TELOSscope: The Telos Press Blog

On Matthias Küntzel’s Jihad and Jew-Hatred

[The following review of Matthias Küntzel’s Jihad and Jew-Hatred, published by Telos Press, appeared on November 1, on the blog Irene Lancaster’s Diary. Reproduced here by permission.]

Today sees the publication by Telos Press of the English-language translation of Matthias Küntzel’s Jihad and Jew-Hatred. The publishers have asked me to review it to coincide with the publication date. And I am very pleased to do so. First, some background is needed.

I have spent my life in dialogue with Christians, Muslims and Buddhists. The longest chapter in my book on the Jewish mediaeval scholar Abraham ibn Ezra, Deconstructing the Bible, is entitled “Muslim Hermeneutics.” The first people to purchase the book were the Culture Departments of Iran and Lebanon. In my younger days I took part in Sufi turning sessions, and when I was growing up our family doctor was a Muslim.

Which is why, like a great many people who know something about the Holocaust (in my case first hand information from my parents, who were survivors and also from teaching courses on the subject and visiting areas in Europe where the Holocaust had been perpetrated), I was willing to dismiss Nazi links with people like the Mufti of Jerusalem as motivated purely by political considerations.

However, recent events in Britain have led many of us to believe that politics is never “pure” and is always motivated by psychology and often also by theology, or a “world-view.” It is impossible therefore not to find this book by a leading German scholar in the field thoroughly convincing.

In my view, only a German can really understand the links between fascism and Muslim revolutionary movements. The early Muslim Brothers were inspired by 1930s European fascism, and their writings are a fusion of the Koran and Nazi teaching. They came to the conclusion that not only everything Jewish is evil (which they took for granted), but that “all evil is Jewish.” For me, this is the nub of the book and is a phrase which should be taken very seriously by all those who believe that “Islamism” is a mere aberration of the “pure Islam” which is completely harmless and even beneficial.

Küntzel points out that although at first the Arabs supported the 1917 Balfour Declaration, in the 1920s, the Moslem Brotherhood changed all that. They became a populist movement, which like the National Socialists a decade later, recruited foreign students to obtain a foot in the door of as many countries as possible. The MB wished to replace democracy by sharia law and a Caliphate, much as Hamas in Gaza wishes to do today.

Küntzel refers to these activists as a “community of male zealots” which took “pleasure in un-pleasure,” projecting all their hatred of pleasure on “the Jews.” Like the Nazis, they were “dedicated to the restoration of male supremacy.” Women’s role would be like that in Nazi Germany—merely in the home and subjected to men.

As for the concept of “jihad,” this had previously been an internal “fight”: now it was externalized as “holy war.” The ideal was an “industry of death,” fostered by the “art of death,” which was encouraged as being a concept based in the Koran. Importantly for those in the West who support suicide bombers, the aim of jihad was never to improve one’s lot, but instead to destroy the evil enemy, i.e. the “Jews.”

The onset of the Nazis encouraged the Egyptian regime, which had at first welcomed Zionism, and even helped Egyptian Jews who wished to emigrate to Mandate Palestine as late as 1933, by threatening their financial interests. Due to Nazi influence the Brotherhood grew from 800 to 200,000 within two years up to 1938. The Brotherhood distributed Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Arabic. The Nazi ideal of the Volk was paralleled by the Muslim concept of “umma.” Language, culture and blood ties were what counted. Communities, not individuals, were of paramount importance. Arab youngsters took part in the Hitler Youth marches during the 1938 Nuremberg Rally.

As for the Mufti of Jerusalem, he was interested in the figure of Hitler, per se. Muslims inside and outside Palestine welcomed the Nazi regime and operated the “Nazi Scouts” in parallel to the Nazi “Hitler Youth.” The anti-Jewish Nuremberg race laws were welcomed throughout the Arab and Muslim world, but particularly in British-mandate Palestine.

In order to strengthen the Mandate Arabs against the Jews, Hitler offered scholarships to the Arabs from mandated Palestine and employed them in Germany. The German Propaganda Ministry set up and increased its Arab service (just like the BBC today). Germany also funded Arab spies.

