Saudi Arabia / 14-09-2011
Saudi Arabia remains a primary force for antisemitism in the world
A recent study of school textbooks in Saudi Arabia for the years 2010-2011 by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom reveals a pattern of extreme antisemitism. Despite a promise to the USA in July of 2006 to undertake a program of textbook reform by eliminating all passages that disparage or promote hatred toward any religion or religious groups,” the report finds that “the encouragement of violence and extremism remains an integral part of Saudi Arabia’s national textbooks. As before, there continues to be a great preoccupation throughout the texts with Jews and with Israel. Rank antisemitism saturates the curriculum. Repeatedly, Jews are demonized, dehumanized, and targeted for violence.”
These textbooks are not only used to educate the youth of Saudi Arabia, but given the wealth of the Saudis, they are also shipped and distributed free by a vast Saudi-sponsored Sunni infrastructure to many Muslim schools, mosques and libraries throughout the world. For example, apart from other schools the Saudi religious curriculum is followed by most of the 19 international academies founded in major world cities by the Saudi government.
BBC Panorama found that more than 40 Saudi Students' Schools and Clubs are teaching the official Saudi national curriculum to about 5,000 pupils in Britain. One of the text books asks children to list the "reprehensible" qualities of Jewish people. In his book The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright asserts that, while Saudis constitute only 1 percent of the world’s Muslims, they pay “90 per cent of the expenses of the entire faith, overriding other traditions of Islam."
The existence of an Israeli state is de-legitimized and the texts are aimed at mentally preparing the pupils for eventual war, not peace. Blood libel themes are used to describe Israel as having “no benefit in the human world except sucking its (Arab countries) blood, bringing to life a parasitic perverted structure, giving from its waste, so that it retains in its veins some blood to suck and live on.”
Children are exposed to antisemitic language from the early grades. For example, a 2010-11 seventh-grade text describes Jews as: "The nature of the Jews is duplicity, oath-breaking, and back-stabbing," and “The Jews’ nature is treachery, betrayal and breaking covenants.” The 8th grade pupils are warned about the Jewish intentions about women and that Jews are apes. The 9th grade pupils are told about the wandering Jew, the non-loyal Jew, their readiness to harm non-Jews and their being enemies of the believers.
In the 10th grade religion class in the textbook on “Hadith and Islamic Culture, the pupils are taught about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an infamously antisemitic fabrication, and not part of the Hadiths (traditions of Prophet Mohammad). This infamous document was fabricated in Europe around the time of the Russian revolution. They are nevertheless taught that the protocols are historical fact because according to the Saudi Justice Minister, they are considered part of Islamic Culture. The text declares: “These are secret decisions that aim at achieving Jewish domination of the world. … Jews have tried to deny them, but evidence exists to prove their validity and their production by the Elders of Zion.”
In addition, 10th grade pupils are told in the same textbook, Hadith and Islamic Culture, about international organizations that are actually controlled by Jews and used to reach their goal of world dominance:
1. Free Masonry: A secret Jewish organization that works in the dark to achieve the Jews' major inerests.
2. Bnai Brith
3. International Lions Clubs: Masonic Clubs based in America and has secret agents all around the world.
4. Rotary Clubs”
In the 11th grade, pupils learn about the Jewish contribution to secularism (and the attack on religion): “The main Theories that Secular thought was built on; and which had a role in legitimizing it:
1. The Theory of the Jew (Darwin) of Evolution.
2. The Theory of the Jew (Freud) in which he adopted the sexual drive in explaining all phenomenon.
3. The Theory of the Jew (Marx) in the materialistic interpretation of history.”
In commenting on the allegedly nefarious character of Jews, a 12th grade textbook on Studies from the Islamic World states: “This is why the relationship of the Jews with the nations, among whom they lived, was remarkable for tension and instability which had people’s gather against them, humiliate them and let them taste their force and kick them out. For since the Jews were scattered sundries they never knew peace with a single nation because of their proclivity for deceit, lying and conspiracy. Nothing proves this more than the Muslims’ experience with them in Medina as the Prophet (PBUH) deported them and recommended that they be driven out from the Arabian Peninsula and as happened with them in other countries such as Germany, Poland, Spain and others.”
Western intellectuals explain this evident antisemitism by claiming it is not native to the Arab world but instead it is a fairly recent transplant from Europe to the Arab world. For instance, Mark Cohen, professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University, is often cited for his view that “Arab antisemitism in the modern world arose relatively recently, in the nineteenth century, against the backdrop of conflicting Jewish and Arab nationalism, and was imported into the Arab world primarily by nationalistically minded Christian Arabs (and only subsequently was it "Islamized").
This belief about recent interactions between Jews and Arabs does not match the historical facts. Islam has had an interaction with Judaism from its earliest days. The settlement of Jews in the Arabian Peninsula goes back to biblical times and even to the era of the First Temple. Arabic sources expressly state that Judaism became widely spread among Bedoun tribes of Southern Arabia and that Jewish converts also found with the Hamdan, a North Yemenite tribe. This time, many of the upper strata of society embraced the Jewish faith.
In the fifth century, several kings of Himyar, a state in ancient Yemen whose capital is now the modern day city of Sana’a, are known to have converted to Judaism. During the siege of Yathrib, King Abu-Kariba fell severely ill. Two Jewish scholars in Yathrib, used their knowledge of medicine to restore him to health. While attending the king, they pleaded with him to lift the siege and make peace. The sages' appeal is said to have persuaded Abu-Kariba; he called off his attack and also embraced Judaism along with his entire army. Jewish rule lasted until 525 AD (some date it later, to 530), when Christians from the Aksumite Kingdom of Ethiopia defeated and killed the king Dhu Nuwas, and took power in Yemen.
Medieval texts from these years are an inspiration to the Arab world today. In talking with the common people in the Arab and Muslim world, it becomes clear that for them that these classical texts are as relevant today as when they were written. For the overwhelmingly majority of Muslims, these texts indicate that the conflict is indeed religious, not territorial. "The root of the problem is religious; it stems from the classic Islamic view of Jews as evil."
As Muslims view the world, Muhammad was the ideal Muslim. How he acted is how all Muslims should act. So how Muhammad acted towards the Jews in Medina and Khaybar is how Muslims should act towards Jews. They are told that Jews harassed and plotted against Muhammad, Islam's founder and prophet, a charge abundantly clear since the start of classic Islamic writings, which are filled with anti-Jewish imagery.
It is no wonder that these writings are full of Jews since they had a large presence in the Arabian Peninsula at the time of Muhammad. Muhammad was born in 570 in the Arabian city of Mecca. He worked mostly as a merchant and a shepherd. Discontented with life in Mecca, he retreated to a cave in the surrounding mountains for meditation and reflection. According to Islamic beliefs it was here, at age 40, in the month of Ramadan, where he received his first revelation from God.
Muhammad probably met many Jews and Christians in his early days with Meccan trade caravans. His insights might be partly explained by this accompaniment. He became convinced that he had been chosen as the Arab prophet, and publicly proclaimed the revelations which he claimed to experience through the intermediation of the angel Gabriel; these eventually constituted the Koran. He therefore repeatedly emphasized that his mission was only to confirm what had been revealed to former prophets and to correct the distortions.
By the year 622, Muhammad moved to Medina from Mecca after a delegation from Medina, consisting of the representatives of the twelve important clans of Medina, invited Muhammad as a neutral outsider to serve as the chief arbitrator for the entire community The delegation from Medina pledged themselves and their fellow-citizens to accept Muhammad into their community and physically protect him as one of themselves. Muhammad instructed his followers to emigrate to Medina until virtually all of his followers had left Mecca.
Judaism was already well established in Medina two centuries before Muhammad's birth. Although influential, the Jews did not rule the oasis. Rather, they were clients of two large Arab tribes there, the Khazraj and the Aws Allah, who protected them in return for feudal loyalty. Medina's Jews were employed as expert jewelers, and weapons and armor makers. There were many Jewish clans-some records indicate more than twenty, of which three were prominent-the Banu Nadir, the Banu Qaynuqa, and the Banu Qurayza.
Muhammad’s early conviction that there existed no essential difference between Judaism and Islam led him to believe that the Jews would welcome his mission and accept the new faith. In his attempt to win over the Jews he adapted, in Medina, some points of the ritual of his community to theirs, including directing his followers to turn to Jerusalem during prayer. When he realized that his hopes would not be fulfilled, he changed some of the new rites and adopted a hostile attitude toward the Jews of Medina.
In 624, a quarrel in the marketplace provided the justification for Muhammad to banish the tribe of Banu Qaynuqa from Medina, with their belongings divided among the army, and Muhammed receiving his royal fifth. A year later, Muhammad did the same thing to the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadir, whose land was divided between the Muslims with Muhammad’s share making him financially independent. The tribe went to Khaybar, where they were massacred two years later.. (Source: Kitab al-Maghazi, Vol. 1, pages 176-180 & pages 363-380).
In 627, after an attack by the forces of Mecca on Medina, Muhammad besieged the Banu Qarayza, the last important Jewish tribe in Medina. Their powerful non-Muslim ally had by that time died; the Jews had no one to protect them. The Jews then sent a messenger to Muhammad and expressed their willingness to surrender and leave the city. Muhammad said if they agreed to surrender, he would appoint a negotiator who would settle the issue. The negotiator Muhammad appointed passionately hated the Jews and he decided that the Jewish men would be executed, and that their women and children would be distributed among the Muslims. About 750 Jews were then murdered in the marketplace in Medina, and heaped into a common grave.
In 628, Muhammad besieged the Jewish oasis city of Khaybar, located 150 kilometers (95 miles) from Medina in the north-western part of the Arabian Peninsula. Before doing so, he sent in assassins to murder the Jewish leaders of the city, thereby terrifying the rest of the people. The Battle of Khaybar was fought in the year 629 and the Jews surrendered, being allowed to live in the oasis on the condition that they would give one-half of their produce to the Muslims. On the day that the Jews of Khaybar surrendered, Muhammad married to Jewish wife of the leader of the city, whose father Muhammad had previously killed. At the same time, her husband was tortured to death so he would tell the Muslims where he had hidden his treasure. (Source: Kitab al-Maghazi, Vol. 2, pages 440-479).
Muhammad imposed on them the Jizya tax [for non-Muslims], and they thus became "dhimmis" [officially second-class citizens]. The imposition of tribute upon the conquered Jews served as a precedent for provisions in the Islamic law requiring the exaction of tribute from non-Muslims under Muslim rule, and confiscation of land belonging to non-Muslims into the collective property of the Muslim community. In return, non-Muslim citizens were permitted to practice their faith, to enjoy a measure of communal autonomy, to be entitled to Muslim state's protection from outside aggression, and to be exempted from military service and the Zakat, which is obligatory upon Muslim citizens.
The victory against the Jews in Khaybar is deeply etched in the Muslim historical memory; it has become a source for mockery of the Jews so much so that it is constantly invoked at every opportunity when discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is very common to hear Palestinians, when demonstrating against Israel, shout "Khaybar Khaybar Ya Yahud Jaish Muhammad sa-Ya'ud, (Khaybar Khaybar, Oh Jews, Muhammad's army shall return!") -- as the Turkish terrorists on board the Flotilla headed towards Gaza shouted in May of 2010.
Throughout the centuries, these stories have been passed down from father to son, and have become deeply rooted in the Muslim psyche. These images are constantly also used in Friday sermons in mosques, and are a deep source of inspiration for the Islamic terrorist organizations.
Indeed, the Islamic approach to the Jews can be found in various passages in the Koran, the holy book of Islam. The Jewish bible is described as having falsifications that were corrected by Allah in his conversations with Muhammad. Thus, Abraham who is considered by the Jews as their patriarch is described in [3.67]: “Ibrahim was not a Jew nor a Christian but he was (an) upright (man), a Muslim, and he was not one of the polytheists.”
Portions of the Koran describe the arrogance of most Jews. So we read in [5.13]: “But on account of their breaking their covenant We [Allah] cursed them [the Jews] and made their hearts hard; they altered the words from their places and they neglected a portion of what they were reminded of; and you shall always discover treachery in them excepting a few of them; so pardon them and turn away; surely Allah loves those who do good (to others).”
And in [5.41]: “We believe, and their hearts do not believe, and from among those who are Jews; they are listeners for the sake of a lie, listeners for another people who have not come to you; they alter the words from their places …. Those are they for whom Allah does not desire that He should purify their hearts; they shall have disgrace in this world, and they shall have a grievous chastisement in the hereafter.”
One can criticize Saudi Arabia for its evident antisemitism. The problem, however, is much wider than the religious authorities in this one Muslim country. The problem is with the Jew hatred that was present in the early years of the formation of Islam and imbedded in its documents.