Friday, May 9, 2014

"The Sons of Pigs and Apes" Neil J. Kressel Book Review

Harvard-trained social psychologist Neil J. Kressel's 2012 book, "The Sons of Pigs and Apes: Muslim Antisemitism and the Conspiracy of Silence," takes on taboo topics.

Kressel argues that antisemitism is popularly supported, openly expressed, and highly influential among Muslims throughout the world, including Muslims living in England and South Asia, not just the Middle East. He cites news accounts, research organizations, opinion polls, television, memoirs and discussion boards. "The word 'Jew' is a slur in the entire Muslim world" (93). Jews are depicted as categorically different. Jews cause wars, torture, cannibalize, and plot world domination. Newspapers, television, school curricula and leaders' public statements exploit the most extreme motifs from the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and "Mein Kampf." Muslim liberals like Irshad Manji and Tarek Fatah have negligible followings and are condemned by other Muslims (196).

Muslim antisemitism is twinned with hostility to the West. Historian Robert Wistrich wrote that Muslim antisemitism "is the Trojan Horse designed to undermine the West's beliefs in its own values" (13).

Kressel explores potential roots for Muslim antisemitism. In the Koran, Allah turns Jews into pigs and apes. Mohammed made war on Jews (32). Muslim antisemitism might be projective inversion – Muslims might be attributing to Jews the hostility that they themselves feel (155). Kressel explores other potential sources for Muslim antisemitism, including Israel, colonialism, Christian missionaries, and Nazism.

There are political uses: antisemitism fulfills the need for a scapegoat. Jews serve as a target for displaced aggression citizenry cannot express against their non-democratic leaders (121, 167). Jews might also be convenient scapegoats for leftist agitprop (149). Muslims may be enraged because in the past Jews were subservient "dhimmis." When Jews defeated Muslims in the Six Day War, that changed. "There is no prominent model in Muslim history for treating Jews as equals" (127, 168-9).

Many Western leftists are either silent about or supportive of antisemitism in the Muslim world. Irish poet Tom Paulin, who taught at Oxford and Columbia and lectured at Harvard, said, "I understand how suicide bombers feel." Paulin described Israelis as "racists" and "Nazis" who "should be shot dead" (74). The scholar John L. Esposito, who is lavishly funded by a Saudi prince, massages statistics to erase "700 million" Muslims who acknowledged to polltakers that they found the 9-11 attacks justifiable (89). While leftists are eager to condemn antisemitism in Catholic Poland, if they mention Muslim antisemitism they are "delegitimized" (15). They are accused of "Jewish paranoia" (114). They are themselves condemned as racists and Islamophobes and leftists reject their friendship (56).

Prof. Pieter Van Der Horst was encouraged to condemn Christian antisemitism; he was forbidden from mentioning Muslim antisemitism. His university cited fear of violence from Muslims as one reason for the censorship (58). Overt Muslim antisemites are championed as role models (eg 40). Leftists advise coexistence, "even with groups not prepared to coexist" and pursue "'a Munich-style quest for peace at any price'" (146-7).

Kressel describes rhetorical strategies exercised by leftwing Western supporters of Muslim antisemitism. They say things like "Arabs can't be antisemites because Arabs are Semites." Kressel points out that the word "antisemite" was coined by racist Jew haters and it has no meaning as a word describing Arabs. Leftist antisemites argue that Muslim antisemitism is merely a criticism of Israel. Arab Radio and Television's 2002 miniseries "Horseman without a Horse," that dramatized the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" does not constitute legitimate criticism of Israel. Too, as Kressel shows, leftist criticisms of Israel dwarf leftist protests of nefarious human rights abusers like Burma and Sudan.

Israel is not, contrary to leftist accusations, an "apartheid" state; most Israeli Arabs express a wish to live in Israel, rather than in any Muslim Arab majority nation (118). The question is, would any leftist, Muslim, or antisemite respond positively to Kressel's book? Probably not. There is, alas, a sense of "preaching to the choir" about it.

Kressel is shocked, shocked, that the "anti-racist community" has not rejected Muslim antisemitism. Kressel never seems to reach the abundantly obvious conclusion: the "anti-racist community" he imagines is not at all anti-racist. Rather, the left has a history of temporarily exploiting the cause it thinks will bring it closer to its goal of remaking or simply destroying Western Civilization, with its detested Judeo-Christian roots, and bringing on the utopian worker's paradise.

