The Un-Intelligencer’s Malicious Ignorance

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“You do not have to be a “self styled expert in Islam”  to see the fallacy in Kuntzel’s thesis any more than you have to be a self-styled expert in astronomy to know that the moon is not made of green cheese.”

One of our leading public intellectuals weighs in on the unhinged calumnies leveled at me in Policy Review by The Trans-Atlantic Un-Intelligencer, journalist  John Rosenthal. My own reply follows these comments:  

I have read the relevant paragraphs several times over. Rosenthal is trying to make people think that you have not only attacked Kuntzel’s thesis, but that you have gone on to make the “extravagant proposition” that the Nazis discovered anti-Semitism by perusing the Koran or by exchanging letters with the mufti.

I have read two of your books, and most of your articles, and nowhere do I remember you trying to blame Nazi anti-Semitism on Islam, which would be clearly absurd. In short, he is attributing to you a thesis you never put forth, and then ridiculing you for publishing it. 

Rosenthal is also puzzled why “self-proclaimed Islamophobes” did not rush to embrace Kuntzel’s thesis, and implies that the attack on Kuntzel by you, among others, could not have been motivated by the fact that it is glaringly wrong. You do not have to be a “self styled expert in Islam”  to see the fallacy in Kuntzel’s thesis any more than you have to be a self-styled expert in astronomy to know that the moon is not made of green cheese.   

There is a concept in economics called anti-work. That happens when people who pretend to be doing productive labor are in fact doing destructive labor—an auto mechanic who, upon examining someone’s car, breaks a part in order that he can charge for fixing it. Kuntzel represents anti-scholarship. He spends a great deal of intellectual labor in order to argue a thesis that no one thought of before. Then he gets a great deal of attention to his thesis, and soon people are wasting their intellectual energies debating it over and over. Finally, at long last, there is a general recognition, among other scholars, that there is a good reason why no one ever thought of the thesis before—it is flat wrong. But by that time the thesis has drifted out into public space where everyone takes it as a self-evident truth. Sometimes I think Henry Ford was right: History is bunk. (Did he get his anti-Semitism from the Nazis, by the way?)      

My Reply to John Rosenthal 

John Rosenthal, while ostensibly reviewing, Der Mufti von Jerusalem und die Nationalsozialisten, by Klaus Gensicke, makes a shrill detour, unleashing a non-sequitur diatribe attacking my research, and even my integrity.

The apparent source of Rosenthal’s unhinged rage is a lengthy book review/essay I wrote about a second book (not the book Mr. Rosenthal was purportedly reviewing) by Matthias Kuntzel. 

As if this basic scenario were not awkward enough, Rosenthal, in his fury, then proceeds to ignore, fails, entirely, to comprehend, and deliberately misconstrues my arguments regarding Mr. Kuntzel’s book (Again, not the book Rosenthal was assigned to review.) 

For the record, my basic criticisms of Mr. Kuntzel’s book, and his central theses about jihad and Jew hatred (as discussed at length, initially here, and then here, with Mr. Kuntzel’s full participation) are summarized, below. 

·        Kuntzel’s quintessential argument is that Hassan al-Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood (and associated 20th century ideologues such as Sayyid Qutb) “invented” jihad war as a sui generis phenomenon, “catalyzed” by Nazism, inexplicably divorcing these “Muslim Brothers of invention” from the sacralized Islamic institution of jihad war, with its clearly demonstrable doctrine and history spanning a nearly 14 century continuum. A corollary argument is made with regard to the “invention” of Islamic Jew hatred by the same movement and ideologues, under even more “profound” Nazi influences.  

