A guest post by Geary
Islamic antisemitism holds no mysteries and makes no apologies. It has its seeds in Islamic scripture and its roots in Islamic historiography.
There has without doubt been a tendency in all three monotheistic religions to what we might call “selective victimism”, the bewailing (often to God) of one’s own suffering, persecution and slaughter (Psalms uses the word ‘enemies’ 106 times), whilst regarding their own slaughtering as being ‘the will of God’ or even blessing, a kind of “Manifest Destiny” of the superiority of the Faith.
But Islam is particularly prone. After all, its very founder was a slaughterer of enemies to “protect” and then spread his message. For Muslim historians, Mohammed’s own massacre of hundreds of Jewish captives of the Banu Qurayza tribe was simply just desserts because they were “traitors”. The expulsion of all non-Muslims from Arabia was equally justified: how did they dare refuse the gracious offer of conversion? The Arab conquests from the seventh century onwards were the “glorious spread of the word of Allah”. The Christian counter-offensive known as the Crusades was infamy to be recalled and denounced for ever and a day.
Moreover, the particular intolerance which emanates from Islam today, including many within mainstream Islam, not just the plethora of extremists, is its literalism, its refusal to renounce the injunctions in its scriptures to kill the Jews and other infidels (“Strike off their heads, maim them in every limb”, Koran 8:12).
The peoples not of “The Book” have it worst. Their lives are utterly worthless. All facts, of course, which if mentioned on an Islam-related Comment is Free thread, are liable to get the poster banned. But the best Muslims, and ex-Muslims, the many intelligent and humane likes of Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ed Husain and Ibn Warraq all recognise and denounce this literalism as the bloody and oppressive bane of the religion.
But there is a more recent font of Muslim antisemitism, namely, humiliation. Humiliation in the comparison with the Jewish state’s patent success as a prosperous free and open state, shame at the success of Islam’s erstwhile subject peoples (this too explains much of the Muslim world’s intense hatred of the West and westerners). But mainly humiliation in defeat in its genocidal wars against Israel. Dominic Waghorn of Sky recently recalled an interview he was graciously conceded by Asma al Assad, consort of the Syrian President, in which she told him: ‘You don’t understand how difficult it was for us in this region to watch those pictures (of Cast Lead) every day on our televisions’.
But she and most of the rest of the Arab people can look upon her very own sweet husband’s Muslim-on-Muslim slaughter with equanimity. Precisely because there is no humiliation. Or if there is humiliation because it is happening at the hands of another sect, there is a simple solution. To wash the stain with revenge, with a tit-for-tat slaughter of the other. Iraq docet. What is unique about the humiliation felt in the face of the Jews is, well, most unfortunately, Israel is too strong. It protects its people vigorously. So all that can be done is to stew in the shame.
In contrast, what might seem mysterious indeed is the antisemitism of the modern left – or pseudo-left as Nick Cohen calls it, of which there are two main groups. The orphans of state socialism, à la Milne and the well-heeled chatterati for whom being leftist “is a lifestyle choice. It carries no costs and no obligations” (Waiting for the Etonians, p. 189). “Leftists” who denounce racism and sexism but who are careful to keep themselves and their children well clear of oiks (except of course for cleaners, workmen, traders and other necessary riff-raff). For whom the Guardian is de rigueur and whose bookshelves are well-stocked with Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein but who feel hard-done by of they have fewer than four foreign holidays a year. Unthinkable darling. Who, like Zoe Williams, one of the Guardian’s many privately-educated staff, violently disagree with private medicine, except when they need it themselves.
After the (unlamented) demise of state socialism, the modern pseudo-left, as Cohen explains, have no programme for a new ordering of society. They are merely against the one in which they live (so very well). They are, as a matter of pathological and empty-headed principle, against the West in general and America in particular. It is a kind of psychological sleight-of-hand, blame masquerading as shame. Ostensibly ashamed of everything the West does and stands for, but hey, it’s not me, it’s the Americans, it’s the government, it’s capitalism, it’s business, and me, I’m against it all.
