Muslims, Jews and the 11 September: 
The British Case

By Robert S. Wistrich

N 11 SEPTEMBER 2002 an extraordinary meeting took place at the Finsbury Park Mosque in North London, to "celebrate" the first anniversary of the bombing of the Twin Towers in Manhattan. A thousand British Muslims were gathered inside this "holy place" to learn about this "Towering Day in History," to quote the organizers. The assembly was protected by a force of about 500 British Metropolitan Police while a dozen or so menacing-looking men with kaffiyehs stood on the mosque's steps to stop unsympathetic journalists from entering. The meeting adjourned twice for prayers, and the crowds, led by the muezzin, flowed into the courtyard. The star speaker. Sheikh Omar bin Bakri Mohammed, head of the Al- Muhajirun (The Emigrants) - a radical Islamist grouping - is a Syrian-born cleric who explained to his enthusiastic audience the "lessons" of 11 September - preaching jihad against all "corrupt regimes," including those of America and Britain, as well as their secular lackeys in the Middle East. The meeting was chaired by the sinister-looking Egyptian-born Abu Hamza who not only presides over the mosque but openly celebrated the events of 9/11; he told the press that Saudi Muslims financed the event in the hope that it would create an organization that better represents "the real views of Muslims in Britain."(1)

Hamza's mosque has for some time been a training station on the route for young men embracing jihadist Islam and then graduating into secret training camps and programs in Britain and abroad. Many of the 4,000 British Muslims who received training from the al- Qaeda, the Taliban or other terrorist groups, came from Hamza's North London congregation, which has contact with many militant Muslim networks abroad. Hamza himself has never denied his support for terrorism and armed struggle and his adopted son participated with five other British Muslims in a thwarted attack in the Yemen in 1998, primarily directed against British diplomats, including their families, homes and offices in the country. Hamza also reportedly recruited the British Muslim convert Richard Reid, the "shoe-bomber" who nearly blew up an American Airlines flight from Paris on 22 December 2001, bound for Miami. The one-eyed imam (whose left hand is fitted with a metal claw) has further been implicated in the theological brainwashing of Zacarias Moussaoui, arrested in America as a co-conspirator with the murderers of the 19 September. Why then is Abu Hamza not under arrest? Could he be an agent provocateur working for the British secret services, as some members of Britain's Muslim community undoubtedly believe? Or is it simply more convenient for the security and surveillance departments that he operate as a free agent rather than in detention? The same question might well be asked of the previously mentioned Omar Bakri, head of the Al- Muhajirun group which actively recruits among Muslims in British colleges and universities.

It is also possible that the British government has a tacit understanding with certain Islamist groups not to imprison the militant supporters of terrorism as long as they do not strike at targets on British soil. If true, this would cast an interesting light on the reassuring talk of some radical Islamists, only too eager to drive a political wedge between the United States and Europe. Such circles have been claiming that they have no quarrel with the Europeans - even with Britain, America's closest West European ally. Montasser Zayat, a former spokesman for Egypt's Gamaa Islamiya terrorist group, recently said as much to The Wall Street Journal:

"As someone from within, as someone in direct contact with the radical Islamic movement, I can tell you there are no hard feelings towards Europe, but only the sentiment of goodness and comfort. . . . Britain occupied Egypt for 70 years, France invaded us before that, but we have nothing against them. The problem is America and only America."(2)

Zayat once shared a cell with Osama bin Laden's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, a leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, who, he insists, would prefer to spare Europe if it only stays on the sidelines during American military actions in the Middle East.(3

Such professions of friendship do not square with the philosophy of al-Qaeda, which is engaged in a global conflict against Western "Judeo-Christian" civilization. There is no reason to suppose it would spare any American embassies, military bases, companies or universities on European and British soil, even though this might cause massive local casualties; after all, when al-Qaeda bombed U.S. embassies in Africa, in 1998, more than 220 Africans were killed, nearly twenty times the number of American casualties.

