The Inverted Image of Antisemitism on the Israeli Left.

By Saul.

The writings of the Israeli left have finally come of age; and is to be welcomed as a sign of Israel’s maturity. Yet, at the same time, they express a continuation of Israel’s well-known parochialism and of a failure to adequately grasp the world outside its borders.

In this category we have a range of interesting and scholarly works that sets out to debunk many of Israel’s founding national myths. One of those founding myths that is currently under critique is that Israel is a bastion against what is presented as an all-pervasive global antisemitism. This was the theme of an award-winning documentary, Defamation, shown at the recent Jewish Film Week. The antisemitism it presented was anachronistic and, to a large extent, now spent. It focused mainly, but not exclusively, on a few comments by one or two aging Central European antisemites and one or two aging Jews (including the director’s aging grandmother and an equally aged Holocaust survivor), the aftermath of the “Crown Heights” conflict of over 15 years ago and one or two incidents in the US that, at worse, could only be evaluated as causing minor offence. Apart from a brief interview with one of the authors of ”The Israel Lobby” the sites and narratives of contemporary antisemitism did not figure at all, not even in passing.

In Israel itself, the question of antisemitism has now become part of the battleground of the progressive left and the reactionary right and so has become part of the politics of how to move forward on the question of the Settlements and the Occupation of Palestinian lands. It is in this context that it is the right that is leading the charge against what it sees as antisemitism.

Much as the Israeli right’s understanding of what is and what is not “antisemitism” is seriously flawed. Reading the literature on the “new” antisemitism, one is immediately confronted with the paradoxical finding that what is “new” about this antisemitism is precisely just how “old” it is.

Yet, as much as the Israeli right’s reading of antisemitism is crude and unhelpful, the Israeli left falls into the same trap. This left mirroring of the right is evidenced in the belief to the effect that there is little (or in the opinion of Uri Averny in the film Defamation that there is no) antisemitism outside of Israel.

If, for the Israeli right, antisemitism is everywhere, then for the Israeli left, it is virtually non-existent. Both left and right are, of course, empirically wrong.

In the increasingly bitter fight between the left and right in Israel, the issue of antisemitism has become a central signifier of where one belongs in this political divide. In Israel, this is fully understandable and, indeed, in the context of Israel’s maturity, is to be welcomed.
However, whilst this conflict is a sign of Israel’s political maturity, it also signifies its parochialism.

Neither the left nor the right appear to consider for a moment just how their viewpoints play out in the world beyond Israel. They appear not to think for a moment how the arguments that make sense in the context of Israeli internal politics are exploited elsewhere.

One need only think of Walt and Mearsheimer’s exploitation and distortion of Haaretz’s story about right-wing pro-Israel lobbying groups that a poster discussed on Engage recently. One need only think of the idea that is common in the UK and elsewhere that “Zionists” and “Jews” “cry wolf/antisemitism” every time someone “dare criticize” Israel, even where, or rather especially where, such “criticism” takes the form of the myth that Jews/Zionists “control the world’s media” or the BBC or the Liberal Democratic party, to name but a few.

As between the Israeli left and Israeli right, I stand with the left. I welcome the debunking of the founding national myths in Israel as I would and do for any other country. I remain critical, though, with the left’s corresponding lack of understanding and lack of awareness, not of the “new” antisemitism, but of contemporary antisemitism, of the blurring between antizionism and antisemitism, of what some people believe is “mere” “criticism of Israel” and antisemitism.

Eye to eye with their right-wing domestic opponents and unable to see beyond them, the Israeli left’s vision on the question of antisemitism, cannot but be severely limited. Parochialism has always appeared as an Israeli trait, it is pity that, for all its maturity, this is one trait the Israeli left has yet to grow out of.

