The Palestinians have a potent new weapon in their war against the Jewish people: Jewish self-blame.
No country has more self-criticism and criticism of the government than Israel. This is not necessarily unhealthy. Democracies thrive on lively debate and critical analysis of the issues. Such debate contributes to the checks and balances that keep democracies free and stable. Any society trying to function efficiently, just like any individual who aspires to spiritual health, must have a capacity and tolerance for self-criticism. This applies no less to Israel and the Jewish people than to anyone else.
But self-criticism does become unhealthy when it loses touch with reality and becomes a drive for self-perfection that sees nothing else. When attacked by an enemy, one sides with the enemy, because one's critical lens is focused only on oneself. Self-criticism then turns to morbid self-doubt undermining confidence in one's own purpose and reason for being.
This has been happening in Israel today. At times it seems that Israel is judged in a court with two prosecutors - one external and one internal - and no defense attorney. The internal prosecutor echoes the condemnation of the external one, creating the impression that Israel must be even more guilty than those whose obvious transgressions are never admitted. So now the Arab side uses with great effectiveness the tactic of recruiting Jews to fight the propaganda war against Israel. If Jews are seen denouncing Israel, what better proof could there be of Israel's shame?
Of course one could ask, Where is Arab self-criticism when Jewish families are stalked in their homes and shopping centers and blown to bits? But the Arab hope is that with enough Jews willing to take the rap for Israel, people might not think about asking that question.
The questioning of Israel's legitimacy by Israelis themselves has become enough of a trend that it has acquired a name of its own: "post-Zionism." Post-Zionism is the belief that the Zionist dream has run its course, that there is no longer any need (if there ever was a need) to have a state specifically for the Jewish people, run by Jews with the specific interests of Jews in mind. The more radical post-Zionists call for an end to the Jewish state and its replacement with some kind of "binational" entity encompassing Israel and the surrounding territories, presumably a democracy in which Arabs and Jews would live together in a state neither primarily Arab nor primarily Jewish.
This is pure fantasy. An awareness of history reveals the naiveté of such a vision: due to its imminent Arab majority, a "binational" state in Israel/Palestine would soon become the 23rd Arab state, would not likely remain a democracy, and would imperil the lives of the Jewish minority even more than other Arab states did when they still had their Jewish minorities.
It is not the purpose of this article to critique post-Zionism: that vast topic would merit a separate, extensive exploration. I would like to take a look at just one example of Jewish self-criticism that crosses the line into pathological self-doubt. It is a recent article by Roman Bronfman published in Israel, significant because Mr. Bronfman is a member of the Knesset (Israeli parliament). He is from the Meretz Party, on the far left side of the Israeli political spectrum.
Mr. Bronfman writes:
Another day of Jewish victims somewhere in the world, and this time in a terrible attack on synagogues in Istanbul. The number of violent incidents worldwide against anything identified with the State of Israel and the Jewish people no longer leaves any doubt that this is a real wave....
How can this hatred toward us be explained, particularly in the developed European states? And why is it being expressed specifically now, and with such intensity? At first, Israel officially assumed that these were only marginal expressions of radicalization toward Israel. But when the waves of hatred spread and appeared on all the media networks around the world and penetrated every home, the new-old answer surfaced: anti-Semitism.
...This time, too, the anti-Semitism card has been pulled from the sleeve of explanations by the Israeli government and its most faithful spokespeople have been sent to wave it. But the time has come for the Israeli public to wake up from the fairy tale being told by its elected government.
The rhetoric of the perpetual victim is not a sufficient answer for the question of the timing. Why all of a sudden have all the anti-Semites, or haters of Israel, raised their heads and begun chanting hate slogans? Enough of our whining, "The whole world is against us."...
...The time has come to look at the facts and admit the simple but bitter truth - Israel has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the world and we are guilty for what has happened.... the government is mistaken and is bringing calamity upon us.
The government is mistaken because it is conducting a destructive policy. No government in Israel has succeeded in solving the tragedy of the two peoples - the occupier and the occupied. Governments have had 36 years to do this, and no government has figured out how to be rid of the territories.
But this government, which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon heads, has brought the Palestinians' despair to new depths. Considering the criticism of the international community, there is only one nation left that insists on believing in the government's path - the Jewish nation, which backs up the government's actions time after time.
Where do we get our pretentiousness for such sympathy at a time when the Sharon government is conducting an unethical and inhumane policy? This is the answer to all the surveys that have been published around the world lately. This is the answer to all those "anti-Semitic" statements that have been voiced lately. This is the answer to all the arsons, the murders and the terror attacks we have suffered....
