Just before subduing the Medinan Jewish tribe Banu Qurayza and orchestrating the mass execution of their adult males, Muhammad invoked perhaps the most striking Koranic motif for the Jews debasement: He addressed these Jews, with hateful disparagement, as “You brothers of apes.” 81 Subsequently, in the case of the Khaybar Jews, Muhammad had the male leadership killed and plundered their riches. The terrorized Khaybar survivors, industrious Jewish farmers, became prototype subjugated dhimmis whose productivity was extracted by the Muslims as a form of permanent booty. (According to the Muslim sources, even this tenuous vassalage was arbitrarily terminated within a decade of Muhammad’s death when Caliph Umar expelled the Jews of Khaybar.) 82
Thus Maimonides (d. 1203), the renowned Talmudist, philosopher, astronomer, and physician, as noted by historian Salo Baron, emphasizes the bellicose “madness” of Muhammad and his quest for political control. Muhammad’s mindset and the actions it engendered had immediate and long term tragic consequences for Jews — from his massacring up to 24,000 Jews to their chronic oppression as described in the Islamic sources by Muslims themselves. 83
Muhammad’s brutal conquest and subjugation of the Medinan and Khaybar Jews and their subsequent expulsion by one of his companions, the (second) “Rightly Guided” Caliph Umar, epitomize permanent archetypal behavior patterns Islamic Law deemed appropriate to Muslim interactions with Jews. 84 George Vajda’s seminal analysis of the anti-Jewish motifs in the hadith remains the definitive work on this subject. 85 Vajda concluded that according to the hadith, stubborn malevolence is the Jews defining worldly characteristic: Rejecting Muhammad and refusing to convert to Islam out of jealousy, envy, and even selfish personal interest, led them to acts of treachery in keeping with their inveterate nature: “Sorcery, poisoning, assassination held no scruples for them.” 86 These archetypes sanction Muslim hatred towards the Jews, and the admonition to, at best: “Subject [the Jews] to Muslim domination” as dhimmis, treated “with contempt” under certain “humiliating arrangements.” 87
Annihilationist sentiments regarding Jews, as expressed by Hezbollah, the Iranian regime, and incorporated permanently into the foundational 1988 Hamas Charter, 88 are also rooted in Islamic eschatology. 89 As characterized in the hadith, Muslim eschatology highlights the Jews’ supreme hostility to Islam. 90 Jews are described as adherents of the Dajjâl — the Muslim equivalent of the Anti-Christ — or according to another tradition, the Dajjâl is himself Jewish. 91At his appearance, other traditions maintain that the Dajjâl will be accompanied by 70,000 Jews from Isfahan wrapped in their robes and armed with polished sabers, their heads covered with a sort of veil. When the Dajjâl is defeated, his Jewish companions will be slaughtered. Everything will deliver them up except for the so-called gharkad tree, as per the canonical hadith included in the 1988 Hamas Charter (in article 7). Another hadith variant, which takes place in Jerusalem, has Isa (the Muslim Jesus) leading the Arabs in a rout of the Dajjâl and his company of 70,000 armed Jews. And the notion of jihad “ransom” extends even into Islamic eschatology: On the day of resurrection the vanquished Jews will be consigned to hellfire, and this will expiate Muslims who have sinned, sparing them from this fate. 92
Moshe Sharon recently provided a very lucid summary of the unique features of Shi’ite eschatology, its key point of consistency with Sunni understandings of this doctrine, and Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s deep personal attachment to “mahdism”: 93
Since the late ninth century, the Shi’ites have been expecting the emergence of the hidden imam-mahdi, armed with divine power and followed by thousands of martyrdom-seeking warriors. He is expected to conquer the world and establish Shi’ism as its supreme religion and system of rule. His appearance would involve terrible war and unusual bloodshed.
Ahmadinejad, as mayor of Teheran, built a spectacular boulevard through which the mahdi would enter into the capital. There is no question that Ahmadinejad believes he has been chosen to be the herald of the mahdi.
Shi’ite Islam differs from Sunni Islam regarding the identity of the mahdi. The Sunni mahdi is essentially an anonymous figure; the Shi’ite mahdi is a divinely inspired person with a real identity.
However both Shi’ites and Sunnis share one particular detail about “the coming of the hour” and the dawning of messianic times: The Jews must all suffer a violent death, to the last one. Both Shi’ites and Sunnis quote the famous hadith [Sahih Muslim, Book 40, Number 6985] attributed to Muhammad: The last hour will not come unless the Muslims fight against the Jews, and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and the stone or the tree would say: “Muslim! Servant of Allah! Here is a Jew behind me; come and kill him!” Not one Friday passes without this hadith being quoted in sermons from one side of the Islamic world to the other.
The rise of Jewish nationalism — Zionism — has posed a predictable, if completely unacceptable challenge to the Islamic order — jihad-imposed chronic dhimmitude for Jews — of apocalyptic magnitude. As historian Bat Ye’or has explained: 94
Because divine will dooms Jews to wandering and misery, the Jewish state appears to Muslims as an unbearable affront and a sin against Allah. Therefore it must be destroyed by jihad.
This is exactly the Islamic context in which the widespread, “resurgent” use of Jew annihilationist apocalyptic motifs, Sunni and Shi’ite alike, would be an anticipated, even commonplace occurrence.
Despite an international outcry of condemnation following Ahmadinejad’s statements in late October 2005 that Israel “should be wiped off the map … very soon this stain of disgrace will be purged from the center of the Islamic world,” he continued to express such annihilationist sentiments throughout 2006 through the present while simultaneously referring to the “myth of the Holocaust” and even sponsoring a December 2006 Holocaust deniers “conference” in Tehran. Ahmadinejad also maintained he has “a connection with God,” and his genocidal pronouncements have been endorsed by the upper echelons of Iran’s national security establishment.