In August, the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA) brought together some 110 scholars to present papers and share ideas relevant to the theme of “Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity.” The conference had as its seemingly straightforward, and productive, objective to further the initiative’s primary role of identifying and seeking to explain current manifestations of the world’s oldest hatred.
The need for such a conference, though distressing, seems to be justified based on both anecdotal and statistic studies, including a 2009 report by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University which noted a doubling of anti-Semitic incidents from the prior year, 1,129 in 2009 compared to 559 in 2008.
Equally troubling were the 2008 findings of European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security Franco Frattini, which revealed that of the documented anti-Semitic incidents on the European continent, Muslims were responsible for fully half, a statistic made more alarming by the fact that European Muslims, based on being only 3-4 percent of the population, committed 24 to 32.3 times the number of anti-Semitic incidents as European non-Muslims.
None of this seemed to matter to the critics of the Yale conference, who were incensed that many of the scholars who participated were “right-wing extremists” articulating “odious views,” including anti-Muslim, anti-Palestinian attitudes, about the perpetrators of anti-Semitism, according to Maen Rashid Areikat, the U.S. representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
“As Palestinians, we strongly support principles of academic freedom and free speech,” Areikat wrote, without a hint of irony, in an indignant open letter to Yale’s president, Richard Levin, “however racist propaganda masquerading as scholarship does not fall into this category.”
Areikat’s assertion that academic freedom and free speech are cardinal principles in Palestinian culture is a novel, if not delusional, way of assessing what passes for scholarly, hate-free inquiry in the territories, particularly when it comes to discussing Jews and Israel. The higher educational system he alludes to has not been free of the perverse indoctrination and teaching of terror, either. When Hamas formed its cabinet after being voted into office, for example, 13 of its ministers had been teachers at either the Islamic University in Gaza or the Al-Najah National University in Nablus.
In fact, says Matthew Levitt, director of the Washington Institute’s Stein Program on Terrorism, Intelligence, and Policy, with some 11,000 students, Al-Najah is the largest university in the territories and “the terrorist recruitment, indoctrination and radicalization of students for which al-Najah is known typically take place via various student groups,” among them the Hamas-affiliated Islamic Bloc. “Of the thirteen members of Al-Najah’s 2004 student council, eight,” he says – “including the chairperson – belong to Hamas’s Islamic Bloc.”
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Sometimes students take their ideological lead from college administrators who are not hesitant to make their political feelings known. In fact, Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al-Quds University, took the opportunity during a 2002 appearance on Al-Jazeera to congratulate the mother of a suicide bomber with whom he appeared by rhapsodizing, “When I hear the words of Umm Nidal, I recall the verse [from the Koran] stating that ‘Paradise lies under the feet of mothers.’ All respect is due to this mother; it is due to every Palestinian mother and every female Palestinian who is a Jihad fighter on this land.”
Perhaps Areikat also forgot the efforts of other students at Al-Najah University who fondly remembered the outbreak of the Second Intifada by constructing a macabre attraction called “The Sbarro Cafe Exhibition,” named for the location of a 2001 suicide bombing of a Jerusalem pizza parlor where 15 Jews were murdered and dozens more wounded.
Created not as a memorial but as an inspiration for further terror-laden savagery, the diorama included scattered pizza slices amid Israeli body parts, splattered blood, and calls to martyrdom with Koran and Kalashnikovs close by.
Nor are Palestinian students unimaginative in demonstrating their newly-found hatreds and their desire to slaughter Jews when they actively participate in student government activities.
“During student elections at Bir Zeit University in 2003,” Matthew Levitt recounts, “Hamas candidates reenacted suicide bombings by blowing up models of Israeli buses. In one Bir Zeit campus debate, a Hamas candidate taunted his Fatah challenger by boasting, ‘Hamas activists in this university killed 135 Zionists. How many did Fatah activists from Bir Zeit kill?’ ”
Student school spirit aside, Areikat’s principal objection to the Yale conference proceedings was “the clear political agenda behind a number of the conference’s presentations and the attempt to conflate Palestinian identity and criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism,” this specific accusation aimed at one of the conference’s papers, presented by Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch, “The Central Role of Palestinian Antisemitism in Creating the Palestinian Identity.”
