By Elliott A. Green
Mr. Green is a writer, researcher, and translator living in
The myth of Arab innocence throughout history --particularly concerning Jews-- has long haunted British and American writing about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Professors Walt and Mearsheimer put it as follows in their anti-Israel tract:
...in the Christian West... Jews suffered greatly from the despicable legacy of Anti-Semitism... But ... the creation of
This article seeks to disprove that false claim and demonstrate instead the systemic, juridical oppression, exploitation, and humiliation of non-Muslims --including Jews--in Islamic society. Further, whereas it used to be commonly believed that Islam was benign toward Jews, the article shows that Jews were at the bottom of the social barrel in the Islamic domain generally--although conditions varied with time and place. Moreover, this was true in
In the empires resulting from the Arab and Muslim conquests, Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians--and later, Hindus and others-- were subjects far inferior in law to Muslims as a class. Tolerated non-Muslims, called dhimmis, were required to pay annual tribute, jizya, for the privilege of living another year. This is grounded in Qur'an 9:29 and remains part of Islamic law to this day, although formally abolished in the
The Danish traveler, Karsten Niebuhr, visiting
Moshe Gil found in the Cairo Genizah, a medieval archive of Jewish writings, accounts of impoverishment and suffering caused to Jews in
...if you saw who paid all those moneys you would have been astonished and lamented over them and say of them: Could such a large `onesh [=punitive tax, exaction] have come from those poor people?
Jacob Barna'i examined ledgers of the
...the fact that the Qur'an singled them [Jews] out as the enemies of the Muslims... institutionalized their inferior status in comparison to the Christians.
The Arab writer Al-Jahiz explained this by the political resistance of the Jews in
...the Muslims will fight the Jews who will hide behind rocks and trees. The rocks and trees will cry out: O Muslim! A Jew is hiding behind me. Come kill him...
Francesco Gabrieli, the Italian historian of Islam, wrote:
...the name "Yahudi" [=Jew] acquired on Muslim lips the same odor of hostile scorn for the Jews that the term "Jew" had in the Western world, more hostile and scornful than that of the epithet "Nasrani" [=Christian].
This judgment is supported by a British envoy sent to the
The Mussulmans deeply deplore the loss of that sort of superiority which they all & individually exercised over ... the other sects... a Mussulman... believes ... that a Christian --and still more a Jew-- is an inferior being to himself.
This pecking order was confirmed by a nineteenth century Turk objecting to equalizing measures in the
... whereas in former times... the communities were ranked... the Muslims first, then the Greeks, then the Armenians, then the Jews, now all... were... on the same level. Some Greeks objected... saying: "The government has put us together with the Jews. We were content with the supremacy of Islam."
The above quotes demonstrate that the Jews were generally at the bottom of Arab-Muslim society. It thus stands to reason that this was true of
In the late Mamluk period (ca. 1500), the chief Roman Catholic official in Jerusalem, Francesco Suriano, hated Muslims, but appreciated how they treated Jews:
I wish you to know how these dogs of Jews are trampled upon, beaten, and ill-treated, as they deserve... They live in this country in such subjection that words cannot describe it... in
Some 300 years later, in Ottoman Jerusalem, the French writer Chateaubriand found the Jews still on the bottom. A Greek monk, Neophytos, described the situation until the 1830s. Illustrating Muhammad Ali of
Next comes a surprise witness, none other than Karl Marx:
Nothing equals the misery and suffering of the Jews at
To be sure, Marx was never in
If these accounts seem tedious, let's skip over the late Ottoman period, when conditions for dhimmis generally improved, to British rule when Arab pogroms against Jews resumed, with British acquiescence or encouragement. The 1929 massacre and "ethnic cleansing" of the ancient
This was followed by participation of the chief Palestinian Arab leader, the British-appointed mufti of
The Walt-Mearsheimer view of Arabs generally and Palestinian Arabs specifically as "largely innocent" is blatantly false. Further, there is no longer an excuse for ignorance on the matters covered above. There are document collections covering Jews under Islam by Norman Stillman, Bat Ye'or, and Andrew Bostom, plus abundant books and articles. Moreover, there are works on Arab nationalist Nazi collaboration, Husseini's particularly, by Hirszowicz, Schechtman,
Elliott A. Green
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