If a particular group's grudges can serve as lever, and its hatreds can serve as kindling, yes, the left will make temporary common cause with that group. For a while the left was supportive of Jews because Jews were deemed "revolutionary." Not that long ago, the Soviet bloc voted for the creation of the state of Israel. Leftists currently assess Muslims as useful for revolutionary purposes, and leftists now align themselves with Muslims. Leftists' calculations have little to do with sincere opposition to racism or sexism. Ask Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Condoleezza Rice, two black women blacklisted by leftists at Brandeis and Rutgers respectively in spring of 2014.

In one passage, Kressel criticizes the cultural relativism approach taken by many leftists. After all, Esposito insists, Muslims and Christians are not that different; both cherish "family values." Kressel says that Esposito never asks if "family values" means the same thing "across cultural and national borders" (90).

But Kressel himself takes a cultural relativism approach. Kressel repeatedly compares Islam to Christianity. He says that all religions can be interpreted to inspire good or bad behavior. Things were bad in the past but things got better; Islam can also improve with time (eg 19, 61). Christianity has a "much stronger" "religious foundation for Jew-hatred" than Islam (33). Christians are "deeper enemies of Jews"; "pernicious anti-Jewish imagery" is "central" to Christianity (127). Kressel accuses "Christian missionaries" of disseminating blood libel to Muslims, but he offers no support for this charge (162).

Kressel's relativism obscures rather than clarifies. There is no command in Christianity not to take non-Christians as friends, or to kill, convert, dominate, humiliate, or tax them. There are such commands in Islam. Rather, Christians are commanded to love even strangers, as in the Good Samaritan parable. There is no comparable parable in the Koran. Christians have certainly mistreated Jews, but the middleman minority status of Jews was the most frequent spark, not theology.

Contrary to Kressel's statement that popes and priests were all "bigots" (139), the Vatican repeatedly condemned antisemitism and violence against Jews. Finally, Kressel conflates Nazis and Christians (eg 162), saying for example that "Christian churches" feel "'lingering guilt about the Holocaust'" and that Christianity took a "genocidal" approach to Jews (124, 151). Nazism was a neo-Pagan movement inspired by atheist ideas. Nazis cited Darwinian evolution as ethical support.

On the page after accusing all Christians throughout time of being bigots, Kressel adduces data that exculpates Jews and atheists of bigotry (140).

Nazis didn't massacre only Jews; they also massacred Catholic Poles, Orthodox Russians, and handicapped Germans. These other victims inform us about the nature of Nazism. Muslim haters don't just target Jews. They also target Christians, Bahais, Hindus, and Buddhists. Kressel mentions that many Muslims blame Jews for the 9-11 attacks. But Muslims don't just refuse to take responsibility for 9-11; they also refuse to take responsibility for other atrocities, like the Armenian genocide. Had Kressel widened his focus to non-Jewish victims, even if only for a few brief paragraphs, he would have revealed much more about the nature of Islam.

Finally, Kessler does not cite Alvin H. Rosenfeld's 2006 essay "Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism." He should have at least mentioned it. Some of the leftist antisemites Kessler quotes, including Richard Falk, Eli Valley, Zack Furness and Judith Butler, were born Jewish.

In this review I am not referring to all Muslims, and neither is Neil J. Kressel. It goes without saying that most Muslims are peace-loving people who do not act out irrational prejudices. Rather, this review and Kressel's book are about significant trends. 

3 comments:

  1. Despite these recent developments, the general idea is that, over most of history, Jews had it better in Islamic nations than Christian ones. However, Poland was an interesting exception. A book that I recently reviewed (please click on my name in this specific posting to see the review) actually compares the conditions of Jews in medieval Poland with that of Jews in many Islamic lands.

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    Replies
    1. Some scholars have acknowledged that the idea that life for Jews was better under Islam than under Christendom was invented in order to shame Christians into behaving better.

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  2. If things go as they do, then the next group of "scholars" will be proving to Muslims that life was better under Christians. Of course, this might lead to an uncomfortable paradox in that either things are constantly getting worse or such theories are what, in the trade, is referred to as BS.

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