August 24, 2021 | House of Wisdom

Introducing How to Fight Anti-Semitism in Arabic

August 24, 2021 | House of Wisdom

Introducing How to Fight Anti-Semitism in Arabic

Ideas Beyond Borders asked me to write a forward to Bari Weiss’s book How to Fight Anti-Semitism, which the organization is translating to Arabic. The lines below are a rough translation to English of the forward that I wrote to address an Arabic-speaking audience.

Arabs never experienced freedom. Islam, the religion of the majority of the Arabs, imagines a relationship between the individual and his Creator, and promises reward and punishment on the Day of Judgment, which — in theory — gives the believers a lifetime for experimenting with ideas and ideals that are at odds with the established norms. The majority of Muslims, however, violate such Islamic teaching by elevating the opinion of the group, often the ruling group, over the opinion of minority groups and individuals. The ruling Arab group therefore designs public space in its image, imposes its tastes, customs and traditions, and punishes dissenters, often accusing them of blasphemy and, at times, even practicing violence against them. This is the same tyranny against which Islam originally revolted, when the Messenger of Muslims rebelled against prevailing beliefs and customs.

The majority of Muslims are not aware of their tyranny, but rather perceive of their social code as being tolerant and merciful. Ask any Muslim about the situation of minorities in his country, and he will answer that their situation has been always excellent, and that the exodus of minorities has been for their own nefarious reasons, and because of foreign instigation and conspiracies against Islam and Muslims. Such Islamic perception falls short of understanding the meaning of equality.

The Islamic system of dhimma, reserved for the People of the Book (Jews and Christians), denies non-Muslims the rights that it grants to Muslims. The system was designed to encourage the conversion of non-Muslims, with lesser rights, to Islam, in order to allow them to enjoy full rights. Islam’s two-tier dhimma system entrenches inequality.

Despite various attempts, the Arab identity could never be dissociated from Islam or become a secular identity for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Such failure meant that Muslim Arab discrimination against non-Muslim Arabs could not be stopped. Discrimination then prompted non-Muslims to leave, after centuries of living in the shadows, relocating to other countries where they could live freely, whether in the democratic world or in Israel (as in the case of Arab Jews).

Arabs do not accept the narrative that Arab minorities suffered inequality while living among Muslim Arabs. Instead, Muslims delve into conspiracy theories about the presumed evil plans of the Jews of the world, including Arab Jews, to establish the State of Israel, and move to it. Arab conspiracy theories were reinforced by international anti-Jewish propaganda, first with funding and instigation from Tsarist Russia, and later from Nazi Germany, followed by Communist Russia.

Arabs, therefore, do not see a problem in publishing and reading anti-Semitic literature, such as the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, a fake Jewish program fabricated by the Tsarist intelligence services, or the book “Mein Kampf” by the Nazi Adolf Hitler, the twentieth century’s bloodiest tyrant. Muslims also dwell in other shabby Arab literature that supposedly reveals imagined Zionist conspiracies with the Freemasons and with other secretive and presumably evil movements, organizations or governments.

Arab anti-Semitism is laced with lies, including the denial of the Holocaust and the misconception that the United States imprisons anyone who denies the Holocaust, which is not true. America does not even ban extremist racist parties, including Neo Nazi ones. Arabs cite American nonexistent censorship of Holocaust deniers as the grounds for their censorship of all other literature. The line of Arab argument thus becomes this: If the evil Jews get to censor global literature that would unveil the truth behind their Holocaust lies, then everybody else can censor all other literature.

From the Left comes anti-Colonialism, which easily morphs into anti-Semitism. In the few years that followed the establishment of the State of Israel, its population counted one and a half million, half of which came from Europe, and the other half from Arab countries. The demographics of early Israel suggest that at least half of the Israeli population had an unquestionable right, by Arab logic, to the land of Palestine. Many Arabs today, however, still deny the right of all Israelis to the land, insisting that all Jews in Israel are alien colonialists, which is clearly false.

Anti-Semitism has been the top motive behind the establishment of a Jewish sovereign state that can serve as the last refuge for the Jews in the face of a global oppressive and cruel world. But even this state, Israel, finds itself today under attack from the global Right, which traditionally hates Jews, and the global left that lumps Zionism with white European Colonialism, the same Colonialism that persecuted Jews around the world and contributed to pushing them to establish a state.

Barry Weiss is a Jewish American who grew up at a time when the United States seemed to be a safer place for Jews. Today, America has become less hospitable, which is what prompted Weiss to appeal to Jews and non-Jews to confront the rise of racism and extremism, and therefore anti-Semitism, not in the interest of the Jews alone, but in the interest of freedom in America and the world. Restricting the freedom of anyone, after all, is the beginning of repression of the freedom of everyone. In this book, Weiss warns against the creeping oppression with brilliant arguments and a capturing writing style.

Hussain Abdul-Hussain is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy. He Tweets @hahussain.