Tuesday, April 26, 2016


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Rummaging around the belfry of history, one often bumps one's head, stubs one's toe, or nearly pokes one's eye out on some rudely untoward (let alone aggrieving) object of the past.

Googling "herzog + islam" today on a whim, I happened to run into this story from The Jewish Chronicle online from June of 2014:

A letter from an Israeli Chief Rabbi arguing that the closeness of Islam to Judaism could help the cause of Middle East peace is to go on sale tomorrow.

It was written by Israel’s first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, Isaac Herzog, in 1954 to Professor Abraham Katsh, who had published a book on “Judaism in Islam”,

Rabbi Herzog, who died in 1959, wrote: “It is my fervent hope that the learned men of the Arab peoples may… be helped to realize how near Islam is to Judaism historically and that this connection may help to promote the cause… of peace between Ishmael and Israel.”

The letter, up for auction at Kestenbaum’s in New York, tomorrow, is expected to fetch between $4,000 to $6,000.

And who is that Professor mentioned in the article, Abraham Katsh...?   An article by him, "Judaism and Islam", is readily available online from the interesting though still suspect (and likely ironically titled) blog Diversity Macht Frei.  In it, he begins by going on and on -- and on -- for several paragraphs noting (by adducing superficial and structural resemblances) how similar Judaism and Islam are; though when he gets to the daily prayers, he breezes past the injunction in Islamic daily prayers that is a clear allusion to how accursed the Jews and Christians are:

Guide us on the straight path, The path of those to whom Thou has been gracious, Not of those with whom Thou art angry [i.e., the Jews] nor of those Who go astray [i.e., the Christians].

Finally, he gets to, as he puts it in the understatement of the millennium, "How Islam Parts Company".  Here, he gives a breathlessly brief, but barely adequate account of the violently supremacist dimension of Islam (even mentioning the concepts of the Dar al-Islam & Dar al-Harb).  Then of course he has to put his foot in his mouth again:

Despite the concept of JIHAD and its influence within present Arab-Jewish conflict in the Middle East, Judaism and Islam have a long common history of peaceful coexistence.

It was at that point that I figuratively flung the article into my raging fireplace, downed the lees of my Château Carlomartellus (vintage 732 A.D., a very good year), and climbed back down the winding stairs of my belfry turret.

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