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Jihad and Genocidal Islamic Anti-Semitism in Shi’ite Iran (PJM Exclusive)

Religion of peace? Murderous anti-Semitism and expansive war are inherently Islamic, and are presently fueling the motivations of the Iranian regime. (Part One of a three-part series.)

Andrew G. Bostom


February 4, 2010 - 12:00 am

On January 29, 2010, U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones alluded to a “heightened risk” that Iran will react to increasing pressure over its nuclear program by orchestrating violence against Israel through its jihadist proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas. Eighteen months ago, during July 2008, professors Moshe Sharon 1 and Benny Morris 2 both opined solemnly about an inevitable Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. These two respected Israeli academicians, despite holding very disparate political views, also concurred on the moral justification for such preemptive action: the genocidal threat to Israel posed by a Shi’ite Iranian regime gripped with an apocalyptic, Jew-hating fervor.

For example, in a recent televised address that aired September 18, 2009, 3 “Secretary General” of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah referred to Jews as “the criminal and murderous limb of Abraham’s progeny [who] killed the prophets, spread corruption in the land, and committed atrocities and sins.” He concluded the speech by reminding his audience: 4

Imam (Ayatollah Khomeini) was straightforward from day one when he said: “This ‘Israel’ is a cancer gland that must be removed from existence.” President Ahmadinejad said nothing new — he only revived what the late Imam Khomeini (May God honor his soul) said: “Israel must be removed from existence.”

The so-called “Khomeini revolution,” which deposed the secular, Western-oriented regime of Mohammad Reza Shah, was in reality a return to oppressive Shi’ite theocratic rule — the predominant form of Iranian governance since 1502. 5 Khomeini’s views were the most influential in shaping the ideology of the revitalized Shi’ite theocracy, and his attitudes towards Jews — both before and after he assumed power — were particularly negative. Khomeini’s speeches and writings invoked a panoply of Judenhass motifs, including orthodox interpretations of sacralized Muslim texts, and the Shi’ite conception of najis, ritual uncleanliness. More ominously, Khomeini’s rhetoric blurred the distinction between Jews and Israelis, reiterated paranoid conspiracy theories about Jews (both within Iran, and beyond), and endorsed the annihilation of the Jewish state. 6

Since 1979, the restored Iranian theocracy — in parallel with returning, brutally, their small remnant Jewish community to a state of obsequious dhimmitude, through execution and intimidation — has always focused its obsessive anti-Jewish animus on the autonomous Jewish state of Israel. 7 For current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the destruction of Israel is an openly avowed policy driven by his eschatological beliefs. Mohammad Hassan Rahimian, a representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, summarized this annihilationist eschatology redolent with Koranic Jew-hatred (Koran 5:82) — which pertains to Jews generally, not “Zionists” — on November 16, 2006:

The Jew is the most obstinate enemy (Koran 5:82) of the devout. And the main war will determine the destiny of mankind. … The reappearance of the Twelfth Imam will lead to a war between Israel and the Shia. 8

Important scholars of Islamic anti-Semitism — from Hartwig Hirschfeld in the mid 1880s, Georges Vajda in the late 1930s, S.D. Goitein in 1971, and Haggai Ben-Shammai in 1988 — have demonstrated, collectively, all of the following:

– Clear historical evidence of specific Islamic antisemitism, from the Geniza record of the high Middle Ages — including the coinage of a unique Hebrew word to characterize such Muslim Jew hatred, sin’ūth — published in full by Goitein as of 1971

– The content of foundational Muslim sources detailing the sacralized rationale for Islam’s anti-Jewish bigotry, including Hartwig Hirschfeld’s mid-1880s essay series on Muhammad’s subjugation of the Jews of Medina, based upon the earliest pious Muslim biographies of Muhammad

– George Vajda’s elegant, comprehensive 1937 analysis focusing primarily on the hadith (the putative words and deeds of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, as recorded by pious transmitters)

– Haggai Ben-Shammai’s concise 1988 study of key examples of Jew-hatred in the Koran and Koranic exegesis 9

My presentation will introduce evidence compiled from the seminal works of these scholars, Islam’s own foundational texts, and historical eyewitness accounts (adduced to considerably greater extent in The Legacy of Jihad 10 and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism 11). These sources elucidate how Islam’s primal anti-Jewish animus — specific antisemitic motifs in Islamic theology, including Islamic eschatology, the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad war, and its corollary institution, dhimmitude — operate in tandem with regard to the annihilationist Muslim Jew-hatred directed at the Jews of Israel, in particular by the Shi’ite Islamic Republic of Iran.

