Jewish Political Studies Review 20:1-2 (Spring 2008)
An Urgent Wakeup Call
Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism, and the Roots of 9/11, by Matthias Küntzel, trans. Colin Meade, Telos Press, 2007, 180 pp.
Reviewed by Amnon Lord
“We were the first to think of translating Mein Kampf,” wrote Sami al-Jundi, a leader of the Syrian Ba’ath Party in the 1930s. “Whoever lived during this period in Damascus would appreciate the inclination of the Arab people to Nazism, for Nazism was the power which could serve as its champion” (26). Al-Jundi also confessed that “we were racist, admiring Nazism, reading its books and the sources of its thought, particularly Nietzsche, Fichte, and H. S. Chamberlain” (25).
How many people know that Arab delegations and senior political figures were invited to the annual Nazi rallies in Nuremberg during the 1930s? Such details are not simply random anecdotes from the remote past. Indeed, in his new book Jihad and Jew-Hatred, German scholar Matthias Küntzel argues that the origins of the Islamist terror of recent years, which culminated in the attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001, and of the radical anti-Semitic ideologies of Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, the Palestine Covenant, and al-Qaeda, lie in the lethal link between Islamism and Nazism.
The Roots of Israel-Hatred
Here Küntzel presents an interpretation of events that differs from the conventional wisdom. His view seems to be the correct one. As opposed to the illusion of the Israeli establishment, which maintains that the 9/11 attack brought about greater understanding of Israel’s problems and raised international awareness of terrorism, Küntzel argues that 9/11 fostered a tsunami of Jew-hatred (Judenhass). Moreover, as the victims of anti-Israeli terror attacks multiplied throughout the Second Intifada, so did hatred toward Israel, revulsion against its actions, and opposition to its very existence all over the world.
According to Küntzel, the current epidemic of Israel-hatred stems from the link between Nazism and Islam that was established in the 1930s, and not from the foundations of early Islam. For example, he quotes a Nazi directive of 1943: “The extermination of Jewry throughout the world is the precondition for an enduring peace” (153). Such a statement is remarkably similar, if not identical, to Ahmadinejad’s proclamation that “the Zionist regime will be wiped out and humanity liberated” (153).
Recently Jihad and Jew-Hatred has become the focus of a spirited public debate about the sources of anti-Jewish hatred or anti-Semitism in Islamism. Several scholars of Islam and of Middle Eastern history consider the Qur’an and the religious infrastructure of early Islam to be the root of its anti-Semitism. Küntzel, however, asserts that he had no intention to investigate the foundations of early Islam and does not belittle their importance. But he emphasizes a particular point of departure that marks the onset of exterminatory anti-Semitism, that which demands the elimination of the Jews. This is his major contribution to understanding the phenomenon of the murderous terror that is identified with 9/11. André Glucksmann has recently pointed out the common thread of desire for total destruction that is shared by Islamist terror and Auschwitz, along with the capability of massive bombing, as in the case of Hiroshima; hence the validity of the term Islamo-Nazism.
In Küntzel’s view, it is not a coincidence that both German Nazism and modern Islamism arose in the 1920s. He attributes the birth of both movements to the “crisis of capitalism.” If Küntzel is referring to the dramatic effects of World War I on Germany and the Middle East, his assessment apparently is correct. Although the crises in Germany have been studied and explained as reactions to developments, their counterparts in the Middle East still require further investigation.
The author argues that, in the past, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini in Mandatory Palestine played the leading roles in inculcating the spirit of Nazism into Muslim consciousness. Küntzel maintains that experts, politicians, and the media are aware of the Islamist-Nazi connection but do not relate seriously to expressions of hatred and calls for destruction. “Knowing the historical consequences of ‘redemptive antisemitism’ (Saul Friedlander), they ought to be on red alert. Instead they have shut their eyes. The fact that since September 11, Jew-hatred has reached truly epidemic proportions in the Islamic world has been downplayed or ignored” (153).
In fact, Küntzel has been confronted by this typical reaction. In 2003, the topic of his lecture at Yale University created a scandal. He was asked to change the title and not to mention the word anti-Semitism. Although he was allowed to give his lecture, an opposing view had to be presented. In this case he shared the program with a totally unqualified speaker who headed a Palestinian organization. And last year, Leeds University in England canceled Küntzel’s lecture. He clearly can be proud of these infringements on his freedom of speech.
Understanding the Nazi-Arab Nexus
Jihad and Jew-Hatred is perhaps the most important work written in the wake of 9/11. One would have expected similar books to appear in Israel, but this did not happen. Therefore, it is imperative that Küntzel’s book be translated into Hebrew and widely distributed as soon as possible so as to extricate Israelis from their collective amnesia regarding both Egypt since the signing of the peace treaties nearly thirty years ago and the PLO and the Palestinians since the Oslo accords of 1993. Since then, Israelis have been subject to a type of thought control that has eliminated confronting inconvenient information about the Mufti and Palestinian admiration of Nazism, along with the later links of the PLO and its leaders with the Soviet Union and its methods of warfare.
Küntzel asks: “Why then, unlike all other semi-fascist movements of the 1930s, did jihadism not depart the stage of history after the defeat of the Nazis?” (147). He notes that Nazis found refuge and continued their activities in exile-in the Arab world, mainly Egypt. Küntzel continues: “How, despite the uncovering of the Shoah, could the Muslim Brotherhood’s Jew-hatred survive the turning point 1945…? The answer has to do with the pro-Arab opportunism of the great powers after the war” (147). Such opportunism played a decisive role in not putting the Mufti on trial as a war criminal, an act that the Arabs interpreted as rehabilitation of Haj Amin’s activities and as justification for the anti-Jewish ideology.
In retrospect, it appears that the cycle of wars in the Middle East resulting from the religion of Jew-hatred prevalent in the Muslim world was not considered a high price to pay for such opportunism. Today, even while the Middle Eastern mills of hatred threaten to turn into an atomic cluster bomb, diplomatic opportunism and appeasement policies continue to thrive. Whoever wishes to know the future should learn about the past that Küntzel exposes in Jihad and Jew-Hatred. This book challenges the views of the Western and Israeli elites who are in charge of thought control and molding public opinion.
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AMNON LORD is the editor of the Makor Rishon daily newspaper and the author of three books: The Israeli Left: From Socialism to Nihilism, War at Home, and a short novel, Pretty-Face Dudi.