Jewish “Ahavah shel achvah” Brotherly Love is Difficult for Some to Attain - updated 9/8/2011

Sheila Musaji

Posted Dec 31, 2010      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Jewish “Ahavah shel achvah” Brotherly Love is Difficult for Some to Attain

by Sheila Musaji


[Note:  In July of 2010 David Horowitz’s News Real Blog published an article by Jeanette Pryor titled It’s Time to Put the Coffee Down and Eradicate Islam in the West.  This article included the passage “It’s time to join the war, not on “terror” (that oh-so soothing illusion,) but on Islam in the West.  Most urgently, we must defend Israel as the frontline in the war against the spread of Islam.” 

This shocking article made it clear to me that it was necessary to update this article collection.  In December of 2010, Max Blumenthal has published an article The Great Islamophobic Crusade, and in January of 2011 this report by the Institute for Global Jewish Affairs was published on the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs site - American Muslims:  The Community and Their Relations with Jews.  This report by Noam Ivri is not likely to improve relations between Muslims and Jews, and prompted me to again update this article collection.

It has become fashionable to point to every individual anywhere in the world who happens to be Muslim who makes a hateful or extremist statement, or commits a criminal or terrorist act, and turn that into a blanket accusation against Islam and Muslims.

There is a problem that we all face of extremism and even terrorism in the name of religion.  We need to attempt to understand the why of terrorism, but also to recognize that the claim that all terrorists are Muslims ignores history, and in fact, most terrorists are not Muslims.  We also need to attempt to understand the motivation behind the continuous demonization of the American Muslim community and the entire religion of Islam which does nothing to help fight against terrorism and only marginalizes the voices that might act as a bridge between cultures.  INCIDENTS OF JEWISH & CHRISTIAN TERRORISM AND EXTREMISM

This process of making hatred towards Islam and Muslims acceptable has been aided, sadly, by the fact that Islamophobic statements have even been made by Jewish and Christian clergy people.  Islamophobic statements are also becoming the norm in the political arena, in political campaigns, and even among our elected government representatives.  The 2008 Presidential campaign was rife with Islamophobia.

It is becoming more and more difficult as an American Muslim not to be afraid of where this increasingly divisive and hateful rhetoric might lead. Polls, Surveys, and Statistics relating to Islam and Muslims show that negative attitudes are widespread.  Our civil rights are being restricted, and there are some Americans who are ready to undermine the Constitution in order to deny American Muslims full citizenship.  And, we see regular examples of prejudiced or violent incidents directed at mosques, cemetaries, and Islamic Centers as well as directed at individuals.  The vicious rhetoric is leading to violence not only against American Muslims, but also against politicians and political rivals.  American Muslims, and Muslims worldwide have spoken out loudly and clearly against extremism and terrorism, but this voice seems to be ignored.

It is particularly shocking that there are some in the Jewish community who not more sensitive to this issue.  It would seem that they have seen where such demonization of a minority community can lead, especially when that is a religious minority.

There would appear to be a Jewish Islamophobia industry engaged in what Max Blumenthal calls a Great Islamophobic Crusade.  In regard to the production of “Relentless”,  “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War on the West” and “The Third Jihad” TAM published this article.  Richard Silverstein has written about who benefits, and has discussed the anti-Muslim propaganda during the last election cycle here, and the money trail between these groups here.

Just as Muslims have given lengthy explanations for example of why particular verses of the Qur’an have been taken out of context to “prove” false points - Jewish scholars have had the need to explain particular aspects of their religion that have been misunderstood - for example what the Talmud says about the permissibility of killing non-Jews.  Rabbi David Eidensohn has a site devoted to defending the Talmud against various accusations.  The fact that there are verses in the Qur’an that can be interpreted variously is also not unique -  that there are verses that be seen as cruel and violent in the Bible (Old and New Testaments) cannot really be disputed.  What can be done is to attempt to marginalize those who continue to promote extremist interpretations of religious texts, and to promote false worldviews like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or the Protocols of the Elders of Islam.

