Sunday, January 10, 2016

America's Institutional Enablers of the New Anti-Semitism

First published on, April 26, 2015

Incitement and indoctrination are at the heart of the Jew-hatred raging through the Arab and broader Muslim world and now infecting much of Europe.

Within the Palestinian realm, both Palestinian governments - the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza - regularly call for annihilation of the Jews. Hamas’s charter cites the oft-quoted Hadith (a statement attributed to Muhammed but not found in the Koran) declaring that Judgement Day will not come until all Jews are killed. It pledges the organization’s dedication to that goal. The necessity of exterminating the Jews has likewise been declared by PA-appointed religious leaders, and genocidal Jew-hatred is routinely promoted in PA mosques, media and schools.

Similar genocidal rhetoric is a fixture of media, mosques and schools throughout most of the Arab world and, largely through Arab financing and disseminating, has become a constant theme in much of the wider Muslim world and within Muslim communities elsewhere, not least in Europe.

Beyond explicit calls for genocide, anti-Jewish indoctrination entails labeling Jews as sub-human, blaming them for virtually all the world’s ills, characterizing them as a disease within the body of humanity, and attributing to them the most reprehensible qualities and the most vile crimes. This demonization of Jews routinely draws upon both old anti-Jewish Islamic texts and classic European anti-Semitic materials including medieval European blood libels, the czarist-generated "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," and Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda and caricatures.

This indoctrination is obviously not a matter of objection to particular policies of the state of Israel or to the so-called "occupation." It, of course, insists that Israel, the Jewish state, cannot be allowed to exist within any borders. Its essential message and popularity pre-date Israel’s entry into the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 war.

In part because there are so many Muslims disseminating this anti-Jewish indoctrination in Europe, in part because its message also has a receptive audience among much of the indigenous European population, which is more than ready to rationalize, justify and embrace the Jew-hatred, Europe has seen a dramatic rise in what is labeled the "new anti-Semitism."

Contributing to this phenomenon in Europe is the fact that very few European institutions have addressed the indoctrination and challenged its promotion of murderous hatred.

The United States has largely remained unscarred by this ugly bigotry. But incitement to it exists in America as elsewhere, and major American institutions, whose exposure of the hate-indoctrination as it flourishes in the Middle East and has spread across the globe could have a salutary effect, have instead been essentially silent. Their speaking out, calling the hatred’s propagators to account, alerting the public to the phenomenon and casting some potentially detoxifying sunlight upon it, could even have a salutary effect beyond our shores. Still, key institutions remain silent.

By their silence they serve, in effect, as enablers of anti-Semitic hate indoctrination.

Three major American institutions are particularly culpable, not least because they are all especially well-positioned to have a positive impact were they acting otherwise.

1) The Obama Administration. Throughout his tenure President Obama has said virtually nothing on Muslim anti-Semitic hate indoctrination.

In his push for a Palestinian-Israeli accord, his administration has consistently put the greater onus on Israel for the absence of progress and has commented little on the PA’s refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish national homeland or to give up the so-called "right of return," the right to destroy Israel demographically by flooding it with the descendants of Palestinian refugees. While designating Hamas a terrorist organization and occasionally acknowledging Hamas’s goal of annihilating Israel, the Administration has hardly spoken out about Hamas’s call for the murder of all Jews and has been entirely silent on advocacy of the same goal by PA operatives.

The Administration has reserved what seems to be particularly warm relations vis-a-vis Middle East leaders for the heads of Turkey and Qatar, the two states that, aside from Iran, are most aligned with Hamas. Both Turkey and Qatar host leading Hamas operatives, and Hamas terror attacks in Israel have been choreographed from Turkey. The issue of the two nations’ support for a group promoting genocide has elicited little public comment from the Administration.

Also with respect to the wider Muslim world, the Obama Administration has consistently supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. It did so first against the Mubarak regime, then after the Brotherhood’s rise to power following the fall of Mubarak. (The Administration also abetted that rise by backing early elections, before any other political force in Egypt, including pro-Western moderates, had a chance to organize and Islamist forces alone were in a position to mount a campaign.) It continued to do so when - responding to the Morsi regime’s excesses and failures - popular Egyptian opinion turned against the Brotherhood, General al-Sisi seized power and was subsequently elected president.

