Characterizing the idea of “otherness” is the ultimate divide and conquer, and in the case of the Arabs a metaphor for the word “backwards” homogenously spread over a large swathe of the globe and a sub-category for Islam in general. In terms of popular representation, this means an absence of identification within any narrative, whether Spielberg’s Munich or animated cartoons, this other is usually a discardable, disposable non-delineated blob as in Renoir’s painting. The massaging of the tropes and shaping of other stereotypes is the preserve of the expensive lives, those white enough or attractive enough to be linked to the fabrication of the “judeo-Christian heritage.” Arabs are not supposed to have humanity. In fact, we are manipulated into rooting at their deaths like Richard The Lion Hearted lopping heads off Saladin’s unfortunate prisoners. And this trend has only accelerated since 9/11, gaining new momentum with negative images in-line with entertainment complex following meekly the military-industrial machine.
Arabs, and the broader group of Muslims hold a precarious social position in North America; again the “other” as phantom enemies and cultural scapegoat. In a sense the “new Jews” and African-American giving the racists a “two-fer.” Hollywood can get cheap shots in by using the Arab almost the way Himmler, Goebbels and Streicher demonized jews. We are not that far off from rounding up Arabs the same way Japanese were penned up in WWII. All in all, we lose our own humanity by reducing theirs.
It seems like an old play on anti-Semitism when the word meant all Semitic peoples, part of a collective hybrid of Jew and Muslim. That seems to be the cultural point of departure to create the fault lines that seem almost necessary in the West as the basis of what Veblen called “invidious comparison,” the pecking order that tasks as context for conspicuous waste which ultimately is what racism and anti-semitism is: a luxury in terms of time and effort with no intrinsic value as cultural commodity.
Orientalism as such has always been an ambiguous concept; both as something to be feared and vilified or fascinated through its mystery and the romanticism it seems to spin. Its been very much a love-hate, part of a complex set of emotional values, that obviously finds its conjunction in Jerusalem where Christianity in a sense was banished to exile. And the Jew, that seemed to father Islam in many ways always has held to Christians that volatile mixture of both the prophetic and demonic with perhaps the antidote of redemption at the eleventh hour. Israel received divine revelation, the chosen people, but somehow are no longer worthy of trust, only god’s anger for murdering his son, and then sneakily passed the baton to Islam, which to many was a resurfacing of Old testament religion adding insult to injury. Of course truth should never get in the way of a good narrative…
In our post- modern period, it seems the sins of the jews, the wandering jew of stations of the cross fame has been interpreted as the new sins of the Muslims, some inherent in their refugee condition in a wide range now from Afghanistan to Israel and points north and south. The Jew and Mulim can now be de-legitimized separately and qualified as the natural enemy of one another which is true at one level, but not coherently or comprehensively within the secular framework to which the West places them. Again, the new idea of Judeo-Christian is an effort to weld commonality, partly plausible and part fanciful, but linking this to the War on Terror ,democracy and human rights is clearly gamesmanship and craft of convenience tied to broader global concerns than reality. If the jew is no longer the horn on his head figure, the other forgotten Semite, the Arab is now the figure lusting after white flesh, blood rituals, and the new Fagin’s, the jews being emancipated and liberated from the burden and willing agents in reinforcing that wedge so that Muslims remain the only Semites.
( see link at end) …Shahak reiterates the well-known Jewish teaching that the duty to save a life supersedes all other obligations and notes that the rabbis interpreted this to apply to Jews only. According to the Talmud, “Gentiles are neither to be lifted [out of a well] nor hauled down [into it]” (Tractate Avodah Zarah, 26b). Maimonides writes
8220;As for Gentiles with whom we are not at war…their death must not be caused, but it is forbidden to save them if they are at the point of death; if, for example, one of them is seen falling into the sea, he should not be rescued, for it is written: ‘neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy fellow’–but [a Gentile] is not thy fellow” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Murder 4:11).
Indeed, Maimonides is the focus of much of Shahak’s analysis. Shahak believes that the 12th-century philosopher and talmudist was a Gentile-hater and racist. He quotes Maimonides’ statement that, “their [the Turks and the blacks] nature is like the nature of mute animals, and according to my opinion they are not on the level of human beings” (Guide For the Perplexed, Book III, Chapter 51).Read More:http://www.myjewishlearning.com/beliefs/Issues/Jews_and_Non-Jews/Attitudes_Toward_Non-Jews/Biblical_and_Rabbinic/Anti-Gentile_Traditions.shtml
(see link at end)…
“The depiction of Arabs always begins with the desert.”
As with depictions of Africa where the jungle connotes both danger and cultural “backwardness,” the “hostility” of the desert environment often translates into attitudes about the people who live there. (Image 2) Certainly many parts of the Arab world do feature desert landscapes. However, any uniform marriage of people and place in terms of the connotations of “desert” would ignore both physical and cultural variety, including the modern urban environments of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the Mediterranean climate of Tunisia, Libya, and Lebanon, the fertile fields of the Nile Valley, the rugged plateaus of Kurdistan, and the mountains of Morocco.
Looking at this kind of reductionism in more cultural terms, Hollywood not only gives Arabs a Muslim identity but all-too-often gives Muslims an Arab identity, when in reality Arabs make up only about 1/3 of the total worldwide Muslim population of over one billion people. Narratively linking Muslims with the desert sets in place an even more sweeping misperception of the great faith’s cultural diversity and complexity.Read More:http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc50.2008/reelBadArabs/index.html
Here is what Maimonides (Rambam) taught concerning saving people’s lives, especially concerning saving the lives of gentiles and Christians, or even Jews who dared to deny the “divine inspiration” of the Talmud:
Maimonides, Mishnah Torah, (Moznaim Publishing Corporation, Brooklyn, New York, 1990, Chapter 10, English Translation), p. 184: “Accordingly, if we see an idolater (gentile) being swept away or drowning in the river, we should not help him. If we see that his life is in danger, we should not save him.” The Hebrew text of the Feldheim 1981 edition of Mishnah Torah states this as well.
Immediately after Maimonides’ admonition that it is a duty for Jews not to save a drowning or perishing gentile, he informs us of the Talmudic duty of Jews towards Christians, and also towards Jews who deny the Talmud. Maimonides, Mishnah Torah, (Chapter 10), p. 184:
“It is a mitzvah [religious duty], however, to eradicate Jewish traitors, minnim, and apikorsim, and to cause them to descend to the pit of destruction, since they cause difficulty to the Jews and sway the people away from God, as did Jesus of Nazareth and his students, and Tzadok, Baithos, and their students. May the name of the wicked rot.” Read More:http://www.revisionisthistory.org/talmudtruth.html