The unasked question about anti-Semitism in America

The leader of the California-based Islamic Center of Davis (pictured) said in July, "Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa mosque from the filth of the Jews ... count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last one." Credit: LocalWiki.
The leader of the California-based Islamic Center of Davis (pictured) said in July, "Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa mosque from the filth of the Jews ... count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last one." Credit: LocalWiki.

By Steve Feldman, Lee Bender and Kevin Ross/

We were heartened to learn that a Philadelphia synagogue is offering an adult education course about anti-Semitism, a timeless scourge that every generation must combat. But why is the course seemingly prompted, as its website suggests, solely by Christian sources of Jew-hatred and August’s despicable anti-Jewish events in Charlottesville—rather than July’s equally despicable calls in two California mosques for Jews to be slaughtered, or even the continuous despicable Jew-hatred from Nation of Islam leaders?

Are Jew-hatred and threats from some Muslims in America less vile, less threatening and less problematic than the same actions from white supremacists?

To some in the Jewish community: yes, apparently.

In a brief description of the course on the Society Hill Synagogue’s website, these are among the questions posed: “What is the role of Christianity and the Church in anti-Semitism? How has anti-Semitism morphed over the centuries? In the shadow of Charlottesville we must ask, to what extent does anti-Semitism threaten the Jewish people in this country? Is it confined to isolated, albeit frightening and horrific, incidents? Is it a larger threat?”

While acts of anti-Semitism have been and continue to be perpetrated by some Christians, there seems to be a tendency by many Jews to brush aside, downplay or even ignore Jew-hatred from some Muslims motivated by aggressive mosques or interpretations of Islam.

The white supremacist rally in Charlottesville received tremendous media coverage, with video footage of torch-bearing neo-Nazis chanting “Jews will not replace us” and reports of armed goons menacing synagogue congregants. It was an example of the worst that America has to offer. But nobody who monitors Jew-hatred in America suspected that Klansmen and their ilk had moderated or disappeared.

Equally virulent Jew-hatred from some segments of Islam is under-reported and seldom condemned. Could it be that pre-emptive accusations of “Islamophobia” have put a chill on addressing Jew-hatred from that group? Or is there a misguided belief that Jew-hatred is exclusive to Christians?

Some examples from this year:

  • “The Prophet Muhammad says that the time will come, the Last Hour will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews. We don’t say if it is in Palestine or another place,” said Sheikh Ammar Shahin from the pulpit of the Islamic Center of Davis, Calif., in July, according to a video obtained by the Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI). A translation from MEMRI states that Shahin prayed, “Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa mosque from the filth of the Jews. Oh Allah, destroy those who closed the Al-Aqsa mosque. Oh Allah, show us the black day that You inflict upon them, and the wonders of Your ability. Oh Allah, count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last one. Do not spare any of them.”
  • That same day at the Islamic Center of Riverside, Calif., according to MEMRI, Sheikh Mahmoud Harmoush prayed, “Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa mosque and all the Muslim lands from the unjust tyrants and the occupiers. Oh Allah, destroy them, they are no match for You. Oh Allah, disperse them, and rend them asunder. Turn them into booty in the hands of the Muslims.”
  • In February, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan said in Detroit, “I want to disabuse the Jews today of the false claim that you are the chosen of God and that Israel or Palestine belongs to you. I want to disabuse you of that. I want to make it so clear. And I’m going to tell you about your future. You that think you have power to frighten and dominate the peoples of the world: I’m here to announce the end of your time.”
  • Asked sarcastically at an event in New Orleans in May why Farrakhan attacks Jews, the Nation of Islam’s Ava Muhammad replied, “The only time the Jews have ever been present among us is to open their outposts, their retail stores to sell us damaged, cheap goods, marked up against the price…we will be free of this bloodsucking parasite so they will no longer be able to sell us alcohol, drugs, depraved sex and every other type of low-life thing that is keeping us from a hereafter.”

We don’t assume that these sentiments are representative of all or the majority of American Muslims. To the contrary, despite the prevalence of such views in Muslim-majority nations, we would hope that, as is the case with the vast majority of other Americans, anti-Semitism would be confined to a minority. But it is curious that one of the most influential pollsters in the country was reluctant to find out the answer to that question.

The Pew Research Center had an opportunity to shed some light on those legitimate concerns. Pew conducted a survey of American Muslims this year. It asked them many questions, but according to a copy of the questionnaire on its website, Pew did not ask about their attitudes toward Jews or Israel—despite the fact that the topic is a potential flashpoint. Yet earlier in the year, in another survey, Pew did ask people of other faiths to weigh in on Muslims.

Unfortunately, Jew-hatred comes from a variety of corners today—including among some American Muslims—and it is dangerous to focus on only one element. American Jewry must become aware of the gamut of Jew-hatred that sadly exists and be prepared to fight it regardless of the source.

Steve Feldman is executive director of the Zionist Organization of America’s Greater Philadelphia chapter. Lee Bender and Kevin Ross are its co-presidents.

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