Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Middle East, the Ummah and the Jews

 The tragedy of the Middle East is 'cartography'


"A well-meant mistake of history."A few years back, thus was  Israel described by a certain Mr Cohen, a journalist for the Washington Post. In response, Zaki Elia, who lives in London, wrote an email to him. It was 'a delivery failure' : Richard Cohen never got to read it. Lately, Zaki stumbled upon it while tidying his old emails and thought to share it. (with thanks: Michelle)

To Mr Cohen, from a Middle Easterner.

Your analysis of the state of affairs in the Middle East where the state of Israel has been labelled as a ”well meant mistake of history” because of the persecution of European Jewry is puzzling today, taking into consideration that the great majority of the Jews living in Israel are from Sephardi and Mizrahi origin. You may not be familiar with the Mizrahi Jews as they have been conveniently and mistakenly classified as Sephardim. (from Spain and not the Middle East). I am a Mizrahi Jew - meaning Easterner,  the first generation outside the Middle East.

The Mizrahi Jews lived in Alexandria, Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad and beyond for one or two millennia before Mohammed had his revelations and proclaimed his subsequent Ummah. Today there are no Jews to speak of in the Muslim world: they all moved (including the communities of North Africa. (About one million of them migrated - dare I say an unrecognised equivalent to the Palestinian tragedy?) Some moved to Europe and the New World, others to Israel following a similar pattern of persecution that the Ashkenazim went through, thankfully without the outrage of the Holocaust.

Describing Palestine as “a Turkish colony” is fundamentally inaccurate and reveals your misinformed judgement. The Turks were the custodians of the Caliphate, the near-holy regency from Mohammed. Palestine was a province of the Ummah, and not a colony. You might say this is semantic, but the difference between Empire and Ummah is the difference between the profane and the sacred. The Ummah is the utopian equivalent of the promised land: Mohammed and his “khalifas/regents” brought the Ummah about by subjugating, pacifying and Islamising by the sword in the name of Allah. A truly Holy Empire, where Christians and Jews were tolerated, patronised and periodically persecuted. As dhmmis, they will eventually see the inevitability of the Universal Mahommedan vision . Therefore it would have been more accurate and true to use the expression 'a Muslim province '(loosely defined by topography and taxability).

That said, the true tragedy of the Middle East is one of cartography. The reasons behind the crisp borders are western reasons. Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Kuwait, Syria, Iraq are all historical mistakes. I find it mystifying that you should single out Israel, otherwise how would you explain the dysfunctional societies of Iraq, Lebanon and others repressed and unexpressed, or the obliteration of Kurdistan? Or large swathes of Armenia? And what is the legitimacy of Pakistan and Bangladesh beyond Islam? Both these nations created refugee problems that dwarfed those of Palestine in human scale and magnitude, and yet we do not hear of them. The same parallel tragedy is playing havoc on the continent of Africa : borders were defined oblivious to the reality of the people living on that land. Let me assure you I am not an anti-colonialist in the Cold War mould. Borders are important, necessary concepts to manage an ever-shrinking world based on universal human rights as enshrined by the United Nations.

The creation of the state of Israel in the Muslim province of Palestine is one of the expressions of those human rights. Not only as a response to the Holocaust but also in response to a much earlier outrage namely the attempted obliteration of Judea by the Roman empire. At that time the ideas emanating from Judea later continued in the shape of early Christianity. They weres dangerous and subversive in a society economically based on slavery, were the fledgling ideas of democracy were only available to the few and were kings were gods and gods were kings.

Later, the crumbling decadent Roman empire mutated into the Holy Christian Empire by incorporating pagan ideas into monotheistic ideas (the cult of Mary, the god king and all saints). The Judean ideas remained a threat and were effectively banned from discussion in public spaces. Hence the birth of institutionalised anti-Semitism as the continuation of the pre-Christian intellectual rivalry between Greeks and Jews. Later came Islam, equally indebted to Judean ideas and narratives, it arose as a response to the Holy Christian Empire. And the Jews were again sidelined and superseded by simply stating that Mohammed was the last ever prophet with the last and only correct and absolute revelation. Ismael is the true inheritor of Abraham and by extension Islam, to the exclusion of all other claimants (Jews and later Christians).

The festering refusal of the Muslim world to legitimise the state of Israel Is rooted in that absolute revelation and is the same refusal to accept Lebanon as a Christian/multicultural entity (initially advocated by the French Protectorate for the then Christian majority), or any borders threatening the perceived integrity of the holy Ummah. Where ever you go in the world “Dar el Islam” (the House of Islam) is indeed at war with the rest of the world “Dar El Harb” (the house of war). The very existence of Israel is a question mark on that absolute truth and a front line of that war.

According to your understanding of history, Jews should have remained in a permanent state of statelessness despite the European lessons, where perfectly integrated communities were eradicated at will not long ago and despite The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They should have remained in a state of dhimitude in the Muslim world. Or maybe emigrate to America or anywhere generous enough to accept them. Better still, if Israel is a historic mistake surely The United States of America, to say nothing of the rest of the Americas, is even a greater one?  How could you justify it in the light of the tragedy brought upon the indigenous people when the white man arrived brandishing his bible and his gun? 


And by the way History never makes any mistakes, men do.



Zaki Elia


The myth of Jewish Colonialism

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

The "Mr. Cohen" writing in the "WaPo" is likely one Roger Cohen, who is well known for his idiotic views towards Israel and Zionism.

zakielia1 said...

Thank you,Anonymous for the clarification. Mr Cohen's idiotic views are rooted in his self hatred rather than his intelligence. Sadly a very common malaise among jews specially from European, ashkenazi descent.

bataween said...

I think it's Richard Cohen - Roger Cohen writes for the New York Times.But they are quite similar in their views..

Anonymous said...

thanks for the correction, Bataween. Richard or Roger too damned many Askenazic Cohens spouting nonsence for this Levite's purposes.

And thanks as well for your excellent blog. The history of Jews in the MENA is still way too unknown to the world.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Anon, whereas Roger Cohen is always bad, Richard Cohen tells the truth sometimes. As to being Ashkenazim, Simon Malley from Egypt was a Commie who became an obnoxious French journalist --and in some ways was worse than even Roger Cohen, in his vitriol.
Also think of Henri Curiel & Abraham Serfatti. Commies are bad news whether Ashkenazim or Sefardim.

Now to Elia's text, far from "palestine" being a colony of the Ottoman empire, members of the leading Palestinian Arab families held high posts in the Ottoman imperial govt. Think of Husseinis, Khalidis, and Abdel-Hadis.