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Banned Islamicist Expert’s Lecture on ‘Hitler’s Legacy: Islamic Antisemitism in the Middle East’

Ger­man aca­d­e­m­ic, Dr. Matthias Kuentzel’s, lec­ture, giv­en to an audi­ence of well over one hun­dred peo­ple tonight at Leeds Uni­ver­si­ty. Accord­ing to the organ­is­ers it met with a great deal of acclaim and evoked con­cern about the espousal by much of the British Left of Islam­ic fas­cist ten­den­cies — the lega­cy of Hitler and Nazism — sure­ly a con­tra­dic­tion in terms?

by Matthias Küntzel

Post­ed on Irene Lan­cast­er’s Diary

Today I will be lay­ing spe­cial empha­sis on the anti­semitism of the ances­tor of all forms of Islamism, the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. Why? Because it seems to me that this orga­ni­za­tion has a par­tic­u­lar­ly strong pres­ence in Britain. Because – as far as I can tell — only in Britain has it suc­ceed­ed in forg­ing an alliance with cer­tain sec­tions of the left – the Social­ist Work­ers Par­ty and Ken Liv­ing­stone spring to mind here. This alliance might also part­ly explain why one hears pro­pos­als being voiced in Britain that leave us in Ger­many, mind­ful of what hap­pened in 1933, sim­ply stunned. I am refer­ring here to pro­pos­als for a boy­cott of Israel and I appre­ci­ate the British government’s response to the “Report of the All-Par­ty Par­lia­men­tary Inquiry into Anti­semitism” which states that “such selec­tive boy­cotts … are anti-Jew­ish in prac­tice” and are “an assult on aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom and intel­lec­tu­al exchange.”

Islam­ic anti­semitism does not of course only affect Britain. In some cir­cles in Ger­many too anti­semitism has increas­ing­ly become a part of Mus­lim iden­ti­ty. We hear “Jew” being used as a term of abuse, we wit­ness the adu­la­tion of rap­pers who call for attacks on Jews, and we hear the term “Nazi” used as a com­pli­ment.

In Berlin a Mus­lim school­boy called for “all the Jews to be gassed”. A gang of school stu­dents trapped one of their fel­low pupils in a chem­istry lab, telling him “now we will turn on the gas taps”, while dur­ing a vis­it to the Muse­um of Ger­man His­to­ry a group of Mus­lim stu­dents gath­ered round a repli­ca of an Auschwitz gas cham­ber and applaud­ed. You see, they did not view the Holo­caust as a warn­ing, nor were they deny­ing that it hap­pened; it was being tak­en as an inspi­ra­tion, as proof that it is pos­si­ble, that mil­lions of Jews can be killed. But are things any bet­ter in Britain?

“In Hamp­stead Gar­den Sub­urb, swastikas and the words ‘Kill all Jews’ and ‘Allah’ were daubed on the house and car of Justin Steb­bing” reports the Times. “Dr Steb­bing, who works at a hos­pi­tal, said: ‘I felt vio­lat­ed. It’s hor­ri­ble.’” Swasti­ka, “kill all Jews” and “Allah” – the very top­ic of my talk today.

Accord­ing to jour­nal­ist Richard Lit­tle­john, “I met a Jack the Rip­per tour guide in East Lon­don who was beat­en up by a group of Mus­lim youths, who took one look at his peri­od cos­tume – long black coat and black hat – and assumed he was an Ortho­dox Jew and there­fore deserv­ing of a kick­ing. They didn’t want a ‘dirty Jew’ in ‘their’ neigh­bour­hood”.

Final­ly an opin­ion poll of 2006 – accord­ing to the Times — “revealed that a hor­ri­fy­ing 37 per cent of Mus­lims polled believed that the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty in Britain was a legit­i­mate tar­get; …and no few­er than 46 % thought the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty was in league with Freema­sons to con­trol the media and pol­i­tics.’”

This is not mere­ly the ‘nor­mal’ anti-Semi­tism of racial prej­u­dice or reli­gious and social dis­crim­i­na­tion. This is also not the kind of hos­til­i­ty to Jews found in the Koran. We are deal­ing here with a hard­core anti­semitism which dehu­man­is­es and demonis­es Jews and which has a great deal in com­mon with Nazi ide­ol­o­gy. In Islamism this hatred of Jews is giv­en a fur­ther rad­i­cal edge by its asso­ci­a­tion with the idea of reli­gious war – with a glob­al reli­gious mis­sion, a belief in Par­adise and the rewards of mar­tyr­dom. This makes it at the same time sui­ci­dal and geno­ci­dal.

Let’s take the exam­ple of Mohammed Sidique Khan, the ring­leader of the Lon­don tube bomb­ings, who lived in Leeds and had worked as a youth work­er in Bee­ston. What drove him to blow him­self up amidst inno­cent peo­ple?

The tes­ta­men­tary video of Sidique Khan is very clear. It shows no sign of des­per­a­tion but a soldier’s deter­mi­na­tion. Let me quote Sidique Khan: “Our dri­ving moti­va­tion doesn’t come from tan­gi­ble com­modi­ties that this world has to offer… We are at war, and I am an sol­dier.”

The tes­ta­men­tary video of She­hzad Ten­weer, anoth­er 7/7 per­pe­tra­tor who lived in Leeds and stud­ied at Leeds Met­ro­pol­i­tan Uni­ver­si­ty, is very clear as well. Let me quote him: “We are 100 % com­mit­ted to the cause of Islam. We love death the way you love life.”

