Confessions of a former antisemite
Maybe my story can make you see the errors of your way...
As an Iranian in Sweden, I was dubbed a “svartskalle”. Directly translated, it means “black head”, a slur aimed at the demographic which, in the Anglo-sphere, is often referred to as “brown” people.
Just like the “N” word in the US, it’s also an epithet which has been reappropriated into daily vernacular by the same people it’s meant to attack. Sweden has an enormous immigrant population from the Middle East, and us “svartskallar” (plural) more often than not band together. Every new town I moved to - Falkenberg, Mariestad, Hudiksvall and Gothenburg - the first group of friends I made were fellow immigrants from the Middle East.
One thing was consistent, regardless of where I went; We all hated Jews.
In the cultures we grew up in - even when there was very little else in common (Shia v Sunni, Arab vs Persian, Religious vs Atheist, Theocrat vs Monarchist etc) - Jew-hatred is omnipresent. We were born with it, we grew up with it, we were indoctrinated in it. You have Peppa Pig, we have Hate The Jew. It’s in our bone marrow.
In my late teens I, like so many other teenagers, was infatuated with Marxism, which only served to fuel my antisemitism. I suddenly belonged to two tribes hating the most persecuted people in history, and where my fellow “svartskallar” only expressed a visceral, sadistic hatred of Jews, my comrades took a more diplomatic approach.
Many of the arguments were the same - “Jews control everything”, “Jews have all the capital”, “Jews are committing genocide in Palestine”, but the Marxists at least had sense enough to differentiate between Zionists and Jews, even though behind closed doors, the two were used interchangeably.
I tell you this to ensure you that my antisemitism credentials were solid. I not only know all the arguments, but I’ve vociferously expressed them loudly and proudly.
So, what happened? How did I go from despising and reviling every Jew, to today defending Israel every way I can, and idolise the Jewish people?
Like most other metamorphoses, it was a process. It started with Sam Harris’ outstanding blog “Why I don’t criticize Israel”. Although I “fought back” (translation: I tweeted disapprovingly at Sam Harris - see below), the seeds of moral vivication had been sown.
Harris had posed a challenge I simply could not counter, and which I have been going back to ever since. Its brilliance is in its simplicity:
“What would the Jews do to the Palestinians if they could do anything they wanted? Well, we know the answer to that question, because they can do more or less anything they want. The Israeli army could kill everyone in Gaza tomorrow. So what does that mean? Well, it means that, when they drop a bomb on a beach and kill four Palestinian children, as happened last week, this is almost certainly an accident. They’re not targeting children. They could target as many children as they want. Every time a Palestinian child dies, Israel edges ever closer to becoming an international pariah. So the Israelis take great pains not to kill children and other noncombatants.
What do we know of the Palestinians? What would the Palestinians do to the Jews in Israel if the power imbalance were reversed? Well, they have told us what they would do. For some reason, Israel’s critics just don’t want to believe the worst about a group like Hamas, even when it declares the worst of itself. We’ve already had a Holocaust and several other genocides in the 20th century. People are capable of committing genocide. When they tell us they intend to commit genocide, we should listen. There is every reason to believe that the Palestinians would kill all the Jews in Israel if they could.”
Those two paragraphs, regardless of how much I tried, were insurmountable. And it led me down a path of confronting my bigotry and hatred.
Here, I will share the facts and arguments which once persuaded me to change trajectory, in the hope that they can do the same for someone else.
Saved by facts
Was Israel actually committing genocide?
No, the Palestinian population has grown with over 500% since the Yom Kippur War alone.
Was Israel an apartheid state, as Tamir Pardo, former head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, claimed as late as in September of this year, to the jubilation of Leftists everywhere?
Well, there are over 2 million Arabs living in Israel. They have every right the Jewish population has, without some of the obligation (mandatory conscription). They are represented in every single strata of the Israeli society - they are business owners, politicians, artists, entrepreneurs, athletes and judges. When Ehud Olmert, former Israeli Prime Minister, was sentenced to six years in prison for bribery, it was Judge Salim Joubran - an Arab - who convicted him. They are in the Knesset (where they have two parties, or one more than the Arabs in Gaza), the IDF and the IAF.
They are the freest, most prosperous general Arab population anywhere on earth.
This is the antithesis to apartheid.
But of course, Israel’s critics don’t care one bit about the Arab population in Israel when they make such claims, as the only Arabs who matter to them are the people in Gaza and The West Bank.
It should be noted, however, that even here, their arguments (as far as they can be described as such, as opposed to mere smears) fall flat. Israel left Gaza in 2005 unilaterally. What does that word - unilaterally - mean, in this context?
