The photo you see here today has, again, become part of an international controversy. To read in detail why, click here. I'll get back to that in a minute.
If this picture looks familiar to you from having read my blog, it's because it appears on the cover of a book I wrote about a year ago here. The book was Icon of Evil: Hitler's Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam, by David G. Dalin and John F. Rothmann.
The photo shows Adolf Hitler, obviously. But meeting with the Nazi leader is Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem who became one of the most influential Islamic leaders in the Middle East. He was a fan of Hitler and of Hitler's campaign against the Jews. He resided for several years in World War II in Berlin and arranged to meet with Hitler in 1941. That's when this photo was taken.
Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, recently chose to circulate this photo, as reported in the Tablet Magazine piece to which I've linked you in the first paragraph. You can read there the various reactions to Lieberman's action and you can make up your own mind about whether it was a wise thing to do.
What I want to focus on is the idea that to understand the present, you have to know history. This photo leads to a lot of troubling history that has issued in a lot of antisemitism among Muslim leaders today, which in turn is spread onto what's called the Arab Street.
This antisemitism is quite different from legitimate political criticism of Israel, which at times deserves such criticism for some of its actions. That kind of criticism -- aimed at policy -- is not antisemitic.
Rather, the antisemitism of which I speak finds expression in lots of anti-Jewish lies that get published in various newspapers and other media outlets in the Middle East and in such things as the willingness of bookstores in that area to carry -- without warning that the book is a fraud -- the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. If you don't know about the Protocols, please educate yourself, starting with the link I've given you to a site at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
So no matter what purpose the Israeli foreign minister had in mind for circulating the photo of Hitler and the mufti, it has served as a reminder of some of the sordid anti-Jewish history that continues to trouble the Middle East and against which today's leaders -- Muslim, Jewish, Christian and others -- need to speak.
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LET'S TALK FAITH AT WORK
Should discussion of religion essentially be banned by custom from the work place? Not according to this writer, who says the office is an excellent place to talk about eternal things. As long as it doesn't interfere with work, create a hostile environment or lead to in-your-face pressure efforts for conversion, I agree. Do you?
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P.S.: My latest column in The Presbyterian Outlook now is online. To read my previous Outlook columns, look for a list of them under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page.