The 1948 war and the descent into Western-style anti-Semitism

Following up to “Islamism and Jew-hatred“.

According to historian Bernard Lewis, the Western-style anti-Semitism taught by the Nazis only became widely popular in the Arab world after the humiliation of the 1948 Israeli War of Independence.

But why was that defeat considered so especially humiliating? Lewis writes

The main negative quality attributed to Jews in Turkish and Arab folklore was that they were cowardly and unmilitary — very contemptible qualities in a martial society. A late Ottoman joke may serve to illustrate this. The story is that in 1912, at the time of the Balkan war, when there was an acute threat to the Ottoman Empire in its final stages, the Jews, full of patriotic ardor, decided that they, too, wanted to serve in the defense of their country, so they asked permission to form a special volunteer brigade. Permission was given, and officers and ncos were sent to train and equip them. Once the Jewish volunteer brigade was armed, equipped, and trained, ready to leave for the front, they sent a message asking if they could have a police escort, because there were reports of bandits on the road.

This is a very interesting human document. Is it hostile? Not really. It shows a sort of amused tolerance, at once good-humored and contemptuous, that may help us to understand the bewilderment and horror at the Israeli victories in 1948 and after. We have some vivid descriptions at the time of the expectations and reactions of 1948. Azzam Pasha, who was then the secretary-general of the Arab League, is quoted as having said: “This will be like the Mongol invasions. We will utterly destroy them. We will sweep them into the sea.” The expectation was that it would be quick and easy. There would be no problem at all dealing with half a million Jews. It was then an appalling shock when five Arab armies were defeated by half a million Jews with very limited weaponry. It remains shameful, humiliating. This was mentioned at the time and has been ever since. One writer said: “It was bad enough to be conquered and occupied by the mighty empires of the West, the British Empire, the French Empire, but to suffer this fate at the hands of a few hundred thousand Jews was intolerable.”

The Western form of anti-Semitism — the cosmic, satanic version of Jew hatred — provided solace to wounded feelings.

Interesting article, worth reading. I should also warn though that Lewis is controversial because of his views on the Armenian genocide.

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