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The Islamic Denial of Jewish History

Reader comment on item: What Jewish Ties to Jerusalem?

Submitted by Kenneth Hart Green (Canada), Jun 22, 2006 at 13:34

Dear Daniel:

Thank you for your excellent column on denying Jewish ties to Jerusalem.

It seems to me that this may be part of a larger and older Muslim pattern, as you faintly suggest but do not develop: the Islamic denial of Jewish history. With this point, however, I'm convinced that you've hit on a key aspect of the conflict, one of the things which makes it so intractable.

What's new is that prior to Zionism, Islam was satisfied with contempt for Jews, so no one cared enough to comment much on the history of the Jews, other than as viewed by the Qur'an and Islamic tradition. (Ibn Khaldun is the one exception of which I'm aware. He's also instructive because of what he faults the Jews for, their lack of "solidarity" with one another--something which Zionism has largely cured. But he knew something of their authentic history.) This meant, they didn't have much serious interest in the Jews or their religion, as would contrast with the Muslim attitude to Christianity. But insofar as they did think of the Jews, it was usually to deny them their own history as anything other than "pre-Muslim."

Today, thanks to Zionism, this Islamic denial of Jewish history has become an active and assertive enterprise, whereas previously it had been an established and accepted but nevertheless inconsequential affair, because the Jews, given that they had no power, were not worth taking seriously.

As my teacher Emil Fackenheim used to say, in comparing the sources of Christian versus Islamic "anti-Semitism" (if you'll forgive my use of the "polite" term for hatred of Jews): for the Christian, the Jew is a has-been; for the Muslim, he's a never-was.


Best wishes, and thanks again for the column.
Kenneth Hart Green
University of Toronto

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