Friday, August 14, 2009

The forgotten oppression of Jews under Islam and in The Land of Israel. Part II


by Elliott A. Green


2nd part of 2

This history is important because history does not go away. When there is a void in general knowledge of history in a situation of national conflict, one's enemies may fill the void with false history, inventing what suits them and their goals and interests. Hence, forgetting history is dangerous.

In this vein, a line stands out here from the anti-Israel tract of Profs. Walt and Mearsheimer, quoted approvingly by a leading British journalist, Max Hastings:

...while there is no question that the Jews were victims in Europe, they were often the victimisers, not the victims, in the Middle East, and their main victims were and continue to be the Palestinians.[23]

These authors moralize. They develop the themes of guilt and innocence. Yet it's hard to be sure which historical period Walt and Mearsheimer are referring to. Is it all of history or the present or some past time? The indefinite, the insinuation, and the evocative rather than the specific or explicit, are features of their prose. In another passage, however, they indicate that the Palestinian Arabs were innocent when Israel became a state.

A third moral justification [for Israel] is the history of Jewish suffering in the Christian West, especially ... the Holocaust... Jews suffered greatly from the despicable legacy of Anti-Semitism and... Israel's creation was an appropriate response to a long record of crimes... But... the creation of Israel involved additional crimes against a largely innocent third party: the Palestinians.[24]

Walt and Mearsheimer disarmingly admit that "the Christian West" made Jews suffer. But they implicitly exculpate the Arab-Muslim East generally — and Palestinian Arabs explicitly of harming Jews throughout history, perhaps insinuating that Jews were not even present in that part of the world till the 20th century. Yet we have shown above that traditional Arab-Muslim society oppressed, exploited, and humiliated Jews, in Israel as elsewhere. Therefore, are the authors justified in calling Palestinian Arabs "largely innocent" towards Jews after they entered the modern world in the mid-19th century?

From this time, the late Ottoman period saw improvement in the status of the dhimmis, largely thanks to intervention by European powers. This was so in Jerusalem more so than many places in the Empire. Nevertheless, World War I brought real fears that Jews in Israel might suffer the fate of the Armenians. In this context, the Balfour Declaration and international approval for its principles brought hope. However, Britain — that had protected Jews in the country in the late Ottoman period — betrayed its Mandate to foster the Jewish National Home, sometimes encouraging Arab pogroms on Jews. This started in 1920 in Jerusalem. It was followed by a series of Arab pogroms in 1921, 1929, 1936-39. The massacre and "ethnic cleansing" of the ancient Hebron community (68 Jews killed, hundreds expelled in August 1929) are remembered with special bitterness by Jews in Israel and abroad. These pogroms took place years before there was a state of Israel.

Likewise, before Israeli independence, Palestinian Arab representatives demanded in 1939 that the British end Jewish immigration into the country. This was on the very eve of the Holocaust when few countries were willing to allow more than token Jewish refugee immigration. The British fundamentally complied with this demand in the 1939 Palestine White Paper, thereby closing off even the internationally designated Jewish National Home to more than a token few Jewish immigrants. Subsequently, Arab nationalists, most notably Haj Amin el-Husseini, the chief Palestinian Arab leader, collaborated in the Holocaust more directly. Husseini was effective in preventing release of thousands of Jewish children and other Jews from the Nazi-fascist domain, having Jews sent instead to Poland, where, in his words, they would be "under active supervision," his euphemism for the death camps.[25]

It is obvious that when the UN General Assembly recommended a "two-state solution," that is, partition (29 November 1947), the Palestinian Arabs were hardly innocent in regard to the Jews. Nor were they innocent afterwards. Arabs under Husseini's leadership attacked and killed Jews throughout the country in response to the UN recommendation. While much has been heard since 1948 about Arab refugees, little has been heard about Jewish refugees in that war. The first refugees in the war who could not return to their homes after it were Jews who fled the Shim'on haTsadiq quarter (in what is now "East Jerusalem") near the end of December 1947. Indeed thousands of Jews throughout the country could not return home after the war. Moreover, Jordan and Egypt forbid Jews to live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. To be sure, Arab refugees eventually outnumbered these Jewish refugees. But Jewish refugees from Arab lands considerably outnumbered Arab refugees from Israel. From nearly a million in 1948, hardly more than a few thousand Jews remain in Arab states today. Arab League states expelled their Jewish populations according to a plan drawn up before the UN partition recommendation. So much for Arab or Palestinian Arab innocence before or after 1948.

