Many people may have missed it, but something rather significant happened in west Asia (the region we often erroneously call the Middle East – in unblinking mimicry of the West’s geographical imagination) recently. Not to do with the seemingly umpteen wars taking place in the region, and not something that is going to be of some geostrategic importance either. Rather, something theoretically important; and the example can also suffice to prove how important the workings of theory can be. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said that it was a Palestinian Muslim leader who was responsible for the Holocaust because it was he who had convinced Hitler to kill the Jews rather than ‘merely’ expelling them from Germany and Europe, which Netanyahu said, is what Hitler actually wanted to do. Both the key ‘theoretical’ points here have to do with how hate works. In the first instance, Netanyahu’s words – even though he was widely ridiculed for being ‘historically inaccurate’ – display how Muslims, in today’s world, have replaced Jews of that age. It has become so normal to spew venom, hate and lies against Muslims and Islam that Netanyahu, and the Zionists themselves, seem to symbolise Nazi-style falsification of history based on sheer racial hatred.
The second point is how hate mutates the very discourse of the self, the self-definition of the oppressor as he goes about his business of demonising the ‘enemy’ and then constructing an identity opposed to that. Netanyahu seems to have become so hate-filled a right-winger that he actually uses words and accusations which it was thought only an anti-Semite would use: he, in effect, exonerated Hitler. And having done that, he has exposed Zionism for what it actually is: a race-based theory of nation which demonises and dispossesses people who had nothing whatsoever to do with what was done to the Jewish people. In turn, Zionism is based on the same sense of (European) superiority which was a key element in how European regimes and cultures treated Jews, historically.
So, even as things seemingly get even worse for the Palestinians in particular, the Arabs in general, and Muslims in a wider sense, it is still instructive to note how these little theoretical underpinnings work within larger historical wrongs and crimes. And, in this case, just how doomed that anti-Islamic project actually is.