Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Muslims & Jews: what they don't want you to know

The oppression throughout history of Jews in Arab countries has long been an embarrassment to leftists and western opinion-formers, writes E Green in his review of a must-read compilation of essays edited by Malka Hillel Shulevitz: The Forgotten Millions: The Modern Jewish Exodus from Arab Lands {Cassell, 2001 (2nd ed.)} Although Green's review was published a few years ago, his analysis, and Shulewitz's book, remain as pertinent as ever:

Some of the most important events and historical processes get the least attention. In the oceans of ink spilled over the Arab-Israeli conflict relatively little attention has been given (in Israel too) to the historical background of the Jewish immigration --or flight-- to Israel from Arab countries. Partisans of the Arab cause tended to either falsify reality or ignore it. This has included Communists and leftists as well as spokesmen for Western interests in the Middle East. This whole subject has been an area where Communist ideology and practice converged with Western moral and political prejudices and interests.

The existence of oppressed Jewish (and other) minorities in Arab lands has long been an embarassment to certain Western journalists and policy-makers, as well as to Communist ideologues. The mainstream of American journalism in the 1940s and 1950s typically portrayed the Arab world as a region where people were kind, where toleration of Jews and other minorities was the rule, and where only Israel's presence spoiled the longing of the naturally anti-Communist Arab Muslims to join the Baghdad Pact. Soviet propaganda likewise advocated Arab unity, although in behalf of "anti-imperialist" and "progressive" goals and under Soviet rather than Western sponsorship.

In this atmosphere, Western and Communist politicians, communications media and educational institutions overlooked or minimized the wrongs committed by Muslim-Arabs against dhimmi (non-Muslim) peoples, or even against fellow Muslims who resisted Arab nationalism. Consider how the mass murder of Iraqi Kurds by Saddam Hussein (by poison gas among other means) and the genocide of southern Sudanese Blacks are usually overlooked by the media, by self-styled "human rights" bodies, by UN agencies, and by politicians generally. Ethnic cleansing of Kurds in Iraq intensified in 2000 and 2001, yet the veil of silence and distortion stayed in place as the media has focussed on alleged wrongs committed by Israel against Arabs in the course of Arab-initiated warfare.

The facts about the age-old suppression of Jews and Christians in Muslim society according to Islamic law could not be emphasized in the simplistic historical presentations of Western exponents of Arab nationalism. Arnold Toynbee, a historian highly placed in the British academic-diplomatic establishment (Studies Director at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, etc.), described Jews and other minorities as "fossils of ancient faiths" that should have vanished long ago. On a less distinguished level, Christina Jones, author of a brief account of Quaker (Society of Friends) missions in the Land of Israel, briefly described traditional Arab treatment of Jews as she saw it, as follows:

Jews in Palestine... lived in excellent relations with their Arab neighbors. The Arab people are capable of the utmost generosity and to their everlasting credit have a better record of tolerance than their brothers of the West... There is no indication of racial animosity at that time [1917] on the part of the Arabs...

Jones was not a famous academic like Toynbee, yet her modest work may have had considerable influence due to the heavy representation of Quakers in the American foreign policy establishment dealing with the Middle East, and in particular in agencies caring for the 1948 Arab refugees. Toynbee's words show a certain annoyance with ethnic and religious groups that spoiled the Arab world's uniformity and unity.

The Communist Soviet Union had announced its favoritism for Muslims against non-Muslim minorities shortly after the Bolsheviks took power, when they issued an "Appeal to the Muslim Toilers of Russia and the East" to support revolution, on 3 December 1917. This manifesto, prepared by Stalin's Commissariat of Nationalities, also asserted the right of peoples to self-determination, but gave the national-territorial claims of Muslim peoples pride of place over those of non-Muslims. (...)

In Israel too, what is called the "left" has found the reality of Arab-Jewish relations in history to be an embarassment. How after all can the Arabs be depicted as oppressed victims of Jews if in the long perspective of history the situation was the opposite? How can Israel be depicted as Nazi if it is widely known that in fact most of the Arab nationalist movement was pro-Nazi? That the main leader of the Palestinian Arabs collaborated with the Nazis in the Holocaust? This attitude or one with similar results for historiography has long influenced the writing of history textbooks for Israeli schools, long before the "new historans" came on the scene. Indeed, there have been exceptions among the "left." Consider Sami Mikha'el's novel, Sufah beyn haD'qalim, about a Jewish boy in Baghdad who lived through the murderous pogrom of 1941. However, the rule for the Left has been to embellish the history of Arab-Jewish relations in favor of the Arabs.

Swimming against the stream of general reluctance among the communications media and the academic establishment in the West (and Israel too) to put Muslims, particularly Arabs, in a bad light, Malka Hillel Shulevitz has compiled a book of articles, most written freshly for this collection, dealing with the above and related themes. The resulting anthology can serve as a useful introduction to the field for newcomers and can provide useful information and concepts for the specialist. Shulevitz wisely chose Mordecai Nisan to present the political, social, and historical background of Middle Eastern minorities from a theoretical standpoint and a global perspective in today's world. Nisan wrote a book some years ago considering a series of those Middle Eastern minorities that have had political-territorial aspirations opposed to Arab (or Arab-Muslim) nationalism, or that have a distinct identity, supplying a theoretical explanation which contradicted not only Arab nationalism but the Western Arabists.

