This article belongs to With a Grain of Piquant Salt column.

One thing I find quite fascinating is how Israel and the Jews have such a strong grip on the Muslim intelligentsia on the internet and media. I mean, after spending the past few years generally trying to understand more about the Middle East, I am constantly struck by the vehemence with which Muslims get excited about Israel. It is a constant whine. I can't use any other words to describe it. It is a constant, irritating, amazing, exasperating whine. And I still cannot understand why.

This is not to single out the Muslims. The Christians down the ages and the current liberal/left (not necessarily the same thing) presently also absolutely hate them. But comparatively speaking, the behaviour of the Muslims is more interesting. And I am taking both, Israel and Jews at the same time, because most of the time, they are lumped into being the same for their detractors; no fine distinction is made between the land, Zionism, Jews, or what have you. Take some anecdotal evidence. Take a look at India, a country with one of the biggest Muslim populations. People get so excited about Israel and the Jews. Take Indonesia, the amount of outpouring about Israel and Jews is so high that somebody might think that Israel is Indonesia's biggest trading partner and is placed just off Aceh. The same happens with Australia. In Malaysia, Mahatir Mohammad's rather foaming outpourings on this subject are also evidence of the same. Or look at the Muslim communities and media in South Africa or in the UK or in the USA or in Canada. You will find very high levels of interest. I mean, people who don't even know where to locate Israel on a map or wouldn't recognise a Jew if he bit them on the nose, hate them. Strangely enough, many recent converts also seem to take on this almost religious duty after conversion.

Take one very common example which is counter-intuitive in nature. Once every month or so, on some mailing-list or other, some columnist or other will write about how great the Jews are in industry, science, education or about their achievements. An excruciatingly long article will be produced which measures the number of Jewish Nobel laureates, the number of Jewish film directors, the number of Jewish politicians, the number of Jewish . . . you name it. Then the conclusion drawn is that Jews go for education and Muslims do not and therefore Muslims are bad and Jews are great. Do you see the spectacularly silly argument that is embedded in this? By lumping together a variety of Jews and very selectively choosing some top chaps, and comparing them to Muslims, the authors try to show that there is something within the Jews that isn't there within the Muslims.

I fail to understand the logic. Why use religion as a measure to assess achievement? How stupid. More Christians than Jews have won the Nobel Prize. Does that mean that Christians are better than Jews? More Latin American women have won the Ms. World or Ms. Universe competition; hence women from Europe are all butt ugly? So let's see, just what is the reason for selecting Judaism as a grouping indicator? No idea. The people who peddle this theory forget that if Judaism IS the reason for them doing better, logic follows that it is Islam which is the reason for Muslims doing worse, which is the reason why whenever I have complained bitterly about the fallacy in using religion as a measure of public policy, I never get a response other than some mumbles.

So why does this fascination with Jews and Israel occur? Is it because Jews and Israelis have killed and have dispossessed Muslims? If that is indeed the criteria, then if you look at the post WW2 history, you will see that more Muslims have been killed by fellow Muslims by a huge factor of 20 if not more. If, on a very rough basis, I add up, the number of Palestinians and fellow Arabs killed since 1948, then the figure is less than 100,000 across all the wars (with Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon), the two intifadas and other assorted fights. Compare that to about the same number in Algeria in the civil war, three million in Sudan and Bangladesh, Afghanistan will be about a million, half a million in Somalia and Indonesia, Iran and Iraq between them provided anything between one to two million – so on and so forth – ignoring the smaller fights in Yemen, Lebanon, etc.. If the question is about dispossession, then again, there are countless and bigger examples of this happening in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Caucasian regions, the Middle East, etc. etc.

Yes, what's happening with the Palestinians is definitely a crime. But it is curious to see the divergence in proportionality in the responses. I also understand that the mistreatment of Palestinians has to be stopped and raising a voice against Israel doesn't mean that the same person has to raise a voice against Darfur. But the law of averages has to work out. Surely, this amount of disproportional response is curious and this is what struck me as interesting.

And this antipathy is blind and frankly brutal. It sort of causes the brain circuits to go off. On article after article on the motivations of terrorist suicide bombers, the same thing is mentioned. On article after article and on the mosque sermons of the foaming sort across the world, you will find the mention of Jews and how bad they are. It is seriously amazing to note this kind of illogical or disproportionate behaviour.

Take another example. Recently, the net was humming about the fact that Israel was actually promised to the Jews in the Qur'an. It IS true. And there were three reactions. (1) ad hominem attacks on the author; (2) conscious attempts to move the conversation away from the religious aspect of the argument to a "liberal basis;" and finally, (3) to walk away from the argument. Being interested in this, I went to dig a bit deeper into this and found an entire elephant hiding in the long grass. It is far too interesting to be treated summarily but suffice to say, depending upon how one reads it, it can be said that the Qur'an promises Israel to the Jews provided they keep to a promise. So, without going into details, as you can appreciate, theological nitpicking aside, this drives a coach and horse through the theological arguments. It further raises interesting arguments about the validity of Islamic-mandated resistance. Are Muslims sinning when they are fighting against the Jews in Israel? Quite a conundrum, no? Wait for the essay on this where things will be made a bit clearer.

One answer (to the question, why the Jews/Israel?) which seems to be quite common across Pryce Jones, Albert Hourani, Thomas Friedman, Robert Fisk and other luminaries is that the Muslims have been humiliated by the Jews. This humiliation is the reason why deep down, they think that they have to take revenge. How dare these apes (Qur'an 7:166) actually defeat Muslim armies and live peacefully and aggressively within and on Muslim lands? Remember how Osama Bin Laden still moans about Grenada being lost to the Christians? It's the same concept, I guess. They are not just living in Israel, they have converted the desert into a green productive agricultural land; yes, they have committed atrocities on Muslims but the Muslims couldn't do sweet sod all to stop them.

But I don't buy this humiliation bit. If that is indeed the case, the Mongols humiliated them far more, and you don't see fulminations against Mongolia. There have been many cases such as this, you have the Christians, Russians, Americans, you name it, but the antipathy towards the Jews is way up there. I can't figure it out; this is not right, it does not make sense and I personally think that until this conflict is not related in proportion to the actual harm it causes, the Muslims are on a hiding on to nothing. This is harming them more than the humiliation that they allegedly have suffered.

All this to be taken with a grain of salt!