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VCU Menorah Review Winter/Spring 2012
Number 76
For the Enrichment of Jewish Thought

An Open Letter to Tarek Fatah

The Jew Is Not My Enemy: Unveiling The Myths That Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism by Tarek Fatah, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart
By Richard Sherwin

An Open Letter to the Author

Dear Tarek Fatah,

After writing one long impassioned screed of praise and starting two failed 'academically and intellectually distanced' reviews of your book, and not getting to the point of summarizing for readers after over seven pages each, I decided to follow my daughter's advice and write you an open letter about my reactions, in part because you include so much personal experience in your book, and mention your daughter's visit to Auschwitz prior to yours, in your Epilogue.

Just to get biases out of the background, I am an Orthodox Jew and Israeli raised and educated in the United States, living in Israel since 1964. My field of “quasi-expertise” was a combination of English literatures and their interactions with Christian Hindu and Buddhist cultures and religions.

You will notice, I am sure, nothing here indicates any deep or wide acquaintance with Islam as culture literature or religion, let alone directly with many Muslims. That is not accidental. After my first few years in Israel, I found I handled the pressures of living here more sanely by studying Far Eastern cultures that had and have few issues with Jews or Judaism or Israel past or present. In a way, this was a typical American 'transcendental leap' over immediate realities to a never-never world more as I wished it could be. My experience and knowledge of Western anti-Semitisms and Muslim jewhatred overwhelmed me. I needed some mental escape from these realities, especially as I had no intention of leaving Israel and missing the first chance a Jew has had in 2000 years to live and build a Jewish State in the Land I believe God commanded us to inhabit.

It was your title's indication of your willingness to discuss our cultures religions and countries both personally and intellectually, contemporarily and historically, that made me break a long habit of internal flight. I've avoided the discussions, arguments, and preachments of biased journalists, multicultural fascist academics, wannabe pundits, failed diplomats and out of work secret agents. I feel they flood the media to the detriment of what's left of the poor Brazilian rainforests we need for our survival more than their opinions.

And up front I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. You have succeeded beautifully, if for me horrifically, in doing what you said you would do: showing the line of descent of contemporary worldwide Muslim jewhatred from the Quranic passages mostly misread or exaggerated by subsequent eighth century CE biographer of Mohammed (Ibn Ishak) and the 14th century CE (Ibn Kathir) commentator on the Quran who accepted as holy Ibn Ishak’s biography (c.750 CE) done over a hundred years after the Prophet died in 632 CE. They produced a sanctification of jewhatred that had political purposes in their day, and served to support the blending of this hatred with the Christian jewhatred brought in by converts and missionaries later, especially in the 19th century Damascus blood libels and charges of cannibalism.

It's ironic to me that these charges actually got developed in Egypt — third century BCE Alexandria — by pagan Egyptians furious at Jews for managing to retain their religion, atheism (i.e., monotheism) and relative independence under both Hellenist and Roman Empires, while Egypt lost its religion and independence to both. This love of Jews carried over as Greek tradition into Christianity along with the Jewish translation of the Torah into Greek which is all most Christians knew of Judaism. Except envy for our independence of religion and politics.

I say ironic because the next horrible development of Muslim jewhatred you develop occurs in the works of the Egyptian religious-political commentator Sayyed Qutub in the 20th century. I thought it neat you pointed out both he and Major Nidal disliked American democracy and failed to find a Muslim bride sufficiently pure for their needs, and preached slaughtering the Western infidels and in Qutub's case, particularly the Jews who represent everything satanic the Christians, the Nazis and the Russians (Czarist and Communist) Protocols of The Elders of Zion could cook up. I admit I'd never heard of Qutub. I'd thought the line of descent into jewhatred and anti-Israel holocausting ran more purely from the Mufti of Jerusalem's 1920s pogroms in Palestine, through his work with and for Hitler and the Waffen SS in World War II, to his safe haven in Faruk and Nasser's Egypt (all of which you detail). There was a new translation of the Protocols and immigrant Nazi refugees they spread over the Muslim airwaves and later TV — from the 40s onwards — the trash that passes for thought and justification of massacre of Jews.