The Jewish people, who went through a Holocaust just decades ago - a short moment in historical terms - must not oppress another people and deny them their rights and any shadow of hope for a future.
True, the roots of anti-Semitism are planted very deeply in the culture and history of Christian Europe.... But if anti-Semitism was until now found exclusively in the extreme political fringes, Israel's continued policy of the cruel occupation will only encourage and fan the spread of anti-Semitic sentiments.
From this, I conclude that if Israel wants to be embraced by the family of nations as a full member, it must learn how to behave according to the accepted rules around the world - rules of ethics, fairness and justice.
Just where does this article go wrong? It does not go wrong merely by criticizing policies of the Sharon government. I have also criticized some of those very same policies. Israel's settlement project in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was a colossal mistake. The settlements in Gaza and deep inside the West Bank do not contribute to Israel's security; in fact they are a liability. I believe Israel missed an opportunity to use the Roadmap to begin extricating itself from those settlements in a way that would have saved face and not looked like a precipitate withdrawal. It would be neither in Israel's interest nor in the interest of the Palestinians for Israel to incorporate permanently the West Bank and Gaza and have jurisdiction over a hostile population that will never welcome its presence.
But Bronfman's article goes far beyond merely criticizing these policies. He begins with the attacks in Istanbul and he blames them on the Jews. He not only says that Israel has "lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the world" - indeed, for much of the world it never had legitimacy - he claims that loss is Israel's fault. Even worse, it is the fault of the "Jewish nation" for backing the Israeli government.
Bronfman's criticisms of Israeli policies are not fair and balanced, but reflect the same double standard characteristic of Israel's worst enemies. It is one thing to criticize a country's policies, but quite another to claim that country has lost its legitimacy. No other country to my knowledge has had its very legitimacy denied because some of its policies were called into question. Bronfman plays into the hands of anti-Semites by saying that the "Jewish people" - not just Israelis - "oppress" Palestinians and "deny them their rights." The word "oppress" comes right out of anti-Israel political cant. It conjures up an image of a predatory Israel out to conquer and subjugate a helpless Arab population. This is historically false.
Israel did not seek to conquer any territories. Israel's presence there resulted from a war instigated by the front-line Arab states. Nevertheless, in its beginnings this "occupation" was perhaps the most benign in history. The Palestinians had full freedom of movement, even into Israel; there were no roadblocks or curfews or fences. Israel and the territories also became economically integrated, in a manner advantageous to both.
The stern measures that followed, signs of the so-called "oppression," such as roadblocks, checkpoints, and a more visible Israeli military presence, arose in response to increasing Arab guerilla activity, escalating the terrorism that existed even prior to the 1967 war. The terrorism began with Yasser Arafat and his Fatah faction, then spread to other groups. This terrorism affected not only Israelis in the occupied territories but within Israel itself.
Israel had to respond, and unfortunately its counterterrorism measures did make life more difficult for the Palestinian community as a whole. But the word "oppression" is grossly misleading, implying that only the Israelis are to blame and that the Palestinians are helpless, both of which are false. The Palestinian terrorist movement began years before the 1967 war, and its aim was not simply ending Israel's presence in the territories but the destruction of Israel itself. Israel did not help matters with its increasingly aggressive settlement building program. However, the construction of settlements was a response to the Arab states' refusal to negotiate peace, and Arab rejectionism and terrorism began long before the first settlement was even built. In any case, Israel never embarked on a calculated campaign to murder Palestinian civilians. Since this is precisely what Palestinians have been doing to Israelis, one might wonder to whom the label "oppressor" truly belongs.
But it would be best to drop the word "oppression" from this discussion. The term may apply to the experience of Jews living in Arab lands. But one cannot rightly accuse Israel of "oppression" since it was the Arabs who initiated the violence, from the anti-Jewish riots that preceded Israel's establishment, to the 1948 war in which the Arab states tried to annihilate Israel, to the 1967 war in which the Arab states tried to complete what they left unfinished in 1948, to the terrorist violence against Israeli civilians that began before 1967 and greatly intensified afterwards. Without Arab violence and terrorism Israel would have no need to take any of the countermeasures that have affected the Palestinians' quality of life.
Instead of "oppression," a term devoid of nuance and intended to obfuscate, we should be speaking of the Palestinians' resort to terrorism versus Israel's instituting measures to contain it that have impacted the lives of Palestinians as a whole. The word "oppression" is a political slogan meant to manipulate the audience, by diverting attention away from Palestinian atrocities and placing Israel among history's great "oppressors," particularly Nazi Germany, the current favorite of today's anti-Zionists. This not only distorts history, it crosses the line into anti-Semitism. It is therefore appalling to witness a member of the Knesset engaging in such rhetoric.
