Antisemitism, and Alternative History –
Weapons in the War against the Jews
Prof. Moshe Sharon*
Anti-Semitism targets the Jews as a group for physical extermination
Hatred of Judaism and the Jews is an intellectual creation. Its sound foundations were laid in ancient times by historians, writers, poets, philosophers and artists long before Christianity added the theological dimension. Since then it has had the most lasting effects, and has been the one permanent feature that has accompanied the Jews throughout their history.
Born in Hellenistic Egypt, intellectual anti-Semitism has two main features which go hand in hand; one is the invention of an alternative (or counter) history for the Jews; the other describing them as inferior human beings, filthy, bearers of disease and haters of humanity and of the gods.
Alternative history declares the historical records of its target people as false, and presents its own version as the truth. Since its creation by the anti-Semites in
Egypt in the 3rd century BCE, the practice has continued to this very day. It has passed through certain major stations on its way, such as the writings of some of the Church Fathers, a number Moslem historians and theologians in the middle ages, Voltaire’s (1694-1778) essay on the Jews in the Dictionaire Philosophique, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion ,and Hitler’s Mein Kampf, until it became commonplace in Arab text books, in multitudes of internet sites, and in numerous publications that deny the Holocaust.
The denial of the Holocaust is the the latest and most arrogant example of alternative history, the essence of anti-Semitism in modern times. The Holocaust deniers know the truth, for there is hardly a case in history that is more documented than the Holocaust. Nevertheless they are out to absolve the Nazis, and blame the victims, presenting the extermination of 6,000.000 Jews as a Jewish conspiracy. Mahmud ‘Abbas (nom de guerre: “Abu Mazen”), the current Palestinian darling is one of them. In 1982 he received a PhD from Lumumba University in Moscow for his thesis on the “Secret Relations between the Nazis and Zionism,” which included all the elements of Holocaust denial (a criminal offence in many Western contries for which people are sent to prison).
The first known alternative history for the Jews was written in Alexandria by the Egyptian priest Manetho, who felt the need to supply his Greek readers with a reply to the Biblical story of the Exodus, with the explicit aim of denigrating the Jews. According to Manetho’s alternative history, the Jews were a group of 80,000 lepers who rebelled, took over Egypt and, ruling it for more than a decade, they spread death and horror in the country. Their leader was Osarseph, a priest from Heliopolis. After thirteen years in exile the Egyptian King, returned to Egypt, killed most of them and drove the rest out of the country, pursuing them to the borders of Syria.
Manetho’s story was designed to negate everything positive about the Jews. The Jews described Joseph as a wise governor who saved Egypt from disaster, and Menetho replied by making him an apostate Egyptian priest of Osiris (hence his name Osarseph) who ruined Egypt. The Jews regarded themselves as a people, Manetho decscribed them as horrifying mob of lepers. The Jews claimed that God had brought them out of Egypt, Manetho asserted that they had been expelled.
Manetho’s “history” and the abundance of horror stories about the Jews, spread by his copiers and successors, are characterised by a mixture of hate and fear. Later, Moslem classical historians also created their own versions of Jewish alternative history. But unlike their predecessors, their attitude to the Jews was that of hate resulting from contempt rather than hate based on fear. However, once the Moslems became acquainted with European anti-Semitism, they embraced the Western description of the Jew as the embodiment of pure evil, and Judaism as a bloodthirsty religion whose followers planned to subdue the world with the help of Satan. Thus the hatred felt by the Moslems towards the Jews now comprised both fear and contempt.
The blood libel, the unholy, gruesome lie of Christian Europe against the Jews, assumed immediate prominence in Islamic anti-Semitic thought and practice.
The first blood libel case under Islamic rule in modern times was the “Damascus Affair”. In 1840, the Jews of Damascus were accused of the ritual murder of a Capuchin friar. Far from immediately opposing the false accusation, Ratti Menton, the French consul in Damascus gave it credibility. Supported by the French government, he himself conducted the “investigation” of the case together with the Moslem Governor. The entire Jewish community was held to ransom, and its leaders were arrested, and some tortured to death, before a general outcry in the world put an end to the affair. Ratti Menton, however, was never convinced of the innocence of the Jews.
The attribution of ritual murder to the Jews became a very popular subject among Moslem intellectuals, and the main topic of anti-Semitic Moslem propaganda. The Damascus Affair has never died. To this very day it is presented as proof of ritual murder in the Jewish religion. Mustafa Tlas, the Syrian minister of war, wrote his PhD on the subject and published it in a book called: The Unleavened Bread of Zion. In this popular book, which by 2002 had sold 8 editions, he described the Damascus Affair in great detail with a single aim, to prove its evidence of the Jewish practice of ritual murder. Ratti Menton is his proof for the truth of the information.
Arab readers now comprise an enthusiatic market for anti-Semitic literature whether written originally in Arabic or translated from other languages. Among the latter, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a crude, primitive anti-Semitic Russian forgery and Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf are best sellers, and compulsory reading for the military. The infamous book of Canon August Rohling Der Talmudjude is the modern Moslem historian’s bible. In the early 1880s Rohling, a professor at the Imperial University of Prague, published a worthless anti-Semitic book, which he claimed was based on the Talmud, adapted from earlier publications of the same kind. In 1885, European scholars exposed Rohling as a fake, a liar, and an ignoramus. As a result he was obliged to resign his university post. Moslem writers do not let such minor facts confuse them. For them Rohling, the Protocols, Hitler, Tlas, Abu Mazen and similar writings constitute the authentic library on the Jews and Judaism. Other sources fall under the headline of the “Jewish (Zionist) conspiracy.”
Having enthusiastically adopted the accusation of the Jews of ritual murder as an absolute truth, the imagination of the Muslim writers became particularly creative. They widened the scope of the victims from Christian to Palestinian and other children, and added the cakes of Purim to Passover unleavened bread.
The establishment of the State of Israel and the repeated defeats of the Arab armies while intensifying the Moslem’s mythological fear of the Jews, needed an immediate, plausible, and face-saving explanation. This was readily provided by the Protocols and Mein kampf which exposed the Jewish conspiracy to control the world. The information in these books confirms their fears and explains their shortcomings. They do not feel alone any more, they belong to the large body of global victims, exposed to the danger posed to humanity by international Jewry, the enemies of God..
Like European anti-Semitic literature, there is very little variety in its Moslem counterpart. Hundreds of books repeat the same slogans, and cartoonists, directly influenced by the Nazi cartoons (only more primitive), repeat the same drawings of the ugly, inhuman, vicious Jew. Out of the vast literature the following examples chosen at random will suffice.
Anis Mansur, an Egyptian author and close adviser of Egyptian presidents, describing the treacherous “Jewish character” shamelessly supplied details about their use of human blood for the Passover matza, giving the impression that he was relying on Jewish sources:
“The famous Jewish historian Josephus was the first to have revealed to the whole world that the Jews need the blood of other people to make matzot for their holidays. The Jews usually do not butcher the person. They only pierce the skull and then the heart, and drink the blood of the head and the heart together; then they discard the corpse anywhere.”
Josephus said exactly the opposite, defending Judaism against the Greek anti-Semites. But Mansur knows that his audience is thirsty for his words, the authority of which nobody questions.
During the Second World War, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, supported by other Muslim leaders, cooperated with the Nazis, and went to Berlin to serve their propaganda machine and prepare a military force to participate in the Nazi “Final Solution” for the Jews. Muslim anti-Semites turn these facts upside down. The comparison of the Jews to the Nazis has become a main trend in the Islamic alternative history, a major topic in talkshows, a key item of anti-Israel propaganda and a frequent subject of the crude Arab cartoon. In the book Oh Moslems, the Jews are Coming Muhammad ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Mansur claims that the Jews are no different from the Nazis, ascribing horrendous atrocities to them: the slaughter of babies, the stabbing of pregnant women, the torture and rape of non-Jewish women and so on.
In 1985 King Fahd of Saudi Arabia published the following observations and memoirs about Israel and the Jews, in the popular weekly aI-Musawwar:
“Israel has had malicious intentions since ancient times. Its objective is the destruction of all other religions. It is proven from history that they are the ones who ignited the Crusades at the time of Saladin so that war would lead to the weakening of both Moslems and Christians. They regard other religions as lower than their own, and other peoples as inferior to their level. And on the subject of vengeance – they have a certain day on which they mix the blood of non-Jews into their bread and eat it. It happened two years ago, while I was in Paris on a visit, that the police discovered five murdered children. Their blood had been drained and it turned out that some Jews had murdered them in order to take their blood and mix it with the bread that they ate on this day. This shows you the extent of their hatred and malice towards non-Jewish peoples.”
In another, there is a discussion about the “Jewish custom of slaughtering children that goes back to the use of children’s blood by the Jewish magicians in the past, and the “extraction of the blood of non-Jewish children for the unleavened bread (fatir) of the Passover.” He also asserts that the Jews “poison the water wells and counterfeit the currency”, two common accusations against the Jews in Europe throughout the ages.
Dr. ‘Abd al-Halim Mahmud, the rector of the famous al-Azhar University, wrote in his book Holy War and Victory:
“The Jews have laid down a programme for the destruction of humanity, through subverting religion and ethics. They have already begun to implement the programme with their money, their control of the mass media and their propaganda. They have falsified knowledge, violated standards of literary truth and unscrupulously sought to break down and destroy humanity.”