This cul­ture of death which extin­guish­es the instinct that nor­mal­ly unites all human beings – the sur­vival instinct – is some­thing beyond imag­i­na­tion. It is some­thing George Orwell was not able to write about. The shock­ing mal­ice of such mes­sages leads peo­ple who wish to keep a firm hold on nor­mal pat­terns of rea­son to sup­press them or block them out. “We instinc­tive­ly look away, as we do when­ev­er we are con­front­ed with mon­strous defor­mi­ty,” writes David Gel­ern­ter. “Noth­ing is hard­er or more fright­en­ing to look at than a fel­low human who is bent out of shape.” But while this may to some extent excuse the atti­tude of the ordi­nary cit­i­zen, it can­not jus­ti­fy the way the media, the acad­e­mia and the politi­cians have been behav­ing. Our task is to do the oppo­site. We must not look away, but instead look inside the fan­ta­sy world of the per­pe­tra­tors and seek to grasp the imma­nent log­ic behind their actions. If one wants to com­bat and repel the Islamist ide­ol­o­gy, one must first take it seri­ous­ly as a spe­cif­ic out­look with its own prin­ci­ples and his­to­ry.

And indeed, con­tem­po­rary Islamism can only be explained in the con­text of its 80-year old his­to­ry.

This is shown by the exam­ple of She­hzad Ten­weer. With his “We love death the way you love life” he was plac­ing him­self in the direct tra­di­tion of Has­san al-Ban­na, who found­ed the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in 1928. Ten years lat­er, in 1938, Has­san al-Ban­na pub­lished his con­cept of jihad in an arti­cle enti­tled “The Indus­try of Death” which was to become famous. Here, the term “Indus­try of Death” denotes not some­thing hor­ri­ble but an ide­al. Al-Ban­na wrote: “Only to a nation that per­fects the indus­try of death and which knows how to die nobly, God gives proud life in this world and eter­nal grace in the life to come.” This slo­gan was enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly tak­en up by the “Troops of God,” as the Mus­lim Broth­ers called them­selves. As their bat­tal­ions marched down Cairo’s boule­vards in semi-fas­cist for­ma­tion they would burst into song: “We are not afraid of death, we desire it. . . . Let us die to redeem the Mus­lims!”

The approach I intend to take today is a his­tor­i­cal one. My talk cen­tres on three excur­sions into his­to­ry. The first takes us in greater detail back to the roots of Islamism in the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.

The roots of Islamism

Despite com­mon mis­con­cep­tions, Islamism was born not dur­ing the 1960s but dur­ing the 1930s. Its rise was inspired not by the fail­ure of Nasserism but by the rise of Fas­cism and of Nazism.

It was the Orga­ni­za­tion of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, found­ed in 1928 in Egypt, that estab­lished Islamism as a mass move­ment. The sig­nif­i­cance of the Broth­er­hood to Islamism is com­pa­ra­ble to that of the Bol­she­vik par­ty to com­mu­nism: It was and remains to this day the ide­o­log­i­cal ref­er­ence point and orga­ni­za­tion­al core for all lat­er Islamist groups, includ­ing al-Qae­da and Hamas or the group around Sidique Khan.

It is true that British colo­nial pol­i­cy pro­duced Islamism, inso­far as Islamism viewed itself as a resi
stance move­ment against “cul­tur­al moder­ni­ty.” Their “lib­er­a­tion strug­gle”, how­ev­er, had more in com­mon with the “lib­er­a­tion strug­gle” of the Nazis than with any kind of pro­gres­sive move­ment.

Thus, the Broth­er­hood advo­cat­ed the replace­ment of Par­lia­men­tar­i­an­ism by an “organ­ic” state order based on the Caliphate. It demand­ed the abo­li­tion of inter­est and prof­it in favour of a forcibly imposed com­mu­ni­ty of inter­ests between cap­i­tal and labour.

At the fore­front of the Broth­er­hood’s efforts lay the strug­gle against all the sen­su­al and “mate­ri­al­is­tic” temp­ta­tions of the cap­i­tal­ist and com­mu­nist world. At the ten­der age of 13, the pubes­cent al-Ban­na had found­ed a “Soci­ety for the Pre­ven­tion of the For­bid­den” and this is in essence what the Broth­ers were and are — a com­mu­ni­ty of male zealots, whose pri­ma­ry con­cern is to pre­vent all the sen­su­al and sex­u­al sins for­bid­den accord­ing to their inter­pre­ta­tion of the Koran. Their sig­na­ture was most clear­ly appar­ent when they peri­od­i­cal­ly reduced their local night clubs, broth­els and cin­e­mas — con­stant­ly iden­ti­fied with Jew­ish influ­ence — to ash­es.

Gripped by this pho­bia, the Soci­ety of Mus­lim Broth­ers, from the day of its foun­da­tion, pro­vid­ed a haven for any man ded­i­cat­ed to the restora­tion of male suprema­cy. At the very time when the lib­er­a­tion of women from the infe­ri­or­i­ty decreed by Islam was grad­u­al­ly get­ting under way the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood set itself up as the ral­ly­ing point for the restora­tion of patri­ar­chal dom­i­na­tion.

It was on the one hand a con­ser­v­a­tive reli­gious move­ment: For al-Ban­na, only a return to ortho­dox Islam could pave the way for an end to the intol­er­a­ble con­di­tions and humil­i­a­tions of Mus­lims and new­ly estab­lish the right­eous Islam­ic order. It was at the same time a rev­o­lu­tion­ary polit­i­cal move­ment and as such in many respects a trail­blaz­er. The Broth­er­hood was the first Islam­ic orga­ni­za­tion to put down roots in the cities and to orga­nize a mass move­ment able in 1948 to muster one mil­lion peo­ple in Egypt alone. It was a pop­ulist and activist, not an elit­ist move­ment and it was the first move­ment that sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly set about build­ing a kind of “Islamist inter­na­tion­al.”