·        Kuntzel’s conception of Islamic Jew hatred provides only the barest, glaringly deficient outline of the theology and historical practice of this unique form of antisemitism, confined as it is to a mere four pages of discussion, and accompanying footnotes. As per Kuntzel, only in Christian “mythology” (not its Islamic equivalent—whatever is meant by his term “mythology—a term, curiously, he does not apply here to Islam) were Jews depicted “constantly” as a “dark and demonic force,” leading (again, only in Christendom) to “anti-Jewish pogroms.” (No such “Medieval pogroms” in Islamdom are mentioned by the author in the context of this discussion, leaving the reader to assume, incorrectly, that none occurred.) Kuntzel ascribes these as uniquely Christian phenomena (i.e., implicitly, both the theological, or “mythological” Jew hatred of Christianity, and resultant pogroms) to “simple” origins, which he cannot find (or more aptly, bother to research with any degree of seriousness) in Islam. 

·        And, despite Kuntzel’s repeated use of the phrase “the anti-Jewish passages in the Koran” he barely characterizes two verses, alone, i.e., Koran 5:60, and (correctly noted) 5:82 (the latter of which is cited by Kuntzel [p.66] with the wrong enumeration as 5:85, the standard reference being 5:82). Thus a central anti-Jewish motif in the Koran—verse 2:61, and its reiteration at 3:112—is ignored altogether, as are a litany of other important anti-Jewish verses (many intimately related to this central motif, as described below), their exegeses in the Koran, and elaboration in the hadith, sira, and corpus of juridical and anti-Jewish polemical writings by Muslim luminaries from classical Islam, through the present era.  

·        Kuntzel’s woefully inadequate “presentation” of Islam’s doctrinal anti-Jewish (and overlapping anti-dhimmi) hatred is accompanied, not surprisingly, by a complete failure to illustrate any of the historical consequences of these sacralized hatreds. In the end, Kuntzel demonstrates a complete ignorance of how Islamic jihad, dhimmitude, and Jew hatred operate within a coherent theology-jurisprudence, expressed continuously during 14 centuries of history.  

·        Moreover, although ignored in their entirety by Kuntzel, writings produced for 100 years between the mid-19th through mid-20th centuries, by important scholars and intellectuals—for example, the historians Jacob Burckhardt and Waldemar Gurian, philosopher Bertrand Russell, Carl Jung, the founder of modern analytical psychiatry, Protestant theologian Karl Barth, and sociologist Jules Monnerot—referred to Islam as a despotic, or in 20th century parlance, totalitarian ideology.  

·        The yawning gap of omissions aside, perhaps more unsettling is Kuntzel’s selective citation, and excerpting. The worst example is his completely misleading “analysis” of Sheikh Tantawi’s important treatise rationalizing and extolling Jew hatred in the Koran and Sunna. Kuntzel’s discussion of current Al Azhar Grand Imam Tantawi and his 700 page treatise rationalizing Muslim Jew hatred, Banu Isra’il fi al-Koran wa al-Sunna [Jews in the Koran and the Traditions], originally published in the late 1960s/ early1970s, and then re-issued in 1986/87, can only be described as disingenuous. [Note: Major extracts of this work translated into English for the first time, appear in my The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism]. Kuntzel reduces this detailed, scholarly examination of the numerous anti-Jewish motifs in the Koran, which includes extensive discussion of materials from the Koranic commentaries, the hadith, and sira, to a random quote from Hitler, and Tantawi’s mention of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, along with other modern boilerplate Muslim conspiratorial allegations against Jews, excerpted from introductory, or passing remarks by Tantawi. However, an extract such as the following, which is a legitimate representation of the major themes addressed ad nauseum throughout this lengthy treatise, is not provided. 

[The] Koran describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e. killing the prophets of Allah, corrupting His words by putting them in the wrong places, consuming the people’s wealth frivolously, refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do, and other ugly characteristics caused by their deep-rooted lasciviousness…only a minority of the Jews keep their word….[A]ll Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims, the bad ones do not. (Koran 3:113) 

Tantawi was apparently rewarded for this scholarly effort by being named Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University in 1996, a position he still holds. These are the expressed, “carefully researched” views on Jews held by the nearest Muslim equivalent to a Pope—the head of the most prestigious center of Muslim learning in Sunni Islam, Sunnis representing some 85% to 90% of the world’s Muslims. And Sheikh Tantawi has not mollified such hatemongering beliefs since becoming the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar as his statements on the Jews as “enemies of Allah, descendants of apes and pigs,” the legitimacy of homicide bombing of Jews, or “dialogue” with Jews (just below), make clear. 

