Antisemitism is an ancient ideology, nearly as old as Judaism itself. It’s a combined racial, religious, and ethnic prejudice well-documented in Christian societies, but today much more prevalent in the Muslim world, where it is nearly exclusively focused on the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel based on beliefs well beyond regional territorial disputes.
In 2014, the Anti-Defamation League published a global survey of worldwide antisemitic attitudes, reporting that in the Middle East, 74% of adults agreed with a majority of the survey’s eleven antisemitic propositions, including that “Jews have too much power in international financial markets” and “Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars,” propositions straight out of Nazi and Hamas propaganda.
This paranoid anti-Jew bigotry was on full display in Israel Oct. 7 when Gaza Strip terrorists conducted unspeakable horrors, blatant war crimes, and crimes against humanity targeted at Israeli civilians.
A deeply rooted antisemitic hatred that dwarfs the Palestinian statehood and land claims the mainstream media is preoccupied with is featured in sacred Muslim texts that invite hostility against Jews. The Koran and the Hadith (a collection of sayings attributed to the Prophet Mohammad) can be interpreted in ways that suggest Muslims and Jews are enemies, that Jews will be killed at the end of times, that Jews falsified scripture, and that Jews tried to kill Mohammed.
The Hamas’ 1998 Charter contains a depiction of Jews echoing millennia of antisemitic tropes used to persecute the Jews, culminating in the Holocaust:
“With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others,” reads Article 22.
The 9,000-word document blames Jews for the French and Communist revolutions, World War I and II, the Rotary Club, and the United Nations, “to enable them to rule the world through them.”
The Charter directs the killing of Jews, drawing on the hadith saying: “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: ‘O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.’”
The fact that Mohammed killed and enslaved the Jews in Medina has also been used to incite violence against Jews.
With the arrival of European colonizers and missionaries in the Middle East in the 19th century, Christian antisemitic themes were introduced to the region. One of the most infamous examples is the 1840 Damascus blood libel, in which Capuchin monks accused the local Jewish community of murdering a fellow friar and his Muslim servant to use their blood for Passover rituals.
In the early 20th century, the growing movement of political Islam saw Christians and Jews as waging war against Muslims and for being responsible for the alleged decay and Westernization of Islamic societies. Sayyid Qutb, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and one of the movement’s most influential thinkers, wrote a widely disseminated pamphlet entitled “Our Struggle with the Jews,” where he drew parallels between contemporary developments and Mohammed’s struggle with the Jews.
Qutb also saw the return of Jews to Palestine as an evil that demanded punishment.
“Let Allah bring down upon the Jews people who will mete out to them the worst kind of punishment, as a confirmation of His unequivocal promise: ‘If you return, then We return,’” he wrote.
Qutb’s writings inspired Islamists worldwide, from Jamaat-e-Islami in South Asia to Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini.
The Muslim Brotherhood is a global network today, still disseminating such ideas. One of its foremost spiritual leaders today, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, is a preacher on Al Jazeera and heads the European Council for Fatwa and Research. He believes that Hitler was sent as a divine punishment for the Jews and advocates for another Holocaust.
Much of this antisemitism is rooted in the straight arrow between Nazism and contemporary Muslim antisemitism because the rise of German Nazism in the 1930s commanded an influential following among Arabs.
The Nazis also exploited Arab hostility toward the British and French imperial forces and widely disseminated radio propaganda in close cooperation with Islamist leaders, most notably the Mufti (professional jurist who interprets Muslim law) of Jerusalem, Amin Al-Husseini.
In 1941, al-Husseini fled to Germany and met with Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Joachim Von Ribbentrop and other Nazi leaders and tried to persuade them to extend the Nazis’ anti-Jewish policies to the Arab world.
He was partly successful in doing so. In 1945, Yugoslavia sought to indict the Mufti as a war criminal for his role in recruiting 20,000 Muslim volunteers for the SS who participated in the killing of Jews in Croatia and Hungary. However, He escaped French detention in 1946 and continued his fight against the Jews from Cairo and later Beirut.
His propaganda attack fused traditional Islamic anti-Jewish beliefs with conspiratorial imagery of “world Jewry.” Yet even before he collaborated with the Nazis, Al-Husseini introduced the infamous lie that Jews wanted to tear down the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. This claim has been repeatedly used as evidence that the Jews were waging a war against Islam. It was also one of the spurious motives given for the October 7 attack.
There were close ties between al-Husseini and the Muslim Brotherhood, forerunner of Hamas, resulting in a direct connection between antisemitism and violence from the Nazis to Hamas and from Hamas to the Palestinian masses.
Even today, Hitler remains a popular figure and “Mein Kampf” a bestseller in Turkey and other countries.
Articles 22 and 25 of the Hamas 2017 Charter state:
“The liberation of Palestine is the duty of the Palestinian people …. Resisting the occupation with all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and by international norms and laws. At the heart of these lies armed resistance, which is regarded as the strategic choice for protecting the principles and the rights of the Palestinian people.”
The October 7 invasion was only the latest expression of these articles based on Hamas’s continuing support by a large majority of Palestinians.
Accordingly, focusing mainly on present grievances and a chronic land claim dispute as explaining the October 7 Hamas attack to the exclusion of Islamic chauvinism is perversely short-sighted.
So is ignoring that antisemitism is rightly called the world’s oldest hatred.
Hymie Rubenstein is editor of REAL Indigenous Report and a retired professor of anthropology at the University of Manitoba.