The Islamists’ answer to every­thing was the call for a new order based on sharia. But the Broth­er­hood’s jihad was not direct­ed pri­mar­i­ly against the British. Rather, it focused almost exclu­sive­ly on Zion­ism and the Jews. Mem­ber­ship in the Broth­er­hood shot up from 800 to 200,000 between 1936 and 1938. In those two years the Broth­er­hood con­duct­ed only one major cam­paign in Egypt, a cam­paign direct­ed against Zion­ism and the Jews.

The start­ing shot for this cam­paign, which estab­lished the Broth­er­hood as an anti­se­mit­ic mass move­ment, was fired by a rebel­lion in Pales­tine direct­ed against Jew­ish immi­gra­tion and ini­ti­at­ed by the noto­ri­ous Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Hus­sei­ni. The Broth­er­hood orga­nized mass demon­stra­tions in Egypt­ian cities under the slo­gans “Down With the Jews!” and “Jews Get Out of Egypt and Pales­tine!” Their Jew-hatred drew on the one hand on Islam­ic sources. First, Islamists con­sid­ered, and still con­sid­er, Pales­tine an Islam­ic ter­ri­to­ry, Dar al-Islam, where Jews must not run a sin­gle vil­lage, let alone a state. Sec­ond, Islamists jus­ti­fy their aspi­ra­tion to elim­i­nate the Jews of Pales­tine by invok­ing the exam­ple of Muham­mad, who in the 7th cen­tu­ry not only expelled two Jew­ish tribes from Med­i­na, but also behead­ed the entire male pop­u­la­tion of a third Jew­ish tribe, before pro­ceed­ing to sell all the women and chil­dren into slav­ery. Third, they find sup­port and encour­age­ment for their actions and plans in the Koran­ic dic­tum that Jews are to be con­sid­ered the worst ene­my of the believ­ers.

Their Jew-hatred was also inspired by Nazi influ­ences: Leaflets called for a boy­cott of Jew­ish goods and Jew­ish shops, and the Broth­er­hood’s news­pa­per, al-Nad­hir, car­ried a reg­u­lar col­umn on “The Dan­ger of the Jews of Egypt,” which pub­lished the names and address­es of Jew­ish busi­ness­men and alleged­ly Jew­ish news­pa­per pub­lish­ers all over the world, attribut­ing every evil, from com­mu­nism to broth­els, to the “Jew­ish dan­ger.”

The Broth­er­hood’s cam­paign used not only Nazi-like pat­terns of action and slo­gans but also Ger­man fund­ing. As the his­to­ri­an Bryn­jar Lia recounts in his mono­graph on the Broth­er­hood, “Doc­u­ments seized in the flat of Wil­helm Stell­bo­gen, the Direc­tor of the Ger­man News Agency affil­i­at­ed to the Ger­man Lega­tion in Cairo, show that pri­or to Octo­ber 1939 the Mus­lim Broth­ers received sub­si­dies from this orga­ni­za­tion. Stell­bo­gen was instru­men­tal in trans­fer­ring these funds to the Broth­ers, which were con­sid­er­ably larg­er than the sub­si­dies offered to oth­er anti-British activists. These trans­fers appear to have been coor­di­nat­ed by Hajj Amin al-Hus­sei­ni and some of his Pales­tin­ian con­tacts in Cairo.”

To sum­ma­rize our first trip into his­to­ry: We saw that the rise of Nazism and Islamism took place in the same peri­od. This was no acci­dent, for both move­ments rep­re­sent­ed attempts to answer the world eco­nom­ic cri­sis of 1929 and the cri­sis of lib­er­al cap­i­tal­ism. How­ev­er dif­fer­ent their answers may have been, they shared a cru­cial cen­tral fea­ture: in both cas­es the sense of belong­ing to a homo­ge­neous com­mu­ni­ty was cre­at­ed through mobi­liz­ing against the Jews.

Ini­tial­ly, how­ev­er, Euro­pean anti-Semi­tism had proved to be an inef­fec­tive tool in the Arab world. Why? Because the Euro­pean fan­ta­sy of the Jew­ish world con­spir­a­cy was for­eign to the orig­i­nal Islam­ic view of the Jews. Only in the leg­end of Jesus Christ did the Jews appear as a dead­ly and pow­er­ful force who alleged­ly went so far as to kill God’s only son. Islam was quite a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. Here it was not the Jews who mur­dered the Prophet, but the Prophet who in Med­i­na mur­dered the Jews. As a result, the char­ac­ter­is­tic fea­tures of Chris­t­ian anti­semitism did not devel­op in the Mus­lim world. There were no fears of Jew­ish con­spir­a­cy and dom­i­na­tion, no charges of dia­bol­ic evil. Instead, the Jews were treat­ed with con­tempt or con­de­scend­ing tol­er­ance. This cul­tur­al inher­i­tance made the idea that the Jews of all peo­ple could rep­re­sent a per­ma­nent dan­ger for the Mus­lims and might con­trol the media and pol­i­tics in league with Freema­sons seem absurd. This brings us to our sec­ond point: The trans­fer of Euro­pean anti-Semi­tism to the Mus­lim world between 1937 and 1945 under the impact of Nazi Pro­pa­gan­da. Islamism and Nation­al Social­ism

Amin al-Hus­sei­ni, the infa­mous Mufti of Jerusalem, who was close­ly con­nect­ed to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, was already seek­ing an alliance with Nazi Ger­many as ear­ly as spring 1933. At first, how­ev­er, Berlin was dis­mis­sive. On the one hand, Hitler had already stat­ed his belief in the “racial infe­ri­or­i­ty” of the Arabs in Mein Kampf while, on the oth­er, the Nazis were extreme­ly anx­ious not to jeop­ar­dise British appease­ment.

