He may get what he wishes for, and then be sorry he wished for it. "'Islamization of Europe a good thing,'" by Kobi Nahshoni for Ynet News, November 11 (thanks to dontblametheswedes):
As concerns grow over the increasing number of Muslims in Europe, it appears not everyone is bothered by the issue, including an Israeli rabbi who even welcomes the phenomenon.
Rabbi Baruch Efrati, a yeshiva head and community rabbi in the West Bank settlement of Efrat, believes that the Islamization of Europe is actually a good thing.
"With the help of God, the gentiles there will adopt a healthier life with a lot of modesty and integrity, and not like the hypocritical Christianity which appears pure but is fundamentally corrupt," he explained.
Rabbi Efrati was asked to discuss the issue by an oriental studies student, who inquired on Judaism's stand toward the process Europe has been going through in recent years.
Following the election of a hijab-wearing Muslim woman as the mayor of the Bosnian city of Visoko for the first time in continent's history, the student asked the rabbi on the Kipa website: "How do we fight the Islamization of Europe and return it to the hands of Christians and moderates?"
Efrati wrote in response that the Islamization of Europe was better than a Christian Europe for ethical and theological reasons – as a punishment against Christians for persecuting the Jews and the fact that Christianity, as opposed to Islam, is considered "idolatry" from a halachic point of view.
"Jews should rejoice at the fact that Christian Europe is losing its identity as a punishment for what it did to us for the hundreds of years were in exile there," the rabbi explained as the ethical reason for favoring Muslims, quoting shocking descriptions from the Rishonim literature (written by leading rabbis who lived during the 11th to 15th centuries) about pogroms and mass murders committed by Christians against Jews.
"We will never forgive Europe's Christians for slaughtering millions of our children, women and elderly… Not just in the recent Holocaust, but throughout the generations, in a consistent manner which characterizes all factions of hypocritical Christianity…
"A now, Europe is losing its identity in favor of another people and another religion, and there will be no remnants and survivors from the impurity of Christianity, which shed a lot of blood it won't be able to atone for."
'Islam a relatively honest religion'
The theological reason, according to Rabbi Efrati, is that Christianity – which he sees as idolatry – has a tendency to "destroy normal life and abstain from it on the one hand, while losing modesty on the other hand," as it "ranges between radical monasticism to radical Western licentiousness."
Islam, the rabbi added, is "a religion which misjudges its prophets but is relatively honest. It educates a bit more for a stable life of marriage and creation, where there is certain modesty and respect for God."
Efrati ruled, therefore, that "even if we are in a major war with the region's Arabs over the Land of Israel, Islam is still much better as a gentile culture than Christianity."
He added, however, that Jews must pray that the Islamization of most of Europe will not harm the people of Israel.
Historian Daniel Jonah Goldhagen minces no words: “The main responsibility for producing the all-time leading Western hatred [of Jews] lies with Christianity. More specifically, with the Catholic Church.”
However, Rabbi David G. Dalin, a historian of the Catholic Church’s relations with the Jews, says this is “bad history and bad scholarship.” Malcolm Hay, who chronicles in searing detail the mistreatment Jews suffered in Europe at the hands of Christians, notes also that the most basic right, the right to live, was “one which no Pope, no Catholic theologian, has ever denied to the Jews—a right which no ruler in Christendom ever denied to them until the advent of Adolf Hitler.” Clearly, however, the Nazis sought justification for their actions from Christian anti-Semitism. Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher applied Jesus’s words in John 8:44 to all Jews, calling for “the extermination of that people whose father is the devil,” and the Nazis reprinted John Chrysostom’s words in support of their activities. There is nevertheless a large gulf between the anti-Judaism of Chrysostom and other Christian leaders, and that of the Nazis, who were for the most part anti-Christian and certainly anti-Catholic. Their anti-Semitism was rooted in Darwinian racial theories that posited the Aryans as the master race and the Jews as untermenschen.
Still, there is no doubt that the history of Jews in Christian Europe is largely marked by mistreatment, abuse, discrimination, and worse. A 1998 Vatican document on the Holocaust noted that “the history of relations between Jews and Christians is a tormented one. His Holiness Pope John Paul II has recognized this fact in his repeated appeals to Catholics to see where we stand with regard to our relations with the Jewish people. In effect, the balance of these relations over two thousand years has been quite negative.” Some of that negativity came from John Paul’s medieval predecessors. Pope Zachary (741-752) reaffirmed a prohibition on intermarriage. Leo VII (936-939) directed the archbishop of Mainz to expel Jews who refused to convert to Christianity from cities within his diocese. Gregory VII (1073-1085) forbade Jews to hold authority over Christians.
The Fourth Lateran Council decreed in 1215 that Jews must wear distinctive garb—a directive initially emphasized, then suspended, then insisted upon again by Pope Honorius III (1216-1227). Gregory IX (1227-1241) led a campaign against Jewish books that led to a massive book-burning in Paris. Nicholas III (1277-1280) required Jews to assemble to hear proselytizing sermons and ordered that those who had been baptized but then returned to Judaism be “turned over to the secular power”—which meant almost certain execution. Honorius IV (1285-1287) wrote a letter to the English bishops warning them about Jewish efforts to convert Christians—which ultimately led to the expulsion of the Jews from England. John XXII (1316-1334) resumed the campaign against Jewish books, ordering the Talmud suppressed.
Centuries later, in 1858, police of the Papal States seized a six-year-old Jewish boy, Edgardo Mortara, from his family because a Catholic servant girl who worked for the family had baptized him. Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) refused numerous entreaties to return the boy to his family. Mortara became a Catholic priest and died in 1940. Many consider the incident one of the chief obstacles to the canonization of Pius IX.
But as Dalin illustrates, the papal record is not monochromatic: “The historical fact is that popes have often spoken out in defense of the Jews, have protected them during times of persecution and pogroms, and have protected their right to worship freely in their synagogues. Popes have traditionally defended Jews from wild anti-Semitic allegations. Popes regularly condemned anti-Semites who sought to incite violence against Jews.”
This is not, as some might think, a strictly modern phenomenon. For instance, Pope Gregory I (590-604), who wrote harshly, in Chrysostom’s vein, of the Jews’ rejection of Christ, nevertheless issued an edict dictating that Jews “should have no infringement of their rights. … We forbid to vilify the Jews. We allow them to live as Romans and to have full authority over their possessions.” When a bishop in Palermo seized a synagogue and converted it into a church, the building could not be returned to its former owner because it had now been consecrated; however, Gregory ordered the bishop to pay the owners a fair price, so that the Jews “should in no way appear to be oppressed, or to suffer an injustice.” He also forbade forced conversion of Jews, a prohibition later repeated by Gregory IV (827-844).
Pope Gregory I’s directives formed the basis of the Jews’ status in Western Europe for a considerable time thereafter. Pope Alexander II (1061-1073) commended bishops in Narbonne and Spain for protecting Jews from attacks by Christians. When would-be Crusaders massacred Jews in Speyer, Worms, Mainz, Cologne, and elsewhere before the First Crusade, it is noteworthy that local bishops often acted to end these slaughters. Pope Calixtus II (1119-1124) thereafter reaffirmed Gregory’s prohibition of attacks on Jews, and also forbade forced conversion and attacks on synagogues. Still, however, such attacks continued during the Second Crusade. Bernard of Clairvaux declared that “whoever touches a Jew so as to lay hands on his life, does something as sinful as if he laid hands on the Lord himself!” Yet in 1147, Crusaders attacked the Jews of Wurzburg not long after Bernard had left the area.
Such attacks were fueled by Christian polemics, such as that of French diplomat and theologian Peter of Blois, whose Against the Perfidious Jews depicted the Jews as thoroughly debased and dehumanized. Even Bernard and other Christian notables preached sermons in which the Jews were depicted as savage, subhuman beasts. Bishop of Lincoln Robert Grosseteste was no innovator when he wrote: “As murderers of the Lord, as still blaspheming Christ, and mocking his passion, [Jews] were to be in captivity to the princes of the earth.” Yet he added a backhanded affirmation of the unlawfulness of killing them: “As they have the brand of Cain, and are condemned to wander over the face of the earth, so were they to have the privilege of Cain, that no one was to kill them.”
The popes also held fast against forced conversions and attacks on the Jews. Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), although he condemned Jews as “the sons of the crucifiers, against whom to this day the blood cries to the Father’s ears,” stated:
For we make the law that no Christian compel them, unwilling or refusing, by violence to come to baptism. Too, no Christian ought to presume…wickedly to injure their persons, or with violence to take away their property, or to change the good customs which they have had until now in whatever region they inhabit.