The Administration today remains cool to al-Sisi and sympathetic to the Brotherhood, even as the Brotherhood - the parent organization of Hamas, as acknowledged in Hamas’s charter - has been a chief source of anti-Jewish (as well as anti-Christian) hate indoctrination. (For example, in the lead-up to the post-Mubarak parliamentary elections in Egypt, numerous media outlets reported on a Muslim Brotherhood rally at Cairo’s most prestigious mosque where some 5,000 worshipers vowed to "one day kill all Jews.") Anti-Jewish hate indoctrination by the Muslim Brotherhood has also been absent from Administration talking points. In addition, individuals with affiliations to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood have figured prominently in gatherings of American Muslim leaders at the White House and among those enlisted to represent Muslim concerns in interactions with government agencies.

President Obama has had much to say about Islam as a religion of peace, yet those who most openly represent Muslims genuinely appalled by the hate-indoctrination against non-Muslims, particularly Jews, promoted in much of the Muslim world, those such as Zudhi Jasser, head of the "American Islamic Forum for Democracy," have not figured prominently among invitees to the Obama White House or as interlocutors recruited to speak to government agencies.

The Administration’s refusal to even acknowledge Muslim anti-Semitic hate indoctrination and its consequences was recently, and rather dramatically, reflected in President Obama’s reference to the murder of four Jews in a Paris delicatessen. The killer, a Muslim imbiber of the genocidal anti-Jewish incitement widely purveyed in mosques and Muslim media, openly declared that his intention was to kill Jews. Yet the President characterized the murderer simply as a "violent, vicious zealot" and the slayings as the "random" shooting of "a bunch of folks."

2) Mainstream media. The promotion of genocidal Jew-hatred, although virtually ubiquitous in the Arab and broader Muslim world, is rarely noted in mainstream American media, whether leading newspapers, news services, television networks, or, except for Fox, cable news networks.

This is not for lack of access to relevant examples and documentation. For instance, examples of Muslim clerics and other leaders calling for the annihilation of the Jews are readily available, both in the original Arabic or other local language and in English translation, from the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) and, in the Palestinian arena, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).

In all the coverage of last summer’s Israel-Gaza war, triggered by Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli villages, towns and cities, while there was occasional mention of Hamas’s dedication to Israel’s destruction, one would be hard-pressed to find reference to the Islamist organization’s commitment to the killing of all Jews. Likewise essentially absent from American media is the Arab and broader Muslim world’s incessant demonization of Jews.

Among print media, the New York Times, America’s "newspaper of record," whose priorities regarding what is newsworthy still have considerable impact on what stories are covered by other media outlets, has consistently failed to cover Palestinian and broader Arab and Muslim anti-Jewish hate indoctrination. This failure has been compared by many observers to the Times’ providing no more than minimal and perfunctory coverage to the mass murder of Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust. (The Nazi program of genocide was publicly reported and confirmed by late 1942.)

The Times has offered mea culpas for its lack of reporting on the Holocaust and its problematic coverage of Nazi anti-Jewish policies and actions in the years leading up to the Holocaust, but it has yet to waver from its general refusal to cover anti-Semitism and the promotion of genocide in the Arab and broader Muslim world. When it has mentioned the issue at all, it has tended to characterize the problem as something Israelis or others claim rather than as a genuine phenomenon. On occasion it has even ridiculed complaints about incitement to genocidal Jew-hatred by Palestinian leaders and others in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

The significance of mainstream American media’s failure to cover the story of anti-Jewish hate indoctrination - its, in effect, contributing to the flourishing of murderous incitement by refusing to expose it - was indirectly illustrated by a New York Times column of January 14, 2013. In a step virtually unprecedented for the Times, not only did it publish a story touching on anti-Semitism but did so on the front page above the fold. (Some have suggested that it did so because it had recently been subjected to increased criticism regarding its failure to report on Palestinian and broader Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism.)

The story (which had been published elsewhere earlier but without the impact of the Times piece) concerned then Egyptian president Morsi and reported the recent release of tapes dating from 2010 in which Morsi - at the time head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s "political arm" - spouts what the Times itself characterizes as "anti-Semitic statements." It cites Morsi declaring, "We must never forget, brothers, to nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred for... the Jews... The hatred must go on for God and as a form of worshiping him." Elsewhere, Morsi, referring to "Zionists," invokes the trope of "the descendants of apes and pigs," which the Times article describes as "a slur for Jews that is familiar across the Muslim world," and the article notes that Morsi "echoed [additional] historic anti-Semitic themes."

Response to the piece was dramatic. It was picked up widely by other media outlets, and the Obama Administration, which had been, as noted, more than supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood and was similarly supportive of Morsi, reacted by, in the words of one news outlet, giving "a blistering review of remarks that... Morsi [had] made... about Jews and called for him to repudiate what it called unacceptable rhetoric. ... In blunt comments, the White House and State Department said Morsi's statements were ‘deeply offensive’ and ran counter to the goal of peace in the region."

Morsi’s anti-Semitic comments also became the lead issue in his visit to Germany shortly after the Times piece. A story on Der Spiegel’s English website opened with, "Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi came in for some heavy criticism on his one-day trip to Berlin, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel taking him to task over his past comments describing Jews as ‘the descendants of apes and pigs’..."

Response to the Morsi story illustrates the potential power of the media in informing the public about the ugly phenomenon of incitement to Jew-hatred across the Muslim world, obliging world leaders to take note of the phenomenon and speak out against it, putting its purveyors on the defensive and making clear to the purveyors a cost to their genocidal hate-mongering. (Morsi was in Germany appealing for increased financial aid and was seeking the same from the Obama Administration.) In contrast, the media’s broad failure to report on Muslim indoctrination in Jew-hatred has served to ease its proliferation and render it all the more dangerous.

3) Academia. One might think that if there were any place the phenomenon of contemporary genocidal anti-Semitism in the Arab and broader Muslim world would receive attention it would be in academia, particularly in Middle East studies departments; but one would be wrong. It is the exception among such departments to address the issue and, for example, an undergraduate in most universities which offer Middle East studies degrees can earn such a degree without the matter ever having been addressed in any of his or her classes.

The prevailing attitude in such departments is perhaps indicated by the fact that at the last annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the umbrella organization of Middle East studies departments, in December, 2014, of the 275 sessions listed in the meeting agenda, none addressed the issue of Jew-hatred.

MESA did offer a "special pre-program session" that indirectly touched on the matter of anti-Semitism in the Middle East. During last summer’s Gaza war - triggered, again, by Hamas’s unleashing rocket bombardments of Israeli villages, towns and cities - one Middle East scholar, Steven Salaita, sent out numerous anti-Israel tweets, including one in which he declared that "Zionists" had "transform[ed] ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable..."

The University of Illinois subsequently withdrew the offer of an academic position to Salaita. In the face of criticism of its decision, the university’s chancellor issued a statement which included:
"What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them. We have a particular duty to our students to ensure that they live in a community of scholarship that challenges their assumptions about the world but that also respects their rights as individuals."
But the prevailing opinion at MESA was different. That "special pre-program session" at MESA’s 2014 meeting was entitled: "The Salaita Case and New Assaults on Academic Freedom."

The threats to student’s rights represented by bigoted faculty and alluded to by the University of Illinois’s chancellor is all too real, as more and more Jewish students face attacks on America’s campuses ranging from "eviction notices" attached to, or slipped under, their dormitory room doors, to verbal abuse, to, on occasion, physical assaults. In too many universities and colleges, administrations, rather than making campuses safe for all students, including Jewish students, are allowing their campuses to become havens for anti-Semitism under the flimsy guise of "academic freedom."

One of the very few places in American academia that did dare to address Palestinian, Arab and broader Muslim incitement of Jew-hatred was the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA), founded in 2006. As historian Jeffrey Herf, writing in the New Republic in July, 2011, noted shortly after Yale announced it was closing YIISA, "YIISA was to be a research center devoted to examining the history and nature of contemporary anti-Semitism - that is, not only the much examined anti-Semitism of the Nazi era but also Jew-hatred in the Middle East, including Iran, and in Islamist ideology and politics as well. [YIISA director Charles] Small was aware that there was a hard road to travel because the area specialists who read Arabic or, in the case of Iran, Farsi were almost universally opposed to even posing the question of anti-Semitism in the Middle East... Indeed, rather than engendering thoughtful discussion, posing the issue of Arab, Iranian, or Islamist anti-Semitism, quickly leads to accusations of ‘anti-Arab racism’ and ‘Islamophobia.’"

Yale justified closing the center by alleging its programs were not sufficiently scholarly. This is a ludicrous claim given the scholars who participated in YIISA’s programs and the level of their work, as one can see, for example, by surveying YIISA lectures accessible on YouTube. YIISA programs covered a wide range of issues, as well as the matter of anti-Semitism in the Arab Middle East and the wider Muslim world, and included many world-renowned academics. (In the service of full disclosure, I, too, presented a paper at the invitation of YIISA; it was not about Muslim anti-Semitism.)

Some at Yale complained that YIISA was "advocating" against anti-Semitism rather than approaching the subject in a purely scholarly manner. Walter Reich, former director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Professor of International Affairs and of Psychiatry at George Washington University, and long a member of the Yale faculty, observed of Yale’s closing of YIISA: "Yale just killed the country’s best institute for the study of anti-Semitism." Regarding the complaint of YIISA "advocating" against anti-Semitism, Reich responded: "Such eminent scholars as Bassam Tibi - a Syrian emigre, a distinguished professor at the University of Goettingen and a devout Muslim - spoke [at a YIISA conference] about anti-Semitism in that part of the world, as did others. To be sure, some presenters expressed alarm and took an activist stance - as do some presenters at academic conferences on genocide, human rights, women’s studies, African American studies, Hispanic studies, gay and lesbian studies, and nuclear proliferation."

In the face of widespread criticism for closing down YIISA, Yale promised the formation of a new center, the Yale Program for the Study of Anti-Semitism (YPSA). But its establishment was to be led by a professor whose scholarship, as Jeffrey Herf noted, was focused on the representation of Jews in French literature. It was anticipated that the work of the new center might be primarily on European anti-Semitism and its history, with relatively little attention given to contemporary anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incitement in the Muslim world. (The YPSA calendar of events for the present academic year did include one focused on the issue of Muslim Jew-hatred, an April 1 lecture by Gunther Jikeli on "European Muslim Anti-Semitism.")

The general ignoring in American academia of the subject of Muslim incitement to and indoctrination in Jew-hatred, and at times the militant hostility to any acknowledgment of such incitement and indoctrination and even the promotion of such hatred on American campuses, have all filtered down to American grade schools as well. School texts, teachers’ "training" programs based at times in American universities, and university-based programs that provide speakers to public and private schools, commonly whitewash organizations such as Hamas, presenting it and others in positive terms without noting their promotion of Jew-hatred and genocide, and themselves engage in defamation and demonization of Israel and of Jews.

That these three institutions - the Obama Administration, America’s mainstream media and American colleges and universities - are essentially silent on the incitement and indoctrination stoking the new anti-Semitism is not mere coincidence. All three are marked by the prevalence of so-called "progressivist" political perspectives, and all are predisposed to look at the world through the prism of an anti-Western bias and sympathy towards non-Western cultures and ideologies. Their silence regarding anti-Semitic hate-mongering in the Palestinian and broader Arab and Muslim worlds is in large part bound up with this mind-set, and in the service of their "progressivism" they are helping the world progress towards increasing acceptance of new campaigns aimed at the mass murder of Jews.