When Jewish groups are involved in the production and distribution of hateful propoganda materials like Obsession: Radical Islam’s War With the West, or The Third Jihad which mirror Nazi propoganda in films like The Eternal Jew it is difficult to understand how they cannot see that this sort of demonization will ultimately hurt all minorities.

Rachel Tabachnick wrote in the Jewish Forward “In this single-minded zealotry, the struggle against Islam appears to be seen as a zero sum game - whatever is bad for Muslims, must be good for Jews. But what is the cost of this attack on multiculturalism? Is it possible that some Jewish leaders are hacking away at the very same foundations which have provided a peaceful existence for Jews in the U.S. and elsewhere over the last several decades? Is attacking multiculturalism really beneficial to Jews? “

All of us as members of whatever faith group need to counter hateful speech with thoughtful speech, and to be aware that such tendencies exist among all groups.  As Hans Kung has pointed out so beautifully, “There can be no peace among nations until there is peace among the religions.  There can be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions”. Somehow we must find a way to change the diatribe into dialogue (as Muslim scholars have requested in the Common Word document) in the interest of working together towards peace. 

It is also worthwhile to remember that Islamophobia and anti-Semitism often go hand-in-hand.  In fact, a recent Gallup Poll showed that bias against Jews and Muslims is linked, and concludes that the strongest predictor of prejudice against Muslims is whether a person holds similar feelings about Jews.

Hussein Ibish has written an important paper Religion and violence: another look at Islamophobia and anti-Semitism which discusses at length the similarities between the tactics used to defame Jews and those used to defame Muslims.  Here is an important passage from the lengthy article

In the past, I’ve argued strongly that the best way to understand the structure, strategies and mechanisms of Islamophobia is to study the essential elements of anti-Semitic rhetoric, because the parallels between the two are uncanny and exact and because Americans are familiar with the ugliness and unfairness of anti-Semitism. Since it can easily be shown that Islamophobia is without doubt in most instances a virtually exact replication of anti-Semitism, this ought to prove a decisive platform for exposing and counteracting its pernicious effects. As it happens, last week, completely coincidentally, I was reading with amazement anti-Semitic tracts that attempted to demonstrate all kinds of evils about Judaism and the Jews based on tendentious and malicious quotation and interpretation from Jewish holy books. I refuse to link to any of them, because they are poisonous, but anyone who seeks them out online should unfortunately have no difficulty finding them. In fact, the Quran, the Bible, and certainly also the Talmud, contain passages that, if read literally, out of context and especially outside of the mainstream of both traditional and contemporary interpretation, could be seen as quite alarming. Indeed, in all three cases, especially in the past, their effects upon the “righteous true believers” have been alarming, and in some cases, at the moment especially among Muslim extremists, they continue to be. However, what these anti-Semitic polemical tracts attempt to do is to suggest that contemporary and mainstream Jews around the world have a mentality and mindset defined by the literal or maliciously interpreted meanings of these passages, mainstream Jewish understandings of them notwithstanding. This is precisely what many of the worst of the Islamophobes do to the Muslims. 

A 2003 report from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), The Talmud in Anti-Semitic Polemics, explains how this process of selectively quoting from and misrepresenting Jewish scripture is being used by anti-Jewish bigots in their campaigns of defamation in exactly the same way in which Islamophobes use the Quran and Hadith to slander and systematically misrepresent Islam and Muslims. The report opens with this telling passage: Recently there has been a renewal of attacks on Judaism and Jews through recycling of old accusations and distortions about the Talmud. Anti-Talmud tracts were originally developed in the Middle Ages as Christian polemics against Judaism, but today they emanate from a variety of Christian, Moslem and secular sources. Sometimes such “studies” have blatantly anti-Semitic tones; sometimes they are more subtle. Yet all of them remain as false and pernicious today as they did in the Middle Ages.

Obviously, all it takes is a simple transposition of nouns to find in this a precise and exact description of the way in which Islamophobes like Robert Spencer, Andrew Bostom and the like go about casting Islam and Muslims in the worst possible light. As the ADL’s report points out, In distorting the normative meanings of rabbinic texts, anti-Talmud writers frequently remove passages from their textual and historical contexts. Even when they present their citations accurately, they judge the passages based on contemporary moral standards, ignoring the fact that the majority of these passages were composed close to two thousand years ago by people living in cultures radically different from our own. They are thus able to ignore Judaism’s long history of social progress and paint it instead as a primitive and parochial religion. Those who attack the Talmud frequently cite ancient rabbinic sources without noting subsequent developments in Jewish thought, and without making a good-faith effort to consult with contemporary Jewish authorities who can explain the role of these sources in normative Jewish thought and practice.

I don’t think there can be a better description of the methods used by contemporary American Islamophobes to defame Muslims, as exemplified in the dispute I had with Robert Spencer about whether or not the Quran calls Christians and Jews apes and swine, and whether or not therefore Muslims view their fellow monotheists in this light. The passage in the Quran in question does not contain the words Christians or Jews, and while both Islamophobes and Muslim extremists have interpreted it in this intolerant, mean-spirited manner it plainly requires an interpretive leap since it simply does not literally say anything of the kind. Moreover, it’s certainly and obviously not the case by any means that mainstream Islam or anything but a tiny fraction of Muslims in our era and historically have viewed Christians and Jews as apes and swine. The total disregard for both mainstream and traditional interpretations of Islamic doctrine by most Muslim scholars and commentators is the hallmark of the work of Spencer and his ilk, who present passages of scripture ripped from their context and traditional meaning as proof of Islam being violent, intolerant and bent on world domination. This is why, of course, their work garners absolutely no respect whatsoever from the qualified and trained academic and intellectual communities that actually study Islam, and can only appeal to the ignorant or the enraged. Unfortunately, that’s a significant constituency.

“Are the polemicists anti-Semites?” the ADL report asks, and answers, quite rightly, “by and large, yes” (they are clearly leaving themselves some wiggle room on the issue of Israel Shahak, who is cited in the report but is almost certainly not vulnerable to such an accusation). It cites as tell-tale signs of bigotry and malevolence, their systematic distortions of the ancient texts, always in the direction of portraying Judaism negatively, their lack of interest in good-faith efforts to understand contemporary Judaism from contemporary Jews, and their dismissal of any voices opposing their own, [which] suggests that their goal in reading ancient rabbinic literature is to produce the Frankenstein version of Judaism that they invariably claim to have uncovered.

In just this manner, Islamophobes dismiss what contemporary and mainstream Muslims say their faith means to them and systematically misrepresent the common understanding of complex ancient texts written in both a language and a style very foreign to the present-day American manner of expression. They too dismiss any voices other than their own, such as renowned academic experts on Islam, even non-Muslims scholars and experts, and denounce them as “apologists” and supporters of extremism. In these cases too, it is clear to any impartial observer that the goal is in no way a good-faith effort to examine honestly what Muslims believe but rather to create “the Frankenstein version of Islam.”

... The parallels between the calumnies the ADL cites against Jews in anti-Semitic literature and those currently being promoting in contemporary American Islamophobia are striking indeed (all of the following in bold are direct quotes from the ADL report):

“Jews are intent on subjugating non-Jews around the world and even on committing genocide against them” – this finds obvious and clear parallels in the constant refrain that Islam is bent on world conquest and the subjugation of all non-Muslims as “dhimmis” or worse, and in the frequent allegation that Islam has a genocidal attitude towards non-Muslims.

“Jewish law enjoins or permits Jews to murder non-Jews whenever feasible” – one of the most familiar charges against Islam and Muslims is that “infidels” may or must be killed.

“Jews are permitted to lie without moral or religious compunction” – Islamophobes frequently claim that Islam authorizes, permits or even encourages Muslims to deceive non-Muslims, as in the calumnies about taqiyyah I have written about in previous Ibishblog postings.