In June 1937, how­ev­er, the Nazis changed course. The trig­ger was the Peel Plan’s two-state solu­tion. Berlin want­ed at all costs to pre­vent the birth of a Jew­ish state and thus wel­comed the Mufti’s advances. Arab anti­semitism would now get a pow­er­ful new pro­mot­er.

A cen­tral role in the pro­pa­gan­da offen­sive was played by a Nazi wire­less sta­tion, now almost total­ly for­got­ten. Since the 1936 Berlin Olympics a vil­lage called Zeesen, locat­ed to the south of Berlin, had been home to what was at the time the world’s most pow­er­ful short-wave radio trans­mit­ter. Between April 1939 and April 1945, Radio Zeesen reached out to the illit­er­ate Mus­lim mass­es through dai­ly Ara­bic pro­grammes, which also went out in Per­sian and Turk­ish. At that time lis­ten­ing to the radio in the Arab world took place pri­mar­i­ly in pub­lic squares or bazaars and cof­fee hous­es. No oth­er sta­tion was more pop­u­lar than this Nazi Zeesen ser­vice, which skil­ful­ly min­gled anti­se­mit­ic pro­pa­gan­da with quo­ta­tions from the Koran and Ara­bic music. The Sec­ond World War allies were pre­sent­ed as lack­eys of the Jews and the pic­ture of the “Unit­ed Jew­ish Nations” drummed into the audi­ence. At the same time, the Jews were at
tacked as the worst ene­mies of Islam: “The Jew since the time of Muham­mad has nev­er been a friend of the Mus­lim, the Jew is the ene­my and it pleas­es Allah to kill him”.

Since 1941, Zeesen’s Ara­bic pro­gram­ming had been direct­ed by the Mufti of Jerusalem who had emi­grat­ed to Berlin. The Mufti’s aim was to “unite all the Arab lands in a com­mon hatred of the British and Jews”, as he wrote in a let­ter to Adolf Hitler. Anti­semitism, based on the notion of a Jew­ish world con­spir­a­cy, how­ev­er, was not root­ed in Islam­ic tra­di­tion but, rather, in Euro­pean ide­o­log­i­cal mod­els.

The Mufti there­fore seized on the only instru­ment that real­ly moved the Arab mass­es: Islam. He invent­ed a new form of Jew-hatred by recast­ing it in an Islam­ic mould. He was the first to trans­late Chris­t­ian anti­semitism into Islam­ic lan­guage, thus cre­at­ing an “Islam­ic anti­semitism”. His first major man­i­festo bore the title “Islam-Judaism. Appeal of the Grand Mufti to the Islam­ic World in the Year 1937”. This 31-page pam­phlet reached the entire Arab world and there are indi­ca­tions that Nazi agents helped draw it up. Let me quote at least a short pas­sage from it:

“The strug­gle between the Jews and Islam began when Muham­mad fled from Mec­ca to Med­i­na… The Jew­ish meth­ods were, even in those days, the same as now. As always, their weapon was slan­der… They said that Muham­mad was a swindler… they began to ask Muham­mad sense­less and insol­u­ble ques­tions… and they endeav­oured to destroy the Mus­lims… If the Jews could betray Muham­mad in this way, how will they betray Mus­lims today? The vers­es from the Koran and hadith prove to you that the Jews were the fiercest oppo­nents of Islam and are still try­ing to destroy it.”

What we have here is a new pop­u­lar­ized form of Jew-hatred, based on the ori­en­tal folk tale tra­di­tion, which moves con­stant­ly back and forth between the sev­enth and twen­ti­eth cen­turies. This kind of Jew-hatred is used today by the British group Hizb ut-Tahir. In 2002 this orga­ni­za­tion repro­duced a leaflet in its web­site say­ing: “The Jews are a peo­ple of slan­der …a treach­er­ous peo­ple …they fab­ri­cate lies and twist words from their right context…Kill them wher­ev­er you find them.”

Clas­si­cal Islam­ic lit­er­a­ture had as a rule treat­ed Muhammad’s clash with the Jews of Med­i­na as a minor episode in the Prophet’s life. The anti-Jew­ish pas­sages in the Koran and hadith had lain dor­mant or were con­sid­ered of lit­tle sig­nif­i­cance dur­ing pre­vi­ous cen­turies.

These ele­ments were now invest­ed with new life and vigour. Now the Mufti began to ascribe a tru­ly cos­mic sig­nif­i­cance to the alleged­ly hos­tile atti­tude of the Jew­ish tribes of Med­i­na to the Prophet. Now he picked out the occa­sion­al out­bursts of hatred found in the Koran and hadith and drummed them relent­less­ly into the minds of Mus­lims at every avail­able oppor­tu­ni­ty – includ­ing via the Ara­bic short-wave radio sta­tion in Berlin.

Radio Zeesen was a suc­cess not only in Cairo; it made an impact in Tehran as well. One of its reg­u­lar lis­ten­ers was a cer­tain Ruhol­lah Khome­i­ni. When in the win­ter of 1938 the 36-year-old Khome­i­ni returned to the Iran­ian city of Qom from Iraq he “had brought with him a radio receiv­er set made by the British com­pa­ny Pye ... The radio proved a good buy… Many mul­lahs would gath­er at his home, often on the ter­race, in the evenings to lis­ten to Radio Berlin and the BBC”, writes his biog­ra­ph­er Amir Taheri. Even the Ger­man con­sulate in Tehran was sur­prised by the suc­cess of this pro­pa­gan­da. “Through­out the coun­try spir­i­tu­al lead­ers are com­ing out and say­ing ‘that the twelfth Imam has been sent into the world by God in the form of Adolf Hitler’” we learn from a report to Berlin in Feb­ru­ary 1941.

