Thursday, June 12, 2008

The deniers who misrepresent Arab-Jewish history

The next worst thing to Holocaust denial is the modern-day falsification of history to give the impression that Jews and Arabs had always lived in harmony, Myles Kantor argues at Front Page Magazine:(with thanks: Lily)

"Holocaust deniers are outcasts, but people who promote a similar lie often appear on television.

"I recently learned about Saree Makdisi while researching my FrontPage article about Hezbollah supporter and ex-professor Norman Finkelstein. An English professor at UCLA, last month Makdisi appeared on left-wing television program Democracy Now! for a debate with Finkelstein and Israeli historian Benny Morris on the occasion of Israel's 60th Independence Day.

"Toward the end of the debate, Morris criticized Makdisi’s proposal of a one-state “solution” to the Israeli-Arab conflict. Makdisi replied, “the great moments of Sicily and Spain, and so forth, and Baghdad, etc., were always moments where Jews and Arabs lived together and worked together.” Similarly, in a May 11 op-ed in The Los Angeles Times titled “Forget the two-state solution,” he claimed, “It [Israel] is an ethno-religiously exclusive state that has tried to defy the multicultural history of the land on which it was founded.”

"Others have argued that Israel’s restoration in 1948 deviated from a past of peaceful Jewish-Arab coexistence and created new animosity. CBS News Middle East analyst Reza Aslan asserted last year in a debate with author Sam Harris, “Before 1948, of course, there were tens of thousands of Jews living alongside their Arab neighbors without any problem at all.” Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of the anti-Israel organization Neturei Karta said at a June 3 protest of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “we are thankful…for the hospitality and safe haven and friendship that the Muslim people and the Arab people throughout the world has [sic] constantly given to the Jewish people throughout the ages.”

"Here are some important dates in Arab-Jewish history: 627, 1066, 1465, 1828, 1912, 1920, 1929, 1934, 1938, 1941, and 1967. These dates correspond to massacres of Jews by Arabs in Medina, Granada, Fez, Baghdad, Fez again, Jerusalem, Hebron, Constantine, Tiberias, Baghdad again, and Tripoli.

"Jews under Arab rule had to wear identifying clothing, pay special taxes, could not ride horses, bear arms, etc. The Spanish-Jewish sage Maimonides noted these abuses in his 1172 Iggeret Teiman (“Epistle to Yemen”), responding to violent anti-Semitism in that country. Maimonides described the Arabs as those “who have persecuted us severely, and passed baneful and discriminatory legislation against us...Never did a nation molest, degrade, debase, and hate us as much as they.”

"Institutional degradation of Jews in Arab countries continued into modern times. Eli Moyal, the mayor of Sderot in southwestern Israel, was born in Morocco and has described his youth there:

"We lived quietly and in peace as long as we obeyed the rules. We had no political power, no say. It was against the law for a Jew to be involved in politics. It was a ghetto we lived in…We know the Arabs better than the Ashkenazim [Jews of European descent]. We obeyed Arab regimes for centuries; we know their traditional and cultural way of life—we ran away from the Arabs."

"Jews dispossessed and expelled from Arab countries after 1948 offer similar recollections in the documentary The Forgotten Refugees.

"Aslan, Makdisi, and Weiss misrepresent Arab-Jewish history before 1948 in a way that resembles the filth of Holocaust denial. While the abhorrent facts have been widely documented in both cases, these individuals whitewash the Arab world’s tyranny and terrorism against religious minorities.

"This falsification of history is today’s version of the blood libel. Not only did the Jews betray a tradition of multicultural peace; they initiated an era of death and destruction with their belligerent nationalism. The falsification is thus another attempt to delegitimize Israel."

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