It means that they removed every single Jew in Gaza, at times by force, and even dug up the graves of long-dead Israelis, to hand the land over to the Arabs. No other nation on earth has gone to such lengths as Israel did, to facilitate something akin to a peace offering.
Since then, Gaza has received more aid per capita than any nation in history, from the UN, US, Egypt and Qatar (not to mention all the funds pumped into Hamas and Hezbollah by Iran). Where has this money gone? To build energy and water plants, investment in agriculture, infrastructure, schools and hospitals?
Of course not. The money has been confiscated by Hamas, who narrowly won the election in 2006, and proceeded to murder all their political opponents in the purge of 2007, and who have been in power ever since without any further elections. It has been used on rockets, which they have deployed in attacking Israel on an almost daily basis, and to build vast, sophisticated tunnel systems which only serve one purpose: Enable their terrorist attacks on Israel.
This, right here, should emphasise the phenomenological difference between the two entities;
One is which, out of a desert land, built the most powerful, thriving, diverse and free society in the Middle East. The other, a genocidal, millennial cult whose raison d'être is the annihilation of a people for the crime of existing as Jews.
So, why was I on the side of the barbarians?
Why was it that, as someone who had many gay friends, I sided with people who threw homosexuals off rooftops or tied them with ropes to the back of motorbikes and dragged them around in public to set an example, instead of the only country in the Middle East that celebrates gay pride?
Why did I, who vehemently endorsed doctrines of liberty, aligned myself with people whose worldview is antithetical to every single freedom imaginable?
What was this bizarre cognitive dissonance?
It was the cancer of antisemitism. Hatred of Jews is unlike any other form of bigotry, as it isn’t primarily racial or religious, but ontological. It’s the existence of “The Jew” that cannot be tolerated. Jews are hated for being successful, and hated for not being successful. They are hated for living in other countries, and hated for having their own country. They are hated for being dumb, and hated for being smart.
They could share every value I regarded as sacred, and I would still, instinctively, hate them.
It was never about Palestinians, or Muslims. Far more Muslims have been killed by Assad, by Saddam, in Pakistan and Yemen and China, than have in Israel and I - like all the Leftists and Muslims in the streets of London protesting against Israel - couldn’t care less. They’re just an instrument to sanitise our antisemitism with.
Anti-Zionism is antisemitic.
For what is anti-Zionism, in its essence? It’s the notion that one singular people - The Jews - have no right to a land, even when that land is the size of New Jersey (or Wales, for British readers). It’s the idea that, in order to protect one group of people - Muslims - who are majority population in more than 50 countries, 20 of which speak the same language as the Palestinians - Jews, the world's most persecuted, oppressed population in history, should be denied a homeland. After more than 54% of the Jewish population was wiped out by Hitler’s war machine, anti-Zionism maintains that Jews should be the one people without a country to call home.
When Ayn Rand was asked of her views on Israel v Palestine in 1979, she said one should side with the Israelis, as they are an advanced, technological society against “…almost totally primitive savages, who have not changed for years, who are racists and who hate Israel because it’s building industry, intelligence and modern technology”.
It was undoubtedly opprobrious - but was it inaccurate?
There are approximately 2 billion Muslims worldwide, constituting over 20% or one fifth of the global population, yet the Islamic world has only ever produced seven Nobel Prize winners (three in Chemistry, three in Literature, and one in Physics, zero in Economics, Physiology or Medicine).
In contrast, look at the percentages of Jewish Nobel Prize winners (from Wikipedia):
Chemistry: 36 (19% of total)
Economics: 38 (41% of total)
Literature: 16 (13% of total)
Physics: 56 (25% of total)
Physiology or Medicine: 59 (26% of total)
This despite the fact that Jews make up 0.76% of the Muslim-, and 0.19% of the global population.
So, why hate Jews? When proportionally, they have gifted the world with more riches in science, literature and economics than the rest of the human civilisation combined?
Because they are Jews.
During Covid, I remember reading how Israel initiated operations to provide Palestinian frontline workers with 5, 000 doses of the vaccine. Think about that for a moment longer. Israel voluntarily, and at great costs as well as risks to itself, chose to help people committed to its annihilation. Name another society in history that would do something like that.
It is a well known fact that Israel does everything in its power to prevent civilian casualties. But few know the extent to which they go to do so. Before attacking selected targets, Israel drops thousands of leaflets, as well as call civilians in the vicinity to evacuate. Compare that to Hamas’ savagery on the 7th October, 2023.
Or just think of the restrictions Israel has imposed on the Temple Mount, Jew’s holy esplanade, which is also sacred for Muslims as Al-Aqsa, located in Jerusalem. Despite its importance for the Jewish people (as well as the Christians), Israel has made it illegal for anyone but Muslims to pray at the wall. Again, name one other society on earth which would do that…
And then, of course, are Israel’s numerous attempts to achieve a two-state solution (always a quixotic aspiration). Since 1948, Israel has offered the Arabs more and more land for peace. After the Six Day War, when Israel humiliated the Arab armies of Syria, Egypt and Jordan, Israel took control of Jerusalem and The West Bank from Jordan, as well as the Gaza strip. What did Israel do?
Debate over whether to return West Bank to Jordan and Gaza to Egypt in exchange for peace, or give it to the region’s Arabs. This is unheard of in aftermaths of wars, but Israel is unlike other nations. It’s morally superior.
But every offer was rejected, after the Arab nations had held the Arab League summit in Sudan and announced the famous three No’s:
No recognition of Israel
No peace with Israel
No negotiations with Israel
This stance persisted in 2000 and again in 2008.
So, why hate the Jews?
Because they exist.
What about Islam?
The more I learned about the conflict, about the Jewish people, about the idea of Israel, the more the cancer of antisemitism was beginning to go into remission. How could I have been so wrong? How was it that all my former comrades and fellow svartskallar were so misled? For once, here was an issue as black and white as any political dilemma can ever get, yet I - like so many professors and students in Ivy League colleges, celebrities, media outlets - was reliably and absolutely wrong.
The truth, whether one wants to admit it or not, is that Islam has nothing of value to offer to the world. It inspires no innovation, produces nothing of value and reduces its ardent adherents to primitive savages.
It is Islam which degrades once remarkable countries like Iran and Lebanon to hellholes for their citizens. It is Islam which inspires doctors and engineers in the West to give up their livelihoods to join an apocalyptic cult in Syria and Iraq, where they proceed to mass rape Yazidi girls, behead kuffars and even slaughter fellow Muslims for not being zealous enough.
It was Islam that galvanised Saïd and Chérif Kouachi to murder cartoonists in Paris. It was Islam that animated Salman Abedi, aided by his brother, Hashem Abedi, to kill 22 innocent concert goers, mostly children, in Manchester. It was Islam that encouraged Mohammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Germaine Lindsay and Hasib Hussain to detonate bombs in undergrounds and buses in London on the 7th July, 2005. It was Islam that inspired the 19 hijackers to fly planes into buildings on that fateful September morning in New York.
And it was Islam - not “freedom” or “pursuit of self determination” - which motivated the slaughter of 1, 400 innocent lives in Israel on the 7th October, 2023.
I have read the Quran. I know the Hadiths. I was taught the life of “prophet” Mohammed, and his examples to follow.
What ISIS, Hamas, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, the Taliban and Hezbollah do is not antithetical to Islam, as so many Western Liberals so ignorantly claim. It’s the exact opposite - it’s Islam in its truest form.
Why does Iran back Hamas and Hezbollah? Because they hate Jews? Yes, but why?
Iran is the epicentre of Shia Islam. The doctrine of Shia Islam is built around The Twelfth (and final) Imam, al-Mahdi, whom they believe is currently in occultation - alive, but hidden - and will only return once the holy land is rid of the Jews, and the Islamic world is pure, to fulfil his role as the saviour and leader of humanity.
That’s what they actually believe. That’s why no negotiation, no reason, no compassion is even conceivable, despite President Obama’s criminally naïve attempts. And if you think you’ll find reprieve within Sunni Islam, think again. From Saheeh Muslim (2922):
Allah's Messenger said, "The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. "O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.
So, why hate Jews?
When it is Islam which inspires ethnic cleansing? When it is Islam which has resulted in the murder of far more Muslims than every other ideology combined? When it is Islam which believes this life is only the precursor for the real eternity?
You may remember the Peshawar School Massacre. Sam Harris recently posted an episode on his podcast titled “The Bright Line Between Good and Evil”, where he recounts the following interview with a supporter of the Pakistan Taliban in the aftermath of the tragedy. As you read, bear in mind that this is his reflection on the killings of 132 schoolchildren, aged between eight and eighteen years of age, as well as 17 adults:
Human life only has value among you worldly materialist thinkers. For us, this human life is only a tiny, meaningless fragment of our existence. Our real destination is the Hereafter. We don’t just believe it exists, we know it does.
Death is not the end of life. It is the beginning of existence in a world much more beautiful than this. As you know, the Urdu word for death is “intiqaal.” It means “transfer,” not “end.”
Paradise is for those of pure hearts. All children have pure hearts. They have not sinned yet… They have not yet been corrupted by [their kafir parents]. We did not end their lives. We gave them new ones in Paradise, where they will be loved more than you can imagine.
They will be rewarded for their martyrdom. After all, we also martyr ourselves with them. The last words they heard were the slogan of Takbeer “Allah u Akbar”.
Allah Almighty says Himself in Surhah Al-Imran [3:169-170] that they are not dead.
You will never understand this. If your faith is pure, you will not mourn them, but celebrate their birth into Paradise.
Earlier this year, although it feels like a lifetime ago, Israeli’s took to the streets en massé to protest Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government for two main reasons:
The threats to the sovereignty and authority of the Israel Supreme Court
The presence of far-right figures, such as Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, for their anti-LGBT, and anti-Palestinian rights views.
The Israeli population gathered on the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Rishon LeZion, Haifa and every other city to protest against politician who threatened the Supreme Court, gay rights and Palestinian rights.
That’s the difference between Israel and her enemies.
Barbarians v Civilisation
In his thesis, “The Three Languages of Politics”, Arnold Kling explains how one group - Left leaning / Liberal - view the world in “Oppressor v Oppressed”, whereas another - Centre, Right leaning Conservative - view it as “Barbarians v Civilised”, while Libertarians see it as “Freedom vs Coercion”.
Are the “Palestinians” oppressed? Well, yes. Mostly by Hamas in Gaza, but also the settlements in West Bank are incursions on their dignity. But are they being oppressed by Israel? Israel left Gaza in 2005. Unilaterally. Before exiting, they left the infrastructure, resources and developments they had built and handed it over to the Arabs. Then, they dug up graves of Israelis buried in Gaza, to ensure the land is Judenrein - just as the Muslims want it. Then they forced Israelis out of their homes in the region often at gunpoint.
Once out, Israel still delivered 11% of the water to Gaza. They provided healthcare to Palestinians. They delivered vaccines during Covid. That’s not how an oppressor acts. How about the libertarian “Freedom v Coercion”? Well, one could argue that checkpoints are somehow an incursion, but that’s a flaw in libertarianism which, if applied consistently, would mean anyone can travel anywhere without checks and balances to ensure that enemies don’t cross the gate.
This leaves us with “Barbarians v Civilisation”. What do Hamas want? What do Hezbollah want? What does Iran want? They want to subjugate every person under Bronze Age doctrines - the literal definition of anti-civilisation. They want not just Israel, but the world to be Judenrein. The Shia faction wants to bring forth al-Mahdi, as previously explained.
The Sunni doctrine is no more comforting. Theirs is just as millennial, as apocalyptic, as anti-enlightenment. For a perfect illustration of their ideal society, look at ISIS.
How about Israel? They want democracy. They want freedom. They want equal rights. They want advancement. They want liberty. They want to move humanity forward, through science, philosophy, dialogue, trade, partnerships. This is not a “battle of civilisation”. It’s a battle between civilisation and barbarism. Good versus Evil. Truth against Occultism.
I was an antisemite. I would have marched together with the ignorant, the hateful and the fanatics who have been hijacking the streets of London, Manchester, Berlin, Stockholm and Paris.
But I was lucky. Lucky enough that my defence system eventually crumbled in the face of facts and arguments.
I was never a Muslim - and have always been anti-Islam, as far back as I can remember. My antisemitism was never because of a religious bias, and neither has my conversion been influenced by my disdain for Islam, even though that is the accusation always levelled at me.
My antisemitism was bone deep, omnipresent going back to my first ever notion of “The Jews”. As a socialist, I had to sanitise it by cowering behind “anti-Zionism”, but it was always the same thing, just as it is for the people marching on our streets “in defence of Palestinians”.
Thanks to Sam Harris, however, a kernel of doubt was planted. A curiosity led me down a path, where nothing - and I mean nothing - aligned with my preconceptions. I was wrong about everything.
Resist as I tried, I was eventually helpless towards the truth. So, I could choose - continue holding onto an irrational hatred based on lies, or try to live by truth.
All I hope with this essay is that you do the same.
In addition to Sam Harris, many others continue to inspire my pursuit of truth on these matters. I hope you’ll find their works as invaluable as I have:
Douglas Murray, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Yasmine Mohammed, Thomas Sowell, Bari Weiss, Jake Wallis Simons, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Rabbi Schmuley Boteach, Bella Wallersteiner, Michael Moynihan, Rabbi David Wolpe, Rachel Riley and countless others.
I mistakenly had written:
"After the Yom Kippur War, when Israel humiliated the Arab armies of Syria, Egypt and Jordan" --- This was of course the Six-Day War (1967)
“... Hamas, who narrowly won the election in 2007, and proceeded to murder all their political opponents in the purge of 2008 ... " --- This was 2006 and 2007, respectively.