Saturday, April 9, 2011

Who are the Real Nazis in the Middle East?

In Academic, among professional historians, it is common knowledge that German Fascism took root in the Middle East during World War II and the anti-Semitism that characterizes radical Islam today is directly influenced by German anti-Semitism of the kind that powered Hitler's National Socialism.

The following article, "Iranian Antisemitism: Stepchild of German National Socialism" is by German academic Mathtias Kuntzel and was published in The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, Vol. 3, No. 1, Jan. 2010/5769, pp. 43-51. Kuntzel's book, Jihad and Jew Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11, is published by Telos Press and won the Grand Prize at the 2007 London Book Festival.

"Many Iranians — including those in exile — claim that currently there is not any antisemitism in Iran. They point to the fact that the Jews of Iran today constitute the largest Jewish community in any Muslim country, which is true, and that even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not attack “the Jews,” but rather “the Zionists.”

At the same time, no other regime in the world is as antisemitic as that of the Mullahs in Tehran. It is true that Ahmadinejad does not attack “the Jews”, but instead claims that “two thousand Zionists want to rule the world.”[1] He says, “For sixty sears now, the Zionists” have blackmailed all western governments.”[2] “The Zionists have imposed themselves on a substantial portion of the banking, financial, cultural and media sectors.”[3] “The Zionists” are responsible for the Danish Muhammad cartoons. “The Zionists” are responsible for the destruction of the dome of the Golden Mosque in Iraq.[4] Of course, he invests the word “Zionist” with exactly the same sense with which Hitler once invested the word “Jew”: namely, that of being the incarnation of all evil. Whoever makes Jews responsible for all the ills of the world – whether as “Judas” or “Zionists” — is clearly driven by antisemitism.

Thus, in the special case of Iran we have both individual Jews, who are afforded some degree of protection as long as they agree to live in accordance with the religious concept of Dhimmitude and maintain a low profile, and the Jews in the abstract, i.e. “the Zionists,” who are considered to be the embodiment of global evil.

It is not hard to explain why individual Jews are more or less accepted in Iran: At least since the beginning of the rule of Reza Shah in 1925, the Iranian concept of “Aryanhood” included non-Muslim religious groups such as Christians, Zoroastrians and Jews. This concept of national integration (which also embraces Jews) remains somewhat applicable to this day.

The hatred of the abstract “Jew” and of Israel is more difficult to explain. Israel and Iran have no territorial disputes and there is no Iranian refugee issue; indeed, the pre-1979 period saw decades of good relations with Israel quite unlike the strained relation between Iranians and Arabs. In addition, the delusion of a “global Jewish power” was unknown in the Shia Muslim tradition. It is a hallmark of modern European antisemitism.

Thus the main question is when and how this kind of modern antisemitism, this hatred of the “abstract Jew”, was transplanted to Iran?

In the course of researching my study on the German-Iranian relationship over the past hundred years, I discovered archival documents that at least partly answer this question — documents relating to a period when the intensity of German-Iranian relations reached its peak: during World War II.[5]

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Politically, the two countries shared common enemies from World War I onwards. Although Iran was officially neutral in both world wars, the hearts of most Iranians beat for Germany. They were battling the same adversaries: the Russians and British and later the Americans and Zionists or Jews. In addition, Germans became immensely popular in their role of technicians and engineers. In the mid-1920s, Germany provided Iran with both the backbone of its industrial infrastructure and the trained personnel needed to run it. Soon the German work ethic was legendary in Iran.

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By the beginning of the World War II, bilateral cooperation between Iran and Germany had become extremely strong. In 1940, Germany accounted for 47,1 percent of all Iranian exports and 42,9 percent of imports.[6] Eighty percent of all machinery in the country came from Germany. But that is not all that was imported: at the same time, European antisemitic ideology was brought to Tehran in Farsi via a Berlin-based short-wave radio transmitter.

Iran was of strategic importance to Germany. As Hitler envisaged it, after the assault on the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht would also occupy the Caucasus and in so doing, open the way to the Middle East. Then Iran and Iraq would be conquered and the British Empire destroyed from the south. A pro-German movement in Iran reinforced by a concentrated propaganda effort would prepare for the German invasion of that country.

At that time, most Iranians were illiterate and used to listened to the radio in town squares or in bazaars and coffee houses. The German short wave radio station, called Radio Zeesen, was the most popular one in the country.[7]

“Even if we do broadcast in Persian,” British Ambassador to Tehran Reader Bullard wrote in 1940, “we cannot hope to rival the Germans in interest, as their more violent, abusive style, with exaggerated claims … appeals to the Persian public.”[8] Bullard had identified one reason for Radio Zeesen’s success. The programs were rabble-rousing rather than factual. Their aim was not to inform, but to incite antisemitism and to boast of German successes. They were targeted at a mass audience rather than intellectuals. Thus, the United Nations was dubbed the “United Jewish Nations,” and the Jordanian king, Emir Abdullah, was mocked as “Rabbi Abdullah” for wanting to negotiate with the Zionists.

