29 October '10
This week’s quotation is from a review of Martin Gilbert’s “In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands” by Jonathan Kay:
The creation of the Zionist movement radically changed the Western understanding of the Muslim-Jewish conflict — sweeping up generations of campus intellectuals who have projected upon it all their own obsessions with colonialism and class struggle. But in the Muslim world, Gilbert’s narrative shows us, Israel’s creation actually didn’t change the Muslim-Jewish dynamic as much as is commonly imagined. The rhetoric and barbarism hurled against Israeli Jews after the Zionist project began were not new but simply the old, more diffuse rhetoric and barbarism being redirected, as by a lens, toward a particular pinprick on a map. This is tied up with the reason that many Muslims refuse even to say the word “Israel,” preferring terms such as “the Zionist entity”: Deep down, they regard Israel not as a country in the proper sense but rather as a sort of soil-and-concrete stand-in for the stubborn, maddeningly ineradicable Jewish presence in Middle Eastern life since the age of Muhammad.
Kay’s review is titled “Fourteen Centuries of Hatred” and that about sums it up. Unfortunately, unlike the Catholic Church, which (perhaps as a result of the Holocaust) officially renounced and condemned the baseless hatred that had characterized its relationship to the Jewish people for centuries, Islamic authorities in general have not preached an end to antisemitism. Rather, as Kay suggests above, they have simply focused it more sharply.
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