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Islamic Jerusalem: “We Will Drive the Jews into the Sea” – 3 of 3

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The following is the final instalment of a three-part series of posts on the subject of “Islamic Jerusalem”, written by our latest associate author, Dr J. Hashmi.

Use the article index below to read the previous parts.

Article Index

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* Link to previous instalment.

Parts 6, 7 and 8 are presented below.

Part 6: The British Mandate, Zionism, and the Rise of Anti-Semitism [A.D. 1914 – 1947]

Part 6a: The British Betray the Arabs

The British conspired to topple the Ottoman Empire. They struck a deal with the Arabs under Ottoman rule: if the Arabs revolted against the Ottomans, the British promised to return the favor by creating an independent and united Arab nation. The Arabs did their part, but the British reneged on their promise after the war was over:

During World War I the British induced the Arabs to revolt against the Ottoman Turks and thus join the Allied war effort. In return, the British pledged to facilitate the independence of the Arab East after the war. The British commitments to the Arabs were contained in the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence, which included specifications concerning the boundaries of the area designated the independent Arab state and explicitly encompassed Palestine. The Arabs kept their part of the bargain, significantly aiding the Allied cause. But the British subsequently promised Jewish Zionists to help them establish a homeland in Palestine and, moreover, agreed with France to carve up the Arab East into “protectorates” under French and British rule. The promise to the Zionists was contained in the Balfour Declaration, while the accord with France was known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement. These agreements contradicted each other and the original British promise to the Arabs.

(Israel and the American National Interest, by Cheryl A. Rudenberg, p.25)

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Part 6b: Zionism and the Rise of Anti-Semitism

The united Islamic empire lay in ruins, the Caliphate abolished, and the land of Palestine—including Jerusalem—fell under British control. The Zionists established the Jewish Colonization Agency. (Colonialism in the twentieth century was still in vogue.) It was during this time period that the Jewish-Muslim relationship in Jerusalem soured. The Muslims became increasingly aware of the Western and Zionist colonial ambitions, which stirred consternation towards Jewry in general.

The argument of this author, however, is that this attitude is something profoundly new in history, and a result of the political situation in the region and not due to some intrinsic Anti-Semitism present in Muslims or Islam (as the Zionist author of The Fight for Jerusalem argues). One merely needs to look at the historical record to appreciate this. Never before were there calls for “driving the Jews into the sea”, despite the fact that the Muslims ruled the region for hundreds of years. It seems then that Anti-Semitism is a reaction to Zionism.

To this effect, Israeli historian Nissim Rejwan writes:

Parfitt’s account [of the Islamic attitude towards Jews] ends with the early 1880s. In the course of the three decades that followed, the Arabs of Palestine were to be made aware of the political ambitions of the Zionists. As he explained in a concluding paragraph, “The fears that were thus generated were converted…into the highly complicated and violent hostility that marked the attitude of Arab to Jew in the years to come.”

(Israel’s Place in the Middle East: A Pluralistic Perspective, by Nissim Rejwan, p.42)

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Part 6c: The Triple Irony

In fact, it is an irony—lost on both Islamic extremists and Zionists alike—that the legendary Islamic heroes who captured Jerusalem—including Caliph Umar and Sultan Saladin—far from calling to “driving the Jews into the sea”, actually issued a call for the right of return for Jews. Another historical irony is that the Jews were driven out of Jerusalem by the Romans—and denied the right of return for hundreds of years—but in the contemporary age the (Zionist) Jews have emulated the same behavior of the Romans, by driving the Palestinians out of their homes and denying them the right of return. And perhaps a triple irony is the fact that they denied the right of return to the one group of people (the Muslims) who historically safeguarded the Jewish right of return.

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Part 7: Clarifying our Thesis: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Part 7a: Life under Islamic Rule Not Perfect

A clarification is in order: nowhere is the author claiming that life for Jews (and Christians) under Islam was idyllic. One cannot deny that there were (relatively brief) periods of intense persecution of Jews. Furthermore, even in Islamic Spain or Ottoman Palestine, one must admit that the Muslim treatment of minorities would not live up to today’s postmodern  standards. It would be disingenuous to claim otherwise. But it would be highly sophomoric to judge a people of the past by contemporary standards, and no serious academic would do such a thing. To do so would create the absurd situation wherein not a single society in history would be considered tolerant, an ironically intolerant (and unusually obtuse) view of the people of the past.

The only thesis furthered by this author is that the Muslims were historically very tolerant for those times, especially in comparison to the Christian West. It is important to establish this fact not to hammer the Christians over the head with it, but rather to negate the commonly held misconception amongst many Westerners of the Judeo-Christian culture that Muslims have historically been an intolerant people. This is such an important point to address that it is worth the risk of stepping on a few toes; bigotry rears its ugly head when people start thinking that an entire peoples are savage barbarians, which is what unfortunately many nowadays think of Muslims.

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Part 7b: A Realistic Assessment

Rejwan sums it up best:

By way of conclusion, a word of caution is in order…It must be pointed out that the picture has not been uniformly so rosy and that instances of religious intolerance toward and discriminatory treatment of Jews under Islam are by no means difficult to find. This point is of special relevance at a time in which, following a reawakening of interest in the history of Arab-Jewish relations among Jewish writers and intellectuals, certain interested circles have been trying to…[question the] Judeo-Arabic tradition or symbiosis by digging up scattered pieces of evidence to show that Islam is essentially intolerant…and that Muslims’ contempt for Jews was even greater and more deep-seated than that manifested by Christians…

Such caricatures of the history of Jews under Islam continue to be disseminated by scholars as well as by interested publicists and ideologues. Indeed, all discussion of relations between Jews and Muslims…is beset by the most burning emotions and by highly charged sensitivities. In their eagerness to repudiate the generally accepted version of these relations (a version which, it is worthwhile pointing out, originates not in Muslim books of history but with Jewish historians and Orientalists in nineteenth-century Europe), certain partisan students of the Middle East conflict today seem to go out of their way to show that, far from being the record of harmonious coexistence it is often claimed to be, the story of Jewish-Muslim relations since the time of Muhammad was “a sorry array of conquest, massacre, subjection, spoilation in goods and women and children, contempt, expulsion–[and] even the yellow badge…”

Informed by a fervor seldom encountered in scholarly discourse, some of these latter-day historians have gone so far as to question even the motives of those European-Jewish scholars of the past century who virtually founded modern Oriental and Arabic studies and managed to unearth the impressive legacy of Judeo-Arabic culture, a culture that was undeniably an outcome of a long and symbiotic encounter between Muslims and Jews.

…[But] by the standards then prevailing–and they are plainly the only ones by which a historian is entitled to pass judgment–Spanish Islamic tolerance was no myth but a reality of which present-day Muslim Arabs are fully justified in reminding their contemporaries…Tolerance, then, is a highly relative concept, and the only sensible way of gauging the extent of tolerance in a given society or culture in a given age is to compare it with that prevailing in other societies and cultures in the same period…

The only plausible conclusion one could draw from the whole debate is that, while Jewish life in Muslim Spain–and under Islam generally–was not exactly the idyllic paradise some would want us to believe, it was far from the veritable hell that was the Jews’ consistent lot under Christendom.

(Israel’s Place in the Middle East: A Pluralistic Perspective, by Nissim Rejwan, pp.42-47)

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Part 7c: Our Thesis in Simple Talk

As Rejwan’s academic discourse may be too pedantic for some to follow, we shall reiterate the above points by citing the words of an introductory level text. Rabbi Ted Falcon says (emphasis is ours):

In general, Jews tended to be better off in Islamic lands than Christian lands during the Middle Ages. Jews and Christians were both considered “Peoples of the Book”–worshiping the same God as Muslims and using holy scriptures–and were therefore protected under Islamic law. The Jewish focus on scholarship gained them admiration, and the Jews, who quickly learned to speak Arabic, were allowed to be a part of the robust intellectual life of the Islamic Empire…to the Jews, Islamic rule was actually a relief from the humiliating treatment they had gotten from the Christians…

Granted, not all Islamic leaders were the same. Whilst most of them were tolerant and ensured the security of life and property, every now and again there were massive forced conversions to Islam, property confiscation, and so on. However, as a whole, these persecutions were shorter in duration and less ferocious than had occurred, and were later to occur, in Christian lands.

(Judaism for Dummies, by Rabbi Ted Falcon, p.162)

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Part 8: Conclusion

Part 8a: A Summary

While it is true that the standards for religious tolerance of the past pale in comparison to those in place today, it is necessary for us to properly emphasize the level of relative tolerance of the Islamic rule in order that we may contextualize the matter. One way to word it is to say that the Jews flourished more under the banner of Islam than in any other time period in history. We read (emphasis is ours):

In Spain, where Jews had lived [under Christian rule] for centuries, their lot had been unhappy; the Christian Visigothic kings were harsh and merciless. When the Muslims came to the Iberian Peninsula early in the eighth century, not only did they bring the Jews of Spain relief from their oppressors but–in the words of Isidore Epstein–“also encouraged among them a culture which in richness and depth is comparable to the best by any people at any time.”

The majority of the Jewish people at that time came under Arab rule, and the long and brilliant period of Arab-Jewish symbiosis began–a period that has been described as the most flourishing in Jewish history, and whose significance for the Jews and for Judaism to this day cannot be exaggerated. In his book Judaism and Islam, the Cambridge historian and Orientalist Erwin Rosenthal states, “the Talmudic age apart, there is perhaps no more formative or positive period in our long and chequered history than that under the empire of Islam from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean.

