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From Time Immemorial – The Joan Peters Project

Summary of Chapter 4: Ideology of the East, Rhetoric of the West

By Sharron Volgyesi

March 14, 2018


Edmund Burke said “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it”. It would be comforting to think that World War II, the Holocaust, was somehow unique. So, it’s disturbing to read that the prejudices, embodied in Arab-Muslim ideology, have such deep historic, religious/cultural roots and persistence. It’s troubling to consider whether or not humanity is any more enlightened after Auschwitz or whether another holocaust will occur because humanity still has not learned the lesson: persistent lies demonizing an identifiable group can lead to genocide. It almost seems as if slogan “Never Again” almost needs a question mark behind it. How will all this hate come to an end when, almost universally, Western rhetoric embodies those Arab lies and sacred hate regarding Israel?


The passages from school texts quoted in this chapter are incredibly troubling. State-sponsored hatred seems like such an obvious point of contention to civilized nations. Yet if the texts have been updated since the printing of the book, it hasn’t seemed yet to make the news. YouTube videos certainly suggest that Muslim children are still indoctrinated into hatred. And, cynically perhaps, the question remains: Would state- and mosque- and UN-sponsored hatred be ongoing—even if the books were made politically correct?

- Sharron Volgyesi

In November 1973, Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal remarked to Henry Kissinger: “Before the Jewish state was established, there existed nothing to harm good relations between Arabs and Jews.” Taken at face value, this statement positions the establishment of Israel as one of the fulcrums in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This statement is an obvious contradiction to the fact that, at the time, Jews were allowed to neither enter nor live in Saudi Arabia. Further, Jordan’s King Hussein stated that Zionism directly led to the destruction of the “relationship that allowed Arabs and Jews to live together as neighbours and friends”. King Hussein does not address the contradiction of the Jordanian Nationality Law prohibiting a Jew from holding Jordanian citizenship. Were these two examples the only instances of the disconnect between Arab rhetoric and Arab policy, this would have been a much shorter chapter. Unfortunately, the history of Arab persecution is centuries-old. More troubling, is that this persecution is not simply historical.


The author traces contemporary Arab stereotypes of Jews to the Koran and the Hadith (statements attributed to the Prophet Mohamed). Though the author concedes that the “holy writings of Islam contain benign references to Jews”, she contends that the negative Jewish images contained within those texts account for the subjugation of Jews.  These images include references to Jews as evil, greedy and usurious.


Some illustrative examples of Islam’s attitude and policy towards the Jews in this chapter:

The resurrection of the dead will not come until the Muslims will war with the Jews and the Muslims will kill them; …the trees and rocks will say, “O Muslim, O Abdullah, here is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.” (a Hadith)

Taste ye [Jews] the punishment of burning. [Qur’an]

They [the Jews] will spare no pains to corrupt you.  They desire nothing but your ruin.  Their hatred is clear from what they say, but more violent is the hatred which their breasts conceal.  [Qur’an]

Interestingly, the Quran questions exhorts “the rabbis..[to] forbid their [the Jews’] evilspeaking”.  In direct contradiction to this position are comments made by Arab leaders which lend credence to these negative images. The “Arab Theologians on Jews and Israel” conference in 1968 is a prime example in which remarks by conference attendees included condemning Jews as “the worst of beasts in the Quran” and “The Jews’ wicked nature never changes.” One of the more startling comments for its disconnect with reality was “Islamic tolerance is in complete contrast with Jewish intolerance and cruelty”. Through clear historical examples, the author demonstrates not only Arab intolerance, but also the apparent willingness of contemporary Jews to romanticize Arab-Jewish relations.  Some historians seem to even rationalize or justify historical persecution claiming that “Anti-Semitism did not exist historically in Arab countries” or that these “crises were of a passing nature”. One such crisis of a “passing nature” involved Maimonides being “forced to leave his home in Fez as a result of Muslim rage at his letter commiserating with the persecution of Tunisian Jews.


The romanticization of the Jewish-Arab relationship may, in part, be legitimized by comparing fleeting periods of relatively more civil life for Jews to periods of persecution against Christians.  For example, during the Middle Ages, Christians were seen as a security threat in Muslim lands and therefore became the target of pogroms. The pogroms led most of the Christian communities in Arab nations to flee to safer regions. The Jews, however, did not flee – mainly because there was no region that had the political power to protect against persecution.  With the establishment of Israel, Jews suddenly had a land of their own with the political protection of the Zionist movement proclaiming that they were no longer dhimmis.  This protection, as noted earlier, was then portrayed as the wedge that harmed Arab-Jewish relations.


The chapter concludes with a litany of examples of contemporary prejudice inherent in the policies of Arab countries. Most disturbing is the obvious hatred towards Jews demonstrated in Arab government-sanctioned textbooks—not from some extremist fringe.  The author notes that the “anti-Semitic literature published since World War II is voluminous”.


A few illustrative examples of Arab government-sanctioned or published materials—for the educational system (!) quoted in this chapter:

Jordan, 1966, for third-year junior high school: Modern World History.  For example, “The Jews in Europe were persecuted and despised because of their corruption, meanness and treachery.”


Jordan, 1964, department for school curricula and text books, for first-year high school: “Glances at Arab Society”, p. 117.  An exercise: ”Israel was born to die.  Prove it.”


Syria, Damascus, 1963-64, for second-year junior high school:  “The Religious Ordinances Reader”, p. 138. For example: “The Jews…lived exiled and despised since by their nature they are vile, greedy and enemies of mankind.”


That any portion of this literature is targeted at children is cause for concern.


Arab propaganda has it that Israel is an alien European implant in the Middle East and North Africa.  Au contraire, more than half of Israel’s Jewish population is comprised people born in that very neighborhood and their offspring, who fled Muslim oppression and came in droves to Israel.  The bulk of the other contingent are European Jews who survived Nazi oppression and their descendants.  Indeed, this case is bolstered by an unusually candid Arab contemporary writer, Sabri Jiryis, who acknowledged that Arab persecutions of and  expelling “their” Jewish population contributed a large boost to Israel’s population.

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