Al-Zawahiri, the leading ideologue and propagandist of Al-Qaeda, fully shares the radical Islamist view that the West (including Europe) is responsible for the corruption and humiliation of Islamic society. Galvanized by Israel's lightning victory in the Six Day War and the loss of faith it portended, such radical Islamists were convinced that they had been defeated by a much larger force than Israel, by the spectre of modernity itself. Their strident answer - which has since spread to the Muslim diaspora, including Britain - is simple: Islam alone is the solution. This meant not only restoring the Caliphate and the sharia to the Muslim world, but a holy war - one which was successfully prosecuted against the Communist "infidels" in Afghanistan - and which is now continuing as a violent jihad against the West.(4

In the framework of this world-wide war against the West, the so-called International Islamic Front for Jihad on the Jews and Crusaders issued a document in February 1998 which contained the following fatwa to all Muslims: "the ruling to kill the Americans and their allies - civilian and military - is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it."(5)

In the same year, Zawahiri explained in the Jihad journal Al-Mujahidoun that the Jews completely controlled America - "its news, its elections, its economy, and its politics." He went on to outline the strategy which came to fruition on the 11 September. ". . . If we are a nation of martyrs - as we claim - all that we need is courage of heart and the will of killers and the belief in what we claim to be love of death for Allah's sake. That is the key to our triumph and the beginning of their defeat."(6)

OR THE LEADERSHIP of Al-Qaeda, terror attacks on any Western targets and on Western Jews are by no means to be confined to the United States. Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed and other Islamist radicals have made this clear when they brand Britain like the U.S., as "evil" for striking back at Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda bases.(7) The extremists seem quite unconcerned at the undeserved shame they bring on the majority of tolerant, law-abiding British Muslims by their threatening rhetoric.(8) Their efforts to import Muslim Judeophobia from the Middle East to Britain and Europe have not passed unnoticed and undoubtedly led to a serious deterioration of relations between Muslims and Jews. The Anglo-Jewish community has protested for example that some of London's Arabic-language newspapers incite to attacks on their children and on synagogues as well as other Jewish institutions, by their defence of Palestinian suicide bombings and Al-Qaeda's call to kill millions of Americans. Mike Whine of the Community Security Trust (which is responsible for protecting Jewish buildings in Britain) points to the fact that Muslims in the past few years become "so wound up by what they have heard in the mosque or what they have read that they have gone out and attacked the nearest Jew."(9)

When Islamic extremist groups lash out in an anti-American and anti-Jewish frenzy over Afghanistan, the looming war with Iraq and the Israel-Palestine conflict they in fact confirm the thesis of an irreconcilable clash of civilizations. They encourage a view of Islamic tradition as static and unchangeable, locked into a war to the death against the West and what they call the "Zionist-controlled media" which can only make any impartial observers of the British scene shake their heads with incredulity. Much of this extremism has been the result of the influence of Saudi oil-money and the Saudi stranglehold over Islamic debate. For decades, the Saudis distributed the works of anti-Western Islamists like Sayyid Qutb and Abu Ala Maududi across the Islamic world and bolstered hostile regimes like the Taliban. The viciousness of Muslim anti-Jewish discourse in the Middle East also owed much to this propaganda.

The cataclysmic events of 11 September in which 15 out of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens has brought about a new perception, especially in America, of the disastrous consequences of such a skewed teaching of Islam. The 3,000 people murdered in a single morning in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania were not combatants, like the Americans killed at Pearl Harbor sixty years ago or in the battlefields of Vietnam. They were ordinary citizens going about their everyday lives until death literally came from a clear blue sky. 9/11 introduced Americans to an experience long shared by Europeans, British, Arabs, Israelis and many others - it made America in some ways more like the rest of the world.(10

September llth 2001 was a wrenching wake-up call for America, Britain, the West as a whole as well as the Muslim world and the Jewish people. The memory of several thousand innocent, unsuspecting civilians, of many nationalities (including some Muslims, a significant number of Jews and 67 Britons) will forever remain etched in the mind along with the pictures of the twin towers of the World Trade Center crumbling into what is now commonly referred to as "Ground Zero."

