Appearing at Harvard University shortly before his death in 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. responded to an apparently hostile question from an audience member about Zionism, saying, “When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism.”
Is this universally true? Does criticism of Zionism always equal anti-Semitism?
On the one hand, the answer is no, criticism of Zionism does not always equal anti-Semitism. There are Israeli Jews and American Jews who are critical of the modern State of Israel, and they can hardly be called anti-Semites (unless we are willing to brand all of them self-hating Jews). Similarly, there are Christians who love the Jewish people and believe that, in a unique way, God is with them, and yet take strong exception to many Israeli policies. They too can hardly be called anti-Semites.
On the other hand, it is quite often true that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are two sides of the same ugly coin, especially in the Muslim world. The recent comments of Mufti Muhammad Hussein, the religious leader of the Palestinian Authority, serve as a stark reminder of just how deeply anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are often intertwined.
In a speech celebrating the 47th anniversary of Fatah and aired on Palestinian Authority TV on January 9th, the Mufti cited a well-known Hadith (an Islamic tradition attributed to Muhammad): “The Hour [of Resurrection] will not come until you fight the Jews. The Jew will hide behind stones or trees. Then the stones or trees will call: ‘Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’” (As reported by Palwatch.org, a July, 2011 poll sponsored by the Israel Project indicated that a staggering 73% of Palestinians “believe” this Hadith.)
These sentiments are enshrined in the Hamas charter, with Article 7 citing the identical anti-Semitic Hadith, prefaced by this comment: “Hamas has been looking forward to implementing Allah’s promise [to annihilate the Jews], whatever time it might take.”
In the Mufti’s speech, and in keeping with Islamic tradition, Hussein also stated that the only tree behind which a Jew will be able to hide himself is the Gharqad tree (since it will keep silent). “Therefore,” he explained, “it is no wonder that you see Gharqad [trees] surrounding the [Israeli] settlements and colonies.” (We can assume that the Mufti actually believes this.)
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.