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Jihad and Genocidal Islamic Anti-Semitism in Shi’ite Iran, Part Three

Islamic anti-Semitism, from Muhammad to Ahmadinejad. (This is Part Three of a three-part series. Part One is here; Part Two is here )

Andrew G. Bostom


February 7, 2010 - 12:00 am

How have the jihad and its corollary institution, dhimmitude — including “najis-inspired” dhimmitude — been conjoined to Islamic anti-Semitism, past and present?

Demonizing Israel and Jews via motifs in the Koran, hadith, and sira (the earliest pious Muslim biographies of Muhammad), Hezbollah views the jihad against the “Zionist entity” as an annihilationist war intrinsic to broader conflicts: the struggle between the Islamic world and the non-Muslim world, and the historical struggle between Islam and Judaism. 62

The most senior clerical authority for Hezbollah, Husayn Fadlalah, has stated:

We find in the Koran that the Jews are the most aggressive towards the Muslims … because of their aggressive resistance to the unity of the faith. 63

Fadlallah repeatedly refers to anti-Jewish archetypes in the Koran, hadith, and sira: the corrupt, treacherous, and aggressive nature of the Jews; their reputation as killers of prophets who spread corruption on earth; and the notion that the Jews engaged in conspiratorial efforts against Muhammad. 64 Hassan Nasrallah — current secretary general of Hezbollah, a protége of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and presently Iran’s highest ranking political and religious authority (its “guardian jurisprudent”) — has reiterated these anti-Semitic views with particular vehemence. Invoking motifs from Islam’s foundational texts, Nasrallah has characterized Jews as the “grandsons of apes and pigs” and as “Allah’s most cowardly and greedy creatures.” 65 He elaborates these themes into an annihilationist animus against all Jews, not merely Israelis: 66

Anyone who reads the Koran and the holy writings of the monotheistic religions sees what they did to the prophets, and what acts of madness and slaughter the Jews carried out throughout history. …

Anyone who reads these texts cannot think of co-existence with them, of peace with them, or about accepting their presence, not only in Palestine of 1948 but even in a small village in Palestine, because they are a cancer which is liable to spread again at any moment. … There is no solution to the conflict in this region except with the disappearance of Israel.

If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak, and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology, and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli. … [I]f they [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.

The crux of all these allegations is a central antisemitic motif in the Koran which decrees an eternal curse upon the Jews (Koran 2:61, reiterated at 3:112) for slaying the prophets and transgressing against the will of Allah. 67 It should be noted that Koran 3:112 is featured before the pre-amble to Hamas’ foundational covenant. 68

This central motif is coupled to Koranic verses 5:60 and 5:78, which describe the Jews transformation into apes and swine (5:60) or simply apes, (i.e., verses 2:65 and 7:166), having been “ … cursed by the tongue of David, and Jesus, Mary’s son (5:78).” Muhammad himself repeats this Koranic curse in a canonical hadith (Sunan Abu Dawoud, Book 37, Number 4322):

He [Muhammad] then recited the verse [5:78]: ” … curses were pronounced on those among the children of Israel who rejected Faith, by the tongue of David and of Jesus the son of Mary.” 69

The related verse 5:64 accuses the Jews of being “spreaders of war and corruption” — a sort of ancient Koranic antecedent of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion — invoked not only by Hezbollah leaders Fadlallah and Nasrallah, 70 but “moderate” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He cited Koran 5:64 during a January 2007 speech which urged Palestinian Muslims to end their internecine strife and “aim their rifles at Israel.” 71

Indeed the Koran’s overall discussion of the Jews is marked by a litany of their sins and punishments, as if part of a divine indictment, conviction, and punishment process. The Jews’ ultimate sin and punishment are made clear: They are the devil’s minions (4:60) cursed by Allah, their faces will be obliterated (4:47), and if they do not accept the true faith of Islam — the Jews who understand their faith become Muslims (3:113) — they will be made into apes (2:65/ 7:166), or apes and swine (5:60), and burn in the Hellfires (4:55, 5:29, 98:6, and 58:14-19). 72

