Clemens Heni

Wissenschaft und Publizistik als Kritik

Schlagwort: Michael Kreutz

Trump, Zionism and Antisemitism

First published with the Times of Israel, February 22, 2017

Several Jewish and non-Jewish NGOs, scholars, activists, bloggers and authors believe, the Trump administration will fight antisemitism and will be helpful both for Jews and Israel.

Their derealization of sexism is shocking enough. But no surprise either.

Let’s have a look at Trump, antisemitism and Zionism alone.

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) argues that Trump might consider strong anti-BDS legislation. The Simon Wiesenthal Center prayed for Trump at the inauguration and the Louis D. Brandeis Center  is hopeful that Trump will be fighting antisemitism, too.

Journalist Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post) and his colleague from SPME, Asaf Romirowsky, claim:

In late December, with just weeks left in his administration, former U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a shot in the arm to the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, or BDS. Obama instructed the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, to abstain instead of vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution rebuking Israeli settlement activity.

Resolution 2334 deems Israel’s presence in disputed territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be illicit. Combined five days later with a didactic anti-Israel speech from Secretary of State John Kerry, the resolution administered a body blow to Israel’s brand.

The Middle East Forum’s (MEF) director Greg Roman attacks the resolution 2334, which is no surprise, but still lacks a scholarly analysis of the resolution. The Simon Wiesenthal Center puts the Obama Administration on place one of their “Top-Ten worst global antisemitic and anti-Israel incidents 2016”:

The most stunning 2016 UN attack on Israel was facilitated by President Obama when the US abstained on a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for settlement construction.

What says United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 from December 2016?

Expressing grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines.

That is not antisemitic. On the contrary, the UNSC again reaffirms the very existence of Israel!

John Kerry’s speech was even clearer and very pro-Zionist:

This is an issue which I’ve worked on intensely during my time as Secretary of State for one simple reason: because the two state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace and security with its neighbors.

This is exactly the position of leading Zionist scholars in the field, such as Fania Oz-Salzberger, Yedidia Z. Stern, Gadi Taub, Ruth Gavison or Anita Shapira, at least in my reading of their book “The Israeli Nation-State” from 2014, which I just translated into German (with my colleague Dr. Michael Kreutz) and published the book (456 pages) this week.

John Kerry wanted to “ensure” that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. Period.

However, the self-declared pro-Israel establishment in the US or Germany, runs riot against resolution 2334 and the Obama administration. Now they embrace Trump, more or less.

Even Kenneth Marcus from the Louis D. Brandeis Center, known for thoughtful analysis and scholarship in antisemitism, rejects any analysis of the very specific way Trump fueled antisemitism in the last 15 months or longer. Marcus rather obfuscates the very new climate in the US after the election of Trump and says:

“In today’s heated political climate Marcus said anti-Semitism is rampant in both pro-Trump supporters and anti-Trump groups, among others, and should not be attributed to one source.“

It is not news that leftists are anti-Zionist, for example, but it is news that the neo-Nazi Alt Right is now sitting in the White House (Steve Bannon, Breitbart). And the unbelievable increase of antisemitic incidents in the US has very close connection to the extrem right and not to the left. Neo-Nazis have been emboldened by Trump, no doubt about this.

Marcus concludes (this is from a report about a talk he gave) and even sees Trump as a possible ally:

“The Trump Administration could be another factor in the battle against anti-Semitism. (…) Marcus credited the Trump campaign for issuing a statement expressing concern about campus anti-Semitism, and for comments indicating that the Department of Justice would address university suppression of Jewish pro-Israel speech. Marcus doesn’t know if any of this will translate into policy, but he’s hopeful.“

Crediting Trump – unbelievable.

Then, those in the pro-Israel camp who defame Kerry should listen to a single speech by Iranian President Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in order to learn how an anti-Israel speech sounds like. Then, they should listen to John Kerry’s speech about resolution 2334 and rethink their unprofessional remarks that Kerry‘s speech was a “didactic anti-Israel speech” as Weinthal and Romirowsky frame it.

