In September, Prof. Robert Wistrich was interviewed about the most prevalent shades of anti-Semitism by Hansjörg Müller, the editor of the Baseler Zeitung, a popular German newspaper in Basel, Switzerland. The piece appeared in the September 12 edition of the paper. With Mr. Müller's permission, Prof. Wistrich translated the piece into English. It appears below.
Q: In your encyclopedic work, A Lethal
Obsession. Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (Random House,
2010), you present Islamist antisemitism as an existential danger to modern
civilization. Could you explain?
A: In my view, Islamic antisemitism is by far
the most dynamic and threatening form of antisemitism existing at present in
the contemporary world. It combines the scourge of Islamist terrorism, the
spread of jihad, hatred of the West, Holocaust denial, and the genocidal
“anti-Zionism” which is state-sanctioned in Iran. The dramatic triumph of the
Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the alarming growth of militant Salafist
movements across the Arab Middle East have greatly increased the level of
Q: Is there a historic connection between
European fascism and Islamism?
A: The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in
1928 by Hassan al-Banna, had a radical totalitarian vision of societal
transformation, a leadership cult, and visceral hatred of Jews not so different
from that of fascism and National Socialism. Moreover, the charismatic founder of the Palestinian Arab national
movement, Haj Amin el-Husseini, was a fanatical genocidal anti-Semite who
actively collaborated with Adolf Hitler during World War II. This
“annihilationist” tradition of Jew-hatred has continued in the Palestinian
Hamas movement (an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood) to this very day. Its
Sacred Covenant is one of the most nakedly anti-Jewish texts of the entire
Q: You have
described the impact of the Nazi legacy on radical Islam, but what about
classical right-wing antisemitism in present-day Europe?
right-wing tendencies are especially strong in Hungary, Austria, the
Netherlands, Belgium, parts of Scandinavia, and the Baltic States, in Eastern
Europe, and even here in like Switzerland. Nor are France, Germany, or Italy
immune. Against the background of an alarming world economic crisis, the
possible collapse of the Euro-zone, the specter of globalization, and a massive
migration from the poorer southern countries to Europe, these negative trends
will probably grow. Antisemitism is part of this wider syndrome.
Q: In your
newest book, From
Ambivalence to Betrayal. The Left, the Jews, and Israel (University of Nebraska Press, 2012), you are
often severely critical of Western leftist attitudes to Israel and the so-called
“Jewish Question.” How do you explain left-wing hostility?
A: The Left
is suffering from acute amnesia. It has forgotten, for example, that Egyptian
president Nasser and his Arab allies openly threatened to throw the Jews into
the sea in 1967. To this day, Hamas, the Hezbollah and their Iranian backers,
not to mention other Arab states, constantly broadcast their intention to
eradicate the Zionist “cancer” from the Middle East map. So I ask people on the
Left — is that a “progressive” position? Hardly. The Left has also forgotten
that there was an uninterrupted Jewish presence in the Holy Land long before
the birth of Islam — and despite endless harassment, along with Roman,
Byzantine, Crusader, and Muslim persecutions and massacres, this Jewish settlement
continued until the emergence of the modern Zionist movement.
Q: Why do
you think so many leftists are pro-Islamist today?
Western Left and the Islamists both share the myth that Israel is a “white,”
Western, and colonial intrusion in the Middle East. They both have embraced a
radically distorted view of Palestinians as defenseless “Jews,” downtrodden,
and ruthlessly abused by fascist Israelis. Behind this demonic imagery there is
an antisemitic view of Israel and America as twin embodiments of
capitalist-imperialist evil. Needless to say, this mythology is totally
disconnected from empirical reality.
Q: In light
of your current trends, do you see any future for European Jewry? If you were
living here, would you stay or go?
personally believe that the long-term future of European Jewry is bleak. I
would not wish to decide for European Jews what future they should choose, but
I am convinced that the land of Israel is the only possible spiritual and
political homeland for the Jewish people.
Let us also remember that it was in the city of Basel that Theodor Herzl
first proclaimed to the wider Jewish and Gentile world in 1897 the birth of
modern Zionism. In his diary he prophesied that within fifty years a Jewish
State would inevitably arise. Many people at the time dismissed him as a
charlatan or a dreamer. But his prophecy came true and for that we should be