37 Responses to “The Inverted Image of Antisemitism on the Israeli Left.”

  1. Kashif Shahzada Says:

    quite interesting …. given your interests, would you be able to comment on Islam & antisemitism below:

    http://kashifshahzada.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/does-the-qur%E2%80%99an-support-anti-semitism/

  2. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    I don’t think many (or even any) people would argue that Islam is, per se, antisemitic, or necessarily encourages antisemitism amongst its believers. That doesn’t stop individual Moslems (or whole groups, such as adherents of Hizbollah and Hamas) being antisemitic. Nor, for that matter, does the Christian demand “to love one’s neighbour as oneself” stop some Christians being racist and antisemitic. By the same token, does Hillel’s statement that the essence of Judaism can be summed up as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you: the rest is commentary” stop some Jews from being racist and/or Islamaphobic.

    That being the case, what is Kashif Shahzada’s point?

    • N. Friedman Says:

      Brian,

      While the Islamic tradition, perhaps given the relative weakness of Jews, focuses more attention on Christians than Jews, there is plenty of material in the sacred texts to delight any Antisemite. And, these texts have been used over the centuries to justify a great deal of violence against Jews.

      I think that what can be said truthfully that, while there is a form of Islamic hatred against Jews, it played out very differently in Muslim countries than Christian hatred played out against Jews. But, the existence of sacred texts that are hateful towards Jews and their interpretation, which has not changed much over the centuries – with Jews deemed inherently perfidious, in the Islamic tradition – is beyond doubt. Also beyond doubt is that such texts have been used to justify hatred and violence against Jews by Muslims, both in recent times and over the centuries.

      By way of interest, you might want to look at Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, Grand Imam of al-Azhar Mosque and Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar University, thesis on the nature of Jews, which details the historic Islamic view of Jews and reiterates its relevance.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        Neil, you may well be right, and I have no detailed knowledge of Moslem sacred texts to know better. My point was that, if Shahzada is correct (and, ok, he may not be), what point is he making by providing the link? Even if he is correct as far as the Koran is concerned, this doesn’t stop at least some Moslems becoming antisemitic and acting on that belief. Nor does the alleged universality of Christian ethics stop at least some Christians being racist and antisemitic – and acting on those beliefs. And again, there are racist Jews. (And I think Lbnaz is indulging in a pilpul).

        I note that Shahzada has so far failed to respond to direct requests that he explain his purpose is providing the link. Might he respond to a third? If not, what conclusions do we start to draw about motivation?

        • N. Friedman Says:

          Brian,

          I have no idea about Shahzada’s motives nor do I care to speculate.

          You write: “Nor does the alleged universality of Christian ethics stop at least some Christians being racist and antisemitic – and acting on those beliefs.” Christianity certainly contains an ethic that claims, perhaps correctly, to be universal. However, that ethic is not the whole of Christianity, which is what your comment suggests. Antisemitism, after all, is not an unusual attitude among Christians over the ages.

          The basic texts of Christianity – the Christian Testament or part of the Bible and, e.g., the writings of the early church fathers and most prominent theologians over the ages – include material that very negatively distinguishes Jews from gentiles, whether or not Christian. And, Jews were said to be cursed, with the curse running from generation to generation. Jews were also said to have permanent, perfidious characteristics. This is part and parcel with Christian teaching, as it has been during most of the history of Christianity.

          If one wants to begin to get at racism against Jews and at other forms of Antisemitism, one really needs to examine religious texts and theological tracts, both of Christianity and Islam. These materials help us to understand the mindset of those who come to hate Jews.

          Hence, while Hindus in India were not known, at least until recently, to like Zionism or Israel – seeing the movement more as a colonial adventure -, Antisemitism and racism against Jews is nearly unheard of among Hindus. Upbringing is, as I see it, important to all of this and, for Christians and Muslims, what is taught from childhood about Jews – and both religions have teachings about Jews – certainly plays a substantial role in how they think about Jews, whether the hater is a practitioner of his or her faith or not.

          So, I think this is all very important, not a side issue.

  3. Inna Says:

    It’s simple really. Do you think Michael White will go on air today to say that “In Iran they murder each other a great deal”? Of course not. That’s racist.

    Except that of course he said that about Jews.

