Sanction For Genocide: Antisemitism and The Evolution of Evil
Abstract: The evolution of antisemitism is analyzed from its start as a religious based belief to systematic racial prejudice and to a nationalist ideology, emphasizing the facilitating effect of these changes on the emergence of an eliminationist mentality. Parallels are drawn between the development of German ideological antisemitism and modern Islamic antisemitism, and the implications of these similarities for the emergence and acceptance of a new genocidal mindset.
Key Words: psychology of evil, antisemitism, symbolic universe, doubling, eliminationist mentality, Islam, genocide
In a previous article on the issue of the psychology of evil, the Holocaust was used as the most representative example of contemporary evil; other examples include the Armenian Holocaust, the Gulag, Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfour, modern slavery, ethnic cleansing, right and left wing totalitarianism and terrorism. Nonetheless, the Holocaust remains a historical singularity in its scale, atrocity, and in the degree to which large number of people that supported it, and participated in it, felt empowered to discard the ethical and moral rules governing social interactions. The purpose of the present paper is to try and follow the factors that made possible this evolution of evil, and to identify contemporary trends that are similar.
Starting from an evolutionary psychology point of view I proposed a general model for the average person’s participation in evil, based on the interaction of several mechanisms that are adaptive when taken in isolation, but when considered together, their interaction allows a person to commit deeds that can only be characterized as evil, while at the same time permitting him/her to retain a sense of moral probity and conformity with the prevailing cultural values.
These mechanisms include humankind’s general acceptance of symbolic reality, which frees thought from the bonds of the concrete reality and allows the conceptualization of a transcendental reality; the social construction of symbolic universes that connect the individual to culture (Berger and Luckman 1966); the denial of our mortality and the quest for symbolic immortality which shield us from anxiety and create a sense of continuity (Becker 1976), as well the interaction of several psychological mechanisms whose function is to shelter the individual from guilt or shame and help coping with extreme situations: obedience to authority (Milgram 1969) numbing, doubling (Lifton 1986), and self deception.
“The readiness to accept symbolic reality facilitates the emergence of symbolic universes and replaces survival with the search for symbolic immortality. In order to share symbolic immortality, humans accept others’ definition of reality and, by implication, tend to become subservient to authority (and) to accept and share the stereotypes that facilitate the use of violence. Psychic numbing and doubling insulate them against the consequences (of their actions) and … self-deception (allows them) to create life stories consistent with the sense of meaning and history of the symbolic universe they subscribe to. Free choice is present at every step of the way and individual responsibility is never eschewed.”(Dan 2007)
One of the keys to understanding the dynamic of a person’s participation in acts of violence against Jews is the relationship between antisemitism and the symbolic universe of the Western and the Islamic worlds. As proposed by Berger and Luckman (1966), the symbolic universe is generated as a social construct by the interactions that take place within it and constitutes the cognitive, cultural, philosophical and theological frame of reference for the totality of human experience. “The symbolic universe is conceived as the matrix of all (objective or subjective) meanings; the entire historic society and the entire biography of the individual are seen as taking place within this universe” (Berger and Luckman 1966, p. 96).
The symbolic universe is supported by maintenance mechanisms, which “ensure its continuity and internal consistency and act as a safeguard against dissonance” (Bergen and Luckman, 1966). Among the most important such mechanisms are culture, moral values, religion, mythology, theology, philosophy and science.
These allow the emergence of a notion of the sacred (Becker 1976), transcending individual existence and mitigating of one’s sense of mortality by permitting the accumulation of “immortality symbols” such as fame, power and wealth, which confer the individual symbolic immortality: not biological but cultural continuity. The promise of symbolic immortality is an intrinsic part of our symbolic universe which gives existence its meaning, being in fact a universe maintenance mechanism.
One of the distinctive Jewish characteristics is the ability to adjust to many different societies while at the same time retaining a Jewish identity. The Jews’ contribution to the host culture, and their perceived level of influence, is generally disproportionate with their number. Furthermore, this characteristic did not abate when the Jews converted or became assimilated; on the contrary one could argue that it became amplified. Because of their forever adapting yet unchanging nature and their accumulation of immortality symbols, such as power and wealth, the Jews are seen as having obtained a measure of symbolic immortality. Considered from an antisemitic perspective this is a zero sum game: the Jews obtain their symbolic immortality at the detriment of other ethnic groups.
Antisemitism is an integral part of Christian identity, which is an important universe maintenance mechanism of our (Western European) symbolic universe, so important, in fact that it can exist paradoxically even in the absence of Jews. For example, antisemitism persisted in England for 400 years after the expulsion of the Jews. The very existence of the Jews is a permanent source of dissonance to Christian religion and beliefs. Their role is ambivalent and their acceptance in the new faith is a source of conflict. Thus Christianity, seen as a universe maintenance mechanism is essentially flawed because it incorporates a contradiction at its core: the Jews are God’s chosen people and Jesus is Jewish, but the Jews are guilty of deicide. In turn, this creates cognitive dissonance. Antisemitism, like all stereotypes, is unchanged by cognitive dissonance because every countervailing example is dismissed as an exception to the rule: Jesus and the Apostles are “good Jews”, but they are an exception; all the others are bad. Incorporating antisemitism into Christianity is the strategy through which the core cognitive dissonance is silenced and internal consistency restored. “Antisemitism …is more than a set of beliefs and corresponding attitudes: it is a complex cognitive-emotional structure linking the individual to cultural and societal values and playing a role in identity formation and maintenance, management of aggressive behavior, interpersonal relations and general worldview… At the individual level, anti-Semitism is self reinforcing and self justifying, and like a stereotype, impervious to cognitive dissonance. Like a defense mechanism, it distorts reality in a systematic way. At cultural level, it is an integral part of religion. At the small group and societal level, it is triggered, maintained, and reinforced by two ritualized behaviors: the passion play, and the blood libel (Dan 2008)
Religious antisemitism also contains its own inhibitory mechanisms represented in Christianity by the injunctions of Saint Augustine and Saint Bernard, based on Psalm 59 (“Slay them not least my people forget”) , and in Islam by the acceptance of Jews as “people of the Book”. From a social-cultural perspective, this allowed the issuance of edicts that partially protected the Jews, such as the papal bull “Sicut Judaeis” (Constitution for Jews) issued by Calixtus II in 1120 and re-issued numerous times, or the 1553 “firman” of Suleiman the Magnificent which transferred the jurisdiction over blood libel cases from local judges to the jurists of the Sultan. At the personal level antisemitism is an internalized, normative structure, allowing for continued hatred and aggression against the Jews, but its social expression is subject to regulation, being limited by the decrees of the Church or by the “firman” of the Sultan. As a result, despite the fact that the logical conclusion of antisemitism requires the destruction or conversion of all the Jews, religious antisemitism, in both Christianity and Islam, lead to wide spread persecution, massacres, mass expulsions, forced conversions, pogroms and blood libel, but not to extermination or the adoption of an “eliminationist mindset” (Goldhagen,1996)
However, ideological antisemitism does not contain such safeguards, and as it will be argued, neither does modern Islamic antisemitism. They both draw on religious antisemitism, but have replaced the Jews as a religious entity with the Jews as the representatives of a race and a political enemy. Religious antisemitism portrayed the Jews as a threat to symbolic immortality; racist antisemitism portrays them as a threat to the biological existence of a nation, while ideological antisemitism portrays them as bent on world domination.
The antisemitism of Nazi Germany which resulted in the Holocaust constitutes a new phase in the evolution of evil: the emergence of a genocidal mentality and its acceptance by an entire society and culture resulting in modifications of the ethical value system which made extermination morally acceptable and facilitated peoples’ participation in it. The thesis of the present paper is that there are significant similarities between German antisemitism and modern Islamic antisemitism: taken to their ultimate conclusions both are a new phase in the evolution of evil, lacking any safeguards against the emergence of an eliminationist mindset, and as such constitute a moral sanction for genocide.
Antisemitism, racism and ideology
Ironically, the definition of Jews as a distinct race has its roots in the success of religious antisemitism in Spain and Portugal. The mass conversions of Jews to Catholicism created the category of “New Christians” with the subcategories of “Conversos” (derogatorily “Marranos”) From the point of view of the Catholic Church, those converted and their descendants were Christians, and had to be treated as such. The true enemies of the Church should be considered those who continue to discriminate against them, asserted no less an authority than “the defender of Faith”, Cardinal Juan de Torequemada, the uncle of the future Grand Inquisitor. Historians differ in their interpretation as to whether the majority of the Conversos were good Catholics or “crypto Jews”, continuing to practice their faith in secret. The fact is that even converted and assimilated, the Jews remained an identifiable group. As the Conversos continued to prosper and some reached positions of prominence, popular resentment against them increased, fueled by demagogues within the Church. Answering to populist pressure the city of Toledo issued in 1449 the “Sentencia Estatuto”, prohibiting the Jews and their descendants, convert or not, from holding any public office “as this causes harm to “old Christians of pure lineage ( a los Christianos viejos lindos)” (Roth, 1995, p.91). As Roth notes this is the first mention of the “purity of blood.” However, Netanyahu (1995) traces the origins of racial, as opposed to religious, discrimination against the Jews much earlier: the Fourth Toledan Council of 633 prohibits the granting of public office “ to Jews or those who are of the Jews”, and the “Liber Iudiciorum” of the Visigoths, (later translated as the codex of Spanish law “Fuero Juzgo”, adopted by Ferdinand III in 1241), prohibits “Jews, whether baptized or unbaptized to testify against Christians” ( 1995, p.400). Netanyahu further notes that “the phrase ”those who are of the Jews” has unquestionable racial connotations…Indeed, the whole purpose of these laws, as we see it, was to make clear that in the matter they referred to there was no distinction between Jew and convert.” (1995, p. 401). This framed the discussion of Jewish identity and issues concerning the status of the Jews in society in racial terms, positing “(two)inseparable relationships (one) between racial and moral qualities of man and another that imputed to Jews as a race a predisposition to evil” (Roth, 1995,p. 451)
Substituting faith with race as the source of Jewish identity changed antisemitism, conferring to the perceived negative characteristics of the Jews the immutability of a biological fact. Furthermore, it allows for a false quantification of one’s Jewishness based on ancestry, as illustrated by the 16th, 17th and 20th Century purity of blood statutes.
