Jews in Muslim Lands
To the Editor:
Bernard Lewis has written a very important and informative article, “The Decline and Fall of Islamic Jewry” [June], which does away . . . with a lot of misconceptions and misinformation. The Golden Age of Jewish existence in Spain under Muslim rule is regarded as the rule, and not as the exception which in fact it was.
A similar phenomenon took place in Germany, where less than a hundred years of more or less full equality of rights and duties were regarded as such an important and significant achievement that the preceding chapters of Jewish maltreatment (popular, religious, and administrative) were conveniently forgotten.
Of course, Muslim rule—on the average and by comparison—was better than Christian rule, insofar as Jews were concerned, and where Arab and Muslim countries were dominated by European powers, Jewish fate showed a remarkable improvement. The Turks, too, had their enlightened periods—hence the migration to countries under Turkish rule after the expulsion from Spain. But under real Muslim rule, ancient and modern, the Jew was a second-class citizen, a dhimmi. Therefore, Jewish sovereignty in Israel is regarded as a real affront by Arabs and Muslims in general—something enlightened Jews cannot understand, just as enlightened Jews in Germany were unable to understand the Nazis. . . .
To the Editor:
As an American living in Khartoum, Sudan, a country now in the midst of an “Islamic revolution,” I was particularly struck by the timeliness of Bernard Lewis’s article. Mr. Lewis’s reference to the promulgation of anti-Semitism by certain Muslim states is not merely of historical interest. Since I arrived in the Sudan some months ago, there have been only four newspapers at newsstands in Khartoum: two government-controlled Arabic-language papers published in Khartoum, which deal almost exclusively with Sudanese affairs; the Arab News, which is published daily in Arabic and English in Riyadh and Jidda, Saudi Arabia, and which arrives in Khartoum about one day late; and the Saudi Gazette, a daily paper in English published in Jidda, which also usually arrives a day late. Most English-reading Sudanese, therefore, as well as non-Arabic reading foreigners resident in Khartoum, tend to rely, at least in part, on the two Saudi dailies. (Both Time and Newsweek are also generally available in Khartoum.)
Commencing on May 27, 1984, the Saudi Gazette began publishing, in a prominent fashion, the segments contained in Henry Ford’s International Jew series, originally published (according to the Gazette) in Michigan in 1922. Printing one long segment a day, the Gazette completed the series on June 17, 1984.
The Gazette began the Ford series of articles with its own introduction, which states in part: “[Ford's] uncanny observation has held good since, with false Jewish ideas still sapping the moral stamina of the American people. . . . The villainous Jew that emerges in this book fits well into the classic mold of [the] present-day Jew.” No byline is given for the identity of the author of this introduction, so one must assume that it was written by the editor of the Gazette. The articles themselves contain an unending rash of stereotypes about Jews, as the following samples indicate:
The American people would be vastly surprised if they could see a lineup of some of the “American businessmen” who hold up our commercial prestige overseas. They are mostly Jews (May 27).
The Jew glories in religious prejudice as the American glories in patriotism. Religious prejudice is the Jews’ chief expression of their own patriotism (May 29).
The Jewish nation is the only nation that possesses the secrets of the rest. The fact that they can get whatever they want whenever they want it is the important point (June 3).
The powerhouse of Communist influence and propaganda in the U.S. is in the Jewish trade unions which, almost without exception, adhere to a Bolshevik program for their respective industries and for the country as a whole (June 7).
The prominence given to the Ford articles by the Gazette was reinforced by the large eye-catching headlines employed in the paper. . . . This is, of course, the spreading of vintage hate through one of the major newspapers in the most prominent Muslim state, Saudi Arabia. If the classified advertisements section of the Gazette is any indication, the paper has a relatively wide international circulation. In a recent issue (June 13, 1984) . . . there were classified ads from as far away as Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines, Egypt, Pakistan, and Ghana by persons seeking employment.
Your readers should be grateful to Bernard Lewis for highlighting an important aspect of the environment in which the Arab-Israeli dispute prevails.