Bronfman naively downplays the role of anti-Semitism in the conflict. He claims that real anti-Semitism has nothing to do with the latest attacks against Jews, that anti-Semitism is simply a "card... pulled from the sleeve of explanations by the Israeli government," that Jews should stop "whining" and admit they have brought these attacks on themselves through their support of the Sharon government.
Mr. Bronfman's dismissal of anti-Semitism as a factor in the worldwide rise of attacks against Jews is incredible. Yet he states: "This [Sharon Government's 'unethical and inhumane policy'] is the answer to all those 'anti-Semitic' statements that have been voiced lately. This is the answer to all the arsons, the murders and the terror attacks we have suffered." The repeated use of "all" is especially telling.
If Sharon's harsh policies explain - and perhaps even justify - attacks against Jews in and out of Israel, then why haven't we seen similar attacks against innocent Muslims around the world every time a bomb goes off in an Israeli restaurant or shopping center or Jewish synagogue or Bali nightclub or Kenya hotel or British bank? Bronfman's analysis is dangerously misguided for two reasons: first, it views Sharon's policies in a vacuum, completely ignoring the conditions to which they respond, and second, it fails completely to understand the role of anti-Semitism in global politics today.
The latest attacks in Istanbul - aimed not only against Jewish but also against British interests - are not isolated occurrences. And they are certainly not reactions to Sharon's specific policies. They must be seen within the context of the terrorist war as a whole. For this a little history may be necessary.
Al Qaeda, the group implicated in the Istanbul attacks, grew out of the mujahedin resistance movement against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. That war lasted ten years, until finally the Soviets were defeated. Osama bin Laden organized a number of these mujahedin, or "holy warriors," to establish Al Qaeda in 1988. The organization's purpose is to rid the Middle East of all foreign (i.e. non-Muslim) presence, and to overthrow any Muslim government that does not conform to its strict interpretation of Islam. It is a deeply religious movement, which sees itself continuing the jihad of Muhammad and his followers in its quest to impose sharia (Islamic law) on the entire region and possibly even beyond.
A captured Al Qaeda training manual, seized by British police, gives us a vivid sense of the group's mission. Here are some excerpts:
Islamic governments have never and will never be established through peaceful solutions and cooperative councils. They are established as they [always] have been: by pen and gun, by word and bullet, by tongue and teeth....
After the fall of our orthodox caliphates on March 3, 1924 and after expelling the colonialists, our Islamic nation was afflicted with apostate rulers who took over in the Muslim nation. These rulers turned out to be more infidel and criminal than the colonialists themselves. Muslims have endured all kinds of harm, oppression, and torture at their hands.... They started to fragment the essence of the Islamic nation by trying to eradicate its Muslim identity. Thus, they started spreading godless and atheistic views among the youth....
They [the rulers] tried, using every means and [kind of] seduction, to produce a generation of young men that did not know [anything] except what they [the rulers] want.... However, majestic Allah turned their deception back on them, as a large group of those young men who were raised by them [the rulers] woke up from their sleep and returned to Allah, regretting and repenting. The young men returning to Allah realized that Islam is not just performing rituals but a complete system: Religion and government, worship and Jihad [holy war], ethics and dealing with people, and the Koran and sword.
The bitter situation that the nation has reached is a result of its divergence from Allah's course and his righteous law for all places and times. That [bitter situation] came about as a result of its children's love for the world, their loathing of death, and their abandonment of Jihad [holy war]. Unbelief is still the same.... It is the same unbelief that drove Sadat, Hosni Mubarak, Gadhafi, Hafez Assad, Saleh, Fahed - Allah's curse be upon the non-believing leaders - and all the apostate Arab rulers to torture, kill, imprison, and torment Muslims. These young men realized that an Islamic government would never be established except by the bomb and rifle. Islam does not coincide or make a truce with unbelief, but rather confronts it. The confrontation that Islam calls for with these godless and apostate regimes, does not know Socratic debates, Platonic ideals nor Aristotelian diplomacy. But it knows the dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing, and destruction, and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine-gun....
The main mission for which the Military Organization is responsible is: The overthrow of the godless regimes and their replacement with an Islamic regime. Other missions consist of the following:
- Gathering information about the enemy, the land, the installations, and the neighbors.