The extremists who carried out the slaughter of September 11th have tried since then, will try again and could succeed, despite the improved alertness of police and security services in America, Britain and other nations. Britain's Home Secretary, David Blunkett recently observed that "a real threat" existed in this country, issuing a stark warning against complacency. "The UK and its interests overseas remain a target for al-Qa'ida terrorists who will almost certain seek to carry out further terrorist attacks, drawing on the network which they have already established."(11)

In Britain, alone, there are several dozen suspected al-Qaeda activists and hundreds of supporters, who may pose a threat, either in this country or as part of an international terror network. After all, it was to Richard Reid, the British-born would-be shoe bomber to whom al- Qaeda turned, to exact revenge for the Taliban's fall and the loss of Afghanistan.(12

More importantly, one of the leading ideologues of Al-Qaeda, the 41-year-old Abou Qutada (his real name being Omar Mahmoud Uthman), a Palestinian and political refugee from Jordan, lived in Acton, London for eight years, until the passage of the newly strengthened anti-terrorism bill in Great Britain. Qutada was arrested several times by the British authorities, fled the country, but has now once more been apprehended. He is considered by some experts to be the heart and brains of Al-Qaeda in Europe. In an interview with CNN in October 2001, he expounded on his reasons for preaching against the West. He accused it of having plundered the resources of the Muslim people (oumma,) of causing the deaths of many thousands of innocent people in the Middle East and Afghanistan; Muslims were only protecting their religion and ethics against outside domination and bin Laden's actions were perfectly understandable since Americans controlled his own country - Saudi Arabia and its corrupt regime.(13)

RITAIN'S EUROPEAN PARTNERS have long been concerned about its role as "a perfect haven for Islamic radicals looking for young Muslim recruits."(14) Osama bin Laden's associate Khalid al Fawwaz had already established a "media office" here in 1994, on behalf of the Saudi millionaire-dissident. In 1998 al Fawwaz and two Egyptian militants were arrested under U.S. extradition warrants (for involvement in the American embassy bombings in Africa) and they are still in jail. The fact remains, however, that despite the new British legislation, a significant number of supporters of terrorism live freely in "Londistan," even though they are wanted by the Americans and the French as well as by Egypt, Jordan, Yemen and other Middle Eastern governments. One has to wonder if it is this British "tolerance" which has kept Great Britain free (for the moment) from terrorist attack, as latterly claimed by the Saudi Arabian academic Dr. Mohammed al-Masari, who helped set up a London press office for bin Laden.(15)

British "tolerance" is all the more remarkable since Sheikh Omar Bakri has periodically made threats against British leaders whom he regards as legitimate targets for assassination - beginning with John Major during the Gulf War of 1991 and more recently against Prime Minister Tony Blair. Bakri has, moreover, recruited British Muslims to fight abroad in places such as Kashmir, Afghanistan, Chechnya or Palestine. He claims to be closely linked to the International Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders, created by Osama bin Laden, which actively supports Hamas and the Palestinian Islamists - recruiting militiamen, collecting funds and sending volunteers to Jordan, to infiltrate the West Bank and join the intifada.(16) Three years ago he published a letter to bin Laden on his Al-Muhajirun web site.(17) It stated: "We are an Ummah of Jihad and beyond doubt we have been chosen by Allah to rule the world if we hold to his command. . . . The opportunity is here and we must not pass it by. ... The war is our war, and the enemy is our enemy." He urged bin Laden to act decisively against the West, especially the U.S., "for a new dawn is near at hand." The objectives of this Islamic jihad included "bringing down their airlines," occupying their embassies and forcing closure of their banks.

Sheikh Bakri's radical ideological doctrine, like that of his London colleague, the one-eyed Sheikh Abu Hamza Al-Masri, is replete with Holocaust denial, rabid hatred of Jews and of Israel, "the cancer in the heart of the Muslim world."(18) At the same time in the missionising vision of the Jihadists, a choice is to be left to Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims to keep their faith if they so desire as long as they agree to live under the all-encompassing authority of Islam - the only universal religion, allegedly capable of establishing peace and harmony. 

Omar Bakri, Abu Hamza, and Anjem Choudary (one of the UK leaders of the al-Mujahiroun and Chairman of the Society of Muslim Lawyers) share a common loathing for the West and its values which they have never disguised.(19) Moreover, virtually all of the British-based fundamentalists openly support bin Laden, and some like the Jamaican convert to Islam, Abdullah el-Faisal have been accused of touring Britain and openly preaching death to the Jews.(20) During a recent rally of these extremists in Trafalgar Square, Sheikh Abu Hamza (head of the Supporters of Sharia) said the September 11 atrocities were "an American-Zionist plot to blame the Muslim world." Banners denounced Israel as "the UK and America's illegitimate child" and proclaimed that "From individual to superpower, Islam destroys every other thought, idea and system of life."(21)

Despite all denials to the contrary, this is a racist and profoundly bigoted vision of the world, in which hatred of Jews, Americans and non-Muslims in general, goes together with rank homophobia and an intensely repressive view of the role of women in the modern world. The British fundamentalists often claim to be Salafists (Salafi refers to "early Muslim" - ancestors who died in the first 400 years of Islam) as does bin Laden, who has described himself as a follower of the Salafi branch of Islam - better known to most people as Wahhabism. Fundamentalist militants appear to regard Salafism as a licence to purify Islam by purging their enemies, waging holy war, doing away with secular nation-states and all man-made laws.(22) The Salafi doctrine does appeal to those young Muslims in Britain who favour "God's law" over the British courts. Known as the "pious pioneers" of Islam, Salafis have been recruiting thousands of members among British-based Muslims in the past year. They came into prominence after the arrest of the 29-year-old Muslim convert Karim Chatty, due to attend a Salafist conference in Birmingham who allegedly intended to hijack a plane from Sweden and crash into the US embassy in London.

ISFITS LIKE THE suspected hijacker in Sweden, who have been in trouble with the law and turned to radical mosques for help, can easily become tools for carrying out suicide missions in Europe. They are usually loners, having experimented with drugs, like Richard Reid, and spent time in prison. The 20th hijacker of 9/11, Zacarias Moussaoui, of French and Moroccan background, who was probably indoctrinated into radical Islamism during his stay in London, was, however, a more serious example of the "Western" Muslim Al-Qaeda recruit - one who was well-educated and versed in Western ways against which he sharply reacted. Arriving in London in February 1992 Moussaoui was apparently shocked by the spectacle of alcoholism, prostitution and begging in the streets, evils which he attributed to Western capitalism and Judeo-Christian civilization. Recently he told a tribunal in the United States: "I am indeed a Muslim fundamentalist openly hostile to the Jews and the United States of America." Denouncing his lawyer alternatively as a "fanatical dirty Jew" and "a Christian who must be pagan," he warned his American judge that Allah would curse her to the end of her days.(23)

Most of these footsoldiers of terror are not, contrary to a widely propagated myth, responding to despair any more than the misnamed "suicide bombers" from the Palestinian territories who turn themselves into "human bombs." As the New York Times' foreign-policy columnist Tom Friedman has aptly put it: "Let's be very clear: Palestinians have adopted suicide bombing as a strategic choice, not out of desperation." As the example of Al-Qaeda and the llth September shows, this choice can pose a mortal threat to world stability - and the nightmare could happen anywhere - London being one of the most obvious targets.(24

For the Jewish community in Britain, there is particular cause for concern. The increasing number of violent incidents recorded against Jews since October 2000 have been mainly caused by Muslims or Palestinian sympathizers, who are sometimes non-Muslims. A blatantly antisemitic Arab and Muslim media with its sources of inspiration in the Middle East combined with the left-liberal obsession - and at times demonization of Israel in the British media - have helped create this environment. The call to arms of jihadist organizations, much of it directed of course against Israel, invariably mutates into antisemitism around the world - not least in Britain. The UK-based Azzam Publications typically denounces the "Jewish-controlled media…predominantly biased against the Muslims" which manipulates minds to convince the public of the legality of Zionist crimes.(25) Al-Muhajiroun, advertising a rally for Al-Aqsa, proclaimed: "the day of judgement will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill them"; a series of posters bore the almost identical hadith that the "final hour will not come until the Muslims kill the Jews."(26) Sheikh Bakri "urge(d) Jews in the UK and elsewhere not to show any support for the Israeli regime, whether verbal, financial or physical, or they may allow themselves to become targets for Muslims..."(27)

