Oslo Accords, instead of curbing anti-Semitism, had opposite effect
Article by Micha Odenheimer Published: 09.11.09, 17:08
Anti-Semitism infiltrated the Islamic world in the 19th century as Muslims came into contact with the Christian West. The founding of the State of Israel intensified the power and importance of anti-Semitism ideas in the Middle East. The Oslo Accords, instead of diminishing anti-Semitism, actually seemed to have had the opposite effect. Israel had become the agent of Western imperialism.
For hundreds of years, the virulent form of anti-Semitism that is now endemic in the Islamic world has been the heritage of the Christian West. In Christianity, the Jews had a starring role: they were the killers of Christ, and some Christians believed that they reenacted this ultimate evil by drinking Christian blood every Passover. In Islam, the Jews were more like shlemeils than God-slayers: the Jewish tribes in Arabia opposed Muhammad, but he easily defeated them. Although the Koran contains numerous harsh statements about Jews, the bottom line in Islam was that Jews were protected under Islamic law as long as they accepted Islamic political authority and the social and political limitations this imposed. Prejudice against Jews existed, and at periods of turmoil this prejudice sometimes turned violent, but eras of cooperation and relative peace were also often characteristic of Jewish life under Islam.
The translation of European anti-Semitic tracts into Arabic began in the second half of the 19th century. Most of the tracts were written in French; all were translated and published by members of the Christian Arab community. The first such translation, published in Beirut in 1869, was a forgery that purported to be the confessions of a Moldavian rabbi who had converted to Christianity; in the tract, he told of the horrors of the Jewish religion. In 1890, under the influence of the Dreyfus Affair, a Christian author named Habib Faris published a book in Cairo called "The Talmudic Human Sacrifices," an anthology of material culled from European sources. The notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion," concocted in 1895 in Paris apparently by the Russian Czar's secret police, was translated into Arabic for the first time by an Arab Christian, and published in the journal of the Latin community in Jerusalem in 1926. It was not until 1951, in Cairo, that a Muslim translated the Protocols, which, according to a journalist recently returned from Jordan, is now being sold in English translation in every hotel she stayed in.
From the beginning of the 20th century, pressures mounted that would eventually result in the creation of an authentically Islamic anti-Semitism. Large swathes of the Arab world were beginning to fall under the domination of European colonial powers; Islam began to feel threatened and defensive. When the secularizing Young Turks overthrew Sultan Abdul Hamid II, ruler of the Ottoman Empire, in 1908, their opponents accused the Young Turks of being supported by Jews.
Gradually, anti-Zionism became a major concern for some Arab writers and journalists, and ideas emerged that prepared the way for the merging of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic themes. As early as 1909, an influential Turkish journalist named Yunus Nadi published an article called "Down with Zionism Always and Forever" in which he claimed that Zionists were plotting to create "an Israelite Kingdom comprising the ancient states of Babel and Nineveh with Jerusalem at its center." At the apparent prompting of the French consul, he added that Jews were doing this to serve as the vanguard of German influence in the Middle East. As Bernard Lewis writes: "The theory that Zionism aimed not at a Jewish National Home but at a Jewish Empire was often repeated by later polemicists; the argument that Zionism and the Jewish National Homes were puppets or agents of one or the other imperial powers also became commonplace." First, the Zionists were accused of serving the Germans or the French, afterwards the British or the Soviets, and finally the Americans.
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