The Blog

Fascism, Islamism, and Anti-Semitism

The president of the Islamic Republic is guided in word and deed by the most vicious of ideologies.

11:00 PM, Jan 2, 2006 • By JOSEPH LOCONTE
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The nonsense of anti-Semitism is the elephant in the Arab living room. At the moment, the elephant is thrashing about most conspicuously in Iran, but he's at home in much of the Muslim world. "Over the last half-century, anti-Semitism has been the essential theology of the Arab world," writes historian Paul Johnson, author of A History of the Jews. "The Arabs have wasted trillions in oil royalties on weapons of war and propaganda . . . In their flight from reason, they have failed to modernize or civilize their societies, to introduce democracy, or to consolidate the rule of law."

Take a look, for example, at the groundbreaking Arab Human Development Report, produced in 2002, 2003, and 2004, in which Muslim scholars candidly assessed the lack of economic and political freedom in the Middle East. The authors note that the Israeli occupation of Palestine "continues to impede human development and freedom," but say nothing about the failure of the Palestinian Authority to stop terrorism against Israeli civilians. For all their frankness about political corruption and educational failure, these prominent intellectuals do not challenge the Arab fixation on Israel as the source of the region's problems.

Much more surprising, however, is the silence of the 9/11 Commission Report, the most comprehensive, bi-partisan study to date of the terrorist threat against the United States. The report is praised for its sober analysis of the "catastrophic threat" of radical Islam and its recommendations for improving U.S. security and intelligence systems. It notes that terrorist violence is "fed by grievances" that are "widely felt throughout the Muslim world"--but never discusses the pandemic of anti-Semitism that lurks beneath them. The report rightly concludes that the United States is caught up in a clash within the civilization of Islam: "That clash arises from particular conditions in the Muslim world, conditions that spill over into expatriate Muslim communities in non-Muslim countries." Yet nowhere in the document's 567 pages is there mention of the anti-Jewish hatreds that stoke this cultural conflict.

Tone deafness to the racist fury of radical Islam is bad enough. What makes matters worse is that anti-Semitism is not just a problem in the Arab world, but in Europe and in much of the international community. The U.N. World Conference Against Racism, held in 2001 in Durban, famously degenerated into a platform for Israel-bashing. Since then, reports by non-governmental groups such as Human Rights First have described "a staggering wave" of anti-Jewish violence in Europe. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has sponsored four conferences to address anti-Semitism and xenophobia among its 55 member states. Numerous participants have noted that radicalized Muslim youth are a significant part of the problem. At the first-ever U.N. conference devoted to anti-Semitism, held in 2004 in Geneva, Secretary General Kofi Annan warned of "an alarming resurgence" of violence against Jewish institutions. But Annan failed to mention that a third of the resolutions adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Commission condemning specific states are aimed at Israel, or that U.N. resolutions have countenanced Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians.

To its credit, the OSCE has produced documents such as the Berlin Declaration, which insists that no political cause could ever justify intolerance or violence against Jews. This principle was upheld at an OSCE conference I attended in June in Cordova, Spain. "Nazi anti-Semitism produced a genocide 60 odd years ago, and it was one of the central elements in a ideology that destroyed Europe and killed some 35 million people," Yehunda Bauer, an advisor to the International Task Force for Holocaust Education, told the Cordova delegates. "Isn't that enough to make all of us . . . allies against anti-Semitism in its modern form?"

As the standoff with Iran continues, political and religious leaders in Europe and the United States should ponder that question in light of the latent anti-Semitism in their own communities.