The Saudi contribution to all this was known but not its depth or extent. At least it was newly presented to me that they spread Qutub's ideas, producing the Al-Qaida the CIA would breed in northern Pakistan, fertilize with petrodollars, and corrupt a relatively non-jewhating population thereby. They got the Russians out of Afghanistan, trained the Al-Qaida who managed the 9/11 attacks (which somehow the Pakistanis and other Muslims are sure the Mossad produced), and now the Americans are trying to halt their ingrate offspring from killing both the USA and Saudi Arabia and of course Egypt.

Your application to Israel events was new to me. I hadn’t realized that the 1973 Yom Kippur War (which we Israelis feel we escaped destruction from by the skin of our teeth), President Nixon's aid, and General Sharon's brilliant rebellious tactics, had mobilized OPEC and generated the petrodollars the Saudis would golden handshake the western power brokers with — as well as infiltrate the Muslim diasporas with, so that it's their Wahhabi jihadism that passes for normative Islam today in the mosques, schools, social clubs and other Muslim institutions in Europe and the Americas.

You blend all this and much more information — especially documenting how the medieval commentators misread and the moderns like Qutub simply lie — with your personal experiences in Pakistan before and after the 70s explosion and infection of a relatively tolerant Muslim community into hating Jews they'd met very few of, and since the 70s none at all. And your experiences in Saudi Arabia where apparently even to mention the word Jew is to become a suspect of the State. But jewhatred has proven like cockroaches able to survive over centuries, and probably will outlast humanity's self destruction. So that's not really surprising to me.

I guess what I really appreciated was your refusal to give in to the Gestapo thought police running the Muslim establishments both in Muslim countries and more dishonestly in the diasporas where they pretend to be 'moderates', focusing on the Israel 'occupation' of Palestine lands which oddly enough allows them to ignore their own indifference to the fact so well documented that the Palestinian leadership has been (the Mufti) and still is self serving (the Fatah and the Hamas, the secular dictators and the Islamist fanatics) and has prevented the Palestinian State from existing. They insist on all or nothing, as you point out. And in a series of brilliantly achieved catastrophes have made their people suffer more and more for less and less --1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 200?. What they’ve managed is Swiss bank accounts, suicide bombers, missiles on Israel, modern equivalents to the murderers of 1929 and the fedayeen from Gaza in 1964 when I got to Israel. Swiss bank accounts and jewhatred and Palestinians slaughtering and oppressing Palestinians seem to be the parameters of the Palestine problem — none of which either the Muslim community talks or dares talk about. And for that matter neither do their fervid fellow travelers — the left wing multiculturalists constructing Jews as the rejected satan, and the post modern revisionists denying the Holocaust.

The newest information to me — besides the Saudi and general Arab contempt in language and behavior for other Muslims, ethnic and racist prejudice and behavior — was the whole detailed explanation of what you say is probably the central myth on which medieval jewhatred in Islam is built. Ibn Ishak’s ninth century fable about a supposed massacre of the Banu Qurayza Jewish tribe in 630 by Muhammad for the crime of staying neutral in the battle between the Pagan Meccans (who inherited Islam as Caliphs and killed Mohammed's family) and Muslim loyalists entrenched in Medina. It shocked me for much the same reasons you mention, though you have good grounds for being even more angry and bitter at this slander of the Prophet as a mass murderer of innocent men (900 or so) and sale of their women for guns and horses. I thought I knew Jewish history, much of which is, as Graetz pointed out, one of being pogrommed and expelled or massacred after being robbed tortured and converted by our hosts. I'd never heard mention of this particularly disgusting demonstration of dishonorable behavior. And I thought I'd heard them all.