(Israel’s Place in the Middle East: A Pluralistic Perspective, by Nissim Rejwan, pp.48)

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Part 8b: The Importance of this Understanding

It is important for Jews, Christians, and Muslims to recognize this tolerant attitude of Islamic rule. For Jews and Christians this knowledge will prevent overly simplistic and bigoted assessments of the conflict in the Middle East, analyses which seek only to demonize territorial rivals. The historical record does not at all indicate that the Muslims have—as the former Israeli ambassador alleged—a historic desire to drive Jews and Christians into the sea. Jewish Zionists and Christian neoconservatives cannot at all use this line of attack with any semblance of academic integrity; it would be a case of throwing stones from a glass house.

For Muslims, knowledge of the historical tolerance of their predecessors sets a good precedent, one that would help to curb the unhelpful rhetoric of Islamic extremists who call for the “driving of the Jews into the sea.” The Muslims consider Palestine as occupied land; they have witnessed the plight of the Palestinian people for some sixty odd years. A feeling of intense emotionalism—and desire for vengeance—can naturally spiral out of control. Yet, these Muslims should remember their exemplar, Sultan Saladin, who—even though the Crusaders had persecuted the Muslims in Jerusalem for two hundred years—was merciful and kind in response.

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Part 8c: A Possible Benefit to this Understanding

Rejwan explains how this Muslim awareness of the past could result in a very beneficial self-fulfilling prophecy:

William I. Thomas, one of the pioneers of American sociology, laid it down that if people “define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” Paraphrasing this famous theorem, one could say about history and historiography that if a group or a people chooses to interpret its history in a certain manner, the result most likely would be that members of that group or people would behave in a manner consistent with that interpretation.

(Israel’s Place in the Middle East: A Pluralistic Perspective, by Nissim Rejwan, p.47)

If we educate Muslims on their tolerant past, it is more likely that they will act tolerantly in the present, as a way and means of not only living up to their respected forbearers, but also of emulating their own self-perception.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. phil

    July 29, 2009 at 10:22 AM

    Is there any reason you chose to call the first conquest “Muslim Rule of Jerusalem”, while the second one was “The Turks”?

  2. MM Associates

    July 29, 2009 at 9:17 PM

    Yes. I just didn’t want the two sub-sections to have the same name!

    -J.Hashmi

  3. manzoor

    July 30, 2009 at 3:16 AM

    Aswk Dr Hashmi,

    Wonderful article; jazakAllah for sharing the same; I wold appreciate if you could mail me the PDF file so that it could be use to share with non-Muslims.

    ~Manzoor.

  4. vindicated

    July 31, 2009 at 7:51 AM

    Is it just me or does this post only have THREE comments? I think it’s much better than that! :)

    Up till now, it’s one of my favorite series’ at MM. But maybe that’s because I’m just a history lover :P

    • Norma Loquendi

      July 31, 2009 at 4:37 PM

      I too am surprised there aren’t more posts. But, I haven’t said anything so far because I’m reading the whole series carefully and together, and checking the references as well so it’s going to take awhile before I have anything to say, so maybe everyone else is doing the same thing.

      …. but I will say this now. Very nice work again, Mr. Hashmi. I would love it if everyone would move away from jingoism, solipsism, and just plain lazy non-think, and I think your article is a very good example of what can be if we are looking at things honestly and with as much objectivity as possible – within our personal capabilities – instead of just falling back on comfortable but narrow-minded knee-jerking like “he’s a Muslim so he’s a horrible monster, no she’s a Christian so she eats babies, no they’re animist pagans so they should be set on fire….” Sigh.

      Thanks. We need more of you.

  5. Faraz Omar

    August 3, 2009 at 5:46 AM

    Disappointing conclusion.

    For Muslims, knowledge of the historical tolerance of their predecessors sets a good precedent, one that would help to curb the unhelpful rhetoric of Islamic extremists who call for the “driving of the Jews into the sea.”

    If we educate Muslims on their tolerant past, it is more likely that they will act tolerantly in the present, as a way and means of not only living up to their respected forbearers, but also of emulating their own self-perception.

    Do u mean to say Muslims are intolerant of Jews today? Do u mean to say Muslims have this burning desire to murder all Jews that they need to be educated about their tolerant past? This is an illogical response to the false allegation that Israelis put on Muslims.