Besides, in the celebration of their own festivals, no one ought to disturb them in any way, with clubs or stones, nor ought any one try to require from them or to extort from them services they do not owe, except for those they have been accustomed from times past to perform.
In addition to these, We decree…that no one ought to dare to mutilate or diminish a Jewish cemetery, nor, in order to get money, to exhume bodies once they have been buried.
Those who dared transgress these prohibitions were threatened with excommunication. Innocent also noted that Calixtus and four other popes had extended the same protections to the Jews. According to Dalin, “Calixtus’s defense of the Jews, with its promise of continuing papal protection, was reissued at least twenty-two times by successive popes between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries.”
Of course, this reissuing wouldn’t have been necessary if Jews were not continually being attacked in Europe. Many of these attacks centered around the blood libel, the contention that Jews killed Christian children and mixed their blood into their Passover matzoh. Pope Innocent IV (1243-1254) issued a strong denial of the blood libel, as did Gregory X (1271-1276), Martin V (1417-1431), and Sixtus IV (1471-1484). Paul III (1534-1549) denounced those who “pretend, in order to despoil them of their goods, that the Jews kill little children and drink their blood.” That this had to be repeated over several centuries testifies to the persistence of the libel in Christian Europe, but nevertheless, excommunication was consistently the penalty for those who spread such stories or victimized Jews on such a basis. And while many popes affirmed that the Jews must be protected, the crowned kings of Catholic Europe often took just the opposite view. A twelfth-century chronicler says of King Phillip of France: “He hated the Jews, and had heard many accusations against them, of blaspheming the name of Jesus Christ.”
Gregory X also affirmed the validity of Jewish testimony, declaring, “An accusation against Jews based solely on the testimony of Christians was invalid; Jewish witnesses must also appear.” Clement VI (1342-1352) defended Jews from charges that they were responsible for the Black Death; Boniface IX (1389-1404) granted full Roman citizenship to Jews; Martin V directed that “every Christian treat the Jews with a humane kindness” and forbade preachers “to preach against the Jews, to attempt to interrupt their normal relations with their neighbors, to infringe upon their religious rights, or to exclude them from normal activities (including attendance at universities).” He also reaffirmed the repudiation of the blood libel.
Leo X (1513-1521) ordered the entire Talmud to be printed by a Christian printer in Rome so as to discourage anti-Semitic rumors about its contents. Clement VII (1523-1534) commissioned a new translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin, to be completed by six Christians and six Jews working together.
The catechism of the Council of Trent, which was first published in 1566, denies that the Jews bear responsibility for the crucifixion of Christ:
Christ not only suffered for sinners, but even for those who were the very authors and ministers of all the torments He endured. … In this guilt are involved all those who fall frequently into sin; for, as our sins consigned Christ the Lord to the death of the cross.…This guilt seems more enormous in us than in the Jews, since according to the testimony of the same apostle: If they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory; while we, on the contrary, professing to know Him, yet denying Him by our actions, seem in some sort to lay violent hands on Him. … Furthermore men of all ranks and conditions were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ. Gentiles and Jews were the advisers, the authors, the ministers of His Passion: Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, all the rest deserted Him.Innocent X (1644-1655) and Benedict XIV (1740-1758) both worked to end the blood libel and the persecution of Jews in Poland. Leo XIII spoke out in defense of Alfred Dreyfus, a French military officer wrongly accused of treason in a notorious case. Pius X (1903-1914) and Benedict XV (1914-1922) acted against anti-Semitism in Italian politics and media.
It was thus not without justification that Pius XI (1922-1939) was able to write in 1928: “Moved by this Christian charity, the Holy See has always protected this people [the Jews] against unjust vexations, and just as it reprobates all rancour and conflicts between peoples, it particularly condemns unreservedly hatred against the people once chosen by God: the hatred that commonly goes by the name of anti-Semitism.” Pius XI used his encyclical letter Mit Brennender Sorge—pointedly written in German instead of Latin, and directed to the German bishops—to condemn the anti-Semitism of the Nazi regime. The Nazis, in response, forbade its publication in Germany and denounced Pius XI as half-Jewish. That encyclical, drafted by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who two years later became Pope Pius XII, declared:
Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community—however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things—whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds.
