This year I attended and filmed three lectures by three eminent visiting scholars at McGill University: I believe that all three can be included in David Nirenberg’s elegant phrase, of “Interrogating the past to understand the present”. All three talks have now been posted to the internet and the links are below. David Nirenberg’s subject was “Sibling Rivalries, Scriptural Communities: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam”. And Dr.Mordechai Kedar developed the theme “Antisemitism in Modern Islamic and Arab Discourse”.And Christine Hayes spoke on “What is Divine about Divine Law?“.
David Nirenberg is the author of Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (2013) and Neighboring Faiths: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in the Middle Ages and Today (2014). He is a contemporary scholar fully conversant with Muslim, Jewish and Christian texts. What is clear from his talk is the intertextual borrowing of Jewish sources by both Muslim and Christian writers. The various traditions were conversant with each others texts, and yet used them to bolster their imaginative agendas of how they conceived of the other: Christians disparaged Jews, and Muslims disparaged both Jews and Christians. And as David Nirenberg points out this disparagement continued throughout the enlightenment period. As he cited Voltaire, and many other enlightenment philosophers who were anti-Jewish in their writings and doctrines. Karl Marx also being one of them.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar, was invited to speak at McGill by ISGAP. He spoke on Antisemitism in Modern Islamic and Arab Discourse. He explains the Arab discourse and conceptualization very well. He is an academic expert on the contemporary Arab world, has served in Israeli intelligence for twenty five years as a Lt. Colonel and since he reads and speaks Arabic fluently, he also appears on Arabic television.
Professor Kedar started his talk by explaining that the Arab view of History is different from that of the West: i.e. Islamic scholars don’t think of ancient history, middle ages and modern times. They think of history as starting with their Prophet Mohammed, (Peace be Upon Him), and continuing to present time. All history for Muslims is Islamic history that continues to the present and all narrative is Islamic narrative. He points out that the split between Sunni and Shia goes back to the succession wars following the death of Mohammed and continues unabated to this day. Sunni refer to the Shia as “Jews” and we see the internecine warfare that has erupted in our time.
Yes, Mohammed the Muslim Prophet and originator of what we now know as Islam, was very aware of Jewish practice and Jewish texts, and also of Christian practice and Christian texts. Mordechai Kedar explains exactly how Muslims think of “the ancient ones” Jews and Christians. Along with a very clear exposition of Islamic doctrine he points out how this slander continues today as the Middle East publishes and accepts in the present as truth the forged antisemitic tract. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion or The Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion is an antisemitic hoax purporting to describe a Jewish plan for global domination. It was first published in Russia in 1903, translated into multiple languages, and disseminated internationally in the early part of the 20th century. The Protocols purports to document the minutes of a late 19th-century meeting of Jewish leaders discussing their goal of global Jewish hegemony by subverting the morals of Gentiles, and by controlling the press and the world’s economies.
In his talk, he shares the covers of several current Middle East publications of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
And even an interesting story about the opening of an intercultural library in Egypt where two books were chosen to represent each faith and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was one of the two books chosen by the administrators to be displayed as representative of Jewish literature.
He also explains why people who follow Islam will never accept Jerusalem or Israel as having any Jewish roots. According to Islamic doctrine.”Once a country has become Islamic, it can never revert to its original status”
Nevertheless, Israel has forged bonds of peace with several neighbors, Jordan and Egypt. Is it a “cold peace”? Yes, but as an Israel author, Eshkol Nevo, recently responded to this question, “any peace is better than war”.
Christine Hayes, a Yale University biblical scholar, shared her appreciation and comparison of ancient Greek, Roman, and Jewish theology and law. It was quite marvelous to hear her discuss the differences between Greek, Roman, and Jewish ideas and laws of theology and of society. Yes she spoke about each society’s conceptions of “G-D” and “Gods” and also their conceptions of “Law”. I was amazed by her erudition, her familiarity with ancient Greek, Roman and Hebrew texts and scholarship, theology and law. Especially profound and amazing is her familiarity with the Jewish Talmud and Mishna from which she quoted liberally.