As Western societies grew increasingly secular, antisemitism based on race started to displace religious antisemitism, first in Germany and then in France. (Modern antisemitism is a German import” wrote Leroy-Beaulieu in 1893, p.25). The emerging new sciences of ethnology and comparative philology, and the work of Darwin provided a framework for rephrasing the issue of antisemitism in the terms of the comparison and competition between the Semitic and Aryan civilizations. The so called findings were disseminated in simplified form in the antisemitic press of the day. For example, Friedrich von Hellwald, the author of “The History of Culture in Its Natural Evolution“ adopted cultural Darwinism and saw the evolution of culture as the fight between superior and inferior civilizations. He was also the editor of the influential journal “Ausland” and wrote (1872, p.901) , paraphrasing Ernest Renan " The Jews are not merely a different religious community, but—and this is to us the most important factor—ethnically an altogether different race. The European feels instinctively that the Jew is a stranger who immigrated from Asia. The so-called prejudice is a natural sentiment. Civilization will overcome the antipathy against the Israelite who merely professes another religion, but never that against the racially different Jew. The Jew is cosmopolitan, and possesses a certain astuteness which makes him the master of the honest Aryan. In Eastern Europe the Jew is the cancer slowly eating into the flesh of the other nations. Exploitation of the people is his only aim. Selfishness and lack of personal courage are his chief characteristics; self-sacrifice and patriotism are altogether foreign to him."
In his 1886 antisemitic tract “La France Juive” Edouard Drumont describes the Jew as a polar opposite of the Aryan: The Jew is “of the earth”, cowardly, has substituted violence with cunning, has the cult of money, is mercantile and miserly, gets rich at others’ expense, has the temperament of an oppressor ,lacks any creative faculty and exploits the inventions of the Aryan . On the other hand, the Aryan is “a son of heaven”, noble and generous, enthusiastic and heroic, an inventor and discoverer, honest and confident to the point of being naïve. ( 1886,pp.9-11) Quoting, like van Hellwald, Renan’s ideas, he writes :”The Semitic race can be recognized almost exclusively by negative characteristics. It lacks a mythology, an epic, science, philosophy… a civil life, all in all an absence of complexity, of nuance, of feelings.” (1886, p.11). Drumont goes on to describe the physical characteristics of the Jew, foremost among them the hooked nose, salient ears, and the “soft and melting hand of the hypocrite or traitor.” (1886, p. 34) Having thus set the stage, Drumont faces the daunting task of explaining how the superior Aryan is dominated by the lowly Jew. This conundrum is solved by a cognitive sleight of hand, using circular reasoning to make what has to be proven its own proof: the inferiority of the Jews is proven by the fact that they need a worldwide conspiracy to maintain their continued dominance. Since the existence of such a conspiracy is beyond doubt, the inferiority of the Jews is also beyond doubt. The access to power is made possible by the underhanded and treacherous methods of the Jews, who “for centuries have monopolized the profession of medicine which facilitated their spying by allowing them access everywhere.” (1886, p.32) As for the relationship between the Jews and other peoples “The Jew will never be the equal of a man of Christian race (sic). He creeps at your knees or crushes you under his heel, he is beneath or above, never by your side.”(1886, p.22)
I quoted Drumont to some length, despite the fact that his entire book is a gigantic non sequitur, because most of his ideas have been adopted wholesale and can be found in Nazi antisemitic propaganda. Systematizing these ideas, Bering (1992) enumerates some core antisemitic beliefs: ““Jews are not only partially but totally bad by nature… their bad traits are incorrigible.” They remain “essentially alien” to their host societies and “bring disaster (on them) or on the whole world” Because their bad nature is a generalized trait, Jews must be seen not as individuals but as a group. These beliefs facilitate the depersonalization of the Jews, making them the focus of hostile projections and justify pre-emptive violence against them, rationalized as self defense.
One should note that racial antisemitism incorporates the religious antisemitism, and ideological antisemitism incorporates racial antisemitism. Thus the Jews are seen at the same time as a threat to symbolic immortality, as a threat to the existence of the nation as a biological entity, and a threat to the existence of society and culture. As German society became an increasingly closed society, the “pathology and fragility of reason” (Morar 2006) also increased. The degree of distortion of reality required to adopt antisemitic beliefs expanded with the type of antisemitism in question: religious antisemitism requires the belief that the Jews are damned for having killed Jesus, racial antisemitism requires one to believe that negative and inheritable traits can be generalized to an entire people, and that the Jews are a threat to the “purity of blood”, while ideological antisemitism requires a paranoid distortion of history and the projection of one’s own genocidal tendencies onto the Jews by portraying them as seeking world dominance and being a physical threat to the existence of a nation. For example, Hitler wrote:” Today…it is the inexorable Jew who struggles for domination over the nations. No nation can remove this hand from its throat except by the sword. Only the assembled and concentrated might of a national passion rearing up in its strength can defy the internal enslavement of peoples” (1971, p.651) and Himmler declared that “we had a moral right vis-a-vis our people to annihilate this people which wanted to annihilate us.” The qualities of this brand of German antisemitism are described by Goldhagen : the “hallucinatory image of the Jews; the specter of evil that they appeared to Germans to be casting over Germany; Germans’ virulent hatred of them; the “abstract” character of beliefs that informed the treatment which its bearers accorded real Jews; the unquestioned nature of these beliefs; and the eliminationist logic which led Germans to approve the persecution, ghettoization and extermination of the Jews.”( 1996,p.89)
These beliefs formed the basis for the Nuremberg laws which translated ideology into policy and systematically excluded Jews from society: prohibition of intermarriage and non conjugal sex with Jews (Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor 9-15-1935), barring Jews from holding public office, destruction of synagogues (11-11-1938), dissolving all Jewish businesses ( 11-23-1938) cutting Jewish homes’ heat and electricity (2-2-1938), forbidding Jewish children to attend German schools ( 11-13-1938) forbidding Jews to own radios (9-29-1939) telephones (7-20-1940), bicycles (5-15-1941), forbidding Jews from using public transportation (9-18-1941) or public phones (12-26-1941), mandatory wearing of the yellow star (9-1-1941), prohibition of friendly relations with Jews (11-24-1941). These laws were emulated by other states that subscribed to Nazi ideology. For example in Romania Mihail Sebastian’s “Journal” notes the confiscation of Jewish property (3-26-1941), forbidding Jews to own radios (4-20-1941) forced labor for Jews (8-2-1941) mandatory wearing of the yellow star (9-15-41) confiscation of skis (12-1-1941), bicycles (8-12-1942) food rationing for Jews (9-10-1942) and the removing of the works of Jewish authors from bookstores (11-5-1942)
Nazi posters for the propaganda films “The Jew Süss” and “Eternal Jew”
Once the Jews were excluded from society, dehumanized and falsely represented as a multiple threat, all the inhibitions against using the most extreme measures against them were neutralized. “The Jewish problem” required a solution. Addressing this point, Goebbels said in 1944 that “In the case of the Jews there are not merely a few criminals, but all Jews rose from criminal roots, and in their very nature are criminal. The Jews are no people like other people but a pseudo-people welded together by hereditary criminality…The annihilation of Jews is no loss to humanity but just as useful as capital punishment or protective custody against other criminals.”
