I own a cassette tape of five-year-old me reciting an Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party chant I learned at school in Baghdad. Roughly translated, it begins: “Ba’athi Ba’athi, this is my manifesto…”
This children’s ditty goes on to celebrate the nationalization of oil, and the July revolution of 1958 when Abd al-Karim Qasim and cohort executed a coup d’état against the British backed monarchy of King Faisel II, overthrowing him for a “republic” whose goal was to advance pan-Arabism. In another segment, taped when I was in second grade, my father asks me what I was learning in school. I answer with the tripartite “Wahda, hurriyya, u ishteeraqkia”—oneness, freedom, and socialism.
The Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party propaganda taught that these ideals were: the oneness of all Arab countries—regardless of their cultural difference—uniting under one foundational national government against imperialism; freedom, which lies in liberating Arabs from oppression by foreign powers; and socialism, which is transferring the means of production in the Arab economy from being privately held to being government-controlled.
This childhood experience of mine came to mind recently when I watched a video of Palestinian children (particularly a little girl at the end) regurgitating vile hatred and violence toward Israelis. The surreal horror of anti-Semitism instilled in Arab children came home to me. The girl—who looks no older than five years old—shouts “Stab! Stab! Stab!” while slashing the air with a knife.
It is a mark of authoritarian governments to indoctrinate the children of their nation, not so much with patriotic pride but contempt, hostility, and suspicion of others. The Middle Eastern countries are no exception. Even now the warring factions within Syria each indoctrinate the children within their domain using a curriculum that suits their factional goals. For example, the Syrian government replaced French with Russian as the second mandatory foreign language to show “gratitude to Russia for its political, logistical, and military support of the Assad regime.”
But all Arab indoctrination—no matter the sect—instills animus for Jews and the state of Israel. Anyone who claims that the Arab world—Muslim and Christian—is not pathologically anti-Semitic is delusional. This is the elephant in the room in the Arab Christian subculture; the secret sin no one wants to bring to the light.
By no means am I saying every single Middle Eastern Christian is anti-Semitic, but it is there in the air of the culture across the Arab world. It is this unspoken, almost unconscious feeling that prevents Iraqi Christians and other Arab Christians in the Middle East from seeking help from Israel. It is a blight upon the people of my heritage—Middle Eastern Christians who have suffered long under the rule of Islam.
Anti-Semitism Hurts Arab Christians
Anti-Semitism, defined by retired Harvard professor Dr. Ruth Wisse not as personal feelings or social trends but the “organization of politics against the Jews,” has a long history. In the Arab world, anti-Jewish sentiment goes as far back as the Persian vizier Haman, and his political machinations to destroy all the Jews (as told in the biblical book of Esther). Islam later channeled these latent prejudices at times in its history when it became politically convenient to scapegoat the Jews.
Under Islam—before the twentieth century—the Jews were sometimes left to live peaceably as dhimmis (second-class citizens): “their position was in general tolerable but insecure,” Bernard Lewis wrote in “The Jews of Islam.” At other times they were repressed and even killed. It may not have looked liked Hitler’s anti-Semitic regime, but it was still degrading economic and social repression.
Thus the soil in the Middle East was fertile for the anti-Semitic ideology emanating from Nazi Germany during the early part of the twentieth century. More than fertile, it was welcomed and relished. Hajj Amin al-Hussein, the mufti of Jerusalem, disseminated anti-Jewish propaganda across the Middle East working from Berlin during World War II.
Wisse, in an insightful and intellectually sharp conversation with Bill Kristol, expounds on the paradoxical nature of anti-Semitism: it poisons those who espouse it, corrupting and harming them more than their intended victims. In the Arab world it has been particularly self-destructive, and especially so now for Christians as they face genocide.
Arab anti-Semitism goes beyond garden-variety envy. It is the belief that Israel is behind every evil in the world and especially the evil that befalls the Arab world. Therefore, it ought to be destroyed! It is instantiated by unrealistic and outrageous claims like the one that went around all the Arab email chains insisting the Jews were behind 9/11.
