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Shock Pew Poll: Widespread Anti-Semitism in Middle East

The recent Pew Global Attitudes Project survey found that almost no one in the Muslim Middle East has anything nice to say about Jews.

Researchers found that the percentage expressing “favorable views” about Jews was uniformly low: Egypt, 2 percent; Jordan, 2 percent; Pakistan, 2 percent; Lebanon, 3 percent; Palestine, 4 percent; Turkey, 4 percent.

Repeat until your conscience goes to sleep: there is no anti-Semitism, and if there is, it is all the fault of the Jews.

These poll results are bad news for two reasons.  First, this is one more sign that peace between Israel and its neighbors is not at hand.  Israelis read these polls, and the argument that Israel should take large risks for peace while surrounded by neighbors who hate Jews is less convincing than many would wish.

Second, widespread popular anti-Semitism is almost always a leading indicator of economic failure and autocratic rule.  Anti-Semites think this is because “the Jews” use their hidden superpowers to block and frustrate the economic development of peoples brave enough to tell the truth about Jewish machinations and unwilling to prostrate themselves before the Elders of Zion.

More sober observers think it’s because anti-Semitism is usually associated with attitudes of bigotry, dogmatism and hostility to new ideas and different perspectives.  Tolerance, openness to different ideas and a willingness to work with people from different religions and backgrounds are essential qualities for long term successful and democratic development in a capitalist world, and people who hate and fear Jews usually lack them.

There is one good piece of news in the poll.  48 percent of Israeli Muslims had favorable opinions of Jews; despite all the difficulties of the Arab minority in Israel, the Arabs who know the Jews best like them best and hate them least.

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  • Shlomo

    Islam itself is deeply anti-semitic. That is very difficult to overcome with “good” Israeli behavior.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      People would have said the same thing about Christianity not very long ago and for much of history an impartial observer would have said that Islam was incomparably more tolerant than Christianity. Beware of “essentialist” arguments about religions; every religion shows immense variation over time.

  • Anthony

    WRM, to what degree has the failure of Arab Fordism lent itself to increase anti-semitism? Historically, many governments deflect domestic problem/tumult towards handy diversions (in this case Jews/Israel).

  • Luke Lea

    Actually Christianity, or at least the Catholic Church, has throughout its history been uniquely tolerant of Judaism. Otherwise the Jews would have been disappeared like the Albigensians, Cathars, and other heretical sects. Even the Inquisition in Spain, or so I have read, was directed not against practicing Jews but rather “conversos” who pretended to be Christians but secretly remained practicing Jews.

    I am not sure about Lutheranism (Luther himself was certainly an anti-Semite) but Calvanism was not anti-Semitic as far as I know. In fact the Calvanists were in many ways like the Jews, an exclusionary sect of the “elect” to which not just anyone could gain admission. And keep in mind that it was Cromwell who invited the Jews back to England. Their earlier expulsion in the Middle Ages — correct me here if I am wrong — was not the work of the church but of the king and nobility, and was done for economic not religious reasons (they were deeply in debt). I think the same was more or less true across Europe. Of course mobs could be excited to violence with religious war cries but this was not the work of the church. Again correct me if I am wrong.

    Finally, Anglo-Protestant America has been singularly free of religious anti-Semitism from the beginning. The few exceptions, such as the notorious Frank case in Atlanta, only prove the rule. Certainly from first-hand knowledge I know that church-going Baptists, Methodists, and Pentecostals are not anti-Semitic in either speech or action. To try to trip them up in public opinion polls on issues of Biblical literalism by quoting the gospel of Matthew or the Book of Revelations is no more indicative of popular (or clerical) attitudes than orthodox rabbinic teachings are about Gentiles in the days of the Messiah. What these texts reflect is the inter-sectoral (is that a word?) animosity and conflict between Rabbinic and Pauline versions of Judaism during the first three centuries of the common era. Each side gave as good as it got. At least this is my amateur reading of the situation based on secondary sources.