    Regards,

    Inna

  4. Lbnaz Says:

    Brian, you quoted Christianity’s ‘Golden Rule’ and placed it in the mouth of Hillel of whom it was said instead that when asked to explain the Torah, or Tanakh, or some such replied: “love your neighbour as yourself, the rest is commentary”

    Hillel was also attributed with the statement: “what is detestable to yourself, don’t do unto others”, an adage which Christianity later inverted and claimed as its so-called “Golden Rule”.

    Christianity’s Golden Rule differs from the statement attributed to Hillel in that it asks people to do unto others whatever they imagine for themselves that the other would supposedly want done unto them, which is a very useful approach if you are engaged in proselytizing.

    By contrast, the statement attributed to Hillel asks people not to do unto others, what they find detestable to themselves which neither asks people to imagine for themselves what others would supposedly want, nor is particularly helpful for those engaged in proselytizing, yet still manages to provide sagacious moral guidance.

  5. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    I stand corrected, Lbnaz, but the essence of what I wrote remains, I would assert, undiminished.

    And I’d still like to know, given that, with or without Lbnaz’s corrections, what Kashif Shahzada’s point is.

  6. Saul Says:

    Could we please stop this discussion now.

    Are any of you contributing (secular or religious) scholars of Islam, especially Friedman?

    Have any of you spent a serious amount of time studying Islam?

    I ask, because at the moment, it seems to me that cliche is being substituted for knowledge. Such cliches as in puerile notion of “the” “Islamic tradition”; as if Islam has a single “tradition”! Like anti-Jewish hostility, so too does Islamophobia comes in many different guises and forms.

    It might also be noted that there is enough in the OT “to delight any antisemite” – passages that have been reflected on, thought about and interpeted in a myriad ways, but which the antisemite ignores.

    So, if you want to carry on this parody of a Medieval theological dispute – the one’s where the antisemites tried to prove that Judaism and the “Judaic tradition” was over-legalistic and amoral or immoral – that’s fine. But I would rather it remained in the gutter where it belongs rather than on Engage.

    • N. Friedman Says:

      Saul,

      I do not claim to be an Islamic scholar. I do, however, claim to have read all hadiths that relate to Jews. I have also read a great many theological tracts by leading Muslim scholars, now and from the past, that relate to Jews.

      Why do you need to deny facts, that you can confirm by doing a few hours worth of first hand research? While it is not first hand research, you may want to begin your study by reading this article by Benny Morris.

  7. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Actually, Saul, it’s not about any Judaic tradition, nor about Christian ethics, nor even about Islamic teachings. It’s about _Shahzada_ and _his_ motives in linking to his musings on the teachings of Islam on antisemitism or otherwise. And I’d still like to know why he posted what he did.

    Given that that was 4 days ago and he hasn’t come back, despite three invitations to explain himself, I think we can assume that he was attempting to accuse anyone (in advance) who suggested that any Moslems anywhere who were accused of antisemitism, couldn’t possibly be doing so. Because the Koran says it’s naughty to be antisemitic.

    Another sort of Livingstone formulation, also (like Mary’s in the thread above this one) in advance.

    As I said there, neat trick.

  8. Kashif Shahzada Says:

    Mr Goldfarb
    Apologies for not responding to your request earlier. I came to know about them just now, as I have been ill.

    My motive is nothing but to remove misunderstandings and work towards building peace and reconciliation between human beings.

    With best wishes and a happy new year.

    KS

  9. Saul Says:

    “Why do you need to deny facts, that you can confirm by doing a few hours worth of first hand research?”

    hmmmmm, a five hundred year development can be “confirmed” by a few hours research on the internet.

    “I do not claim to be an Islamic scholar”.
    My, that’s a surprise!

  10. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Neil, re your comment at 8.51 pm on 29 Dec, I’m not really concerned, in this thread or at this stage, how to demonstrate that Christianity is or isn’t conducive to antisemitism, ditto Islam. Most religions preach humanity to all (with or without conversion to _their_ sole grasp of the truth). I must repeat that I’m concerned at Shahzada’s motives in posting here, and not in a theological discussion.