Skipping over Arab provocations, wars, and terrorist attacks from the 1950s through the 1980s, we come to what many saw as a new beginning in relations, the 1993 Oslo Accords. Contrary to many expectations, signature of the accords was followed by increased terrorism, suicide bombings, drive by shootings, etc., in a wave of violence starting before Barukh Goldstein killed 29 Arabs in Hebron (February 1994). Handing over to the Palestinian Authority control of Arab West Bank cities in late 1995-early 1996, led to unprecedented slaughter of civilians in Israel. After Netanyahu became prime minister, Arafat lied about Israeli activities alongside the Temple Mount (September 1996), falsely claiming Israeli tunneling under the Mount, thus setting off a four-day miniwar that left scores dead on both sides. Ehud Barak became prime minister after Netanyahu, offering unprecedented concessions to the Palestinian Arab side. Rejecting this offer, Arafat started a wave of terrorism, still going on, that began before Ariel Sharon went up onto the Temple Mount, as if whatever Sharon had done could justify the mass murder bombings or the indoctrination of the Palestinian Authority population, particularly children, in a culture worshiping killing and being killed, imbued with zoological hatred of Jews, itself a violation of international law. Indeed, the deliberate use of children in combat is a war crime. Emblematic of the situation is the increase in lethal rockets fired at Israeli civilian towns and farming communities after the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza (2005) and before the partial blockade imposed when Hamas took over Gaza (2007).

Nevertheless, many today — like Walt, Mearsheimer, and Max Hastings too — wish to claim Arab and Palestinian Arab innocence. Now, the claim of Arab innocence was prominent in the 1940s and 1950s, although then the Palestinian Arabs were not called simply "Palestinians" as today, as if they were a people separate from other Arabs. In those days, the argument explicitly claimed that Arab-Muslim treatment of Jews was regularly benign, thus making Israel's alleged misdeeds in 1948 all the more repugnant. The argument was first used long ago. It was meant to urge particular policies towards Israel and the Arabs. It has always been instrumental, not factual, scientific, or historical. It depends on general public ignorance of the real history, in particular ignorance among Jews and Zionists.

The evidence presented above shows that throughout history, this claim has not only been false but is the very opposite of the truth. This false notion of history, of the relations of Jews and Arabs in Israel over the centuries, is widely held in academia, State Department circles, and the media. The way to dispel the falsehoods is knowledge of history, of the institution of the dhimma, of Jewish history, Arab and Muslim history, particularly the history of Jews in the Land of Israel, in all periods from ancient times through the Middle Ages to early modern times and recent times, up to the latest Qassam rocket that landed on the town of Sderot. Ignorance of history can be considered an obstacle to Israel-Arab peace.



1. Verse numbers vary in some editions.

2. Carsten Niebuhr, Travels through Arabia and Other Countries in the East, vol. I (Edinburgh 1792), pp 81-82, quoted by Yahudiya Masriya [= Bat Ye'or], Les Juifs en Egypte (Geneva: Editions de l'Avenir, 1971), pp 29-30.

3. Moshe Gil, "The Authorities and the Local Population," in The History of Jerusalem: the Early Muslim Period, 638- 1099, editors Joshua Prawer and Haggai Ben-Shammai.(Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi: New York: New York University Press, 1996), p 106. Translation slightly modified by EAG.

4. Jacob Barnai, "The Jerusalem Jewish Community, Ottoman Authorities, and Arab Population in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century," Jewish Political Studies Review 6:3-4 (Fall 1994).

