In this interview by Gabriel Noah Brahm in Fathom, the controversial historian Benny Morris has some interesting insights into the Muslim-Jewish relationship. The idea that Arabs and Jews would live in peace and harmony in a unitary Palestinian state is not borne out by history: Jews were only tolerated in the Arab world as small, non-threatening minorities. Read the whole thing.
Benny Morris: living together as equals is nonsense (photo: Anna Loshkin)
Arabs and Jews haven’t been able to live well together over the past
100 years — they have been in constant conflict and to believe that they
will live in peace in a ‘one-state solution’ is contrary to what
history has been telling us has been happening. What we do know is that
the Arab world in general used to have Jewish minorities that no longer
exist. Jews did not in the end feel comfortable living there. In fact,
they were intimidated into leaving the Arab world and that’s why there
are not Jewish communities in Yemen, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya,
Syria —they all used to have large Jewish communities, and they have all
vanished. The way that nation states and nationalism has developed in
the Middle East basically alienated them, and threw them out.
The same would apply to a Palestine in which there was a majority of
Arabs — especially given this increase in Islamic radicalism. Jews never
actually fared that well in the Islamic world, and there’s a sort of
myth about how nice and good relations were among Jews and Arabs in the
Islamic world over the centuries. It is nonsense. Jews were tolerated
because they were a very small minority and didn’t threaten anybody. If
they had become much larger perhaps they would have been treated more
violently; as it was they were mistreated and oppressed and there were
pogroms all over the Arab world over the centuries.
So expecting Jews
who would turn into a minority in a united Palestinian state to want to
stay here rather than go off to America and live a normal life in a
tolerant democracy is nonsense. Those who say that Jews and Arabs in
Palestine would live in peace and mutual tolerance in a single state are
being dishonest — or are either too naïve or too ignorant to be allowed
to publish books and articles.
When Arabs say ‘well, why can’t the Jews live with us together as
equals in a joint society?’ this is nonsense. They’re presenting an
imaginary future to Westerners that sounds like coffee shops in New
York, but actually it’s not — we are talking about the Middle East. It’s
not New York.
A hundred years of what has happened between Israelis and
Palestinians, the centuries of what happened to Jews in Arab lands, all
of this means that the Arabs are not speaking honestly when they speak
about living jointly in some sort of parity. Demography would tell. If
it’s one person one vote, then they would control of what happened in
the state and the Jews would of course prefer to leave. Arabs understand
that. They are being dishonest.
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