High Priest of Jew-Hate is Gone, But Not His Ideas
For all the avalanche of analyses and op-eds since the death of Osama bin Laden, it is essential to remember one thing: antisemitism was at the core of his hatred – and remains the basis of the al Qaida ideology.
Most commentators seek to portray bin Laden as universally hateful – an enemy of Western civilization. But this “universal” also hides a specific truth.
Just as the Holocaust has universal lessons because Nazism threatened humanity, as Lucy Davidowitz’s monumental “The War Against the Jews” (1) demonstrated, a deep, pathological hatred of Jews and Judaism served as its engine. Judeophobia was the driving impulse around which Nazism coalesced.
Similarly, al Qaida is a universal threat, but bin Laden’s insatiable hatred for America for having “invaded” Saudi Arabia – allegedly his reason for taking his brand of jihad to the world stage – was driven by an apocalyptic Islamist theory according to which all Muslims would wage war against Jewry at the End of Days.
Bin Laden’s world-view was also steeped in the ideas of thinkers like Sayyid Qutb, whose writings, including “Our Struggle with the Jews” (2) have served as a philosophical grounding for much of radical Islamism.
Similarly, to the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, “Jewish” New York, as much as the Zionist state of Israel, was the incarnation of satanic evil, just as Wall Street had embodied the general headquarters of corporate wickedness and cosmopolitan Jewry for the Nazis and fascists of a previous era (3).
In fact, it’s arguable that because the ideology Bin Laden espoused – and frighteningly demonstrated – inspired jihadists via the global media, both his hatred and his apocalyptic vision will be heightened by his dramatic, highly televised demise.
Al Qaida is less a top-down hierarchy and more a constellation of franchises (4) – unified by an ideology that sees the annihilation of Israel as a step toward Islamic world-domination.
While Obama and the Americans may be prepared to say “justice is done”, for the enemies of Israel and the Jews it is precisely this “justice” that will need to be avenged – hence Hamas’s hailing of Bin Laden as a martyr and a hero or Fatah’s military wing calling Bin Laden’s killing “catastrophe”.
The person may be gone, but the idea may, paradoxically, be more potent than ever.
(2) http://nationalinterest.org/bookreview/qutb-4268?page=show – review of John Calvert, “Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism”(New York: Columbia University Press, 2010)
(3) Robert S. Wistrich, “Muslim Antisemitism: A Clear and Present Danger”, American Jewish Committee (2002), p.16 (http://www.ajc.org/atf/cf/%7B42D75369-D582-4380-8395-D25925B85EAF%7D/WistrichAntisemitism.pdf) and “A Lethal Obsession. Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad”, Random House (2010), pp.780ff.
(4) http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/jul/13/alqaida.bookextracts (Jason Burke, “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror”, IB Taurus (2003).
This article originally appeared in the Jewish Chronicle, 5 May 2011