The central, contradictory conceit of Holocaust denial, Of course it didn’t happen and they deserved it anyway, survives writ small throughout Arab culture. Unfathomably, these ideas seem plausible in so many minds, whether it be the immigrant mind here in America, or those living in the Middle East, whether among Muslims or Christians. We have to ask: Why?
Jews Aren’t Persons, So They Can’t Have a State
In an interview with the American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the core of the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel is the “persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any boundary.” But we still need to ask “Why?” Why do Palestinians—and in reality all Arab countries except for Jordan and Egypt—refuse to recognize the state of Israel?
Because for Arab countries to acknowledge a Jewish state would require that they acknowledge Jewish people as people, as human persons. Their anti-Semitism does not allow them to do this. Anti-Semitism in the Arab bosom sets the relationship between the Arab and the Jew in what Austrian-German Jewish philosopher Martin Buber called the “I-It” relationship, rather than the “I-You.” They cannot recognize the state because they cannot recognize the people; they cannot recognize the people because they have established a relationship with them not as human persons but as an “It,” as object rather than subject. (This is a natural outcome of the dhimmis culture, where laws ensured Jews and Christians knew their place as second-class citizens.)
The Arab world has dehumanized Jews into a reprehensible nonhuman evil object and therefore cannot form a dialogical relationship beside the desire to destroy the object. This is why many Arabs cannot talk peaceably to or about Jews. Dialogue requires, at minimum, respecting the other individual as a human person.
An example of this pathological anti-Semitism can be seen in this 2011 Pew Research Center study. When asked concerning 9/11, a majority of Arab Muslims, as high as 75 percent in Egypt and 73 percent in Turkey, said they did not believe that al-Qaeda attacked the United States on 9/11. Most held conspiracy theories about Israel being secretly behind, or somehow complicit in, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Former Egyptian president and Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamad Morsi traded in these conspiracy theories as well.
A Continual Anti-Semite Catechesis
This may seem like old news, but since our country does not seem to have learned any lessons, even after recent terror violence within our own borders, it bears repeating: Morsi graduated from the University of Southern California with a PhD in engineering. He was a lecturer at California State University, Northridge. This is someone who spent time in America, used our education, and worked in academia. Shadi Hamid, a fellow at the Brookings Institute, quotes Morsi in an article in The Atlantic, saying to him concerning 9/11: “When you come and tell me that the plane hit the tower like a knife in butter,” he said, shifting to English, “then you are insulting us. How did the plane cut through the steel like this? Something must have happened from the inside. It’s impossible.”
Along with insinuations like that above, there are his slurs: “These bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.” He also asked the United States to call for a scientific conference to determine the true cause of the attacks against the two towers, and complained that “the U.S. administration has never presented any evidences on the identity of those who committed that incident.”
There is the continual catechesis in hate, which of course is not limited to Morsi alone. These kinds of statements are as ubiquitous as vendors selling ful on the streets of Cairo and all across the Middle East: “We must never forget, brothers, to nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews.” Arabs like Morsi continue to ascribe to Jews all the evils that befall them personally, and evil doings around the world. This tenacious hatred and cultural obsession with destroying Jews and the state of Israel corrupts individuals and nation-states alike. It is Arab suicide.
On July 11, 2016 The Wall Street Journal reported that Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem the day before and said “Egypt remains ready to contribute toward achieving this goal [comprehensive peace and a two-state solution].” How this will play across the Middle East one does not wonder. The Journal reported that already many Egyptians were angered over this kind of talk and continue to be against “normal relations with their neighbor nearly four decades after the Egypt-Israel peace treaty was signed.”
This is not just a Muslim problem. This anti-Semitism trickles down to minority groups living in Islamic dominated lands. Middle Eastern Christians manifest a hobbled prejudice since they lack the power to politically act out against Israel. As I have observed my Middle Eastern community over the years, there seems to be a Stockholm Syndrome phenomenon. After being so long under Islamic rule and imbibing Islamic propaganda, the Christians are apt to parrot their “captors” in the Islamic authoritarian governments. I hold out hope that a free Arab Christian culture could break this spell within a generation. But hope is running out—Christianity may not survive in the Middle East.
