Something is rotten in German Mideastern studies

When an Islamist antisemite like Yusuf Qaradawi, the so-called ‘Global Mufti’, famous for broadcasting his fatwas on his Qatar-based TV show, is feted as a ‘moderate’ by leading German scholars, something must be rotten in the state of German Middle East Studies. One of those scholars is Gudrun Kramer, winner of doctorates and prizes and author of a study of Jews in Egypt which downplayed the role of antisemitism, Clemens Heni writes (with thanks : Lily).

Krämer wrote her 1982 Ph.D. dissertation about the Jews as a minority in Egypt between 1914 and 1952. In this study, which was published in 1989 by the University of Washington Press, she played down the role of anti-Semitism, and in the original German version she literally attacked brochures about anti-Semitism in Egypt which were issued by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in 1957 (“The Plight of the Jews in Egypt “) and early studies on anti-Semitism in Egypt by the Swiss writer Bat Ye’or and the British author Sir Martin Gilbert.

Describing the latter as “tendentious,” Krämer denounced the AJC as “particularly tendentious,” which is all the more astonishing because the AJC brochure is an early attempt to analyze Egyptian anti-Semitism of the time and the role of former Nazis in spreading anti-Semitism alongside Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East.

In 2006 Krämer served as special editor of an issue of the German-based International Journal for the Study of Modern Islam (Die Welt des Islams) which was devoted to anti-Semitism. Here, too, she downplayed Islamic anti-Semitism and attacked scholars like Matthias Küntzel. (Interesingly, Küntzel has quoted Krämer positively in several of his books and articles, a fact that displeases Krämer.)

Krämer was especially rough on Robert Wistrich, head of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (SICSA) at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She accuses these scholars of being “openly polemical.” She also criticizes Wistrich for his “more aggressive approach.” Krämer takes exception, for instance, to the term “Islamofascism.” Her own analysis is based on the work of scholars like the anti-Zionist Edward Said, Saleh Bashir, and Hazim Saghiyeh.

The latter two argued some years ago in an article, “Universalizing the Holocaust,” that the Arab and Muslim world should not deny the Holocaust, but should rather accept and “universalize” it – their point being that the Shoah was not an unprecedented crime against the Jewish people, but a crime comparable to the historical treatment of Palestinians. Like Said, Bashir and Saghiyeh even accuse Jews of not having learned the “lesson” of the Holocaust.

Krämer praises Bashir’s and Saghiyeh’s criticism of “political Islam” and agrees with their argument that there is an effort to “silence criticism of Israeli politics” and that it amounts to a “Jewish and Israeli exploitation of the Holocaust.” If we look at the central sentence in the above-mentioned article by Bashir and Saghiyed, we can easily decode the anti-Semitic attempt to trivialize the Shoah by equalizing it with totally different issues:

The Turk in Germany, the Algerian in France, and always the black in every place, head the columns of victims of racism in the world and in them, albeit in different proportions and degrees, is the continuation of the suffering of the Jews of which the Holocaust was the culmination.

The Holocaust was not just a kind of “suffering”; racism in Germany or France in our time is not at all the “continuation of the suffering of the Jews”; and the black “in every place” had a quite different history (blacks were, for example, victims of Islamic slavery and later of Western slavery). The intention here is clear: Bashir and Saghiyed accept the reality of the Holocaust only so that they may then proceed to de-emphasize its specifically anti-Semitic nature and, most important, attack Israel. Today Muslims and scholars alike are operating in much the same manner when they wield the term “Islamophobia.”

So now Krämer and Gräf are going to be embracing the Islamist Qaradawi at the international literature festival in Berlin, where they will describe him as a “moderate.” This is the ultimate proof of the failure of German Middle Eastern Studies: one of its leading scholars, Gudrun Krämer, who has been awarded honorary doctorates and won prizes, has been busy since the early 1980s defaming critiques of anti-Zionist anti-Semitism and Islamic anti-Semitism while supporting one of the leading Islamists of our time, Qaradawi, a man who argues for a kind of gender mainstreaming when it comes to justifying suicide bombing in Israel.

This is the Islamist way to modernity and equality among the sexes.

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One Comment

  • unfortunately, not even Heni mentions the Arab participation/collaboration in the Holocaust. Especially that of Haj Amin el-Husseini, the chief leader of the palestinian Arabs at the time. Wistrich knows about Husseini very well and has mentioned him. Maybe Kramer and others don't like Wistrich for that reason.


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