U.S. envoy George Mitchel will arrive in the region this week without a new agenda for renewing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported on Saturday.In a move that is doubtful to inspire a renewal of negotiations, Mitchell will be arriving with no letters of grantee from neither the U.S. nor Israel.According to the French sources quoted in the article, the information about Mitchell's lack of a new plan came to light during a series of meetings in Paris and Brussels.
The sources say that during the course of the meetings, Mitchell did not present any new program or clear agenda that outlined how he could reverse the current stagnation in negotiations.The article continued by saying that Washington will not give the Palestinian side any guarantees when it comes time for negotiations that are unacceptable to Israel, especially in regards to the question of Jerusalem's future. This comes despite the hope by many that letters of guarantee are the exact thing needed to inspire a return to the negotiating table.The U.S. is reportedly concerned that letters of guarantee will toughen the stance of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. There is a fear that if promises in the form of these letters are given, Abbas will base all future negotiations on them
Saturday, January 16, 2010
This headline says it all: Report: Mitchell to arrive in Mideast this week with no plan, no agenda. Like, Who me, worry? Here's the story:
Read carefully what it says in this article:
Who attended this conference of "resistance organizations under the auspices of the UN?"
The Hezbollah was there. "International resistance organizations" coud include Al-Qaeda and probably does, and certainly includes the PLO and similar groups. No doubt everyone was there who matters in the world of blowing people up, except possibly the undiebomber, who was "unavoidably detained." . The UN was supposed to be disarming the Hezbollah under several different Security Council resolutions. The UN is supposed to be fighting terror.
Instead, they are giving Hezbollah a forum.
And who paid for this conference of "resistance organizations under the auspices of the UN?"
Think about it.
Friday, January 15, 2010
What a pity that those in charge are so short-sighted. But some of these movements have long ago given up any semblance of Zionism and preach Tikkun Olam (social work and good deeds) in the Diaspora rather than immigration to Israel.
Zionist youth say they face financial ruin
By Cnaan Liphshiz
World Zionist youth movements are facing a financial crisis which could lead to their imminent collapse, leaders of all major such movements told the Knesset this week in a plea for government intervention.
If this happens, "hundreds of thousands of Jewish youth will lose their only significant link to the State of Israel and to their Jewish identity," a coalition of chairpersons from Habonim Dror, Hashomar Hatzair, World Bnei Akiva, Maccabi World Union and other movements wrote to the Knesset.
Since the Jewish Agency drastically cut funding a year ago, many youth movements tried to weather the recent financial crisis but are now running out of money.
According to Bnei Akiva records, the Jewish Agency's education department cut its budget for World Zionist movement emissaries from Israel to Diaspora communities from NIS 5.6 million to 3.2 in 2008, and reduced its funding of about a million shekels for activity outside Israel by 80 percent.
On Wednesday, several chairpersons spoke during an emergency session at the Knesset Education Committee concerning the current situation of World Zionist youth movements - supported by several dozen members from the U.K., South Africa, South America and Russia.
The government only distributes roughly one million shekels distributed among 17 movements, "with each receiving something like NIS 80,000 annually," Zvika Klein of Bnei Akiva told Anglo File.
The education committee's chairman, Zevulun Orlev, said he would sign other parliamentarians on a petition to the government to allocate more funds to world Zionist youth movements.
"No one will doubt that traditionally the vast majority of people who chose to make aliyah out of ideology have been youth movement graduates," the chairpersons' letter read. "Without the world Zionist youth movement, these people would not be living here, and that's a fact."
Abrams' underlines obvious facts. What is amazing is not that he has these insights, but that administration policy makers refuse to see these what is in plain view.
Focus on West Bank, Not Negotiating
Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, CFR
Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, CFR.org
January 13, 2010
Elliott Abrams, a CFR expert who served as a senior Middle East adviser in the George W. Bush administration, says he questions the chances for a breakthrough in efforts to negotiate a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. He says that the Obama administration is putting too much emphasis on "negotiations." He says, "The tragedy here is that this focus on the negotiating table has led the United States to continue, as we did in the Bush administration, to put much too much emphasis on negotiations and too little emphasis on the actual daily work of building a Palestinian state in the West Bank." Abrams says he would like an emphasis on bolstering the legal system and economy in the West Bank, now run by President Mahmoud Abbas.