 …anyone who avoids meeting with the enemies in order to counter their dubious claims and stick fingers into their eyes, is a coward.  My stance stems from Allah’s book [the Koran], more than one-third of which deals with the Jews…[I] wrote a dissertation dealing with them [the Jews], all their false claims and their punishment by Allah.  I still believe in everything written in that dissertation. [i.e., from above, in Banu Isra’il fi al-Koran wa al-Sunna]  

Tantawi’s case illustrates the prevalence and depth of sacralized, “normative” Jew hatred in the contemporary Muslim world. Even if all non-Muslim Judeophobic themes were to disappear miraculously overnight from the Islamic world, the living legacy of anti-Jewish hatred, and violence rooted in Islam’s sacred texts—Koran, hadith, and sira—would remain intact. The assessment and understanding of Islamic antisemitism must begin with a comprehensive and unapologetic analysis of the anti-Jewish motifs contained in these foundational texts of Islam. Kuntzel’s analysis—as epitomized by his highly selective discussion of Tantawi’s major work—fails, miserably, to advance this process.   

John Rosenthal’s most egregiously false and defamatory charge against me—leveled with rage, melded to self-fulfilling ignorance—is stated thusly: 

The eccentricity of such a procedure, moreover, appears less innocent when one considers that Bostom himself — in a 10,000-word screed replete with lengthy citations — has taken the trouble to suppress the following words from the very middle of his own Speer passage: “Hitler said that the conquering Arabs, because of their racial inferiority, would in the long run have been unable to contend with the harsher climate and conditions of the country. They could not have kept down the more vigorous natives. . . .”  

Rosenthal’s malicious implication—which as I will demonstrate is also illogical—is that I deliberately omitted Hitler’s well-known racial antipathy to Arabs to bolster, deceitfully, my contentions about the Nazi leader’s views on Islam. But no rational person reading the full Speer quote could come to that conclusion, unless they, like Rosenthal, willfully, or out of ignorance, are incapable of distinguishing between Hitler’s divergent views on Islam, and Arabs. Although I did not in fact make this irrefragable argument in the review/essay Rosenthal attacks, in the appropriate context for this fuller discussion (which includes the Speer quote in its entirety, reproduced, below), i.e., within my forthcoming book, “The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism,” (footnotes, included) there can be no mistaking my analysis of this matter:  

Albert Speer, who was Hitler’s Minister of Armaments and War Production, wrote a contrite 808 memoir of his World War II experiences while serving a 20-year prison sentence imposed by the Nuremberg tribunal. 808a Speer’s narrative includes this discussion which captures Hitler’s racist views of Arabs on the one hand, and his effusive praise for Islam on the other: 809  

Hitler had been much impressed by a scrap of history he had learned from a delegation of distinguished Arabs. When the Mohammedans attempted to penetrate beyond France into Central Europe during the eighth century, his visitors had told him, they had been driven back at the Battle of Tours. Had the Arabs won this battle, the world would be Mohammedan today. 810 For theirs was a religion that believed in spreading the faith by the sword and subjugating all nations to that faith. Such a creed was perfectly suited to the Germanic temperament. [emphasis added] Hitler said that the conquering Arabs, because of their racial inferiority, would in the long run have been unable to contend with the harsher climate and conditions of the country. They could not have kept down the more vigorous natives, so that ultimately not Arabs but Islamized Germans could have stood at the head of this Mohammedan Empire. [emphasis added] Hitler usually concluded this historical speculation by remarking, “You see, it’s been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn’t we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?” 