As I will demonstrate, the pillars of this continuous modern campaign of annihilationist antisemitism are the motifs from traditional Islamic Jew-hatred, 12 including Islamic eschatology, 13 grafted seamlessly to jihadism. 14 These deep-seated Islamic theological motifs are further conjoined to Holocaust denial and the development of a nuclear weapons program intended expressly for Israel’s eradication. 15

Understanding the Jihad Against Israel

At the height of so-called secular Arab nationalism, a fatwa written on January 5, 1956, by then-Grand Mufti of Egypt Sheikh Hasan Ma’moun and signed by the leading members of the Fatwa Committee of Al Azhar University and the major representatives of all four Sunni Islamic schools of jurisprudence, elaborated the following key initial point: that all of historical Palestine having been conquered by jihad, was a permanent possession of the global Muslim umma (community), “fay territory” [booty], to be governed by Islamic law. Furthermore, quoting directly from the text, we the see the conjoined motivations of jihad and conspiratorial Islamic Jew-hatred (emphasis mine): 16

Muslims cannot conclude peace with those Jews who have usurped the territory of Palestine and attacked its people and their property in any manner which allows the Jews to continue as a state in that sacred Muslim territory.

[As] Jews have taken a part of Palestine and there established their non-Islamic government and have also evacuated from that part most of its Muslim inhabitants. … Jihad … to restore the country to its people … is the duty of all Muslims, not just those who can undertake it. And since all Islamic countries constitute the abode of every Muslim, the Jihad is imperative for both the Muslims inhabiting the territory attacked, and Muslims everywhere else because even though some sections have not been attacked directly, the attack nevertheless took place on a part of the Muslim territory which is a legitimate residence for any Muslim.

Everyone knows that from the early days of Islam to the present day the Jews have been plotting against Islam and Muslims and the Islamic homeland. They do not propose to be content with the attack they made on Palestine and Al Aqsa Mosque, but they plan for the possession of all Islamic territories from the Nile to the Euphrates.

There is just one historically relevant meaning of jihad, despite contemporary apologetics. The root of the word jihad appears 40 times in the Koran, and in subsequent Islamic understanding from Muslim luminaries — from the greatest jurists and scholars of classical Islam, including Abu Yusuf, 17 Averroes, 18 Ibn Khaldun, 19 Al Ghazzali, 20 and the Shi’ites Al-Hilli 21 and Al-Amili 22 — to ordinary people meant and means “he fought, warred, or waged war against unbelievers and the like.” 23 As described by the seminal Arabic lexicographer E.W Lane: “Jihad came to be used by the Muslims to signify wag[ing] war, against unbelievers.” 24 A contemporary definition was provided at the Fourth International Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research at Al Azhar, Cairo in 1968 by Muhammad al-Sobki: 25

The words Al Jihad, Al Mojahadah, or even “striving against enemies” are equivalents and they do not mean especially fighting with the atheists … they mean fighting in the general sense.

Muhammad himself waged a series of proto-jihad campaigns to subdue the Jews, Christians, and pagans of Arabia. 26 Numerous modern day pronouncements by leading Muslim theologians confirm that Muhammad has been the major inspiration for jihadism, past and present (see Yusuf Al-Qaradawi’s, “The Prophet Muhammad as a Jihad Model” 27).

Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406) — jurist, renowned philosopher, historian, and sociologist — summarized these consensus opinions from five centuries of prior Muslim jurisprudence with regard to the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad: 28

In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the [Muslim] mission and [the obligation to] convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force. … The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense. … Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.

Shi’ite jurisprudence was in agreement with the Sunni consensus on the basic nature of jihad war, as reflected in this excerpt from the Jami-i-Abbasi (the popular Persian manual of Shi’a law) written by al-Amili (d. 1622), a distinguished theologian under Shah Abbas I: 29

Islamic Holy war [jihad] against followers of other religions, such as Jews, is required unless they convert to Islam or pay the poll tax.

The essential pattern of the jihad war is captured in the classical Muslim historian al-Tabari’ s recording of the recommendation given by Umar b. al-Khattab (the second “Rightly Guided Caliph”) to the commander of the troops he sent to al-Basrah (636 C.E.) during the conquest of Iraq. Umar reportedly said: 30

Summon the people to God; those who respond to your call, accept it from them, but those who refuse must pay the poll tax out of humiliation and lowliness. (Koran 9:29) If they refuse this, it is the sword without leniency.

