The Passionate Attachment

Raphael Patai — The Jewish Zionist intellectual source of provocative anti-Islam film

By Maidhc Ó Cathail
The Passionate Attachment
September 15, 2012

Writing about the anti-Islam film that has provoked a storm of anti-American rage in the Muslim world since September 11, editorial director Justin Raimondo identifies the most likely “intellectual” source of the deliberately provocative “Innocence of Muslims.” Observes Raimondo:

On a somewhat higher level, the excerpts we have seen resemble nothing so much as a dramatization of the “theories” of one Raphael Patai, a cultural anthropologist who averred in his 1973 book, The Arab Mind, that Arabs are peculiarly susceptible to sexual humiliation. As Seymour Hersh put it in his 2004 investigation into the horrors of Abu Ghraib:

“The notion that Arabs are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation became a talking point among pro-war Washington conservatives in the months before the March, 2003, invasion of Iraq. One book that was frequently cited was The Arab Mind, a study of Arab culture and psychology, first published in 1973, by Raphael Patai, a cultural anthropologist who taught at, among other universities, Columbia and Princeton, and who died in 1996. The book includes a twenty-five-page chapter on Arabs and sex, depicting sex as a taboo vested with shame and repression. ‘The segregation of the sexes, the veiling of the women . . . and all the other minute rules that govern and restrict contact between men and women, have the effect of making sex a prime mental preoccupation in the Arab world,’ Patai wrote. Homosexual activity, ‘or any indication of homosexual leanings, as with all other expressions of sexuality, is never given any publicity. These are private affairs and remain in private.’ The Patai book, an academic told me, was ‘the bible of the neocons on Arab behavior.’ In their discussions, he said, two themes emerged —‘one, that Arabs only understand force and, two, that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation.’”

Shame and humiliation — followed by murderous rage. Precisely the reaction that greeted the posting of Innocence of Muslims online and led to the deaths of four Americans, and the first such incident involving an American ambassador in quite some time. If someone was deliberately setting a fire in the Middle East, this was the fuel that would burn hottest.

Whether deliberate or not, both Raimondo and Hersh fail to provide their readers with some crucial background information on this influential “cultural anthropologist.”

Born Ervin György Patai in Budapest, Hungary in 1910, Raphael Patai grew up in a prominent Jewish Zionist family. His father authored numerous Zionist writings, including a biography of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism. József Patai also founded a Zionist organization in Hungary that supported the settlement of Jews in the British Mandate of Palestine, where Raphael and his parents moved in the 1930s. In 1936, the younger Patai received the first doctorate awarded by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Unlike many of his fellow colonists, Patai was not a secular Jew: in the late 1930s he had been ordained at the Budapest Rabbinical Seminary. Later, he served as the secretary of the Haifa Technion, Israel’s oldest university, which, as its website notes, “played a key role in laying the country’s infrastructure and establishing its crucial defense and high-tech industries.” Yet in 1947, a year before the creation of Israel, the successful young Zionist moved to New York, becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1952. However, by going on to produce and promote such works as “The Arab Mind” in his new home — the world’s leading military power — Patai perhaps served the interests of the expansionist Jewish state far better than if he had remained in Palestine.

For anyone who wants to know who might be “deliberately setting a fire in the Middle East,” Raphael Patai’s ideological background provides some very strong clues.

Update: Raphael Patai was Professor of Anthropology at Dropsie College of Hebrew and Cognate Learning, Philadelphia from 1948-57. He was not the only prominent Zionist on Dropsie College’s staff. Benzion Netanyahu, the late father of the current Israeli Prime Minister, earned his doctorate from Dropsie College during the 1940s while serving as secretary to Vladimir Jabotinsky, who was seeking to build American support for militant Zionism. During the 1950s and ’60s, Netanyahu lived alternately in Israel and in the United States, including a return to Dropsie, first as professor of Hebrew language and literature, and chairman of the department, (1957–1966), then professor of medieval Jewish history and Hebrew literature, (1966–1968).

Update II: Whether or not Israel was ultimately behind the making of the anti-Islam video, they are certainly taking advantage of it. Haaretz reports on the Israeli Prime Minister’s campaign to win American public support for his position on Iran:

Netanyahu is expected to mention recent attacks against American embassies in the Middle East. In a preview clip of the interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press”, Netanyahu said, speaking on what he called Iranian fanaticism, “it’s the same fanaticism that you see storming your embassies today. Do you want these fanatics to have nuclear weapons?”