- Kidnaping enemy personnel, documents, secrets, and arms.
- Assassinating enemy personnel as well as foreign tourists.
- Freeing the brothers who are captured by the enemy.
- Spreading rumors and writing statements that instigate people against the enemy.
- Blasting and destroying the places of amusement, immorality, and sin; not a vital target.
- Blasting and destroying the embassies and attacking vital economic centers.
- Blasting and destroying bridges leading into and out of the cities.
The date March 3, 1924 is very significant in the history of Islam. On that day Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the first president of the Turkish Republic that arose after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, abolished the office of Caliph. The Caliphs were Muhammad's successors as the spiritual leaders of Islam. During the Ottoman Empire the Sultan (based in what is now Turkey) assumed that title, but after 1924 there was never again a universally recognized Caliph.
This act by Kemal Ataturk was part of his program of reform that saved Turkey from the ruins of the destroyed Ottoman Empire and brought it into the modern world. A key part of this program was taking religion out of the government and secularizing the society. These measures may well have been necessary for Turkey to survive as a nation. Yet March 3, 1924 is here considered the darkest day in the history of Islam - even more than May 14, 1948, the day the State of Israel was proclaimed (the naqba or "Catastrophe" in Arab reckoning).
These excerpts from the training manual reveal Al Qaeda's true agenda. Al Qaeda did not begin as a movement to help Palestinians. From the beginning its mission was to make the entire Middle East conform to its notion of Islam, even to the point of overthrowing Muslim rulers who are not sufficiently extreme. Sadat and Mubarak of Egypt, Qaddafi of Libya, Assad of Syria, even Fahd of Saudi Arabia - all of these are so evil and insufficiently Islamic in Al Qaeda's eyes that they merit Allah's curse. The purpose of Al Qaeda's jihad is to rid the Middle East of these faithless rulers - as well as any significant non-Muslim presence in the region.
This is where Israel comes in. Al Qaeda's problem with Israel is not Sharon's policies. Al Qaeda planned its attacks on New York and Washington while Barak was Israel's Prime Minister and the peace process was showing signs of producing a Palestinian state - thus clearly Al Qaeda was not doing the Palestinians a favor. Al Qaeda's problem with Israel is that Israel exists. Israel's sin is that it is a significant non-Muslim presence in the heart of the Muslim world, which the jihad must make safe for Islam in its most extreme form. So it would not matter who Israel's Prime Minister was or what his policies were, even if he were to withdraw unilaterally from all of the territories tomorrow. Israel would still exist, and so Al Qaeda's position toward it would not change.
Therefore the contention of Bronfman and others on the left, that hatred of Israel can be explained as a reaction to Sharon's policies, completely misses the point. Even if Sharon's policies were to change radically, that hatred would remain. Islamic extremism, which increasingly fuels terrorism against Israel and against the West, cannot tolerate any Israel, no matter what its policies may be. If further proof is needed, look at history: terrorism directed against innocent Israelis existed before Sharon and has been steadily accelerating no matter which party in Israel was in power. In fact, it was often even worse during Labor Party administrations, especially just before an election. The acceleration of terrorism may be expected to continue, with or without Sharon.
Israel must be destroyed not because of Sharon, but because its very existence is a humiliation and an affront to Islam. This is what the Hamas Charter says. To very extremist groups like Al Qaeda, the existence of Israel within the sphere of the Muslim world is a defilement. Al Qaeda's agenda of purifying the Muslim world requires Israel's liquidation, no matter what Israel's relations with the Palestinian community may be.
Anti-Semitism has a special role to play in implementing this agenda.
Al Qaeda uses anti-Semitism both to inflame and to unite the Arab masses. This increases support not only for attacks on Israel but also on the United States, the object of tremendous resentment because it is a dominant non-Muslim power and because it is Israel's ally. Even if it were not allied with Israel, the U.S. would still be a target. It is the foremost symbol of the Christian West, Islam's longtime rival for world influence. And any U.S. presence in the Middle East, economic or military, makes it even more subject to the rage of Islamic extremists. Bin Laden's own name for his organization - "the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders" - makes it clear that America is hated not just because it is Israel's friend, but because it wears the mantle of the Christian Crusaders, at least in the eyes of Islamic extremists. While Israel is the "little Satan," the United States is the "great" one - the fountain of evil itself.
