Op-Ed: All Hatreds are Evil, But One is More Evil than Others
Lost in all the scaremongering is the vile anti-Semitism emanating from the very Arab and Muslim communities that claim to be victims of discrimination.
The alarming incidence of violence against Jews in Europe, of hate-speech on college campuses across North America, and of “death to Israel” chants from around the Islamic world shows that anti-Semitism is flourishing in the twenty-first century. Often called the “Oldest Hatred,” anti-Semitism is perhaps the only prejudice that is acceptable in polite company.
It is enabled by a United Nations that heaps scorn on Israel for imagined offenses while ignoring real human rights abuses that occur throughout the Arab world, including the slaughter of non-Muslims in Africa, the persecution of Copts in Egypt, and the waging of jihad against Christians in the Mideast. It is also fostered by progressives who belittle Israel’s right to exist, politicians who seek rapprochement with Islamist regimes, and journalists who employ historical revisionism to blame victims instead of perpetrators.
Ironically, those who facilitate anti-Semitism are often the most vocal in condemning all other hatreds generically and equally. They purport to decry all forms of bigotry, but refuse to acknowledge the pervasiveness of Jew-hatred across the globe and in progressive political society. Movements that validate the Palestinian national myth and delegitimize Israel, including the Israel Apartheid Week (“IAW”) and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (“BDS”) movements, are rooted in classical anti-Semitism and are known for promoting invidious conspiracy theories and stereotypes reminiscent of Der Stürmer.
Even mainstream liberals tend to downplay claims of political anti-Semitism as alarmist and chauvinistic. This is often done subtly; for example, by drawing shallow comparisons to Islamophobia and portraying Muslims as a persecuted minority, despite their superior numbers worldwide. The fallacy of such analogies is underscored by statistical evidence showing that anti-Semitism in America is far more prevalent than discrimination against Muslims, and that the supposed rise in Islamophobia claimed by the Council on American Islamic Relations (“CAIR”) is more urban myth than reality.
Lost in all the scaremongering is the vile anti-Semitism emanating from the very Arab and Muslim communities that claim to be victims of discrimination.
The term “anti-Semitism” refers to hatred of Jews for religious, ethnic, racial, cultural and economic reasons. Whereas “Islamophobia” is often analogized to anti-Semitism, Muslims are not a world minority and have never been targeted for oppression or genocide as the Jews have been. The comparison is absurd, as Muslims comprise a global religious community of a billion or more that is defined by neither race nor ethnicity. In contrast, Jewish identity has ethnic and national as well as religious components, such that Jews have been persecuted not simply for their faith, but for their heritage and descent. Even baptized Jews were killed by the Nazis, who deported people to concentration camps based on their ancestry, not their beliefs.
In terms of prevalence and ferocity, Islamophobia is simply not equivalent to the persistent hatred of Jews that has transcended continents, cultures and generations. Despite attempts by moral relativists to portray all prejudices as equal, history teaches that some hatreds are indeed more malignant than others. Anti-Semitism is the most pernicious and enduring of all bigotries and has been a societal constant since antiquity.
In the ancient world, Jews often aroused Gentile suspicion by their attachment to religious and moral principles that conflicted with normative pagan values. Perhaps even more than Jewish belief, however, the Greeks and Romans objected to the Jews’ resistance to assimilation. Often, Gentile cultural antipathy erupted into deadly riots, such as those in Alexandria during the third century B.C.E. and first century C.E., when thousands of Jews were murdered and their synagogues burned.
The Jewish revolt against Rome was essentially a reaction against efforts to force assimilation and curtail Jewish sovereignty in Judea. The policies of Caligula and succeeding emperors culminated in the Hadrianic persecutions, during which the teaching and practice of Judaism were outlawed and Rabbi Akiva and his rabbinic colleagues were martyred. The condition of Roman Jewry fluctuated with Rome’s shifting fortunes in its war with Judea and stabilized only after the rebellion was quashed and Jerusalem was sacked. However, the ensuing era of relative stability ended when Christianity became the official religion of the empire.
The status of the Jews deteriorated during the reign of Constantine (306-336), who enacted laws limiting their economic and civil rights and restricting them from interacting with Christians, holding positions of authority, testifying in court and building synagogues. Persecution continued under his successors, whose anti-Jewish laws were incorporated into the Latin Codex Theodosianius and Latin and Greek Code of Justinian. Sanctioned violence against Jews became commonplace, as when Christians rioted in 387, 388 and 493-526, killing thousands and destroying whole communities.