And it is in this anti-Westernism, this anti-Americanism that modern pseudo leftist antisemitism has its genesis. There is the obligation to hate Israel because it is a US ally and Western in ideology (you know, all that stuff that the real liberals cherish like elections, female emancipation, rule of law, gay rights).
And, given it is Western it becomes metaphorically “White” to boot. Instead, the Arabs who would destroy Israel, are metaphorically “Brown”. And since in PC-world, in any conflict between them, “Brown” is always good and “White is always bad, the Arabs then simply must be powerless, persecuted and noble and all is therefore excused. Tout comprendre c’est tout pardoner. This explains perhaps the single most perverse accusation levelled at Israel, namely that after suffering three genocidal attacks by the massed armies of its Arab neighbours, she is the one carrying out genocide. Or that the only country in the Middle East where Arab citizens can cast a meaningful vote on a par with everyone else is an “apartheid state”. Jeez.
Now, given the obligation to hate Israel so completely, it becomes natural to hate everything about it. Thus they hate its success, its value system which puts the rest of the region to utter shame. The more successful and virtuous it is the more necessary it becomes to deny these things. This can be witnessed on a daily basis on the Zionophobic Comment is Free site and in the Guardian generally.
And what is the most obvious defining characteristic of Israel? That it is the one and only Jewish state. And so the need to hate everything about Israel leads to hatred of its Jewishness and then of course to Jews themselves, unless they specifically and explicitly denounce the Israeli devil and all its works. This is what Jonathan Freedland has termed the “affinity for Israel” test (it doesn’t matter which government is in power, despite the common protestations that it’s only the “current right-wing government we denounce”). There is only an affinity test for Jews. It would be considered unthinkably racist to have an affinity test for Pakistanis or Turks or other peoples with ties to politically reactionary countries.
Now, to this cauldron of hate we have to add an extra factor, the traditional trope – shared by left and right alike – of the occult controlling influence of “the Jews”, acting somehow as a single body. For the left the Jews control finance, they are the prototypical evil capitalists. And somehow, most mysteriously, “the Jews” pull the strings of US foreign policy (in some versions of the conspiracy theory the whole of US politics) on behalf of evil little Israel.
Not only, then, for the budding “leftist” antisemite, do the Jews run things in their own interest but they are the perfect embodiment of a “powerful” group, and modern PC pseudo-leftist thinking is obsessed with the dichotomy of the powerful (all-evil) and the powerless (all-good). Israel and the Jews are thus powerful and evil. The Arabs – ignore all that oil money, ignore those armies, ignore all their repression – are powerless and therefore automatically virtuous. But further, the pseudo-left prefers not to talk of the Arab nations as Israel’s enemy, but only the Palestinians who fit the role of weak and oppressed so much better. Conveniently ignoring the fact that the Palestinian plight is a direct result of the refusal of the Arab states to allow them to make peace.
And this then is how pseudo-leftists – the likes of Caryl “tell them we are better haters” Churchill and Baroness “Israelis harvest body organs” Tonge – can profess to be of the anti-racist left, can spout the vilest of antisemitic slurs and can still find perfect logic in their prejudices. The pseudo-left Zionophobe is also a bully. There is no bully more sadistic than the one who is convinced that their systematic acts of persecution are actually morally justified (look at the special fury of religious persecution) – in this case in the name of protecting the innocent Palestinians from oppression (but only from Israeli oppression mind, Syria, Lebanon, Hamas can treat them as they like).
And this is also how Muslim antisemitism and pseudo-left antisemitism come to meet in the perfect marriage of small but intensely vicious minds. Nostalgic socialists, PC group thinkers and other European Israel-haters march along arm-in-arm with openly antisemitic Islamist groups to their collective anthem of “Hamas, Hamas! Jews to the Gas”.
Maybe they deserve each other. But my question is this. Dear pseudo-left. Who else are you going to feed into the maw of the Islamist? First they came for the Jews, and I joined in because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the gays, then the journalists, then the atheists. And then they’ll come, just as surely as Khomeini did, for you.