In The Jew Is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism (McClelland & Stewart), he explores the historical, political and theological underpinnings of this pernicious phenomenon and explains why Israel's right to exist cannot be questioned.
Claiming that a virulent form of antisemitism has inundated the Islamic world, Fatah traces its roots to the Hadith, the commentaries written on the Prophet Muhammad's words and deeds after his death. "From labelling Christians and Jews pigs and apes to prohibiting Muslims from playing chess, Hadith literature has been a source of much embarrassment to Muslims," he writes. Anti-Jewish passages in the Hadith, he adds, have been superimposed on the Qur'an, which, though generally respectful of Judaism, contains "some pretty harsh language about Jews."
A legend in which Muhammad supposedly participated in the slaughter of 600 to 900 Jews in Medina in 627 also nourishes antisemitism among Muslims, he contends. "Contemporary Islamists and clerics evoke the story of the slaughter to recruit young Muslim into the hate fest targeted at the Jew," he writes. He adds, "The story of the massacre feeds our hatred and gives us moral and religious validation for that hate."
He suggests that Islamic fundamentalists such as the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb have exacerbated tensions. In an essay titled "Our Fight Against the Jews," Qutb wrote, "The Jews will be satisfied only with the destruction of [Islam]."
Fatah also has harsh things to say about Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem. After collaborating with Nazi Germany, he persuaded Islamists in postwar Egypt that antisemitism should be an integral component of their worldview.
To Fatah, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Russian forgery first published in Arabic in 1926 in Jerusalem, firmly established antisemitism in the Muslim consciousness. "However, it was only after the end of World War II, when the rest of the world had dismissed The Protocols as a fake, that the tract found new life in the Middle East," Fatah writes. "Defeat of the combined Arab armies in 1948 at the hands of Israel gave fresh impetus to Judeophobia."
Infected by the virus of antisemitism, a growing number of Islamists and Muslim intellectuals prone to conspiracy theories believe that Jews cannot be trusted and control the world, he says.
And, citing a study by the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, he accuses Saudi Arabia of funding the publication of antisemitic "Islamic propaganda."
Fatah, born and raised in Karachi, laments that antisemitism has found widespread acceptance in Pakistan. He singles out the city of Peshawar as a hotbed of Jew-hatred. "If there is a place on earth today where identifying oneself as a Jew means inviting serious danger to life and liberty, then the historic Pakistani city of Peshawar would easily win that honour."
Transformed into a centre of jihadism by Al Qaeda and "Arab Afghans," Peshawar was once home to a prosperous and thriving Jewish community with a synagogue. But now Peshawar is "a place where men are willing to slit the throat of a kuffar [non-believer] and confess to the crime with pride."
Although warning that a discussion of Muslim-Jewish relations becomes a non-starter the moment Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state is challenged, Fatah insists that Israel's "illegal and immoral" occupation of the West Bank has contributed to the rise of blatant antisemitism in Muslim countries.
As he puts it, "Though it is true that many Muslim critics of Israel are motivated by Judeophobia, not all criticism even the harshest stems from antisemitism."
Fatah, a supporter of a two-state solution, holds that the Arabs' uncompromising "all-or-nothing" policy was a factor in bringing about the birth of Israel. The Palestinians could have achieved statehood long ago had they accepted the 1937 Peel Commission plan or the 1947 United Nations partition plan, he argues.
Fatah urges Muslims to reconcile themselves to the fact that Israel's establishment was sanctioned by the United Nations' General Assembly by a two-thirds majority. "Questioning Israel's moral and legal right to exist as a state within secure borders that are recognized by its neighbours should cease to be a subject of endless debate," he writes. "I believe it is fundamentally anti-Jewish to incessantly challenge the moral and ethical basis of Israel as a Jewish state."
Fatah's beliefs, and his willingness to state them in public, belies the fact that he was "conflicted" for decades. As a student in Pakistan, he raised funds for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and in Toronto, he demonstrated outside the Israeli consulate. "But never once in my entire life have I had even an iota of antisemitism in my soul," he observes.
Fatah's first friendship with a Jew did not occur until 1993, when he met his boss-to-be, Toronto trade unionist Julius Deutsch, who died last year. The son of German Jewish refugees, he imparted to Fatah an understanding of the complexity of the Arab-Israeli conflict. " I learned from this Jew that things are rarely ever black and white, and that the truth is usually found in the grey areas of overlapping narratives."
Fatah believes that the Muslim community's "false sense of victimhood" is counter-productive. "As the rest of the world makes rapid advances in technology, culture, arts, literature and social development, the Muslim world seems frozen in time, obsessed with the past [and] paralyzed in the quagmire of stagnation."
Though much of his book is laden with gloom, Fatah claims not all is lost. Muslim reformers are gaining ground, and their voices are being heard, he says, citing a list of names.
Whether Fatah is overly optimistic remains to be seen. But if the Middle East is ever to become a better place for Jews and Arabs, let us hope that Fatah is right.