    Nothing good comes of keeping these old disputes — these old traditions of theological intolerance I could have written — alive.

  • Luke Lea

    Where I wrote “conversos” during the Inquisition I should have written “marranos” I think.

  • nadine

    I don’t recall any recommendation in Paul’s epistles to rival this Muslim hadith: “Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.” (Book 041, Number 6984)

    Seems to me Christians had to twist their scripture to engage in full-blown Jew-hatred; while Muslims merely had to follow theirs to the letter.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      But twist they did. And there were many periods when Jews were better off on the whole under Islam than under Christianity.

  • JLK

    Although this poll belabors the obvious it still should represent a condor in the coal mine (as opposed to a tiny canary).

    I just had one of many conversations with friends that are, like me, married into Jewish families. We remain at a total loss as to why a majority of Jews remain knee-jerk Liberals so many years after all the credible reasons for their position have disappeared. (Primarily separation of Church and State)

    They seem to be completely unaware of Israel’s status as a symbol for the global Jewish diaspora. Without Israel they become once again a stateless people more vulnerable to anti Semitism just as in the years before WW 2. Anti Semitism, especially in Europe, still bubbles just beneath the surface. This time the excuses center around the Palestinaian issue although many still believe in evil Jewish cabals.

    The American Jews who hold this position against all logic refuse to realize that in the US the Christian Right are the best friends they have. So they keep sticking their heads into the lions mouth by aligning themselves with a political ideology that supports the Palestinians primarily because of their “underdog status”. But I can’t help but think that mindless anti Semitism also plays into the dynamic.

    As in 1930’s Germany the majority will do so until denial becomes so obviously wrong that they will be forced to change positions. God help them (and us) if the awakening is, once again, too late.
    JLK

  • Luke Lea

    “But twist they did. And there were many periods when Jews were better off on the whole under Islam than under Christianity.”

    This is questionable according to Bernard Lewis. From Wikipedia:

    “The Ornament of the World, argues that the Jewish dhimmis living under the Caliphate, while allowed fewer rights than Muslims, were still better off than in other parts of Christian Europe. Jews from other parts of Europe made their way to al-Andalus, where in parallel to Christian sects regarded as heretical by Catholic Europe, they were not just tolerated, but where opportunities to practise faith and trade were open without restriction save for the prohibitions on proselytisation. Bernard Lewis takes issue with this view, arguing its modern use is ahistorical and apologetic.”

    OTH, the Jews in Spain welcomed the Muslim invaders and were quickly put in charge as co-administrators of the conquered territory. So in that sense they were better off than the Jews in Western Europe at the time, who flocked there. A similar thing occured in Poland under the arenda system a little later. What is beyond dispute is that the Jews were better off than the Christian peasants they helped oversee in both societies. History is complicated.

    True, I don’t have a Ph.D. in European history so maybe I am mistaken.

  • Luke Lea

    To give a little perspective to my previous comments I should observe that the whole world back them was based on power and exploitation. The whole world “groaned in agony and travail” in the words of St. Paul. What this meant is that everyone was both exploiting and being exploited by others. It was might makes right. The only exceptions were the kings at the top, who were exploiting but not being exploited, and the women and children at the bottom, who were being exploited but not exploited. The Jews were right in the middle.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/max_segal Max Segal

    What explains the huge gap between how Israeli Jews and Israeli Muslims feel about one another?

    “Among Israel’s minority Muslim community, however, views are divided: 48% express a positive opinion of Jews, while 49% offer a negative opinion. In contrast, only 9% of Israeli Jews have a positive view of Muslims.”

    You write that “the Arabs who know the Jews best like them best and hate them least”–the opposite seems to be true with regard to Jewish sentiment toward Muslims.

  • Johny

    Max – look at the representive of the israeli arabs in the israeli parliment with they hatered towards israel and you will understand the reason. these representives are not part of the 48% mentioned above.
    BTW – the majority of israeli arabs are exposed to the same hatered propaganda of other arabs through tv, radio, internet and more and yet many of them choose acording to their expiriance -

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