When hatred turns lethal

The motivations behind the anti-Semitic language in which Jews are reduced to animals by Arab and Muslim intellectuals, religious leaders and politicians.

Neil J Kressel 370 (photo credit: courtesy)
Neil J Kressel 370
(photo credit: courtesy)
One of the most neglected stories in the Middle East – the ubiquitous Jew-hatred in the Arab and Muslim world – was suddenly catapulted into the mainstream media spotlight when Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood- affiliated president, Mohamed Morsi, in an interview on Lebanon’s Al- Quds TV in 2010, described Israelis as “...these blood-suckers, who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.”
What followed was a rare January article in The New York Times by the paper’s Cairo correspondent, delving into the outburst of run-of-the-mill Arab anti-Semitism with a dispatch titled, “Morsi’s Slurs Against Jews Stir Concern.” While the Times article was an encouraging development, it was an anomaly and continues to remain the exception to the rule.
With the publication in November of his book, The Sons of Pigs and Apes: Muslim Antisemitism and the Conspiracy of Silence, Dr. Neil J. Kressel sheds new light on the decades of largely wholesale denial and minimization of Islamic- animated hatred of Jews. He applies his scholarly tool-kit to show the effects of many Arabs and Muslims who “draw bigotry from their religious tradition and seek to impart such bigotry to their children.”
Notably, his book is a call for action: “Muslim anti-Semitism is already very dangerous and not just for the Jews. And it is likely to get far worse. It’s time to sound the alarm.”
Kressel, a social psychologist at William Paterson University in New Jersey, unravels the motivations behind the dehumanizing anti-Semitic language of Arab and Muslim intellectuals, religious leaders and politicians.
The phrase “offspring of apes and pigs,” writes Kressel, “enters not infrequently into Arab discussions of Israel.
In some political cartoons, Israeli leaders – for example, Benjamin Netanyahu – are portrayed with pig snouts.” He cites further instances of the recurring theme, for example Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who called Jews “the grandsons of apes and pigs.” During Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9 to stop Hamas rocket fire on its southern periphery, Egyptian cleric Safwat Higazi said, “Dispatch those sons of apes and pigs to the hellfire, on the wings of the Kassam rockets.”
His book breathes life and fire into a topic that has been repressed and ignored by the field of psychology.
Kressel cites a 2003 study that investigated the online index Psychinfo of psychological publications. The result: Not one entry dealing with Muslimbased hatred of Jews. For Kressel, there is no pussyfooting around the immersion of significant numbers of Muslims in hard-core loathing of Jews and the State of Israel. Kressel avoids the trap of many European academics writing on Jew-hatred, who investigate a nebulous anti-Semitism, an anti-Semitism without anti-Semites. He names names.
His work is packed with sophisticated nuance and meticulous scholarship; Kressel flatly rejects sweeping generalizations claiming anti-Semitism is integral to the practice of Islam and the global Muslim community.
He sharply criticizes anti-Muslim bigotry and racism.
While he cautiously recognizes the potential of the Arab Spring – or perhaps the phrase “Arab revolts” might be more apt – in his chapter titled “A Litmus Test for the West,” he writes: “The Arab Spring, thus far, has not meant an end to or even a lessening of Jew-hatred. Quite possibly, the opposite will prove true in the long run, especially as reformers’ promises become more difficult to fulfill and subsequent events produce winners and losers. Thus far, anti-Israel stances have proved increasingly popular, and they have continued to feed into more explicit anti-Jewish bigotry.”
Kressel brilliantly dissects the failure of the major human rights watchdog groups and the academics of many Western universities. In the chapter titled “The Shame of the Antiracist Community,” he draws attention to a forgotten incident involving top United Nations official and professor emeritus at Princeton Richard Falk, who said in 1979 that Ayatollah Khomeini’s world outlook provided “a desperatelyneeded model of human governance for a third-world country.”
Recently, Falk made headlines for blaming Israel and the US over last month’s Islamic-motivated terror attacks in Boston, which resulted in the death of four Americans and the wounding of 264.
Falk, a special rapporteur with the UN Human Rights Council, has compared Israel’s policies to those of the Nazis and accused president Bush of criminal involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Falk’s blatant anti-Semitism was largely ignored by mainstream news outlets before his most recent assaults on Israel and the United States. Kressel neatly captures the toxic mix of anti-Americanism and Jew-hatred voiced by Falk. “Anti- Americanism can be regarded as a close cousin of antisemitism;dealing with the latter is part of dealing with the former.”
What compounds the Falk scandal is the lack of attention paid to objective tests explaining what constitutes modern Jew-hatred.
Kressel devotes considerable attention to Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky’s famous 3-D test. When criticism of Israel meets the criteria of demonization, delegitimization and double standards, it can be defined as patently anti- Semitic. Comparing the Jewish state to the Hitler movement falls under the rubric of Sharanksy’s standard of anti-Semitism.
The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in Vienna employ’s Sharansky’s definition, but the 3-D test, sadly, is largely ignored in practice in Europe and, unsurprisingly, throughout the Arab and Muslim world. There is a shocking indifference to any semblance of enforcement of the 3-D test.
Kressel details a cogent plan of action to confront Islamic-animated anti- Semitism in his final chapter titled “Fighting Back Against Bigotry.” He recognizes events like the Berlin Declaration of 2004, where the emergence of the 3-D test played a role, help spark discussions about modern expressions of Jew-hatred.
Kressel’s recommendations to combat anti-Semitism warrant serious attention.
He notes “needless to say, it would be best for Muslims to lead the fight against Jew-hatred in the Muslim world.” He urges governments to embrace a zerotolerance policy toward Muslim anti- Semitism. “Before the West agrees to deal with Hamas, for example, it must require that the organization reject antisemitism unambiguously – in its charter and everywhere else.” Who in the West could object to his prudent advice for dealing with one of the most lethal anti-Semitic groups in the Middle East? Kressel’s exhaustive study of Muslim anti-Semitism comes at a crucial moment.
The stakes are extremely high because of Iran’s mad dash to obtain nuclear weapons, coupled with its virulently anti- Semitic foreign policy. Kressel’s remarkable analysis is a must-read, and should be translated into Arabic, Farsi and major European languages, including German, French, Italian and Spanish. ■
The writer is a European affairs correspondent for The Jerusalem Post and a Berlin-based fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal