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ANTI-SEMITISM AND ALTERNATIVE HISTORY

Moshe Sharon

Hatred of Judaism and the Jews is an intellectual creation. Its foundations were laid in ancient times by historians, writers, poets, philosophers and artists long before Christianity added the theological dimension. Since then it has been the one permanent feature that has accompanied the Jews throughout their history.

Born in Hellenistic Egypt, in the third century BCE, 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. It has passed through certain major stations on its way, such as the writings of some of the Church Fathers, a number of 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.

The denial of the Holocaust is the most recent and most arrogant example of alternative history. 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 PA President of whom the West is so enamored, 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.

The first known alternative history of 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, 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.

Manetho’s “history” was designed to negate everything positive about the Jews. The Jews described Joseph as a wise governor who saved Egypt from disaster. 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 described them as a horrifying mob of lepers. The Jews claimed that God had brought them out of Egypt; Manetho asserted that they had been expelled.

Manetho’s fiction and the abundance of horror stories about the Jews, spread by his copiers and successors, exemplify a mixture of hatred and fear. Later, Moslem classical historians created their own versions of Jewish alternative history. But unlike their predecessors, their hatred of the Jews was based on contempt rather than 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 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, 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 was popular among Moslem intellectuals and became the staple of anti-Semitic Moslem propaganda. The Damascus Affair has never died, still presented as proof of ritual murder anchored 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 which by 2002 had sold out eight editions. He described the Damascus Affair in great detail as “evidence” of the Jewish practice of ritual murder. Ratti Menton is his proof for the truth of the information.

Arab readers now comprise an enthusiastic 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. 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 writings by similar authors 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 Jewish ritual murder as an absolute truth, Moslem writers have become ever more 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 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. These books confirm Moslem fears and explain their shortcomings. Moslems 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, its Moslem counterpart has very little variety. Hundreds of books repeat the same slogans, and cartoonists, directly influenced by the Nazi cartoons, 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 gave the impression he was relying on Jewish sources for the “truth” of the blood libel: “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 Moslem leaders, went to Berlin to serve the Nazi propaganda machine and prepare a military force to participate in the “Final Solution.” Moslem anti-Semites turn these facts upside down. The comparison of the Jews to the Nazis has become a staple of Islamic alternative history, a major topic in talk shows 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 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.”

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…”

Even medieval Christian anti-Semitic literature, as bad 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 need. It depicts the Jews as a demonic entity and therefore makes their extermination legitimate. As such, modern Islamic anti-Semitism is at least as vicious as that of the Nazis.

Moshe Sharon is Professor Emeritus of Islamic History at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem

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