A similar ambivalence characterized Nazi Germany’s support for Arab Muslim causes in the World War II era. 811 Hitler for example, in December 1937, even proposed omitting his “racial ladder” theory—which denigrated the Arabs—from a forthcoming Arabic translation of Mein Kampf. 811a Moreover, it is a tragic irony that despite the “very low rung” occupied by Arabs in Hitler’s racial ladder design, 812 the convergence between Nazi racist antisemitism and theological Muslim Jew hatred 813 still resonates across the Arab Muslim, and larger non-Arab Muslim world, to this day.   

What has engendered Rosenthal’s mean-spirited (“Self-professed Islamophobes,”—I am neither;  “hysterical reactions”), and crude misrepresentation of my work (“a 10,000-word screed”; suggesting “…that it is not, after all, National Socialism that is the source of rampant anti-Semitism in the Muslim World, but rather Islam that was perhaps the source or inspiration of the anti-Semitism of the National Socialists!” I have never written, or implied this, any where, nor do I harbor such an opinion.)?

I believe there are at least two fundamental sources: deliberately ignoring my own recognized expertise, while failing to acknowledge his personal lack of relevant study, let alone independently confirmed “scholarship.” Despite Rosenthal’s derogatory characterization (“self-styled experts in Islam”), my research on the jihad—published in The Legacy of Jihad—has been widely praised, including a review/meditation published in Policy Review (October/November, 2006) itself, by Lee Harris. Professor Johannes J.G. Jansen, one of The Netherland’s leading contemporary scholars of Islam-whose The Neglected Duty: The Creed of Sadat’s Assassins and Islamic Resurgence in the Middle East (New York: Macmillan, 1986), and The Dual Nature of Islamic Fundamentalism (London: Hurst & Company, 1997) remain defining works on the Islamic movements that gave rise to Al Qaeda., wrote in his blurb for the book, “Bostom manages…to upset the conventional view in this fascinating and well-documented clinical study of jihad.” In a subsequent review of this book by Dr. Jansen published in The Middle East Quarterly (available here), he observed,  

Bostom’s book amply documents the systematic and destructive character of Islamic jihad, refuting the much-repeated argument that jihad is a “rich” concept that has many meanings and that jihad first of all signifies “inner struggle.”…Bostom not only presents us with classical mainstream Islamic sources and their justifications for jihad, plus witness reports from victims that survived by accident, etc., but he also quotes contemporary Muslim clerics… Jihad is first of all war, bloodshed, subjugation, and expansion of the faith by violence. The book implicitly devastates the fashionable but uninformed opinion that all religions are elaborations of the Golden Rule.   

Based upon his reading of the final manuscript version of my (imminently) forthcoming book, The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, The Hoover Institution’s own Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, wrote, 

The antisemitism of the Muslim Middle East that we hear, see, and experience daily-from the racist cartoons to the constant chorus of “pigs and apes”-is often attributed to European origins, as if the radical Muslim world learned this endemic hatred through the tragedy of imperialism and colonialism. In fact, a deep suspicion and frequent loathing of Jews is deeply rooted in the Middle East, antedating European rule and sometimes evidenced in passages in the Koran and early holy Islamic texts, the systematic Jewish dhimmitude under the Ottomans, and, since the 7th century, a Muslim popular culture of envy and oppression fueled by religious leaders. Andrew Bostom produces a vast literature of Middle Eastern Islamic antisemitism, and critics may be as surprised at his conclusions as they are unable to refute his carefully compiled corpus of evidence. 

Dr. Hanson’s sentiments were echoed by renowned Holocaust scholar, Dr. Steven Katz, Director, Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies, Boston University, and Professor Efraim Karsh, Head of Mediterranean Studies, University of London:  

The publication of the present anthology of primary sources and secondary studies on the theme of Muslim antisemitism is a ground breaking event of major scholarly, cultural, and political significance.  Editor Andrew Bostom has mined the relevant literature to produce the fullest record on this subject in existence.  After the publication of his, work all the oft-repeated, but erroneous misunderstandings of a tolerant Islam, and of a medieval Jewish-Muslim “golden age” will need to be permanently retired.  Everyone interested in Jewish and Islamic history, as well as current events in the Middle East should read this book—and soon. [Dr. Katz] 

It has long been a staple of anti-Israel propaganda that Muslims have never had anything against Judaism or Jews but only against Zionism and Zionists, since the Islamic world has traditionally been free of the virus of antisemitism which is essentially a European phenomenon. In this masterful collection of documents and commentaries by Muslim jurists, theologians, and historians throughout the ages, as well as by prominent scholars of Islam, Andrew G. Bostom debunks this spurious claim by exposing a deep and pervasive anti-Jewish bigotry dating to Islam’s earliest days, and indeed to the Prophet Muhammad himself. Small wonder that some of the hoariest and most bizarre themes of European antisemitism should have struck a responsive chord when they made their way into the Islamic and Arab worlds over the course of the centuries, turning them into the most prolific producers of antisemitic ideas and attitudes in today’s world.{Dr. Karsh] 

In stark contrast, Mr. Rosenthal is devoid of any recognized expertise on either the jihad, or the theological doctrine, and intimately related living history of Islamic Antisemitism. Caveat emptor, for those willing to accept uncritically Rosenthal’s poorly reasoned, ad hominem attack on me.  

Notes 

808. A recently discovered letter, however (Kate Connolly. “Letter Proves Speer Knew of Holocaust Plan” The Guardian, March 13, 2007),  indicates that despite repeated claims he was unaware of Nazi plans to exterminate the Jews, Speer attended a conference in 1943 where Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS and Gestapo, made clear the Nazi regimes genocidal program during what has become known as the Posen speech. Writing in 1971 to Helen Jeanty, widow of a Belgian resistance leader, Speer admitted,  There is no doubt—I was present as Himmler announced on October 6, 1943 that all Jews would be killed…Who would believe me that I suppressed this, that it would have been easier to have written all of this in my memoirs?

808a.  Albert Speer. Inside the Third Reich. 1970, New York, p. 96

809.  Ibid.

810. Charles Emmanuel Dufourcq, however, recounts how the Arab jihad ravages of Western Europe continued apace after their defeat at Tours. The Arab invaders found the Mediterranean regions of France, Italy, and Sicily, “more attractive” prey, in particular the churches and monasteries. Dufourcq wrote, (from Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad, pp. 421-422: Around 734-735 they stormed and took Arles and Avignon.  From the coast of Provence and in Italy, their sailors preceded the cavalry or substituted for them.  In 846 they disembarked at the mouth of the Tiber, seized Ostia, went up the river, refrained from attacking the wall of Rome, but pillaged the Basilicas of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, which at that time were both outside the walls. This alarm prompted, as a counter-measure, the construction of a new Roman enclosure encompassing Saint Peter’s and rejoining the old one at the Castello Santangelo, the old mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian.  In 849 the Moslems attempted a new landing at Ostia;  then, every year from around 857 on, they threatened the Roman seaboard.   In order to get rid of them, Pope John VIII decided in 878 to promise them an annual payment of several thousand gold pieces;  but this tribute of the Holy See to Islam seems to have been paid for only two years;  and from time to time until the beginning of the tenth century, the Moslems reappeared at the mouth of the Tiber or along the coast nearby.   Marseilles, for its part, was also hit:  in 838 the Arabs landed there and devastated it;  St. Victor’s Abbey, outside the walls, was destroyed, and many inhabitants of the city were carried off in captivity;  ten years later a new raid occurred, the Old Port was again sacked.  And this perhaps was repeated once more around the year 920.   The whole Italian peninsula was similarly exposed:  around 840 Moslem ships followed the Adriatic coasts as far as the Dalmatian archipelago and the mouth of the Pô River.  Then, returning South, they dared to attack a city, Ancona, some two hundred kilometers northwest of Rome;  a sort of commando dashed ashore:  the city was devastated and set on fire.   During their conquest of Sicily, when they took Syracuse in 878, after a deadly attack, they were exasperated by the resistance that they met with.  When they rushed into the city, they found along their way the Church of the Holy Savior, filled with women and children, the elderly and the sick, clerics and slaves, and they massacred them all.  Then, spreading out through the city, they continued the slaughter and the pillage, had the treasure of the cathedral handed over to them;  they also took many prisoners and gathered separately those who were armed.  One week later all of the captives who had dared to fight against them were butchered (four thousand in number, according to the chronicle al-Bayyan). In 934 or 935, they landed at the other end of Italy, at Genoa, killed “all the men” they found there, and then left again, loading onto their ships “the treasures of the city and of its churches”.  A few years later they settled for a time, it seems, in Nice, Fréjus, Toulon… One could list many other similar facts.  Generally speaking, in these Arab raids carried out by a cavalcade or after a landing, the churches were especially targeted, because the assailants knew that they would find there articles used in worship that were made of gold or silver , sometimes studded with precious stones, as well as costly fabrics.  And because the churches were considered to be an offense against God, the One God, given that they were consecrated to the “polytheistic” belief in the Trinity, they were then burned down.  The bells were the object of particular animosity, because they dared to amplify the call to infidel prayer by resounding through the skies, towards heaven;  therefore they were always broken.  