Note that bin Laden not only opposes Israel, he specifically opposes "the Jews." There is a long tradition of anti-Semitism in Islam. The Qur'an, reflecting Muhammad's anger at not having been accepted by the Jews as a prophet, teaches hatred of the Jew. The following suras from the Qur'an have frequently been used to inflame hatred of Jews (all renderings are from the widely respected Yusuf 'Ali translation):
They [the Jews] were covered with humiliation and misery; they drew on themselves the wrath of Allah. This because they went on rejecting the signs of Allah and slaying His messengers without just cause. This because they rebelled and went on transgressing. (2:61)
Miserable is the price for which they [the Jews] have sold their souls, in that they deny (the revelation) which Allah has sent down, in insolent envy that Allah of His Grace should send it to any of His servants He pleases: Thus have they drawn on themselves Wrath upon Wrath. And humiliating is the punishment of those who reject Faith. (2:90)
Thou wilt indeed find them [the Jews], of all people, most greedy of life - even more than the idolaters: Each one of them wishes he could be given a life of a thousand years: But the grant of such life will not save him from (due) punishment. For Allah sees well all that they do. (2:96)
Those who reject our Signs, we shall soon cast into the Fire: as often as their skins are roasted through, we shall change them for fresh skins, that they may taste the penalty: for Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise. (4:56)
O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust. (5:51)
Say: "O people of the Book! Do ye disapprove of us for no other reason than that we believe in Allah, and the revelation that hath come to us and that which came before (us), and (perhaps) that most of you are rebellious and disobedient?" Say: "Shall I point out to you something much worse than this, (as judged) by the treatment it received from Allah? those who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath, those of whom some He transformed into apes and swine, those who worshipped evil - these are (many times) worse in rank, and far more astray from the even path!" (5:59-60)
The Jews say: "Allah's hand is tied up." Be their hands tied up and be they accursed for the (blasphemy) they utter. (5:64)
We took the covenant of the Children of Israel and sent them messengers, every time, there came to them a messenger with what they themselves desired not - some (of these) they called impostors, and some they (go so far as to) slay. They thought there would be no trial (or punishment); so they became blind and deaf; yet Allah (in mercy) turned to them; yet again many of them became blind and deaf. But Allah sees well all that they do. (5:70-71)
Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans. (5:82)
Thus the tradition in Islam of hostility towards Jews goes back to the time of Muhammad himself. The Qur'an even expresses themes that have resonated throughout Christian anti-Semitism: the Jews are a stubborn, faithless people whom God has rejected, they kill God's prophets and incur God's anger, they are even less than human, apes and pigs. This is certainly what these verses have meant to many Muslims and how they are understood by increasing numbers of Muslims today.
The anti-Jewish trend within Islam has persisted and seems much stronger now than it has ever been. Muslim anti-Semitism has borrowed copiously from other sources. It has taken many themes from Christian anti-Semitism, notably the charge that Jews kill their prophets, the blood libel, and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is widely disseminated throughout the Arab world. Today Muslim anti-Semitism has taken an even more alarming turn, reviving Nazi anti-Jewish propaganda while at the same time trying to hang the Nazi label on the Jews themselves.
The connection between German Nazism and Arab nationalism is not new. In the 1930's Hajj Amin al-Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem and leader of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee, allied himself with the Nazi movement and planned for a jihad in alliance with Germany against Jews all over the world. Today we are witnessing a revival of Arab pro-Nazi sentiment, with a massive recycling of anti-Jewish propaganda. So much of this material, both inspired by and drawn directly from Nazi sources, is flowing through the Muslim world that documenting all of it would be a major project requiring volumes.
Just a few examples may suffice for purposes of illustration. Itamar Marcus, who is known for his extensive research on incitement in the Palestinian media and educational system, has documented Palestinian Nazi propaganda in his article "Are Palestinian Leaders Preaching Nazi-like Hatred of Jews?" He introduces his summary with a chilling observation:
Although there have been national leaders who have orchestrated mass murder since the defeat of Nazi Germany, no government has openly preached genocide as a systematic ideology of public policy. This taboo has been broken now by the Palestinian Authority.
Marcus cites a number of cases to support this startling assertion. Such cases of incitement continued throughout the years of the Oslo Accords and the Camp David peace process. Just like the Nazis, the Palestinians are disseminating through official channels of information the idea that Jews are subhuman. In words and cartoons Jews are portrayed as animals: monkeys, pigs, donkeys, rats, worms, scorpions, spiders, and octopuses. Jews are frequently attacked in Friday sermons broadcast over official Palestinian television. Here is one example:
[The Jews are] Allah's enemies, the nation accursed in the Koran, whom the Creator refers to as monkeys and pigs, calf-worshippers and idolaters…. The Koran is plain.... the worst enemies of the Islamic Nation are the Jews. (Sheikh Dr. Ibrahim Muhammad Maadi, Friday Sermon, PATV, August 3, 2000)
Such sentiments are by no means unique in the Arab world. Many other examples may be found in the archives of the Middle East Media Research Institute. One of these, an article from an Egyptian Government daily entitled "Accursed Forever and Ever," is quoted at length elsewhere on this web site. It praises Hitler and expresses regret that he did not succeed in finishing off the Jews. Similar articles are published throughout the Arab world.
