The Old-New Anti-Semitism

Article excerpt

THE 20th century may well be seen by future historians as the age par excellence of ideological politics. Millions were slaughtered on the altar of false messianisms and their salvationist logic, and in some places the killing still continues unabated. In the totalitarian nightmare of the Last century the secular political religions of Nazism and Marxist-Leninism undoubtedly occupy a special place. So, too, does the oldest and darkest of ideological obsessions-- that of and-Semitism--for which over a decade ago I coined the term, "the longest hatred." (1)

For Adolf Hitler, in particular, anti-Semitism was the axis and raison d'etre of the Nazi movement he created. His dream of global hegemony was overcome only through the combined military might of the United States, the British Empire and the Soviet Union. Nazism as a vital force in world politics was indeed destroyed in the flames engulfing Berlin at the end of April 1945, but the anti-Jewish poison it spread to far-flung corners of the globe has yet to be eradicated. The legacy has proven to be especially potent in the former Soviet Union and the Arab-Islamic world, where anti-Semitism is once again acquiring a potentially lethal charge.

There is currently a culture of hatred that permeates books, magazines, newspapers, sermons, video-cassettes, the Internet, television and radio in the Arab Middle East, which has not been seen since the heyday of Nazi Germany. Indeed, the dehumanizing images of Jews and Israel that are penetrating the body politic of Islam are sufficiently radical in tone and content to constitute a new "warrant for genocide." (2) They combine the blood libel of medieval Christian Europe with Nazi conspiracy theories about the Jewish drive for "world domination" and slanderous Islamic quotations about Jews as the "sons of apes" and donkeys.

The Quranic motifs began to grow in importance after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, along with virulent anti-Americanism. In the Islamic demonology, both America and Israel are now bonded together as "Satanic forces" that threaten the core-identity values and existence of Islam. This has been especially the case since the beginning of the Palestinian Al-Aqsa intifada in the autumn of 2000 and the massacres of September 11, 2001. Not only did an astonishing number of Muslims seek to place the responsibility for this mass murder onto the Jews, but Israel, more than ever, was execrated as a dagger of the West poised to strike at the heart of the Muslim Arab world. In the anti-Semitic script, America itself is depicted as being run by Jews malevolently determined to subvert and destroy Islam. (3) This chorus of voices has grown even shriller with the American war on Iraq, a conflict that has led to an ever closer twinning of anti-American, anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiment in western Europe, as well as the Islamic world.

Driven by this ideology, Islamists see the fingerprints of the all-powerful Zionist lobby everywhere, spreading its tentacles and deadly lies, draining the life-blood of Arabs and Muslims, gratuitously inciting war against Iraq, and carrying out its sinister plans for global control. The current popularity of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion--a forged Russian document from the beginning of the 20th century in which many Muslims appear to believe--is frightening testimony to the power of such myths. (4) The recent television series in Egypt dramatizing the "Protocols" and their fantasy of "Jewish world domination" is a mark of how deeply this anti-Semitic virus has already penetrated the thinking of political Islam.

Fundamentalist and oil-rich Saudi Arabia, the same soil from which Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda movement have sprung, is a major hotbed of the type of Muslim jihad that specifically calls for the terrorist murder of Jews and Christians. Government dailies even print gory nonsense about the "well-established fact" that "Jews spill human blood for their holiday pastries. …