Arye Tepper reviews Sir Martin Gilber's brand new book In Ishmael's House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands. Tepper tells that the book manages to cover lots of ground by being very focused on the single question of the level of persecution or lack of it suffered by the Jews throughout the centuries. Says Tepper:
By proceeding in this fashion, Gilbert succeeds in exploding the myth, manufactured by Islamic ideologues and peddled by left-wing apologists, to the effect that pre-modern Jews always lived harmoniously with their Muslim hosts. Sometimes this was the case; often it was not.
If it's books I'm recommending, a few weeks ago The Economist had a glowing review of John Calvert's new biography Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism (Columbia/Hurst). Since Qutb is an extremely central figure for Islamists, any good book about him should be widely read. Slightly alarmingly, however, Benny Morris has read the book, liked it, but notices that
Calvert never says, simply, that Qutb was an anti-Semite; perhaps it is politically incorrect to forthrightly accuse a major Muslim thinker of such a predilection. But “the Jews” appear to have been important, if not central, to Qutb’s worldview, at least after the Arab disaster in Palestine in 1948. From that year onward Qutb was wont, like most contemporary Islamists, to refer to the Muslims’ “Crusader [i.e., Christian] and Zionist” enemies.Odd. On the other hand, Culvert makes no secret of the irrational extent to which Qutb was fascinated and repelled by the (emerging) equality of women in America and sexual mores there; according to Culvert, Qutb himself apparently never had sex with a woman. Freudian, I suppose - except that Freud was an example of Jewish insidiousness.
But Qutb’s anti-Semitism was religious and deep-rooted, originating in the Koran and its descriptions of Muhammad’s antagonistic relations with the Jewish tribes of Arabia (who simply rejected the Prophet and his message and were consequently slaughtered, enslaved or exiled by him), not in the contemporary struggle with Zionism. (Though the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, no doubt, exacerbated his anti-Jewish prejudices. He often compared what he saw as Jewish misdeeds in seventh-century Hejaz—the Jews turning their backs on divine revelation, trying to poison the Prophet and fighting the believers—and twentieth-century Palestine.)
In or around 1951 Qutb published an essay entitled “Our Struggle with the Jews” (reprinted as a book by the Saudi government in 1970). Calvert devotes a paragraph to this screed—but would have done well to elaborate further. In the essay, Qutb vilified the Jews, in line with the Koran, as Islam’s (and Muhammad’s) “worst” enemies, as “slayers of the prophets,” and as essentially perfidious, double-dealing and evil.
If it's the war against Islamic extremism we're talking of (keep in mind that I'm not bound by the White House Talking Points), the NYT has an interesting article about how the surge in Afghanistan may actually be working. (My friend Juan Cole has yet to relate to the item).
Meanwhile, for a longer and less tractable war than the mere 9-year one in Afghanistan, Khaleb Abu Toameh reminds us that someday someone is going to have to explain to millions of Palestinians that they're not going back to Haifa or Jaffa, nor to Bir'em or Julis. So far, their leaders and the leaders of the Arab world are telling them they will, and this prevents peace. Hussein Ibish and Abu Toameh ought to get together and figure out what the facts of this matter are.
Finally, on a related topic, Eamonn Mc Donagh has a problem with the Spanish, Roman Catholic Democratic Kingdom of Spain. I spoof you not, and it is related.