Ranan: hatred of the Israeli occupiers stems from a real experience of powerlessness
Certainly, Egyptian thinkers read Oswald Spengler, because their country, too, was faced with a critical turning point, but for intellectuals like Mohamed Hussein Haikal, the ruthless fascist regimes did not present a way out of the decline and instead were a testament to the destructive power of Western modernity. As representatives of a peaceful Middle Eastern variety of humanism, they found fascism utterly unacceptable.
A series of wars, which the Arab side mostly lost, as well as the failure of the Israeli-Arab peace process have transformed this relationship into a political enmity in which lies and defamation are the order of the day – as in any war. "Christian anti-Semitism was not based on any actual problem," says Ranan. "By contrast, the Muslims in the Middle East have had to deal with a real, unresolved territorial conflict with the Jews ever since the Zionist movement became successful."
Anti-Semitism, as Ranan understands it with reference to the British philosopher Brian Klug, describes a "hostility towards Jews as Jews", i.e., as all-powerful, globally networked and influential fantasy beings. Enmity against the Jews because they supposedly control the stock exchange, the White House and Coca-Cola would thus constitute anti-Semitic prejudice.
But hatred of the Israeli occupiers – by an Arab in any case – stems from a real experience of powerlessness. Ranan goes still further and points out that, when at pro-Palestine demonstrations young Arabs carry signs saying "Israel is a child-killer" this is as a rule not meant to allude to the medieval European myth of ritual murder by Jews ("Most people don't even know such a thing existed"), but to actual Israeli attacks on the occupied territories.
Even anti-Jewish posters in general do not refer to all Jews, but only to Israelis, or more precisely Israeli politics. In Ranan's view, the distinction between "Jew", "Israeli" and "Zionist" is one of the most important topics needing to be addressed in German schools. Further suggestions: more integration. And: less agitation.
When the Bild Zeitung – and with it a variety of right-wing voices – hypocritically calls for policymakers to make it clear that "the anti-Semitism of the Islamic world will not be allowed to take hold here", it is turning the true conditions on their head. With some amusement, Ranan recounts that he has heard worse suggestions from some Germans than merely boycotting Coca-Cola.
For David Ranan, the "perfidy" of the German debate is the way that "Germans are glad when someone shows them that Muslims are more anti-Semitic than they are," which is "a funny way of trying to prove their own innocence."
Germany is thus attempting to absolve itself in the wake of a shocking swing to the right that is allowing people to openly flaunt their anti-Semitism. Focusing on the alleged Islamic threat offers Germanyʹs reeling society a way of avoiding confronting its own anti-Semitic past and the fact that it persists in today's world.
© Suddeutsche Zeitung/Qantara 2018
Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor