“Allah above us in heaven, and Hitler with us on earth”

German author Matthias Kuntzel’s new book, Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11, aims to show that modern Islamic anti-Semitism, although supported by ancient influences, is a direct result of Nazi efforts to mobilize masses of Muslims against the Jews in their midst. It’s an important reminder of the detestable hatred and ominous ambitions shared by Nazis and jihadists, but it only goes so far in understanding that bond.

Certainly, many of the manifestations of anti-Semitism today are of the European model, and this is especially so in the Muslim world. Mein Kampf is a best-seller in Arabic, and anti-Semitic cartoons and caricatures in practically every Muslim capital reveal the influence of Nazi propaganda. The photographs of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, meeting with Adolf Hitler, or the wartime catchphrase “Allah above us in heaven, and Hitler with us on earth” testify to the strength of Muslims’ identification with the Nazi view of Jews.

What goes unexplained, however, is why, more than 60 years after Hitler’s defeat, the Nazi model of anti-Semitism continues to gain currency in the Muslim world, while it wanes in Hitler’s heartland.

Andrew Bostom has sharply criticized Kuntzel’s approach as the latest refrain in the familiar chorus “of condemnation of Europe and apologetics for the Islamic world.” Warning against “looking at Islamic anti-Semitism as anything other than an indigenous phenomenon,” Bostom dismisses the idea “that this is just another vestige of European colonialism,” calling such claims a dangerous form of denial.

Kuntzel has hit back, though, arguing that Bostom’s seamless history of Islamic anti-Semitism doesn’t explain why, in some places and times, Muslim societies relaxed restrictions on Jews and even held their Jewish communities in mildly positive esteem. Specifically, he notes, the radical Islamism that we know today (essentially, the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots) developed as a reaction to the lax ideals and practices of Islamic societies in the Middle East in the first half of the 20th century – and they were clearly inspired by the rise of Hitler and his “final solution.”

HISTORIAN JEFFREY HERF, a professor at the University of Maryland who has published several books on World War II-era Germany, is working on a book that promises to shed light on the interaction between the two cultures.

Speaking at the Vidal Sassoon Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Hebrew University in early June on the topic of Nazi propaganda broadcasts to the Muslim world, Herf discussed the shift in Nazi propaganda broadcasts that took place after a well-documented meeting in Berlin in November 1941 between Hitler and other senior officials and Husseini and fellow Muslim leaders. After first trying to convince their Middle East audiences that “a victory for the Allies is a victory for the Jews, but victory for the Axis is a victory for Islam,” the Nazis began driving home messages such as “Kill the Jews before they kill you.”

The success that Nazi propaganda enjoyed among Muslims then, and continues to enjoy today, demands an explanation. Kuntzel’s view, that Jews became the symbolic enemy of “pure” Islam much as they became the symbolic enemy of the Aryans, makes a lot of sense.

Bostom’s view would almost seem to negate that explanation, though. Islam’s holy texts are full of anti-Jewish invectives – and in any case, by the time Hitler began spreading his own anti-Semitism, the Muslims had already subjected the Jews under their rule to more than a thousand years of dhimmitude. One might think they would have had no need for Nazi ideas of Jews’ racial inferiority, or that they would find nothing new in foreigners’ arguments against Judaism.

An insight that Herf shared in his Jerusalem speech allows room for speculation. According to the historian, it was not the Nazi racial theories, but the Nazis’ paranoid conspiracy theory of international Jewry’s plot to destroy Germany that truly set the killing machine in motion. Further, he postulated, this idea shifted easily into a Muslim paranoid conspiracy theory of international Jewry’s plot to destroy Islamic society.

According to this explanation, dhimmitude is not enough; for the radical Islamist, it is not enough to merely humiliate the Jew, he must be annihilated. The Jew-hatred of jihad, therefore, is not something that Muslims adopted from Hitler. Rather, it is the adaptation of a message inherited from Muhammad. In other words, the anti-Semitism of Mein Kampf has merely been grafted onto the anti-Semitism of the Koran.

Now that the two hatreds have become intertwined, though, the question that matters most is: Can they be uprooted?

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