Has Medievalist Richard Landes chosen his arguments all that wisely?
Richard Landes, invoking understandably, his background as a Medievalist, with a special interest in millenarian movements—attempts a thoughtful “reconciliation” of what he attributes to be the positions of Matthias Kuntzel, and myself, vis a vis Islamic Antisemitism. But Landes’ discussion has two fundamental flaws.
First, Landes ignores (and likely does not appreciate) Kuntzel’s complete failure to understand the jihad, which lead Kuntzel to opine, remarkably (on p. 13 of his book “Jihad and Jew Hatred”),
The [Muslim] Brotherhood’s most significant innovation was their concept of jihad as holy war, which significantly differed from other contemporary doctrines and, associated with that, the passionately pursued goal of dying a martyr’s death in the war with the unbeliever. Before the founding of the Brotherhood, Islamic currents of modern times had understood jihad (derived from a root signifying “effort”) as the individual striving for belief or the missionary task of disseminating Islam. Only when this missionary work was hindered were they allowed to use force to defend themselves against the unbelievers resistance. The starting point of Islamism is the new interpretation of jihad espoused with uncompromising militancy by Hassan al-Bana, the first to preach this kind of jihad in modern times.
There is simply no way to reconcile this statement with either classical Islamic doctrine—entirely consistent with Al-Banna’s views—or the tragic, but copious historical evidence of how jihad campaigns, in accord with this doctrine, were (and continue to be) conducted across, Asia, Africa, and Europe. I amass incontrovertible evidence of this living doctrine and history in the The Legacy of Jihad.
Moreover, in 1916, the great Dutch Orientalist Hurgronje noted the wide rank and file support among the Muslim masses for a restored Caliphate even at the very nadir of Islam’s political power. And here is an extract from an article that appeared in the Calcutta Guardian in 1924 which linked the Pan-Islamic Indian Khilafat (Caliphate) Movement to trends that developed, and intensified following the Russo-Turkish War of 1876-78, fifty years prior to the advent of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, and completely independent of the latter:
The Islamic World was aroused to the fact that the area of Islamic independence was steadily narrowing, and the Qur’anic theory that Islam should dominate over every other religion was giving way to the contrary system. It was felt that the only Muslim power which could deal with those of Europe as an equal was
Second, Landes (like Kuntzel) adopts uncritically the notion that “real” Jew extermination is only plausible given the “shift” from what is termed “anti-Judaism,” to “redemptive” Antisemitism—the former phenomenon not even meriting the term “Antisemitism.”
This nomenclature—Anti-Judaism vs. Antisemitism—itself is quite strange, and ahistorical, in light of what our greatest historian of Muslim-Jewish relations during the high Middle Ages, S.D. Goitein, uncovered and described (over 35 years ago) from the Geniza documentary record. Goitein’s seminal analyses of the Geniza material employed the term Antisemitism, in his own words,
…in order to differentiate animosity against Jews from the discrimination practiced by Islam against non-Muslims in general. Our scrutiny of the Geniza material has proved the existence of “Antisemitism” in the time and the area considered here…
…have a special word for it and, most significantly, one not found in the Bible or in Talmudic literature (nor registered in any Hebrew dictionary), but one much used and obviously coined in the Geniza period. It is sin’ūth, “hatred”, a Jew-baiter being called sōnē, “a hater”.
Incidents of such Muslim Antisemitism— Jew hatred—documented by Goitein in the Geniza come from northern
Muslim eschatology—ignored altogether by the Medievalist Landes—as depicted in the hadith, highlights the Jews’ supreme hostility to Islam. Jews are described as adherents of the Dajjâl—the Muslim equivalent of the Anti-Christ—or according to another tradition, the Dajjâl is himself Jewish. At his appearance, other traditions maintain that the Dajjâl will be accompanied by 70,000 Jews from
But it is the Jews stubborn malevolence, as described in Georges Vajda’s seminal analysis of the Jew hating motifs in the hadith, that is their defining worldly characteristic:
Vajda concludes that these archetypes, in turn, justify Muslim animus towards the Jews, and the admonition to at best, “subject [the Jews] to Muslim domination”, as dhimmis, treated “with contempt,” under certain “humiliating arrangements.”
