In Disagreement With Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

“Israel is anathema to the Muslims as a whole, since way back in the seventh century, among whom Mohammad desperately sought acceptance, rejected his new religion.” [Sabrina Citron ‘The Indictment’]

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in Chapter 4 Page 78 of his “ Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence” entitled, “The Scapegoat” makes the extraordinary remark, “Antisemitism as such, however is not ancient.” He also states, just as surprisingly, that they [adherents to Islam] “are not indigenous to it.”

Ibn Warraq in a forward to MD Andrew G. Bostom’s superlative and heavily researched 766 page , “The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism” asks the very question, “Is Islamic antisemitism only a modern phenomenon? What of the so-called Golden Age of Islamic tolerance, above all as depicted in Islamic Spain? Here the wiliness to accept the cliches of the Romantics is palpable. And those whom we expect to have done their own research and not merely to accept, and pass on, these cliches, so often disappoint.” Bostom’s masterpiece is an extraction from sacred texts to solemn history.

By way of an example, Warraq commences with the writing of Amartya Sen, a celebrated economist, and winner of the Nobel Prize who in recent years was given to concentrating on areas on subjects outside his normal area of research. In doing so he apparently erred despite the availability of relevant resources. In his “Identity and Violence”, he states that the Jewish Philosopher Maimonides was forced to to emigrate from an intolerant Europe in the twelfth century and found a tolerant refuge in the Arab world. Warrag’s response is one of not knowing how to characterize this misinterpretation of history. He elects to refer to Fouad Ajami’s review in the Washington Post. A reminder to Sen that:

“—-this will not do as history. Maimonides born in 1135, did not flee ‘Europe’ for the ‘Arab’ world. He fled his native Cordoba in Spain, which was the in the grip of religious-political terror, choking under the yoke of a Berber Muslim dynasty, the Almohads, that was to snuff out all that remained of the culture of convivencia and made the life of Spain’s Jews [and the free spirits among its Muslims] utter hell. Maimonides and his family fled the fire of the Muslim city-states in the Iberian Peninsula to Morocco and the to Jerusalem. There was darkness and terror in Morocco as well, and Jerusalem was equally inhospitable in the time of the Crusader Kingdom. Deliverance came only in Cairo—the exception, not the rule, its social peace maintained by the enlightened Saladin.”

Warraq explains further that Moses Maimonides [1135-1204], rabbi, physician, and philosopher, was fleeing the Muslims, the intolerant Almohads who conquered Cordoba in 1148.The Almohads persecuted the Jews, and offered them the choice of conversion to Islam, death, or exile. Maimonides’ family and other Jews chose exile. But this did not bring any peace to the Jews who had to be on the move constantly to avoid the all-conquering Almohads. After a brief sojourn in Morocco and the Holy Land, Maimonides settled in Fostat, Egypt, where he was physician to the Grand Vizier Alfadhil, and possibly Saladin, the Kurdish Sultan.

During the time of Maimonides, Islamic antisemitism was not confined to Spain, Fez, Morocco and wherever Islam was resident. Ibn Warraq recalls Maimonides involvement with the Jews of Yemen. This experience is fully recorded in his “The Epistle to the Jews of Yemen, written around 1172 consequent to inquiries by Jacob ben Netanel al-Fayyumi, the head of the Jewish community in Yemen. At the time, the Jewish community in Yemen were facing a crises occasioned by Muslims forcing them to convert to Islam. This campaign had already commenced in 1165 under Abd-al-Nabi ibn Mahdi. Maimonides support provides a clear view of his impression of Muhammad the Prophet, “the Madman” as he referred to, and of Islam in general. In his words:

“You write that the rebel leader in Yemen decreed compulsory apostasy for the Jews by forcing the Jewish inhabitants of all the places he had subdued to desert the Jewish region just as the Berbers had compelled them to do in Maghreb [i.e. Islamic West].” Further, he points out that persistent persecutions of the Jews by Muslims results in forced conversion:

“——the continuous persecutions will cause many to drift away from our faith, to have misgivings, or to go astray, because they witnessed our feebleness, and noted the triumph of our adversaries and their dominion over us—-After him arose the Madman who emulated his precursor since he paved the way for him. But he added the further objective of procuring rule and submission, and he invented his well known religion.”

Maimonides points to one of the reasons for Muslim hatred of Jews:

“In as much as the Muslims could not find a single proof in the entire Bible nor a reference or possible allusion to their prophet which they could utilize, they were compelled to accuse us saying, ‘You have altered the text of the Torah, and expunged every trace of the name of Mohammad therefrom.’ They could find nothing stronger than the ignominious argument.”He notes the depth of Muslim hatred for the Jews, but he also remarks on the Jewish tendency to denial, a feature that he insists will hasten their destruction.

Over the years, certain Western scholars have attempted to argue that Islamic antisemitism, that is hatred of Jews is only a recent phenomena and secondly, that Jews lived safely under Muslim rule for centuries, especially during the Golden Age of Muslim Spain. Both assertions are unsupported by the evidence. A sampling of dated events follows to demonstrate a segment of the history of Islamic antisemitism [Jewish Virtual Library]:

The Muslim attitude towards Jews is reflected in various verses throughout the Koran, the Holy Book of the Islamic faith. “They [the children of Israel] were consigned to humiliation and wretchedness. They brought the wrath of God upon themselves, and this because they used to deny God’s signs and kill his Prophets unjustly and because they disobeyed and were transgressors” [Sura 2.61]. According to the Koran, the Jews try to introduce corruption [5.64], have always been disobedient [5.78] and are enemies of Allah, the Prophet and the angels [2.97-98].

At various times, Jews in Muslim lands lived in relative peace and thrived culturally and economically. The position of the Jews was never secure and they were generally viewed with contempt by their Muslim neighbors and subject to changes in the political or social climate with the prospect of persecution, violence and death. In the 9th century, Bagdad’s Caliph al-Mutawakkil designed a yellow badge for Jews, setting a precedent that would be followed later in Nazi Germany.

Decrees ordering the destruction of synagogues were enacted in Egypt and Syria [1014, 1293-4, 1301-2], Iraq [854-859, 1344] and Yemen [1676]. Despite the Koran’s prohibition, Jews were forced to convert to Islam or face death in Yemen [1165 and 1678], Morocco [1275, 1465 and 1790-92] and Baghdad [1333 and 1344].

The situation in Arab lands reached a low point in the 19th century. Jews in most of North Africa [including Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Morocco] were forced to live in ghettos. In Morocco, which contained the largest Jewish community in the Islamic Diaspora, Jews were made to walk barefoot or wear shoes of straw when outside the ghetto. Even Muslim children participated in the degregation of Jews, by throwing stones at them or harassing them in other ways. The frequency of anti-Jewish violence increased, and many Jews were executed on charges of apostasy. Ritual murder accusations against thee Jews became commonplace in the Ottoman Empire.

Timeline of Islamic Antisemitism.

7th Century: 622 AD, Muhammad, the founder of Islam, traveled to Median to attract followers to his new faith. When the Jews of Medina refused to recognize Muhammad as their Prophet, two of the major Jewish tribes were expelled. In 627, Muhammad’s followers killed between 600 and 900 of the men, and divided the surviving Jewish women and children amongst themselves.

8th Century: Mass murder of Jews occurred in Morocco where whole communities were wiped out by Muslim ruler Idris1.

11th Century:1016. The Jewish community of Kairouan, Tunisia were forced to chose between conversion and expulsion. 1032, Abul Kamai Tumin conquers Fez, Morocco and decimates the Jewish community, killing 6,000 Jews [referred to as 1033 Fez massacre]. 1066, Dec 30 – Granada massacre – Muslim mob stormed the Royal Palace, crucified Jewish vizier Joseph Ibn Naghrela and massacred most of the Jewish population of the city. More than1,500 Jewish families, numbering 4,000 persons, fell in one day. The Jewish quarter of the city was raised and 5,000 of its population slaughtered. The riot was incited by Muslim preachers who had angrily objected to what they saw as inordinate Jewish political power.

12th Century: Mass murder of Jews occurred in North Africa where the Almohads either forcibly converted or decimated several communities.

14th Century: 1333 forced mass conversions in Bagdad.

15th Century: 1438 – Establishment of mellahs [ghettos] in Morocco. 1465 the Morocco Revolt – accusations against one Jewish vizier leads to a massacre of the entire population of Fez, where Arab mobs slaughtered thousands of Jews, leaving only 11 alive, after a Jewish deputy vizier treated a Muslim woman in “an offensive manner.” The killings touched off a wave of similar massacres throughout Morocco.

17th Century:1678 – Forced mass conversions in Yemen.

18th Century: 1785 Mass murder of Jews occurred in Libya where Ali Burzi Pasha murdered hundreds of Jews; 1790-1792 destruction of most of the Jewish communities of Morocco.

19th Century: Algiers, where Jews were massacred in 1805, 1815 and 1830 and Marrakesh, where more than 300 hundred Jews were murdered between 1864 and 1880.

An item from Andrew G. Bostom, author of The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, serves as an appropriate conclusion to this essay. During February 2007, he created two questions by way of a test, which he presented to a select representative group who had concerned themselves with antisemitism, generally and/or within the Muslim world. He requested that they “hazard a guess as to where and when a a paragraph extracted from was written, based upon its contents.” The paragraph reads as follows:

”Our people [the Muslims] observing thus the occupations of the Jews and the Christians concluded that the religion of the Jews must compare unfavorably as do their professions, and that that their unbelief must be the foulest of all, since they are the filthiest of all nations. Why the Christians, ugly as they are, are physically less repulsive than the Jews may be explained by the fact that the Jews, by not intermarrying, have intensified the offensiveness of their features. Exotic elements have not mingled with them; neither have males of alien races had intercourse with their women, nor have their men cohabited with females of foreign stock. The Jewish race therefor has been denied high mental qualities, sound physique, and superior lactation. The same results obtain when horses, camels, donkeys, and pigeons are inbred.”

Dr. Bostom did not find the answers surprising in that they were reflective of “conventional academic [and journalistic] wisdom which continues to assert Muslim Jew hatred is only a recent phenomenon that began in the late 19th or early 20th centuries, and is a mere by-product of the advent of the Zionist movement, and the protracted Arab-Israel conflict over the lands comprising the original 1922 Mandate for historical Palestine [i.e. modern Israel, Jordan, Judea, Samaria and Gaza].

In fact, the subject paragraph “derives from a remarkable essay by the polymath Arabic writer al-Jahiz [d. 869], illustrating the ant-Jewish attitudes prevalent within an important early Islamic society – Bagdad, the seat of Abbasid Caliphate – and composed over a millennium earlier than suspected by these interlocutors.” Bostom noted that the author was described as a “skeptic” who harbored “indifferent views to religion in general”.

About the Author
Alex Rose was born in South Africa in 1935 and lived there until departing for the US in 1977 where he spent 26 years. He is an engineering consultant. For 18 years he was employed by Westinghouse until age 60 whereupon he became self-employed. He was also formerly on the Executive of Americans for a Safe Israel and a founding member of CAMERA, New York (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America and today one of the largest media monitoring organizations concerned with accuracy and balanced reporting on Israel). In 2003 he and his wife made Aliyah to Israel and presently reside in Ashkelon.
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