When it comes to the sensitive topic of racial or ethnic profiling, Muslims, historically, were innovators in their own right. The Nazis were not the originators of the yellow cloth with which they tagged Jews. The odious tagging rag has its origins in the laws of the Charter of Omar—a set of vicious anti-infidel rules that were applied to Jews with extra vim. These laws were introduced by the caliph who succeeded the prophet Mohammed.
Prior to the prophet, Jews and Arabs did indeed live in relative harmony, but when Mohammed failed to convert the Jews to Islam, the proselytizing prophet of peace exterminated at least one Jewish tribe, etched the Holy Koran with anti-Jewish vitriol, and launched centuries of brutality against Jews. Arabs also preceded the Nazis by centuries when they devised the Jewish ghetto, that dwelling demarcator known in Arabic as the hara or mella. Following the Arab conquest in the seventh century, Jewish life in the Islamic world became fraught with massacres, blood libel, and plunder. Synagogues were regularly torn down, and Jews were impelled to pay special head and property taxes.
Meticulously sourced accounts of Jewish travails over the centuries under Islam are detailed in Joan Peters’ seminal, From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine. These reveal a population subject to the whim of the particular Muslim ruler, and the degree to which he was committed to implementing the anti-infidel laws of the Holy Koran and the Charter of Omar. Under Islamic religious law, for instance, if a Muslim murdered an infidel, he was liable only for a fine. But even this “blood money” was rarely forthcoming, because the testimony of an infidel was invalid against a Muslim.
In the land that was once Babylonia, the Jews of Iraq weathered the vicissitudes of a daily life without rights but with endless indignities. Some particularly murderous landmarks stand out: the A.D. 1000 expropriation of Jewish property, the 1333 destruction of their synagogues, and the 1776 Basra slaughter, leading up to mob killings in 1941 and numerous public-square hangings between 1969 and 1973.
The chronicles of Jewish life over the centuries in Aden, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, and Libya are similarly marred. As one 19th-century observer recounted, the ancient community of Yemenite Jews was “in a position of inferiority, and is oppressed by a people which declares itself holy and pious but which is very brutal, barbarous and hard-hearted.” Of particular note is the murder in 1032 of thousands of Jews in Fez, Morocco, followed, in 1146, by the Almohad atrocities in which hundreds of thousands of Jews and Christians were massacred by the Muslim Almohads.
As Palestinian and Arab propaganda would have it, Muslim hate for the Jew is a contemporary phenomenon, caused entirely by the tiny “Zionist state.” While the contempt for the dhimmi, as the Jew was derogatorily termed, has evolved over the years—drawing on “traditional Koranic slurs,” as well as gathering vintage Nazi debris along the way—the hate boasts a pure Islamic pedigree.
“In 1940,” writes Peters, “the mufti [a kind of rabbi] of Jerusalem wrote to the Axis powers requesting the right of the Arabs to settle the question of the Jews along similar lines to those used to solve the Jewish question in Germany and Italy.” Egyptian Minister Anwar Sadat’s touch was somewhat comical. In 1950, Sadat, who may have confused Hitler for Houdini, published an open “Dear Adolf” letter, commending Hitler for “saving the world from this malignant evil.”
In 1964 a “scholar” from the University of Damascus issued a warning to the Syrian public to refrain from “letting your children out at night, lest the Jew come and take their blood for the purpose of making matzot for Passover.” (My mother’s matzo balls, incidentally, are nowhere near that labor intensive.) Such a sentiment is still very much within the realm of respected political and intellectual discourse throughout the Arab world.
An anti-Semitic czarist canard and fraud like “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” has been adopted as Arab lore. Last year, UN-funded Muslim pamphleteers handed out The Protocols at the “anti-racist” conference in Durban. The charge that Jews are taking over the world joins the deicide charge and the denial—and justification—of the Holocaust, among Saudis, Egyptians, Palestinian…you name them.
Before Arab leaders realized they had won the propaganda war and could relax, they had frenetically and cunningly been extending specious invites for Arab Jews to return to their homelands. You see, the approximately 1.5 million Jewish refugees from Arab lands could have become a considerable obstacle to the Palestinian propaganda machine had Israel been as conniving as her enemies. Imagine the kind of trump card Israel might have wielded had she, like her uncivilized neighbors, kept these legitimate Jewish refugees in camps, refused to settle them, fomented hate among them for the Arab, and turned the fugitives into political pawns—as Arab nations have so masterfully done to their so-called refugees.
In 1976, these Jewish refugees, represented by the American Sephardi Federation, responded to the cynical invites with a full-page advertisement in the New York Times. The ad entailed a news service photo that showed a mob of Iraqi onlookers surrounding two bodies suspended from a scaffold. The dangling bodies were those of Sabam Haim and David Hazaquil, both Jews, hung in Baghdad. Beneath the photograph the organization responded: “Invitation declined.”
January 9, 2002