If it is anti-Israel to support the Jewish and democratic state of Israel and to be against religious and nationalist fanaticism and the settlements, read: to be for a two-state solution, than most Israelis and Jews in the US and worldwide are anti-Israel.

Palestinian rejectionism is a huge problem, of course, ever since 1947 and before.

But Israeli fanaticism is also a huge problem, just listen to the six Shin Bet directors between 1980 and 2011, who are interviewed in the Oscar nominated film “The Gatekeepers” by Dror Moreh in 2012, featuring Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri, Avraham Shalom. They emphasize that the Palestinians are not just terrorists. They are political subjects and need political acceptance by Israel (and of course, vice versa, but that is NOT news).

We need a political solution, not a military solution, that is their message – and thesse former Shin Bet directors from 1980 through 2011 might know more about the Palestinians and how to fight terrorism and how not and what is good or bad for Israel than American or European activists.

But there are also those Israeli fanatics in the 1990s, including Benjamin Netanyahu, to be sure, who agitated against Yitzhak Rabin, as the film shows, until Rabin was killed, November 4, 1995. How does Israel look like today?

A Question to all those American and other Trump supporters: Is it a sign of a particular pro-Jewish approach to omit the mentioning of Jews as the only victims of the Shoah on Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 2017? Historian Deborah Lipstadt called Trump’s statement a “softcore Holocaust denial.”

Finally, and most importantly, if it is pro-Israel to destroy the Jewish state and to invoke or mention (as a result of stupidity, thoughtlessness or by intention) the “one-state solution” as President Trump did during his shocking and embarrassing press conference with Netanyahu on February 15, 2017, then things are turned upside down. Trump and his folks will call it “alternative facts.”

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.  (Laughter.)  I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.  I can live with either one.“

No problem for the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) or the Louis D. Brandeis Center and their allies?

David Horowitz from the Times of Israel concludes:

“And yet, by allowing Trump’s talk of a possible single entity between river and sea to pass without contradiction, Netanyahu himself dealt a stinging, public blow to the Israel we are living in today. For if our prime minister is unwilling to speak up, loudly and clearly, in defense of a Jewish, democratic Israel within internationally recognized borders, who else will? Certainly not President Donald Trump.”

 

Beyond Colonialism and Secularism: The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade for a “true” Muslim, German-Iranian Navid Kermani

The Times of Israel, October 20, 2015

October 18, 2015, Navid Kermani, a German born German-Iranian author, was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. This is among the most prestigious prizes in Germany. His speech is entitled “Jacques Mourad and Love in Syria” and dedicated to the fate of that Syrian-Christian priest who was kidnapped by the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) the very day in May 2015 Kermani learned he was being awarded that prize. His long speech was aired live on TV (second channel, ZDF) and published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (pages 10 and 11) the following day. Kermani is a troubling, even perfidious author and this article will tell you why.

Father Mourad is only important to Kermani, to the degree that he loves Islam. This is the starting point of Kermani’s entire speech and approach. Mourad was freed recently, thanks to the efforts of some Syrian citizens. Those helpers, though, are not portrayed as citizens, but as Muslims. And this is the core aspect of Kermani’s point: to show the world that Islam is love and we all should embrace Islam as much as he does. He uses the word “Islamic Fascism” exclusively for the Islamic State (not for al-Banna, al-Qaradawi or the Shia Iranian regime), which is denying the legacy of Islam in his view. Worse, Kermani says that we are living in a time where the true Islam is hidden behind the wall, and he knows the true Islam and Quran, which is spiritual kinship, poetry and love.

He praises the “spirituality of Ibn Arabi”, the “poetry of Rumi”, the “historiography by Ibn Khaldun”, the “poetic theology by Abdulqaher al-Dschurdschani”, the “philosophy of Averroes” or the “travelogue by Ibn Buttuta”, not to forget the “fairy tales of 1000 and 1 nights”. For Kermani, Islam does not at all need a time of “enlightenment” – as the old examples of Islamic writing, as mentioned, were wonderful examples of enlightenment. So Kermani seems to rewrite the entire history of modern philosophy, including European and western thought from the 17th century and the time of enlightenment in the 18th century, to argue that Islam was at least as modern or enlightened as these European philosophers. Impressive, no?

