Lawrence Wright: His “germ theory” so wrong on Islamic Antisemitism
The American Thinker has posted an essay of mine today (Sunday 5/11/08) which records the fascinating responses to two queries I posed that reflect the pervasive misunderstanding of the phenomenon of Islamic Antisemitism:
Last year, nearing completion of the final manuscript version of The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, I took a brief hiatus and posed the following two questions, based upon my research, to a cadre of academics, independent scholars, theologians, journalists, and activists who opine, in writing and speech, about Antisemitism, generally, and/or within the Muslim world, specifically. I asked (via e-mail correspondence), “In your opinion, would this quote (below) exemplify racial, or at least ethnic Antisemitism? Moreover would you please hazard a guess as to where and when it was written, based upon the contents?” Here is the quote:
Our people [the Muslims] observing thus the occupations of the Jews and the Christians concluded that the religion of the Jews must compare unfavorably as do their professions, and that their unbelief must be the foulest of all, since they are the filthiest of all nations. Why the Christians, ugly as they are, are physically less repulsive than the Jews may be explained by the fact that the Jews, by not intermarrying, have intensified the offensiveness of their features. Exotic elements have not mingled with them; neither have males of alien races had intercourse with their women, nor have their men cohabited with females of a foreign stock. The Jewish race therefore has been denied high mental qualities, sound physique, and superior lactation. The same results obtain when horses, camels, donkeys, and pigeons are inbred.
Not surprisingly, the replies of my correspondents reflected the conventional academic (and journalistic) wisdom which continues to assert Muslim Jew hatred is only a recent phenomenon that began in the late 19th or early 20th centuries, and is a mere by-product of the advent of the Zionist movement, and the protracted Arab-Israeli conflict over the lands comprising the original 1922 Mandate for historical Palestine (i.e., modern Israel, Jordan, Judea, Samaria, and Gaza). Such thinking also contends that this strain of Jew hatred is a loose amalgam of re-cycled medieval Christian Judeophobic motifs, calumnies from the Czarist Russia “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” and standard European racist, or Fascist/Nazi propaganda. A prototypical assessment of this ilk was written by the journalist Lawrence Wright in The Looming Tower, his widely acclaimed investigative account of the events leading to the cataclysmic acts of jihad terrorism on September 11, 2001.
Until the end of World War II…Jews lived safely –although submissively—under Muslim rule for 1,200 years, enjoying full religious freedom; but in the 1930s, Nazi propaganda on Arabic-language shortwave radio, coupled with slanders by Christian missionaries in the region, infected the area with this ancient Western prejudice [antisemitism]. After the war, Cairo became a sanctuary for Nazis, who advised the military and the government. The rise of the Islamist movement coincided with the decline of fascism, but they overlapped in Egypt, and the germ passed into a new carrier.
Wright’s statement was not accompanied by documentation—this was the accepted wisdom after all.
The contemporary pervasiveness of Wright’s flawed understanding was again manifested in the responses of my interlocutors. A representative sample of their comments demonstrates this phenomenon (continue here):