For Jews the world over, the carnage that transpired in Istanbul's Neve Shalom --"Oasis of Peace"--Synagogue on a Sabbath morning represents nothing less than a reincarnation of Treblinka and Auschwitz. Seven holy rabbis were cut down in mid-sentence of a psalm. They, along with a minyan of elderly Jews, were murdered and set afire--supposedly in the name of freedom.
All that is left now are tears and sadness--and questions. Intelligence agencies will try to track the smoking gun to Libya, Tehran or Damascus. But a central question cannot be answered by even the latest advances in computer technology: What brought the killers to conjure up the ghost of Hitler? It was not a border dispute--not the Golan Heights or East Jerusalem or Taba. It was hatred--a hatred of Jews and Judaism that has entered the mainstream of contemporary Arab and Islamic life.
Is it really surprising that the young Arabs who entered the synagogue sought to murder Jews, not solely Zionists, when the Arab press daily is fraught with anti-Semitic articles, letters and cartoons? Or when Arab publications regularly suggest that the Holocaust never happened? Even a moderate like President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt seem unwilling or unable to condemn publicly anti-Semitic manifestations in his country's carefully controlled press.
Is it really surprising that these young Arabs sought to murder Jews when Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed, who rules a predominately Muslim country with no discernible Jewish population, convenes a press briefing for the Western media and blames his country's economic ills on a Zionist conspiracy?
And what signal are they to pick up from Third World leaders gathered in Zimbabwe who were quick to blame "Zionism" for every real and imagined crisis on their agenda?
Can one really be shocked by the events in Turkey when the Syrian defense minister, Mustafa Tlas, authors "The Matzah of Zion?" This 200-page, hate-filed book endorses the medieval European "blood libel" that resurfaced in Damascus in 1840, accusing Jews of slaughtering and drawing blood from gentiles for use in the making of the Passover matzah. In reviving this anti-Semitic canard, a theme that had virtually disappeared from the vernacular of even the most virulent Western Jew-haters since the Holocaust, Tlas offers some sinister insights: "I intend through publication of this book to throw light on some secrets of the Jewish religion based on the conduct of the Jews and their fanaticism."
Tlas, a respected author who is also a lawyer, tells his readers that true religious beliefs of Jews are "black hatred of all humanity and religions," saying that both Eastern and Western civilizations threw Jews into ghettos only after recognizing their "destructive badness." He relates that the people of Damascus learned their lesson in the 1840s: "From that moment on every mother warned her child: Do not stray far from home. The Jew may come by and put you in his sack to kill you and suck your blood for the Matzah of Zion."
Tlas, now pursuing his Ph.D. at the Sorbonne, draws important contemporary lessons for his readers: "Generations later the Jews have a state in Syria . . . . Is the Jew hatred gone or do the Talmudic teachings including their crimes and deviations still play a hateful role against humanity and neighboring societies . . . ? By following daily events in the occupied land, we get day after day proof beyond any doubt that what is termed 'Zionist racism' must be an extension of Talmudic teachings."
In light of recent events the implications of this passage alone are ominous and potentially far reaching.
On the day after the Istanbul massacre, the leaders of Los Angeles' Islamic Center convened a press conference to condemn the slaughter. Yet, even as they spoke those heartfelt words, any visitor there could view and obtain classic anti-Semitic texts--including the infamous "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" that served as an inspiration to Nazi ideology and deeds. This new edition was published by an Islamic Student Society in Kuwait.
The Jewish people have learned from bitter experience that ongoing, pervasive hate will inevitably lead to violence and genocide. It is a lesson that others have chosen to ignore.
As Jews prepare for the approach of Rosh Hashanah and the Day of Judgment for all mankind, we pray for all victims of terrorism. But we will also pray that the decent, moderate voices in the Arab and Islamic world take back the night that has descended.
We pray for them, for it is their children who bear the mark of Cain.