So, the hostility expressed towards the Israelis is simply the continuation of historic, Islamic anti-Semitism.
The moderator who introduced the Mufti stated (with passion) that, “Our war with the descendants of the apes and pigs [meaning the Jews] is a war of religion and faith,” basing himself on another anti-Semitic tradition found in Islam, a tradition often cited by contemporary Muslim leaders.
For example, “in a weekly sermon in April 2002, Al-Azhar Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, [then] the highest-ranking cleric in the Sunni Muslim world, called the Jews ‘the enemies of Allah, descendants of apes and pigs’,” while in 2001, “Saudi sheikh Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudayyis, imam and preacher at the Al-Haraam mosque – the most important mosque in Mecca – beseeched Allah to annihilate the Jews. He also urged the Arabs to give up peace initiatives with them because they are ‘the scum of the human race, the rats of the world, the violators of pacts and agreements, the murderers of the prophets, and the offspring of apes and pigs.’”
Similar examples, from recent years and from past centuries, could easily be multiplied. In fact, the Nazis were able to exploit the Jew-hatred found in many Islamic traditions in forming a coalition with prominent leaders in the Arab world, the most important being the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. (Remember that this predates the reestablishment of Israel in 1948.)
This deep, historic hatred of the Jews continues to fuel anti-Zionism in the Muslim world today. And so, during the demonstrations in Egypt’s Tahrir Square in last year’s so-called Arab Spring, Yehudit Barsky noted that protestors brandished pictures of former President Hosni Mubarak with a Star of David on his forehead, invoking the “image of a conspiracy by Jews to control world leaders, including their own.”
The alleged conspiracy Barsky refers to is, of course, the notorious anti-Semitic forgery known as “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The book remains a perpetual bestseller in the Muslim world and has also been dramatized for Islamic viewers, most notably in the 41-part series titled “Horseman Without a Horse,” broadcast on Egyptian state television in 2002. In the final episodes of the series, “the Jews are portrayed as leading a conspiracy to form a Zionist state in Palestine while taking the lives of anyone who stands in the way. The series comes to a close with an inscription: ‘Who fights the occupation is not a terrorist’ and contains other thinly veiled political comment on the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Whole books could easily be written on this subject with almost endless examples cited, but the lesson should be clear: While not all anti-Zionism can be fairly equated with anti-Semitism, in the religious Muslim world, the two are deeply intertwined.
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.