811. Lukasz Hirsczowicz. The Third Reich and the Arab East, 1966, London, pp. 315-316.

811a. Ibid., p. 46

812. Ibid., p. 315.

813. The fourth conference of the Academy of Islamic Research; D.F. Green. Arab Theologians on Jews and Israel; Bat Ye’or. Chapter XXI “The New Egyptian Jew Hatred—Local Elements and External Influences” in Jews in Egypt (Hebrew), 1974, Jerusalem. Full English translation of the original French  by Susan Emanuel is presented herein; Tantawi. Banu Isra’il fi al-Qur’an wa al-Sunna [Jews in the Qur’an and the Traditions]  

Andrew G. Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad (Prometheus, 2005) and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism ” (Prometheus, November, 2008)

You can contact Dr. Bostom at @andrewbostom.org

3 responses to “The Un-Intelligencer’s Malicious Ignorance

  1. Though he deserved every bit of your scholarly smack-down, I can’t imagine anyone could read Rosenthal’s “review” without dismissing it for such obvious and bizarre malice–“self-professed islamophobe,” come on.

  2. You mention the Muslim control of the Mediterranean.

    How far would you go in agreeing with the arguable implications of Pirenne’s thesis in ‘Mohammed and Charlemagne’ that this control, was, long-term, the best thing that ever happened to Europe, especially North-Western Europe, whatever the huge pain and devastation it caused at the time?

    Europe’s huge eventual developments and leadership in trade and commerce, science and technology, centres of learning, advanced ship-building and navigation all spring to mind.

  3. I had an opportunity on a quiet sunday morning in Maine – to speak with Dr. Kuntzel quite recently (after reading his book ..I have read yours, await your new one, much of Lewis, Spencer’s ‘Myth’, etc), and personally being a believer that the basis for Islamic Antisemitism is the quran (having been ‘speaking’ with arabs in the gulf for 6+ years as well), questioned him as to his feelings about that – that the problem is the Quran and the Hadiths

    He said POINT BLANK, and unabashedly that in his view today, historic muslim antisemitism in the Quran and Hadiths were ENHANCED by interaction with the Nazis, especially thru Husseini and the MB, and that much of the WAY antisemitism is now presented by the muslims is inherited from them.

    He seemed only slightly surprised by the question, but pleased to answer it.

    He was up here to speak about Iranian Denial

    I would emphasize that whether or not he started from a different place, we seem to have arrived at the same point, given his expressed view now.