‘Islam’s hatred of Jews inevitable’ : Melanie Phillips

Like her or loathe her, the British journalist Melanie Phillips (writing in the Daily Mail) brings astonishing insight into politics, expressed with honesty and lucidity. Where I differ from her is that Islam is not inevitably hostile to Jews – it all depends on which Koranic verse you choose. The modern-day antisemitism overwhelming the Arab and Muslim world is in large part traceable to the extant influence of Nazism.

The co-chairman of Britain’s Conservative Party, Sayeeda Warsi, has delivered a speech* about antisemitism to the European Institute for the Study of Antisemitism. I am sure that Baroness Warsi means well. I am sure that she is personally genuinely opposed to bigotry and prejudice in any form. I would therefore like to be able to say it was a fine speech. I cannot do so. Despite much in it that was worthy and unexceptionable, in one vital respect it was a travesty – made no more palatable by the fact that many Jews subscribe to precisely the same lethally misguided misapprehension.

This revolves around the comforting but mistaken notion that Jews and Muslims stand shoulder to shoulder against the same threat by racists and bigots. It’s the argument that says ‘antisemitism = Islamophobia’. And it’s the claim that there is nothing intrinsically threatening to Jews within Islam.

All three notions are false. All three notions are promoted by many Jews. All three were to be found in Baroness Warsi’s speech (pictured above right).

She said:

‘The ugly strain of anti-Semitism found in some parts of the Muslim community arose in the late 20th century. The point is that there’s nothing in our history which suggests that hatred between Muslim and Jews is inevitable.’

This is total rubbish. Muslim persecution of the Jews started in the 7th century with the birth of Islam and has continued ever since. It is true that down through the decades persecution of the Jews by Christians was more savage and barbaric than by Muslims. It is also true that there were periods when Jews prospered under Muslim rule. But the so-called ‘golden age’ for Jews in Muslim lands was very short indeed. The true history is a general story of humiliation, persecution and pogroms.

The great medieval Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, no less, was forced to flee his native Cordoba in Spain after it was conquered in 1148 by the Muslim Almohads, who gave the Jews a choice of conversion, death or exile. In his Epistle to the Jews of Yemen written in about 1172, Maimonides wrote of the news of compulsory conversion for the Jews in Yemen having ‘broken our backs’ and ‘astounded and dumbfounded the whole of our community’. The Arabs, he said, had ‘persecuted us severely and passed baneful and discriminatory legislation against us’. ‘Never did a nation molest, degrade, debase and hate us as much as they…’

Is there really ‘nothing which suggests that hatred between Muslim and Jews is inevitable’? This is what I wrote in my book, The World Turned Upside Down:

‘The Qur’an says Islam came before Judaism and Christianity, and was the faith practised by Abraham who was a Muslim. (3:67-68). It refers to Islam as the religion of Abraham many times (2:130, 135; 3:95; 4:125; 6:161.) It teaches that Jews and Christians corrupted their Scriptures so Allah sent a fresh revelation through Mohammed. This cancelled out Judaism and Christianity and brought people back to the one true religion of Islam that Abraham had practised.

‘After the Jews rejected Mohammed, the Qur’an says the Jews were cursed by Allah (5:78) who transformed them into monkeys and pigs as punishment (2:65, 5:60, 7:166). It accuses the Jews of corrupting their holy books and removing the parts that spoke of Mohammed (2:75, cf verses 76-79, 5:13). It says the Jews were the greatest enemies of Islam (5:82), that both they and the Christians want Muslims to convert (2:120), that the Jews start wars and cause trouble throughout the earth (5:64, cf verse 67) and even that they claim to have killed the Messiah (4:157).

‘As the historian of religion Professor Paul Merkley observes, the Qur’an declares that the whole of Jewish scripture from Genesis 15 onwards is full of lies…When the Jews refused to accept Islam, Mohammed denounced them as not people of faith. The outcome was the eradication of the Jewish-Arab tribe called the Banu Qurayza. Unable at first to break them, Mohammed entered into a truce with them which he broke, following which he slaughtered the entire Jewish population. Unlike the wars between tribes in the Hebrew Bible which remain merely a historical account with no practical application today, the eradication of the Banu Qurayza is constantly alluded to by the Islamists, for whom it remains an exemplary and timeless call to arms against precisely the same enemy and with similar tactics.’