The antisemitism of the Mufti was inherited from his father who had fought against Jewish immigrants to Palestine at the time of the Ottoman Turks. His father had much admired German military discipline and incited anti-Jewish riots in Jerusalem. The Mufti was responsible for the 1920 anti-Jewish (not anti-Zionist) pogrom in Jerusalem, and then later for the pogroms against the Jews of the holy cities of Tsfat and Hebron. He used his office to “Islamise anti-Zionism” and provided a religious rationale for the hatred of the Jews. People who did not conform to his directives were punished in religious fashion, by using sharia law. He also stated that Jewish girls demoralized Arab youth. The Mufti was even invited to address the Imams of the Bosnian SS division.

After World War II, many Nazis escaped to Egypt and continued their “war against the Jews” in safety. They denied and yet approved of the Shoah, and this permitted them to explain support for the establishment of the State of Israel as an attack on the Arabs. Just as now, anyone who refused to cooperate with this approach was murdered as a “collaborator.”

The escalation of the so-called “Palestinian conflict” was thus the result of a purposeful campaign based on the theological concept of Islamic Holy War. The Moslem Brotherhood and the Mufti worked together to usher in a new Caliphate based on sharia law. It was thus the shared hatred of the Jews which became the bond which tied disparate Arab groupings together. In other words, revolutionary antisemitism was the core of modern jihadism. As Küntzel states, “[T]he delusion suppressed in Germany after May 8th, 1945, found its most fruitful exile in the Arab world, where the Muslim Brothers now disposed of a million followers.”

Küntzel then deals with Egyptian Islamism from Nasser to the present day. He differentiates between the mythology of the Jew in Christianity and in Islam. In Christianity, Jews have been depicted as the dark and demonic slayers of God. In Islam, however, the Jews were expelled and then exterminated by Muhammad. This led the Muslims to regard the Jews as hostile and the “worst enemies of the believers” (Koran: sura 5, verse 85).

Muslim preachers used this phrase as a paradigm for the way they would treat Israel. The Jews, and thus Israel, were regarded as weak, as “an object more of ridicule than of fear.” Nasser and Sadat had ties both with the Nazis and the Muslim Brotherhood. Nasser was, however, against introducing sharia law to Egypt. However, he encouraged the settlement of former Nazis in Egypt and the promulgation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Nasser denied the reality of the Holocaust and openly sympathized with the Nazi cause.

Because of his condescending attitude towards Jews, based in their early history under Islam, he could not come to terms with the Israeli victory of the Six Day War in 1967, which entirely destroyed the Egyptian army. He said: “No to peace; No to recognition of Israel” and “No to talks with Israel.” And he intensified every effort toward the next war. In 1968 he said, “Life will be meaningless and worthless to us until every inch of Arab soil is liberated.”

Nasser’s solution for Egypt’s growing inflation problem was Islamization of factories, universities, the media and mosques. In 1971 he introduced sharia law and encouraged the formerly-banned Muslim Brotherhood. The main goal of the Islamists was the “struggle against unbelievers.”

The epistemology of the Islamists is of interest here. Human beings cannot produce new knowledge. Instead, what they do is to “discern God’s will” through the study of holy texts, which are to be taken literally. For example the Koranic view that “Allah changed Jews into apes and pigs” (sura 5, verse 60) was taken literally. Western science was regarded as the “intellectual invasion” of the world of Islam. The goal of Muslim academics was to “de-westernize” sciences, to free them from the principles of doubt and conjecture, which is their hallmark.

The regime encouraged “submission” and “dominance” of the world, as advocated by the Koran. The Muslims were to become the “guardians over humanity.” In 2002, Al Qa’ida was to repeat this view (first expressed many years earlier) that the “entire earth must be subject to the religion of Allah.” The world was divided into the two sectors of Dar al-Islam (the House of Islam) and ‘Dar al-Harb’ (House of War), the sector of the unbelievers. The aim was “to learn how to use modern weapons and more than that, to produce and develop them so that we can strike our enemies.”

