As I write these lines, there is a remarkable focus in Swedish news, commentary and debate pages on the Holocaust and the return of anti-Semitism in Europe. The date, 27th January is special this year. It is 70 years since the liberation of the survivors in the concentration camp and death factory Auschwitz where 1.4 million people, mostly Jews, were killed in the most brutal ways. A whole generation of witnesses, survivors of the Nazi atrocities, will soon pass away.
As Swedish media reminds us of the dangers of ant-Semitism, the Jewish congregation in Malmo installs an iron fence around the synagogue, whose main function is to declare that society at large has failed to protect its little minority of Jews. It has now become well known that the Jews of Malmö have been subjected to anti-Semitic attacks in several years. Many families have abandoned the city after serious threats, probably from groups within the larger minority with roots in the Middle East and North Africa.
The terrorist attacks in Paris against the magazine Charlie Hebdo and Jewish civilians in a kosher shop, is still a fresh memory. Random Jews are again chosen as a target for Islamist aggression and terror in Copenhagen where a member of the Jewish congregation was shot brutally some days ago.
In media and political committees that work against violent extremism, the analysts and politicians mix anti-Semitism together with Islamophobia, homophobia and other forms of racism. When they are asked who the perpetrators, extremists and haters are? The answer is general and the racist is an abstract, mysterious figure that exists nowhere and everywhere. What is the cure then? The answer is more moralizing homework, training in tolerance that should be done by all citizens.
It is unfortunately not a particularly Swedish phenomenon to lay a smokescreen on the problem, but it is the situation in greater or lesser degree in a European continent where tensions and racism have become more complex in the global time. Anti-Semitism in Europe after 1945 cannot be understood, much less be counteracted, without illuminating ideas and attitudes that the major new immigrants from the Middle East, North Africa and Muslim countries, has brought to the continent.
What we are witnessing today, the return of coarse anti-Semitic propaganda and attacks on Jewish individuals, synagogues, businesses and property, has its explanation in the meeting between the European-Christian and the Arab-Muslim anti-Semitism.
Each of these two forms of dehumanization has theological roots and unique cultural characteristics. With increased communication in the modern era and a new immigration wave from Arab and Muslim countries, they have formed a synthesis of demonology. "The Jew" occupies a special place again. Dormant prejudices in the European collective national memory has been reactivated and stimulated by an open and vulgar hatred of Jews.
The Arab-Muslim anti-Semitism is spread through mass media (satellite TV and publications in non-European languages), Internet and radical Islamists. The anti-Jewish propaganda uses a political vocabulary. Pointing to an ongoing political conflict, such claims are given legitimacy. The rhetoric is even presenting "true witness" against the "satanic power" Israel (Jews).
The reaction on the political scene in Europe is twofold. The radical left is notoriously weak for black / white, week/ strong- rhetoric. In addition it has, through cooperation with the new immigrants, found an outlet for its anti-Americanism through verbally and politically attacking an ally, Israel. A disturbing trend is that this propaganda has moved towards the center left during the last years. There is an increased tolerance and attraction for anti-Jewish stereotypes and myths. It is increasingly common to deny, excuse and trivialize grave anti- Semitism.
Meanwhile, the consequences of immigration and economic turbulence in recent years have triggered nationalist currents. Parties from the populist right wing have reached the EU parliament. Neo-Nazi groups exist openly and nationalist parties are gaining ground in population groups that earlier voted for the conservative center. The fact that hatred of Jews today is complemented by hatred against Muslims, does not weaken the power and harmfulness anti-Semitism. The mechanism of hatred is: the more groups to exclude from the national “We”, the more effective the methods become.
In the end the arrows of blame and hatred point all against Jews and the state of Israel with various rationales.
Historian Henrik Bachner, has to conclude in his research on contemporary anti-Semitism in Sweden: "The dam which was built the second World War against hatred of Jews has begun to erode."
Anti-Semitism in the Middle East
The dam which postwar Europe has built against antisemitism has its contrast in the Middle East and Muslim countries. Autocratic and theocratic regimes and religious scholars have pumped out wave after wave of anti-Jewish propaganda to the region's population. Meanwhile, significant historical and political facts, which do not harmonize with the pan-Arab or Islamist historical narrative, have been censored.
