Oh Allah, protect the Al Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews…Oh Allah, count them one by one and destroy them down to the very last one. Do not spare any of them and do not spare their young or their elderly” (Imam Ammar Shahin at the University of Davis, California, July 14, 2017. He later apologised to the Jewish community “for the hurt I have caused”).
“The Prophet Mohammed foretold that we would kill the Jews…Let nobody claim that [he talked] about us killing just the Zionists…our war is with the Jews, not just with the Zionists” (Cleric Mamdouh al Harbi in Saudi Arabia, July 26, 2017).
There is a great deal of repetition in such sermons and there are many of them. They go far beyond the discrimination of Jews (and Christians) in the original Muslim texts, as they appear in the Koran, the Hadith (the Prophet’s sayings), and the Shariyah (Muslim religious law). There, Christians and Jews were accorded the status of dhimmi; that is, protected subject minorities that had to pay a head tax, were not given any civil or political rights, but whose lives and property were, in theory though often not in practice, inviolable. After the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in1928, radical theorists and practitioners developed the notion, inspired by European nationalist and racist antisemites, that the Jews were behind all God’s enemies and had to be destroyed physically. There are thus clear parallels between contemporary Islamism — not Islam — and National Socialism (and similar creeds), though they are not identical. Islamism, or Radical Islam (the terms denote the same phenomenon) is not limited to a particular country or region, but is global, universal. The annihilation of Jews is not just one of the elements in Islamism, but a central feature of a global movement. As in Nazism, the Jews are seen as a satanic element somehow introduced into human society; Jews were responsible for all major catastrophes in the past. Thus they caused the two world wars, and plan today to conquer not just the Middle East, but rule the world; just as they now, according to Radical Islam, control the media, the economy, and the governments of the so-called “West” (which may include Japan, for instance).
As many observers have noted, the victims of Islamism are, in the vast majority, Muslims. Thus, Sunnis are murdered by radical Shi’ites, as in Yemen, though the Houthis who now control the capital, San’a, are really a deviant Shi’ite sect. In Syria,the Alawis of Assad are the main perpetrators. They are proxies of the Iranian regime which sees Jews (“Zionists”) as a central enemy. Shi’ites (and others) are murdered by ISIS, Al-Qaida, and similar Sunni Radicals. Sunni Boko Haram in Nigeria and adjacent areas murder mainly Christians, but also Muslims who disagree with them.
Most Western politicians see their war against Sunni Radicals as a matter of a war on terror; this is a misconception. It is a struggle against a political/theological ideology that results in what we call terror attacks, and which the Radicals see as a struggle for world supremacy.
After the defeat of ISIS, that ideology will spread. The West is only beginning to realise that the battle is as much ideological-theological and social as it is military.
In this struggle, the people who are at the forefront of a liberal counter-attack are anti-radical Muslims, whose interpretation of Islam runs counter to that of the Radicals. Alliances with them, in the name of a liberal interpretation of human destiny, are essential if we want to win that war. Jews cannot fight Islamic antisemitism except in alliances with Christian and Muslim anti-radicals. Quoting past collaboration between Muslims and Jews, including acts of rescue during the Holocaust recognized by Yad Vashem, anti-radical Moslems, including clerics, try to fight the murderous ideology of their radical opponents. In February of last year, a meeting of a large number of such clerics, in Morocco, issued an impressive anti-radical statement.
It is worth noting that Radical Islam, especially that of the Sunni kind, is not just about Israel. The destruction of Israel is of course a ‘natural’ part of the ideology both for Iran and the Shi’ite radicals and for the Sunni variant but, as in the quote above, when they talk about Zionists they mean Jews. They are not after “Zionists”; they want to kill Jews, wherever they can. Last time an ideology like that took hold, in the 1930s and 1940s, it resulted not “only” in the mass murder of Jews, but in a war that cost the lives of dozens of millions of non-Jews. That is the message one should send to people who believe that Islamism will die out if there is peace between Israel and the Palestinians. A compromise peace there, which at the moment is not on the cards, should be the aim of Jews for Jewish and general humanistic reasons, but there is little reason to think that, if achieved, it will affect the global issue of Radical Islam’s threat to humanity.
Yehuda Bauer is is professor of Holocaust Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem