Conspiracy Theories Islamic anti-Semitism Manfred Gerstenfeld



It’s a very insightful view on Muslim conspiracy theories, which have been over the years, highlighted and exposed here at the Tundra Tabloids for what they are. This interview has been published at Israel National News and republished here with the author’s permission.

How Muslim Conspiracy Theories Affect Jews

Manfred Gerstenfeld interviews Richard Landes 

In this new century, we see a revival of conspiracy theories. Muslim societies are most prominent in the production, circulation and belief in them. The best known conspiracy theory is probably that Americans themselves, or the Mossad, carried out the 9/11 terror attacks and not the jihadist Al Qaida perpetrators. This belief permeates the elites throughout the Muslim world. In quieter times, conspiracy theories remained on the fringe. After World War II, many people thought that Western culture had definitively marginalized them, including that ‘warrant for genocide,’ the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Conspiracy theories coming out of the Muslim world are accompanied by another surprising phenomenon. In the past, conspiracists blamed a malevolent “other” – the Jews, the lepers, the witches, the communists. Now we find Western believers in conspiracy theories which target themselves – for instance on 9/11 – in which they confirm the paranoid accusations of their enemies. Postmodern conspiracy theory’s siren song runs: ‘We’ are to blame, ‘our’ enemy is innocent.”

Professor Richard Landes of Boston University was trained as a Medievalist. He focuses on the interaction between elites and commoners in various societies. He has published many books and maintains several websites including: ‘The Second Drafti and a blog, the ‘Augean Stables.’ii

Landes observes: “In the last millennium of Western and Middle Eastern history, the more fevered the conspiracy theory, the more the Jews play a key role— from blood libels and international plots to global ambitions to enslave mankind. Communities terrified by their impotence in the face of the Black Death blamed the Jews, accusing them of poisoning the wells to kill their neighbors. Conspiracy theories simplify some people’s moral universe: ‘the bad things that happen to us are not our fault but due to the evil of others.’

Conspiracy theories demand and justify extreme action. Anything is permitted when struggling for one’s very existence against some agent plotting to destroy ‘us.’ At their worst, they are ‘warrants for genocide.’iii

The book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion for example, is transparent forgery. If readers are impartial historians can document that.iv But a rational approach has limited impact on believers who argue, as Hitler did, that even if The Protocols is forged, it represents a higher truth.v The Shoah offers the most startling example: perpetrated by people in the grip of mass paranoia, who believed in a giant Jewish conspiracy.

After World War II, Nazi conspiracy theories about the Jews were the beneficiaries of Arab hospitality.viFaced with their humiliating failure to wipe out an independent state of dhimmis in the heart of Dar al Islam, Arabs turned to the Protocols – not a rag-tag army of Jews, but a vast international conspiracy defeated the might of seven Arab armies.

Since 2000 however, the conspiracy mindset has changed significantly in the Arab and Muslim world. The intensity, variety, and sophistication of the conspiracies’ representations have risen exponentially.vii The mainstream media is host to all kinds of conspiracy narratives, from baked goods made by Jews with Muslim boys’ blood,viii to elaborate film productions depicting horrendous, bloodthirsty Jewish conspiracies to destroy Arabs and Islam.ix

The content of such outlets – from the Palestinian Authority TV to Al Jazeera TV, to the major Egyptian daily Al-Ahram – reveals a degree of paranoia, hatemongering, and conspiracism with few parallels in history. In the Arab and Muslim world, conspiracy is publicly embraced by elites, including moderate, pro-Western, liberal Muslim circles.x Conspiracy theory is so pervasive in this culture that, as one observer put it: ‘In the Middle East, if you can’t explain politics with a conspiracy theory, don’t bother.’xi Future historians will probably find that present anti-Semitism in Arab and Muslim societies reached an even higher fever pitch than that of the Nazis.xii

In the past, conspiracism inspired a certain fatalism among Muslims: who can fight so mighty an enemy? But in the 21st century, these narratives have spurred action. Indeed, they lie at the heart of the ideology behind suicide terror attacks, the bane of our new century.

Many Western ‘progressives’ embrace these conspiracy theories which target them and the civic polities in which they live. This leads to the marriage of a pre-modern sadism and post-modern masochism. Muslims make paranoid accusations scapegoating the West. Hyper self-critical Westerners accept these as true.

Organizations such as Hizballah, Hamas, and al-Qaeda shifted to the offensive at the beginning of the 21st century, with Western cooperation. In particular, they scapegoated Israel, the Jew among the nations.xiii The first spectacular success occurred during the outbreak of the Second Intifada in the fall of 2000.”xiv The Palestinians may have lost on the field, but they won the propaganda war.”

Landes concludes; “Any progressive or liberal who wants a vibrant multi-cultural, civic society in the twenty-first century, needs to confront the compulsive scapegoating of the Muslim world. We should say to them: ‘Learning to live in peace with Israel is part of belonging to a mature global community. As long as you treat your own commoners as sacrificial victims on the altar of avenging your lost honor, do not complain to us about how ‘they’ oppress ‘you.’”

iii. Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970).

iv. For the relationship between the Protocols and its inspiration, the mid-nineteenth-century Dialogue in Hell of Montesquieu and Machiavelli, see Cohn’s appendix to Warrant for Genocide. See also, Paranoid Apocalypse: One Hundred Year Retrospective on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (NYU Press, 2011).

v. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. Ralph Manheim (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999), 307-08; David Redles, Hitler and the Apocalypse Complex: Salvation and the Spiritual Power of Nazism (New York: NYU Press, 2005), Ch. 3.

vi. Kenneth Timmerman, Preachers of Hate: Islam and the War on America (New York: Crown Forum, 2003).

vii. For the best archive of this activity, see MEMRI’s collection of anti-Semitic material in the Arab media (


x. Tariq Fatah, “MCC Expresses Relief at Arrest of Alleged Terror Cell,” Press Release, Muslim Canadian Congress, 3 June 2006,

xi. Tom Friedman, “Mideast Rules to Live by”, New York Times, December 20, 2006, //; Daniel Pipes, The Hidden Hand, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998).

xii. Matthias Küntzel, “National Socialism and Anti-Semitism in the Arab World,” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 17, Nos. 1-2 (Spring 2005),

xiii. See the discussion of pre-2000 activity in David Cook, Understanding Jihad (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 128-61.

xiv. On the Second Intifada’s impact on global Jihad, see Richard Landes, “How French TV Fudged the Death of Mohammed Al Durah,” New Republic Online, 17 October 2006,

2 Responses

  1. Though the essay does not broach the issue, I believe these conspiracy theories play a role in the “Arab Spring” and the revolt against current Arab leadership.

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