The centrality of the Jews’ permanent “abasement and humiliation,” and being “laden with God’s anger” in the corpus of Muslim exegetic literature on Koran 2:61 and 3:112 is clear. By nature deceitful and treacherous, the Jews rejected Allah’s signs and prophets, including Isa, the Muslim Jesus. Classical Koranic commentators such as Tabari (d. 923), Zamakshari (d. 1143), Baydawi (d. 1316), and Ibn Kathir (d. 1373), when discussing Koran 5:82 (which includes the statement “Thou wilt surely find the most hostile of men to the believers are the Jews”), concur on the unique animus of the Jews towards the Muslims, which is repeatedly linked to the curse of Koran 2:61/3:112. 73 For example, in his commentary on 5:82, Tabari writes: 74

In my opinion, [the Christians] are not like the Jews who always scheme in order to murder the emissaries and the prophets, and who oppose God in his positive and negative commandments, and who corrupt His scripture which He revealed in His books.

Tabari’s classical interpretations of Koran 5:82 and 2:61, as well as his discussion of the related verse 9:29 mandating the Jews payment of the jizya (Koranic poll-tax), represent both antisemitic and more general anti-dhimmi views that became and remain intrinsic to Islam to this day. Here is Tabari’s discussion of 2:61 and its relationship to verse 9:29, which emphasizes the purposely debasing nature of the Koranic poll tax: 75

“Abasement and poverty were imposed and laid down upon them,” as when someone says “the imam imposed the poll tax (jizya) on free non-Muslim subjects,” or “The man imposed land tax on his slave,” meaning thereby that he obliged him [to pay ] it, or, “The commander imposed a sortie on his troops,” meaning he made it their duty. … God commanded His believing servants not to give them [i.e., the non-Muslim people of the scripture] security — as long as they continued to disbelieve in Him and his Messenger — unless they paid the poll tax to them; God said: “Fight those who believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden — such men as practice not the religion of truth [Islam], being of those who have been given the Book [Bible] — until they pay the poll tax, being humble.” (Koran 9:29)

The dhimmis posture during the collection of the jizya “[should be lowering themselves] by walking on their hands … reluctantly.”

His words “and abasement and poverty were imposed upon them,” “These are the Jews of the Children of Israel. … Are they the Copts of Egypt?” … What have the Copts of Egypt to do with this? No, by God, they are not; but they are the Jews, the Children of Israel. … By “and slain the prophets unrightfully,” He means that they used to kill the Messengers of God without God’s leave, denying their messages and rejecting their prophethood.

The Koranic curse (verses 2:61/3:112) upon the Jews for (primarily) rejecting, even slaying Allah’s prophets, including Isa/Jesus (or at least his “body double,” 4:157-4:158), is updated with perfect archetypal logic in the canonical hadith. Following the Muslims’ initial conquest of the Jewish farming oasis of Khaybar, one of the vanquished Jewesses reportedly served Muhammad poisoned mutton (or goat), which resulted ultimately in his protracted agonizing death. 76 And Ibn Saad’s sira account maintains that Muhammad’s poisoning resulted from a well-coordinated Jewish conspiracy. 77

The contemporary Iranian theocracy’s state-sanctioned Jew hatred employs this motif as part of its malevolent indoctrination of young adult candidates for national teacher training programs. Affirming as objective, factual history the hadith account (for eg., Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 47, Number 786) of Muhammad’s supposed poisoning by a Jewish woman from ancient Khaybar, Professor Eliz Sanasarian notes: 78

The subject became one of the questions in the ideological test for the Teachers’ Training College where students were given a multiple-choice question in order to identify the instigator of the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad, the “correct” answer being “a Jewess.”

It is worth recounting, as depicted in the Muslim sources, the events that antedated Muhammad’s reputed poisoning at Khaybar. 79

Muhammad’s failures or incomplete successes were consistently recompensed by murderous attacks on the Jews. The Muslim prophet-warrior developed a penchant for assassinating individual Jews and destroying Jewish communities by expropriation and expulsion (Banu Quaynuqa and B. Nadir), or massacring their men and enslaving their women and children (Banu Qurayza). 80

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.

The conclusion that Israel’s eradication has become “Iran’s principal foreign policy objective” does not seem unwarranted. 95 Matthias Kuntzel has highlighted, appropriately, the unique dangers posed by Iran’s fusion of a martyrdom mentality with nuclear weapons capability and Holocaust denial. 96

Holocaust scholar Daniel Goldhagen has put forth the controversial argument that the Nazis melded centuries of annihilationist German Jew hatred to a state machinery capable of implementing the systematic mass murder of Jews. 97 Citing the independent statements of Iranian Presidents Rafsanjani (from December 2001) and Ahmadinejad (from October 2005), in a November 3, 2005 opinion editorial Goldhagen cautioned: 98

Two Iranian presidents have now openly spoken about destroying Israel, with Ahmadinejad defiantly repeating his genocidal hopes again … despite the world’s condemnation of him.

Goldhagen’s visceral concern that “it would be folly for the world to treat the Iranian leaders’ words as anything but an articulation of their intent,” remained oddly de-contextualized for an historian of anti-Semitism with his particular mindset. 99 Yet four centuries of najis-inspired Jew hatred in Shi’ite Iran, accompanied by pogroms, forced conversions, and other less violent but continuous forms of social and religious persecution — none of which are ever mentioned by Goldhagen — surely meets his own prior standard, regardless of its validity, of an established “annihilationist” mentality in Germany. 100

Irrespective of the controversy surrounding his earlier work on Nazi Germany, Goldhagen’s apparent ignorance of Shi’ite Iran’s centuries-old history of Jew hatred is pathognomonic of the current state of “scholarship” on Islamic antisemitism. Such ignorance may also explain the inability of our intellectual and policymaking elites to appreciate the prevalence and depth of support for such annihilationist views in contemporary Shi’ite Iran.

Iran must not be permitted to acquire a nuclear weapons capability — certainly now, under the current regime, and into the foreseeable future.


62. Ibid, p. 144

63. Ibid, p. 144

64. Ibid, p. 144

65. Ibid, p. 145

66. Ibid, p. 145

67. Ibid, pp. 34-35

68. Andrew G. Bostom “Confronting Hamas’ Genocidal Jew-Hatred.” The American Thinker, January 02, 2009

69. Andrew G. Bostom. “Antisemitism in the Qur’an: Motifs and Historical Manifestations” Jihad Watch, April 7, 2008,

70. Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, pp. 144-145

71. Bostom. “Antisemitism in the Qur’an: Motifs and Historical Manifestations”

72. Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, pp. 40-41

73. Ibid, pp. 37-39

74. Ibid, p. 35

75. Ibid, p. 35

76. Ibid, pp. 74,229,232-234

77. Ibid, pp. 294-295

78. Ibid, p. 143

79. Ibid, pp. 66-74,265-278,283-287

80. Ibid, pp. 66-74,265-278,283-287

81. Ibid, p. 54

82. Ibid, pp. 66-76,229,231,233

83. Salo Baron. “The Historical Outlook of Maimonides,” Proc of the Amer Acad for Jewish Res, vol. 6, 1934-35, p. 82; Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, p.21

84. Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, pp. 66-76

85. Ibid, pp. 235-260

86. Ibid, p.63

87. Ibid, p.63

88. Andrew G. Bostom, “Confronting Hamas’ Genocidal Jew-Hatred.”

89. Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, p. 63

90. Ibid, p. 63

91. Ibid, p. 63

92. Ibid, p. 63

93. Moshe Sharon, “We only get one strike”

94. Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, p

95. Ibid, p. 149

96. Ibid, p. 149

97. Ibid, p. 149

98. Ibid, p. 149

99. Ibid, p. 150

100. Ibid, p. 150

Andrew Bostom ( is the author of The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims (2005/2008) and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History (2008).
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