    And I have read the Morris article you linked to.

    And I stand by previous comment above: “…I think we can assume that he was attempting to accuse anyone (in advance) who suggested that any Moslems anywhere who were accused of antisemitism, couldn’t possibly be doing so. Because the Koran says it’s naughty to be antisemitic.

    Another sort of Livingstone formulation, also (like Mary’s in the thread above this one) in advance.

    As I said there, neat trick.”

    So, Shahzada, any comment from you? Or do we take it that this is _exactly_ what your motive was?

  11. Saul Says:

    Freidman’s limitattion of his selective “knowledge”is clear in the subtle change of the words used.
    I said “scholar of Islam” not “Islamic scholar”.

  12. N. Friedman Says:

    Saul,

    For whatever reason, my attempts to post in reply to you do not seem to stick.

    In any event, it does not take a great scholar of Islam or Islamic scholar, etc., etc., to find what is said about Jews in the founding texts of Islam. And, it is not difficult to see that such texts contain material that is hateful towards Jews. Not all of it but a good part of it is very hateful.

    Of course, how Muslims choose to use such material is a different matter. My point is that such material – just like nasty material about Jews written in the founding Christian texts – has been used to teach about Jews and has been associated with violence against Jews, now and in the past.

  13. Saul Says:

    “Of course, how Muslims choose to use such material is a different matter.”

    Exactly, but I note not a word from you about these alternative interpretations (rather than “use”).

    If you wish to reduce secular conflicts to matters of theology go ahead. After all, you seem not only to agree wholeheartedly with the interpetation of those you disagree, but also, support them in their claim that this is the “authentic” interpretation.
    You and they are singing from the same “hymn sheet”. You must feel very proud of yourself.

  14. Saul Says:

    And, btw, the literal words of the OT has been used, now and in the past, to justify the settlements and the violence of the settlers against Palestinians and their land.

    The logic of your thought would be to claim that that interpretation is not only right, but the only one – positions that are not only shallow, but also untenable.

  15. N. Friedman Says:

    Saul,

    My discussion regarding Antisemitism was and remains simply to note that religious texts regarding Jews do impress opinions about Jews on those who read them or listen to them. Antisemitism, after all, has been a staple item in the history of Christian countries and to a somewhat lesser extent – but not that much lesser – in Muslim countries. By contrast, where there have been rather few Jews living over the millennia, there has still been a tradition of Antisemitism, particularly in written materials, among Muslims but not among Hindus.

    So, I cannot agree with you that the issue is primarily a secular issue. I think that Antisemitism, an irrational hatred, finds considerable sustenance from religion, which impacts on how Jews are understood by those exposed to religious texts and teachings. And, that is as true for non-believers as it is for believers.

  16. Toby Esterhase Says:

    The worry, NF, is that you single out Muslims as being inherently prone to antisemitism because of the content of their sacred texts.

    Why is this a worry?

    Because

    (1) Muslims are no more inherently prone to be racist than anybody else

    and

    (2) It is the basis of the Islamophobic myth, which mobilizes hatred against Musims, that they are inherently and necessarily violent, racist, terroristic and misogynist.

    But this is not true. Muslims are not inherently prone to racism or to violence or to antisemitism or to terrorism or to woman-hating.

    Yes, some strands of Islam are all these things. And yes, they are able to draw upon verses in the sacred texts to mobilize antisemitic feeling and terrorism.

    But the problem is not the inherent nature of the texts themselves but the ways in which these texts are mobilized in contemporary cultural and political movements.

    But Islam is no different to anything else in this regard.

    Christianity can be mobilized to encourage Jew-hatred.
    Judaism can be mobilized in a racist war against Palestinians.
    All three religions contain texts and traditions which may be mobilized to oppress women.
    Socialism can be mobilized as the ruling ideology of a totalitarian movement.
    Liberalism can be mobilized in wars of aggression.

    There is no important belief system or religion which does not provide the germs of ideas which can be mobilized for violence and hatred.