Baroness Warsi said that Jews were currently targeted by the far left and the far right. So they are. But she omitted to say that they are also targeted by Muslims well beyond the groups she singled out — Muslims Against Crusades, Islam 4 UK and Al Muhajiroun. Obliquely, she refers to Muslim Judeophobes as

‘…religious fanatics. The people who claim faith drives them to acts of hatred…but who in reality are nothing more than bigots, who hijack their faith to justify their acts.’

But Muslim hatred of Jews, as Andrew Bostom notes most recently here, is rooted in mainstream Koranic exegesis (someone should give Baroness Warsi for her birthday a copy of Bostom’s monumental The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, more than 600 pages of meticulously documented Islamic Jew-hatred in both the religion and its history).

‘Nothing which suggests that hatred between Muslim and Jews is inevitable’? The late Sheikh Tantawi, the Grand Mufti of Al Ahzar University in Cairo and the most prominent and influential cleric in the Sunni Muslim world, used passages from the Koran to depict Jews as enemies of God, his prophets and of Islam itself. As the US media monitoring group CAMERA has noted, Tantawi wrote:

‘Qur’an describes people of the Book in general terms, with negative attributes like their fanaticism in religion, following a false path. It describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e., killing the prophets of God, corrupting his words by putting them in the wrong places, consuming the people’s wealth frivolously, refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do, and other ugly characteristics caused by their […] deep rooted lasciviousness.

‘Later, after quoting some from the Koran, Tantawi writes “This means that not all Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims; the bad ones do not.” (Legacy, page 394).

‘Matthias Küntzel, author of Jihad and Jew Hatred: Islamism and the Roots of 9/11, provides some other detail about Tantawi He writes that “Tantawi, the highest Sunni Muslim theologian, quotes Hitler’s remark in Mein Kampf that “in resisting the Jew, I am doing the work of the Lord.” Küntzel continues: “He praises The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, noting without the slightest trace of sympathy that “after the publication of the Protocols in Russia, some 10,000 Jews were killed.”

‘Tantawi made a number of other troubling statements. For example, in 2002, Tantawi declared that Jews are “the enemies of Allah, descendents of apes and pigs.” The following year, Tantawi issued an edict declaring that Jews should no longer be described in such a manner, apparently under pressure from the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

‘While Tantawi did condemn the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 he later affirmed terrorism against Israelis. In 2002, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), reported that Tantawi “declared that martyrdom (suicide) operations and the killing of civilians are permitted acts and that more such attacks should be carried out. Tantawi’s positions were posted on http://www.lailatalqadr.com/, a website associated with Al­ Azhar.”’

To repeat – Sheikh Tantawi was the most prominent religious authority in Sunni Islam. Does Baroness Warsi class him also as a bigot who hijacked Islam to justify his hatred?

Jews cannot stand shoulder to shoulder with Muslims against attacks by bigots because a disproportionate number of Muslims reportedly harbour or even act upon prejudice against Jews.

Read article in full

* with thanks: Independent Observer


  • Islam was Judeophobic going back to the time of Muhammad in Medina where he had 100s of Jews massacred. Muslim
    tradition, Hadith, blames a Jewess for poisoning Muhammad after the defeat of the Jews of Khaybar, and also has the fable of rocks & trees at Judgment Day urging Muslims to kill Jews {Hamas charter, Art. 7}. So it didn't start with French & Brit Judeophobia or with Husseini. The Judeophobic tradition just made them more receptive to European, esp. Nazi, Judeophobia.

  • but bataween the really intriguing part is that I am told by historians amongst them Yaacov Lozowick that Germany was probably the least anti-semitic of those who participated.

    Which raises the question for me, has maybe a comparatively low level of anti-semitism been conducive to becoming the leader in its most virulent pogrom ever?

    The world is a mad place.

  • "There is a document dating the "Nazi-variety" which of course could only come into its own because the ground was fertile."

    i think you hit the nail on the head, silke!

  • I think betting that without German leadership none of them would have come up with organised mass slaughter is a rather safe bet.

    There is a document dating the "Nazi-variety" which of course could only come into its own because the ground was fertile.

