Thursday, November 10, 2016

Gen up on Muslim anti-Jewish hatred, Mr Jacobson

The author Howard Jacobson, one of the staunchest defenders of Jews and Israel, lets the side down on BBC radio when he professes ignorance of Muslim antisemitism, argues Lyn Julius in The Times of Israel (with thanks: Hadar):

In the difficult, current climate for Jews and Israel, the writer Howard Jacobson must be applauded for being one of the rare public figures in Britain prepared to speak up against antisemitism. In the BBC World Service programme On Background (the segment begins at 34:20 ), he explains how antisemitism is still a serious problem in the West after 2,000 years. Traditional anti-Jewish Christian libels and  tropes of Jewish power,  he adds, are now being applied to Israel, the Jewish state. 

Howard Jacobson: ' a student of antisemitism'
But 50 minutes into the programme, he drops this bombshell: 

“There was not really a problem with Muslim antisemitism. Islam comes  later on. Jews were able to live reasonably well in Muslim countries, condescended-to a bit, second-class citizens, but they were not treated as vilely as they were in Europe.”

What? Tell that to institutionally-inferior dhimmi Jews stoned by small children, Yemenite Jews made to clean the sewers, Bokharan Jews forced to convert to Islam, ‘untouchable’ Persian Jews,  Berber-Jewish serfs to their tribal masters, Algerian Jews who survived the 1934 Constantine riots, Iraqi Jews who lived through the massacre known as the 1941 Farhud.

I could go on.

As a self-described student of antisemitism, Jacobson is found wanting when he says that Jews lived reasonably well.

He is not alone: Every 20th century Jewish home had the classic work by Heinrich Graetz ‘The History of the Jews’ on its bookshelf. Graetz wrote:
“This religion (meaning Islam)…has exercised a wonderful influence on the course of Jewish history and on the evolution of Judaism.”

Even Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first president, believed the myth. He said: ‘I would not like to do any injustice. The Muslim world has treated the Jews with considerab­le tolerance. The Ottoman Empire [of which the Arabs were a major part] received the Jews with open arms when they were driven out of Spain and Europe, and the Jews should never forget that.”

True enough. But Britain and Holland — outposts of Christian Europe — also welcomed in Sephardi Jews. And less than 100 years after welcoming them in to Constantinople, sultan Murat III called for the liquidation of the Jews.

The great historian Bernard Lewis says that the myth of Muslim tolerance is one of the great myths propagated by 19th century Jewish historians who wanted to embarrass the west into giving European Jews greater civil rights. Belief in the myth of Muslim tolerance was a result, more than a cause, of Jewish sympathy for Islam. “The myth was invented by Jews in nineteenth-century Europe as a reproach to Christians – and taken up by Muslims in our own time as a reproach to Jews,” he writes.

Scholars are beginning to re-assess the myth of peaceful coexistence. Even the  so-called Golden Age is not as guilded as it is cracked up to be. Jews under Islam had few rights and no security.

The  great rabbi Moses Maimonides fled the fundamentalist Almohades in Spain: “Never did a nation molest, degrade, debase, and hate us as much as they,” he declared.

Of course there were times when Jews did live well, but there were times and places when the great mass of Jews did not.

Jacobson has made a speciality of studying European antisemitism. But  he does no-one any favours by denying or downplaying the existence of Muslim antisemitism. Israel provided a haven from pre-existing persecution,  but the effect of Jacobson’s words is to blame the establishment of Israel for ruining the ‘harmonious’ relations between Muslims and Jews.

It’s untrue and hardly the impression Jacobson, a staunch defender of Israel, should have wished to convey.


by Davsil said...

This article may be true about relations between Jews and Muslims but compare treatment in Muslim countries to that of Christian europe.

Sammish said...

Many social scientists and writers (I am still unsure about Bernard Lewis)attribute the myth of the golden the article suggests, to the Jewish writer. I am sorry but Bernard Lewis is not a historical reductionist. He never pinpointed to any ONE causal link to any social development or crisis. True, he might have agreed that some Jewish writers may have played a role in the creation of the myth, in order to question and put to test the Western civilization for its human rights records, but that's not the only factor.

Many historians (of the French revolution) among them Bernard Lewis, Arthur Hertzberg, Simon Schama, and certainly Alain Decaux, all revealed that the European enlightenment philosophers were adamantly anti-clerical and anti-religious that they used the Muslim Spain collaborative advancement in high learning between all creeds (not social power relations, these were dismal, but the educational and scientific revolution mind you) as substantive truth that Islam was tolerant toward Jews than Christian Europe.

The philosophers knew the socio-political conditions of Jews in Arab lands, but they targeted was the Church and the papacy to undermine them and eventually to eradicate them. The French revolution was totally anti-clerical. It succeeded in a certain way. Therefore, creating the Golden Age gave some credence to the notion that Christianity is backward, feudal, and untolerant.