Returning to the Palestinians, the official Palestinian daily Al Hayat Al Jadida has published numerous wild accusations of fantastic Jewish crimes, reminiscent of the Nazi "big lie" technique. Some examples:
Once the Jews are thoroughly demonized, the next step is to justify their genocidal slaughter. And so in other Friday sermon broadcasts a member of the Palestinian Council of Religious Edicts could proclaim:
...the nation of Palestine, our destiny from Allah is to be the vanguard in the war against the Jews. (Dr. Ahmad Yussouf Abu-Halabiyeh, Palestinian Council of Religious Edicts, PATV, July 28, 2000.)
Jews are Jews. Whether Labor [Party] or Likud [Party], Jews are Jews.… [One] must slaughter them and kill them, as per the word of Allah.… Do not have mercy in your hearts for Jews anywhere, in any country. Fight them wherever you are. Anywhere you meet them - kill them. Kill the Jews.… Do not have mercy on the Jews. Kill them everywhere. (Dr. Ahmad Yussouf Abu-Halabiyeh, PATV, October 13, 2000.)
Still another Friday sermon television broadcast repeated this demonization of the Jews since the time of Muhammad and preached death as the fate that Jews deserve:
The Prophet Muhammad, whom the Jews tried to assassinate more than once, with poison and by witchcraft... warned us of the Jews, of the Jews' evil and the Jews' deceit. He [Muhammad] battled them and expelled them from Arabia, saying: "There shall not be two religions in Arabia." And he clarified the character of the Jew in the Qur'an and in the sayings of the Prophet so we would beware of them at every moment and at all times and so that we would know how to deal with the Jews. Say to the Jews:… "Expect your graveyard. Expect the final battle." (Mustafa Nadjem, PATV, February 8, 2002.)
A senior religious leader writing in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida and preaching on several Friday sermon broadcasts has presented the killing of Jews as a religious duty prescribed by Muhammad himself:
The battle with the Jews will continue, because the Prophet has decreed it, and none of his words go unfulfilled….. [as the Hadith (teachings of Muhammad) states:] "The Day of Resurrection will not come until the Muslims make war against the Jews and kill them, and until the Jew hides behind a rock and tree, and the rock and tree says: 'Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, a Jew is behind me, come and kill him!'…" (Sheikh Muhammed Abd Al Hadi La'afi, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, May 18, 2001, also on PATV March 30, 2001, April 13, 2001, April 27, 2001, and August 3, 2001 and others.)
This religiously inspired hatred of the Jew has even found its way into Palestinian elementary school textbooks. Marcus cites one book for sixth graders, which quotes the Qur'an (62:6) to assert: "...Jews, if you think that you are favored of Allah, to the exclusion of (other) men, then long for death if you are truthful... death from which you flee, will surely overtake you."
As I have already stated, a full compilation of this material would require volumes. It is very clear that the Palestinians are using the same techniques that the Nazis used to infect society with hatred of Jews and even to justify genocide. This anti-Jewish rhetoric, couched in the holy language of Islam, is strikingly similar to the type of rhetoric Hitler used to encourage his followers to accept the liquidation of the Jewish people. Things have now reached the point where Arab extremists truly believe that by killing Jews they are performing a sacred service and helping to purify the world. Yet since one big lie deserves another, they also insist on trying to sell the idea that Jews and not they themselves are following in the Nazis' footsteps.
The Arab identification with Nazism has resulted in a revival of Hitler's popularity among the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority has approved the distribution of an Arabic translation of Hitler's Mein Kampf throughout the territories. An Agence-France Presse report states that the book reached no. 6 on the Palestinian best-seller list. The Middle East Media Research Institute includes on its web site the translator's introduction, which presents Hitler as a kind of Palestinian hero:
Adolf Hitler was not an ordinary man to be [forgotten] by the wheels of time... Adolf Hitler does not belong to the German people alone, he is one of the few great men who almost stopped the motion of history, altered its course, and changed the face of the world. Hence, he belongs to history.
