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Contentions

On Muslim Anti-Semitism, It’s Gutman Versus the Saudis

On one side is President Obama’s still-not-fired Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman, who told a crowd of Europeans that Muslim anti-Semitism has geopolitical rather than religious roots. On the other side are Saudi high school textbooks just exposed in a new report from the watchdog group MEMRI:

A twelfth-grade Saudi textbook is teaching hatred of Jews and jihad to liberate Palestine, according to MEMRI… “Whoever studies the nature of the conflict between the Muslims and the Jews understands an important fact, [namely that] this is a religious conflict, not a dispute about politics or nationality, or a conflict between races or tribes, or a fight over land or country, as some describe it,” states Saudi textbook Studies from the Muslim World. The book says that the conflict will not end unless one side vanquishes the other, because “throughout Islamic history, the Jews have striven to destroy the [Islamic] religion and spread fitna [chaos] among the Muslims.” The book also repeats classic anti-Semitic lies that Jews have taken control of Western media and culture, exploited their home societies, and aligned themselves with Christians to destroy Islam.

Suffice to say these kinds of textbooks and teachings are found at quite literally every level of the Saudi educational system.

Now it could be the textbooks’ Muslim authors just don’t understand Islam as deeply as does Gutman, and so they misunderstand the nature and sources of religiously-grounded Muslim anti-Semitism. Still, just on the off-chance they know something about Islamist ideology that Gutman has overlooked, he might do well to get a couple of copies from the State Department. Hannah Rosenthal, State’s envoy for combating anti-Semitism, has been complaining fruitlessly about them, so Foggy Bottom probably has some spares lying around.

Interestingly, Rosenthal has expressed herself particularly frustrated by Arab leaders who tried to move discussions over anti-Semitism toward the Israeli-Arab conflict.

The most common response, she said, was avoidance and of a hoary variety: Talk about Jews almost inevitably led to grievances about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. “As soon as a conversation about religious tolerance becomes tense, they shut it down or they go to Israel-Palestine,” she told JTA in an exclusive interview.

So apparently we finally have the Obama State Department’s rules for rationalizing anti-Semitism by reference to Israel: objectionable in Saudi textbooks, but acceptable in speeches by sitting ambassadors bearing the imprimatur of the United States. This administration really is filled with nuance, isn’t it?


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