Chesler Chronicles

The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism

Dr. Andrew Bostom has compiled, edited, translated, introduced, and written what amounts to a major “J’Accuse.” The Legacy of Islamic AntiSemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History is an overwhelming and powerful book, perhaps the first of its kind. Bostom, who is also the author of The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, challenges all the prevailing views.

The common view, both in the West and among Jews, is that Islam was kinder and gentler towards Jews than Christianity was. Not so, not so, argues Bostom, a view which he documents in 766 pages. Bostom also refutes the notion that Islamic Jew-hatred was only recently learned from the Nazis; on the contrary, in his view, Islamic anti-Semitism is as old as Islam itself.

Yes, of course, vis a vis Jews, there were always lucky escapes. Jewish survivors all specialize in luck. But the myth of the Golden Age in Spain as one in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived in naught but peace and harmony has now been firmly and fully laid to rest by Bostom’s work.

Andrew Bostom, New York City, April, 2009.

I recently heard Bostom, who is a protégée of the scholar Bat-Yeor, present his work for the Hudson Institute. Andy is a friend as well as a colleague and he is intellectually and verbally very forceful. And yet, for a moment, he became quite poignant, almost apologetic, humble. He noted that he is not an Arabist or a Middle East specialist, that he is a research physician and Professor of Medicine—but since no one else stepped forward to do this work—he did.

Might I suggest that we all follow his example?

I will post an excerpt of his excellent speech and talk about the discussion that followed it, possibly next week. His work is devastating, chilling, comprehensive, heartbreaking, and utterly persuasive. For now, I want to share one very dramatic story with you, one of hundreds, possibly thousands, that are contained in Bostom’s book. It is a powerful and awful tale and it has haunted me ever since I first read about it.

Muslims still believe that a Jewish woman of the Banu Nadir tribe in Khaybar (Zainab Bint al-Harith) served the prophet Mohammed poisoned goat meat which caused his death over a three year period. This belief is, perhaps, a paranoid projection which allowed many Muslims to scapegoat and persecute Jews. After all, Mohammed is the one who genocidally exterminated the Jewish tribes of northern Arabia. Neither Mohammed nor his tribe were ever “exterminated” by the Jews.

The story is set in Morocco in the 19th century. It concerns a Jewish girl, one Sol Hachuel. In 1834, Sol Hachuel was a devout seventeen year old Jew whose impoverished father was a Talmud scholar. She lived in Tangier, Morocco. Somehow, she became friendly with a Muslim woman named Tahra de Mesoodi who was eager to convert a Jew to Islam. Tahra falsely claimed that Sol had converted. Sol disagreed, but was still viewed as an apostate, which is a capital crime – even today. Dragged before the governor, Sol said: “A Jewess I was born, a Jewess I wish to die.”

The Basha of Tangier, Arba Esudio, threatened that he would “load (you) with chains…I will have you torn piece-meal by wild beasts, you shall not see the light of day, you shall perish of hunger…in having provoked the anger of the Prophet.” Amazingly, Sol responded: “I will patiently bear the weight of your chains, I will give my limbs to be torn piece-meal by wild beasts; I will renounce forever the light of day….I will smile at your indignation, and the anger of your Prophet: since neither he nor you have been able to convert a weak female!”

Sol was chained both hand and foot and confined to a “lightless dungeon” with an iron collar around her neck. The Muslim authorities threatened her distraught parents with 500 lashes if they did not immediately come up with the cost of Sol’s transport to Fez and the cost of her execution. In Fez, the Jewish community was threatened with extermination if their leaders failed to persuade Sol to convert to Islam. They tried but failed to do so. The Sultan condemned Sol to death in the public square. She fasted and prayed. She was dragged along the ground like an animal with a rope around her neck. The executioner asked her one last time if she would convert. According to an eye-witness: “Sol, then raising her streaming eyes to heaven, repeated with the utmost devotion, the Shema (the central prayer in Judaism), which having concluded, kneeling and casting her eyes to the ground, she said to the executioner–“I have finished, dispose of my life.”

Sol became known as a heroic martyr among Moroccan Jews. According to Jewish law, she was buried immediately–and in a place of honor, right next to a great Jewish sage.

In 1860, French painter Alfred Dehodencq painted her story. He called it “Execution d’une juive au Maroc” (Execution of a Moroccan Jewess.) Like many Europeans, Dehodencq was enamored of the Islamic and Iberian (Spanish) East which he learned about from Byron and Chateaubriand.

Dr. Bostom uses this painting as the cover for his extraordinary book.

I suggest that some philanthropist buy up copies and send them to President Obama’s team and to Secretary of State Clinton’s team as well. Forearmed is forewarned.