March 27, 2008
Hate in Translation
One e-mail would have sufficed to alert me to this, but now, as I write this paragraph, seven more have just arrived. Terrorists make use of the West's most cutting-edge technologies to mount a multipronged attack on Western lives and values, and what is all that most of us can do in response? Forward e-mails.
I have a different tack someone can take in the battle: Translate Matthais Kuntzel's new book into Arabic.
Kuntzel, a respected German academic, wrote, "Jihad and Jew Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11" (Telos Press, 2007). He barely found a German publisher, was fortunate to find a brave English-language press and won't get an Arabic version unless somebody reading these words writes a very important check.
If you might be that someone, or know someone who could be, get it done.
Jeffrey Goldberg, writing in The New York Times, called Kuntzel's book "bracing, even startling ... bold and consequential."
It is also, even for people who have followed the rise of Islamo-facism, revelatory.
We know that throughout the Arab world the press and popular media are given to vicious anti-Semitism. Syrian TV did a multi-part dramatization of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Bookstores throughout the Arab world still offer translations of Henry Ford's screed, "The International Jew." The propaganda of Hamas and Hezbollah make fantastic claims about world Jewish power that would strike any rational person as batty and incidental, if the effects of the hatred they inspire were not so readily apparent.
The common wisdom is that all this Jew-hatred arises from the Arab world's reaction to Israel.
But what Kuntzel's historical research establishes is that the anti-Semitism is not, as academia would have it, a post-1948 reaction to those imperialist Zionists, but rather a pre-World War II infestation of Christian anti-Semitism.
There is anti-Jewish sentiment throughout the Quran and in Muslim culture, to be sure, but it rarely if ever approached the virulence either of Christian anti-Semitism or of current Jihadist sentiment. Jews were second-class citizens during their stay in Muslim lands -- defeated, tolerated, but far from feared.
Then came the Nazis. The Nazis knew the Middle East would be an extension of the European battleground. They wanted to turn the Muslim world against the Jews. They found willing collaborators in two individuals: the Egyptian Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem. Banna's movement began as a reaction to modernism.
"Islamism was born in the '20s, not the '60s," Kuntzel told me over breakfast in Westwood, while on a speaking tour here. "It was the reaction to modernism in Iran, Turkey and Egypt. There is always a connection between the fight against modernism and the fight against Jews."
The Nazis cemented the connection. They provided much of the funding for the Brotherhood, which in turn established printing presses and distributed Arabic translations of "Mein Kampf" and the "Protocols" throughout the Middle East.
The mufti, who moved to Berlin during the war, was an even more eager Jew-hater; who fought Heinrich Himmler's decision in 1943 to trade 5,000 Jewish children for 20,000 German prisoners. Eventually the mufti prevailed, and the children were sent to be gassed.
Meanwhile, Alfred Hess, brother of Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess, established a branch of the Nazi party in Alexandria, Egypt, and began distributing copies of "The Jewish Question in Germany" to the educated elites there.
Kuntzel's book draws a direct line from the hatred these men promoted and the rhetoric of today's jihadis.
"Osama bin Laden made so many anti-Semitic statements," he said. New York for him was the center of finance, from where Jews pulled the levers of world power. "It is a genocidal anti-Semitism."
Kuntzel can boast, if that's the word, of true believer yichus. His father was a member of the Nazi party.
"Every child in my family had to play a musical instrument," he recalled. "We would have our recitals in my grandmother's living room. When Hitler came on the radio, we all stopped and gave the Nazi salute."
Kuntzel let the image sink in: "It's important to get to the roots and see how this could happen."
Not everyone has been happy with Kuntzel's research. Though he lectures at Stanford, Yale and other universities, his appearance at the University of Leeds in England was cancelled due to protest by Muslim students. He believes the fear of radical Muslims has prevented him from finding a major German publisher, much less an Arabic one.
But I believe the latter is crucial. Why? Because the Arab and Muslim world, especially its elites, need to understand what they are choosing when they go down the road of unmoored hate. They need to know with whom they are aligning themselves.
The moderates and reformers among them desperately need the intellectual proof texts to show how their religion and culture was infected by some jackbooted white Christian losers, whose own historic arc no sane person would want to emulate.
If our gas money is going to Arab governments who sanction anti-Semitic vitriol, can't we spend a little to counteract the lies with truth?
Or do we just keep clicking the "forward" button on our e-mail?
To purchase Jihad and Jew Hatred click here.
To contact the author, Matthais Kuntzel, about funding an Arabic translation, send an e-mail to Rob Eshman at firstname.lastname@example.org