When Vienna’s Cardinal Innitzer rang the city’s church bells to celebrate Hitler’s entry into the city after the Anchluss in 1938, Pius called Innitzer to Rome and rebuked him—and, according to historian Michael Phayer, had the rebuke “communicated through diplomatic channels to the United States so that world governments would know where the Vatican stood regarding Hitler’s Germany.” On September 6, 1938, he told a group of pilgrims from Belgium that “anti-Semitism is inadmissible; spiritually, we are all Semites.”
Pius XII's (1939-1958) record as Pope during World War II is controversial, but many -- including Dalin -- defend his record vis-a-vis the Jews. And in 1965, the Second Vatican Council definitively rejected the idea that the Jews were responsible for the death of Christ, and all anti-Semitism:
True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures.
Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel’s spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.
Pope John Paul II likewise said in 2000: “We hope that the Jewish people will acknowledge that the Church utterly condemns anti-Semitism and every form of racism as being altogether opposed to the principles of Christianity. We must work together to build a future in which there will be no more anti-Judaism among Christians or anti-Christian sentiment among Jews.” When he became pope in 2005 Benedict XVI extended greetings to his “brothers and sisters of the Jewish people, to whom we are joined by a great spiritual heritage, rooted in God’s irrevocable promises.”
Noting that anti-Semitic attitudes still linger today among Orthodox Christians, in April 2007 a group of twelve priests led by Fr. Innokenty Pavlov of the Biblical Theological Institute in Moscow called for liturgical reform and renunciation of the idea that Christians have replaced Jews as God’s chosen people—in defiance of St. Paul’s statement that “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29) While some of the foremost Orthodox thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, notably Vladimir Soloviev and Sergiy Bulgakov, loved and respected Jews, anti-Semitism still exists among Orthodox Christians. Said Pavlov: “We came to the firm belief that it is high time for the Orthodox Church to correct its attitude toward Jews and Judaism.”
While Christian anti-Semitism has been minimized, it still exists, particularly in the Middle East where some Christians have absorbed the anti-Semitism of the Islamic culture that surrounds them. But the record of history, the official teaching of the Catholic Church (as seen in the Second Vatican Council and other documents and papal statements), and the actions of Christians around the world today all illustrate that anti-Semitism is not intrinsic to Christianity.
Yet anti-Semitism in the Islamic world has often been attributed to the baneful influence of Christianity. Many analysts assert that the Islamic designation of Jews (as well as Christians) as “People of the Book” indicates a higher level of respect for them than was manifested by Christians who derided Jews as bestial “Christ-killers.” Journalist Lawrence Wright asserts in this vein in The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11:
Until the end of World War II … Jews lived safely—although submissively—under Muslim rule for 1,200 years, enjoying full religious freedom; but in the 1930s, Nazi propaganda on Arabic-language shortwave radio, coupled with slanders by Christian missionaries in the region, infected the area with this ancient Western prejudice [anti-Semitism]. After the war, Cairo became a sanctuary for Nazis, who advised the military and the government. The rise of the Islamist movement coincided with the decline of fascism, but they overlapped in Egypt, and the germ passed into a new carrier.
This is a common view, but in reality there is a strong native strain of anti-Semitism in Islam, which is rooted in the Qur’an. The Muslim holy book contains a great deal of material that forms the foundation for a hatred of Jews that exists independently of the Christian variety. It is also, in many ways, more virulent and harder to eradicate. The Qur’an portrays the Jews as the craftiest, most persistent, and most implacable enemies of the Muslims—and there is no Muslim equivalent of the Second Vatican Council to mitigate against destructive interpretations. The Qur’anic material on the Jews remains the prism through which far too many Muslims see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—and Jews in general—to this day.
A vivid illustration of this came in 2004 from Islam Online, a website founded by, among others, the internationally influential Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi in 1997. Although al-Qaradawi has won praise from Islamic scholar John Esposito for engaging in a “reformist interpretation of Islam and its relationship to democracy, pluralism, and human rights,” that “reformist” impulse doesn’t seem to carry over to his view of Jews (he has justified suicide bombings against Israeli civilians), or the view of them he has allowed to be published on Islam Online. In 2004 the site posted an article titled “Jews as Depicted in the Qur’an,” in which Sheikh ‘Atiyyah Saqr, the former head of the Fatwa Committee at the most respected institution in Sunni Islam, Al-Azhar University in Cairo, depicts Jews in a chillingly negative light, illustrated with abundant quotations from the Qur’an. Among other charges he levels at the Jews, Saqr says that they “used to fabricate things and falsely ascribe them to Allah”; they “love to listen to lies”; they disobey Allah and ignore his commands; they wish “evil for people” and try to “mislead them”; and they “feel pain to see others in happiness and are gleeful when others are afflicted with a calamity.” He adds that “it is easy for them to slay people and kill innocents,” for “they are merciless and heartless.” And each charge he follows with Qur’anic citations.
Though he offers many examples of the alleged evil traits of the Jews supported by the Qur’an, Saqr doesn’t mention the notorious Qur’anic passages that depict an angry Allah transforming Jews into apes and pigs: 2:63–66; 5:59–60; and 7:166. The first of those passages depicts Allah telling the Jews who “profaned the Sabbath”: “Be as apes despicable!” It goes on to say that these accursed ones serve “as a warning example for their time and for all times to come.” The second has Allah directing Muhammad to remind the “People of the Book” about “those who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath, those of whom some He transformed into apes and swine, those who worshipped evil.” The third essentially repeats this, saying of the Sabbath-breaking Jews that when “in their insolence they transgressed (all) prohibitions,” Allah said to them, “Be ye apes, despised and rejected.”
In traditional Islamic theology these passages have not been considered to apply to all Jews. The classic Qur’anic commentator Isma’il bin ‘Amr bin Kathir al Dimashqi (Ibn Kathir), whose commentary is widely distributed and respected among Muslims today, quotes earlier authorities saying that “those who violated the sanctity of the Sabbath were turned into monkeys, then they perished without offspring,” and that they “only lived on the earth for three days, for no transformed person ever lives more than three days.” While parts of the Qur’an are hostile to the Jews, Muhammad’s curse, in this case, was limited to these Sabbath-breakers, not to all Jews.
However, that hasn’t stopped contemporary jihadists from frequently referring to Jews as the “descendants of apes and swine.” The implication is that today’s Jews are bestial in character and are the enemies of Allah, just as the Sabbath-breakers were. The grand sheikh of Al-Azhar, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the most respected cleric in the world among Sunni Muslims today, has called Jews “the enemies of Allah, descendants of apes and pigs.” Saudi sheikh Abd al-Rahman al-Sudayyis, imam of the principal mosque in the holiest city in Islam, Mecca, said in a sermon that Jews are “the scum of the human race, the rats of the world, the violators of pacts and agreements, the murderers of the prophets, and the offspring of apes and pigs.”
Another Saudi sheikh, Ba’d bin Abdallah al-Ajameh al-Ghamidi, made the connection explicit: “The current behavior of the brothers of apes and pigs, their treachery, violation of agreements, and defiling of holy places … is connected with the deeds of their forefathers during the early period of Islam—which proves the great similarity between all the Jews living today and the Jews who lived at the dawn of Islam.” A 1996 Hamas publication says that today’s Jews are bestial in spirit, and this is a manifestation of the punishment of their forefathers. In January 2007, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas stated, “The sons of Israel are mentioned as those who are corrupting humanity on earth,” referring to Qur’an 5:64.
All this shows that leading Muslim authorities approach the Qur’an not as a document rooted in history, but as a blueprint for understanding the world today. Likewise, Sheikh ‘Atiyyah Saqr describes the Qur’anic teachings that because Jews “revolted against the Divine ordinances … they found no warm reception in all countries where they tried to reside. Rather, they would either be driven out or live in isolation.” Moreover, “Almighty Allah told us that He’d send to them people who’d pour on them rain of severe punishment that would last till the Day of Resurrection.” Then comes a threat: “All this gives us glad tidings of the coming victory of Muslims over them once Muslims stick to strong faith and belief in Allah and adopt the modern means of technology.” The “rain of severe punishment” resulting from adoption of the “modern means of technology” may come to fruition in Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nuclear ambitions and implacable hostility to Israel. In January 2007 he warned that the “demise” of the “Zionist regime” is “imminent.” Does he plan to bring about that demise with a nuclear “rain of severe punishment”?
In the 1970s Sheikh Tantawi wrote a 700-page treatise, Jews in the Qur’an and the Traditions, in which he concluded:
[The] Qur’an describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e. killing the prophets of Allah, corrupting His words by putting them in the wrong places, consuming the people’s wealth frivolously, refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do, and other ugly characteristics caused by their deep-rooted lasciviousness … only a minority of the Jews keep their word. … [A]ll Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims, the bad ones do not.