“Fake News” has been in the news lately. However as the pundits have reported this is not a new phenomenon. “fake news” lies at the very heart of antisemitic literature such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I quote from wikipedia:
- The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Russian: Протоколы сионских мудрецов) or The Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion is an antisemitic fabricated text purporting to describe a Jewish plan for global domination. The forgery was first published in Russia in 1903, translated into multiple languages, and disseminated internationally in the early part of the 20th century. According to the claims made by some of its publishers, the Protocols are the minutes of a late 19th-century meeting where Jewish leaders discussed their goal of global Jewish hegemony by subverting the morals of Gentiles, and by controlling the press and the world’s economies.
- Henry Ford funded printing of 500,000 copies that were distributed throughout the U.S. in the 1920s. Adolf Hitler was a major proponent. It was studied, as if factual, in German classrooms after the Nazis came to power in 1933, despite having been exposed as fraudulent by The Times of London in 1921. It is still widely available today in numerous languages, in print and on the Internet, and continues to be presented by some proponents as a genuine document.
To the propagators of antisemitism and anti-Israel bias, antisemitism is understood to be a powerful psychological weapon in the interest of national policy. Both Hitler and the current day jihadists/Palestinians, understand this very well. However those who are fed antisemitic tropes and beliefs are seemingly totally unaware that they are espousing irrational beliefs based on lies. They do not understand that antisemitic beliefs consist of lies which are held up as truths – “fake news”. The young Palestinians educated by Hamas and the Palestinian authority are brought up to believe that “Israelis/Jews are devils and demons”, not human beings like themselves.
Hitler understood this “policy tool” called antisemitism very well: Hermann Rauschning, who claimed to be Hitler’s ‘confidant’, said in the mid-1930s:
“Anti-Semitism … was beyond question the most important weapon in [Hitler’s] propagandist arsenal, and almost everywhere it was of deadly efficiency. That was why he had allowed Streicher, for example, a free hand. The man’s stuff, too, was amusing, and very cleverly done. Wherever, he wondered, did Streicher get his constant supply of new material? He, Hitler, was simply on thorns to see each new issue of the Stürmer. It was the one periodical that he always read with pleasure, from the first page to the last”.
To understand how antisemitism, hate literature, becomes accepted via the media whether “the news” is legitimate or not, and how these falsehoods are used to incite violence against Jews and others, one has only to study the history of Julius Streicher and his magazine Der Sturmer. I quote from wikipedia.
- Beginning in 1924, Streicher used Der Stürmer as a mouthpiece not only for general antisemitic attacks, but for calculated smear campaigns against specific Jews…Streicher orchestrated his early campaigns against Jews to make the most extreme possible claims, short of violating a law that might get the paper shut down. He insisted in the pages of his newspaper that the Jews had caused the worldwide Depression, and were responsible for the crippling unemployment and inflation which afflicted Germany during the 1920s. He claimed that Jews were white-slavers and were responsible for over 90 percent of the prostitutes in the country. Real unsolved killings in Germany, especially of children or women, were often confidently explained in the pages of Der Stürmer as cases of “Jewish ritual murder.”
- One of Streicher’s constant themes was the sexual violation of ethnically German women by Jews, a subject which served as an excuse to publish semi-pornographic tracts and images detailing degrading sexual acts. These “essays” proved an especially appealing feature of the paper for young men. With the help of his notorious cartoonist, Phillip “Fips” Rupprecht, Streicher published image after image of Jewish stereotypes and sexually-charged encounters. His portrayal of Jews as subhuman and evil is widely considered to have played a critical role in the dehumanization and marginalization of the Jewish minority in the eyes of common Germans – creating the necessary conditions for the later perpetration of the Holocaust.
- Julius Streicher was able to escape the consequences of his writing during Nazi times. – He was frequently sued for libel but manged to evade guilty verdicts. – However in 1945 he was one of the nine Nazis tried and found guilty by the Nuremberg Tribunal, and condemned to hanging for “Crimes against Humanity.”
The other day I was having a conversation with a young recently graduated Jewish college student in Israel. He said to me but If one were to believe some of the nasty ideas that the Nazis promoted about the Jews wouldn’t it stand to reason that Germans would want to be rid of them? He was saying if everyone says you are evil must there not be some truth to it? Yes exactly! This is how insidious media and journalism can be and not just the type of openly antisemitic and vulgar campaigns such as Streicher’s in Der Sturmer!