    Muslims have displayed their tolerance in the past and in the present and will continue to Insha Allah. I don’t mean to say there is no need of education… there is … of tawheed and sunnah … but this whole allegation on Muslims is completely false. There are 57 Muslim countries in the world. Is there one country that persecutes its non-Muslim residents? Saudi Arabia, which usually is condemned for its “strict” laws, has thousands of non-Muslim expats working for decades. Look at the whole GCC region. Alhamdulillah there has never been instances of persecution. may Allah protect all these countries from Fitnah mongers.

    If Israel and Israelis are hated. It’s because what they have done and what they are doing. Despite the history of how Israel was created on Muslim lands, despite the cold blooded murder and genocide of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims came forward with compromises to recognize Israel if it left the occupied lands and accepted a two state solution. Because we want peace, Israel doesn’t!

    Imagine… today 1/3 of the world doesn’t recognize Israel. The peace solution means that 1/3 of the world would normalize relations with Israel. There is nothing more that Muslims can do.

    Instead of being apologetic for no reason and preaching how Muslims should behave, say the truth about that damn illegitimate state of Israel, the existence of which is a threat to world’s peace.

    Muslims have not and will not Insha Allah do any acts of genocide when they take over Jerusalem and the occupied lands from the Zionists. They will Insha Allah establish peace and justice for all. O Allah, free Masjid Al-Aqsa from the yahood.

  6. Matt

    August 6, 2009 at 10:33 PM

    A clarification is in order: nowhere is the author claiming that life for Jews (and Christians) under Islam was idyllic. One cannot deny that there were (relatively brief) periods of intense persecution of Jews. Furthermore, even in Islamic Spain or Ottoman Palestine, one must admit that the Muslim treatment of minorities would not live up to today’s postmodern standards. It would be disingenuous to claim otherwise. But it would be highly sophomoric to judge a people of the past by contemporary standards, and no serious academic would do such a thing.

    I really appreciate this as a meaningful step toward better understanding. However, I also have to say that I think the article generally comes up short. Indeed, it would be wrong to judge these past eras of Muslim dominance according to contemporary standards. However, it doesn’t necessarily follow that Jews (or Christians) are wrong to complain about their treatment in these past eras. If someone wants to argue that Muslims are peculiarly intolerant because Muslim were historically imperfect, that’s obviously problematic. On the other hand, in the context of a discussion of historical Jewish oppression, it does make sense to include the failure of Muslims to adhere to contemporary standards. Neither Muslims in Muslim lands nor Christians in Christian lands had to rely on such standards!

    While periods of overt and harsh persecution may have been brief, that doesn’t mean that Jews would have been wrong to fight for greater rights to enable defense against periods of persecution. This is important because Zionists (also, I think it’s problematic that Zionism, which is a majority view among Jews, is equated with Islamic extremism, which would be a fractional minority view) view Zionism as liberation from the oppresive conditions of Diaspora. In other words, if Zionism is an assertion of equality in a world where political power comes in the form of state power, then your claim that Muslim antisemitism is a response to Zionism amounts to a claim that Jews have no right to claim equality without experiencing antisemitism. As Faraz Omar notes, there are 57 Muslim nations — in a world where international law is mostly defined by the United Nations. To deny any group a nation is to deny basic political rights.

    • MM Associates

      August 7, 2009 at 3:40 AM

      Peace be unto you Matt,

      Thank you for your insightful comment.

      However, it doesn’t necessarily follow that Jews (or Christians) are wrong to complain about their treatment in these past eras.

      I think they would be “wrong” if they complained selectively. For example, if a Christian were to complain about the status of Christians in Muslim lands historically–being completely oblivious to the plight of Muslims (and Jews) in Christian Europe–then I think this is not only disingenuous but outright bigoted.

      Neither Muslims in Muslim lands nor Christians in Christian lands had to rely on such standards!

      While periods of overt and harsh persecution may have been brief, that doesn’t mean that Jews would have been wrong to fight for greater rights to enable defense against periods of persecution.

      That is fine, but Jews must also be cognizant of their own history; they ruled the Holy Land twice, and both times their rules were much more intolerant than Islamic rule–and even harsher than Christian rule. Please read the first part of this article for more information on that.

      This is not to demonize the Jews, but rather in order for them to contextualize their own grievances against historic Islamic rule.

      As for the rest of your post, that is a more complex issue which would require a lengthy discussion. Some other time, God-Willing!

      Again, thank you for your valuable input.

      -J.Hashmi

      • Matt

        August 7, 2009 at 7:38 AM

        Thank you. I think some of your concerns are really important. You write:

        I think they would be “wrong” if they complained selectively. For example, if a Christian were to complain about the status of Christians in Muslim lands historically–being completely oblivious to the plight of Muslims (and Jews) in Christian Europe–then I think this is not only disingenuous but outright bigoted.