    4. Staatsbürger kann nur sein, wer Volksgenosse ist. Volksgenosse kann nur sein, wer deutschen Blutes ist, ohne Rücksichtnahme auf Konfession. Kein Jude kann daher Volksgenosse sein.



    The translation is a bit clumsy – in German they use the word VolksGenosse. Volk is the people and Genosse is Comrade and that is how (as best I know) members of socialist and communist parties address eachother in German.

    The word is also part of our word for cooperatives = Genossenschaften.

    i.e. as I read it they use a distinctly not racially tainted word for those who are eligible by race only.

  • Absolutely Sylvia, this trend is what I call the 'understandable backlash' – the Jews are to blame for their own persecution because of the Israel 'provocation'. I think we are agreed that Arab/Muslim antisemitism not only predated the establishment of the state of Israel by centuries but that the Nazi variety of Jew-hatred predated Israel by more than a decade. Our only debate is how much of this antisemitism was 'traditional' and how much 'Nazi' (or Nazi abetted by Vichy).

  • Bataween no I am not referring to the French although the French are yet to come to terms with their conduct in WWII.
    What I see is a dangerous trend that seeks to erase the treatment of Jews in Muslim countries prior to WWII and connect it to the founding of the State of Israel and the Shoah. Everything before the forties was bliss, and the reason Jews had to run for their lives is Israel's fault while the hate rhetoric is Husseini's doing, which is also Israel's fault.
    It supports the Baroness argument:"‘The ugly strain of anti-Semitism found in some parts of the Muslim community arose in the late 20th century. The point is that there’s nothing in our history which suggests that hatred between Muslim and Jews is inevitable.’"

    I don't need to point out that this view sets the the ground for the one state argument. We can live together, we have lived together in harmony before before until the founding of Israel… and OK, Husseini (which amounts to the same) came to screw it up.

  • I don't think Vichy would have gone ahead without the Nazis – I feel they were the 'junior partner'.
    But as you say Silke, it's a what-if and we will never know for sure.

  • of course, but my remark was whether Vichy would had acted ahead of or without the German conquest if asked and (what I don't know) would have had the means to do it.

    But now I am indulging in a what-if question and I hate what-if questions on principle …

  • Silke, it was clear from the Wannsee conference that the Nazis intended to include the Jews of North Africa in their extermination plans. Had they not been stopped in their tracks by the British in N Africa, I have no doubt that they would have deported the Jews with the willing collaboration of vichy.

  • your memory is mine but I don't even know whether Germans ever discussed those Jews with Vichy.

    I am getting told, mostly in radio pieces that at times Vichy not only obeyed German wishes but was eager to produce good results.

    Still of course what they would have done had "we" asked for the Jews of Algeria is unknowable unless there are reports which I've never heard of.

  • In France, certainly, but correct me if I'm wrong, I don't think Vichy deported any Jews from Algeria and Morocco.Jews did get deported in Tunisia when that country fell under direct Nazi rule in 1942.

  • Sylvia, you make a strong argument that the French should not be given a pass for their antisemitism. But it is one thing to be culturally prejudiced against Jews (as a whole section of society were in the Dreyfus case, or in Algeria) it is another to espouse an ideology of genocidal hatred as did Husseini. His influence was strongest in those Arab countries which had already achieved some measure of independence, like Iraq.

  • Sammish – if we look just as education in the French language
    1) In Lebanon
    – In Lebanon St-Joseph University (in French) was founded in 1881. Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals and politicians studied there. And who says University says that already at that time French was taught is some schools, either in missions, or in private schools.
    – There was a French mandate in Lebanon between 1920 to 1943 – with a very dynamic French press –
    Who needs Husseini when you have Vichy France?
    – By the 1960s a survey showed that 40% of the Beyrut families spoke French or some French in their home
    – today, if you go to the Lebanese forums you'll see many speak are bilingual and even trilingual.
    – There were Middle east writers in the French language: Andree Chedid, Georges Schehade, and others.

    – And I think that it goes without saying that Algeria – perhaps the most antisemitic country in the Maghreb – was occupied by France since the mid-nineteenth century, and offered French education, although not to all.

    – Furthermore, anyone who has been in Jaffa can still see the schools of the French Jesuits where many natives have been educated.

    On the other hand, we see a lot of mimicry around – Palestinians as Indian Americans, Palestinians as Black Human rights fighters, Israel as apartheid South Africa, etc so why not Nazi "cartoons"?