“Judaism condones the sexual molestation of young girls” – obviously the charge of pedophilia against the Prophet Muhammad is closely echoed here, as are a whole slew of charges that Islam permits, mandates or does not forbid a wide range of sexual perversions and abuses. More on this from the Ibishblog will be forthcoming.

“Judaism is ‘more of a crime syndicate than a religion.’” – in Islamophobic discourse, it is frequently alleged that Islam is “more of an extremist political movement” (recall statements to this effect by Ayaan Hirsi Ali cited In a recent Ibishblog post, for example) or some such bizarre formulation, than a religion.

I think I’ve made my point very clearly. Islamophobia is a barely warmed over, 20 seconds in the microwave, version of traditional anti-Semitism, and I’m sorry that the reader has fallen for it. If we were transported to the 1920s and 30s, I’m sure he’d be demanding to know if anyone really thought “those people” (the Jews) were really reasonable and decent given what they supposedly believe and what is supposedly in their holy books, etc. Can’t we ever learn our lesson?

Abraham Foxman of the ADL noted in a press release about this ADL study “There have been many claims about what the Talmud (classical text of Jewish law) teaches about non-Jews, how it views other religions, whether or not it allows lying to gentiles, or cheating them - quoting passages from the Talmud to “prove” all of these points - the ADL has issued a statement about this saying in an introduction on their site: ADL’s report, The Talmud in Anti-Semitic Polemics, exposes how certain passages from the Talmud and other traditional Jewish texts are used to foment anti-Semitism through distortions and fabrications. The authors of anti-Talmudic polemics seek to paint Judaism as an immoral religion that preaches hatred for non-Jews and promotes obscenity, criminality, sexual perversion and other immoral acts. Widely available on the Internet, such anti-Talmudic tracts “are clearly designed to provoke hostility toward Jews.” 

There is also a site that maintains an archive of Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda.  It is depressing reading, but over and over again I found examples of claims and statements that mirrored claims now being made against Muslims and Islam.  Here are a few examples:

- Nazi propaganda maintained that all Jews were responsible for the act of any Jew “The murder of Ernst vom Rath did not slow legal measures aimed at solving the Jewish Problem, but rather sped them up. The Jews living in Germany had to pay a fine of a billion marks to discourage them from repeating the cowardly murder.” http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/imbild1.htm 
- Nazi propaganda maintained that Judaism was not a religion. “Argument 1: “You say that religion is a private matter. But you fight against the Jewish religion!” Counterargument: “Actually, the Jewish religion is nothing other than a doctrine to preserve the Jewish race.” (Adolf Hitler). “In resisting all government attempts to nationalize them, the Jews build a state within the state (Count Helmuth von Moltke). “To call this state a ‘religion’ was one of the cleverest tricks ever invented.” (Adolf Hitler). “From this first lie that Jewry is a religion, not a race, further lies inevitably follow.” (Adolf Hitler).”  http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/responses.htm
- Nazi propaganda maintained that the Jews hated all non-Jews and they wanted to destroy the Gentiles and dominate the world http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/ds15.htm  Further “Whether or not there is an organized Jewish government recognized by all the Jews is less important that the fact that there is a unified and conscious Jewish desire for world power. This is proved by a variety of political events that are taking place in plain sight today.”  http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/aufkla01.htm 
- Nazi propaganda maintained that a war against Judaism was a war against the devil http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/ds15.htm 
- Nazi propaganda maintained by distortions of the Torah and Talmud that Judaism teaches hatred http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/ds3.htm 
- Nazi propaganda maintained that “The goal of the Jew is to make himself the ruler of humanity. Wherever he comes, he destroys works of culture. He is not a creative spirit, rather a destructive spirit.”  http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/catech.htm
- Nazi propaganda maintained that “Nearly all major inventions were made by Aryans.”  The Jews had no real creativity http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/catech.htm  Further “Wherever Jewry has appeared, it has never built anything. It has always and everywhere destroyed or torn down, sucking others dry to fill itself. From the days of the Romans to our day, Jewry in every century, in every people, was and remained a foreign body, a destroyer of real and ideal values, a denier of any upward progress, a plague for body and soul. It sneaks in through deceit and treachery, trickery and slyness, murder and assault, understanding how to establish itself.”  http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/esser.htm
- Nazi propaganda maintained that A GOOD JEW COULD NOT BE A GOOD GERMAN, that it was impossible for a Jew to honestly say “I am a “good German” and a “decent Jew”! Only a Jew has the insolence to make such a claim. I answer it only to reach the public and finally dispatch the absurd notion of the “decent Jew.” The fable of the “decent Jew” is not a German fable that has been handed down by our people and therefore something with educational value, but rather it is a shameless lie designed to lull the host people to sleep and appeal to hysterical weaklings.”  http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/oberlindober1.htm  And further “And you think you can be a “good German”! True, you do speak German, just as your racial comrades in other countries speak English, French, Spanish, and Polish, but you are no more a German than they are Englishmen, Frenchmen, Spaniards, or Poles, since Jews are a foreign body in every people.” http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/oberlindober1.htm
- Nazi propaganda maintained “Each Jew individually, and Jewry as a whole, is without a home. Jewry undermines every people and every state that it infiltrates. It feeds as a parasite and a culture-killing worm in the host people. It grows and grows like weeds in the state, the community, and the family and infests the blood of humanity everywhere.  In brief, that is the pestilential nature of Jewry, against which every people, every state, every nation must, should, and wants to defend itself if it does not want to be the victim of this bloody plague.”  http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/esser.htm