The rise of Jewish nationalism—Zionism—posed a predictable, if completely unacceptable challenge to the Islamic order—jihad-imposed chronic dhimmitude for Jews—of apocalyptic magnitude. As Bat Ye’or has explained,
…because divine will dooms Jews to wandering and misery, the Jewish state appears to Muslims as an unbearable affront and a sin against Allah. Therefore it must be destroyed by Jihad.
Historian Saul S. Friedman, also citing the emergence of Zionism (as an ideology anathema to the Islamic system of dhimmitude for Jews), concluded that this modern movement, and the creation of the Jewish State of Israel has, not surprisingly, unleashed a torrent of annihilationist Islamic antisemitism, “the brew of thirteen centuries of intolerance”:
Since 1896, the development of modern, political Zionism has placed new tension on, and even destroyed, the traditional master-serf relationship that existed between Arab and Jew in the
This is exactly the Islamic context in which the widespread, “resurgent” use of Jew annihilationist apocalyptic motifs—exemplified by the Hamas charter, and the utterances, most recently by Hamas cleric Wael al-Zarad—would be an anticipated, even commonplace occurrence.
But Landes also ignores the catastrophic impact of the more “mundane” application of Islam’s doctrinal principles towards Jews (and other dhimmis) independent of Islamic eschatology, per se.
In my forthcoming The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, I have elaborated on how the tragic mass killings for “breaching” the dhimma which afflicted the Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire (Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians, and Armenians) throughout the 19th century, culminating in the jihad genocide of the Armenians during World War I (and documented, by historian Vahakn Dadrian [pp. 403ff] to have inspired Hitler to express the notion of predictable impunity with regard to future genocides), were nearly replicated in historical Palestine, but for the advance of the British army.
During World War I in
On Jan. 8, Djemal Pasha ordered the destruction of all Jewish colonization documents within a fortnight under penalty of death…In many cases land settled by Jews was handed over to Arabs, and wheat collected by the relief committee in
By April of 1917, conditions deteriorated further for Palestinian Jewry, which faced threats of annihilation from the Ottoman government. Many Jews were in fact deported, expropriated, and starved, in an ominous parallel to the genocidal deportations of the Armenian dhimmi communities throughout
The orders of evacuation were aimed chiefly at the Jewish population. Even German, Austro-Hungarian, and Bulgarian Jews were ordered to leave the town. Mohammedans and Christians were allowed to remain provided they were holders of individual permits. The Jews who sought the permits were refused. On April 1 the Jews were ordered to leave the country within 48 hours. Those who rode from
The same fate awaits all Jews in
Auron cites a very tenable hypothesis put forth at that time in a journal of the British Zionist movement as to why the looming slaughter of the Jews of Palestine did not occur—the advance of the British army (from immediately adjacent Egypt) and its potential willingness “..to hold the military and Turkish authorities directly responsible for a policy of slaughter and destruction of the Jews”—may have averted this disaster.
On June 30, 1922, a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress of the United States unanimously endorsed the “Mandate for Palestine,” confirming the irrevocable right of Jews to settle in the area of Palestine—anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The Congressional Record contains a statement of support from New York Rep. Walter Chandler which includes an observation, about “Turkish and Arab agitators… preaching a kind of holy war [jihad] against…the Jews” of
Let me demonstrate, in conclusion the serious flaws in Landes’overall construct by posing a basic hypothetical question:
Can Landes posit what would have happened, say in late 1922—the Muslim Brothers were not formed until 1928; the Nazis do not come to power until 1933—with regard to Islamic jihad and Islamic Jew hatred, specifically, if the British had created some rump state Jewish homeland, actually governed by Jews, and rapidly departed, bearing in mind both the fate of other dhimmi nationalisms in the 19th and early 20th centuries (Serb, Greek, Bulgarian, Armenian), and the special place occupied by dhimmi Jews in Islamic eschatology?
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