Apart from the more outlandish internet videos on youtube that spew lies about Jews and Israel the following is just a very abbreviated list:
(By the way I have not watched all of these but any brief look at the titles will advise you of the nature of the content.)
Then, you also have more legitimate sounding sites, some far right revisionist sites, some far left NGO’s, that you have to explore knowing what you are looking for before you understand that they too are indeed “black flags”, and just as antisemitic as the more blatant ones. While researching the meaning of antisemitism for this article I came across this site which goes by the name of Institute for Historical Review. Here are some of the articles posted on the site, all with the underlying agenda that antisemitism is warranted, that Jews hold too much power in the US and worldwide, that Iran is not a terrorist state, that Muslim terrorism is justified and the like.
When I first landed on this site, while searching for the definition of antisemitism, it looked totally trustworthy and legitimate to me. It was only when I read to the very end of the article, that I noticed that they were claiming that antisemitism is justified. This statement – “anti-Semitism is the natural and understandable attitude of people toward a minority with particularist loyalties that wields greatly disproportionate power for its own interests, rather than for the common good.”- this statement only came at the end of a very long article which fortunately I read through to the end: Here is the blurb for the article:
And then there are others
- What Christians Don’t Know About Israel
- By Grace Halsell
- American Jews sympathetic to Israel dominate key positions in all areas of our government where decisions are made regarding the Middle East. This being the case, is there any hope of ever changing U.S. policy? … The answer to achieving an even-handed Middle East policy might lie elsewhere — among those who support Israel but don’t really know why. This group is the vast majority of Americans. They are well-meaning, fair-minded Christians who feel bonded to Israel – and Zionism – often from atavistic feelings, in some cases dating from childhood.
- Behind the Campaign For War Against Iran
- By Mark Weber
- In recent years prominent American politicians and other influential public figures have spoken repeatedly of the alleged danger of Iran’s nuclear program, and have again and again threatened war against this Middle East nation of 75 million … How real is this “threat”? How dangerous is Iran? What’s behind the campaign for war? And what does all this mean for Americans? In fact, the so-called Iran “crisis” is artificial … Often ignored amid the clamor for war are the sober warnings of informed scholars, historians, specialists, analysts, and military leaders, who point out some basic, key facts: Iran is not building nuclear weapons, Iran is not a threat to the US … War is not the answer. What’s needed instead is a bold new reality-based approach toward Iran.
They will also republish articles from respected media sources which support their agenda such as these:
- In a remarkable but under-reported address, Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged that the “immense” and “outsized” Jewish role in the US mass media and cultural life has been the single most important factor in shaping American attitudes over the past century, and in driving major cultural- political changes. “Jewish heritage has shaped who we are – all of us – as much or more than any other factor in the last 223 years. And that’s a fact,” Biden told a gathering of Jewish leaders in Washington, DC.
In the post above I suspect Biden was speaking to a Jewish convention trying to reassure them that America recognizes the many cultural contributions of Jews to the United States of America, the the arts, academia and sciences. However the author with an agenda – Mark Weber – uses Biden’s to lend credence to the antisemitic trope that “Jews control the media – that Jews control the financial world etc.”
And here is a post by a professor from the London School of Economics
- Delegitimising Through Dehumanisation: Palestinian ‘Human’ Rights Denied
- Dr. Sandra Nasr – London School of Economics and Political Science
- … Zionism, the ideological project to secure a Jewish homeland, relies upon notions of separateness, superiority and entitlement. It finds its origins in the ‘promise’ believed to have been made by God to ‘His people’ – Abraham and his descendants, the Israelites. According to this belief, they were to take the land by force, kill anyone who resisted, and take for slaves those who did not fight back (except in more distant towns which should just be cleansed) … The narratives present in the Torah – and, indeed throughout the Tanakh — not only raise the Israelites to special status (‘a people apart’) above all other peoples of the Earth, but legitimises – and even requires – the ethnic cleansing of non-Israelites from the land of Canaan.
Again here the author draws on a false narrative to support her position re Jews and Israelis. But the average person could easily come to take this for truth. She conflates biblical narrative with current history expounding under cover of her academic title a version utterly false in its entirety and toally misconstrued on the basis of a desire to advance a political agenda.
The above screed is no different from the priestly disputations of the middle ages vilifying the Talmud, the historic books of Jewish law – collections of the arguments pro and con regarding Jewish ritual and social laws. Public book burnings of the Talmud often took place in Europe following these “disputations between Christian Priests and Rabbis. The verdict of course was known from the start.After reviewing this material I can almost forgive the unsuspecting public and innocent students for being led astray. These sites and some of these video are so sophisticated that it is not difficult to understand some of the misguided ideas about Jews and Israel.
Right in line with this are the libelous anti-Israel agenda inspired by the so-called pro-Palestinian protest movements that have popped up on many college campuses. They claim that Israel is a violator of human rights, that Israel Is an “apartheid state”. These organizations deceive their supporters with their fallacious narratives, even using “pallywood”, artificially orchestrated videos of dead Palestinian babies and other similar gut wrenching casualties, to incite anti-Israel sentiments among college students and the general public. The Home Page of Electronic Intifada has the following screen today: December 25, 2015.
Of course they don’t tell you that on Christmas eve there were three separate attacks, car jammings and knife attacks on IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians as reported here in The Times of Israel. The Israel news report lists the incidents, the attackers and their victims, and the condition of both attackers and victims.
This is how it was reported in the Israeli press.
- One person was lightly injured Thursday morning in a suspected car-ramming in the West Bank north of Jerusalem, Israeli officials said, the third attack in as many hours Thursday morning.
- The army said a car tried to hit soldiers and border police at the Adam junction next to the Rama army base. The driver was shot and killed at the scene, an IDF statement said.
- The incident was the third attack of the day after two separate stabbing incidents, also in the West Bank.
Earlier Thursday, a Palestinian stabbed and injured two security guards at an industrial park outside the West Bank settlement of Ariel. Guards at the site shot and killed the attacker during the incident, police said.
One victim, 24, was listed in serious condition after suffering several stab wounds to his upper body. A female guard, also 24, was listed in moderate condition with a stab wounds to her upper body, according to police and the Magen David Adom rescue organization.
Less than an hour later, a Palestinian man attempting to stab soldiers with a screwdriver was shot and killed near the West Bank city of Hebron Thursday morning. The army said the assailant, “armed with a screwdriver, approached a checkpoint near Hebron and attempted to the stab security forces.” The soldiers opened fire on the man, killing him, the IDF said.
Sadly, Since September, Israel has endured hundreds of knife attacks and car rammings on civilians in many cities both inside Israel the West Bank. There have been many dead and many injured on both sides. However, clearly, the aggressors are those who are ramming cars into innocent bystanders and stabbing civilians in the street.
Are you beginning to see that the work of anti-Israel internet sources is no different from the work of Julius Streicher?
I was in Israel during the month of November, 2015, in the midst of the terrible daily attacks on Israeli citizens. I interviewed and filmed people I met in places like cafes and public gatherings. Among others, I interviewed one remarkable Israeli by the name of Anna Immanuel. I want to share her story with you because she says it so much better than I could.
What makes me so smart? I am a child of survivors who has since childhood struggled with the question “Why did the Nazis find fit to murder my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins along with over six million others?”.
This has been a very long post but I hope you feel that your time has been well spent.
Prof. Jonathan Spyer is a Journalist and academic currently working out of Jerusalem. He recently made 2 trips into Syria and survived to tell the tale. Last week, he was in Montreal speaking at McGill University for the ISGAP (Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy) lecture series, Antisemitism in Comparative Perspective. His talk was about Antisemitism in the Middle East (here is the full lecture Video), historically and in the present.
He reviewed the two theories re Islamic anti-semitism, the “modernist” and the “perennial” theories. The modernist theory, espousing the idea that Middle Eastern anti-semitism is imported from the West and related to the rise of Israel as a state. The perennial theory of Islamic anti-semitism that traces its origins to the beginnings of Islam in the 6th. century. In reviewing these theories he points out how they interweave to create the current ideas and attitudes in the Middle East and also how they compare with Western anti-semitic ideology.
