July 17, 2014 By

Condemning Israel without Being Anti-Semitic

In the context of the Israeli offence in Gaza, there is a loud hue and cry all across the world, condemning the attack. That Israel chooses the holy month of Ramadan for this offence renders its act even more barbaric, which makes the indifferent ‘onlookers’ both in the east and in the west complicit in its crime. Does not Israeli crime justify the Quranic condemnation of Jews? – ‘We have sown enmity and hatred among them till the Day of Resurrection. When they kindle the fire of war, God will put it out. They try to spread corruption in the land, but God does not love those who corrupt.’ Quran also curses the Jews (5.64) for their insolence.








We share the same intensity and anguish of the questioner to condemn the barbaric acts of Israel against a people whose tools of resistance can’t be compared to the state-of-the-art tools of warfare that Israel employs. That it is holy month of Ramadan makes the act even more brutal, divesting it of any semblance of conscience which instils ethics in war, if we wrongly and for the sake of an argument consider that it is war that Israel is waging, though, in fact, it is cold-blooded genocide (to the quote Professor Noam Chomsky)

However, we condemn the anti-Semitism that some of the Muslim critics of Israel employ in their denunciation and we must say that the questioner’s segueing into the Quranic verse to condemn the Jews altogether is a volte-face which can’t be justified. His interpretation prefacing the verse can’t be said to be contextually valid.  In some masjids and religious congregations, anti-Semitic tone in the critique of Israel is common. In some Facebook posts and other social media communications, even Adolf Hitler is quoted to denounce Jews. That Zionism rarely appears in these denunciations makes it more problematic, less objective and less sincere. It’s not racism that should be pitted against another brand of racism-politically morphed into Zionism-that spurs the Israeli action.

However, not only the
Muslim critics of Israel, but critics of Islam who are active in Islmophobic circuits, are of the view that Islam strongly denounces Jewish identity. Commentators like Daniel Pipes have written about how anti-Semitic the Quran is. Without responding to their arguments, we will thematically analyse the Quranic response to Jews. Based on our reading of the Quran, we understand that the text seems to take the Jewish question on in three different ways:

  1. There are the Quranic verses which narrate the history of Banu Israel, the people where Prophet Moses was sent. The narration is oft-repeated in the Quran, beginning from 2: 40. The Quran narrates how God blessed the society with favours including Moses; how Moses through the Revolutionary Message saved them from the yoke of Pharoah; how he instructed them about proper conduct of life through scriptures; how in the absence of Moses they chose a calf for worship; how God tested them and again blessed them with favours; how the society gave scant regard to them and kept violating the divine Message…etc.

In this context, the Quran does not use racial reference, but rather thematically subsumes the narration under a category where Messengers are all denied and disrespected by people.


  1. After Prophet’s exile to Medina, he came into contact with several Jewish tribes there. Some of them made pact with them; some of them played indifferent; some of them ridiculed the Message and the Messenger and helped his enemies to wage war and, worse, to kill him. Prophet’s response to these tribes was politically on similar lines. He strengthened the bond with some of them; he expelled one tribe; he killed another. Quranic verses that were revealed during this Madenese stage only vaguely reported and passingly reflected on the events that mattered. Sometimes, the Quran responded to the arguments of the Jews against the Message of the Prophet. Quran has ridiculed them, as well as the Christians, for selectively appropriating the truth. (2.111; 112; 113)

The verse that the questioner cited above and the verse 5:82 answer the critiques that the Jews at times posed. In 5:64, of which the questioner cited only a part, Jews, Quran says, makes the argument against the God that His hands are tied up, which the Quran refutes and contradicts citing the deep-felt arrogance and hatred to others in the society. In 5:69, the Quran refutes their selective, proprietary claim of salvation, by including them ‘among’ the communities that ‘can attain salvation’ if they do good works.   The Jews and Pagans, who, the Quran says, have grown in enmity and hatred are the ones that the Prophet ‘can find’ (5:82), which means that they live in the vicinity. It is not an essentialist as well as definitive classification of the Jewish identity.


  1. The Quran makes a non-contextual category of Jews being a community among the people of the Book, who are invited to ponder the logical continuation of the Message in which they believe through Jesus to Muhammad. As a community among the people of the Books, Muslim boys can, if need be, marry a Jewish girl. As such, morally and ethically they belong to one of the communities, whom the God has chosen for salvation: ‘Those who believe (in the Quran), those who follow Jewish scriptures, the Sabians and the Christians-if they believe in God and Last Day and work righteousness-on them there shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.’ (5:69)

Israel, we believe, is a political project born in the aftermath of colonialism orchestrated by Zionists around the identity of Jews. Most critics of Israel, including several Rabbi Movements and, say, the most vocal Norman Finkelstein, are Jews. There are Israeli born people like musician and novelist Gilad Atzmon who have renounced Jewish citizenship and live elsewhere. Interestingly, some Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, where the official scholars may agree with the questioner’s reading of the verse and where the anti-Semitic theology is active, are currently the supporters of Israel.

Posted in: Q&A