    But the problem is not about Islam in itself, or Christianity or socialism or liberalism – all of these have both honourable and murderous traditions.

    The problem is in contemporary political and cultural movements.

    Some people argue that Judaism is inherently insular, racist, exclusionary, zionist and racist.

    There are some Jews who embrace a judaism which is insular, racist, exclusionary, zioinist and racist.

    They quote the scriptures in support of their positions. Not without some justification.

    But we should not accept these claims to Jewish authenticity at face value.

    We should support antiracist Judaism against racist Judaism. We should not simply denounce Judaism as being at the root of the problem.

    Do you get the point NF?

    It is not enough simply to show that there is comfort in the holy texts of Islam for an antisemitic world view. Because there is also comfort in the holy texts for a liberal and peaceful and love-based world view.

    We need to talk politics, not religion.

    And your religious essentialism is frightening because it mobilizes people against Muslims rather than against the antisemitic notions which are present within some traditions of Islam.

    It can only be dangerous to mobilize people to believe that Muslims are a threat to decent values. What we have to do is mobilize people against the specific contemporary threats to decent values, not against Muslims.

  17. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    @Toby Esterhase Says:
    “But the problem is not the inherent nature of the texts themselves but the ways in which these texts are mobilized in contemporary cultural and political movements.”
    I agree with this.

    Can you explain why in the Arab world these texts can be mobilised with such success?
    And there is also a “pro-Muslim” racism on the left excusing those Muslims who are violent and racist arguing, that one has to understand this, for it is part of their culture?
    I am just reading the yearbook 2009 of Berlin TU research of Antisemitism, Malte Gebert and Carmen Matussek have published a long article on the adaptation of the infamous protocols in the Arab world.
    So probably you could explain, why some Arab leftwing groups take the protocols as fact? And why some leftwing people defend Antisemitism when voiced by Arabs?

  18. Saul Says:

    “remains simply to note”

    And if people use this to continue attacks on Islam as inherently racist, etc. then, well, it’s not your fault, is it, – you are “simply noting”!

    At least have the integrity to take responsibility for the hatred you are pushing!

    I endorse every word of TE’s comments.

    I will only add that your definition of “antisemitism” is so wide as to be meaningless. Modern antisemitism, for example, arose at precisely the moment that religious anti-Jewish hostility began to decline. You may also note that Protestant antisemitism differed from Catholic antisemitism and so on and so forth.

    Antiseitism is indeed irrational, but that does not mean that it is not open to rational analysis. Unfortunately, you remain in the realm of the irrational – demonizing texts written some half a milennia ago (and its followers) – in explaining contemporary antisemitism.

    It is a common mistake amongst the shallow thinkers of the “eternal antisemitism” school of thought in which cliche (people have always hated Jews; as if it were a natural fact of life) replaces the difficulty of true understanding.

    Like the antisemites, you are equally guilty of looking for simple answers (the Koran) for complex problems.

    Perhaps, you need to spend some more time on the internet. Indeed, you may want to read a book or two first.

  19. N. Friedman Says:

    Saul,

    I do not claim anything about the inherent nature of Muslims, as human beings. I do, however, have views about Islam’s texts and about Islam or, to have it your way, the Islams that have existed. I also have views about Christianity or, to be consistent, the Christianities that have existed. The same for Judaism or, again to be consistent, Judaisms.

    I do not single out Muslims. On the other hand, I take the view, consistently regarding all religions, that they are all subject to rational criticism and that Islam should not be exempt on bogus charges of racism. Islam is a religion and religions are a collection of ideas, sacred ideas but ideas nonetheless. Criticizing religion is rather different from speaking about the inherent nature of Muslims, which amounts to essentialist nonsense. And, it was due to nasty criticism of Christianity that Europe developed a more secular way of life. So I think your effort to exclude Islam from rational critique is ill considered.

    Historically, Islam’s sacred texts have been used to foster a lot of hate against Jews. That is true about the founding Christian texts. The Hindu texts have not been, to my knowledge, used that way. Why? Because Jews and Judaism are not pertinent to the founding texts of Hinduism and, as such, there is nothing about Jews for Hindus to interpret from a religious point of view.