Kermani ignores Albert Hourani and Ahmad Kasravi, who both dealt with modern thinking in the Arab and Muslim (Iranian) worlds. Kermani ignores these writings in his speech.[i] Kermani’s reference to Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid is rather selective. Abu Zaid focused on the danger for a vibrant and many-voiced intepretation of Islam, as reformer aš-Šāfiʿīs rejected the personal factor when interpreting the Quran – this also meant a push back of reason, as Muhammad was seen infallible as early as in the 9th century. In addition, American political scientist Shadi Hamid stated in a 2014 study, based on his own field research: „[t]he vast majority of Arabs have no a priori ideological opposition to Islamism as such“. German Islamic Studies scholar Tilman Nagel analyzed Sufi-Islam, which in his view is rather based on breaking the individual in order to set Sufi-Islam as representative of the prophet. Finally, Kermani’s reference to Ibn Battuta is remarkable, as he was seen as a plagiarist as early as in the 14th century; today we know that all his reports are taken from other authors.

Who, then, is responsible for the decline of Islamic thinking and the true Islamic world? Kermanis says:

“All people in the Orient have witnessed a brutal, bottom-down modernization by colonialism and secularist dictatorships.”

According to the German Prize winning author, the Iranian Shah urged his soldiers to pull down the headscarves of Iranian women in 1936 – those women did not reject the headscarf by themselves, they were forced. Imagine! However, Kermani of course neither mentions any kind of feminist outrage against religion and the headscarf, nor Atatürk’s approach to the West and his concept of anti-religious secular Turkish statehood which has been largely destroyed by today’s Erdogan and his colleagues.

“Modernity” was always seen as “violent” in the “Orient,” says Kermani. In Europe, we have a rather positive view, “despite backlashs and crimes”. This is all this proud Muslim writer has to say about the unprecedented crimes of Auschwitz and the Shoah! He seems to be completely ignorant about Jews and Jewish history. For him Treblinka or Sobibor were obviously rather “backlashs” or simple “crimes” that did not change the optimistic outlook of European history.

Antisemitism, let alone anti-Zionism, today’s most dangerous form antisemitism, are not mentioned once in the entire speech. While he portrays the Iranian Shah as violent and despotic, the 1979 Islamist revolution is not mentioned either, and no mentions of today’s threats by Iranian leaders to eliminate the Jewish state are nowhere to be found in his long speech.

This is no surprise, though, as Kermani’s wife, Islamic Studies scholar Katajun Amirpur, now a professor in Hamburg, is infamous for telling a German audience that Ahmadienedschad did not call for the destruction of Israel during his speech on October 26, 2005. Her notorious lie was also published by then leading German scholar in antisemitism, Wolfgang Benz. I dealt with her and Kermani in my 2011 study “Schadenfreude. Islamic Studies and Antisemitism after 9/11 in Germany”. In it, I said that Kermani is driven by anti-American resentment, which can be seen in his speech in Frankfurt, Oct. 18, 2015, as well. 9/11 is just mentioned in passing as an example how not to deal with Islam: he attacks the reaction to 9/11 and not the Islamist crime as such! Kermani portrays Muslims as victims over the centuries. Victims of modernity, of Arab or Iranian dictators, of America and the West and now – of the Islamic State. This equation or analogy of the West and Jihad is remarkable. He goes so far as to reject the notion that Islamism and jihad are driven by anti-Western ideology.

Kermani, to be sure, mentions today’s Iran just a few times without specifying its antisemitic or Islamist agenda while he is very clear about the threat deriving from Wahhabism and Saudi-Arabia…

Not once does he deal with the Iran Deal and Iranian nuclear ambitions – and not once the threats directed at Israel.

The core message of his speech is simply: Islam is a wonderful religion, even Christians in Syrian fell in love with it. The true Muslims help Christians and fight the Islamic State.

