Antisemitism in the Arab world
By Vic Rosenthal
I wrote this a few months ago, but the recent Holocaust denial conference in Iran has made it current. I suppose it’s an attempt to answer the question “why can’t we get along with them?”
Recently we spent the night at a friend’s house, and I was suffering from reading withdrawal. Our hostess gave me a book written by an acquaintance of hers, Gloria Marchick, called Shalom in my Heart, Salaam on my Lips. Marchick, a Jew, was 62 in 2000 when she went by herself to Morocco to teach English, out of either an excess of courage or lack of sense. Her visit coincided with the outbreak of the intifada in Israel, and a corresponding explosion of antisemitism in Morocco.
Morocco was always one of the ‘best’ Arab states in its relationship to Israel and Jews. King Mohammed V of Morocco (a French protectorate at the time) supposedly told the Germans “we have no Jews here, only Moroccans” and refused to turn them over. Nevertheless, the Jewish population went from 265,000 to 5,000 between 1948 and 2003, and with good reason.
Marchick hid her Jewishness and was enormously depressed by the depth of hatred for the Jews and Israel that she encountered. Everyone, even the nicest people simply accepted as a given that Israel was the devil, and its mission to kill as many Arabs as possible in as horrible a way as possible. Every antisemitic myth and libel was believed in toto, and the TV showed pictures of dead Arabs (collected from various wars, etc.) all day. Once when she chased a pickpocket he yelled at her “Jew! Israeli! Shalom!” He had no idea that she was Jewish, but these were the worst things he could think of to call her.
Since 1948 the Arab cultural and political leadership has been teaching their people that Israel and the Jews are the root of all evil. From the beginning (remember Haj Amin Al Husseini’s relationship with Hitler), they’ve adopted traditional European anti-Semitic themes — you can’t argue with success — like the blood libel, the Protocols, etc.
Every Arab and Muslim country does this to a greater or lesser extent. In 1994, Arafat created an entire educational system for the Palestinian Authority geared to produce Jew-haters. Egypt’s official media has always been as bad as anything the Nazis created, and the signing of the ‘peace’ treaty didn’t even cause a hiccup.
With the advent of widespread TV, the effectiveness of the propaganda has increased a hundredfold. Now the Internet has added its force-multiplying effect. Think of your fundamental beliefs that are the most important to you — beliefs in Democracy, fairness, etc. In the Muslim world today the primary, most fundamental belief that anyone holds is that there is goodness (Islam) and then there is Israel and the devilish Jews (and also lately the US) trying to destroy it. To deny this to them is like denying that the sun will come up tomorrow.
At the beginning, it started with the confrontation states — Egypt, Syria, sometimes Jordan — wanting to get control of the land, and needing something to whip up enthusiasm for war. But antisemitism is a special kind of idea, a ‘meme‘ with enormous power, having developed its virulence throughout the ages by a kind of natural selection in the cultural organisms of the Christian world. It has a life of its own, and like a virus in an isolated population, there’s nothing in the Muslim world immunizing against it, the way the secular Enlightenment does in the West.
Understanding antisemitism’s power and that it has a life of its own, we can answer some of the questions that come up. For example, why can’t we make peace with the Palestinians? Wouldn’t a compromise, like the Clinton-Barak plan, have been to their advantage? Why do Muslims in places like Malaysia and Kuwait hate us so much? If the problem is with our treatment of the Palestinians, then why don’t they help the Palestinians instead of hating us? Why does Hezbollah hate Israel? We’re not occupying Lebanon. Why did Saddam Hussein pay suicide bombers’ families and fire scuds at Tel Aviv instead of building schools and creating jobs for Palestinians?
The fact is that it’s just the same old meme, the one that infected the ignorant pogromists in Russia and drove my grandparents to the US, which is now gripping the souls of ignorant Muslims all over the world.