Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Jew Hatred in Egypt, Europe, and America

I continue not to know where Egypt is headed, just as President Obama and probably President Mubarak don't know. So I'm in fine company.

There's the story of Wael Ghonim, until this week an anonymous young man who has been catapulted to the front ranks of the revolution, if a revolution it is. History can do that sometimes to people: they get their 15 minutes of fame and are never heard of again, or they get their 15 minutes and stay at center stage for the rest of their lives and beyond. It's hard to know. Should Mr. Ghonim turn out to be representative of the revolution, the world may well end up a better place - or at least it would be plausible to hope. (The funny thing is that I am separated from this fellow by only 2, or at most 3, degrees of separation.)

On the other hand, John Rosenthal has been looking at pictures from A-Tahrir square, including pictures culled from mainstream Western media outlets, and is troubled by the antisemitic imagery which seems quite common there. (There's more here). We outsiders have no real way of knowing how representative this is, and how significant. What we can know is that the Western media is displaying some of these images with no comment, and seems to be editing out the more blatant ones, also without reporting that they're there. It's troubling.

Judith Miller is reporting from the Herzliya conference, day by day. It's quite interesting, and depressing: apparently the Israeli establishment really is worried by the potential for mischief in Egypt. On the other hand, as Jonathan Spyer pointed out so convincingly (see my review here), the type of Israelis who convene at such conferences are not particularly representative.

Finally, just to tie together the troubling news from Egypt with the troubling news from Europe (and America), here's Tariq Ramadan pontificating on the Muslim Brotherhood at the New York Times. Of course Ramadan is a scion of the Brotherhood, so to speak, but he's also a wildly popular European intellectual; the top of polite society, you might say.
The Muslim Brothers began in the 1930s as a legalist, anti-colonialist and nonviolent movement that claimed legitimacy for armed resistance in Palestine against Zionist expansionism during the period before World War II. The writings from between 1930 and 1945 of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Brotherhood, show that he opposed colonialism and strongly criticized the fascist governments in Germany and Italy. He rejected use of violence in Egypt, even though he considered it legitimate in Palestine, in resistance to the Zionist Stern and Irgun terror gangs. He believed that the British parliamentary model represented the kind closest to Islamic principles.
Pretty grim, isn't it.  The Zionist expansionism he so glibly castigates as being a worthy target of violence were, at the time, the small numbers of European Jews who were managing to escape, many of them destitute, as the Nazi boot ground their necks ever harder, and antisemites throughout the continent cheered them on and tried to emulate them, except in places like Poland where the local anti-Jewish policies were worse at that moment than in Germany. This was obvious at the time, and should be quite common knowledge since then, if there was ever any meaning to the refrain "never again". Yet Ramadan puts it on the pages of the New York times, and the editors encourage him to do so, as if history never happened.


Bryan said...

I've seen Tariq Ramadan speak. He seems smug and completely un-self-aware: he focuses on the need for internal reform within Islam, and he pontificates about this need not from Arab states, but in the comfort and safety of America and Europe.

It may be worth pointing out, too, that Tariq Ramadan is Hassan al-Banna's grandson (through al-Banna's daughter Wafa).

Despite the fact that Ramadan advocates for wide-spread, societal reform in Muslim societies, he still has no love for Israel, rather like those Egyptian "liberal democrats" everyone is cheering for, who think they need to tear up the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty to recover their "dignity."

Silke said...

Lee Smith on Qaradawi and roots/history of the Muslim Brotherhood before Al Banna - if you live in areas that need to heat living rooms right now you may have to turn up the radiator to combat the chill

but here is something interesting I never ever heard or read before: towards the end they tell that Iran is deeply unhappy about the Shia government in Iraq because it is not a theocracy and they feel threatened by that. Also they (a Shia, a Sunni, an academic and the moderator) say that Iran's Shia feel pretty much in synch or so with the Muslim Brotherhood. If that were right, it'd explain a lot of things to me. Alas they don't do transcript at the BBC. Beyond Belief quite often offers highly interesting stuff and is available as free subscription on iTunes.

Beyond Belief: 07 FEB 11
Gestern, 11:56
The roots of tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
12.8 MB

Silke said...

in the context this is pretty interesting (never mind the NYRB) - I heard Johnson in a book talk - he sounded like he had done a bit of homework on it

and here's the talk

Silke said...

Benny Morris has his say devoid of ululations

Anonymous said...

No the participants at Herzliya aren't representative of Israeli society, but still it was nice to see Aliza Landes get to speak for a few minutes.


Aaron said...

About the anti-Semitic imagery at the protests: Given that anti-Zionist criticism of Mubarak is presumably admissible but anti-Semitic criticism is not, how could the protesters show him as a "Zionist collaborator" in the most graphic but non-anti-Semitic way? By putting blue horizontal stripes above and below the Star of David? By using an outline of the State of Israel instead of the Star of David? By writing the word "Zionist" on his forehead? None of those symbols are as clear and direct as the Star of David.

In context, I read the Star of David in these pictures as symbolizing Zionists or maybe even the State of Israel, not the people Israel. Even that is probably forcing a distinction where none exists. After all, given that maybe 90% of self-identified Jews identify with the State of Israel to some extent - support its existence as the Jewish nation-state - it's not always that meaningful to distinguish between the Jewish nation and the Jewish state.

Paul M said...