By the time of al-Tabari’s death in 923, jihad wars had expanded the Muslim empire from Portugal to the Indian subcontinent. Subsequent Muslim conquests continued in Asia as well as Eastern Europe. Under the banner of jihad, the Christian kingdoms of Armenia, Byzantium, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, and Albania, in addition to parts of Poland and Hungary, were also conquered and Islamized by waves of Seljuk, or later Ottoman Turks, as well as Tatars. Arab Muslim invaders additionally engaged in continuous jihad raids that ravaged and enslaved Sub-Saharan African animist populations, extending to the southern Sudan. When the Ottoman Muslim armies were stopped at the gates of Vienna in 1683, over a millennium of jihad had transpired. These tremendous military successes spawned a triumphalist jihad literature. Muslim historians recorded in detail the number of infidels slaughtered, or enslaved and deported; the cities, villages, and infidel religious sites which were sacked and pillaged; and the lands, treasure, and movable goods seized. 31

Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1942 speech, “Islam Is Not a Religion of Pacifists,” is a modern vision of these classical formulations, which states plainly (emphasis mine): 32

Those who study jihad will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. All the countries conquered by Islam or to be conquered in the future will be marked for everlasting salvation. For they shall live under [Allah’s law; the Sharia]. … Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]? Islam says: Kill them [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non-Muslims] overcome us? Islam says: Kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender [to the enemy]? Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to paradise, which can be opened only for holy warriors! There are hundreds of other [Koranic] psalms and hadiths [sayings of the prophet] urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all that mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.

Khomeini’s Iran has indeed embraced jihad “as a central pillar of faith and action,” demonstrated notably by the unending campaign of vilification and proxy violence against the “Zionist entity,” Israel. 33 This struggle epitomized what Khomeini’s Iran viewed as its “sacred struggle to cleanse the region and the world of Muslim and non-Muslim infidel blasphemy.” 34


1. Moshe Sharon. “We only get one strike,” July 16, 2008, The Jerusalem Post.

2. Benny Morris. “Using bombs to stave off war,” July 18, 2008, The New York Times.

3. Middle East Media Research Institute. October 8, 2009, Special Dispatch No. 2591 “Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah on Al-Quds Day: ‘Israel Must Be Wiped Out Of Existence’”

4. Ibid.

5. Andrew G. Bostom. The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, 2008, Prometheus Books, Amherst, New York, pp. 130-140, 331-334,563-572

6. Ibid, pp. 141-143

7. Ibid, pp. 141-149

8. Ibid, p.149

9. Ibid, pp. 31-32,34-35,57-63,221-228,235-262,299-314,481-488

10. Andrew G. Bostom. The Legacy of Jihad, 2005/2008, Prometheus Books, Amherst, New York.

11. Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism

12. Ibid, pp. 34-76,209-314

13. Ibid, pp. 63,246

14. Legacy of Jihad, pp. 24-124

15. Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, pp. 148-149

16. Document de-classified and released by the under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act, 2006, PL105-246 State Department Telegram 1763/Embassy (Cairo) Telegram 1256 D441214. English translation (by the US Embassy) of a fatwa written by the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Hasan Ma’moun, January 5, 1956, signed by the leading members of the Fatwa Committee of Al Azhar, i.e., its Chairman and ex-Mufti of Egypt, and major representatives of all four Islamic schools of jurisprudence, the ex-Sheikh of the Shari’a College (Shafi’i sect), Mahmoud Shaltout (Hanafi sect), the Director of Religious Guidance (Maliki Sect), and the Director of the Azhar Inspectorate (Hanbali sect), and published the following day in the Egyptian newspaper, Al Ahram.

17. Legacy of Jihad, 99. 174-181

18. Ibid, pp. 147-160

19. Ibid, p. 161

20. Ibid, p. 199

21 Ibid, pp. 205-212

22. Ibid, p. 28

23. Ibid, p. i

24. Ibid, p. ii.

25. Muhammad Lateef al-Sobki. “Al-Jihad in Islam,” pp. 157ff., The Fourth Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research, September, 1968. English translation, Cairo, 1970.

26. Legacy of Jihad, pp. ii-iii,25,38-39

27. Ibid, p.248

28. Ibid, p.161

29. Ibid, p. 28

30. Ibid, p.26

31. Ibid, pp. 28,37-93

32. Ibid, p. 226

33. Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism

34. Ibid, p. 144

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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