Hitler the soldier left behind not only a legend stained by tragedy itself; the tragedy of a state whose dreams were shattered, a regime whose pillars were torn down, and a political party that was crushed. Hitler was a man of ideology who bequeathed an ideological heritage whose decay is inconceivable. This ideological heritage includes politics, society, science, culture, and war as science and culture....
This translation of the book My Struggle has never been presented to Arab speakers. It is taken from the original text of the author, Adolf Hitler. The text was untouched by the censor. We made a point to deliver Hitler's opinions and theories on nationalism, regimes, and ethnicity without any changes because they are not yet outmoded and because we, in the Arab world, still proceed haphazardly in all three fields.
Indeed, sentiments of Mein Kampf such as the following resonate strongly with the Arabs' increasingly religious anti-Jewish ideology: "by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord" (p. 60).
When seen against the full context of what is happening in Israel/Palestine today, Bronfman's words take on a cruel irony:
This is the answer to all the surveys that have been published around the world lately. This is the answer to all those "anti-Semitic" statements that have been voiced lately. This is the answer to all the arsons, the murders and the terror attacks we have suffered.
When we consider that the agenda of the Islamic extremists is to purify the Muslim world of any contaminating "foreign" presence - especially Jews - and when we consider the resurgence of Nazi sentiment in the Arab population today, it seems offensive, to say the least, to blame the murder of Jews on Jews. When Palestinian terrorists intentionally and repeatedly kill Israeli noncombatants, they do so from a racial animosity as deep as the Nazis felt toward the Jewish people. This is not a secret. The Palestinians are telling us this themselves, in their news and entertainment media, in their sermons in mosques, and in their educational system - how many messages must we receive before we start to listen?
It is not Zionism that is racism - Zionism always granted the rights of Arabs to live inside Israel with full citizenship, and even to have government representation. Whatever Israelis may feel toward Arabs, it does not even come close to approaching the genocidal mania that is sweeping Arab society today. The true racism is Arab nationalism made even more virulent by Islamic extremism. Nevertheless the big lie, repeated often enough, catches hold in the public consciousness.
Thus Bronfman's conclusion is more than a little bizarre:
From this, I conclude that if Israel wants to be embraced by the family of nations as a full member, it must learn how to behave according to the accepted rules around the world - rules of ethics, fairness and justice.
Which "accepted rules around the world" of "ethics, fairness, and justice" is Bronfman referring to? The rules of the Arab states, where Jews cannot be citizens, and from which most Jews have fled due to persecution? The rules of the dictatorships that dominate the U.N. and routinely pass resolutions against Israel without even considering the other side? Bronfman makes it sound as if Israel is the world's one and only rogue nation. Perhaps he should add some travel to his schedule of activities.
Bronfman appears to buy the Arab spin that the Arabs' war is a war against settlements and occupation. It is not a war against settlements. It is a war against the Jews. If the Palestinians truly wanted an end to Israel's presence in the territories, they could have achieved it years ago - by not resorting to terrorism during the years of the Oslo peace process, by continuing to negotiate instead of responding with violence to the offer of Clinton/Barak, and by not violating every cease-fire with another attack on innocent people. The Palestinians have in fact done everything possible to make sure they do not get a separate state alongside Israel. Their actions - indeed, their whole strategy - only make sense when seen for what they truly signify: an orchestrated campaign to wipe the Jewish presence completely off the map of the Middle East.
Therefore to use Sharon's policies, whether or not one agrees with them, as an excuse for attacks against Jews, in Istanbul or anywhere else, defies both morality and logic. No other people is judged by such an insane standard. Even when Milosevic was doing his real ethnic cleansing in Bosnia we did not see Serb civilians attacked all over the world, nor did we see anyone using Milosevic's policies to justify such attacks.
It is time we respected the Arabs enough to take seriously what they say. Before Israel's presence in the territories, before the first settlement appeared, even before the founding of the State of Israel itself, Arabs wanted to rid the holy land of Jews and they embraced Nazism as their ally.
There may be no way to make sense of the aid and comfort that many Jews - including present and former members of the Knesset like Roman Bronfman and Avraham Burg - are giving to anti-Semitism. Surely that is not their intent, but it is the effect. People are pointing to them and saying, if a Jew condemns Israel, that proves Israel is evil. Indeed, one of the most effective tactics of the Arab disinformation war is the deliberate recruiting of Jews to act and speak against Israel, to discredit Israel and even question its right to exist. The International Solidarity Movement uses this tactic with considerable success, especially in conjunction with its very professional campaign of deceptive advertising.
