As I write this piece, Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is already under fiery criticism for his disturbing resort to anti-Semitic slurs such as “deep-pockets” and a “control” on media during a CNN interview as part of the argument he was trying to put forth in favor of Palestinians. While he is being criticized by many globally for these hateful remarks, many of his countrymen are lauding him and he has become a hero to them overnight.
The reason Pakistanis have turned him into a hero lies in their collective yet bizarre (strange for a country with no Jewish population) deep-rooted anti-Semitism which gets a fresh supply of oxygen with a new wave of violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians.
Antisemitism in Pakistan has been primarily religious in its nature and its roots can be traced back to the history of Jewish-Muslim relations from the time of the earliest Muslim community that came into being in Arabia. Many devout as well as not so devout Muslims are very clear-worded about their support for their Palestinian Muslim brethren as they see the entire conflict from the lens of Islam and they also, therefore, resort to the usage of typical Islamic terms such as Jihad, Shahadat (martyrdom), and Kuffar (infidels as here it is referred to Jews) when articulating their position on the conflict.
Every time news comes that a conflict of some kind has started once again between the Israelis and Palestinians, the first thing that I witness in my homeland is a rise in anti-Semitism of the vilest and grotesque kind. Pakistani Muslims infuriated by the news of their brethren killed in Israeli airstrikes over Gaza forget even the most horrific of images of the Holocaust in that state of mind and usually have a swift resort to a two-pronged approach that comprises of either equating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an event of the same magnitude as the Holocaust or going in complete denial of Holocaust.
The denial part is most disturbing as when those who either tweet on it or write some article on it in the local Urdu or English press or speak it out and loud on local talk shows, resort to the most baffling and bizarre conspiracy theories. Some of these theories are supposedly intended to enlighten young and mature minds alike on how “Jews run the world” therefore “they created the narrative of Holocaust on their own” and when such peddlers of conspiracy theories presented on national television as Tajziya Nigar (Analyst in Pakistan’s official Urdu language) are asked why so then they respond “Because Jews wanted to create Israel so they created the story of Holocaust”. This is the most spine-chilling part as it turns the most horrific of events humanity witnessed into a mere fabrication completely losing sight of 6 million souls perished for the mere purpose of gratifying a tyrant’s highly lethal strain of master-race syndrome.
As the conflict escalated unfortunately to the misfortune of civilians on both sides, my Facebook newsfeed featured more posts bordering on a serious kind of anti-Semitism in the name of supposed hatred for Israel and Zionism. Articles and news pieces about Israel and Palestine are now littered with disconcerting comments denying, justifying, or trivializing Holocaust. One Pakistani superstar in particular named Feroze Khan who is a prominent television actor in Pakistan crossed the line with his overt love for Hitler as he shared to his Instagram stories a post where Nazis were referred to as “last warriors who fought the satanic Jewish banking cartel”. By such a post, the actor blatantly supported the mass-murder of Jewish people though thanks to the backlash he received from few sane and human-hearted Pakistanis he deleted the post later.
Also, Palestinian civilian casualties as reported with all the opportunistic sensationalism by Pakistani Urdu language media much loved and followed by a vast majority of Pakistani Muslims have deviated greatly from the supposed purpose of informing netizens of the violent updates from Gaza and have rather gone in a direction where the purpose shifts towards an implicit demonizing of Jewry in general.
Such demonization overtly manifests itself through Urdu prime-time news headlines such as “Yahudiyon may khauf ki leher daur gayi” (Wave of fear unleashed on Jews). These news reports about Gaza take no time to turn into pieces giving some serious competition to the Nazi literature as they resort to the collective indictment of the entire Jewish race for the Israeli retaliatory attack on Gaza. I want to tell all those who resort to anti-Semitism in the name of their “cause for Palestinians” that this hatred whether deliberate or accidental will only result in one thing and that is a process of incapacitation enfeebling the cause or movement they are passionately clinging to and advocating on social media. A better choice of words not bordering on any kind of animus will be a better tool to be equipped with for anyone with any cause. All those who believe praising Hitler for Holocaust and employing contemptuous slurs like “deep pockets” are not anti-Semitic, they should then also not condemn Islamophobic statements from European far-right and white supremacists. You should be as concerned about antisemitism as you are about Islamophobia because both notions are products of pure hate and ignorance.