Recently the Jerusalem Post ran an article by Mark R. Cohen, “The New Muslim Anti-Semitism,” which repeated many politically correct and comforting historical fictions, including:
THE FLIP SIDE of the discriminatory regulations imposed upon Jews is that they (as well as Christians) were a “protected people,” ahl al-dhimma or dhimmis in Arabic, who enjoyed security of life and property, religious freedom, freedom from forced conversion, communal autonomy, and equality in the marketplace. For all its religious exclusivity and hostility towards the Jews, expressed in the Koran and in other Islamic literature, Islam contains a nucleus of pluralism that gave the Jews in Muslim lands greater security than Jews had in Christian Europe. For other important reasons, too, Jews in the Islamic orbit were spared the damaging stigma of “otherness” and anti-Semitism suffered by Jews in Europe. They were indigenous to the Near East – not immigrants, as in many parts of the Christian West – and largely indistinguishable physically from their Arab-Muslim neighbors.
Bat Ye’or, the pioneering historian of dhimmitude, wrote this in response and sent it to the Post:
Response to Mark Cohen’s article in the Jerusalem Post of January, 2008
In his article “The New Muslim anti-Semitism” (Jerusalem Post, January 2, 2006), Mark R. Cohen unfortunately provides nothing new on a subject that now involves a global jihad war and a genocidal threat. It merely rehashes a short-sighted article he published over twenty years ago, “Islam and the Jews: Myth, counter-Myth, History” (The Jerusalem Quarterly, nÂ° 38, spring 1986) to which I wrote a rejoinder, “Islam and the Dhimmis” (JQ nÂ° 42, spring 1987). Still no changes! Then, like today, Cohen stated that Muslim “anti-Semitism” (an inappropriate word borrowed from European context) is a new phenomenon as if this Princeton professor of Near Eastern Studies has never read the Koran, the hadiths and the biographies of the Prophet Muhammad. As in his 1986 article, he encompasses in one sweeping global judgment the civilizations expanding over territories covering Africa, Asia and Europe during thirteen centuries. History loses its events, transformations and evolutions as if it is reduced to the stillness of an empty shell.
This reductionist mental attitude upholds the dogma of Islamic goodness and tolerance versus Christian timeless evilness in all places. Cohen is not troubled by the complexities involved in comparing utterly different civilizations, religions, jurisdictions, political ideologies and transformations over a millennium. Faithful to himself over the years, he remains deaf to the Islamists” Judeophobic references in their religious texts, praising the system of dhimmitude as one would admire slavery, since the slave might escape death if he obeys his master’s orders. As in his earlier article, Cohen pretends that the persecutions Jews suffered under Islamic jurisdiction are an invented myth, a mimicry of Ashkenazi sufferings in order to grab more than Oriental Jewry deserves of the “Zionist pie”. Thus Oriental Jewry not only should be grateful to its Muslim rulers for not having been wiped out entirely, but it is not even entitled to have its own history without being accused of posturing as Ashkenazim, thereby obtaining undeserved advantages by out-stepping its position in Israel.
Maybe Mark Cohen has never heard of the Human Rights Declarations promulgated in Europe and America with its subsequent developments in matters of equality and democratic rights. Or does he imagine that a caliphate ruled these continents? Has he even forgotten the letter sent by George Washington to Moses Seixas, president of the Newport Hebrew Congregation on August 17, 1790, and inscribed on a stone at the Touro Synagogue (Newport R.I.), stating the inalienable human rights for Jews, as opposed to tolerance? Does he unconsciously assume that George Washington was a caliph and that the regions from Afghanistan to Yemen and Algeria were Christian countries, since there — at the time of Washington and the Enlightenment — Jews were still obliged to walk barefoot, with distinctive clothing, live in social segregation, pay countless security ransoms, suffering the rape of their women, the abduction of their children, while the Muslim courts refused their testimony? They were exposed to murders (Maghreb, the Levant, Yemen), deportations, forced conversions (Persia, Afghanistan) and in many regions enslavement to tribal chiefs (Maghreb). Such situations, of course, could not happen in Islam according to Professor Cohen — unless the Jews became arrogant by overstepping their place and imagined they were human beings.
The current fanaticism and mass killings perpetrated in Lebanon, Algeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Darfur, Indonesia and the Philippines evoke the continual tribal wars that have permanently ravaged the dar al-Islam with their religious-cleansing, the exodus or the deportation of populations, mainly non-Muslim, and the associated pillage, destruction, abduction and enslavement. Jihadist terrorism that has, over the centuries, eliminated the indigenous Jewish and Christian populations from their Islamized homelands continues unabated today, giving us a glimpse of this past, rosy time of dhimmitude. It is strange that Cohen remains at Princeton instead of emigrating to Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, even Sudan, to enjoy, under a shari”a–taliban type rule, that dhimmi condition he admires so much for Oriental Jewry.
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* The latest book by Bat Ye”or, Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis, (English, French, Italian, Dutch) will be published in a Hebrew edition by Schocken in spring 2008.
This article was not accepted for publication. Bat Ye’or received this response from an editor at the Jerusalem Post:
Frankly, I don’t know what there is to “respond” to as Cohen’s piece was a carefully nuanced balanced essay which could have been written by Bernard Lewis. You may disagree with his argument that Christian Jew-hatred influenced Muslim Jew-hatred but he did not downplay the nature of negative Muslim attitudes toward Jews.
What you might want to consider is a brief letter to the editor.
He did not, as you can see, take up any of the points Bat Ye’or raised in her piece. Instead, it was enough for him simply to invoke Bernard Lewis. Yet as we have noted here before, Bernard Lewis is a great scholar, but he isn’t infallible — and his recent attributions of authoritarianism and antisemitism in the Islamic world to Western influences don’t bolster trust in his powers of judgment and analysis at this point.
Later, this same editor offered Bat Ye”or “an original op-ed of up to 1,000 words”:
I will not run this attack on Cohen as an op-ed. I respect your decision not to cut it so that it can appear as a letter to the editor.
However, we would be delighted to consider an original op-ed of up to 1,000 words — especially if you can connect it to a news hook.
But that is not sufficient space to clarify so many important matters. It is sad to see the Jerusalem Post, particularly at this hour of such peril for Israel, contenting itself with purveying pleasing falsehoods that may make the prospect for Israelis of living under Islamic rule easier to contemplate, as horrific as it remains in actuality.