The State of Israel was particularly heated as lying within the “Dar al-Islam.” The situation in Palestine was seen as a reenactment of the encounter of Muhammad with the Jews. Muhammad’s massacre of the Jews was seen “as the model for current policy towards Israel.”

Küntzel focuses particularly on Sayyid Kutb, an Egyptian Muslim Brother, who became more widely read even than the Koran, which was interpreted through him. Kutb compared the whole world to Mecca before it was redeemed by Muhammad in a “bloody war.” The real enemy was the “Jews,” a combination of classic Muslim Jew hatred and the conspiracy theory side of European antisemitism.

To ape Mein Kampf, Kutb wrote a book entitled Our Struggle with the Jews, distributed by Saudi Arabia in 1970. In this book, the Jews are regarded as having been the eternal enemy of the Muslim community and having launched a war against Islam for the last 14 centuries. In addition, the Jews are said to be responsible for all their own sufferings, including those of the Shoah. Kutb states that “Allah . . . brought Hitler to rule over them.”

He also links the idea of the rightness of the Shoah with the erasing of Israel from the map. Not only is everything Jewish evil, but everything evil is Jewish, especially sexuality and sensuality. The Jews are accused of destroying the family. Any Muslim who deviates slightly from sharia law is deemed a “zionist agent.” The idea that Hitler was a “messenger of Allah to punish the Jews” has influenced Islamists ever since.

In 1977, Sadat broke ranks and addressed the Israeli Knesset. A peace treaty followed in 1979 and Israel withdrew from Sinai, thus giving up 90% of the territory occupied in 1967. In 1981, Sadat was murdered. The Muslim Brotherhood stated that peace with Israel was “incompatible with Koranic precepts.” The peace treaty was “demonized as a Jewish plot against Islam” and Sadat tarnished as a “Zionist agent.”

The Egyptian popular press stated that “It is impossible to live in peace with the Jews,” whilst recounting Muhammad’s anti-Jewish campaigns of the 7th century.

Sadat’s murderer, Tanzim al-Jihad, was even more radical than Qutb. He denounced the humiliations of the Muslim world as the result of renouncing jihad and becoming attached to the ‘comforts of life in this world’. He proclaimed it the duty of all Muslims to take part in the military form of jihad and to campaign unceasingly against the unbelievers, including the ‘apostate’ Muslim leaders who allowed Israel to exist. Many universities were attracted by this philosophy in the 1980s.

Küntzel asks why “many present and former left-wingers seem to wish to join antisemitic mass movements.” His response is that maybe they have “fantasies about the inherent innocence and progressiveness of the masses.”

Küntzel deals with Islamization under Egypt’s present ruler, Mubarak. He states that there is great admiration of both Hamas and Hezbollah in present-day Egypt and that their philosophies have taken over Egyptian universities and TV. All Egypt’s troubles are blamed on Israel and the Jews. It is a basic assumption in Egypt that, despite the peace treaty, Israel should be boycotted by all the professions, who should refuse to cooperate with the Zionist State. All this is based on fantasies about Jews, who are regarded as being responsible for every conceivable evil. For instance, Sheikh Muhammad Sayed Tantawi, the head of Al-Azhar University, and one of Sunni Islam’s most renowned spiritual authorities, has stated, after citing Hitler in Mein Kampf: “In resisting the Jew, I am doing the work of the Lord.”

In the year 2000 it was generally thought in Egypt that Jews ran the global financial world, were fomenters of the plague and that Israeli women were especially sinister. It was further thought that prostitutes were working for Mossad and that if relations with Israel were normalized, AIDS would spread in Egypt. According to Küntzel, these psychological projections on the part of the Egyptians was due to “religious anxiety” resulting from sexual self-denial. According to him, Islamism entails “individual self-impoverishment” and the stunting of personal development. According to the Koran, even the poorest man should rule over women and also take part in religious purges.

Very importantly, given those many people in the West who support, or sympathize with, the actions of suicide bombers, Küntzel claims that it is Islamization (i.e., theology) which causes poverty and not vice versa. The Egyptian boycott of Israel, for instance, is what has led to the poverty of Egypt, and not vice versa.

This whole trend of Manicheanism has increased under President Mubarak. The Egyptian obsession with Zionism is prima facie and not caused by the way Israel acts in the world. Whatever Israel does is reviled. Islamists remain wholly indifferent to the real Israel. Why? Because Israel embodies “pure evil.”

Küntzel continues with a description of how HAMAS came into existence as the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch. At first the Palestinian secular left-wing was seen by Islamists as the main enemy, so the university in Gaza was Islamicized and stockpiled with weapons. Anyone who taught Darwin’s theory of evolution, for instance, was accused of being influenced by Judaism, or beaten up, or both. In order to graduate from the Islamic University, you would have to be an anti-Semite, according to Küntzel. Incitement to kill Jews and Americans was rife. Israel comes in for some criticism for having allowed this to take place under their noses!

The HAMAS Charter of 1987-88 extols the Muslim Brotherhood as a “world organization,” whose adversary is “World Zionism.” Muslim women were to be kept in their place, or otherwise accused of “collaboration with the enemy.” There was even a ban on laughter. Jews were yet again blamed for all evil.

Küntzel also analyses the world’s “love affair” with Arafat’s PLO, stating that the Palestinian question has replaced the Vietcong in the eyes of the world as the “romantic” underdog. No heed has been taken of the neo-Nazi “volkish” concept of the PLO Charter, which desired the destruction of Israel and invented the idea of a “Palestinian homeland” similar to that of the Nazi ideal of ‘Lebensraum’.

He also points out the very close personal relationship between Arafat and the Mufti of Jerusalem, to whom Arafat was related. The Mufti even financed Fatah, which was founded in 1959. According to Küntzel, Arafat always wanted the obliteration of Israel: “Peace for us means the destruction of Israel—all-out-war.”

He feels that the 1993 Oslo Accords were merely a tactical move on the part of Arafat, based on the Islamic custom of signing truces with your enemy which you are later empowered to break. The Palestinian Authority’s post-Oslo school-books and maps make no mention of Israel or Jewish history, and in addition, actually advocate the destruction of Israel. The Holocaust was a taboo subject for the PA and the Mufti’s role as a Nazi was suppressed: “No post-Oslo PA schoolbook so much as mentions Auschwitz.”

Given the current Muslim Council of Britain’s hostile attitude to the British government- sponsored Holocaust Memorial Day, the reason given by Küntzel for this taboo on the Shoah is informative: “teaching about the Holocaust would present a great danger for the Palestinian identiy. It would ruin the Palestinian dream and aspirations.”

In contrast, Mein Kampf became a best seller. The translator to the Arabic edition had this to say: “Adolf Hitler does not belong to the German people alone, he is one of the few great men who almost stopped the motion of history, altered its course . . . National Socialism did not die with the death of its herald. Rather its seeds multiplied under each star.”

Given their great admiration for Hitler, it is therefore ironic that the PA then refer to Israeli policy “as a continuation or even intensification of Nazism.” Maybe this is due to their understanding of western antisemitism, which is only too ready to accept that Jews can be Nazis, but less likely to think ill of the Muslim world.

As a pious Muslim, Arafat was always committed to jihad. As the post-Oslo books for 6th and 7th grade pupils states: “The noble soul has two goals: death and the desire for it.”

The Second Intifada which begun in 2000 was notable for its adoption of “sucidal mass murder.” This type of all-out-warfare had actually began on April 16th, 1993, thus elevating Hamas in the eyes of the Muslim world. Any attempt by the PLO to prevent such murders “were condemned as collaboration with Israel.”

The HAMAS Charter calls for Israeli-Arab dialogue to be blown “to smithereens.” The way the war was conducted also explains why it was conducted like this. Why were civilians targetted in this way? “Anyone who kills in this way is translating a specific Islamist-fascist worldview into action. This worldview’s antisemitism, in which the Jews are demonized as absolute evil, invevitably produces the intention of destroying this evil across the globe.” So, for instance: “[T]here are no innocent Israeli civilians. . . . They are all occupying troops.” This explains, of course, how a don at Oxford University could dismiss the application of a postgraduate student simply by giving the reason that he had served in the Israeli army.

Finally, Küntzel deals with the phenomenon of 9/11. His main query is why the antisemitic background of 9/11 has been ignored in Europe and explains this lacuna as a means used by Europeans to justify their anti-Americanism. He sees all attempts at demolishing American buildings as part of the aim of ‘obliterating Israel’. This chapter refers back to the Egyptian, Qutb, whose texts were part of the training program set up by Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. In addition, bin Laden’s mentor, Abdallah Azzam, was born in Jenin and embodies the links between the Palestinian and Afghan fronts of the Islamist jihad. Azzam was also one of the founders of HAMAS, and propagated the cult of the martyr.

According to Küntzel, Al Qa’ida’s view of the USA consisted of antisemitic fantasies. They regard New York as a Jewish metropolis. He also deems it no coincidence that a colleague of Muhammad Atta, the ringleader of 9/11, has stated that “Atta’s Weltanschauung was based on a National Socialist way of thinking. He was convinced that ‘the Jews’ are determined to achieve world domination. He considered New York City to be the centre of world Jewry which was, in his opinion, Enemy Number One.”

The Islamists also regard America as being under complete Jewish domination. Bin Laden has said: “You are the nation who, rather than ruling by the Sharia of Allah in its Constitution and Laws, choose to invent your own laws as you will and desire. . . . In all its different forms and guises, the Jews have taken control of your economy, through which they have taken control of your media, and now control all aspects of your life, making you their servants and achieving their aims at your expense; . . . your law is the law of the rich and wealthy people. . . . Behind them stand the Jews, who control your policies, media and economy.” And: “The enmity between us and the Jews goes far back in time and is deep rooted. There is no question that war between the two of us is inevitable.”

Küntzel comments that “It is astonishing that this undisguised antisemitism has to date received so little attention in discussions about the motives for 9/11.”

For Küntzel, the third factor of jihadist anti-Americanism “is based on a mind-set also found among anti-globalization activists: the obsessive division of the world between victimhood and guilt.” He cites as an example Suleiman Abu Gheith, an al-Qa’ida spokesman: “America is the reason for all the oppression, injustice, licentiousness, or suprression that is the Muslims’ lot. It stands behind all the disasters that were caused and are still being caused to the Muslims.”

Küntzel concludes from the above that: “The aim of the islamists’ religious war is neither individual freedom nor the self-determination of dependent states, but the establihsment of a total regime based purely and simply on submission to Allah and his deputies, the Calipys. Their struggle is merely aimed against those aspects of imperialism and modernity that threaten the foundations of their despotic and patriarchal rule.”

American support for Israel is also deemed a reason for annihilation of both Americans and Jews. Bin Laden again: “I swear by God, that America will not live in peace until peace reigns in Palestine and all the armies of the unbelievers have left eh land of Muhammad.” Terrorism “is praiseworthy because it is an answer to injustice and is aimed at forcing America to end its support for Israel.”

Appropriately for the day of publication of this translation, Britain is feting Saudi Arabia, where 250,000 cassettes of his [bin Laden’s] speeches were legally sold and innumerable pirated copies distributed under the counter.

Bin Laden is in fact popular in most of the countries of the Middle East. In the wake of the recent letter sent by Muslim scholars to Christian world leaders, it is interesting that according to Küntzel: “no Islamic religious scholar anywhere in the world declared bin Laden an apostate for leading a terrorist organization. Nor was there any sign of a root-and-branch rejection of the concept of Islam put forward by bin Laden in his videos.”

Küntzel also criticizes the EU for seemingly condoning suicide bomb attacks against Israel. He feels that oil might be a reason for this stance. Whilst Küntzel sees a direct connection between 9/11 and suicide bomb attacks in the USA, for the reasons cited above (i.e. the theologically-inspired antisemitic fantasies of bin Laden and his colleagues), Europe prefers to blame Israel itself for the suicide bomb attacks, thus playing into the hands of the Islamists. Küntzel regards this European inability to see the facts as proof of “Goebbel’s rule that a lie only has to be monstrous enough to be believed.” And he understands therefore only too well why it was that “September 11 drove not only Israel, but also many Jewish communities in Europe into unexpected political isolation, for the anti-Semites of Europe and the Arab world it served as a signal announcing the reawakening of antisemitism in its new globalized form.” For example, “leading French anti-globalization activist Jose Bove” stated on the French TV channel Canal Plus that: “the attacks on the French synagogues are either orchestrated or carried out by Mossad.”

It is Küntzel’s view that after World War II, “the victorious powers considered their good relations with the Arab world more important than countering the ideological concoction of antisemitism, Hitler-worship, Holocaust denial and the unbridled desire to destroy Israel, of which the Mufti was the supreme exponent.” And “the consequences of this choice of priorities can scarcely be exaggerated. . . . The new anti-Jewish war could now start. . . . When islamists label Israel as “really an American” and the USA as “really a Jewish” power, they can count on the support of anti-globalists of both left and right as well as the benevolent toleration of member states of the European Union.”

Thus, as Küntzel states: “Jihad and Jew-hatred belong together. Approval of antisemitism strengthens jihadist barbarism. . . . The struggle against jihadism therefore requires zero tolerance for antisemitism. Were Jew-hatred to be ostracized, isolated, prosecuted and punished on a global scale, then jihadism would be a thing of the past.” Küntzel even states that “something comparable to Auschwitz could happen again. However, it is not only Israel that is at stake in the conflicts that lie ahead. Today, Israel is a symbol of otherness and difference. The contrary concept is that of forced homogeneity. . . . recognition and defense of the Jewish state, or Islamist barbarism—this is the ‘turning point’ which confronts humanity at this moment in history.”

As Küntzel says: “Islamic antisemitism is a taboo subject even in some parts of academia.” Küntzel should know. He was banned from Leeds University in March of this year, after being invited by that university to give his talk on the links between Nazi ideology and Islamism. He was then invited back in October and the world did not cave in.

But not only is Islamic antisemitism taboo. In some British universities it is forbidden to discuss the Koran unless you are male, religious and Muslim. In fact, the only country in which I have been able to hear Islam being discussed in an expert and reasonable manner is here in Israel, which the Sufi expert, Sayyed Hossein Nasr has told me is the place for Islamic Studies, including his own field of Sufism. Not that Professor Nasr has ever visited here. He told me he would be “crucified” if he ever set foot in the place.

This is why Matthias Küntzel’s book, or rather translation of the book which he first wrote in 2002, is so important. It is the best book written in English on the subject of the psychology of the Jew hatred which has gripped the world for the past 10 to 15 years.

I myself have been one of those who has tried to deal with the Christian aspects of this peculiar hatred, which includes the 1990 founding of Sabeel (Patron Archbishop Desmond Tutu), the Anglican Peace and Justice report of 2004, comparing Israel to Buchenwald Concentration Camp, the 2006 Church of England Synod divestment vote, the general Church appeasement of Islam in Britain, as well as the related boycott attempts by the British university unions and the contempt of the various British media.

However, it is somewhat ironic that some 37 years after having been a very young student at a German university and having witnessed, but been unable to explain, the utter ignorance of the Holocaust and all it stood for in that generation of Germans, a generation has now grown up which realizes its duty to the world: what the Buddhists would no doubt call “karma.”

Matthias Küntzel’s book should be read, taken very seriously and his warnings acted upon before it is too late. And the Muslim world should grow up and develop a theology of “diaspora,” which the Dalai Lama has stated is the “great gift” which Judaism has given the world.

Dr. Irene Lancaster is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Trustee of the Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East. She has formerly lectured in Jewish History, Department for Religions and Theology, Manchester University, UK, and has written a book on Judaism, Christianity, and Muslim theology in the Middle Ages and their relevance today, entitled Deconstructing the Bible (Routledge, 2003).

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