Yale Law School student Yaman Salahi also complained in the Yale Daily News about Marcus’s topic, a viewpoint, he contended, that “reduces an entire people and its history to irrationality and hatred.”
Salahi was also seemingly indignant that some of the conference “speakers at times seemed to conflate anti-Israel sentiment with anti-Semitism,” as if the repugnant, vicious, and unrelenting worldwide assault on the Jewish state does not regularly morph into evident, and at times blatant, strains of raw anti-Semitism.
This vilification of Zionism, Israel, and Jews has found particular and visible virulence in the Arab world, and certainly among the Palestinians and their supporters, in a process that Bassam Tibi, professor at the University of Goettingen and Islamic scholar, has termed “The Islamist Islamization of Antisemitism” – that is, the morphing of classical European anti-Semitism into a strain of Jew-hatred linked to Koranic texts and jihadist rage against non-Muslim infidels, and particularly the Jews.
In fact, Palestinian society, politics, and culture, despite Areikat’s assertions, are demonstrably defined not only by casual anti-Semitism, but by a genocidal Jew-hatred aimed at demonizing, dehumanizing, and, finally, extirpating the Jewish state. These attitudes are endemic to Palestinian society and culture, not incidental to it because the hatreds are limited to a few individuals, and not masked or obscured because the perpetrators are embarrassed to express these attitudes publicly – as they usually are in the West.
In fact, protestations from critics of the Yale conference aside, the identification of deeply-rooted political and theological Palestinian anti-Semitism is not only obvious to even the most casual observer, but an important aspect to an understanding of global contemporary anti-Semitism, precisely why the paper was presented at the Yale event.
A 2007 report on terrorist attacks by the Pew Research Center, for example, noted that while terrorism was declining that year world-wide, “70% of Palestinians believe[d] that suicide bombings against [Jewish] civilians can be often or sometimes justified, a position starkly at odds with Muslims in other Middle Eastern, Asian, and African nations.”
Similarly, a 2008 poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research shortly after a brutal massacre at the Mercaz HaRav seminary in Jerusalem in which 8 people, mainly teenagers, were murdered and some 40 wounded revealed that a troubling 83.5 percent of Palestinians approved of the terrorist attack against civilians; the same poll indicated that 63.6 percent supported rocket attacks on Israeli towns designed to murder Jews.
Those who kill Jews in Israel are not only excused for their homicidal impulses by Palestinian officials and society at large, they are glorified for having achieved martyrdom by murdering the eternal enemies of Islam. Just last March, for instance, with the tacit approval of Mahmoud Abbas, the so-called moderate Palestinian president, West Bank Palestinian students from Fatah’s youth division helped dedicate a public square to the memory of Dalal Mughrabi, who in 1978 hijacked a bus and immolated herself and 37 civilians, injuring some 70 others in Israel’s worst terrorist attack.
In 2008, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, an official daily newspaper of the Palestinian National Authority, noted that a summer camp had been named in “honor and admiration” of Mughrabi, as well.
Speaking at a memorial service on the fourth anniversary of Yasir Arafat’s death, Mahmoud Abbas also celebrated the legacy of other murderers of Jews. “The path of the shahids,” he said, “Arafat, George Habash and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, is the path that we cherish” – that path presumably being one on which the spilt blood of Jews helps to insure martyr status for the icons of the Palestinian thugocracy.
This process of inspiring Jew-hatred begins early, so Palestinian children are inculcated, nearly from birth, with seething, blind, unrelenting, and obsessive hatred of Jews and the “Zionist regime”; kindergartners have performed at graduation exercises with blood-soaked hands while toting plastic AK-47s and dedicating their lives to jihad; and older children have been recruited to hide explosives on their bodies to transform themselves into shahids – a new generation of kindling for radical Islam’s cult of death.
Palestinian schoolbooks dehumanize and vilify Jews, accuse them of theft, rapacity, bloodthirstiness, and duplicity, substitute Palestine for Israel in geography books, and contort history and fact to such an extent that when she reviewed samples of them, then-senator Hilary Clinton suggested the use of these texts “profoundly poisons the minds of these children” against Jews.