        I absolutely agree, and I think it’s important to be sensitive to the fact that this does happen. But I think there are also cases where Jews make important arguments that are rejected too quickly. Consider Albert Memmi, who writes,

        The Arabs in the past merely tolerated the existence of Jewish minorities, no more. They have not yet recovered from the shock of seeing their former underlings raise up their heads, attempting even to gain their national independence!

        Memmi, who fought for Algerian independence from France and wrote the touchstone The Colonizer and the Colonized, isn’t being selective and cannot be dismissed so easily.

        As for Ancient Israel, it’s naturally hard to know the history well. The only sources which paint a full enough picture are religious texts that don’t aim to be history books. But regardless, the same issues you raise with more recent history also apply. Are you being unfairly selective and judging the past by contemporary standards? And more importantly, what is the purpose of such a comparison? Here, I don’t think you meet the standards you rightly set out for yourself.

        • MM Associates

          August 7, 2009 at 3:12 PM

          Hi Matt,

          The Arabs in the past merely tolerated the existence of Jewish minorities, no more.They have not yet recovered from the shock of seeing their former underlings raise up their heads, attempting even to gain their national independence!

          I (sort of) agree with the first sentence, but disagree with the second. Yes, it is true that the Arabs “merely tolerated” the Jews, but for those times, that is a lot. Furthermore, the Jews historically fled to Muslim lands for safety, and they had their golden age under Islamic rule. As the Israeli historian Nissim Rejwan writes:

          The majority of the Jewish people at that time came under Arab rule, and the long and brilliant period of Arab-Jewish symbiosis began–a period that has been described as the most flourishing in Jewish history, and whose significance for the Jews and for Judaism to this day cannot be exaggerated. In his book Judaism and Islam, the Cambridge historian and Orientalist Erwin Rosenthal states, “the Talmudic age apart, there is perhaps no more formative or positive period in our long and chequered history than that under the empire of Islam from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean.”

          (Israel’s Place in the Middle East: A Pluralistic Perspective, by Nissim Rejwan, pp.48)

          As for the second sentence you quoted:

          They have not yet recovered from the shock of seeing their former underlings raise up their heads, attempting even to gain their national independence!

          I disagree with this entirely. It is as if Memmi is claiming that it is the same group of people then and now! Furthermore, the Muslim (and Palestinian) reaction to Israel has little to do with this argument of Memmi’s, but rather has to do with the plight of the Palestinian people who were occupied by Zionists not native to the land at all, who dispossessed the Palestinians from their lands and created nine million Palestinian refugees. So it is quite convenient for Zionists to trace the root of the entire problem to feelings of Islamic superiority and not to the more obvious Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.

          The fact is that even in 1922, the Jews owned only 3% of the land in Palestine. By 1947–even after such great illegal immigration to the land–the Jews still owned only 6-7% of the land. And if we look at before 1900, it becomes even clearer that the land was Palestinian, not Jewish. Today, Israel rules over 100% of the land. So that is the cause of the Muslim consternation, not some medieval concept of racial or religious superiority, as the opponents wish to assert!

          As for Ancient Israel, it’s naturally hard to know the history well. The only sources which paint a full enough picture are religious texts that don’t aim to be history books.

          This is not true at all. You are only referring to the first Jewish conquest. But what about the second Jewish conquest? I am referring to the Hasmonaean dynasty. I discussed this here. The Jewish Hasmonaean’s killed, drove out, enslaved, or forcibly converted Gentiles to Judaism. There was no religious tolerance at all. Therefore if Zionists would like to selectively cite Islamic history as the cause of all concern, then what about their own Jewish history where Gentiles were eliminated altogether?

          Are you being unfairly selective and judging the past by contemporary standards?

          With all due respect, I do not think you read the article in its entirity, because I explicitly wrote:

          Note: The author does not at all approve of Part 1 of this article being used for Anti-Semitic propaganda; it is not the intention of this author to demonize the Jews. Although such atrocities seem out of place today, back then it was quite the norm, as evidenced by the treatment of the Babylonians towards the Jews, the subsequent actions of the Romans, the war ethic of the Crusaders, the devastation of the Mongols, etc. Therefore to single out the Jews would be altogether inappropriate and unjustified. The author has investigated the Jewish rule of Jerusalem only in order to contextualize the subsequent Islamic rule of the city, as well as to address the argument brought forth by the former Israeli ambassador.

          This also answers your next question:

          And more importantly, what is the purpose of such a comparison?

          I answered that above. The purpose was to contextualize the Islamic rule of the region. The Zionists today wish to portray Islamic history as unusually intolerant in order to impose their paradigm to the Israeli-Palestinian situation; but the reality is that Islamic rule was significantly more tolerant than Jewish history, including both the first and second Jewish conquests, the second of which took place at a time where your earlier argument (that it is not documented) does not work.