So, “with­out any lega­tion involve­ment, an increas­ing­ly effec­tive form of pro­pa­gan­da has arisen, which sees the Führer and Ger­many as the answer to every prayer… One way to pro­mote this trend is sharply to empha­size Muhammad’s strug­gle against the Jews in the old­en days and that of the Führer today.“ While Khome­i­ni was not a fol­low­er of Hitler, those years may well have shaped his anti-Jew­ish atti­tudes which in turn would lat­er shape the atti­tudes of his most ardent fol­low­er Mah­moud Ahmadine­jad.

To sum­ma­rize: The his­tor­i­cal record gives the lie to the assump­tion that Islam­ic anti-Semi­tism was trig­gered by Zion­ist or Israeli poli­cies. In 1937 – eleven years before the found­ing of Israel! — Ger­many began to dis­sem­i­nate an Islam­ic anti­semitism that fus­es togeth­er the tra­di­tion­al Islam­ic view that the Jews are infe­ri­or with the Euro­pean notion that they are devi­ous­ly pow­er­ful. At one and the same time we find the Jews being derid­ed as “pigs” and “apes”, while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly being demonised as the pup­pet mas­ters of world pol­i­tics. This spe­cif­ic form of anti­semitism was broad­cast to the Islam­ic world by Radio Zeesen. At the same time the Egypt­ian Mus­lim Broth­er­hood was being sub­si­dized by Nazi Ger­many and its anti-Jew­ish agi­ta­tion pro­mot­ed. Radio Zeesen ceased oper­a­tion in April 1945. But why, six­ty-two years lat­er, do we find the com­bi­na­tion of the swasti­ka and the words “Kill all Jews” and “Allah” in Hamp­stead and else­where? This brings me on to my third and final point. The Sec­ond Divi­sion of the World

After May 8, 1945, Nation­al Social­ism was banned vir­tu­al­ly through­out the world. In the Arab world, how­ev­er, Nazi ide­ol­o­gy con­tin­ued to rever­ber­ate. In her report on the 1961 tri­al of Adolf Eich­mann, Han­nah Arendt dis­cussed the reac­tions to the tri­al in the Arab media:

“…news­pa­pers in Dam­as­cus and Beirut, in Cairo and Jor­dan did not hide their sym­pa­thy for Eich­mann or their regret that he ‘had not fin­ished the job’; a broad­cast from Cairo on the day the tri­al opened even inject­ed a slight­ly anti-Ger­man note into its com­ments, com­plain­ing that there was not ‘a sin­gle inci­dent in which one Ger­man plane flew over one Jew­ish set­tle­ment and dropped one bomb on it through­out the last war.’”

The heart­felt wish to see all Jews elim­i­nat­ed was also expressed in April 2001 by the colum­nist Ahmad Ragab of Egyp­t’s sec­ond largest dai­ly, the state-con­trolled Al-Akhbar: “[Give] thanks to Hitler. He took revenge on the Israelis in advance, on behalf of the Pales­tini­ans. Our one com­plaint against him was that his revenge was not com­plete enough.”

Man­i­fest­ly, fol­low­ing 8 May 1945, there occurred a twofold divi­sion of the world. The divi­sion in the polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic sys­tem is well known as the Cold War. The sec­ond split – which was obscured by the Cold War – con­cerned the accep­tance and con­tin­u­ing influ­ence of Nation­al Social­ist forms of thought.

In Novem­ber 1945, just half a year after the end of the Third Reich, the Mus­lim Broth­ers car­ried out the worst anti-Jew­ish pogroms in Egyp­t’s his­to­ry, when demon­stra­tors pen­e­trat­ed the Jew­ish quar­ters of Cairo on the anniver­sary of the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion. They ran­sacked hous­es and shops, attacked non-Mus­lims, and torched the syn­a­gogues. Six peo­ple were killed, and some hun­dred more injured. A few weeks lat­er the Islamists’ news­pa­pers “turned to a frontal attack against the Egypt­ian Jews, slan­der­ing them as Zion­ists, Com­mu­nists, cap­i­tal­ists and blood­suck­ers, as pimps and mer­chants of war, or in gen­er­al, as sub­ver­sive ele­ments with­in all states and soci­eties,” as Gudrun Krämer wrote in her study The Jews in Egypt 1914–1952.

In 1946, the Broth­er­hood made sure that Amin al-Hus­sei­ni, the for­mer grand mufti was grant­ed asy­lum and a new lease on polit­i­cal life in Egypt. At that time, al-Hus­sei­ni was being sought on war crime charges by, among oth­ers, Britain and the Unit­ed States. Between 1941 to 1945, he had direct­ed Mus­lim SS divi­sions in the Balka­ns and had been per­son­al­ly respon­si­ble for the fact that thou­sands of Jew­ish chil­dren, who might oth­er­wise have been saved, got killed in the gas cham­bers. All this was known in 1946. Nonethe­less, Britain and the Unit­ed States chose to for­go crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion of al-Hus­sei­ni in order to avoid spoilin
g their rela­tions with the Arab world. France, which was hold­ing al-Hus­sei­ni, delib­er­ate­ly let him get away.

The years of Nazi Ara­bic lan­guage pro­pa­gan­da had made the Mufti by far the best-known polit­i­cal fig­ure in the Arab and Islam­ic world. But the 1946 de fac­to amnesty by the West­ern pow­ers enhanced the Mufti’s pres­tige even more. The Arabs saw in this impuni­ty, wrote Simon Wiesen­thal in 1946, “not only a weak­ness of the Euro­peans, but also abso­lu­tion for past and future occur­rences. A man who is ene­my no. 1 of a pow­er­ful empire – and this empire can­not fend him off – seems to the Arabs to be a suit­able leader.” Now, the pro-Nazi past began to become a source of pride, not of shame and Nazi crim­i­nals on the want­ed list in Europe now flood­ed into the Arab world. When on 10 June 1946 the head­lines of the world press announced the Mufti’s “escape” from France “…the Arab quar­ters of Jerusalem and all the Arab towns and vil­lages were gar­land­ed and beflagged, and the great man’s por­trait was to be seen every­where”, report­ed a con­tem­po­rary observ­er. But the biggest cheer­lead­ers for the Mufti were the Mus­lim Broth­ers, who at that time could mobilise a mil­lion peo­ple in Egypt alone. It was they, indeed, who had orga­nized the Mufti’s return and from the start defend­ed his Nazi activ­i­ties from any crit­i­cism.