Mike Whine has shown how incitement and intimidation of this kind inevitably produces violence. Among the examples he cites are the alleged attempted murder in Stamford Hill of David Myers by Nabil Ould Eddine in October 2000; an attack in June 2001 by four or five boys of Arab appearance against an Orthodox Jewish boy, also in Stamford Hill; the attack by an Asian man on Orthodox Jews in Edgbaston, Birmingham in April 2001; and the stoning of a synagogue in North Manchester by Asian youths in September of the same year.(28)

While incitement from the far Right has decreased in Great Britain, the promotion of hatred against the Jews that comes from the Middle East and radical Islamic groups is steadily growing. This requires much more effective action from the government, police and courts, but it also needs a reassessment of Muslim-Jewish relations. Muslims, too, are of course victims of racism and Islamophobia in Britain as elsewhere. This is what makes the participation of some fanatical Islamists in antisemitism all the more saddening and deplorable - especially as the Anglo-Jewish community have been involved with Muslims in a common struggle against racism in the past.

There is little doubt that many ordinary British Muslims were appalled by the September 11 assault and do not harbour antisemitic prejudices. Certainly there is a distinction that needs to be made between mainstream Muslims and radical Islamists, though it is not as clear-cut as one might wish. But the minority in Britain which (fully or partly) sympathised with the mass murder in the U.S. is by no means infinitesimal; and those who tend to demonise Israel and are hostile to Jews that support her existence, are far more numerous. Above all, those who find alibis and excuses for Islamic terrorism represent a disturbingly large group. In a recent editorial The Times has remarked - correctly, I feel - that: "The size of the contingent within either the community of Islamic scholars or on the streets who have felt able to ask themselves whether Islam would be well served by a revolution in thinking - similar to that experienced by the Christian Church through the Reformation or from the Jewish faith courtesy of an Enlightenment - is tiny. It is this unfortunate state of affairs, not globalisation or any other trend that may be connected with America, that is at the core of the tension between civilisations. It will emerge again as the United States steps up its initiative to deal with President Saddam Hussein."(29)

Thus it would be far too facile to exculpate the whole Islamic tradition or the "moderate majority" of Muslims from any sympathy with the attacks of 11 September or with the conspiracy theories relating to Israel and world Jewry so rampant among the Islamists. It is not a question of blaming Islam for September 11 or suggesting that all Muslims are fundamentalists and deeply intolerant of Jews. But one has to recognise that jihad like the Crusades or the Inquisition for Christianity is not a mere aberration but rooted in Islamic doctrines that have yet to be reformed.(30)

Islam, as Malise Ruthven has written, "is programmed for victory - its religious institutions were predicated upon the attainment of imperial power." Nor was it a coincidence that 15 of the 19 World Trade Center bombers were Saudi nationals - holding to a brand of Islam that is viciously intolerant, not only of other religions, but even of other strains of Islam. In his analysis of Jihad, Ruthven cites the famous "Sword Verse" of the Koran, in which Mohammed instructs his followers to "kill the polytheists [non-believers] wherever you find them." Christians and Jews might be spared, so long as they honoured their Scriptures - but they must remain second-class citizens.

In the early 21st century, extremist Muslim preachers in Britain, as in the Middle East, have unfortunately revived and radicalised those verses of the Koran which can all too easily be made to justify the unspeakable. As a result Islamists are now a danger to everyone, to Jews, to Christians, to themselves, and to Muslims in general.

HIS BRINGS ME directly to the question of antisemitism. One of the most astonishing developments on the international scene in the past two years has been the revival of the most debauched myths and falsifications of classical Judeophobia, including the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the medieval Christian blood libel - that no Passover meal is complete without the blood of a non-Jewish child to thicken the dough for the matzos.(31) I have argued elsewhere that this style of hysterical hatred is an indication that the sickness of antisemitic Fascism has returned with a vengeance and seized hold of the body politic of Islam.(32) What we might call bin-Ladenism is a doctrine which, like Fascism, teaches its disciples that the purpose of life is to seek death. It preaches surrender of all the comforts and delights of this world in favour of homicidal acts of "martyrdom," which are supposedly a springboard to eternal life in Paradise.(33) In this world-view all rewards are deferred until after the funeral. To quote Ehud Ya'ari:

"A new form of Islamic fascism is spreading. It is a cult of death; an addiction to destruction and revenge; a whole culture that promises 'to paint the world (blood) red,' as one of the Bin Ladenist anthems that can be downloaded from the Internet goes, or 'to crush and kill,' in the words of another."(34)

The Islamic fascists have managed to turn all of us - Americans, British, Israelis, Europeans, Jews, Christians, atheists and fellow Muslims - into potential targets of their death-cult, built as it is on massive indoctrination and paranoid hatred. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion - a Russian forgery much beloved by the Nazis - has taken on a new lease of life in the Muslim world and translations into Arabic abound. More recently it has even become the subject of a scandalous ongoing thirty-part, multi-million-dollar series with a cast of 400 actors, produced in Egypt with government approval. Despite sharp international protests this series continues to run and is extremely popular, reaching not only Egyptians but many other viewers around the Arab world.

These same Protocols are also a key component in the Sacred Covenant of the Palestinian Hamas (Islamic Resistance) movement. The Hamas teach Palestinian children that Jews control the world's wealth and mass media, that they destroyed the Islamic Caliphate, instigated the French and Russian Revolutions, caused World War I and established the League of Nations "in order to rule the world by their intermediary." Although the British media do occasionally mention that Hamas "militants" are dedicated to the destruction of the Israeli State, they almost never evoke their chilling antisemitic conspiracy theories. Yet this deadly Protocols of Zion ideology - "a warrant for genocide" as the historian Norman Cohn rightly called it in 1966 - explains much about the irrational hatred that drives the homicidal bombers, who have consistently wrecked every effort at peace in the Middle East.

There is also the flourishing "Holocaust denial" industry in the Arab-Muslim world. The vehemence with which the Nazi Holocaust is denounced as a Zionist and Jewish invention is truly stupefying, making someone like British historian David Irving (not surprisingly admired by many Arabs) look almost moderate. Hiri Manzour, in the official Palestinian newspaper, recently insisted that the figure of 6 million Jewish victims in the Holocaust was a blatant lie, a part of the Jews' international "marketing operation." Another Palestinian, Seif Ali al-Jarwan, mocked "the pictures of Jews being gunned down ... or being pushed into gas chambers" as a "malicious fabrication" by Shylock-like "greedy, cunning, evil and despised Jews" who had successfully brainwashed American and European opinion. Al-Akhbar, the Egyptian government daily, published an article in April 2002 drawing on British and French Holocaust deniers, which called the Shoah "a huge Israeli plot aimed at extorting the German Government in particular and the European countries." The columnist, in the light of this "imaginary tale," informed his Egyptian readers that he felt like complaining to Hitler: "If only you had done it, brother, if only it had really happened, so that the world could sigh with relief, without their evil and sin."(35) Unfortunately, these are not isolated cases. 

Hitler, of course, is still very popular in the Arab world and Arabic editions of Mein Kampf sell briskly, in Cairo, Beirut, Damascus, Gaza and Ramallah as they do in London. Why not, indeed, when the same hideous stereotypes of Jews as hateful, loathsome people, as the origin of all evil and corruption - as stooped, dark creatures of devilish-like appearance - dominate Arab caricatures as they once did those of Der Stuermer. We find the same grotesquely crooked noses, the all-too-familiar antisemitic image of Judaism as a sinister, immoral religion based on cabals and bloodthirsty rituals; one of the more bizarre illogicalities in this furious cascade of hate being the systematic twinning of the swastika and the Star of David (something increasingly echoed in the British press) and the repeated caricatures of Israelis/Jews as "criminal racists" and goose-stepping Nazis, notwithstanding the rampant Holocaust denial that accompanies such propaganda.