    In India, there has been Antisemitic writings against Jews since the arrival of Muslims in the country. Yet, that particular hatred was limited to Muslims. And, that was not because Muslims were people but because they read their own sacred texts which refer to Jews in nasty terms. Hatred of Jews as Jews rarely occurs among Hindus. And, to the point, the Antisemitism by Muslims, which has existed in India since Islam’s presence on that sub-continent, has occurred without more than a handful of Jews to hate. And, that is due to the religious texts used by Muslim but not used by Hindus.

  20. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    @Toby Esterhase Says:
    “But the problem is not the inherent nature of the texts themselves but the ways in which these texts are mobilized in contemporary cultural and political movements.”
    I agree with this.

    Can you explain why in the Arab world these texts can be mobilised with such success?
    And there is also a “pro-Muslim” racism on the left excusing those Muslims who are violent and racist arguing, that one has to understand this, for it is part of their culture?
    I am just reading the yearbook 2009 of Berlin TU research of Antisemitism, Malte Gebert and Carmen Matussek have published a long article on the adaptation of the infamous protocols in the Arab world.
    So probably you could explain, why some Arab leftwing groups take the protocols as fact? And why some leftwing people defend Antisemitism when voiced by Arabs?

  21. Toby Esterhase Says:

    NF’s Livingstone Formulation https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/03/27/the-livingstone-formulation/

    “I take the view, consistently regarding all religions, that they are all subject to rational criticism and that Islam should not be exempt on bogus charges of racism.”

    Such a pernicious formulation.

    NF: sometimes ‘criticism of Islam’ is Islamophobic and sometimes it is not. We have to make responsible and subtle judugments about what kind of criticism we make or we encourage and what its political outcomes may be.

    We are more used to understanding this with criticism of Israel, right?

    The anti-Zionists take the view, consistently regarding all nations, that they are all subject to rational criticism and that Israel should not be exempt on bogus charges of antisemitism”

    But our worries about antisemitism are not bogus or made in bad faith in order to sience rational criticism. They are clearly articulated in relation to the provenance and effect of certain kinds of common “rational criticism of Israel”.

    So it is with Islam. Some kinds of “rational criticism of Islam”, especially when islam is singled out for criticism of things of which all relations are guilty, sows Islamophobia and some kinds of criticism of Islam do not sow Islamophobia.

    To criticism Islam as being inherently antisemitic, and to allow the implication that this is why Muslims are antisemites, is to get this judgment wrong. It is to make a bogus criticism of Islam in such a way as to encourage racism against Muslims.

    Nobody says that religions cannot be criticized or that Islam cannot be criticized. That is a straw man NF, and Saul never said any such thing.

    We are not worried about any kind of rational criticism. We are worried about Islamophobia. And we are worried about things which look like rational criticism, which take the form of rational criticism, but which are in content, or in outcome, Islamophobic.

    A phobia is an irrational fear, not a rational criticism. They are not the same thing.

  22. N. Friedman Says:

    Toby,

    Islamophobia, if that includes rational criticism of the religion known as Islam, is no more a wrong than rational criticism of Christianity or Hinduism or Judaism is a wrong. Religions should all be subject to rational criticism. That includes Islam.

    For the record, I actually hold Islam in high esteem. I have made it my hobby to learn about that faith, including reading theological tracts and the founding texts of the religion. I have also read a great number of historical studies about various themes and events in the Islamic region.

    In particular, I think Islam’s advantage as a faith is that it roots itself in legalism, which has tended to limit the extent of the irrationality that plagues other religions. That, to me, a major improvement over religions which reject the notion of a sacred law. That said, I have no special use for any religions, which, to secularized way of thinking, are all collections of irrationality, leading to irrational violence and hatred.