In the fol­low­ing decades, large print-runs of the most infa­mous libel of the Jews, The Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion, were pub­lished at the behest of two well-known for­mer mem­bers of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, Gamal Abdel Nass­er and Anwar Sadat. Both the Mus­lim Broth­ers’ uncon­di­tion­al sol­i­dar­i­ty with al-Hus­sei­ni and their anti-Jew­ish riots mere months after Auschwitz show that the Broth­er­hood did not object, to say the least, to Hitler’s attempt to exter­mi­nate the Jews of Europe

The con­se­quences of this atti­tude, this blind­ness to the inter­na­tion­al impact of the Holo­caust, con­tin­ue to affect the course of the Arab-Jew­ish con­flict today. We see an expres­sion off this in the con­tin­u­ing refusal of the Mus­lim Coun­cil of Britain, a British off­shoot of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, to recog­nise the spe­cif­ic nature of the Holo­caust and attend Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Day events. How do Islamists explain inter­na­tion­al sup­port for Israel in 1947? Ignor­ing the actu­al fate of the Jews dur­ing World War II, they revert to con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, view­ing the cre­ation of the Jew­ish state as a Jew­ish-inspired attack by the Unit­ed States and the Sovi­et Union on the Arab world. Accord­ing­ly, the Broth­er­hood “con­sid­ered the whole Unit­ed Nations inter­ven­tion to be an inter­na­tion­al plot car­ried out by the Amer­i­cans, the Rus­sians and the British, under the influ­ence of Zion­ism.” The mad notion of a world­wide Jew­ish con­spir­a­cy, sup­pressed in Ger­many since May 8, 1945, sur­vived and flour­ished in the polit­i­cal cul­ture of the Arab world.

An espe­cial­ly strik­ing exam­ple is the char­ter adopt­ed in 1988 by the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Pales­tine, bet­ter known as Hamas. In this charter–which “sounds as if it were copied from the pages of Der Stürmer,” as Sari Nus­seibeh, for­mer PLO rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Jerusalem, has writ­ten ‑Hamas defines itself as “the spear­head and the avant-garde” of the strug­gle against “world Zion­ism.”

In the Char­ter, the Jews are accused of being behind all the shocks of moder­ni­ty: “They aim at under­min­ing soci­eties, destroy­ing val­ues, cor­rupt­ing con­sciences, dete­ri­o­rat­ing char­ac­ter and anni­hi­lat­ing Islam. (They are) behind the drug trade and alco­holism in all its kinds so as to facil­i­tate its con­trol and expan­sion.” In addi­tion, they are held respon­si­ble for every major cat­a­stroph­ic event in mod­ern his­to­ry: The Jews “were behind the French Rev­o­lu­tion [and] the Com­mu­nist Rev­o­lu­tion. . . . They were behind World War I . . . they were behind World War II, through which they made huge finan­cial gains by trad­ing in arma­ments, and paved the way for the estab­lish­ment of their state. . . . There is no war going on any­where, with­out hav­ing their fin­ger in it. . . . Their plan,” states Arti­cle 32 of the char­ter, “is embod­ied in The Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion, and their present con­duct is the best proof of what we are say­ing.” How can it be that ardent sup­port­ers of Hamas such as Azzam Tami­ni, who is a reg­u­lar guest of the BBC and Chan­nel 4, is nev­er seri­ous­ly chal­lenged about the anti­se­mit­ic con­tent of the char­ter?

As in the 1930s and 1940s, the sheer absur­di­ty of such claims makes it dif­fi­cult for edu­cat­ed peo­ple to believe that any­one could take them seri­ous­ly. Such claims, nonethe­less, trig­gered Pogroms in Rus­sia, were used as the text­book for the Holo­caust in Ger­many and moti­vat­ed the per­pe­tra­tors of 9/11. Islam­ic anti­semitism is the rea­son why Hamas pri­ori­tise weapons and war rather than peace and wel­fare. Islam­ic anti­semitism is the rea­son why Hezbollah’s leader Has­san Nas­ral­lah recent­ly warned Sau­di Ara­bia and oth­er Arab coun­tries “not to nor­mal­ize rela­tions with Israel”. Islam­ic Anti­semitism is the only rea­son why Iran – a coun­ty that has nei­ther a ter­ri­to­r­i­al dis­pute with Israel nor a Pales­tin­ian refugee prob­lem – calls for the destruc­tion of Israel again and again.