HE RELIGIOUS FANATICISM that drives both Islamic terrorism and the new antisemitism is not susceptible to reason. In London and Paris no less than in Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia, Turkey, Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia (the last-named countries representing more than half a billion Muslims) there is a widespread Muslim conviction that September 11 was a Jewish plot. It was allegedly masterminded by the Israeli Mossad. In this conspiratorial fantasy 4,000 Jews were absent from the Twin Towers on the day of the bombings because they had been forewarned. In a Gallup poll in the countries I mentioned before (held a couple of months after the event), the population rejected the notion that Arabs were to blame. Even the taking of responsibility by Osama bin Laden for the bombings changed nothing. In Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait and Pakistan (where only 4% thought that Arabs were the murderers), the denial was overwhelming. Only in Turkey a narrow majority accepted the facts. The Lahore-based Jihad Times, however, endlessly recycled the myth of a Zionist conspiracy standing behind the slaughter. More than two-thirds of all Pakistanis, so it turned out, believed this to be possible; they were also convinced that Zionists and Jews controlled the world media; that they were deliberately seeking to vilify Muslims and to drive a wedge between them and the West. In the Syrian government- controlled media and much of the Arab world, conspiracy theories of a similar cast abounded, suggesting that Mr. Sharon, together with the Americans, was seeking a diversion from the question of Palestine or a pretext to crush Islamic militancy once and for all. Mr. Tias, the Syrian Defence Minister (and a true believer in the medieval blood libel against Jewry), repeated the slander about the Mossad to a visiting delegation from the British Royal College of Defence Studies in October 2001.

Such delusional views find a strong echo in the Arabic-language press in Britain whose coverage, diffusion and diversity is unrivalled anywhere in the Middle East, let alone the rest of the Muslim diaspora. The prevailing conspiracy theories that are relayed, echo or reflect not only the commentary from newspapers and television in the Arab states, from schools and government-funded mosques, from Arab cartoonists, columnists and editorial writers but also the bigoted views of those Arab intellectuals who have long been in the forefront of disseminating the ugliest forms of antisemitism.

This alarming trend is not a matter of empty rhetoric, nor should it be explained away as the posturing of the powerless, a mere by-product of poverty, lack of human rights and democracy in the Arab world, even if that undoubtedly is a background factor. Even more misleading is the attempt - so popular in the "politically correct" British media - to blame such bigotry on the "humiliation" of Israeli occupation. Indeed, each time Israeli-Palestinian peace came a little closer in the 1990s, the Hamas, the Hizbollah and similar groups intensified their terror and incitement in order to sabotage any agreement. The fact is that for Muslim radicals, Israel's willingness to make territorial and political concessions is irrelevant. Their opposition to its existence is total, visceral and existential. In terms of its ideology and long-term goals, Muslim radicalism essentially exploits and uses the "Palestinian cause" as the revolutionary prologue to global jihad. Anti-Zionism (and antisemitism), viewed from this perspective, are the Trojan Horse by means of which it will be easier to sap and undermine the moral foundations of Israel, the status of Diaspora Jewry and the will of the West to defend its most basic values.

This is a grim picture and these are dark days. But we can perhaps draw some comfort from the message of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the days of Judgement in which Jews are called upon to reflect about the purpose of the universe, the state of God's creation and of our success or failure in bringing it to perfection. Somehow it seems appropriate that 9/11 falls at this time of remembrance, introspection and awareness of how thin is the line between life and death. No person and no action is forgotten. This is the time we remember the Covenant - the bond with Israel and with all mankind, the promise and the call to responsibility in the midst of tribulations; the rainbow that God showed Noah - a mutual commitment not to destroy the world; and the Shofar, with its piercing, intense sound - a reveille for the slumbering soul, a memorial of Creation, a sound that seems to transmit the whole history of Israel from the binding of Isaac through Sinai to the heralding of the Messiah. The cry of the Ram's horn. According to the Talmud, the Shofar confuses the accusing Satan and will one day bring forth the great Shofar of messianic times, the implementation of a better world. Let us hope, even in these dark times, that on that day of the Great Shofar, Jews, Christians and Muslims will be able to affirm the values of life together, combining justice with compassion and understanding. Only then can we truly say "Peace be with you," "Salaam alaykuhm," "Shalom aleichem."


