The great hostility of the Ayatollah Khomeini for Israel prompts curiosity as to the doctrinal source, if any, of that hostility; and it transpires that, really, there isn’t any. Islam is an exclusivist religion in the sense that anyone who lives outside it is an infidel, so that the Jews are, to be sure, infidels, but no more so than, say, Christians or Buddhists. Why, then, has Khomeini gone on so?
“Before us,” he lectured in Iraq in 1970, “we see the Jews making a mockery of the Koran. It is our duty to reveal this treachery and to shout at the top of our voices until people understand that the Jews and their foreign masters are plotting against Islam and are preparing the way for the Jews to rule over the entire planet.”
Now let us analyze that statement, as if Khomeini were not cuckoo. That alternative we’ll consider later.
1. The Jews do not “mock” the Koran any more than, say, Christians “mock” Zoroastrianism. Merely to proceed on the assumption that the God of Abraham is not the God of Mohammed is not to “mock” Allah: it is to ignore him. If we are each going to get mad at everyone else for ignoring our own theological hierarchies, the world will find itself in the same turmoil it found itself in in that awful century during which everyone was engaged in fighting religious wars which, in retrospect, are only presumptuously held up as having been fought for the greater glory of God.
2. In what way are the “Jews and their foreign masters” plotting against Islam and “preparing the way” for the Jews to rule over the entire planet?
In the first place, if the Jews have foreign masters, which is front-page news were it so, then one wonders why these non-Jewish foreign masters desire to see the Jews conquer the entire planet, which would entail their conquering their foreign masters. I mean, Western diplomacy has done some awfully dumb things in our time, but it beggars the belief of even the most pessimistic that one of the West’s ambitions is to elevate the Jews to positions of plenipotentiary power.
And then, at a more particular level, how is this charge consistent with Resolution 242 of the United Nations, backed by every permanent member of the Security Council, calling on Israel, once the question of security is assured, to return the territories conquered in 1967? It is unlikely that at one and the same time world leaders would be encouraging Israel to return the Sinai to the Islamic world, and encouraging Israel to take over the entire planet.
If there are no doctrinal imperatives in Islam that single out the Jews, what about historical animosity?
And finally. I know a lot of people who plot a lot of things. But Khomeini would have a difficult time finding in America anyone who spends his time “plotting” against Islam. I know people much more fruitfully engaged in plotting against the continuation in power of President Carter, than against Islam.
Well, then—I put this question to three Islamic scholars, two of them Jews—if there are no doctrinal imperatives in Islam that single out the Jews, what about historical animosity? Here there is agreement that the Jewish enclaves that managed for so many centuries to survive within tight Islamic societies were a source of aggravation to the society at large. As much can be said of the Jewish enclaves in the Christian West. The persecution of the Jews has generally resulted from their adamant refusal to submit to acculturation. There were very few Christian enclaves in the Islamic world, Lebanon being a conspicuous exception. But when the Lebanese Christians were called on to make a choice between alliance with the surrounding Islamic hordes, and cross-alliances with coreligionists in other countries, the Christians chose the Arabs: and, for their pains, are virtually extinct.
Islam is a galvanizing force in the world today and for reasons, in another context, best stated by Solzhenitsyn. The secular vision has not satisfied. It is inherently corrupt. Any bit of utopia will turn to ashes in the mouth, and so the Islamic hordes are tempted to extra-worldly alternatives, even when enunciated by someone as manifestly out of his mind as Khomeini. Is he in a position to do great damage to Israel? In the short run, he will perhaps make oil there scarce. In the long run—if Russia can be contained—it is more likely that, for the good of Islam, he will be repudiated. And the long run will come well before the foreign masters of the Jews oversee the Jews’ taking over the planet.
— William F. Buckley Jr. was the founder and editor of National Review.