Some observers claim that polit­i­cal con­ces­sions by Israel would be enough to stop anti-Jew­ish hate­mon­ger­ing with­in the Arab-Islam­ic world. They are wrong. For Islamists, the issue at stake is not the wel­fare of indi­vid­ual Pales­tini­ans but the abo­li­tion of enlight­en­ment, rea­son, and indi­vid­ual free­dom – achieve­ments whose spread is attrib­uted pri­mar­i­ly to the Jews. When even today Ger­mans in Beirut, Dam­as­cus, and Amman are greet­ed with com­pli­ments for Adolf Hitler, this can hard­ly be Israel’s doing. When graf­fi­ti in Hamp­stead Gar­den Sub­urb com­bine swastikas with the words “kill all Jews” and “Allah” – what on earth has this to do with Zion­ism? Our his­tor­i­cal excur­sion has, how­ev­er, revealed that this com­bi­na­tion is in no way acci­den­tal. The link­age of “kill all Jews”, “Allah” and the swasti­ka indi­cates a spe­cif­ic ide­ol­o­gy, one that is con­nect­ed both his­tor­i­cal­ly and ide­o­log­i­cal­ly with Nazism and needs to be opposed with equal deter­mi­na­tion. Why- how­ev­er – is it prov­ing so dif­fi­cult to mount such an effort – espe­cial­ly, but not only, here in Britain? Three sug­ges­tions as to why this might be: first­ly, this strug­gle – at least for the time being – has to be waged in oppo­si­tion to a polit­i­cal left which has total­ly lost its moral com­pass and polit­i­cal bear­ings. It is, true that Osama bin Laden has embed­ded his strate­gic goal of tal­iban­iz­ing Amer­i­ca and the world in a lan­guage that seeks to con­nect with West­ern protest move­ments and, beyond that, put Islam in the place of the for­mer Com­mu­nist sys­tem. Thus, in Bin Laden’s lat­est mes­sage of Sep­tem­ber 11, 2007, the fight against glob­al warm­ing is empha­sized in order to attract the sup­port of envi­ron­men­tal­ists, the anti-cap­i­tal­ist drum is banged (“You should lib­er­ate your­selves from the decep­tion, shack­les and attri­tion of the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem”) and, last­ly, Noam Chom­sky, the guru of the left­ist anti-glob­al­iza­tion strug­gle, is applaud­ed.

On the oth­er hand, Osama bin Laden and every oth­er Islamist enti­ty such as Hamas, Hezbol­lah and the Iran­ian regime do not hide their goal –the destruc­tion of demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­eties and their replace­ment by a sharia-based dic­ta­tor­ship. The Amer­i­can way of life, con­sti­tutes, accord­ing to bin Laden’s lat­est mes­sage “the great­est form of poly­the­ism and is rebel­lion against obe­di­ence to Allah.” It has to be replaced instead by Allah’s rule: “Total obe­di­ence must be to the orders and pro­hi­bi­tions of Allah Alone in all aspects of life.” And this is indeed the heart of the Islamist pro­gramme: the accu­sa­tion that grant­i­ng peo­ple polit­i­cal and per­son­al free­dom amounts to heresy.

The naivety or mal­ice with which the polit­i­cal left has nev­er­the­less yield­ed to the siren songs of Islamism is there­fore fright­en­ing. Thus, in May 2006 Noam Chom­sky met the leader of Hezbol­lah, Has­san Nas­ral­lah, and defend­ed and praised Hezbollah’s insis­tence on keep­ing its arms, i
n defi­ance of Unit­ed Nations deci­sions; Tariq Ramadan, an elo­quent Islamist, has been giv­en star treat­ment at Euro­pean anti-glob­al­iza­tion events; the Mus­lim Brotherhood’s TV preach­er, Sheikh Qaradawi gets invi­ta­tions from the left-wing May­or of Lon­don, Ken Liv­ing­stone; while the Social­ist Work­ers Par­ty have made the strate­gic deci­sion to ally with a British off­shoot of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood – the Mus­lim Asso­ci­a­tion of Britain – in build­ing the Stop the War Coali­tion. Last sum­mer thou­sands of peo­ple were mobilised by this alliance to march through cen­tral Lon­don chant­i­ng “we are all Hezbol­lah now”.

Of course, a left which brands Israel as abstract­ly “evil” is not going to take Islam­ic anti­semitism seri­ous­ly. Demon­is­ing Israel entails becom­ing deaf to anti­semitism. Or, as Sig­mund Freud put it, “a par­tic­i­pant in a delu­sion will not of course recog­nise it as such”. 2. Many Euro­peans assume that to draw atten­tion to Islam­ic anti­semitism is to play into the hands of racists. In Britain, mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism has been the offi­cial civic reli­gion for so long that any crit­i­cism of any minor­i­ty group seems to have become the equiv­a­lent of pro­fan­i­ty. Obvi­ous­ly, racism, dis­crim­i­nat­ing against peo­ple on the grounds of their ori­gin or skin colour, must be com­bat­ed. You can’t be, how­ev­er, mul­ti­cul­tur­al and preach mur­der­ous loathing of Jews. In my opin­ion, we mustn’t defend Jew-hatred on spu­ri­ous “anti-racist” grounds; we should rather dis­tin­guish between anti­semites and non-anti­semites with­in the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties. We mustn’t advo­cate a crude “top” and “bot­tom” dichoto­my, in which the anti­semitism of peo­ple from Mus­lim coun­tries is excused as a kind of “anti-impe­ri­al­ism of fools”. We should rather insist that the strug­gle against dis­crim­i­na­tion is a uni­ver­sal one. 3. Islam­ic anti­semitism is a taboo sub­ject even in some parts of acad­e­mia: a sto­ry of intel­lec­tu­al betray­al and the cor­rupt­ing influ­ence of polit­i­cal com­mit­ment. Pro­fes­sor Pieter von der Horst from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Utrecht in the Nether­lands found this out when he pro­posed to give a lec­ture on the top­ic of the anti-Jew­ish blood libel. The head of the uni­ver­si­ty asked him to excise the sec­tion of his lec­ture deal­ing with Islam­ic anti­semitism. When he refused to do so, he was invit­ed to appear before a pan­el of four pro­fes­sors who insist­ed he remove these pas­sages. A lec­ture on Islam­ic anti­semitism, so the argu­ment went, might lead to vio­lent reac­tions from well-orga­nized Mus­lim stu­dent groups.

Sim­i­lar things have hap­pened to me. When in April 2003 I was invit­ed by Yale Uni­ver­si­ty as keynote speak­er on the top­ic of “Islam­ic Ter­ror­ism and Anti­semitism: The Mis­sion against Moder­ni­ty”, there was such an out­pour­ing of protest that the orga­niz­ers changed the pro­gramme. The orig­i­nal title of one of the pan­els — “Islam­ic Jihad. A Case of Glob­al Non-State Ter­ror­ism” – was changed to “Glob­al, Non-State Ter­ror­ism”. In addi­tion a speak­er was added to the podi­um whose sole qual­i­fi­ca­tion was that of being Pres­i­dent of the local “Pales­tine Right to Return Coali­tion”. At least I was able to give my talk. Not so in March 2007 at this Uni­ver­si­ty. Here too the term “Islam­ic anti­semitism“ stymied what should have been a live­ly debate already in March. Fol­low­ing e‑mail protests by some Mus­lim stu­dents, my lec­ture title “Hitler’s Lega­cy: Islam­ic anti­semitism in the Mid­dle East” was changed to “The Nazi Lega­cy: Export of Anti­semitism into the Mid­dle East”. This proved to be a futile seman­tic ges­ture: On the day of my arrival in Leeds, the Uni­ver­si­ty admin­is­tra­tion can­celled my talk “on secu­ri­ty grounds”. No one, includ­ing the Mus­lim stu­dents, had threat­ened vio­lence. As before in Utrecht, free­dom of speech was sus­pend­ed – in my opin­ion — by an act of pre-emp­tive self-cen­sor­ship. Both uni­ver­si­ty admin­is­tra­tions prob­a­bly believed they were meet­ing the wish­es of their numer­ous Mus­lim stu­dents in sus­pend­ing a lec­ture about Islam­ic anti­semitism.

The erro­neous­ness of this approach becomes clear when we real­ize that Mus­lims are crit­i­ciz­ing Islam­ic anti­semitism as well. “Why do we hate the Jews?” asked Sau­di colum­nist Hus­sein Shubak­shi in a Lon­don-based Ara­bic dai­ly in May 2005. “The extent of the tremen­dous hatred of the Jews is baf­fling. If we know … the true rea­son why the Jews have become the rea­son for every cat­a­stro­phe, then we will be able to under­stand the idea of divid­ing [human beings] into groups…”

In Jan­u­ary 2006, Tunisian Philoso­pher Mezri Had­dad com­plained that Arab pub­lic opin­ion “ has found in anti­semitism the per­fect cat­a­lyst for all its nar­cis­sis­tic wounds and social, eco­nom­ic, and polit­i­cal frus­tra­tions.” The fun­da­men­tal­ists had, he con­tin­ued, “reduced the Koran to a case of nau­se­at­ing anti­semitism,” but it must be admit­ted, “that some Koran­ic vers­es, inten­tion­al­ly iso­lat­ed from their his­tor­i­cal con­text, have con­tributed even more to the anchor­ing of anti­se­mit­ic stereo­types in Arab-Mus­lim men­tal­i­ties”. This “pet­ri­fac­tion” of the Arab-Mus­lim men­tal­i­ty can be reversed, so Had­dad, but this would require “intel­lec­tu­al audac­i­ty” on the part of Islam­ic schol­ars. “Since they can­not purge the Koran of its poten­tial­ly anti­se­mit­ic dross, they must close­ly exam­ine this cor­pus with hermeneu­ti­cal rea­son­ing.”

So while some Mus­lims sup­port the uni­ver­sal strug­gle against anti­semitism, oth­er Mus­lims want to pre­vent any men­tion, let along any pub­lic dis­cus­sion, of Islam­ic anti­semitism. It is the lat­ter group that has prof­it­ed – at least in the begin­ning — from the actions of Utrecht and Leeds Uni­ver­si­ties.

The British his­to­ri­an Elie Kedourie whom I admire a lot stat­ed that “moral integri­ty and schol­ar­ly rig­or were always com­ple­men­tary” and I sub­scribe to this point of view. Today an increas­ing num­ber of anti-Islamist Mus­lims are com­plain­ing about the “well-mean­ing” behav­iour of West­ern aca­d­e­mics which lacks moral integri­ty and schol­ar­ly rigour. “When West­ern­ers make polit­i­cal­ly-cor­rect excus­es for Islamism”, states, for exam­ple, Taw­fik Hamid, a for­mer mem­ber of the Egypt­ian Islamist orga­ni­za­tion Gama’a al-Islamiyya, “it actu­al­ly endan­gers the lives of reform­ers and in many cas­es has the effect of sup­press­ing their voic­es”. And he warns that, “with­out con­fronting the ide­o­log­i­cal roots of Islamism, it will be impos­si­ble to com­bat it” – a real­i­ty that not only gov­ern­ments need to get into their heads.

Islamism is not moti­vat­ed by a con­cept of rea­son but by a cult of death. It does not strive for eman­ci­pa­tion but for oppres­sion. It uses the flag of anti-colo­nial­ism to pro­mote anti­semitism. It is true that today there is no oth­er anti-cap­i­tal­ist or anti-West­ern move­ment that is able to mobilise and influ­ence so many peo­ple. Bin Laden’s lat­est mes­sage builds on this real­i­ty. But it is for this very rea­son all the more essen­tial for every respon­si­ble per­son to draw an inseper­a­ble line between a con­cept of change that is root­ed in the tra­di­tions of the Enlight­en­ment and eman­ci­pa­tion, and a con­cept of change that is aimed in a fas­cist way at destroy­ing the devel­op­ment of soci­eties and the free­dom of the indi­vid­ual. You can be in favor of or against Islamism and Fas­cism but you can­not be anti-Fas­cist and pro-Islamist at the same time.


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