    Anti-Zionism is a wrong because it is merely a formula to deny to Jews what is allowed for all other peoples. That does not mean that Zionism is immune from rational criticism. Like all other liberation movements, the Jewish Liberal Movement, aka Zionism, is subject to rational criticism. And, that is not a wrong, by any stretch of the imagination. It is no more wrong than rational criticism of religion.

    And, frankly, I have not stepped over the line. That is in your head.

  23. Saul Says:

    Darn, I take an hour or two to watch the demise of the 10th Doctor and TE beats me to it……..again!

    I am always and legitimately suspect of the alleged separation of one’s religion (normally in demonized form) and an abstract concept of “human beings”.
    One need only remember that the views of the Enlightenment (to which you refer) was to subtract the Jew from the Human Being, a view that was inverted by antisemites such as Bauer to explain why Jews could never be abstract human beings. Ultimately, as Hegel and Marx showed, they were but two sides of the same racist coin.

  24. N. Friedman Says:

    Saul,

    So, your view is that, because people may tend to misuse criticism, that criticism should be avoided.

    It seems to me that the criticism of Christianity did lead to attacks on Jews, on the ground that Jews had invented Christ. Such was Voltaire’s position, as it were. A critique of Islam may do the same, since, as scholarship shows, Islam is similar to Judaism in a great many ways and, clearly, Islam incorporates a substantial amount of material originating in Judaism.

    I reiterate: if Islam is immune from criticism, then its irrational elements will continue without criticism. And, among those elements are those directed against Jews, based on sacred texts and theological tracts that have gone unchallenged for over a millennium. If, on the other hand, there is to be peace among religions, then the criticisms leveled against Christianity and Judaism are properly brought against Islam.

    This is not to suggest irrational criticism. It is not to suggest that making stuff up, as has frequently occurred against Judaism, is ok. It is to suggest that rational, fact based criticism is not only legitimate but it is important. And, given the degree, based on polls, of Antisemitic attitudes among a great many Muslims, it is a necessity, unless you want the Antisemitic scourge that is plaguing Europe to continue to get worse.

    In my view, putting your hand in the sand, by attitudes such as “there are many Islams,” or “we cannot critique Islam” are attitudes that foment Antisemitism.

  25. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    I don’t know, post a simple comment, turn your back, and there’s a religious war going on! Ah, well, if I can avoid getting stomped…K. Shahzada responds, but it’s hardly a ringing clarification of a response to my question. I’m left still suspicious that this is a version of the Livingstone formulation in advance. Should anyone accuse Moslems of antisemtisim, then we have a defence already in place: the Koran forbids it, so it can’t be true.

    Following Neil Friedman’s link to Benny Morris’s review (way up there), as well as other elements of the discussion, indicates that this ain’t necessarily so – any more than it is for other religions.

  26. Saul Says:

    “Islamophobia, if that includes rational criticism of the religion known as Islam, is no more a wrong than rational criticism of Christianity or Hinduism or Judaism is a wrong.”

    He just does not get it.
    Islamaphobia does not include “rational criticism of Islam”.
    Unfortunately, though, we haven’t had any “rational criticism” of Islam, just cliche upon cliche and a defence of of NF’s own ignorance.

    Take this,
    “the existence of sacred texts that are hateful towards Jews and their interpretation, which has not changed much over the centuries – with Jews deemed inherently perfidious, in the Islamic tradition – is beyond doubt.”

    Yes, Neil, slagging off Islam and its interpretatons as antisemitic is certainly “rational criticism”, but only if positivistic, ahistorical essentialist ontology is the new rational.

    Whatever next, some of my best friends are Muslim?

    Time for a new hobby, eh Neil?

    Or, how about actually spending time to study Islam, lots of universities now offer courses on it. It would be interesting to see the comments on the essay you produce on Islam 101 – you know, the one that talks about it being fixed for centuries and it being a single tradition.

  27. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    Saul and Toby Esterhaze

    Why were the infamous protocols adapted by Arabs – long before the state of Israel was created?
    The first German translation was published in 1920. Already in 1921 it was published by Arab Christians in Palestine. How comes that in short time, the protocols became part and parcel not only of the new Arab nationalist movements but also of the new Islamist movements and are today part of main stream Arab culture?
    Why are Arab TV-stations transmit at prime-time during Ramadan films based on the protocols accusing Jews of ritual murder?