Lifton coined the term “controlling image” for the highly symbolic, emotionally loaded metaphors that distill the essence of a culture and help to both motivate and rationalize behavior. He interviewed several Nazi doctors who carried out the selection process at Auschwitz, as well as medical experiments on the prisoners. Lifton described the relevant controlling image that facilitated the emergence of an eliminationist mindset as “killing in the name of healing” – a rationalization helped by equating the very existence of the Jews with the symptom of a disease that threatens the well being of the national organism. The doctors were shielded from the psychological consequences of their actions, such as guilt and shame, by believing themselves the agents of a higher authority to which they readily submitted (Milgram 1969), and by psychological doubling,”the division of the self in two functioning wholes so that a part self acts as an entire self” (Lifton 1986, p.418)., He named these two selves “the Auschwitz self” and “the prior self”. “There is dialectic between the two selves in terms of autonomy and connection. The individual Nazi doctor needed his Auschwitz self to function psychologically in an environment so antithetical to his previous ethical standards. At the same time, he needed his prior self in order to continue to see himself as humane physician, husband, father. The Auschwitz self had to be both autonomous and connected to the prior self that gave rise to it.”(1986, p.419) The use of doubling allowed the doctors to give meaning to the Auschwitz experience and to function within it free of guilt. This process does not eliminate conscience, but transfers its requirements: within the Auschwitz self, for instance the criteria for good would include discipline, loyalty, duty, and the controlling image of “killing in the name of healing” facilitated conceptualizing the extermination of human beings in those terms. For example, due to the near starvation diet, Auschwitz prisoners who worked could be expected to survive approximately 12 weeks. The ID number tattooed on the prisoners’ arm allowed the guards to keep track of the prisoners’ time in Auschwitz, and those who had survived for more than the expected period of time were executed, because it meant that either they avoided work or stole food. Within the Auschwitz self this action could be rationalized as an issue of fairness, enforcing the rules and getting rid of parasites.
Much of the criticism of Goldhagen stems from the fact that he supposedly subscribed to the notion of German collective guilt. For instance Wehler (1998) questions the existence of a specific German brand of eliminationist anstisemitism and asks ”how deeply was antisemitism rooted in the thinking of millions of Germans, and to what extent did it make possible and foster the process that started with social discrimination and led, via psychological harassment, active persecution and pogroms to a comprehensive Final Solution?” (1998, p.96)
The answer is self evident: obviously sufficiently deep in enough Germans to carry out the Holocaust, and sufficiently deep in the rest of the Germans to tacitly approve of it or be silent about it. That is why I believe that focusing on intentionality (willing versus unwilling Germans) misses the mark. The issue is the existence of a well known, very public, culturally shared ideological and legal framework that permeated the entire society and made it possible to justify and support the extermination of the Jews, a framework that connected the individual to transcendental values. In other words, for Nazi German society, ideological antisemitism was a symbolic universe maintenance mechanism which facilitated the emergence of an eliminationist mentality. In an obscene congruence, psychological mechanisms evolved to help the individual cope with extreme situations protected those who carried out the genocide from the psychological consequences of their actions, and self deception allowed those who passively acquiesced in it to convince themselves that there was nothing they could have done, and that in any case they did nothing wrong. Goldhagen’s charge hit a raw nerve because it exposed the fallacy of trying to formulate an explanation of the Holocaust based on the participation of limited groups, rather than considering it a society wide phenomenon.
Islam and antisemitism
There is considerable dispute among scholars as to whether antisemitism in Islam is a recent phenomenon, imported from Europe and amplified by the creation of the state of Israel and the ensuing conflicts, or, far from being a modern phenomenon, it is part of Islam from its inception. This is not my area of expertise, and a discussion of this issue is beyond the scope of this paper. However it appears clear that one can find evidence of antisemitism in the Qur’an itself, in Qur’anic commentaries, as well as in historical data. What the scholars seem to debate is the relative degree of antisemitism and the relative wellbeing of the Jews under Christian and, respectively Muslim rule; the harsh reality of their life under either cannot be refuted. For example Maimonides wrote in his 1172 “Epistle to the Jews of Yemen” after fleeing from Cordoba to avoid the Almohads’ persecution: “The nation of Ishmael…persecute us severely and devise ways to harm us and to debase us…None has matched it in debasing and humiliating us. None has been able to reduce us as they have. We have not done, as our sages of blessed memory instructed us, bearing the lies and absurdities of Ishmael. We listen, but remain silent…In spite of all this, we are not spared from the ferocity of their wickedness. On the contrary, the more we suffer and chose to conciliate them, the more they chose to act belligerently toward us.”(Translated by B. Cohen)
Maimonides’ words stand in stark contrast with the idyllic images of Jewish life in the Golden Age of Moorish Spain or later under Ottoman rule that one finds in the works of other authors. As Bostom and Ibn Warraq (2008) indicate, evidence of negative attitudes toward Jews can be found in the Qur’an, in the Hadith (the collection of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and of things that were said in his presence), and in the Sirat (early Muslim biographies of Prophet Muhammad.) The Jews are described with two terms “Banu Isra-il” meaning “Children of Israel” and “yahud” with its variations meaning “Jew”. As a general rule remarks referring to “Banu Isra-il” are positive and those referring to “yahud” are negative.
The Qur’an decribes the Jews as cursed (2:61) “And humiliation and wretchedness were stamped upon them and they were visited with wrath from Allah. That was because they disbelieved in Allah’s revelation and slew the prophets wrongfully. That was for their disobedience and transgression.” (For the sake of consistency, all the quotes are by M.W. Pickthall translation “The Glorious Qur’an” listed in the book referenced below. For more comprehensive quotes, please see chapter 2 of “The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, Prometheus Books, 2008, Andrew Bostom Ed. which provides the complete text of each relevant verse in three different translations of the Qur’an) “Those of the Children of Israel who went astray were cursed by the tongue of David and of Jesus, son of Mary. That was because they rebelled and used to transgress.”(3:112). The Jews are a people that has passed away (2:134) repeatedly punished by Allah by sending the Babylonians and the Romans against them (17:4, 17:5) and dispersed by Allah (7:168). They have broken their covenant “Then because of their breaking of their covenant and their disbelieving the revelations of Allah, and their slaying the prophets wrongfully, and their saying: our hearts are hardened-Nay, but Allah set a seal upon them for their disbelief, so that they believe not save a few.” (4:155). The Jews misinterpret and distort “Some of those who are Jews change words from their context and say: “We hear and disobey; hear thou as one who heareth not” and “Listen to us! distorting with their tongues and slandering religion. If they had said: “We hear and we obey: hear thou and look at us” it had been better for them, and more upright. But Allah hath cursed them for their disbelief, so they believe not, save a few.” (4:46). The Jews are liars (2:78) who willfully distort the word of Allah (2:75) and whose hearts have been hardened and have become like the rocks or worse (2:74) and are the servant of the Devil(4:60). Unless they accept Islam they will be turned into apes and swine (2:65, 7:166; 5:60), and will burn in the fires of hell. “Lo! Those who disbelieve, among the People of the Scripture and the idolaters, will abide in fire of hell. They are the worst of created beings.” (98:6, also 4:55, 5:29 and 58:14-19).
As a general rule, the “Hadith” contains more negative references to the Jews than the Qur-an. Here are a few examples, excerpted from M.M. Khair‘s translation of the “Sahih Bukhari” quoted in Bostom’s 2008 book:
Vol.3, bk.47, no.786: “Narrated Anas bin Malik: A Jewess brought a poisoned (cooked) sheep for the Prophet who ate from it. She was brought to the Prophet and he was asked,”Shall we kill her?” He said “No”. I could see the effect of the poison on the palate of the mouth of Allah’s Apostle.” (2008, p.229)
Vol.4,bk.52,no.176: Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar: Allah’s Apostle said, “You (Muslims) will fight the Jew till some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray) them saying “O ‘Abdullah (slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.” (2008, pp. 229-230)
Vol.2,bk 23, no 414: Narrated ‘Urwa: Aisha said,”The Prophet in his fatal illness said, ‘Allah cursed the Jews and the Christians because they took the graves of their Prophets as places for praying” Aisha added, ”Had it not been for that the grave of the Prophet would have been more prominent but I am afraid it might be takes (as a) place for praying.”(2008, p.229)
Vajda (1937, 2008) classifies the material in the Hadiths that refer to Jews in three categories: those which regard Jewish customs, those which describe the behavior of the Jews towards Muslims and the Prophet, and those which describe the attitude of Moslems towards Jews. He writes “the more Muhammad advanced his career in Medina, the more his resentment of the Jews grew…since the Jews, not content with disappointing his expectations of seeing them rally unreservedly to his cause, riddled him with sarcasm (and) cast doubts on the authenticity of his prophetic mission” (1937, 2008, p. 240) The Jews are followers of the Dajjal (the Muslim Antichrist), who is Jewish. Furthermore, the Jews and Christians will be exchanged for the Muslim sinners who are burning in hell, and “the sin of certain Muslims will weigh on them like mountains, but on the day of the resurrection, these sins will be lifted and laid upon the Jews” (1937, 2008, p.246)
As Vajda and others have remarked, the Hadiths also contain passages that describe the Jews in a positive light, but the preponderance of references to Jews is negative. Maimonides alluded to a possible reason for the anti Jewish sentiment: “Since they could not find any proof whatsoever in all of the Torah, nor any verse or allusion they might latch onto, their only recourse was to say that we have changed and altered the text of the Torah and deleted that man’s name (Muhammad) from it.” (Epistle to the Jews of Yemen)
I believe that the above passages prove that Islamic attitudes toward Jews parallel those found in Christianity: while being recognized as “People of the Book”, they are also seen as being cursed by Allah, rejecting and distorting his message and possibly causing the death of his Prophet. Just like in the case of Christianity, the ambivalence regarding the existence and acceptance of Jews is a source of conflict and generates cognitive dissonance, albeit less of it.. Islam, perhaps the most important maintenance mechanism of the symbolic universe based on it, incorporates a contradiction at its core and uses antisemitism to silence cognitive dissonance and restore internal consistency
.Because the Qur-an says that the Jews are cursed with “humiliation and wretchedness”, they have to pay ”jizya” or poll tax, and like al non-Muslims have the inferior status of “dhimmi”. Goitein (1970) wrote that “Christians and Jews were not citizens of the state, not even second hand citizens. They were outsiders under the protection of the Muslim state, a status characterized by the term dhimma, for which protection they had to pay a poll tax specific to them. They were also exposed to a great number of discriminatory and humiliating laws.”
Maoz (1975) describes the life conditions under Ottoman rule: “They were inferior subjects in the Muslim-Ottoman state which was based on the principle of Muslim superiority.. Their testimony was not accepted in the courts of justice, and in the case of the murder of a Jew or Christian by a Muslim, the latter was not usually condemned to death. In addition… they were forbidden to carry arms…to ride horses in towns or to wear Muslim dress. They were… often subjected to oppression, extortion and violence both by local authorities and by the Muslim population. The Jews in Ottoman Palestine and Syria lived under such ambivalent and precarious conditions for a number of centuries” (quoted in Bostom, 2008 ,p.87).
Below you can see a painting by A. Dehodenq: The Execution of a Moroccan Jewess, Sol Hachuel, for apostasy in 1834. Her death was narrated by Eugenio Maria Romero in 1837, indicating that even in the middle of the eighteens century Jews in Moslem lands were put to death for apostasy.
Bat Ye’or (1985) characterized the dhimma status as having “the general character of a system of oppression, sanctioned by contempt and justified by the principle of inequity between Muslims and dhimmis.. Singled out as objects of hatred and contempt by visible signs of discrimination, they were progressively decimated during periods of massacres, forced conversions and banishments.” ( quoted in Bostom, p.171)
The historical record of Jewish life under Islamic rule is also replete with violent incidents, although it can be argued, fewer and less violent than those that took place under Christian rule.: Caliph Haroun al Rashid orders all Jews to wear a yellow belt, and Christians a blue one ( 807); Caliph Al-Hakim bi Amr Allah orders Jews to wear a heavy wooden golden calf, and the Christians a heavy wooden cross around their necks, and both to wear distinctive black hats (1008-1013); there are forced conversions (1016 Kairouan, Tunisia, 1107 Morocco, 1148-1212 during the Almohad rule in Andalusia, 1165 and 1198 Yemen, 1323 Marrakesh, 1678 Yemen) mass expulsions (1066 Granada, 1107 Morocco, “Surgun” (forced exile) of whole Jewish communities under Ottoman rule, 1934 Afghanistan), massacres (1032 Fez, 1066 Granada, 1090 Granada,1790-1792 Morocco, 1805 Algeria, 1840 Damascus, 1840 Rhodes, April 1920 Jerusalem pogrom, May 1 -4 1921 Jaffa riots, August 23 1929 Hebron massacre, 1941, Bagdad Farhoud pogrom) and blood libel cases ( 1545 Amasya, 1840 Damascus, 1840 Rhodes).
By and large, Islamic antisemitism appears to have been much less connected with the concept of the Jews as a different race. The ideas of racist antisemitism seem to have been a Western European import, which had arrived with colonialism, and had found a fertile soil with the advent of Zionism. On the other hand, the separation between religion and policy, between church and state which characterizes modern Western European states does not exist and does not make sense in Islam. Furthermore, I think that the separation of church and state is the legal expression of a moral principle that permeates Western democratic societies and value systems: pro-social acts in the name of religion are seen as acceptable, but antisocial acts are not. We admire Mother Theresa but loathe the 9/11 hijackers. This perspective is missing in Islam, since the mentality of jihad can be used to make violent actions in the name of religion morally acceptable. That is why in Islamic culture the transition from religious antisemitism to ideological antisemitism was a natural one. This new, more radical trend was represented by Sheikhs Izz al-Din al-Quassam and Hajj Amin el-Husseini. “Both these leaders relied upon the ideology of jihad, with its virulent anti-infidel (i.e. anti-Jewish, anti-Christian and anti-Western) incitement, to garner popular support.” ( Bostom, 2008, p. 92) Al-Quassam encouraged the use of violence against Jews and founded “The Black Hand” secret society whose goal was to target Jews for terror and murder. Al- Husseini became the mufti of Jerusalem and was an ardent Nazi sympathizer. He urged the killing of all Jews, not only Zionists, and incited the 1941 Farhoud pogrom in Baghdad. After an unsuccessful coup attempt, he sought refuge in Germany and recruited Bosnian Muslims for the SS. “The mufti’s objectives for these recruits –and Muslims in general- were made explicit during his wartime radio broadcasts from Berlin, heard throughout the Arab world: an international campaign of genocide against the Jews For example, during his March 1 1944 , broadcast he stated ”Kill the Jews wherever you find them This pleases God, history and religion.” (Schechtman, 1993, quoted in Bostom, 2008, p. 95) According to Wanner (1986) the mufti garnered the support of Himmler and Eichmann and engaged in an active letter writing campaign, urging the governments of Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania to cancel exit visas granted to Jews, resulting in the revocation of 80.000 visas by Romania and 400.000 visas by Hungary. Consequently most of the Hungarian Jews were exterminated. Hitler considered the mufti the representative of the Arab liberation movement which he saw as a”natural ally.” Hirszowicz (!966), states that the mufti also “emphasized that the Germans and Arabs had common enemies: bolshevism, Britain and the Jews. Hitler assured the mufti that Germany’s uncompromising war against the Jews included active opposition to the Jewish national home in Palestine and that her objective was the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab countries.” (1966,p.218)
Karl Jung commented on the convergence between fascism and Islam” We do not know whether Hitler is going to found a new Islam. He is already on his way; he is like Muhammad. The emotion in Germany is Islamic. They are all drunk with (their) wild god. That can be the historic future.” (1939, vol. 18, p.281) Speer (1970) wrote in his memoirs that Hitler talked wistfully about the more vigorous Islam which he considered more suitable for the Germans than the “flabby and meek” Christianity.