Am I the only one who's struck by the way the Egyptian protesters and western commentators (to the extent that they're writing about Israel's legitimate concerns at all) all talk as if the peace treaty serves only Israel? Yet the Egyptian people gained real, tangible benefits — an end to decades of disastrous wars, a corresponding decrease in the need for defense spending (though I don't know if Mubarak took advantage of that), massive aid from the US and the return of the Sinai and its resources — which they had no prospect of getting any other way.

As for Mubarak, he may be on terms with Israel and the US, but they didn't saddle Egypt with him. He came courtesy of the Islamists who butchered his peace-minded predecessor. Even his 30 year "state of emergency" had some legitimate basis in his desire not to meet Sadat's fate at their hands.

Is it unreasonable to suggest that our media and governments, if not theirs, should be reminding Egyptians, and everyone else, of that?

Silke said...

Paul M
I am struck again and again that I am told how peaceful and nice the Egyptians are by nature - never of the wanna do harm kind they are. I must mis-remember those wars completely.

Here's what I just learned from today's radio

Muslim Brothers on Tahrir are young and not necessarily of the same mind as there elders - they are judging from outward appearance about 20 %, just one fifth and thus negligeable says the reporter (only why do I have 20 % in the back of my head as having so often proved to be something like critical mass?) and yes the Muslim Brothers are those who provide the medical services on the place. But they are not the engines. With all that they would be stupid if right now they'd do the engine thingy and one thing I am sure of, stupid they are not. He says that the young ones will only stop if all the old ones and all of the old regime is gone.

He says there are videos on YouTube since today which shows police opening the prisons showing the right path to the prisoners to take (joke intended)

he waxes lyrical about Arabian pluralism but never mentions rules and regulations which should apply to those free elections and who is going to write them, only away away with the old.

no transcript available - nice picture though

I wish I'd podcatch somebody who doesn't sound like being under the influence

Anonymous said...

Paul M-
>the Egyptian people gained real, tangible benefits. . .

In the Crusades, the Emperor Frederick got Jerusalem and a passage to the sea; not by fighting, just a line item in a trade treaty with Egypt. The Pope excommunicated him and sent an army after him.

Perhaps rightly.


Paul M said...

I'm sorry, Bruce. Your point? Is it that the Egyptians would be better off with perpetual war than the things I listed? If I'm misunderstanding you, I hope you'll clarify.

Anonymous said...

>Is it that the Egyptians would be better off with perpetual war than the things I listed?

My points:

1) Crusades and jihads are about purity, not pracical good. Losing in 1967 showed a kind of purity missing from the compromises that got Suez and the Sinai for Egypt.

2) Perhaps -perhaps not, I don't know- Egyptians are right to ditch Mubarak. (The difference between southern and northern Italy still has something to do with Frederick's government; perhaps the Pope was right).

3) Your initial post was right.


NormanF said...

Hatred of the Jews is the last respectable form of bigotry. Its assumed its a given to hate Jews - whatever they do or don't do, to anti-Semites they are just insufferable.

And this Judeophobia has spread far and wide beyond the Arab World and Iran. I wouldn't look for this malignant pathology to disappear anytime soon in this century.

Paul M said...


I'm sorry; I can be a little touchy. Thanks for explaining your first post.

I would agree with you about religious zealots — jihadis and crusaders alike — but it seems to be not just them. I can't quote the polls verbatim, but I seem to remember that a very large number of Egyptians are against the peace agreement.

From their perspective, the Egyptians have to be right to push Mubarak out. He's a despot, even if there are worse. He was never going to go any other way (except in a hearse). And whatever follows probably won't be a whole lot worse for the average shabab in the street, even if it's no better. Plus, as that great Imam Hillel said, if not now, when?

Silke said...

Crusades and jihads are about purity, not pracical good.

ah that explains why they sacked Constantinople in 1204 and forgot in their joy about all that loot that they had been on their way to help their brothers in the Crusader Kingdom. Of course going after considered to be schismatic co-Christians was a pure a motive as can be desired.

Maybe there was some purity involved for some but mostly it was good ol' struggle for power and riches and trading places and who dominates what and where.

The Popes of the time excommunicated all the time and as best I remember Frederick II went through it several times. If the pope had left him alone he might have established a really durable Christian foothold on the other coast. He sure knew how to keep the Muslims on Sicily in check. But like all what-if-ery that is futile hypothesizing.

What I gathered from the history of those times that I read is that the "west" was always more interested in going after its own, making sure nobody got too powerful, than unite to prevent the advance of Muslims through the Mediterranean (ask Venetians yes the same Venetians who previsously had been so stupid to weaken Constantinople into not being the bastion needed against Muslim aspirations.)

max said...

So Tariq Ramadan maintains that the Muslim Brotherhood strongly criticised Germany's fascist government. So imagine Al-Banna's agonies of conscience as the poor dear's organisation propagated the Nazis' propaganda and asked them for support

kai said...

Tariq Ramadan is not writing for academic purposes, he has an agenda, which is clearly to convince us that Muslim Brothers are nice guys today. They are peaceful except against Israel which is quite natural - so Ramadan believes (and might be right) that war against Israel is nothing which troubles us westerners!
I read his article in NYT and was deeply troubled.

I read other articles there where one of the youngsters was interviewed who had organized the demonstrations. He said, it's good to go along with the young Muslim brothers. Yes, they have a hidden agenda, but they're great in organizing.

Listen and hear! It was in the newspapers. Never say afterwards you couldn't know.