David Pileggi on the recent surge of anti-Semitism

David Pileggi, the rector of Christ Church Jerusalem, considers how the Western World has influenced Islamic society.

Apparently, there have been 40,000 books published on anti-Semitism. Perhaps it’s appropriate as anti-Semitism is often called the “longest hatred”. According to historian Yehuda Bauer, no other hatred has been so persistent, so intense, and yet so malleable that it can adapt itself to the spirit of any age. This bigotry finds itself at home among socialists, nationalists, fascists, conservatives, liberals, rich, poor, Christians, Muslims, new-agers, atheists, and virtually every social-economic group. (There are only a few societies where anti-Semitism has not found fertile ground, such as India and Georgia.)

Despite the vitriolic hatred spewing from Muslim countries today, it is important to note that at one time the Islamic world did not fear or demonize Jews, though Islamic societies did repress Jews and ensure they were third-class citizens to demonstrate Muslim religious superiority. And although Jews were often called “apes and swine” (and still are by many Arabs), Muslims did not traditionally believe Jews were representatives of Satan, were trying to dominate the world, or were subverting Islam. Of course, the Islamic world was no inter-faith Garden of Eden. Yet Western style anti-Semitism, so prominent in the Muslim world today was only introduced in the early 20th century by Arab Christian intellectuals. They translated anti-Semitic works, including The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forgery that purports to show that Jews are striving to control the world and are the source of the world’s moral corruption and malicious economic trickery.

These Arab Christians, worried about the economic competition from Jews (especially in Ottoman Palestine) found this a way of rousing Muslim opposition to the growing Jewish immigration and economic threat. Arab Christians edited many of the newspapers throughout the Arab world and they ensured that such anti-Semitism was given widespread exposure. Given the Middle Eastern weakness for conspiracy theories, and the eventual need to explain how “apes and swine” repeatedly bested Muslims on the field of battle it is not surprising that fantasies about Jewish “subversion” and “plots” found fertile ground. Today Arab, Turkish and Iranian newspapers, social media and popular culture is full of non-stop malicious incitement against the Jewish people and Israel.

The most virulent hostility against Jews pours forth daily out of Iran. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, Jews and Israel have been dehumanized on a daily basis. Iranian officials regularly refer to Israel as a cancer, an epidemic, and the incarnation of evil that needs to be wiped off the face of the earth as it’s the source of all of the woes of humankind. It because of such poisonous venom that Israel fears Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Studies have shown that in every case, genocide is preceded by incitement from political and religious leaders and is the marker for an impending bloodbath.

Bauer has convincingly argued that one of the root causes of WWII in Europe was Hitler’s irrational obsession with the Jews. These racial fantasies, along with his desire to conquer “living space” and destroy his implacable enemy, the Soviet Union (controlled by Jews, he believed) were essential to Hitler’s world view. If it is indeed the case that Jew-hatred was responsible for the death of 45 million Europeans, how much more should we be concerned today about the bizarre, even demonic fixation that Iran has with Israel? Could their anti-Semitism together with their Shi’ite allies bring about an international war of horrifying consequences? Should we all not be on our knees daily?

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