Ever since Hamas’ savage pogrom against Israeli civilians, protests against Israel have featured blatant antisemitism and eliminationist rhetoric like “from the river to the sea” or “death to Jews,” typically heard from fringe cranks rather than students at prestigious American universities.
These despicable displays and attacks on Jews––the latter up 388% in the U.S., and 1350% in London––have many causes, the most obvious being the widespread decay of educational standards, and the corruption of curricula by leftist political ideologies.
But the significant presence of “international students” from Muslim nations has exacerbated these scenes of a hate now colluding with another one––the left’s visceral hatred of the West and Marxism’s most successful rival, the United States. This collusion represents a lethal threat to our security and interests.
Traditional Christian hatred of Jews smeared them as “Christ-killers” who poison wells and use the blood of murdered Christian children to make Passover matzah. But starting in the 19th century, modern antisemitism demonized Jews as the stooges and villainous agents of the modern capitalist economies. The antisemitism that fueled Hitler’s “final solution” was not about deicide or the “blood libel,” but rather the national-socialist hatred of free-market capitalism; and the scientism of Darwinian racism with its fear of the racial pollution of the superior Nordic race by lesser ethnicities––the “settled science” of the early 20th century.
Traditional Muslim antisemitism, on the other hand, is a product of Islam. In the last few decades, however, it has been rationalized by Western apologists as having “nothing to do with Islam.” Rather, it reflects malign ideas from Europe, and the West’s “colonial” outpost Israel. Attacks on Jews in Europe, for example, by Muslim immigrants are regularly explained in terms of Israel’s “occupation” and its alleged crimes against the Palestinian Arabs. Over two decades ago historian Tony Judt rationalized murders of Jews as “a direct outcome of the festering crisis in the Middle East.”
Moreover, such scapegoating of Israel has also become more deeply embedded in the West’s foreign policy establishment. Testifying before Congress in 2010, General David Petraeus confirmed Osama bin Laden’s pretext for 9/11––“the creation and continuation of Israel”–– and attributed the U.S.’s difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan to the Arab-Israeli conflict that “foments anti-American sentiment,” the “perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel,” and “anger over the Palestinian question.” Not a word about the 14 centuries of Islamic Jew-hatred and aggression against Christian Europe, and the doctrines and precepts mandating both.
No wonder, then, that these rote clichés provide the ignorant slogans and posters of today’s American “woke” students and their Muslim colleagues. They rationalize for both groups the protestors’ antisemitism, and Hamas’s butchery of Jews, and they furnish excuses for positive, sometimes celebratory references to the Holocaust and the flaunting of swastikas.
Or consider the comments made recently at an Oakland City Council meeting calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Jim Geraghty posted many of the despicable comments against adding to the resolution a condemnation of Hamas: “I support the right of Palestinians to resist occupation, including through Hamas, the armed wing of the unified Palestinian resistance,” or “The notion that this was a massacre of Jews was a fabricated narrative. . . . Many of those killed on October 7, including children, were killed by the IDF.” Of course, the Council capitulated to such preposterous lies and pretexts for murder.
The fact is, Islamic antisemitism is as old as Islam itself. It’s not a modern phenomenon in the Middle East, nor an import from European fascism empowered by the trauma allegedly inflicted by colonial occupation and imperialist oppression, as Barack Obama said in his cringing 2009 speech in Cairo.
On the contrary, as Andrew Bostom demonstrates in his compendious The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, Muslim Jew-hatred appears in the Koran, hadith (traditional accounts of Mohammed’s deeds and sayings), sira (early biographies of Mohammed), and other Muslim historians and exegetes. “For the Muslim masses,” Bostom writes, “basic Islamic education in the Qur’an, hadith, and sira . . . may create an immutable superstructure of Jew hatred on to which non-Muslim sources of Jew hatred are easily grafted.”
Indeed, antisemitism permeates the earliest history of Mohammed’s mission. Islamic Jew hatred begins in the Koran, in which Jews are cursed with “abasement and humiliation” and are “deserving of Allah’s wrath” because they rejected Mohammed. Jews are further characterized as corrupt, treacherous rebels and infidels who are the enemy of the true believers. This debased status of Jews is communicated most starkly in the Koranic verse referring to the Jews’ fated transformation into “apes” or “apes and swine,” a slur repeated in the early Muslim biographies of Mohammed. Just before he executed the adult males of the Banu Qurayza, a Medinan Jewish tribe, Mohammed called them “brothers of apes.”