At the end of his talk, Navid Kermani urged the entire audience, including the head of the German Parliament, the Bundestag, several MPs, and the entire cultural elite to stand up – and to pray! Imagine: a supposedly secular speech in a former church was abused by a prize-winner who prayed, of course, in an Islamic manner, while others prayed in a Christian way and even those non-religious people were urged and literally forced by the very mass of people to stand and follow the Muslim preacher Kermani.

Religion must be a case of privacy, pure and simple. Kermani did not learn this lesson, although he was born in Germany and lived in Germany his entire life. This Islamist approach is devious, whining, and insidious, as he portrayed his entire talk as support for a Christian. For a Christian who fell in love with Islam, one must say.

At first view, people might think: Kermani wants to stop the war in Syria, that is nice and of course important, fighting both the IS and Assad. Fine. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that he rather abuses, in even a cynical way, the fate of a tiny Christian group in Syria for Muslim purposes. He is just telling the story of father Mourad because Mourad is in love with Islam. And finally, Kerami just uses that example to emphasize that ordinary but truly believing Muslims saved the Christian priest. His message: both colonialism, secularism and the Islamic State are anti-Islam. And he wants the pure Islam, which was enlightened, in his distorted and rather arrogant ahistoric view, even before the European enlightenment – which in fact was the first and only enlightenment, but Kermani will for sure be happy to head a pan-European textbook commission to rewrite the history of philosophy and the enlightenment and to portray Islam as the original enlightened religion and culture.

While colonialism and secular Arabs and Muslims destroyed the legacy of Islam, others embraced Islam, says Kermani, and he mentions, very intentionally, Annemarie Schimmel (1922–2003) as a good example of someone who truly loved Islam, including Sufi Islam. Schimmel was also awarded the same prize as Kermani, the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, in 1995. There was outrage about that award, as Schimmel expressed sympathy for the fatwa against and outrage in the Islamic world about Salman Rushdie’s book “Satanic Verse”.

Isn’t this remarkable? This year, Iran did not attend the Frankfurt Book Fair because Rushdie gave a speech there. And now, a few days after Rushdie spoke, Kermani attacks him under the guise of praising Annemarie Schimmel. In 1995 there was a huge outrage about Schimmel, hundreds of book stores and publishing houses, leading bestselling authors like Mario Simmel, leading scholars in the field like Bassam Tibi and public intellectuals like Taslima Nasrin showed support for Rushdie and disgust for Schimmel. Now Kermani praises Schimmel. And no one in Germany recognizes this affront to Rushdie by a prize winning German-Iranian agitator with a tearful voice. Arabist and Islamic Studies scholar Wolfgang Schwanitz told me in October 2010 that Schimmel also worked as a translator in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nazi Germany and had to deal with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Hussaini, a close friend of Hitler. Not a word about that from prize winner Kermani, nor in the German press. They all praise him, left, right, and center.

For observers of Islamic Studies in Germany, the Award of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade to Navid Kermani is just another sign of the failure of Islamic Studies and the public. It is a radical change in political culture. Germany will embrace those Muslims who have strong resentments against critics of jihad like Rushdie and against America, and who do not even pretend to be shocked by 9/11. Apparently, Iranian and Islamist antisemitism is not even worth mentioning. Germany, let alone many Muslims living in Germany like Kermani, does not care about Jews and Israel any more.

Not even the dead Jews of the Holocaust are part of the agenda when authors deal with the crimes of European and German history, as a friend told me. Nor is Iranian jihad against the Jewish state worth mentioning. I fear he is right. Sunday’s ceremony and the German Peace Prize of the German Book Trade for Navid Kermani is just one more proof of this.

Dr. Clemens Heni is a political scientist, the author of five books, including “Antisemitism: A Specific Phenomenon. Holocaust Trivialization – Islamism – Post-colonial and Cosmopolitan anti-Zionistm” (Berlin 2013, 648 pages), “Schadenfreude. Islamic Studies and Antisemitism in Germany after 9/11” (2011, in German, 410 pages) and the director of the Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (BICSA), www.bicsa.org

[i] For this and the following information thanks to Dr. Michael Kreutz, Islamic Studies Scholar from the University of Munster, Germany:

 

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