Antisemitism And The Islamic World

In its article Interpreting Egypt’s anti-semitic cartoons, the BBC concludes the following:

The use of anti-Semitic imagery in the Egyptian media may seem bizarre, racist and anachronistic to outsiders.

But it is not based on any historical hatred of Jews as a race.

It has more to do with the need to be seen supporting the Palestinians, even if only in a purely symbolic way.

That means that if and when real peace comes, the Egyptian media are likely to quickly forget their anti-Semitic line.

I can’t determine whether this is proof of a deliberate campaign of villification against Israel by the BBC, or merely a display of profound ignorance as to the Arab world and its attitudes towards Jews and Israel. Either way, it is a testimony to poor journalism.

For a start, the use of anti-Semitic imagery is based on historical attitudes towards Jews as a race. According to the ADL’s Islamic Anti-Semitism in Historical Perspective, Islam as a religion has viewed Jews, as well as Christians, as second-class citizens. In particular, Jews have been singled out, based on their opposition to Muhammad. While history bears witness to periods of coexistence between Muslims and Jews, the proper Islamic approach has been to view Jews as inferior. The debasement of Jews does not necessarily equate to hatred, but it is important to note this religious and historical context when analyzing the wave of anti-Semitic imagery emanating from the Muslim world.

Furthermore, this Muslim anti-Semitism pre-dates “the need to be seen supporting the Palestinians.”

In the early twentieth century there were still many Jews living in Arab lands, but their status had changed significantly since the pre-Imperialist days of dhimmi-hood. Jews had generally embraced the Western newcomers to the Arab world in the nineteenth century. Under imperial protection they had cast off many of their traditional restrictions and humiliations, and had benefited from education opportunities offered by both Christian missionary schools and by the network of Alliance Isra√člite Universelle schools. In addition, Jews from many walks of life (though not all) were increasingly attracted to Zionism, a nationalist philosophy that supported Jewish settlement in Palestine. To the fundamentalists, dhimmi status was nonnegotiable, and Zionism, which sought to subvert Palestine from dar al-Islam, was intolerable. Despite their long history of living in Arab lands, Jews increasingly came to be viewed as outsiders and imperialists by the Muslim majority. Violence against Jews rose alongside violence against imperial agents. It was in this environment that Islamists first started extracting the story of Muhammad’s conflicts with the Jews from its historical context. It provided them with a model on which to base their opposition to the changing Jewish role in their society and the Jewish identification with the infidel West.

As Zionist aspirations for the Land of Israel grew and solidified, the universalization of the negative aspects of the Qur’anic view of the Jews became all the more attractive to the Islamists and their many sympathizers. The foundation of Israel in 1948, and worse, its triumph and expansion in 1967, helped the Islamist paradigm find even greater appeal among a broad swath of Muslim society.

Given this historical context and the deep-seated hatred involved, it seems naive to suggest that the onset of a real peace will eliminate this anti-Semitism. In fact, it is naive to suggest that there can even be real peace between Israel, a Jewish state where Jews are in charge, and Arab states where the traditional Islamic view of the Jew as second-class citizen is still prevalent. In such an environment, the best we could hope for is a cold peace, not unlike the peace we have with Egypt.

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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