There's new evidence that antisemitism and Holocaust denying are growing problems in the Middle East. It's fueled not only by on-going political differences related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but also by a pernicious anti-Jewish bias that has been promoted among some leaders of Islam for decades.
The latest distressing numbers come from a study done by a faculty member at the University of Haifa in Israel. It found in recent polling that 40.5 percent of Arab Israelis say they believe the Holocaust never happened. This is compared with 28 percent who responded that way in 2006, leading the study leader to suggest that perhaps some part of this is simply political protest, not deeply held belief. The protest would be against some Israeli policies and actions, some of which deserve to be criticized. And criticism of Israeli policy is not, in and of itself, antisemitism. (For more news stories about this study, click here.)
Still, the 40.5 percent figure is staggering. Even 1 percent would be too high.
Some of this Holocaust-denial phenomenon can be explained by the fact that some of the more radical leaders of Islam in the Middle East promote this garbage. Indeed, it is pretty easy to walk into book stores in the area and purchase a copy of the fraudulent book, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, not displayed as a historic curiosity because of its antisemitic and false content but as literal history.
Some Muslim leaders in the area are following in the footsteps of the late mufti of Jerusalem, Haf Amin al-Husseini, who spent much of his life churning up violence against Jews. He's the subject of a relatively new book I've mentioned here before, Icon of Evil: Hitler's Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam, by David G. Dalin and John F. Rothman.
Large segments of Christianity, as I've said here before (see my essay on this subject under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page), have a long history of promoting anti-Judaism, which helped to create modern antisemitism. And now parts of Islam are adding fuel to the antisemitic fires. It's more proof that bad ideas are dangerous and can lead to death and destruction.
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IS THE POPE YOUR FACEBOOK 'FRIEND'?
In the class I'll be teaching this summer at Ghost Ranch (for details, see the link under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page) we'll be talking some about using such social networking tools as Facebook as a means of having the prophetic voice of people of faith heard today. Turns out that Pope Benedict XVI is all over this now. Good for him. Wonder whether it will make a difference.