    And why most of the British left, so eager to “criticise” Israel is not criticising this?

  28. N. Friedman Says:

    Saul,

    Let us change approach a bit and work by analogy. The basic texts of Christianity include a lot of materials that speaks hatefully of Jews. Have you any doubt whatsoever that such is the case that and that such contributed significantly to how Jews were and are thought of by Christians over the centuries? I do not.

    Why, other than perhaps the possibility that a person is not familiar with the Christian founding texts, the founding theological texts or the history of relations between Christians and Jews, would a person doubt the role of such texts in how Jews were thought of and treated?

    In the case of Islam, there is a large amount of material about Jews in the founding sacred texts and much of it is very negative. There is also theological writing that is nearly all extremely negative. There is also a history of Jews not being treated well, not quite as bad all the time as Christians treated Jews but sometimes incredibly bad. Histories of such incidences show substantial use of the texts to rouse public hatred of Jews. How is this different, other than by degree, from what everyone knows about Europe’s history of Christian Jewish relations?

    And, what is wrong with categorizing what seems reasonable to assert as an approximation of the overall place of Jews in the Islamic sacred texts. It is, I think, an accurate assessment. Why should people leave behind their interpretative faculties when reading sacred texts? I have said nothing hateful about Muslims. I have merely characterized the texts I have read. I can promise you that if you read them, you too will come to a similar, if not the same, conclusion. And, frankly, that is the conclusion that most of the great Muslim theologians have come to. Try reading some.

  29. Saul Says:

    Karl.
    You ask interesting historical and political questions; questions that can be asked of much of Europe of the same period, if not earlier.

    NF reduces the answers to Islam’s fundamental texts.
    The gap between question and answer is the gap between Islamophobia and real critical thinking.

    Saul

  30. Saul Says:

    Antisemitism is a resource used by some who come into conflict, or believe they come into conflict, with Jews. Like, say Jenny Tonge, they distort real conflict into the cliches of racism as a means of explanation and of “opposition”. Anti-racists oppose, or should oppose, the framing of real life in such a framework, rather than, say NF, who simply inverts it into an alternative racism.

    Some Germans understood or tried to understand what was going on in the 1920’s, others found all the answers in antisemitism. The nation, including its Christianity, that produced Goethe, Lessing, Mann, Schoenberg,, etc, etc. produced Hitler.

    No-one these days seriously believes that German antisemitism can be reduced to Christianity’s founding texts. The same is, or should be true, of understanding contemporary antisemitism within parts of the “Arab world” through unthinking reference to Islam’s sacred texts.

  31. Saul Says:

    Compare this link to what has been said here to date,

    http://www.thejc.com/news/israel-news/25339/how-left-turned-israel

  32. N. Friedman Says:

    Saul,

    First, your understanding of Antisemitism is wrong. In Poland, where there are essentially no Jews, there is Antisemitism. On your theory, there should be none since there are no Jews for conflict.

    No, Saul. Antisemitism is an ideology that may or may not relate to any conflict. There was no real conflict between Jews and Christians over the ages in Europe. There was, rather, hatred of Jews, which was pushed by those who hated Jews and fanned by religious texts. The very same thing occurs among Muslims.

    As I noted, there is no history of Antisemitism among Hindus or Buddhists yet, among Muslims who live with Hindus and Buddhists – in places where there are effectively no Jews -, there is and has been for millennia, Antisemitism. How do you explain that on your theory?

    My theory is not hateful. It is not Anti-Muslim. It is, instead, fact based and text based. It has historical evidence to support it. Your theory is merely your unwillingness to look at evidence, thinking it wrong to look.

  33. Richard Gold Says:

    Saul , N. Friedman et al. This is a piece on anti-semitism and the left. Can we stick to the subject in hand please. In short i’m not allowing anymore comments on this thread unless they are on-topic.


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