Being a son of a Holocaust survivor I am often drawn to matters that have to do with Antisemitism, and on occasion I surf the net looking for new answers to why the hate towards Jews has endured for so long. Several weeks ago, I chanced upon the web site of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. At the bottom of the page under ‘Learn About, Remember, and Confront,’ in bold red letters, there was the heading “Antisemitism.” A click of the mouse redirected me to a section entitled “The Longest Hatred,” which explores the history of Antisemitism from the early church days to the Nazi era. The section covers a period of almost 2000 years, and I was surprised to learn that there was not even a single mention of Jew hatred and Antisemitism in Islam.
In another section, devoted to Holocaust denial, there is a timeline of Holocaust denial that begins in 1942 and ends in 2010. Of 32 pivotal items, only two are concerned with Arab Holocaust denials. One has to do with a Moroccan-Swedish author Ahmed Rami, and the other with Iran’s ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The fact that the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, wrote his 1982 doctoral thesis “The Secret Connection between the Nazis and the Leaders of the Zionist Movement,” in which he denies the Holocaust, and claims that only one million Jews were killed, is not even mentioned.
When it comes to the origins of Antisemitism, the conventional finger often points in the direction of Christian Europeans and away from Islam. The overly exaggerated relative prosperity that some Jews enjoyed during the the so called “Golden Age” of Spain tends to divert attention from a long history of Islam’s Jew hatred. Muslim Antisemitism is well documented in the Geniza documents, in the Hadith and the Quran, all of which are painstakingly detailed in Andrew Bostom’s book “The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism.” A University of Haifa survey of 2009 revealed that 40.5 percent of Israeli Arabs claim the Holocaust never happened. According to the Washington Post, “Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia all promote Holocaust denial and protect Holocaust deniers.” Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, a co-founder of Hamas, insisted that the Holocaust never occurred, and that Zionists funded Nazism.
Denying the Holocaust is one thing, but inventing a whole new form of Antisemitism, and a race based hatred, the kind the Nazis practiced, is a whole lot different. After all, by the time the Nazis came on the scene, Antisemitism has been around for for almost 2000 years. Yet the prevailing wisdom is, and most scholars of Antisemitism agree, that racial Antisemitism was a Nazi original, a new twist in the old practice of Jew hatred. More recently, much has been written about Islamic Antisemitism and its Nazi roots, and the connection between the Arab world and Nazi Germany, but maybe the reverse is closer to the truth, and Nazi Antisemitism had it’s roots Islamic beliefs and practices.
The Quran is replete with comments about Jews. Many are positive and many are offensive, denigrating, and full of Jew hatred. When one considers the Islamic concept of abrogation (Naskh wa Mansukh), whereby the more recent of Muhammad’s revelations cancel out and replace the older ones, matters become much clearer and the seeming contradictions regarding attitudes towards Jews can be easily explained. It becomes evident that when he was militarily weak Muhammad’s pronouncement about Infidels were kindly and respectful, but as Muhammad became more powerful and confident his animosity and hatred of the Jews became more vitriolic. The genocidal beheading of all the men (some 600-900) of the Jewish tribe of Medina Banu Qurayza by Muhammad and his followers, serves as a model of treatment of infidels for Muslims to this very day.
The Hadith, which is second in holiness only to the Quran, leaves no room for doubt as to what the attitude of the Prophet of Islam was towards Jews. The Hamas covenant quotes directly from the Hadith, in article 7, “The Prophet, Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him, says: “The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,’ except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews.” (Recorded in the Hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim).
In fact, the earliest evidence of racial Antisemitism goes as far back to the 9th century and is documented in Bostom’s book. It is the work of an Islamic scholar Al-Jahiz, who was commissioned by the then Abbasid calif al-Mutawaqkkil to research why Muslims hate Christians less than they hate the Jews. Mutawakkil died in 861, more than a millennium before the Nazis assumed power. The occasion that prompted the study was the inauguration of a literary campaign against Christians, who according to Mutawakkil where simply not hated enough.
Al-Jahiz came up with two main reasons why Jews were more hated than Christians. The first was rooted in the Quran and the animus relationship between Muhammad and the Jews. The second, oddly enough and preceding Nazi racial Antisemitism by some 1000 years, had more to do with racially based Jewish genetics than with a religious belief motivated hatred.
“Our people [the Muslims] observing thus the occupations of the Jews and the Christians concluded that the religion of the Jews must compare unfavorably as do their professions, and that their unbelief must be the foulest of all, since they are the filthiest of all nations. Why the Christians, ugly as they are, are physically less repulsive than the Jews may be explained by the fact that the Jews, by not intermarrying, have intensified the offensiveness of their features. Exotic elements have not mingled with them; neither have males of alien races had intercourse with their women, nor have their men cohabited with females of a foreign stock. The Jewish race therefore has been denied high mental qualities, sound physique, and superior lactation. The same results obtain when horses, camels, donkeys, and pigeons are inbred.”
For the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to willfully ignore the role of Islam in promoting and perpetuating Antisemitism is intellectually dishonest, and bias, as is ignoring the fact that Holocaust denial is ubiquitous in the Arab World. As for racially motivated Antisemitism, Al-Jihaz certainly invokes a genetically based racist argument for Islam’s prevalent Jew hatred.
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