Israel, the Hope for Arab Christians
Israel is the last hope for Arab Christians; it’s as simple as that. America is not leading on the refugee issue, especially for Iraqi Christians. Yet helping them, doing good to the Christians in the Arab world, would require Israel overcoming her neighbors’ anti-Semitism, even of those Christians who will not ask for help because of their prejudices.
Arab Christians in America and abroad feel caught between Muslim interests on one side and Israeli interests on the other. They are bitter. They are a weak minority, always overlooked. Arab Christians have no power to negotiate or threaten, no money to buy arms, and no land to cultivate and build. Their bitterness makes them miss an important ally: Israel. As the genocide of Middle Eastern Christians continues, the only hope of an Arab Christian remnant—a remnant that would keep and pass on its beliefs, traditions, and customs—is through help from the state of Israel. It is the humanitarian thing to do.
Israel already exemplifies this humane treatment of her enemies. They have hospitals and medical units close to their borders where they discreetly treat the wounded and injured who come to them for medical help. These people eventually go back to their homes in Syria. Patients keep the medical care quiet to protect themselves from reprisal back home for receiving care from Israel. Sometimes the patients are combatants and other times it is civilians caught in crossfire; some arrive barely alive not even knowing they are in Israel, regaining consciousness only to find themselves being cared for by the very people they have been taught to hate. These doctors and nurses are “sowing seeds of peace.”
Another reason why helping Arab Christians would be good for Israel: What better way to overcome jihad in the region than for Israel to forge an alliance with Christians? For their part, Middle Eastern Christians should see Israel as an ally, support its democratic state, and build an alliance to combat Islamic terrorists. For too long Islam has used a divide and conquer tactic on the Christians and Jews. For example, when Arab Christians living in Nazareth wanted to integrate into Israeli society and enlist in the Israel Defense Forces, they were harassed, attacked, and threatened by Arab Muslim groups. What’s worse was the accusation by Muslims and Christians that they were betraying Palestine. Anyone thinking clearly can see this for what it is: Muslims fearing the alliance of Arab Christians with Israel.
Remember, Israel, that you were enslaved, persecuted, and almost exterminated. Remember that some wanted to destroy you from the face of the earth. Even now many of your neighbors want to annihilate you. What better way to do good to some of your enemies and save yourself at the same time than by forging an alliance with Arab Christians?
If Christians are ever to have a place again in the Middle East, they must unite with Israel. Israel, seeing the genocide of Arab Christians, especially in Iraq, should offer a saving hand to them. In Erbil right now, a Fr. Douglas Bazi is housing around 500 people on the grounds of his church. Get them out of there. With the help of charitable funds they can easily be absorbed into Israel.
If Israel will not act, what’s to be done? It’s hard to find exact numbers, but maybe there are between 200,000 and 400,00 Iraqi Christians left. They will be killed in Iraq, or die trying to escape. Some, God willing, may be allowed to emigrate. Elliot Abrams, during an AEI panel on the Sykes-Picot Agreement, made the most courageous statements I have heard from anyone regarding the situation:
Most of the Christian communities are dying, will never be restored….nobody has that feeling toward Christian minorities in Iraq [speaking of the desire to save the communities]…we don’t even take Christian refugees…I am really struck by the hostility to the notion that anything should be done for the Christian communities of the Middle East…is anybody being persecuted more than the Iraqi Christians? Does anybody have a more well-founded fear [of persecution]? They can’t even go to U.N refugee camps safely. And we are doing nothing about that. [Regarding the conundrum of liquidating Christianity from the area] It would be like saying, in 1940, surely a 1000 years of Jewish history in Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, we don’t want to kill it by taking those people as refugees. They died. The Christians will die, or many of them will die. So I think we don’t have the right to say, ‘Stay there and maintain your churches,’ when they’re being killed.
Israel, rise up and lead that region of the world. You are the hope for Iraqi Christians. Let it always be said: In the dark age of ISIS, when desolation and despair covered the Arab world, Israel was the house of light. Like the prophet Jonah whom God commanded to go to Nineveh and offer redemption to the Assyrians, may Israel go and redeem Assyria—redeem the Nineveh plains once again.