That there is absolutely no evidence of or support in the Quran itself for this massacre so dear apparently to contemporary Muslim clerics and jihadist believers does justify the whole chapter you give to examining its origins. As you point out, if a cartoon of the Prophet can lead to burnings of flags and embassies, why hasn’t this slander of the Prophet's honor led to burnings of Syrian and Saudi flags, and embassies, of all those who propagate the lie? Instead, Muslims revel in the tale, have considered it holy, undeniable and justification for killing everyone they can who disagrees with their view of the Quran, let alone all infidels who haven’t yet submitted to the new Islamist Caliphate of Al-Qaida — or at least Saudi Arabia — as dhimmis. (I fear you’re a bit behind the times, and it's Turkey that will reconquer Islam and re-establish the Caliphate over Syria, Iraq and anyone else it can. Betrayals move fast in the Middle East.)

And I think, bottom line, this is what shocks me most, not the extent and depth of Muslim jewhatred. They’ve had after all expert instructors — Christian and Nazi — paid with Saudi money, and the Saudis captured Mecca and Medina, so why not the rest of Islam. Rather the apparent absence of popular fury at the way the Prophet has been so publically disgraced, defamed, in the process of being manipulated to support a jewhatred whose other side is blaming the Jews and Israelis and Israel and the Christian West (i.e. the United States) for every degradation the political leaders of Islamic states have inflicted on their own populations. And the willingness to dance on rooftops at the destruction of the Twin Towers and the Iraqi and Hamas missiling of Israel. And consider themselves good Muslims, pure innocent victims of an evil world. Their jihadism against the west has blinded them to what every religious person in the world knows and has always known, that evil starts at home, and the one to improve is not one's enemy, not one's neighbor, but oneself. To be right before God and man, Allah and the Prophet.

Oh well. I know I’ve slipped into rant. And preaching. A Yemenite friend of mine said I should have been born a Baptist preacher. I shall avoid this kind of public exposure in the future by not reading such books as yours. To paraphrase and invert your comment, the Jew is not my enemy; nor is the Muslim. I am.

So I'll end with a brief comment about your chapter on Israel's contributions to antisemitism and the Palestine situation. I appreciate your citing Quranic verses supporting the right of the Jewish state in the land to be founded and exist. Much of your critique of the State's behavior I've read over the years in Haaretz — the Israeli remnant of the left wing imitation of The New York Times. But I do respect and consider seriously your urging Israel to withdraw unilaterally from the West Bank, if for no other reason than to remove the only situation, at least theoretically, justifying the stand against Israel the world seems to have taken, and the supposed stimulus to Muslim anti-Semitism. I take your opinion seriously even more because you’ve put your life and reputation on the line for stating your opinions, and because your opinions are not one-sided critiques of Jews and Israel hiding under some guise of moral concern. You criticize the behavior of Palestinians and the other Arab countries as well, and their lack of concern for Muslim genocides of Darfur and Bangladesh. I would add of Armenians as well.

You are by far more of an optimist than I. But then you wouldn’t have written such an honest book and so powerful a one, had you not been. Your wife’s caution would have stopped you.

It seems to me that Israel will probably withdraw from the West Bank in whole or in part. Our experience with unilateral withdrawals has left us with Hizbullah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza and no improvement, rather a worsening, in the world media’s treatment of us, let alone our military situation. So if we withdraw, it’ll be without expecting peace, or even much improvement in the media treatment of us. Now or in any foreseeable future. Still, I don’t see any diminishing of, or end to Muslim jewhatred, coming from this. And I don’t see any relief coming to the Palestinians from their crooked and fanatic leaders, either. The burden of your evidence and argument and personal experiences seems to me to support my pessimism as equally as your optimism, if not more.

I don’t think appeals to reason and evidence can outweigh the power of ideologies established over centuries by social religious and mental institutions, without the creation of similar institutions to combat them. It took the Protestant Reformation some five hundred years before their institutions were able to limit the Roman Catholic ideologies. And those years included a hundred years civil war of enormous brutality. It seems to me we are heading towards a contemporary version of this Reformation, Counter Reformation, quasi-secular Enlightenment, and World Colonialism — the terms of which will become clear only as jihadist Islamism clarifies the terms of its war against, and subversion of, Western Christian secular and religious cultures and the republics they stand by. It’s not — according to your book — the West that started a crusade against Islam. It is Saudi-wahhabi-jihadist-Islamism that has declared a ‘crescade’ against what’s left of what passed for Christendom.