Nor is this just a modern view. The classic Qur’anic commentators not only do not mitigate the Qur’an’s words against Jews, but instead add fuel to the fire. Ibn Kathir explained Qur’an 2:61 (“They were covered with humiliation and misery; they drew on themselves the wrath of Allah”) this way: “This Ayah [verse] indicates that the Children of Israel were plagued with humiliation, and that this will continue, meaning that it will never cease. They will continue to suffer humiliation at the hands of all who interact with them, along with the disgrace that they feel inwardly.” Another Middle Ages commentator of lingering influence, ‘Abdallah ibn ‘Umar al-Baidawi, explains the same verse this way: “The Jews are mostly humiliated and wretched either of their own accord, or out of coercion of the fear of having their jizya [punitive tax] doubled.”
Ibn Kathir notes Islamic traditions that predict that at the end of the world, “the Jews will support the Dajjal (False Messiah), and the Muslims, along with ‘Isa [Jesus], son of Mary, will kill the Jews.” The idea in Islam that the end times will be marked by Muslims killing Jews comes from the prophet Muhammad himself, who said, “The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.’” This is, not unexpectedly, a favorite motif among contemporary jihadists. On March 30, 2007, a spokesman for Hamas, Dr. Ismail Radwan, said on Palestinian Authority television:
The Hour [Resurrection] will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill them, and the rock and the tree will say: “Oh, Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, kill him!”
We must remind our Arab and Muslim nation, its leaders and people, its scholars and students, remind them that Palestine and the Al Aqsa mosque will not be liberated through summits nor by international resolutions, but it will be liberated through the rifle. It will not be liberated through negotiations, but through the rifle, since this occupation knows no language but the language of force.… O Allah, strengthen Islam and Muslims, and bring victory to your Jihad-fighting worshipers, in Palestine and everywhere.… Allah take the oppressor Jews and Americans and their supporters!
The history of Jews who lived under Muslim rule is a more or less unbroken record of theologically sanctioned humiliation and wretchedness. Although, like the Christians, Jews were allowed to practice their religion within restrictions, they were seldom allowed to forget their humiliation. Although the strictness with which the laws of dhimmitude (the subservient status of Jews and Christians) were enforced varied, they were never abolished, and during times of relaxation the subject populations always lived in fear that they would be enforced with new stringency. Muslim rulers did not forget that the Qur’an mandates that both Jews and Christians must “feel themselves subdued.”
One notable instance is recounted by the Arab historian Phillip Hitti: “The caliph al-Mutawakkil in 850 and 854 decreed that Christians and Jews should affix wooden images of devils to their houses, level their graves even with the ground, wear outer garments of honey color, i.e. yellow, put two honey-colored patches on the clothes of their slaves, … and ride only on mules and asses with wooden saddles marked by two pomegranate-like balls on the cantle.” A millennium later, in 1888, little had changed. A Tunisian Jew noted:
The Jew is prohibited in this country to wear the same clothes as a Muslim and may not wear a red tarbush. He can be seen to bow down with his whole body to a Muslim child and permit him the traditional privilege of striking him in the face, a gesture that can prove to be of the gravest consequence. Indeed, the present writer has received such blows. In such matters the offenders act with complete impunity, for this has been the custom from time immemorial.
In 1291 Isaac ben Samuel, a noted Kabbalist and Palestinian Jew, sought refuge in a Christian-controlled area of Spain after the collapse of the last Crusader kingdom in the Levant. He explained, “For, in the eyes of the Muslims, the children of Israel are as open to abuse as an unprotected field. Even in their law and statutes they rule that the testimony of a Muslim is always to be believed against that of a Jew. For this reason our rabbis of blessed memory have said, ‘Rather beneath the yoke of Edom [Christendom] than that of Ishmael [Islam]. They [the rabbis] plead for mercy before the Holy One, Blessed be He, saying, ‘Master of the World, either let us live beneath Thy shadow or else beneath that of the children of Edom’ (Talmud, Gittin 17a).”
