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From Ancient Hate to Modern Terror: The Unbroken Line of Antisemitism

Campaign Against Antisemitism rally in Parliament Square 2019.jpg
Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED
Campaign against antisemitism rally in Parliament Square 2019.jpg Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

In the labyrinth of our collective psyche, the Shoah stands as an immense monument to human malevolence, an infernal cathedral built from the broken bodies and shattered lives of the Jewish people. We have designated Germany as the epicenter of this horror, a place where the administrative banality of evil was elevated to a perverse art form. But if you wish to trace the provenance of this antipathy, to root out its primordial beginnings, one must turn the pages back further and peer through a wider lens. The echo of this hatred reverberates in the chambers of a doctrine even older than the Third Reich—namely, Islamism. To ignore this is to be willfully blind to a continuum of animus, a hatred that has merely rebranded itself over the centuries.

Let us not indulge in sophistry; certain quarters of Islamic theology have long been rife with anti-Semitic sentiment. While this is by no means an indictment of Islam as a whole—any faith can be contorted into a weapon—it is a cautionary tale of what happens when fanatical doctrines are allowed to fester. It is said that Adolf Hitler had an uncomfortable affinity for Islam, a religion of warriors that he found congenial to his lust for conquest (“Hitler’s Table Talk“).

Here we find the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, in a tango of mutual loathing with the Führer. It is a historical fact that this so-called spiritual leader, who had orchestrated anti-Jewish riots in Palestine, sought to entangle his fortunes with Hitler’s genocidal plans (“Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World” by Jeffrey Herf).

Fast-forward to the present tense—our moment in time—where Hamas, an organization solemnly listed as terrorist by the UK, the US, and the EU, raises its voice in an anti-Semitic choir that would have both the Mufti and Hitler singing along. Their vernacular of hatred and modus operandi—the use of civilians as human shields—resonate with an uncanny familiarity (“UN Human Rights Council Report, 2015“).

The ghastly reality confronting us is the ideological symbiosis between yesterday’s and today’s heralds of hatred. The execrable doctrines once scrawled on parchment and ratified in blood in the chancelleries of Berlin find their modern-day echo in the labyrinthine tunnels of Gaza. This is a cautionary tale for all of us: if Jews find themselves in the crosshairs today, who will be next in the lineup of the Islamist firing squad?

The spectral procession of ideals trudging down the streets of our Western capitals, flags aloft, voices clamouring, all in the ostensible name of freedom and justice. Let’s not kid ourselves; the air is thick not merely with the cries for liberation but also with an insidious alignment that should jolt even the most lethargic among us into wakefulness. When chants in London, Paris, or New York rally support for Hamas—elegantly skirting its terrorist designation by the likes of the UK, the US, and the EU—we must ask ourselves: Have we reached such an abyss of historical amnesia that we’ve sanitised and rebranded a group committed to ethnic cleansing as freedom fighters?

What’s playing out on the cobblestones of Trafalgar Square or the pavements of Fifth Avenue is no mere exercise in democratic dissent. It’s the mutation of a protest movement into a breeding ground for ideologies that once orchestrated unspeakable horrors. In this theatre of the absurd, antisemitism dons the guise of anti-Zionism, and chants of ‘liberation’ harmonise with the diabolical symphony of Hamas’s charter.

The protest placards held aloft may spell out ‘Free Palestine,’ but the subtext, punctuated by the disturbing iconography, often reeks of the same genocidal aspirations that were once drafted in ink and ratified in blood in the vaults of Berlin. And if the State of Israel, warts and all, is to be cast as the ultimate villain in this morality play, then it becomes intellectually and morally incumbent upon us to ask: Who are we making the heroes?

Indeed, the galling reality we confront is that a perverse symmetry has emerged between the fanatical Islamism of yesteryear and the popular slogans of today’s protests. If Jews are the immediate targets—bearing the brunt of this resurgent hatred—the precedent set is a grim foreshadowing of the next victim. When calls to destroy a nation and its people are rebranded as cries for ‘liberation,’ the word loses all meaning, and the floodgates are flung open for any and all forms of fanaticism to march through.

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re not merely on a slippery slope; we are free-falling. We must grasp the urgency of the situation and engage in an uncompromising re-evaluation of our values, our protests, and the ideologies we inadvertently empower. Otherwise, we may find that our own freedoms, so passionately trumpeted in these protests, have become the ultimate casualties in a war we never even realised we were fighting.

Thus, our scrutiny should be relentless, and our vigilance unfaltering. We must not be seduced by the siren calls of this most ancient form of terror, which continues to morph, to evolve, but never truly to change. It is a malevolent force that would drag all of humanity into a void of chaos and suffering, and we must brace ourselves for the intellectual and moral struggle that lies ahead. For the face of hatred may change, but its black heart beats on.

About the Author
Catherine Perez-Shakdam - Director Forward Strategy and Research Fellow at the American Centre for Levant Studies. Catherine is a former Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society and consultant for the UNSC on Yemen, as well an expert on Iran, Terror and Islamic radicalisation. A prominent political analyst and commentator, she has spoken at length on the Islamic Republic of Iran, calling on the UK to proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist organisation. Raised in a secular Jewish family in France, Catherine found herself at the very heart of the Islamic world following her marriage to a Muslim from Yemen. Her experience in the Middle East and subsequent work as a political analyst gave her a very particular, if not a rare viewpoint - especially in how one can lose one' sense of identity when confronted with systemic antisemitism. Determined to share her experience and perspective on those issues which unfortunately plague us -- Islamic radicalism, Terror and Antisemitism Catherine also will speak of a world, which often sits out of our reach for a lack of access.
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