The accusation is that the Jew is guilty. The opposite cannot be proven. Jews control the media, finance and policy at the global level. Therefore the Jews are collectively responsible for the Muslim countries poverty, social problems and the failure of political systems. Attacks on Jewish individuals and property are justified as "self-defense" and expression of national loyalty and good characteristics.
This primitive form of anti-Semitism is regrettably indisputable on the Arab street. In several bookstores I visited in Lebanon and Jordan, I have been able to buy grossly anti-Semitic books. One was titled as historical scientific research and circled around alleged ritual murder of children conducted by Jews at the beginning of the 1900s in Damascus. The sources were newspaper clippings from that era. The second predicted the destruction of the state of Israel and the Muslims final victory over the Jews in 2022. The prophecy was based on "mathematical" reading of Quranic verses. Religious (Islamic) literature where Jews are depicted as the outermost enemy is a genre in itself.
There is no lack of ideological challenges from Arab and Muslim intellectuals in regard to criticism of extremist Islam, the general criticism of the classical theology of Islam and the pursuit of democratic civil rights. Many Arab and Muslim intellectuals and secular democrats are active in defending the rights of religious and ethnic minorities in their regions. But Jews are to be found in this type of literature only exceptionally. In addition, publications of this kind are often written in European languages and reach therefore very few highly educated people in the Middle East and the Muslim world. The Arab and Muslim street has not got any serious challenge in an adequate language.
It is worth noting though that education itself does not vaccinate against anti-Semitism. A general increase in knowledge level and standard of life in the Arab and Muslim World is not a cure for hatred against Jews, conflict and war.
The Arab-Muslim wall of hostility will only fall in the face of relevant historical facts, about the Jews long history in the Middle East and North Africa and their exodus from Arab countries, about the European anti-Semitism and Holocaust, about the concrete political circumstances that have led to the establishment of the state of Israel.
The wall should be challenged by a historical-rational perspective on religion (Islam) and its relation to a competing monotheistic religion. It is indisputable that this knowledge must first be available in Arabic and other languages of the Middle East as persons who need it most are not well versed in English and other European languages.
With my book project, I aim to drill some holes in the wall and open up avenues of reflection by serving the young educated Arab and Muslim generation important historical facts.
Issues in focus
- A historical view of Jewish existence and culture in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa that goes back to the time before our era. Review of processes that have led to the exodus of Jews from these countries. With this, I will argue that Jews throughout history have been a part of the region's mosaic, and not western invaders.
- A critical examination of Arab-Muslim historical understanding of the establishment of Israel. I will mostly use Arab sources, mainly newspaper articles from the World War period and up to 1950. This valuable material has been made available in English by new research in Tel-Aviv University of Meir Litvak and Esther Webman. It shows that Arab media was fully aware of the Nazis atrocities and the Jewish refugee problem after the Holocaust.
- A rational refutation of Islamist conspiracy theories, especially the big world conspiracy based on the obvious falsification, Zion Protocols of the Elders. I would also challenge the myth that the Holocaust is a fabricated story that is been used for political gains.
- Criticism against the instrumental and selective approach to the Islamic Holy scriptures where Jews are accused for being the Muslim s eternal enemies. I will criticize the radical Islamist propaganda from a liberal-Islamic perspective.
Research and fields work
In working with the project I'm going to travel to several countries, conducting interviews and doing field surveys. The Plan is as followed.
- Visit to Poland, Warsaw and Autschwitz. - Study Stays in berlin at Center for Holocaust Studies - Study Stays and fieldwork in Cairo and Alexandria. - Study Stays and fieldwork in Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.
The main challenge is to publish the Arab edition. In worst case I do it at my expense.
My motivation is not commercial. The Arabic edition will be published as an E-book and made available for all Arab readers with no costs.
All individuals and organisations that support this project will be listed in the book and get my thanks and gratitude. If you want to be anonymous, please inform me so your name will not be mentioned in the list
You will be invited to a lecture on the issue in ABF-huset, Stockholm, in October. It is a unique chance to learn about the writing process and ask your questions or comment the project. The lecture will be given in Swedish (Norwegian) language.