Anti-Semitism in Islam and Beyond

Article excerpt

Byline: Suzanne Fields

The Holocaust had begun to feel like ancient history, but the urgent new focus on the Middle East reminds us all how virulent anti-Semitism lives as a force in the world.

Just as the Nazis forged a militant fanatical hatred of Jews, Islamic fanatics have forged a modern theory of hatred, illustrated by similar Nazi-like depictions of Jews.

In "Peace: The Arabian Caricature: A Study of Anti-Semitic Imagery," Arieh Stav, director of the Ariel Center for Policy Research in Tel Aviv, documents the vicious anti-Semitic cartoons that proliferate in the Arab world with public and official endorsement. Historically, these caricatures are not unique to the Arab world, but what this book makes clear is that in the Middle East today they are commonplace, generating stereotypes of evil, fusing anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism.

In the present crisis, the portrait of the Jew in the Middle East emerges as an ugly and perverse mix of theological, moral, racial, social and political negatives. If you think these images are pushed only by the usual suspects, such as Syria and Iraq, think again. They proliferate across the spectrum of our so-called allies in the coalition, including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. These caricatures are all the more powerful because they're graphically dramatic and symbolic in countries where many people cannot read.

Jews were forced to wear a yellow patch with a six-pointed star in "sophisticated" Europe, identifying them as vermin that had to be exterminated. In the Middle East, the Jews of Israel are caricatured as snakes and cockroaches, to be similarly annihilated.

Eastern European Jews were frequently described in metaphors of disease, to be eliminated lest they infect the larger society. Jews in the Middle East are described as a cancer in the body of the Arab world, a malignant tumor that must be surgically removed.

Mr. Stav's book, written two years ago, illustrates how popular cartoons generate violent attitudes toward Israel in general and Jews in particular. Just as in Germany, where Jews over the years sometimes earned reprieve from prejudice, Jews have enjoyed occasional protection from Muslim rulers in the past. But it's naive to think that anti-Semitism isn't a driving force of modern Islamist terrorism.

One of the stubborn rumors that circulated among Muslims immediately after Sept. …