Even children’s shows on Palestinian TV are not immune to this vile propaganda and incitement, with perverse characters like Farfur, Mickey Mouse’s demonic twin, who playfully regurgitated hateful propaganda about Israel on the Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa TV to encourage children to become martyrs and attack and kill Jews, and uttered such pleasantries to the audience of children as “You and I are laying the foundation for a world led by Islamists” and the suggestion that children “resist” Israel, “the oppressive invading Zionist occupation,” resistance, of course, being a Palestinian euphemism for terrorism against Jews.
Apparently, the indoctrination of children to despise Israel and Jews has been successful in creating a new generation of young people willing to embrace genocide in pursuit of martyrdom. In August 2007, for instance, as IDF forces attempted to suppress Kassam rocket attacks into southern Israeli towns from Hamas-controlled Gaza, a 15 year-old Palestinian boy, a would-be suicide bomber intent on immolating both himself and Israeli soldiers, was intercepted with two explosive devices strapped to his body.
The attempted suicide mission was not even an isolated example of child abuse in Palestinian culture, and, in fact, had been occurring since the al-Aqsa Intifada that began in 2000: a 2004 study, the “Global Report on the Use of Child Soldiers,” revealed that between October 2000 and March 2004 alone, Palestinian children were involved in at least nine documented suicide attacks, blindly embracing death in their zeal to conform to a culture of genocidal Jew-hatred.
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Jews have been viewed as the mortal enemies of Islam ever since they rebuffed the entreaties of Mohammed when he requested that they abandon Judaism and accept Islam, a request they politely declined. As a result of that enmity, of course, the Koran and hadith literature are replete with descriptions of the essential vileness, cruelty, wickedness, and moral defects of Jews, attitudes of which punctuate contemporary thought in the Arab world.
One well-worn hadith, which not coincidently appears in article 7 of the Hamas charter, justifies the killing of Jews to help redeem mankind: “As is it written: the hour [of Judgment Day] shall not arrive until the Muslims fight and kill the Jews who are hiding behind stones and trees; and [then] the stones and trees will say: ‘Oh Muslim, be the servant of Allah, there is a Jews hiding [behind me]. Come and kill him.’ ”
The Jews as enemy of Islam is a core precept that finds voice in sermons and religious teachings, and also helps dehumanize Jews as a subspecies of human worthy of extermination. In a 2009 broadcast on al-Aqsa TV of Friday prayers and sermons, as one example, the common theme of the threat of the Jews to mosques and the House of Islam in general was exhorted by the speaker that particular day. “Today we look at Al-Aqsa as it sighs beneath the yoke of the Jews,” he said, “beneath the yoke of the sons of monkeys and pigs, brothers of monkeys and pigs. Destroy the Jews and their helpers.”
Non-Muslim Palestinians have also exploited theology to demonize Jews, such as the curious Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, founded by an Anglican priest named Naim Ateek, which positions the long-oppressed Palestinians as Marxist victims who must be “liberated” from the evil-doings of their Zionist oppressors. Sabeel’s attacks on Israel and Zionism are virulent and unrelenting, even as the organization and its founder profess to be seeking justice for the Palestinians while assigning all blame for the lack of peace on Israel.
Even more insidious is Ateek’s own casting of Jews once more as the murderers of Christ, leveling the grotesque, long-abandoned deicide charge against Jews, as he did in his Easter 2001 message when he suggested that “It seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him . Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge Golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.”
Like many who express what is widely interpreted to be anti-Semitic thought but nevertheless profess to harbor no enmity against Jews, only disapproval of Israeli behavior, critics of the Yale conference bristle when they are identified and made accountable for their statements. So convinced are they that they are immune from the charge of anti-Semitism because they seek “social justice” for the suffering Palestinians, they feel no need to restrain themselves from uttering every kind of invective hurled against Israel.
But their obsession with Israel cannot be separated from one essential truth: they despise and want to dismantle Israel not because its policies or actions are so beyond acceptable standards of nationhood, but precisely because Israel is, and always will be, the Jew among nations.
Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., director of Boston University’s Program in Publishing, just finished a book about the world-wide assault on Israel taking place on college campuses, “Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews.”