalised and expelled. Fewer than 50 Jews still live in Egypt, in an atmosphere of anti-Jewish denigration and hatred.
Rather like Nazism itself a reaction to unemployment and economic disaster, the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna as a reaction to the Great Depression. From 800 supporters, it grew to 200,000 in 1938 and boasted a million followers in 1945 who were then engaging in what Kuntzel terms 'pogromist antisemitism'. But just because it was an anti-western mass movement did not make the Muslim Brotherhood’s fundamentalism progressive. In fact it showed mass support could be mobilised for a thoroughly anti-modern and reactionary cause.
Kuntzel’s main argument is that Jihadist Jew–hatred took on Nazi-style tropes, later cemented in the writings of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideologue Sayid al-Qutb. Its driving idea is that not everything Jewish is evil, but everything evil is Jewish. This concept marks a departure from the traditional Muslim view of the Jew: the Jewish tribes of the Arabian peninsula deserved their seventh century fate of massacre, expulsion and humiliation for spurning the true religion of Mohammed; unlike the all-controlling and manipulating Jew in Nazism, Islam considered Jews powerless and relatively insignificant.
Kuntzel ‘s emphasis on the influence of Nazism has been criticised by other scholars of antisemitism, such as Dr Andrew Bostom: if the Arabs imported their antisemitism from Europe, does not this not make them passive victims of the neo-colonialism of ideas? But Kuntzel does make it clear that Islamic fundamentalism fuses Nazi elements with homegrown Jihadism, based on selected Koranic anti-Jewish verses and Hadith. Despite being influenced by Nazi ideas, Al-Banna would never have gone the whole hog and become a Nazi himself: he was too religious to accept Hitler as a model and rejected Nazi race theories because they clashed with the universalism of the Umma.
Kuntzel concludes that Arab Jew-hatred is alive and well today because the Allies refused to exorcise its ghost at the end of World War II. Instead of indicting him as a war criminal, Europe’s pro-Arab opportunism rehabilitated the Mufti. Kuntzel convincingly shows that Jew-hatred is part of the core ideology of Al-Qaeda, but that public opinion has suppressed and even covered it up, preferring to blame the West for Muslim grievances.
Kuntzel has been a victim himself of such a cover-up, when a talk he was due to give at Leeds university was postponed, and his chosen lecture titles modified on more than one occasion to something more politically-correct. The lesson of this important work is that that the West needs to come clean and recognise that ideological Jew-hatred plays a key role in fuelling Islamist terror.
Antisemitic symbiosis (Front Page magazine)