Interestingly, the Jew could survive in Arab lands only if he was a defeated and weak figure of ridicule and contempt. It is for this reason that the rise of contemporary Israel is such an affront to Islamic ideology. It is also in this context, we can understand the terrible current affront to Islam when Jews, who are supposed to be weak, inferior, and ridiculous (monkeys etc.) are in possession of Jerusalem, a seminal Islamic holy site.
By contrast, the Jew, historically in western Christian mythology is a dangerous, powerful, and treacherous, figure who nevertheless must not be killed because his presence attests to the historical Jesus, and the second coming of Jesus is dependent on the conversion of all Jews to Christianity. With the relaxation of Christian ideology in the 19th century and the rise of secularism and science, 20th century western style antisemitism was born based on 19th century “scientific theories of race”. Here the picture of the “Jew as a treacherous, moneygrubbing figure” became etched in biology, leaving absolutely no exit for Jews living under Nazi ideology and sovereignty.
Spyer had an interesting response to the question of whether anti-zionism is the same as antisemitism. “Zionism” was a movement to advance the creation of a Jewish state and there were groups debating pro and con. However, once Israel was created, one can only speak about being for or against the abolishment of the existing State of Israel. Therefore, anti-zionism is not about criticizing the state of Israel but is a screen for the Arab wish to destroy the state of Israel.
Spyer also answered a question about his recent trips to Syria and in a few words conceptualized Obama’s Middle East foreign policy. He states that although Obama’s intentions regarding relations in the middle east were well meaning, they have unbalanced relationships that have held for years. Resulting in a situation that makes the US appear weak towards their enemies and endangers the countries with whom the States have typically been allies.
Spyer is able to concisely summarize Obama’s missteps in the Middle East.
He states that “Obama appears to have thought that by expressing Empathy and understanding of Middle Eastern cultures via his Cairo speech in 2009, he could open dialogue and repair the damage that he perceived had been caused to the American image in the Middle East by the Bush policies. He then proceeded to not back long standing allies of the US, Tunisia and Egypt and Libya, and also not to confront long standing enemies of the US in the Middle East, Iran and Syria. In this way he degraded the US strategic coin in the era. Those who had relied on the US are now dead or in jail and those who had relied on other patrons, were glad that they chose the “right” side – witness Bashar Al Assad who has waged a war against his own people with the support of Russia and China for over a year, and no interference from the US or Western Allies. And this is exactly the opposite of what is needed to have a voice in the Middle East, i.e. one must show that one’ allies can rely on you and that your enemies must fear you. This is how Israel has managed to maintain some semblance of peace in a very dangerous area of the world. And this is how Obama has seriously devalued the American Strategic coin in the region.” (emphasis mine)
I invite your comments.
In an article entitled, The Other September 11th, you’ll find a good description of what happened in Vienna on September 11th,1683. Islamic warriors had invaded and defeated Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia. They plowed their way through Austria to Vienna, and were besieging the city. But on September 11th, 40,000 soldiers arrived from Poland to save Vienna. That was the beginning of the end of the Islamic military conquest of Europe which had gone on for hundreds of years. In this well researched article talking about the characteristics of great military leaders, such as the Polish Sobieski and the American Stonewall Jackson, Col. G.F.R. Henderson gives his assessment of Stonewall Jackson’s uncanny genius:
He learned, too, to put himself into his adversary’s place and to realize his weakness. He learned, in a word, that war is a struggle between two intellects rather than the conflict of masses; and it was by reason of this knowledge that he played on the hearts of his enemies with such extraordinary skill.
The war we are in right now, (post 9/11) is similarly a struggle between two intellects rather than the conflict of masses. This was brought home to me by my attendance at the Act for America conference which I attended this year. Brigitte Gabriel, who started Act for America is a brave American citizen who has taken on the mission to educate regarding the Islamist threat to America. She has been maligned as a right wing extremist and has to travel with bodyguards in the United States of America especially since her alias has been exposed in the press.
Here is a post of what you can do to educate yourself and to act in this crusade: a blog called Citizen Warrior. I especially enjoyed this article Lessons on Jihad From the Movie, “What About Bob?”. I hope you do too.