    While the role of Husseini in WWI should be taught and developed in textbooks, some might take advantage of it to give a pass where a pass shouldn't be given.

  • oh and I forgot here is an observation of my own – people don't need to be literate.

    All they need is to feel the urge to imitate their betters and that need is at least in the society I live in very wide spread even though most are literate.

    Ages ago there was quite a campaign in Europe to boycott Nestle because Nestle sold baby formula in Africa and since poor mothers saw that rich mothers opted for formula they wanting the best for their babies tried their utmost to get hold of formula also. (As it was told the hitch was that poor mothers very often had no access to clean water and so babies died who didn't need to die). Now lets assume that the phenomen was as wide-spread as the campaign claimed then I think it may rightfully be assumed that quite a number of mothers trying to replace breast feeding by formula were not literate.

  • I did not mean to be rude at all.

    That may not be your intention but after you apologize very graciously you end by lecturing Sylvia as if she were a 13 year old in need of some 101s.

    Maybe that doesn't qualify as rude but since I can never get enough of Sylvia's contributions (if only they were longer, much longer, excessively long and much more frequent) I take the liberty of being offended.

  • I did not mean to be rude at all. If I made that impression, it was not of my intention. I was just mentioning a set of facts to prove that Nazi propaganda was used by Arabs. Sure it exists before the 1930's. And Yes the Protocols of Elders of Zion was published much earlier, but who in the Arab world knew how to read then.. 1920's 1930's 1940's the rate of illeteracy was very high. Sure, there were intenses of few educated individuals instigating riots a la "Nazi brown shirts". The propaganda caricatures I was mentioning was intended for the mass media and schools. Post WWII era was then a catalist for bringing up these nazi material into the classrooms, newspapers, tv and radio.

    This misunderstanding could have been avoided if Sylvia had explained why she disagreed with Bataween claim. Simply saying "I do not agree", and leaving at that, does not lead nowhere. Such an abrupt position is not in the spirit of debate and useful exhange of ideas.

    I do not understand this idea of me toning my condenscending comments. Me condenscending? I was writing in the spirit of exchange of idea. I did not mean any disrespect.

  • There was a class educated in European languages and literatures since the 19th century. Drumont wrote la France juive in Algeria already toward the end of the 19th century. All the Algerian leaders spoke French, read French newspapers and literature which was replete with antisemitic stereotypes, practically all the leadership in Iraq in the twenties and thirties spoke English.
    And anyone who has perused through those literatures knows what they contain.
    This is not to take away from Husseini nazi past, or his influence, but his influence didn't extend everywhere in the Arab world.
    In Muslim traditional societies, they didn't usually make representations of people. The Muslim fundamentalists still don't to my knowledge.
    Modernization, increased acquaintance with European cultures and their representation is perhaps what did it.

    For today's Jews being the sons of apes and pigs, this is found in the Koran, so it is by no means new. The only question is whether it should be taken physically or figuratively.

  • I don't know if it was intentional, but Sammish sounded extremely rude and obnoxious in his last comment. He obviously did not understand what Sylvia meant and decided to give her a history class – about Muslim use of Nazi aesthetic – that is completely wrong.
    Nazi-like propaganda was very popular in Iraq and "Palestine" long before Israel and the Arab-Israeli wars.

    Let's try to tone down a bit and lose the condescending tone ("What Sylvia needs to do is to study… All she needs to do is to look over the Arab and Iranian press"). There's no need for this kind of attitude, right?

  • I don't think Sylvia is denying the great influence that Nazi propaganda had and still has in the Arab/Muslim world. Seems to me that she is just saying that a virulent anti-semitism was already deep rooted in their societies well before Nazism.
    Yes, the hate took another form and absorved some Nazi-like way of thinking, but that's because their own Jew-hatred made them susceptible to that.

    I'm no Islamic scholar, but I tend to agree with Melanie Phillips in this subject.

  • OT for Sylvia

    this essay is beyond my intellectual abilities, but since, if I got it right, literature is your field of expertise, it might contain something of interest for you


    Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish created a poetry of martyrdom for his people—and a political coup for the idea of the nakba

  • bataween
    I have considered that point and Graves gives no details but he doesn't say that he believed they lied either. He seems to have believed that he has to compete with their religious teachers.

    So my probable scenario is they studied their Koran albeit with less long hours than claimed.

    In Germany it is said that piles of old Nazis migrated to Egypt and build an expatriate infrastructure there. I think it likely for that to have happened before 1948. Also there must have been old ties to Egypt since German archeologists have been active there for quite a while. Nofretete was found in 1912.


  • Great discussion, guys – thanks.
    I would say that the Nazi images penetrated the Arab world even before Israel had defeated the Arabs in battle – the fascist parties, para-Nazi youth movements, the radio broadcasts, Protocols and Mein Kampf in Arabic translation, all this was in place as early as the 1930s.

    What you say about Robert Graves is very interesting, but could his students have been telling him lies and bunking off studying the Koran as well? I rather imagine that the Zeitgest in the 20s was quite secular – but you may be right.

  • What Sylvia needs to do is to study the forms in which arab/muslim anti-semitism are displayed. All she needs to do is to look over the Arab and Iranian press, to their newspapers and magaziness. On cannot avoid the overwhelming use and publication of Eastern European Nazi caricatures of a jew. These however have been taken to another level of sterotypical caricatures.

    These modern images as well as the usual stereotyped prejudices and beliefs about jews were never present in the Arab world before WWII. An average arab has never seen a Hasidim usual black hat and coat, let alone the hooked nose and fiery eyes. Jews in Arab lands were not Eastern European Hasidim.

    The image of the jew in the Arab literature before the 20th century was that of a feeble person, an irrelevant and surpersticious plotter, scheemer nonetheless but ineffectual and weak. These descriptions came about because of Islamic military victories and ideological expansion, and the consequencial second class status of the Dhimmi jew. Muslims affored to take a more relaxed attitudes towards the jews and Christians. There were no mention what so ever of jews being cursed by God let alone being the "sons of apes and pigs". Why? because Islam has already subdued them, they were relagated at the bottom of the social and relational ladder.

    The creation of the state of Israel and the humiliating defeat of the Arab states in 1967 war was rather a rude shock. Thus the ineffectual Jew needs to be redefined to fit the oppressor image and the monster "Elders of Zion" evil . That's how the Nazi anti-jewish propaganda machine comes in handy. Arabs need not create new ones.

  • Around 1923 Robert Graves took a teaching job in Cairo and tells in "Good bye to all that" that his students would dodge homework and use the duty to do religious studies as excuse.

    This may sound like a side-show but to me it suggests that the emphasis on religion began shortly even before Al Banna came to Cairo. Unless Mussolini's rise in 1922 drove them to it ;o) it seems to me that they went on the road to fanaticism all on their own.

    If I'd look for Zeitgeist influences from the Western world I'd say that Versailles idea of separating people by IMHO highly dubious criteria may have sent them on the path to "identity building". Why they chose as their criterium religion and thus the division between fidel and infidel I don't know.

    Maybe I am making myself not very clear but to me the fact that privileged kids at the time would disregard their chance to a degree for spending their afternoons learning the Koran seems significant to me.

  • "The modern-day antisemitism overwhelming the Arab and Muslim world is in large part traceable to the extant influence of Nazism."

    I don't agree at all.

  • bataween

    let's hope that you are right and that that BBC audio profile of her left me with the wrong picture.

    As to enraging the Islamists – it doesn't take much to enrage our moderate Turkish community talking heads.

  • Silke, you are right that Warsi has never won a single election, in fact she lost the last one quite spectacularly. But her attributes as a Conservative Muslim woman make her irresistible to David Cameron. I'm sure her heart's in the right place – the fact she has annoyed the Islamists in Britain must mean she is doing something right – but Melanie P is right to call her out on her false equivalence of antisemitism and islamophobia.

  • as best I remember from this profile of Baroness Warsi, she hasn't won a single election and I couldn't help guessing that she was made a Baroness on no achievements whatsoever except that she was wanted in. (Catherine Ashton anybody? This way around it all may of course have its benefits since it is able to bring people into office who don't have TV-appeal but given these two examples I sincerely hope that it is used to do that also.)


    Here is another profile of Baroness Warsi which includes a somehow familiar sounding mis-speak


    Of course matters British normally would be none of my business if there were no EU that is …


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