We are interested in your comments on this essay
please fill our feedback form.

Read more essays

Notes

1 See Farrukh Dhondy, "A Celebration of Terror," The Jerusalem Post, 15 September 2002. 

2 Yaroslav Trofimov, "Bolstered," The Wall Street Journal, 13 September 2002. 

3 Ibid.

4 Lawrence Wright, "The Man behind Bin Laden. How an Egyptian doctor became a master of terror." The New Yorker, 16 September 2002, pp. 56-86.

5 Ibid., p. 81.

6 Ibid.

7 The tabloid press in Britain often shows more common sense on this issue than such anti- Israel bastions as The Guardian. See, for example. The Sun, 22 August 2002. 

8 See Memri, No. 410, 9 August 2002, "Islamist leaders in London interviewed." 

9 Washington Times, 8 July 2002.

10 "Night fell on a different world," The Economist, 7.9.02, p. 25. 

11 The Independent, 8.9.02, "Al-Qa'ida attack on UK."

12 "Islamic terrorism. Men in black," The Economist, 7.9.2002, pp. 93-4.

13 Ali La'idi/Ahmed Salam, Le Jihad en Europe, Paris 2000, pp. 55-57.

14 Daily Telegraph, 11 September 2002, p. viii.

15 Daily Telegraph, 11 September, 2002, viii.

16 Il Giornale, Milan, 14 October 2000.

17 www.terrorism.com/trcctforum 5/000004b5.htm—MEMRI, 24.10,2001, no. 73

18 BBC News, October 14, 2000.

19 "London rally for fanatics," Daily Telegraph, 11.9.02, p. 8.

20 Ibid.

21 London Jewish News, 30 August 2002.

22 The Times, 31 August 2002, p. 7.

23 Courier International, No. 618, 5 au 11 Septembre 2002, p. 11.

24 Jewish Chronicle, 6 September 2002, New Year Pull-out Section, "The Suicide Bomber."

25 Azzam Publications, 18 October 2000.

26 Press release by the International Islamic Front, The Palestine Support Council, the Khilafah Movement and Al-Muhajiroun, 7 October 2000.

27 Message of 2 October 2000 on Palestine and the Islamic ruling and message to Muslims.

28 See Mike Whine's paper 'Antisemitism on the Streets'.

29 "One Year On," The Times, 11 September 2002.

30 Malise Ruthven, A Fury for God: The Islamist Attack on America, London 2002.

31 Christopher Hitchens, "Jewish Power, Jewish Peril," Vanity Fair, September 2002, pp. 88- 91.

32 Robert S. Wistrich, Muslim Antisemitism. A Clear and Present Danger (New York, 2002), A.J.C. Publications.

33 Ehud Ya'ari, "Bin Ladenism," The Jerusalem Report, September 23, 2002, pp. 13-15.

34 Ibid.

35 Al-Akhbar, 29 April 2002.


About the author

Professor Robert Wistrich is the Director of the Vidal Sassoon International Centre for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He holds the Neuberger Chair of Modern European and Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem since 1989 and is the Academic Chairperson of its Centre for Austrian Studies. He was previously the first incumbent of the Jewish Chronicle Chair of Jewish Studies at University College London and has been a visiting Professor at Oxford University and at the École des Hautes Études in Paris. He is the author and editor of 22 books, several of which have won international awards, including THE JEWS OF VIENNA IN THE AGE OF FRANZ JOSEPH (O.U.P. 1989) and ANTISEMITISM: THE LONGEST HATRED (1991). His most recent book HITLER AND THE HOLOCAUST (Phoenix Press, London 2002) has just appeared in paperback.

© Institute for Jewish Policy Research  2002


Home/Country reports/About this site/ JPR home/
The new antisemitism
/Eurofascism/Media & culture/
Xenophobia, football and Europe
/Online resources/Contact us