Dr. Salah ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Khalidi, in his book The Jewish Personality on the basis of the Koran, concludes that “the Jews are liars, corrupt, envious, cunning, fraudulent, treacherous, stupid, despicable, cowards, and misers; they break agreements and treaties, and cause injustice in the world…” Who can negate such scholarship?
Even medieval Christian, anti-Semitic literature, as severe as it was, does not match the viciousness of Arab-Islamic, anti-Semitic literature and the alternative history of the Jews that is based on it . The voluminous, Arab anti-Semitic literature, fills a demand and answers a necessity. It depicts the Jews as a demonic entity and therefore makes their extermination legitimate. As such, modern Islamic anti-Semitism is even worst than that of the Nazis.
Ahmadinejad dreams of genocide and the reaction of the “guardians” of human rights
The most recent pronouncements of vicious, blatent antisemitism and the call for genocide against Israel and its Jewish people has been issued by Mahmud Ahmadinejad the Iranian president. He has not missed any occasion to call for the annihilation of the Jewish state and makes no secret of his intention that when Iran succeeds in acquiring nuclear weapons it will use them to get rid of Israel and the Jews in it. This would be instant genocide: No need for Nazi-style concentration camps or crematoriums (which Ahmadinejan denies).
But as much as the intentions of the the Iranians president are alarming, no less frightening is the reaction of those who represent all the “guardians” of human rights in the United Nations, who, according to its own decisions, should at least have ostracized the head of a member state who calls for the annihilation of another state and denies the Holocaust.
On September 14, 2006, the “Holocaust and the United Nations” outreach program organized a round table discussion under the theme, “Remembrance and Beyond: The United Nations and the Response to Genocide” at the UN Headquarters in New York. The Iranian president’s call for a new Jewish Holocaust, while denying the Nazi holocaust, was one of the main items of the discussion. A question was directed to all the panelists about the attitude that should be taken towards the Iranian intentions particularly in view of the fact that nuclear weapons were involved.
Dr. David Hamburg, Chair of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention, was the only panelist willing to answer. “The matter is very serious,” he said. “The president of Iran has repeatedly and explicitly called for genocide against Israel. Since Hitler, said Dr. Hamburg, it was hard to think of someone who so repeatedly and explicitly called for genocide. Ahmadinejad is determined to get nuclear weapons. Here is a man calling for genocide—repeatedly and explicitly against one group—with nuclear weapons. Ordinarily we don’t discuss these two issues in the same basket. But now we have the possibility of instant genocide. Even if Israel has its own nuclear weapons, this would be of little use if the president of Iran believes in martyrdom. Given this conjunction — the explicit call for genocide and nuclear weapons, this matter has to be seriously discussed.”
But Dr Hamburg was not joined by the others on the panel. Moreover, Craig Mokhiber, the New York representative of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. held back from specifically condemning Ahmadinejad’s incitement to genocide and his denial of Holocaust—despite questions from the moderator and from a member of the audience—but he finished the event by implicitly equating Iran and Sudan with Israel and the United States. At the end, as the last speaker he found his chance to strike back against what he called “partisan or parochial arguments” about human rights violations concerning “my people” or “those people.” The international human rights movement, Mokhiber lectured the audience, was above all that.
He then began to expound, sharing his deep human rights sensibilities with the world. “If you think that a state is a good guy, you’re making a mistake. With all due respect, there are 192 states in the UN system that have serious human rights problems. And if you’re taking the position of one state as against another, or one state as against a certain group of peoples and trying to make arguments about what’s important…we’re missing the point altogether.” In other words, all countries are the same — those who incite genocide are the same as the targets of that incitement. Those who practice genocide are the same as those who are the leading voices in seeking to prevent it.
In case his audience missed it, Mokhiber now showed his ability to get very specific if and when he so desired. (Previously during the discussion he refused to go into details and even claimed, once, that he did not understand a certain question that could not have been clearer). Individuals should be protected from crimes carried out by all states, Mokhiber said, but as specific examples, cited only four: “the government of Sudan or the government of Iran, or the government of Israel or the government of the United States.”
Iran is the same as Israel, Sudan the same as the United States! The New York representative of High Commissioner of Human Rights, Louise Arbour, not only refuses to condemn President Ahmadinejad, but insists that the world’s leading anti-Semite is no different than the objects of his hatred.
This is the one of most modern examples of revised and alternative history in the making. (Based on www.unwatch.org/ and see the full video report of the discussion in http://Webcast.un.org/ramgen/specialevents/se060914pm.rm )
Left: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Front cover of the 1994 edition. Right: Front cover of The Matza of Zion by Mustafa Tlas.
* Prof. Moshe Sharon teaches Islamic History at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.