The racial hatred and imagery of Nazi ideological antisemitism have been adopted wholesale by modern Islamic antisemitism, as can be seen in antisemitic imagery present in the TV shows, in literature, in the cartoons published in the Arabic press, in the frequent invocation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a historical document, in the use of blood libel, and the diatribes directed against Jews in general, as opposed to Israelis or Zionists.
Similarity of themes in Nazi and Arabic cartoons: The Jew and Ariel Sharon as ogres
Blood Libel theme in Nazi and Arabic cartoons
At the same time, a genocidal mentality seems to be emerging and to gain acceptance. For example, Hassan Nasrallah , secretary general of the Hezbollah is quoted in FrontPagemagazine.com on December 1, 2006 as saying “If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable and week in psyche, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli..If they (the Jews) all gather in Israel it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” (2006, quoted in Bostom,2008,p.145)
Egyptian cleric Muhammad Hussein Yacoub, stated on Al-Rahma TV on January 17, 2009, (al translations are from MEMRI):"We must believe that our fighting with the Jews is eternal, and it will not end until the final battle...You must believe that we will fight, defeat, and annihilate them, until not a single Jew remains on the face of the Earth.”.
On a the same station, on January 17, 2009, Egyptian cleric Sheik Said Al-'Afani stated:”[The Jews] are the accursed people, who incurred the wrath of Allah. They are the offspring of snakes and vipers, the slayers of our Prophet Muhammad, whose death was a consequence of his being poisoned by a Jewish woman... We should know that the Jews are the slayers of the prophets…the Jews are behind all the ruin and destruction in the world…The Jews were behind World War I and World War II. When the American commander said that Japan had agreed to the terms of surrender, Rothschild the American – or rather, Roosevelt the American – was told by the Jewish loan sharks to drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Jews were behind the English Revolution. The Jews were behind the French Revolution. The Jews were behind the U.S. Civil War in 1869-1866 [sic]. The Jews were behind the French coup of 1815. The Jews were behind the war between France and Prussia. The Jews were behind the rise of Communism. Karl Marx was a Jew. The Jews instigated war by means of sex. The Jewish Mathilde inspired Johnson to carry out the 1967 war.”
Palestinian preacher Ibrahim Mahdi declared in a sermon: "Oh beloved of Allah... One of the Jews' evil deeds is what has come to be called 'the Holocaust,' that is, the slaughter of the Jews by Nazism. However, revisionists [historians] have proven that this crime, carried out against some of the Jews, was planned by the Jews' leaders, and was part of their policy.”
Bostom (2008) quotes Husayn Fadlallah, senior clerical authority for Hezbollah who “repeatedly refers to anti-Jewish archetypes in the Qur-an, hadith and sira: the corrupt, treacherous and aggressive nature of the Jews, their reputation as killers of prophets, who spread corruption on earth; and the notion that the Jews engaged in a conspiratorial effort against the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Fadlallah argues that ultimately” either we destroy Israel or Israel destroys us”’(2008, pp.144-145
Finally, Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais , the leading imam of the Grand mosque of Mecca, stated in a April 19 2002 sermon:” Read history and you will understand that the Jews of yesterday are the evil fathers of the Jews of today, who are evil offspring, infidels, distorters of [others'] words, calf-worshippers, prophet-murderers, prophecy-deniers... the scum of the human race whom Allah cursed and turned into apes and pigs.”
