Jihad and Genocide

By Heni, Clemens | Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

Jihad and Genocide


Heni, Clemens, Middle East Quarterly


Jihad and Genocide. By Richard L. Rubenstein. Lanham, Md.: RowmanandLirtlefield, 2009. 288 pp. $30.

Jihad and Genocide offers a timely and important contribution to the study of Islamism, one of the most dangerous phenomena of our times. Rubenstein argues that while the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States was based on calculation, rationality, and power, Islamist terrorism and jihad are based on irrationality: The goal is not just to win a war, but to kill all enemies and infidels, especially Jews.

Rubenstein, 85 and a noted Holocaust specialist, draws parallels between current Islamic terrorism and the Nazi programs of extermination. "Having spent most of my career writing and teaching about the Holocaust," Rubenstein writes, "I now find myself once again confronted by sworn enemies of the United States and Israel who have promised to exterminate my people. With knowledge gained over many decades, I feel I have no option but to take these people at their word."

He warns that just as Hitler and the Germans told the world that they would kill the Jews, and then did, so jihadists today say and do likewise. In a lengthy discussion of the Nazis and Islam, Rubenstein persuasively shows that Hitler was an admirer of Islam. Contemporary comparisons of Israel with Nazi Germany particularly concern Rubenstein. In ways, he finds that Islamist propaganda is worse than that of Nazi Germany because it is more overt about the goal of killing Jews. However, one should be careful in comparing Islamism to National Socialism in this manner.

Also unconvincing are his concepts of defeat and rage and his comparison of Hitler and the Germans to the Muslim world. Rubenstein ignores the Weimar political culture's widespread anti-Semitism, including anti-Semitic scandals and discussion groups and the role of the Communist Party. For instance, he cites Ruth Fischer as an important leader of the German Communist Party but does not mention that she was an anti-Semitic Jew during the early Weimar period. Anti-Semitism in Weimar Germany was not just right-wing and Nazi-style, as Rubenstein says, rather it was a "cultural code," to quote German historian Susanne Wein. …

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