          As a very important clarification that cannot be understated: I am not trying to “neutralize” historic oppression of Jews by arguing that the Jews themselves oppressed (Gentile) minorities when they were in power. I actually think such a line of argumentation is bordering on antisemitism, if not outright racism. The issue here is that the Zionist attempt to portray Islamic history as unusually intolerant–and therefore the supposed root cause of the conflict–is bigoted and ignorant. If they would like to argue that the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is due to historic Islamic tolerance, then why cannot the opposite side claim that the entire conflict is a case of Jews returning to their Biblical (or even Hasmonaean) roots of domination and genocide? One could even argue that the Zionists today have the same desire as did the Jews then, i.e. reclaiming the land that they believe God gave them, and killing anyone who already lives there. Of course, I myself think such assessments are overly simplistic!

          Lastly, I do not think that such line of argumentation by Zionists has any merit whatsoever. How is the historical oppression of Jews a justification for the creation of nine million Palestinian refugees? But anyways, that is a longer discussion, and I do not think it is a good idea to allow this thread to diverge on that tangent.

          Thank you again for your comments. Such discussions are important!

          -J.Hashmi

          • Matt

            August 7, 2009 at 3:49 PM

            Yes, it is true that the Arabs “merely tolerated” the Jews, but for those times, that is a lot.

            The point of the quote isn’t that it was or wasn’t a lot compared to other places. The point is that it wasn’t much for Jewish needs. To be tolerated, even if such tolerance is truly magnanimous, isn’t the same as having political rights. Being of today, you and I can and must, even though we’d refrain from moral condemnation of those of a different time, say that Jews have always had the same political rights as everyone else. Including the right to self-determination. Jews have the same right to form a nation that every other people has!

            I disagree with this entirely. It is as if Memmi is claiming that it is the same group of people then and now! Furthermore, the Muslim (and Palestinian) reaction to Israel has little to do with this argument of Memmi’s, but rather has to do with the plight of the Palestinian people who were occupied by Zionists not native to the land at all, who dispossessed the Palestinians from their lands and created nine million Palestinian refugees.

            No, not the same people. But ideologies can have long lives, and historical narratives reach back in ways that make ideology palpable. I’m afraid you miss the point.

            For me, your article is a defense of privilege. That’s why I said it falls short. You claim rights for the Palestinians, to national self-determination, that you wouldn’t grant to Jews. And to do so, you contextualize history in a different narrative. History is like the proverbial blind men describing an elephant. One feels a leg and declares that it’s like a column. One feels the tail and says it is like a rope.

            For you, the point is about whether Muslims were better or worse than others (“The purpose was to contextualize the Islamic rule of the region”), but for me this is beside the point. Even if I grant that Muslims were the epitome of tolerance, that doesn’t mean that Jews wouldn’t be entitled to the same political rights as any other people. To be treated well is not the same as to be equal. The point for me is, what is equality. In a world where power is attached to nations, to deny a people the right to form a nation is to deny them equality in a very basic way. It is, in and of itself, oppression.

            So you see events like the 1929 Hebron pogrom as an overreaction to Zionism. (I hope and expect you’d at least agree to that.) But for me, from my perspective, it was a violent rejection of Jewish rights. (And while Zionists share responsibility for the displacement of Palestinians — though not as many as 9 million; there are just over 4 million today, but it was 700,000 originally — so do those Palestinians who rejected earlier compromises.) It isn’t that you disagree with Memmi’s narrative, but that you seem unwilling to even engage with it. “No, no, no. It’s like a column, and anyone who disagrees has not listened to what I said.”

  7. Abdallah

    August 8, 2009 at 11:20 AM

    Assalam alaikum,

    Can somebody convert this article series to PDF format?

    It is such an eye opener. We should distribute it among our brothers & sisters.

    Jazakallah khair.

    • MM Associates

      August 8, 2009 at 6:59 PM

      Wa alaykum as-salam, brother Abdallah.

      I will insha-Allah do it this week. Just been very busy! Sorry about the delay.

      Dear Matt:

      I couldn’t figure out how to reply to you above, so I am just doing it here. Your entire argument revolves around your claim that all peoples of every single religion have a right to national sovereignty. I will respond to this claim in two ways:

      1. Do Wiccans, followers of a new religion in America, have a right to their own nation state? Should America carve out a piece of its land in order to make it into a Wiccan country? There are dozens of minor religions in India; does India have to carve out a piece of its land for each and all of them?

      According to international laws, self-determination is based only on if a certain group makes up a MAJORITY of the people in a certain area. This is not the case in Palestine. Prior to the creation of the Jewish Colonization Association which wished to COLONIZE Palestine just like the Americans COLONIZED the Native Americans, the Jews were only a minority of the people in the land. So why would they have a right to a nation-state in Palestine, if they were only a minority there?