The Jews and Israel serve the jihadists and their western fellow travelers as a useful diversion, and excuse, to cover up with their common jewhatred the opening bars of subversion, extortion, and destruction of the republican mode of life. Even though, and perhaps especially since, as you point out, so many jewhating Muslims in Pakistan want passports to the West they intend to enjoy as they destroy its values. The goal: a world Caliphate, which has begun rising in the Middle East by renascent Ottoman Turks and Iranian Shiites. Both of which Stalins want to gobble up their Saudi petrodollar Lenins.

I don’t see where there’s much chance Islam–the moderate, the tolerant, the ‘loving’– will awaken and institutionalize itself against these new Stalins. They’ve already been brainwashed into a thorough-going jewhatred.

The institutionalizing of the Jew Hatred and the demonizing of Jews from 13th century onwards seems to have provided a firm theological ‘platform’ for all future Muslim jewhatreds to build on. The Banu Qurayza ‘victory’ by mass murder ordered by Angel Gabriel and Muhammad may not be at all in the Quran, or even its intention. But it is in Muslim minds hearts and mental structures, worldwide. How uproot it when the Saudi PR men and the Syrian dictators and the Iranian fascist governments can determine what religious truth is for Muslims.

Furthermore, from the 1940s onwards the Egyptian radio media universities and imams have preached Nazi Communist Protocol jewhatred to over three generations of world Muslims. Few if any living Muslims (the great majority of whom are under 40) know — or as you point out even believe — of the pre-1970s Muslim world you mention existed in the Karachi of your youth, where Jews and Muslims lived side by side, even in Peshawar.

The 1970s petrodollars of OPEC and Saudi Arabia simply topped off the gas-tank, as far I can tell. It is ready to explode. So far the explosions have been contained by destroying Iraq and distracting Afghanistan, rightly or wrongly. But however much the Iranian Shiites are considered worse than Jews by Sunnis, and especially Arabs, they are with the Kurds and the Turks the best organized States out to control the Middle Eastern oil and undermine the West.

The Khomeini government and propaganda uses jewhating and Israel bashing so shrewdly to distract the silly westerners from their successful SS politics internally and thrust for domination externally. The Turks have learned their lesson from Teheran, and are making their first moves to guarantee Lebanon’s sovereignty as their client state where the West proved unable to do anything but talk. And the Kurds, well so far they’re the least Jew haters of the lot. And whatever hope to the East I have lies in the past. Salah al-Din (Saladin) was indeed a Kurd who ruled Egypt, who defeated the anti-Semitic Richard the Lion Hearted in Israel, and whose personal physician was Maimonides.

Let me end this non-review, by saying, that I’m very impressed that it is your book that, to me, represents Canadian freedom of thought and expression. And that your book was published in the land Mr. Harper prime ministers. He is the first Canadian prime minister who stands publically for the remnants of international fair play the UN so long ago abandoned, against the cowardice and hypocrisy of intellectuals and politicians at home and abroad.

And you are so obviously equally brave and intelligent, that I hope the Lord, if not clones more like you, at least replicates you and your courage and perception not only among Muslims, but among Christians as well. You truly deserve the title Hajj Fatah.

It’s one of the peculiarities of the history of the Americas that before the United States Civil War broke out, the real “land of the Free and the Home of the Brave,” the terminal of the Underground Railroad for many a black fugitive slave was Canada not the USA. May it have the courage and sophistication and honesty so to remain in the coming conflicts. Before institutional Christianities — kingdoms and republics — wash their hands of Israel as Pilate is on record as having done with another maligned Jew.

Again, thanks, and apologies for the length and the lack of academic restraint, and book report format.

Richard Sherwin
Herzliyah, Israel

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