The Catholic Church persecuted Jews in Europe by confining them in ghettos, abusing and torturing them, and enacting the repressive regulations of the Fourth Lateran Council, which the Nazis later emulated in drafting the Nuremburg laws. The Protestant and Orthodox Churches also treated the Jews poorly. The Reformation brought little relief as Martin Luther proved just as malevolent as the Roman Church he was rejecting. In his “Von den Juden und Ihren Lügen (On the Jews and Their Lies),” published in 1543, Luther excoriated the Jews, describing them as a “base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, … [whose] boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth,” and lamenting that “[w]e are at fault in not slaying them.”
Institutional harassment was the norm from the early Christian period through the Crusades and Pogroms. Though the Crusaders were known for their brutality, their conduct was by no means unique. During the Ukrainian uprising from 1648 to 1657, for example, Bogdan Chmelnitsky and his Cossack hordes murdered perhaps half of the Ukraine’s Jewish population; and pogroms remained a fact of life throughout Eastern Europe well into the 1900s.
The Holocaust was not the first attempt to annihilate the Jews of Europe; and it perhaps might not have occurred without the groundwork laid by generations of Christian oppression.
Despite the myth of Muslim tolerance, Jews were not treated so differently under Islam. As dhimmis, Jews were required to pay the jizya (poll tax) as a symbol of their subjugation. Jews and Christians were excluded from public office and forbidden from, among other things, bearing arms, riding horses or camels, rebuilding synagogues and churches, praying publicly and testifying or defending themselves in court.
Jews under Islam were neither equal nor secure, and Muslim “tolerance” demanded complete subordination. Whereas apologists often claim that anti-Jewish violence was rare in Islamic society, it was actually quite common and a natural consequence of jihad. Thousands of Jews were slaughtered in Muslim North Africa from the eighth through twelfth centuries.
In Morocco in the late 700s, for example, Idris I massacred entire communities after concluding sham treaties with them, setting a precedent for repeated pogroms over the succeeding centuries. Muslim rioters destroyed the Jewish quarter of Granada in 1066, slaughtering its residents and crucifying its leader, Yosef Ha-Nagid, after clerics accused the Jews of usurping political power; and Arab mobs killed thousands in Fez in 1465 after Muslim preachers accused Jews of offending the honor of Muslim women.
Similar massacres occurred throughout the Islamic world with a barbarity rivaling that of the Crusaders. Ali Burzi Pasha massacred Jews in Libya in 1785, and Jews were murdered indiscriminately in Algiers in a skein of riots from 1805 to 1830. Moreover, in accordance with a series of edicts from Muslim authorities, synagogues were destroyed in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen multiple times between 854 and 1676, and entire Jewish communities were converted under duress. Although Islam supposedly prohibits forced conversions, they were common from the days of Muhammad onward, with notable incidents occurring in Yemen, Morocco, Baghdad, and Iran from the twelfth through nineteenth centuries.
The Muslim concept of “tolerance” requires subjugated peoples to acknowledge their subservience until they accept Islam. All “infidels” are degraded, but Jews are singled out for particularly extreme treatment in accordance with teachings of the Quran and Hadith, including the following passages:
Ignominy shall be their portion [the Jews'] wheresoever they are found... They have incurred anger from their Lord, and wretchedness is laid upon them... because they disbelieve the revelations of Allah and slew the Prophets wrongfully... because they were rebellious and used to transgress. (Surah 111, v. 112.)
And thou wilt find them [the Jews] the greediest of mankind....[Surah 11, v. 96]
Evil is that for which they sell their souls... For disbelievers is a terrible doom. (Surah II, v. 90.)
[The Jews] knowingly perverted [the word of Allah], know of nothing except lies ... commit evil and become engrossed in sin. (Surah II, v. 71-85.)
The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews , when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Muslim).Sahih Muslim, 41:6985, see also Sahih Muslim, 41:6981, Sahih Muslim, 41:6982, Sahih Muslim, 41:6983, Sahih Muslim, 41:6984, Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:56:791(Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:52:177.)
Muslim apologists assert that Islam is devoid of intrinsic anti-Semitism, which they claim was imported from Europe in response to supposed Israeli provocations. However, verses from Muslim scripture suggest that Jew-hatred is religiously mandated and as old as Islam itself. Anti-Semitism is so ingrained in Islamic culture that it would seem impossible to purge without a reformation.
With the rise of liberalism and modern political states in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Jews in Europe hoped they would be embraced in universal fellowship. But the secular left had reactionary views of religion and nationalism, which were seen as impeding society’s political evolution. Accordingly, Jews were despised for their faith as well as their national character. The anti-Semitism of Europe’s great liberal thinkers, including Voltaire, Diderot, Holbach, Proudhon, and Fourier, was perfectly consistent with the left’s mistrust of religion and nationalism and its inability to tolerate divergent viewpoints.
