Nazis, Islamic Antisemitism and the Middle East
The 1948 Arab War against Israel and the Aftershocks of World War II
As of August 1, 2023, my new book is on the market. It is volume 1 of the series Studies in Contemporary Antisemitism, which the London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism publishes together with Routledge.
The British magazine Fathom published a short report about some of the discoveries of the new book. You’ll find it here.
Below are brief comments on the book by some colleagues, followed by the newsletter that the London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism published on the occasion of the book’s launch.
Dave Rich, Director of Policy at the Community Security Trust, London:
Matthias Küntzel’s new work is a fascinating and important exploration of the influence of Nazi propaganda during a crucial period in the formation of the modern Middle East. Like all the best books, it challenges the reader to consider familiar terrain from a new perspective, with a fresh analysis rooted in archival sources and rigorous research. The story it tells is, as the title suggests, shocking in its implications.
Günther Jikeli, Indiana University, USA:
This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the roots of antisemitism and hatred of Israel in the Middle East. Nazi propaganda introduced genocidal antisemitism to the Middle East by exploiting traditional anti-Jewish attitudes in Islam. Küntzel illustrates this with previously unseen documents, such as the Nazi pamphlet “Judaism and Islam,” published in 1937 in Arabic, and evidence of the Nazi collaboration with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Meir Litvak, Tel Aviv University, Israel:
This important book sheds light on the unexplored yet crucial impact of Nazi anti-Semitism on modern Islamist movements since the 1930s and their role in mobilizing mass political hostility and military opposition to Israel. In analyzing these aspects of modern Islamist anti-Semitism, Küntzel’s book offers a major contribution both to scholarship and to the struggle for a more humane world.
R. Amy Elman, Kalamazoo College, USA:
This book is required reading for anyone wanting to discover the antisemitic roots of the Middle East conflict and its devastating consequences. Küntzel deftly transcends prevailing assumptions about the region to reveal how adept the Nazis were at exporting genocidal antisemitism to the region.
Joseph S. Spoerl, Saint Anselm College, USA:
Combining original archival research with a magisterial survey of the existing scholarship, Matthias Küntzel demonstrates that Islamic anti-Semitism is not a byproduct but an originating cause of the Palestinian-Zionist conflict from at least 1937 on, helping to explain its ongoing violence and intractability.
David Hirsh, Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London:
This short and accessible book shows that a significant proportion of antisemitism in today’s Middle East results from Nazi efforts to influence Islamist and Arab Nationalist thinking. The impact of Soviet antisemitism is already well documented. If antisemitism is not only an effect but also an ongoing cause of conflict between Jews and Arabs, then Matthias Küntzel’s scholarship will require many people to think again. It also sheds new light on how this local conflict came to be regarded as globally significant.
David Patterson, University of Texas, USA:
With his usual depth and insight, Matthias Küntzel demonstrates two points that are essential to any understanding of the Islamic antisemitism that pervades not only the Middle East but also the rest of world. First, he explains the centrality of Nazi exterminationist Jew hatred in Islamic Jihadist ideology, particularly as that ideology emerged from the Muslim Brotherhood. Second, he brings out the dangerous ways in which the hybrid of Nazi and Jihadist antisemitism continues to spread throughout the region, from Ankara to Tehran. Making crucial connections between history and contemporary realities, this book is a must-read for anyone who seeks to fathom the complexities of today’s Middle East and what they bode for tomorrow.
Jeffrey H. Herf, University of Maryland, USA:
Matthias Küntzel, author of the pioneering work Jihad and Jew-Hatred, has offered another bold and pathbreaking study of the impact of Nazi Germany on the Middle East, on the emergence of Islamic antisemitism, and of important causes of the Arab Israeli war of 1948.
He writes in the spirit of the postwar West German and then German tradition of honest reckoning with the realities and the aftermath of the crimes and hatreds of Nazi Germany. In so doing, he offers a work that synthesizes a sizable scholarly literature, offers new and important archival findings, recasts conventional periodization, and sheds light on persons and ideas that comprised the era of “post-Nazism” in the Middle East, and should stimulate debate and fresh thinking.
With clarity, boldness, and scholarly rigor, he offers us a work that anyone with an interest in these issues in the academy and among general readers, should read and ponder.
Dear Friends and Colleagues
The London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism (LCSCA) is excited to announce that the first book in its series, Studies in Contemporary Antisemitism (SiCS), will be published by Routledge on 1 August. Matthias Küntzel’s new book is Nazis, Islamic Antisemitism and the Middle East: The 1948 Arab War against Israel and the Aftershocks of World War II.
In it, he presents, analyses and explains the evidence that the Nazis’ impact in the Middle East, in the 1930s and beyond, was significant. Without understanding this, he argues, one is missing a key element necessary to understanding the relationships between Israel and its neighbours.
Antisemitism is not only a product of the conflict, he argues, it is also a part of the cause of the conflict, and also of its longevity; and that antisemitism has an antecedent not only in Russian Communist antizionism, but also in Nazi ideology and propaganda.
There are threads of Muslim antisemitism that go back much further than the 20th century, but the construction of 20th century extremist Islamist ideology and practice also borrows and re-shapes specific Nazi elements. This Islamist current, together with Arab nationalist and left antizionist currents, has in turn impacted the quality and the quantity of antisemitism in Muslim communities more widely. When antisemitism takes its most developed, specifically totalitarian form, for example in Al Qaeda and ISIS, the Nazi influence is clear.
Matthias Küntzel focuses on meticulously researched histories, which are the result of a significant proportion of his life’s work. He does not fear stumbling into Islamophobia because he has a clear understanding of what the evidence does, and does not demonstrate. Antisemitism, which essentializes an invented Jewish evil in Jewish religion or in Jewish ‘race’, can obviously not be explained by essentializing it in Muslim religion or in Islamophobic narrative.
Many scholars have left these elements of the story unresearched. Perhaps they doubt their own abilities to avoid the possible pitfalls, or perhaps they just fear an unwarranted hostility that could harm their reputations.
Matthias’ ability to understand the consequences of what he writes, and to use clear and accurate language, are unparalleled; but he has himself been locked out of the professorial career that his work deserves. While he does completely ground breaking research and the paradigm-shifting writing, he earns his living by teaching the equivalent of High School or Sixth Form Politics. The luck of those kids, who have had him as a teacher notwithstanding, the university sector ought to be held accountable for its failure to support and to recognise Küntzel’s work.
This book brings together much of this work in English, and in a form that is accessible to a more general reader, as well as to students and scholars. Please, read his book, review it, write about it, allow it to impact how you think, and pass it on far and wide so that it can be read in the numbers that it deserves. Please order copies for your library.
If you would like a copy of the book to review or to write about, or for use in your teaching, please request a copy via the Routledge website https://m.email.taylorandfrancis.com/review-copy-request-form.
The author is available for interview and is happy to consider offers to write about his book, or to write up elements from it for publication appropriately for different target audiences.
This volume will be of interest to those researching antisemitism, Nazi foreign policy and the political history of the Middle East.
It is nominated for the 2023 £1000 LCSCA Book Prize for the best book on contemporary antisemitism, awarded annually by the London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism.
Dr David Hirsh and Prof Rosa Freedman
Co-editors of the LCSCA SiCA series.