      2. If the Germans feel so badly about what they did in the Holocaust, then they are free to create a sovereign Jewish state in their own land. If the Americans insist so much that Jews MUST have a nation-state and a Jewish homeland, then the Americans are free to give New York or New Jersey to the Jews. We Muslims will not mind! The logic of the Westerners who orchestrated this all is absurd: we Europeans persecuted Jews, so now as penance, the Muslims will give a part of their land as a Jewish homeland for the Jews. Truly absurd. Furthermore, Zionists were offered 6000 square miles of uninhabited Uganda as their national homeland as opposed to Palestine (since it was known that Palestinians lived in Palestine!), but the Zionists refused the offer, because they believed–according to their holy book–that God gave them the Holy Land.

      Here is what the Encyclopedia Britannica says:

      The centre of the movement was established in Vienna, where Herzl published the official weekly Die Welt (“The World”). Zionist congresses met yearly until 1901 and then every two years. When the Ottoman government refused Herzl’s request for Palestinian autonomy, he found support in Great Britain. In 1903 the British government offered 6,000 square miles (15,500 square km) of uninhabited Uganda for settlement, but the Zionists held out for Palestine.

      source

      So this argument is also refuted. They could have made Uganda their home, but instead they chose to impose their religious belief (that God gave them the Holy Land) upon the Muslims.

      The Zionist movement was from its start colonialist in nature, evidenced by the very name of the organization itself, i.e. the Jewish Colonization Agency. We don’t like colonists in our lands.

      As for your claim that there are “only” four million Palestinian refugees, what you are referring to is the 4.4 million refugees that the United Nations (UNRWA) serves. However, there are 9 million total. But I guess you can question the numbers…but one does recall those who deny the six million mark with regard to the Holocaust. In any case, the number is clearly well over 4 million as you claim, since this is just the number that is registered with the UN! Furthermore, the number “four million” is nothing to scoff at. In fact, Israel created the world’s largest refugee population: one in four refugees in the world is Palestinian!

      In any case, I do not like how we are moving away from the purpose of this article. If you kindly read the first part of this article you will find that the purpose was simply to refute the Israeli ambassador’s thesis. I ask everyone to please stick to this, and other side comments will be deleted, as I do not want this to degenerate into a discussion of Israel-Palestine overall.

      Again, I thank you for your comments, and ask for your forgiveness for my curtness.

      EDIT: I missed your claim here:

      (And while Zionists share responsibility for the displacement of Palestinians…so do those Palestinians who rejected earlier compromises.)

      This is an incredibly offensive (and quite frankly ignorant) statement. Let me be very clear for you: Israel has NEVER offered the Palestinians a completely 100% sovereign Palestinian nation state. This is the bare minimum which the Palestinians will accept. Now I know you will bring up a Zionist talking point that so-and-so Israeli leader offered such-and-such deal and the Palestinians denied it, but stop and ask yourself: did the Israelis offer (semi-)autonomy or 100% sovereignty? Autonomy is NOT the same as sovereignty, which you yourself imply in your own post!

      Why don’t you claim that the Native Americans were responsible for their extermination for their refusal to accept the American “offers of peace?” For you to claim that the Palestinians are responsible for the Israeli expulsion of Palestinians is offensive and borderline bigoted.

      Let’s even pretend that Israel did offer the Palestinians a fair deal (which they didn’t)…and we’ll pretend the Palestinians didn’t take it. In that case, you think Israel is excused for bull-dozing the homes of millions of people, running them out of their houses, and expelling them? If for example the Hutus offered certain terms of peace to the Tutsi leaders, and the Tutsi leaders rejected them, would that be all the justification the Hutus need to drive the Hutus out of their homes? I really don’t think you thought this one out.

      I suggest you read up on the issues a bit more. A good starting point, God-Willing, would be “The Fateful Triangle” by Noam Chomsky.

      -J.Hashmi

      • Matt

        August 8, 2009 at 11:31 PM

        My feelings about states are mixed, except that I don’t see anarchism as a viable alternative to statism any time soon. Like it or not, power is today attached to states. When we talk about international law, we are talking about states. As Faraz Omar noted, there are 57 Muslim states — yet you would argue for the abolition of the only Jewish state. Certainly, you should think carefully about what a state is and should be before such an argument. I think we should aim to create states in a liberal way rather than a “natural” way. (Natural, in this sense, being an excuse for preserving “the old order” of the powerful over the weak.) There are many questions about how to apply the principle of self-determination, but if any group is entitled to a state, then Jews are. Certainly Muslim states today suffer under an imperialist competition between Muslim and Western states, but I can’t see that any group (other than Romani) has suffered as much from the very way in which states are defined as Jews. When we talk about who is allowed a state, we are talking about who is allowed rights. Perhaps a broader discussion on statism would be easier, but unfortunately the discussion is discriminatively focused on the one Jewish state.