The programmes were, however, produced professionally. Inflammatory harangues were skilfully interspersed with Koranic citations and musical interludes adapted to local tastes. In addition, the reception of Radio Zeesen was better than that of any other station broadcasting, since its Berlin transmitter had been upgraded for the 1936 Olympics. Last but not least, in the person of Bahram Sharokh, Radio Zeesen had a first-rate presenter with a good voice and excellent diction at its disposal. A 1941 survey of German propaganda achievements in Iran boasted that “Sharokh [was] always praised as a brilliant speaker and was more popular than even others, including the enemy ones.”[9]

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It was understood that German-style antisemitism would have little resonance in Iran. “The broad masses lack a feeling for the race idea,” explained the propaganda expert of the German embassy in Tehran. He therefore laid “all the emphasis on the religious motif in our propaganda in the Islamic world. This is the only way to win over the Orientals.”[12] But how exactly could Nazi Germany, of all countries, conduct a religious propaganda campaign? Ettel had an idea.

“The way to directly connect up with Shi’ite ideas is through the treatment of the Jewish question, which the Muhammedan perceives in religious terms and which, precisely for this reason, makes him susceptible to National Socialism on religious grounds.” Just as hatred of Jews would provide the point of entry into the Shi’ite faith, so religion would serve as the natural medium for the propagation of Jew-hatred. “A way to foster this (anti-Jewish) development would be to highlight Muhammad’s struggle against the Jews in ancient times and that of the Führer in modern times,” Ettel recommended to the Foreign Office. “Additionally, by identifying the British with the Jews, an exceptionally effective anti-English propaganda campaign can be conducted among the Shi’ite people.”

Ettel even picked out the appropriate Koranic passages: firstly, sura 5, verse 82: “Truly you will find that the most implacable of men in their enmity to the faithful are the Jews and the pagans”; and, secondly, the final sentence of chapter 2 of Mein Kampf: “In resisting the Jew, I do the work of the Lord.” “By successfully bringing the country’s clergy under the sway of German propaganda, we can win over broad layers of the popular masses,” Ettel wrote in February 1941.[13]

Ettel’s proposal demonstrates that the Nazis sought to use religion to create an implacable hostility to the Jews. The first step was to awaken religious anti-Judaism, using references to Muhammad and the Koran. Thus, they built on the foundations of a centuries-old Muslim anti-Judaism while at the same time radicalizing it. One way of doing that was to depict Britain as being under Jewish control. Britain was in any case detested by the majority of the Iranian people. They were well-disposed, however, towards the US, as Ettel bitterly complained.

Thus, from late summer 1942 onwards, Radio Zeesen’s antisemitism was mixed with a special type of anti-Americanism as well. For example, Radio Zeesen emphasised “that the Jewish power policy in the Middle East is being implemented by the Americans.” This linkage is “regularly employed to reinforce our anti-American propaganda in Iran.”

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Among the regular listeners to this material was a man of whom the world was later to hear much more: Ruhollah Khomeini . . .
Here is Kuntzel's conclusion:

"It is not the technology that makes the Iranian nuclear programme so dangerous, but the ideological context within which it arises. For the first time since the splitting of the atom, we find the destructive force of the bomb linked to the fury of a holy anti-Jewish war.

“Without confronting the ideological roots of radical Islam it will be impossible to combat it”, suggested Tawfik Hamid, a former member of Jamaa Islamiya, an Islamic terrorist group led by Dr. Aiman Al-Zawahiri, the second-in-command of Al-Qaeda.[23] Today, this challenge applies not only to Iran, where hundreds of thousands of opponents of Ahmadinejad want to know what went wrong with Khomeinism and why. The impact of Radio Zeesen also ought to be discussed also in the Western world, where still too many pundits are wrongly trying to scapegoat Israel for the old and new antisemitism of the Iranian regime."

Read it all here. This history is why the term "Islamofascism" is correct as an objective description of radical, antisemitic, political Islam. There is much in Islam's past history that is anti-Jewish going all the way back to the early days of the Prophet. But in the 20th century a dangerous mutation occurred as traditional Islamic-Jewish rivalry fused with the virus of modern, antisemitism of European origin.

For the American administration naively to address Islam as the religion of peace and to treat Islamic terrorism as the work of individual crackpots here and there is just inadequate as a response. It makes Neville Chamberlain's response to Hitler look strong and uncompromising - and the analogy is exquisitely appropriate.

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