Thursday, August 2, 2018

Book review: Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11 (2002)

I was a little worried when I started reading Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11 (2002).  I thought Matthias Küntzel might be trying to do a Goldhagen thesis on Muslims.

A few chapters soon dispelled the concern.  Küntzel gives us a close-up and fact-rich history of the start of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its embrace of Nazi fascism. Küntzel also points up the continuity between the ideological rationalizations of Nazi Jew-hatred that continue to thrive in the anti-worker anti-democratic politics of organizations like Hamas.

Hard to believe that prior to the  early 1930s Egypt was a nation comfortable with its Jews. A distinct layer of the Egyptian bourgeoisie thought their presence in the country could only be beneficial. A decade of Brotherhood racism and murder of "moderate" political opponents, coupled with successes in the region by German propaganda and diplomacy, changed the atmosphere completely.

In Jerusalem and what is now Israel, Jew-hatred accelerated with the start of world depression.  More Jews wanted out of Europe; imperialist countries like the United States refused them entry. They made for Palestine.

Hitler's foremost ally in the region, Mohammed Amin al-Husseini [also a close collaborator with the Brotherhood] organized a campaign not only against the immigration, but a murder campaign against moderate political opponents who did not oppose the entry of more Jews.

....In fact, in the areas controlled by the Mufti's gangs, new dress codes and sharia courts were brutally enforced, and numerous "un-Islamic" deviationists were liquidated on a vast scale and with unprecedented violence. Alongside the Jews and the British, Palestinians who sought compromises with Zionism and the mandatory power and who supported the Peel Plan were also targeted. "Sellers of land to the Jews, holders of moderate political views, and those whose nationalism was generally suspected," reports Yehoshua Porath, "were not always immediately murdered; sometimes they were kidnapped and taken to the mountainous areas under rebel control. There they were thrown into pits infested with snakes and scorpions. After spending a few days there, the victims, if still alive, were brought before one of the rebel courts and usually sentenced to death, or, as a special dispensation, to severe flogging. The terror was so strong that no one, including ulama and priests, dared to perform the proper burial services."

The power struggle between the Husseinis and Nashashibis culminated during the disturbances of 1936-39. Since the rate of Jewish immigration had risen abruptly as a result of the Nazi regime in Germany—from about 4,000 in 1931 to 60,000 in 1935—in 1936, the non-Jewish Arabs under the Mufti's leadership launched a general strike in support of a total end to immigration, a ban on the sale of land to Jews, and the establishment of a Palestinian representative authority. When the strike began to flag in the summer, various guerrilla groups came to the forefront, especially in rural areas. Gradually, the strike was replaced by a kind of institutionalized banditry. Not all of these bandits, of course, appeared on the scene without direction: "The Mufti consciously eliminated his opponents within the Palestinian camp with the utmost brutality," writes Abraham Ashkenasi. "The Palestinian revolt of 1936-39 was also an assault on the Mufti's opponents. There were more murders and homicides inside the Palestinian camp than were perpetrated against the Jews or the British."

Küntzel's central accomplishment with
Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11 is to show that the reactionary Islamist movement has inflicted its greatest horrors on the toilers of the region, and that the lawful workings of capitalism in crisis, rather than specific policies of Washington, London, Paris, or Tel Aviv, have given it fertile ground.

....Were the impoverished masses driven into the Islamists' arms by material hardship? The connection between poverty and Islamism is more complicated than the schema of cause and effect suggests: the radicalization of Islam is less a consequence of poverty and lack of opportunity than its cause.

Islamists consider bending down so low that one's head touches the dust a sign of spirituality, while they denounce the striving for individual development, prosperity, and riches as trivial and unimportant. Islamism entails individual self-impoverishment and the extinction of such possibilities for development as may exist even under adverse conditions.

At the same time, underdevelopment fosters tendencies toward radical Islam, since the Koran offers even the poorest believer the consolation of ruling over women and permission to take part in religious purges. The underdevelopment of whole regions of the world offers the Islamists ever new recruiting grounds, since it fosters the disintegration of states and the collapse of public education and health systems. In this sense, a connection does exist between the success of Islamism and capitalism....

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