Though many Jews identified as liberal because they believed the progressive movements were more tolerant than theocratic autocracies and despotic monarchies, the ghettos were actually abolished by Napoleon. When Jews finally began to mingle in general society, they could not truly fit in without suppressing their parochial allegiances. Jews who clung to their heritage were derided by those who yearned for a secular, post-nationalist world order. Contrary to progressive myth, anti-Semitism was always part of the leftist canon.
The flames of anti-Semitism today are fanned by political Islam and a progressivism that rejects traditional values, denigrates Israel, and finds common cause with Islamist interests. It is further enabled by a liberal mainstream that is disproportionately critical of Israel and pathologically deferential to Muslim sensibilities. This is illustrated by liberal support for the United Nations, which criticizes Israel more than any other member nation, but refuses to condemn Islamic terrorism or even acknowledge its existence. Atrocities such as those in Darfur go unpunished because they are perpetrated by Muslims against non-Muslims.
This dynamic plays out in colleges and universities that claim zero tolerance for hate-speech, but which nonetheless sponsor IAW events that promote classical anti-Semitism. Keynote speakers at such programs falsely accuse Israel of apartheid and spread repugnant conspiracy theories, and institutions sponsoring these events typically refuse to grant equal time for opposing viewpoints.
These programs create a toxic atmosphere in which Jewish students are often targeted for abuse. Disturbing attacks have been reported at Michigan State University, the University of California Berkley, and the University of Toronto, among other institutions, while administrators often jump to deny the anti-Semitic motivations of the perpetrators. At some schools, Jewish students are regarded as provocateurs for challenging revisionist propaganda or simply wearing kippot.
The problem also occurs in lower schools, where Islam is often taught from materials provided by Islamist front organizations. In a report entitled, “Education or Indoctrination? The Treatment of Islam in 6th through 12th Grade American Textbooks,” the organization “ACT for American Education” analyzed numerous textbooks for evidence of Islamic doctrine and revisionist history. According to ATC, this study “reveals a pattern of historical revisionism, omissions and bias in the presentation of all aspects devoted to Islam in these textbooks. These aspects include its theology and doctrines, its role as a world religion, its ongoing struggle with Western tradition and its intrinsic anti-Semitism.
Educators who use such materials often teach distorted history and blame Europeans for any friction with Islamic society. They often teach, for example, that the Crusaders invaded the Mideast without justification, but fail to mention that Muslims invaded Europe nearly 300 years before the first Crusade. Although the Crusaders were murderers, rapists and thieves when it came to Jews, their war against the Muslims was a response to the jihad that had been unleashed on Europe centuries earlier.
Unfortunately, public schools serve as bully pulpits for progressive indoctrination, and teachers guided by political correctness often distort history through the lens of moral relativism. They offer saccharine platitudes and claim to denounce all hatreds equally, even as they subtly imply that some prejudices are justified. Anti-Israel bias, for instance, is often presented as political expression – even though it is fundamentally anti-Semitic. Those who ignore the historical record and question Israel’s right to exist are essentially implying that, of all the peoples on earth, only the Jews have no right to sovereignty in their homeland. This is anti-Semitism at its most basic level.
In today’s multicultural environment, prejudices of all kinds are lumped together and deemed analogous, although only the Jews have been demonized, ghettoized, brutalized and exterminated on every continent and in every generation. As harmful as all forms of discrimination may be, there was never a “Final Solution” to the Hispanic question, women were never rounded up and deported to concentration camps, homosexuals were never the focus of Christian or Muslim eschatology, and slavery was not genocide.
Yes, there have been other ethnic slaughters, including those in Rwanda and the Balkans. The massacres of Hutus and Tutsis, however, followed generations of intertribal warfare during which each killed the other. Similarly, the Serbian massacre of Croats during the Balkan war was part of an ongoing conflict in which Croats had slaughtered Serbs (and Jews) during World War II. None of these conflicts compares in magnitude or scope to the historical persecution of the Jews.
No other group has suffered the same degree of torment over the millennia, and statistical evidence indicates that anti-Semitism is growing. A recent survey publicized by the ADL, for example, showed that while prejudice against most minorities in America has declined, hatred of Jews has increased. Despite liberal assertions to the contrary, it seems that hatred of Jews really does stand apart.
The danger of anti-Semitism stems from its acceptance by seemingly rational people for a variety of cultural, religious and political reasons. Its acceptability in civilized society is what makes violent manifestations as inevitable as the rising and setting of the sun. Though progressives discourage any speech they consider offensive to special interests they support, they ironically promote the “Oldest Hatred” by championing causes that seek to eradicate Israel and the Jews.
The ethical paradox is glaring. But then again, moral inconsistency never seems to bother the politically self-righteous.