        I’d love to argue for pure anarchism, but I don’t think Jews can survive without Zionism until a time when there is no such thing as a state — and I think I have every reason to believe that — so I say let the EU become an anarchist utopia before insisting that Jews suffer as martyrs for anarchism. Let the 57 Muslim states in the OIC become secular utopias before demanding that the single Jewish state live up to standards few if any other states can meet.

        Much of the disagreement between us is wrapped up in differing narratives. We each emphasize different events as significant in determining how to interpret other events. But still, I think you argue from a privileged position of defending the relatively powerful against the powerless. Repeatedly, you emphasize that Jews were colonizers, but already you’re reinterpreting (and distorting) history according to your narrative. Zionists are and were a diverse group, including refugees who had literally nothing and varieties of Mizrahi Jews who were ethnically cleansed from Muslim nations. To call such people colonizers is remarkably offensive. Memmi, for example, was no such thing. I urge you to consider the moment when the Palestinian elite fought against the immigration of Jewish refugees from the Holocaust. The relative power of Palestinians over Jews was blatantly apparent in that particular moment. And I urge you to seriously consider the moment of the farhoud, where powerful Muslim Arabs oppressed Jews in the most blatant ways. Even for those Jews who were, compared to other Jews, relatively privileged, weren’t there wealthier Arabs? Again, like the blind man who argues that the elephant is like a column, you ignore that anyone else could imagine differently. And in arguing from such a priveled position, you distort even basic facts. You write:

        Israel has NEVER offered the Palestinians a completely 100% sovereign Palestinian nation state.

        This is just absolutely untrue. Prior to the creation of Israel, the Yishuv accepted multiple compromise deals that Palestinians rejected, either on the grounds that Jews couldn’t be trusted to keep a compromise or on the grounds that Jews had no rights to a state. Given the rhetoric about driving Jews into the sea, it’s hardly surprising that Israel was wary of subsequent negotiations. Since that time, of course, there are many things that could be argued — but we each understand them in terms created by our understandings of earlier history. You allude to Barak’s “generours offer.” Are you aware that, according to Ross and Clinton Arafat walked out saying that the Jewish Temple had never existed? Talk about offensive! It doesn’t even matter if what was offered to Arafat was fair — that was an offensive way to abandon negotiations. There are many points one could make about that or any other failure between 1948 and today. I’m not even going to stand by the claim that Barak’s offer was “generous.” But your one-sidedness if outrageous. Even Arafat’s negotiators said that subsequent offers at Taba were worth talking about, yet Hamas continues to reject the very notion of Israel while Fatah has just recently moved away from moderation. Chomsky likes to argue that Jews missed this or that chance for peace, but the Arabs missed 1400 years to offer Jews equality. (That no one else offered Jews equality is no excuse to continue to deny Jews equality.) Again, interpreting the present depends on interpretions of the past, which is a political and partisan matter.

        I’m disappointed but not surprised that this is a difficult conversation. But I am disappointed how tenaciously you cling to privielege.

  8. Linton Hanes

    January 16, 2010 at 11:45 PM

    If Jerusalem is Muslim, then Mecca should be Jewish, after all fear is fear. The hatred of Jews is illogical and nonsensical and nutters who stir up such evil should be put down like the dogs they are. The desire for Jerusalem is a Zionist dream, anyone who desires Jerusalem is a Zionist. Jerusalem is built on Mount Zion, hence the term, Zionism. The mount it was built upon was since the time of the Jewish king, David and the time of the Jewish Prophet and King, Samuel.
    The Muslim desire to take the City of David is both an abomination to God and his word and an evil against Gods chosen people.
    If Muslims continue to slander against God, his chosen people and his word, then they should not act surprised when the billions they have wronged rise up and take corrective actions to set the record straight. All enemies of the God of Israel will drown in their own vomit and swill as they call out to their false gods and hide behind rocks that scream out, “behind me hides the smell of the beast who pretends to be a son of Adam, but alas stinks like the son of Satan”.
    Peace upon Jerusalem and all of Israel from God who ordained both forever and his anointed chosen people the Jews.

    • Wulf Nesthead

      December 12, 2016 at 12:02 PM

      786 Linton, you obviously didn’t read a word of the article series, since nothing you wrote here is relevant to it.

  9. Muqith Mujtaba Ali

    October 28, 2010 at 3:04 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum.

    The articles are of great historical importance.

    Can you make a pdf file combining all the three parts, InshaAllah.

    It would be great benefit to many around the world, InshaAllah

    Jazakallah.

    Muqith

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