Bat Yeor, herself born in Egypt, presents in detail the principles of dhimmi status in the Islamic state, and the history of Muslim-dhimmi relations (particularly with Jews) in what is called in Arabic Dar al-Islam (the House of Islam). The concept of dhimma supplies most of the explanation of how Muslims have viewed Jews throughout the ages. Moreover, when the Ottoman Empire gave Jews and Christians a more equal civil status (mid-19th century), Muslims still viewed them from the traditional viewpoint. This attitude embraced modernizers such as the Young Turks --and more recently, their admirer Sadat in Egypt.

Bat Yeor believes that, "For Israel, the study of jihad... is essential." That is, she sees knowledge of jihad in its various aspects and ancillary concepts, such as fay and dhimma, as relevant to understanding our present conflict with the Arabs. The Hamas Charter asserts that land conquered from non-Muslims is fay, that is, collective booty of the Islamic Umma. This applies of course to the Land of Israel. The dhimmi status for Jews is still seen as valid by many --probably most-- Islamic authorities. Shaykh Muhammad Abu Zahra of Al-Azhar University declared (1968) that Jews living in Islamic lands were dhimmis who had "betrayed the covenant" of dhimma which granted them protection, by harboring sympathy for Israel. Therefore Muslims and the Muslim state no longer had an obligation to protect them.

Very relevant to the present situation of constant murders, shootings, suicide bombings, etc., is the historical core of dhimmi status. The Quran (IX:29) states that Muslims must, "Fight against [unbelievers]... until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued." The tribute in early Islam included a head tax called the jizya, which in the Ottoman Empire was abolished in the mid-nineteenth century (under European pressure), though remaining in effect in other Islamic lands into the twentieth. The receipt for the jizya was a license to live another year. Therefore, Bat Yeor points out, "life" was "not considered a natural right" but a right which a dhimmi must purchase annually. The murders on the roads of Samaria and at the Tel Aviv discotheque are most reasonably understood in the context of dhimma and jihad, rather than as reactions to "occupation." Bat Yeor adds that Christian Judeophobia too --both Western and Middle Eastern-- is a factor in hostility to Israel.

Ya'akov Meron contributes a substantial piece arguing that the Arab League planned an expulsion of Jews from Arab lands before the UN Partition Resolution (Nov 29, 1947). Indeed, Arab delegates to the UN, in particular those of Egypt and Iraq, had hinted at their intentions in speeches at the UN before the vote on Partition, warning that Partition might endanger Jews in Arab lands, intensify antisemitism and lead to massacre of Jews. These veiled threats must have made a chilling impact on Jews in Arab lands where memories of the pro-Nazi stance of the local Arab governments and nationalists must have been fresh, especially in Iraq, Syria and Egypt, as well as in Libya where Arab mobs had accepted the occupying Germans' invitation to plunder the Jews; likewise the calls to murder Jews issued over Radio Berlin during WW2 by Amin el-Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem. Meron's documentation flies in the face of some "new history" writings, and vitiates claims made about the Jewish exodus from Arab lands by assorted anti-Zionists --Western and Communist alike-- that the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands was a reaction to alleged expulsion of Palestinian Arabs by Israel, and/or that Zionist agents had terrorized the Jews into leaving (perhaps Jews would have felt safe in Baghdad despite the 1941 massacre?). Meron argues on the grounds of documents that the Arab leaders wanted the Jews out so that they could take over their property.

Perhaps because of the various upheavals that Egypt underwent after 1948 --defeat in war, overthrow of the monarchy, etc.-- this policy was not implemented there until Nasser amended the Egyptian Nationality Law in 1956. This new law led to mass imprisonment of Egyptian Jews and confiscation of their property under various pretexts and subsequent decrees.

The policy had been implemented earlier in Iraq (1950-51), where Nuri Sa`id, the pro-British prime minister, worked intensely on the expulsion project, which was blamed after the war on the displacement of Palestinian Arabs but in fact had been decided by the Arab League before the UN vote. Sa`id advocated his plan to British and American diplomats, using the arguments of an exchange of populations or retaliation for the displacement of Palestinian Arabs. However, speaking to the Palestinian Arab intellectual, `Aref al-`Aref, he explained:

The Jews have always been a source of evil and harm to Iraq...

Malka Shulewitz and Raphael Israeli contribute a joint article on twentieth century population displacements, as a comparison with that of Palestinian Arabs. This article is essential for considering the Palestinian Arab refugee situation in its global and historical context. The fact that at least 25 million Germans and Indians (including Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs) became refugees about the same time as the Palestinian Arabs is commonly forgotten or unknown today, even to well informed people, particularly the young. The article shows how the Palestinian Arab refugees were treated differently than other, much larger groups of refugees. Whereas the Germans and Indians were resettled the Arabs were kept in camps. Yet, the principle of population exchange and thereby of resettlement had been accepted in international law, as in the Convention of Adrianople (1913), the Treaty of Neuilly (1919) and the Lausanne Convention (1923).

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1 comment:

emanuel said...

Dividend and role the policy of great evil the British Empire
I have no doubt you are right about every thing and also I until now believe the British Empire has control of this conflict in and unfortunately they will put fuel to that conflict until they have interest in the Muslim nations ,in the end I believe the US still is the British colony.