5. Maimonides, "Epistle to Yemen," in David Hartman, ed., Crisis and Leadership: Epistles of Maimonides (tr. A Halkin; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society 1985), p 126.

6. Moshe Sharon, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Jerusalem: Sacks Publishing House 1989), p 89.

7. Quoted in Bernard Lewis, The Jews of Islam (Princeton 1984), pp 59-60.

8. Words of Moshe Sharon, op. cit., p 94; also see Carlo Panella, Il 'Complotto Ebraico' — L'antisemitismo islamico da Maometto a Bin Laden (Torino: Lindau 2005), p 89

9. Panella, op. cit, p 31.

10.Quoted in Leon Poliakov, De Mahomet aux Marranes, II (Paris: Calmann-Levy 1961), p 72; and in Panella, op cit, p 157, n. 9.

11. Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong? (London: Orion House 2002), p 104.

12. Quoted in William R Polk, The Opening of South Lebanon, 1788-1840 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1963), p 138. Other 19th century Western observers noted the same Arab-Muslim Judeophobia, as quoted by Saul S Friedman, Land of Dust (Washington, DC: University Press of America 1982), p 136.

13. Polk, op. cit., p 138.

14. Francesco Suriano, Treatise on the Holy Land (Jerusalem: Franciscan Press, 1949) [in original: Trattato di Terra Santa e dell'Oriente], pp 101-02. For a scholarly view of the Jews in Jerusalem in the late Mamluk period, when Suriano lived there, see Avraham David in "The Mamluk Period" in Israel: People, Land, State (Avigdor Shinan, ed.: Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben Zvi, 2005).

15. Amnon Cohen, "On the Realities of the Millet System: Jerusalem in the 16th century," in B Braude and B Lewis, Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire (New York: Holmes & Meier 1982), p 14.

16. Chateaubriand, Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem (Paris: Juilliard 1964), pp 426-427.

17. Neophytos, Extracts from Annals of Palestine 1821-1841 (Jerusalem, Ariel Publishing House, 1979; compiled by Eli Schiller), p 78. Originally published in Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society, vol. XVIII (1938; tr S N Spyridon).

18. See Marx in Shlomo Avineri, ed., Karl Marx on Colonialism and Modernization (New York: Doubleday, 1969), pp 150-151; translated and paraphrased from Cesar Famin, L'Histoire de la rivalite et du protectorat des Eglises chretiennes en Orient (Paris: Firmin Didot freres, 1853). pp 50, 54

19. Re the Jewish population majority, see Famin op. cit., pp 49, 51. Famin's main themes in the book have nothing to do with Jews. He endeavors to prove Roman Catholic primacy over the Christian holy places in Jerusalem as against the Orthodox church, as well as France's right and duty to defend that primacy.

20. Gerardy Santine, Trois ans en Judée (Paris: Hachette 1860), p 189.

21. Felix Bovet, Egypt, Palestine, and Phoenicia (Eng. trans; London: 1872), p 180

22. Ibid., p 181.

23. Quoted by Max Hastings in the London Sunday Times, 2 Sept 2007. We have not dealt with the role of Arabs, particularly the Palestinian Arab leadership, in the Holocaust (Haj Amin el-Husseini, first of all).

24. John J Mearsheimer and Stephen M Walt, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy (New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux 2007), p 92. The chief leader of the Palestinian Arabs at the time, Haj Amin el-Husseini, collaborated in the Holocaust. He spent most of the war years in the Nazi-fascist domain. He is not mentioned in the book's index.

25.  Elliott A Green, "Arabs and Nazis, Can It Be True?," Midstream (October 1994).

Elliott A. Green is a researcher, writer and translator, living in Jerusalem. His writings have appeared in Midstream [New York], Nativ, the Jerusalem Post [Israel], and other publications. He was assistant editor of Crossroads, a discontinued social sciences quarterly published in Jerusalem.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.



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