After thinking about what the ADL and Hussein Ibish and the Nazi propaganda archive have pointed out - consider the following most commonly repeated claims about Muslims and Islam

“everyone knows” that most or all terrorists are Muslims, and there are no Christian and no Jewish terrorists (or terrorists of any other religious stripe), and that Muslims are inherently violent.  Everyone also knows that Muslims are not equivalent to real Americans, that they are the enemy within, and a fifth column,  that good Muslims can’t be good Americans, that they are not a part of our American heritage, that they are all militant,  that Islam makes Muslims “backward”, that Muslims have made no contribution to the West,  that Islam is “of the devil”, a Crescent menace, and an “evil encroaching on the United States”, and not a religion.  Everyone knows that this is a Christian nation, which everyone knows the Muslims are trying to take over, starting with getting an Eid stamp which is the first step towards shariah law, and by purposefully having more children than others to increase their numbers.  Everyone knows that Muslims have no respect for the Constitution.  Everyone knows that Muslims are given a pass by the elite media.  It’s “us versus them”.  Their goal is world domination under a Caliphate.  They don’t speak out against extremism or terrorism, and even those Muslims who do speak up or seem moderate are simply lying or practicing taqiyyah.  Everyone knows the Qur’an is uniquely violent, that the Islamic concept of God doesn’t include God’s love, that Allah is a moon god.  The problem is that what “everyone knows” is wrong.  These self-righteous and incorrect statements are usually followed by a demand that the Muslim community do something about whatever is the false flag of the day or face the inevitable consequences.

In addition to these “everyone knows” statements of demonization and misrepresentation, there is also a whole industry of simply connecting with Islam or Muslims with any negative idea, event, or societal trend (even when there is no sane connection to make).  These I think of as “Through the Looking Glass” claims. 

For example, lots of “news” items never happened, or are simply not true.