I believe that these examples, which were necessarily limited because of consideration of space (for a much more comprehensive approach, the reader is directed again to Bostom’s book), constitute sufficient proof that the eliminationist mindset is an integral part of modern Islamic antisemitism. Furthermore, far from being an isolated modern phenomenon, this mindset appears to be the logical outgrowth of religious and historical prejudice, and the present day propagandists takes pains to make references to history and to the Qur-an and the Hadith. The anti-Jewish prejudice demonstrated by these quotes has precisely the hallucinatory, delusional quality Goldhagen identified in the antisemitism of Nazi Germany, and the advances of the Taliban in Pakistan and the strides that Iran makes toward acquiring nuclear capability bring the means to carry out genocide within the reach of extremists. Noting that two of Iran’s presidents have spoken openly about destroying Israel, Goldhagen warns that “it would be folly for the world to treat the Iranian leaders’ words as anything but an articulation of their intent.”(2005)
Just as the executioners who carried out the Holocaust needed the tacit approval of the majority of the Germans to carry it out, the present day genocidal regimes need at least passive acquiescence from the rest of the world. The Pew Global Attitudes Project Report from September 2008, indicates that the “unfavorable view of Jews (and Muslims) is increasing in Europe. From 2004 to 2008, the percentage of the population holding an unfavorable opinion of the Jews went from 21% to 46% in Spain, from 27% to 36% in Poland, form 25% to 34 % in Russia, from 20% to 25 % in Germany, from 11% to 20 % in France, while it remained steady in Britain ( 9%to 9%) and in the US (8% to 7%). In the US 77% have a favorable view of the Jews; in Europe that percentage ranges from a high of 73% in Britain to a low of 37% in Spain. For comparison in the Muslim countries, in Indonesia 10% have a favorable opinion of the Jews, in Turkey 7%, in Pakistan 4%, in Egypt and Jordan 3% and in Lebanon 2%..
The reaction of the Western world to acts of religious intolerance, such as the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie by the Ayatollah Khomeini for “The Satanic Verses” and the subsequent attacks against the publishers and translators of his book, the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan, the murder of Theo van Gogh, the threats against Ayan Hirsi Ali were muted to say the least.. The protests against the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten which on September 30, 2005 published cartoons deemed offensive to the prophet Muhammad, are a case in point. Disproportionate and staged reactions of intolerance and incited violence made 100 victims worldwide and were followed by hand wringing, intimidation and self censorship. Major US, Canadian and British publications refused to publish the cartoons, citing the desire not to offend, and the potential for violence. More recently, in August 2009, Yale University Press decided to delete the reproductions of the cartoons from the book “The Cartoons that Shook the World,” by professor Jytte Klausen. At the same time, antisemitism is more and more acceptable, masquerading under the guise of anti-Israeli criticism. As Nathan Sharansky put it “Israel has become the world’s Jew.” Here are a few representative examples, illustrating how wide spread the acceptance of equating Israel with the Nazis has become, and the extent to which such imagery incorporates antisemitic stereotypes:
Antisemitic cartoons Above: China and Brasil. Below: Russia and the US
On May 23, 2001, the Spanish newspaper El Pais published a cartoon of Clio, the muse of history affixing Hitler’s moustache on Ariel Sharon. The daily La Vanguardia published a cartoon showing a building labeled “Museum of the Jewish Holocaust” near a building under construction labeled “Future Museum of the Palestinian Holocaust” . In Greece, in April 2002, the daily Eleftherotypia depicted an Israeli soldier as a Nazi officer and a Palestinian civilian as a Jewish concentration camp prisoner, under the title “Holocaust 2” In April 2002, the Italian daily La Stampa published a cartoon of an Israeli tank, identified by the star of David, pointing its cannon at the baby Jesus who says: "Surely they don't want to kill me again, do they?" In Corriere Della Sera, another cartoon depicted Ariel Sharon holding a rifle and sitting on Jesus’ tomb, who is unable to rise.
As Tom Gross (2005) states, it is striking how openly the Western press, so careful not to give any offense to the Arabs when covering the events of Darfour for example, is displaying a blatant anti-Israeli bias which can only be explained by antisemitism. ”The libels and distortions about Israel in some British media are by now fairly well known: the Guardian's equation of Israel and al Qaeda; the Evening Standard's equation of Israel and the Taliban; the report by the BBC's Middle East correspondent … on how "the Israelis stole Christmas.” Gross notes that French courts have ruled that the writers and publishers of the newspaper “Le Monde” are guilty of “racist defamation” against Jews and Israel for the opinion piece “Israel-Palestine : The Cancer.” Violence against the Jews is constantly downplayed or excused, while at the same time, as Gross (2001) writes “The systematic building up of a false picture of Israel as aggressor, and deliberate killer of babies and children, is helping to slowly chip away at Israel’s legitimacy”
These examples are meant to illustrate that the genocidal mentality that exists in certain Islamic nations today is accompanied by a widespread acceptance of antisemitism and a de-legitimizing of Israel. Far more that the statistics suggest, at the time when a nuclear weapon may soon be in the hands of suicidal/homicidal fanatics, the image of the Jew as the focus of evil in the world is gaining acceptance, and the idea that an “Israeli Problem” exists that requires a “Solution” is making headway. At the same time, legitimate self defense on Israel’s part is invariably described as aggression or disproportionate. This dynamic is eerily reminiscent of the one that existed in Nazi Germany. The structure that permitted the emergence of evil at a national scale is reproduced at a global scale. There are groups committed to the destruction of the Jews, ready to carry out genocide, that complain constantly of Israeli aggression against them. The countless one-sided UN resolutions are the global counterpart of the Nazi anti-Jewish legislation, aiming to make Israel a pariah nation. The conventional thinking was that the Holocaust is a historic singularity, a horror of such dimensions that, as Elie Wiesel suggested, we may lack adequate words to discuss it, but today there are groups- and nations- which approve of it and consider it a model for action, and which also believe that the world tacitly supports them. We ignore them at our own risk.
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