Such calumny was accompanied by bloody deeds. In traditional biographies of Mohammed, the Jews are rivals to the new faith who must be conquered and displaced in order for Islam to advance. For example, the Medina to which Mohammed retreated after leaving Mecca was home to three Jewish tribes who rejected Mohammed and impeded his ambitions. What followed was a campaign of raids on Jewish caravans and assassinations of Jewish poets and leaders—the 8th century AD biographer ibn Ishaq quotes the Prophet as saying, “Kill any Jew that falls into your power.”
This escalating aggression culminated in violent attacks on the three tribes. The Banu Qaynuqa were despoiled and expelled from Medina. Next was the Banu Nadir, who were also sent into exile, and their property distributed to Muslims. The last tribe, the Banu Qurayza, held out awhile behind their fortifications. When they finally surrendered, 600 to 900 men were beheaded, their women and children sold into slavery, and their possessions distributed, again, to Muslims. Subsequent Islamic exegetes, like the 10th century AD al-Mawardi, for example, pointed to the extinction of the Banu Qurayza as a model for Muslim treatment of infidels who stand in the way of Islam’s ambitions by refusing the call to convert.
Like the Koran, the deeds and sayings of Mohammed collected in the hadiths also reinforce Islam’s antisemitism. Mohammed repeatedly defines the proper behavior of Muslims by contrasting it with the customs and practices of the Jews, who are “treacherous, envious, and spiteful.” They change sacred scriptures to remove references to Mohammed; cast evil spells on Muslims; and reject spitefully Mohammed’s revelation and status as the “seal of the prophets.”
This alleged Jewish hostility toward Muslims justifies the latter’s obligation to violently subdue and humiliate Jews. Over the centuries this antisemitism has recurred in the writings of respected and revered theologians, jurists, and Koranic commentators. In the 16th century, the Moroccan sheikh al-Maghili’s voluminous diatribes, in which he wrote “love of the Prophet requires hatred of the Jews,” culminated in a massacre of the Jews of the Touat Oasis and the destruction of their synagogue. In the 17th century, Yemenite ruler al-Mahdi Ahmad, eager to fulfill Mohammed’s deathbed command that “two religions shall not remain together in the peninsula of the Arabs,” exiled the Jews of Yemen to Mawza, destroying synagogues and desecrating Torah scrolls. Only 1,000 of the original 10,000 Jews survived the ordeal.
More recently, this tradition can be found in the writings of Sayyid Qutb, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and one of the most important theorists for modern jihadism in the 20th century. In 1950, Qutb linked his call for a reformation of Islam to the Jews, whose “wicked nature . . . is full of hatred for Islam,” and whose defeat would come about only at the hands of Muslims who “implement Islam completely in their lives.” And as we are witnessing with Hamas and its apologists, jihadist terrorists justified their murders of Israelis with similar references to the Koran and Koranic exegetes.
Finally, antisemitism expresses the shared interest that binds what otherwise are stark opposites, Marxism and faith. Traditional Islamic antisemitism finds––in leftism’s tarring Jews with the evil capitalist and “settler colonialist” brushes––a sympathetic ally in the jihadist war against the West, especially America.
Indeed, hatred of Israel and America have become “twins”: as Daniel Johnson has written, “Both hatreds are impervious to the objections of logic or the evidence of history. In both, prejudice functions as a matrix of self-justifying, holistic conspiracy theories that substitute for rational thought. Both rely on fantasies about power and influence, discerning hidden patterns, concocting atrocity stories, gliding over inconvenient disconfirming facts.”
All these dysfunctions have been obvious in the current commentary and protests against both Israel and the U.S. and their response to the heinous crimes of Hamas. And both antisemitisms are compromising our ability to understand correctly the nature of both enemies, and leading to feckless policies that empower both hatreds. At stake are the freedom, unalienable rights, and political equality that define the West.