From Margaret Wente in the Globe and Mail, a splendidly insightful and honest piece on rising anti-Semitism. (Thanks to Earl.)
Since the Holocaust, old-style anti-Semitism has become taboo in the West. Jews, once barred from many walks of life, are now leaders in any field you’d care to name. This is also true in Europe — despite a disturbing upsurge in attacks on synagogues (overwhelmingly by young Muslim men) and the despicable gang-up of the left on Israel. The Catholic Church has repudiated anti-Semitism.
But anti-Semitism is by no means dead. Throughout the Arab world, and to some extent in the wider Islamic world, it is as virulent as anything Hitler dreamed of. “The anti-Semitic virus has taken root in the body politic of Islam to a shocking degree,” writes political historian Robert Wistrich. The hate speech comes from the mosques and the mainstream media. It is pervasive not only in nations openly hostile to Israel, but also in those, like Egypt, that have peace treaties with it.
Comparisons of Israel with the Nazis, denial of the Holocaust, and medieval blood libels have all appeared in Egypt’s government-backed mainstream press. As Mr. Wistrich reports, newspaper cartoons depict Jews as dirty, hook-nosed, money-grabbing, vindictive, scheming and cruel. Israel is repeatedly alleged to be distributing drug-laced chewing gum and candy, intended to make women sexually corrupt and to kill children. It is assumed that the Jews run America.
In October, 2000, Al-Ahram, the leading government-sponsored daily in Egypt, ran an article explaining how Jews use the blood of gentiles to make matzoh for Passover. A recent 30-part television series, based on the notorious forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, dramatized a secret Jewish plot to dominate the world. In Syria, the editor-in-chief of a government-owned daily newspaper wrote, “Zionism created the Holocaust myth to blackmail and terrorize the world’s intellectuals and politicians.” Muslim children learn at a young age that, according to the Koran, Jews are descended from apes and pigs.
In 1986, Middle East historian Bernard Lewis wrote, “The volume of anti-Semitic books and articles published . . . the eminence and authority of those who write, publish and sponsor them, their place in school and college curricula, their role in the mass media, would all seem to suggest that classical anti-Semitism is an essential part of Arab [and I would add, Muslim] intellectual life at the present time.” Nothing has changed.
This is clearly a tremendously important issue, especially since 9/11. But Western scholars — and the media — have ignored it. There are mountains of books and studies and popular articles and documentaries on anti-Semitism in the West, but almost none deal with hatred of Jews by Muslims or Arabs.
Why not? There are obvious reasons. Few Westerners speak Arabic, so we’re largely deaf to this discourse, except on odd occasions, as when Malaysia’s former premier Mahathir Mohamad says something shocking while the world media are present.
Another reason is that we don’t want to know. We want to get along with Muslim cultures; we don’t want to demonize them by focusing on something so profoundly negative. And many Westerners prefer to think that if the Palestinian political situation were resolved, this unpleasant speech would stop. We’d prefer to believe that hatred of the Jews is merely about Israel, that it’s political at root, that only uneducated Muslim extremists think this way, and that it is not a major theme of Arab culture. For many well-intentioned reasons, as sociologist Neil J. Kressel points out in the current issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, we’d prefer to leave this stone unturned.
But we can’t afford to look away. This toxic stew of hate has helped to make the Muslim world a petri dish for terrorism. Now it’s being marketed through the Internet and music videos. It was a powerful recruiting tool for the terrorists of
9/11, and the terrorists of Madrid, and the terrorists who will certainly strike next.
Should we still be worried about anti-Semitism 60 years after Hitler?
Yes. Worried to death.