Why are so many Jews, and even Israelis, speaking out against Israel? What could possibly motivate them, considering that the Arabs are fighting a war against their very existence?
There is no simple answer. Perhaps at least part of the answer may be found within Jewish tradition itself. The great message of the Hebrew prophets is the expression of a thirst for justice and a call to self-criticism. Especially for this emphasis on self-criticism, the Jews will probably never be forgiven and always hated. But as much as we may dislike it, the capacity for self-criticism is extremely important and a sign of spiritual health. It is rooted in the Hebrew Bible, in which the prophets ruthlessly criticize injustices in their own society. This strand within the Jewish conscience cannot tolerate any hint of social injustice, and so Jews have always spoken out against it and been on the front lines fighting it.
Although the Qur'an borrows heavily from the Hebrew Bible, self-criticism in the service of justice does not survive in it. Instead the Qur'an takes the self-criticism of the Hebrew prophets and turns it into an attack on the Jewish people themselves - ignoring completely the fact that we only know about the prophets' criticism of their people because it was preserved by the Jews! Instead of social self-criticism the major emphasis of the Qur'an is on faith: how God accepts those who have faith, and consigns to everlasting punishment those who do not. So while the extreme self-critical wing in Israeli politics strives for an idealistically perfect society, the Islamic extremists are interested only in spreading the faith, and they show no capacity at all for self-criticism or self-examination.
I am not suggesting that the Jewish people abandon self-criticism. Far from it. But such criticism must be combined with a realistic assessment of what is happening in the world. Thrashing Israel for its flaws while giving a free pass to the transgressions of the Arabs presents the world with a false impression of Israel. It also presents a false impression of history. The anti-Semitic mind, wedded to the belief that Jews are the cause of every evil in the world, will seize upon this false impression to perpetuate this belief and to justify attacks on Jews. It is happening, and the evidence is abundant.
No dialogue is possible when only one side looks critically at itself and the other side uses that self-criticism as a weapon. In the absence of any significant Arab self-criticism, the punishing Jewish conscience becomes an Arab sword.
Beyond this it may be possible to speculate about some psychological explanations for these Jewish condemnations of Israel. As I've said before, self-criticism, including national self-criticism is healthy. But the self-blame that so many professed supporters of Israel are expressing is not rational. It is not rational to blame only yourself when your enemy is trying to do you in. Has Israel contributed in any way to the difficult position in which it now finds itself? Yes, it has. Did Israel initiate the hostilities? No, it did not, unless you consider the existence of Israel itself a hostile act. Is Israel either preaching or practicing genocide against Palestinians? No, it is not. The irrationality of Jewish self-blame cries out for an explanation.
I can only offer some guesses. When the members of any race or ethnic group are dehumanized on a massive scale, it is a great struggle to resist internalizing this dehumanized image. This is born out in the experience of many who have suffered ethnic prejudice over long periods of time. It may be that one way of casting out the dehumanized image is to replace it with a purified image that one presents to the world. To achieve this purified image one must perfect oneself, scourge oneself ruthlessly to cast out any flaw, make sure that the demands of all the judges - both internal and external - are satisfied. And so one scrutinizes oneself with utmost cruelty while ignoring the cruelty of the other. But one can never achieve acceptance in this way, not when that which causes offense is one's very existence.
So let us get back to reality. Let us strive to make Israel as just a nation as it can possibly be. But let us not neglect the pressures that threaten Israel's existence, against which it is trying to survive. Can Israel improve its policies? Of course. Is the invective being thrown against Israel by the Arab disinformation campaign and now picked up by Israel's Jewish critics justified? Not by a long shot. People who claim to be concerned about racism and human rights would do well to consider: Who today are the Nazis' true spiritual heirs?
"Al Qaeda Training Manual." United States Department of Justice, October 8, 2002.
Bronfman, Roman. "Fanning the Flames of Hatred." Haaretz, November 19, 2003. 2000.
Goldston, Robert. The Sword of the Prophet. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1979.
Hitler, Adolph. Mein Kampf. Trans. Ralph Manheim. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1969.
"Hitler's Mein Kampf In East Jerusalem And PA Territories." Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch Series No. 48, October 1, 1999.
Lewis, Bernard. Semites and Anti-Semites. New York: Norton, 1986.
Marcus, Itamar. "Are Palestinian Leaders Preaching Nazi-like Hatred of Jews?" History News Network, May 20, 2002.
Sachar, Howard M. A History of Israel. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.
Peace with Realism