The following is an essay by Professor Robert Wistrich, the director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and author of: A Lethal Obsession: Antisemitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad.
Seventy-three years ago, on Nov. 9, 1938, the murderous Nazi onslaught against the German Jews began with a nationwide pogrom that smashed the fabric of their existence. Known euphemistically as “Kristallnacht” (“Crystal Night”), this state-organized orgy of violence happened in peace time. It involved the systematic burning of hundreds of synagogues, the destruction of approximately 7,500 Jewish businesses, the murder of nearly 100 Jews and the deportation of another 30,000 male Jews to German concentration camps.
It was a crucial turning-point in Hitler’s “war against the Jews,” a major signpost on the road leading to World War II, which Nazi Germany would initiate less than a year later. Already, Nazi propaganda openly warned about the imminent annihilation of Jewry through “fire and sword,” though few in the West took these threats too seriously.
Today, there is no immediate danger of a new Kristallnacht in the western world, although levels of anti-Semitism (hiding under the more acceptable mask of hostility towards Israel) have reached levels unprecedented since 1945. But in the Middle East, the hatred of Jews burns much more fiercely — both in Iran and in the Arab world. Islamist anti-Semitism, in particular, is soaked in some of the most inflammatory motifs that made the Kristallnacht atrocities possible in Nazi Germany and only three years later provided the rationale for the mass murder of European Jewry.
For example, there is the pervasive exploitation in Arabic of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, with its insistence on the reality of the “Jewish conspiracy for world domination”; there is a revival of the medieval Christian blood-libel against Jews, transplanted from Europe to the contemporary Arab-Muslim Middle East; and the mass diffusion of stereotypes about the Jews as cruel, treacherous and bloodthirsty colonialists seeking to destroy the identity and beliefs of the Muslim peoples.
To this, one must add the slanderous but widely popular identification of Zionism with Nazism and apartheid and the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians — a Goebbels-like propaganda lie that has also found a growing audience in the West. However contradictory it may appear to some, the Zionism-is-Nazism fabrication co-exists in the Middle East today with Holocaust denial on a broad scale.
Indeed, in Ahmadinejad’s Iran, Holocaust denial has become a state-sponsored weapon in the regime’s efforts to win over the Arab street and indoctrinate its own people with anti-Jewish toxins.
The increasingly entrenched anti-Semitism in the Arab world has not, unfortunately, been diminished by the “Arab Spring.” Earlier this year, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most authoritative religious leaders of the Sunni Arab world (and especially esteemed by the Muslim Brotherhood), told a million Egyptians assembled in Tahrir Square that he hoped their mission would be to complete Hitler’s work.
Al-Qaradawi, an immensely popular cleric, publicly insisted that the esteemed German Führer had been sent by Allah as a “divine punishment for the Jews.” Not long before, CBS foreign correspondent Lara Logan had been sexually assaulted and brutalized in the heart of Cairo by a mob of Egyptian men screaming “Jew, Jew, Jew.” Logan is not, in fact, Jewish.
But this aspect of her ordeal was, typically enough, very much downplayed by both the American and European media.