Ben Samuel’s choice of Christian Spain is paradoxical, as Muslim Spain was supposed to have been a famous exception to the oppression of Jews that prevailed elsewhere among both Muslims and Christians. Islamic apologist Karen Armstrong enunciates the common wisdom when she says that “until 1492, Jews and Christians lived peaceably and productively together in Muslim Spain—a coexistence that was impossible elsewhere in Europe.” Even the U.S. State Department has proclaimed that “during the Islamic period in Spain, Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived together in peace and mutual respect, creating a diverse society in which vibrant exchanges of ideas took place.”
Yet the philosopher Maimonides, a Jew who lived for a time in Muslim Spain and then fled that supposedly tolerant and pluralistic land, remarked, “You know, my brethren, that on account of our sins God has cast us into the midst of this people, the nation of Ishmael, who persecute us severely, and who devise ways to harm us and to debase us.…No nation has ever done more harm to Israel. None has matched it in debasing and humiliating us. None has been able to reduce us as they have.…We have borne their imposed degradation, their lies, and absurdities, which are beyond human power to bear.”
Notably, Maimonides directed that Jews could teach rabbinic law to Christians, but not to Muslims. For Muslims, he said, will interpret what they are taught “according to their erroneous principles and they will oppress us. [F]or this reason … they hate all [non-Muslims] who live among them.” But the Christians, he said, “admit that the text of the Torah, such as we have it, is intact”—as opposed to the Islamic view that the Jews and Christians have corrupted their scriptures. Christians, continued Maimonides, “do not find in their religious law any contradiction with ours.”
Even María Rosa Menocal, in her romantic and fantastic hagiography of Muslim Spain, The Ornament of the World, acknowledges the second-class status to which Jews and Christians were relegated there. “In return for this freedom of religious conscience the Peoples of the Book (pagans had no such privilege) were required to pay a special tax—no Muslims paid taxes—and to observe a number of restrictive regulations: Christians and Jews were prohibited from attempting to proselytize Muslims, from building new places of worship, from displaying crosses or ringing bells. In sum, they were forbidden most public displays of their religious rituals.”
According to historian Richard Fletcher, “Moorish Spain was not a tolerant and enlightened society even in its most cultivated epoch.” On December 30, 1066, about four thousand Jews in Granada were murdered by rioting Muslim mobs—more than would be killed in the Crusaders’ infamous Rhineland pogroms of the mid-twelfth century. What enraged the Granadan Muslims was the political power of the Jewish vizier Samuel ibn Naghrila and his son Joseph: the mob resented the fact that these men had authority over Muslims, which they saw as a “breach of sharia.” The mob was incited to kill the Jews by a poem composed by Muslim jurist Abu Ishaq: “I myself arrived in Granada and saw that these Jews were meddling in its affairs. … So hasten to slaughter them as a good work whereby you will earn God’s favor, and offer them up in sacrifice, a well-fattened ram.”
The mob heeded his call. A Muslim chronicler (and later sultan of Granada), ‘Abd Allah, said that “both the common people and the nobles were disgusted by the cunning of the Jews, the notorious changes they had brought in the order of things, and the positions they occupied in violation of their pact [of second-class status].” He recounted that the mob “put every Jew in the city to the sword and took vast quantities of their property.”
And so we see: in Britain, there were three times more anti-Semitic incidents in 2007 than there were in 1997. A December 2006 study, according to the Telegraph, determined that “in London and Manchester, where Muslims outnumber Jews by four to one, anti-Semitic offenses exceeded anti-Muslim offenses.” One rabbi was attacked in July 2006 by seven Pakistani Muslim teenagers, who shouted, “We are Pakistani, you are Jewish. We are going to kill you.” In Belgium in November 2006, according to Flanders News, “a group of young Turkish immigrants in the Limburg municipality of Beringen attacked a group of Jewish school children by throwing stones at them, shouting anti-Semitic slogans.” In summer 2006, after a Jewish man was assaulted in Oslo, Norwegian Jews were warned not to wear kippahs on the street, for fear they would be physically attacked.
And these are just a few recent examples of a long and ever lengthening string of such incidents. The European Union commissioned a report about the new rise of anti-Semitism in Europe in 2003, but buried it when its findings showed that anti-Semitic acts were largely the province of young Muslims. After an outcry, the report was released in 2004, but journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard noted that the results “had been consistently massaged by the EU watchdog to play down the role of North African youth.”
As time goes by, however, these new realities will be harder and harder to ignore.
The ultimate question regarding Christian and Islamic anti-Semitism is: given the choice, would Jews today prefer to live in a Christian-heritage nation or in an Islamic country?