The Protocols of the Elders of Zion still sells well in Muslim countries, and is cited as confirming the intention and capacity of Jews to control the world via their money and the influence it buys.
The Protocols were the products of Russian anti-Semites early in the 20th century, and later promoted by a motley group that included Henry Ford and Adolph Hitler.firstname.lastname@example.org
Quoting the Protocols is no long politically correct in the better circles of Western democracies, but a distant cousin is widely heard from those with influence.
Some of them are Jews, and some work in the White House and State Department. They purvey the line that Israel's failure to make peace with the Palestinians is at the heart of an aggressive version of Islam currently making waves in the Middle East, Europe, and North America.
Many of these people also assert that what is motivating people to kill is not truly Islam.
Alas, reality is more complex.
In this case, as it usually is, reality is a muddle of multiple things roiling the world.
The issue of what is causing a radical, violent, and expansionist Islam recalls the assignments that were popular at one time--and may still be useful--in Introductions to American History; i.e., what were the causes of the American Revolution, or what were the causes of the Civil War.
Good grades went to those who recognized a number of causes, and the problems in ranking those more or less important.
Both events came about.gradually, building over the years, with different issues coming to the fore in various places, with economics, the egos and accomplishments of political figures in the mix. Neither the Revolution nor the Civil War ended finally with a great bang, but various issues, ideas, and political movements produced by the upheavals continued to influence things long after the last dead soldier was buried.
Likewise with radical Islam. It has developed in a number of places, with coordination or independence between nuclei spread from deep in West Africa up to Libya and across to the Sinai, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and eastward. Common themes and similar levels of barbarism do not clearly indicate an integrated leadership. Indeed, the spurt of amateuristic knifings in Israel and the aroused couple in San Bernardino suggest a great deal of individual initiatives, connected only via the appeal of themes propagated on Internet sites and e-mail.
To say it is not Islam is to say that Unitarians or Mormons are not Christian, that Reform or ultra-Orthodox are not legitimate expressions of Judaism. Islam like Christianity and Judaism has produced many streams, each with its roots in old doctrines but different from one another along with sharing common features.
Can the Western strivers after the politically correct claim that the Islamic State's pursuit of a caliphate is not truly Islam while not saying the same about the Shiite rulers of Iran who call for the destruction of Israel?
Also in the Islamic mix is a newly proclaimed Reform Movement, which renounces jihad and prejudice based on ethnicity, language, religion, sexual orientation and gender.
What goes by that name appears to be small and hardly out of diapers. No doubt the good folks who signed on to the new movement will come in for some of the same ridicule from established preachers that the Orthodox Jews direct at Reform Jews. And given what prevails in Islam, they may suffer attacks more lethal than the verbal brickbats that Jews direct at one another..
Getting back to basics, and in this case the origin of Islamic extremism of the deadly variety - - -
Like the explanation of the American Revolution or the Civil War, there have been numerous streams in the creation of violent Islam, beyond the themes of conquest and theocracy well established in Islamic history that the current practitioners wish to reestablish.
Some claim that Western colonialism made a major contribution, by providing reasons for revolution against the states created by Europeans throughout areas heavily populated by Muslims.
American bumbling made several contributions, beyond the end of the colonial era. Prominent was the recruiting, financing, and arming of Muslim fighters brought to Afghanistan to oppose the Soviet intervention. Among the products of this adventure was enhancing the theme of militant Islam against godless Communism for use in in Cold War competition between the big powers. America helped to produce the Soviets' Vietnam in Afghanistan, in part as revenge for the Soviet and Chinese contributions to the earlier American disaster. The price paid was an awakened Islam that led back to the US on 9-11.
This in turn produced US led onslaughts into Afghanistan and Iraq, the destruction of an effective if cruel regime in Iraq, and another source of intense anti-Western violence, taking advantage of military supplies left behind by the Americans.
Where are Palestinians in all of this?
We cannot dismiss the issue as a symbol for hating Jews and seeing Israel as an extension of Western colonialism. There is continued pounding on the injustices suffered by Palestinians by Muslim religious and political authorities, including in those countries that have made a formal peace with Israel.
At the very least, however, we should say that Palestine is only one of many claimed justifications for for a vengeful Islam. One is hard pressed to link Israel or Palestine to the recent attacks in San Bernardino, Paris, or London. Or what is happening in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Nigeria, the Sinai, and Yemen where themes of ethnicity, individual and organizational competition, as well as ideological and theocratic disputes each have their own capacity to justify killing opponents.
Should Palestine become a state, even with the more unlikely event of Israel's disappearance, it hardly seems possible that these other issues will vanish.
Fairness also requires considering the responsibility of the Palestinians for their own plight.
This, too, is an issue that it is possible to muddle by seeing in one or another Israeli action the cause for no progress, and as justification for boycotting the products of settlements, all of what Israelis produce, or Israeli academics.
The louder and more inclusive the targeting of Israeli entities for the problems of Palestinians, the more the process resembles those seeing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a true document that explains history.
Those seeing Israel as the cause of evil should know that they are aligning themselves with some very bad characters.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem