Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Jews have been here before...

First they came for Salman Rushdie, then for the Danish cartoonists, and now for the Pope, say the pundits. But those who think that, following the Pope's controversial Regensburg speech, the venting of Muslim fury is something new - are mistaken. In fact vengeful reactions in the Muslim world have, sadly, a long pedigree: defenceless Jewish communities in Arab countries had long experienced the wrath of angry mobs. Either governments were complicit in orchestrating hostility towards the Jews, or they were helpless to protect their Jews. Either way, Jewish insecurity was a prime reason for getting out.

Those who were surprised that Greek orthodox churches were attacked in the West Bank and Gaza because of what the leader of the world's Catholics said - should not be. The subtle distinctions between one Chrstian sect and another are lost on the mob. Attempts to differentiate between Jews and Zionists, as President Ahmadinejad has tried to do in an interview with Time magazine, are equally vain.

Ali Salem, the Egyptian playwright, once told the story that an Iraqi Jewish communist named Abdullah once went to an anti-Zionist demonstration in Iraq. When he discovered that the mob had stopped chanting 'Death to the Zionists', but had changed their tune to 'Death to the Jews', he understood that there was no future for him in Iraq. He left for Israel and promptly changed his name from Abdullah to Ovadiah.

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