Arabs didn’t celebrate 9/11 at a Dunkin Donuts in New Jersey.  Budweiser did not pull all its product from the shelves of a convenience store where there was celebration of the terrorist attacks - this never happened.  The Muslim statement of faith (Shahada) is not an expression of hate.  An American Missionary in Africa didn’t face possible murder charges and hanging because of a traffic accident.  There is no verse of the Qur’an on “The Wrath of the Eagle”.  The supposed bomb threat made by an Arizona student that led to an evacuation of the school was a hoax by non-Muslim students.  The story that Iran was considering forcing Jews to wear a yellow star appeared in several publications and it was totally false.  The slaying of the New Jersey Coptic family was falsely charged to Muslims.  The story about the British banks banning piggy banks so as not to offend Muslims never happened.  Muslims are not more likely to support terrorism and violence than Christians or Jews.  Muslims did not destroy the Library of Alexandria.  Nurses in Britain were not “ordered to drop everything and turn Muslims’ beds toward Mecca five times daily”.  There is no  Muslim sword through the 41-cents mark on the U.S. Eid stamp.  Sirhan Sirhan is a Christian, not a Muslim.  The Virginia Tech massacre had no connection with Islam.  A bus driver in Britain didn’t tell passengers to get off the bus so he could pray.  Rachel Ray’s Paisley scarf is not a symbol of “murderous Palestinian Jihad” (and neither is a Keffiyah).  A Muslim student in Florida did not refuse to stand for the pledge of allegiance.  There were no Muslims acting suspiciously on Air Tran flight 297. Wearing a tee-shirt with Arabic writing on it does not make a person dangerous.  A Madrassah is simply a school.  The zebibah (prayer bruise) on some Muslims foreheads is not a sign of a “commitment to jihad”.  Jihad is not terrorism. Ashura is not a “Muslim blood festival”.  Muslims are not forbidden to have non-Muslims as friends.  The Shahada (declaration of faith) is not  an “expression of hate” that is “closely identified” with terrorism.  The Nuclear Security Summit logo is an atom on a circular path, not an Islamic symbol, the U.S. Missile Defense Logo is not evidence of ‘Submission To Shariah’, and neither is the Flight 93 memorial.  Muslims also died on 9/11.  Barack Obama is not a Muslim, but so what if he was?  (Note: click on the links to see responses to particular claims or incidents

I believe that any human being whose heart and mind are not closed by hate, must see the parallels.  There is no claim about some particular Imam somewhere saying something extreme or just plain stupid that can’t be matched by a Rabbi or a Reverend doing the same.  There is no act of violence carried out by Muslims that can’t be matched by those carried out by Christians and Jews.  There is no community that is free of criminals and hateful people.  There is no more violence in the Qur’an than in the Torah or the New Testament.  There is no religious community that doesn’t have individuals (even individuals who should know better) who attempt to use religion to justify their wrong actions, or who make distorted interpretations of their religion to justify themselves.

Both Jews and Muslims need to step up and be counted, do what they can to marginalize their own extremists, and stop demonizing each other.

In the article Are We the New Jews of Silence, Remba Gidon points out “Whoever can stop the members of his household from committing a sin, but does not, is held responsible for the sins of his household. If he can stop the people of his city from sinning, but does not, he is held responsible for the sins of the people of his city. If he can stop the whole world from sinning, and does not, he is held responsible for the sins of the whole world.” (Shabbat 54b)

In Islam, standing up for justice must be done even if it is against ourselves, our parents, our kin, the rich or the poor. This is clearly mentioned in the Quran (4:135).

Here are a few comments and movements and incidents that represent the mindset of the extremist segment of Jews, which shows that they also have among them some that have difficulty attaining brotherly love.  This collection also includes statements, interpretations, and texts that might be misconstrued or used to stereotype Judaism unfairly. 

This has been collected only to point out that extremism is not a “Muslim only” phenomenon:

EXTREMISM IN THE JEWISH COMMUNITY

29 Israeli Rabbi’s sign anti-Arab labor ads, face criminal probe http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1051346.html

30 Rabbis’ wives urge Israeli women: Stay away from Arab men http://www.loonwatch.com/2010/12/rabbis-wives-urge-holy-race-to-stay-pure/

50 Israeli rabbis issue ruling forbidding the renting of homes by Jewish Israelis to “non-Jews”.  http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=53961

Jack Abramoff and Sami al-Arian: Lobbyist’s “Charity” a Front for Terrorism, Juan Cole http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article11456.htm and http://www.washington-report.org/archives/March_2006/0603028.html

Rachel Decter Abrams, a board member of the Emergency Committee on Israel, advocates for the extermination of Palestinians.  When Gilad Shalit was released she said Then round up his captors, the slaughtering, death

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