Former Senator George Mitchell, the administration's special envoy to the Middle East, is about to start a new round of discussions in the Middle East. He was interviewed on the Charlie Rose Show last week and made clear that the administration is hoping to have negotiations lasting about two years, starting with the Israelis and Palestinians, which would then encompass the rest of the Arab world, which would endorse any agreement that resulted. Yet despite a year of trying, Senator Mitchell hasn't accomplished anything concrete. Does he have a better shot this time?
I don't see why he would, because nothing has changed fundamentally. The Palestinians are still demanding a complete Israeli construction freeze of settlements, including in Jerusalem, before they go back to the table. This is the condition the Obama administration insisted on a year ago, and the Palestinians, having been pushed into adopting that standard, cannot now figure out how to abandon it even if they would like to. So they are refusing to go back to the table with the Israelis, and what we have been seeing from Senator Mitchell are "trial balloons," such as, "let's have proximity talks instead of direct negotiations."
What are proximity talks?
Proximity talks would be the Palestinians and Israelis in different hotels or different rooms in the same hotel and the Americans would shuttle back and forth. What is ridiculous about that is that these people have been negotiating face to face for twenty years, so to go back to proximity talks is a real admission of failure. But the second trial balloon was that Senator Mitchell would carry "letters of guarantee," which are letters from the president to each side saying what the American position would be on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, with the hope that would get the Palestinians in a position where they could begin face to face negotiations again; but Palestinian spokesmen have already rejected that. So I just don't see any optimism about getting them back to the table again.
Now Mitchell repeated in the Rose interview what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said last year after meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu--that he thought it was "very significant" that Netanyahu ordered a settlement freeze for ten months, excluding Jerusalem. So you're saying that because earlier the administration had asked for a total freeze, including Jerusalem, this ten-month freeze is not sufficient for the Palestinians?
It's not sufficient for the Palestinians because after Senator Mitchell and Secretary Clinton took a very hard line last winter, the Palestinians of course could not permit the administration to be more Palestinian than they were, so they took a similarly hard line. But you have to remember that the Israelis were building settlements for over twenty years. So this insistence on a complete freeze was new. Frankly it was injected by the Obama administration in what was a terrible diplomatic error.
So the question is how do you get out of this situation?
Right. And after a year of trying, nobody has been able to figure out the answer. The tragedy here is that this focus on the negotiating table has led the United States to continue, as we did in the Bush administration, to put much too much emphasis on negotiations and too little emphasis on the actual daily work of building a Palestinian state in the West Bank.
"The real sinews of a Palestinian state are not going to be built at a conference table. They are going to be built on the ground in the West Bank."
Mitchell did have high praise for the Palestinian security situation in the West Bank, which he said the Israelis praise as well. What should the United States be doing in the West Bank that it's not doing?
The praise for the security work that the Israelis and Palestinians are doing together and of the advances in the Palestinian security forces are well deserved. And it's an example of the change in the West Bank and the beginnings of building the institutions of Palestinian statehood. But let's take that example. They have now a competent police force, but they don't have the rest of the legal system: that is to say prosecutors, courts, jails that can be relied upon.
What we and the Europeans should be doing is helping Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad build all of the institutions of the legal system and helping him build a productive economy and a better education system. The real sinews of a Palestinian state are not going to be built at a conference table. They are going to be built on the ground in the West Bank. The focus in the latter years of the Bush administration and the first year of the Obama administration on negotiation seems to me to marginalize what should be central and instead [makes] central what is not essential to the building of a Palestinian state. Israeli-Palestinian negotiations can come later.
How important are these negotiations to the overall situation in the Middle East? A lot of experts have said if you can get Israeli-Palestinian negotiations going, that will ease tensions and put pressure on Iran and Syria.
This is a longstanding debate. If you ask, "What are the tensions?" it's hard to see why the commencement of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations would end them. If the PLO leadership is negotiating with Israel, that will not reduce tensions on the Gaza border between Hamas and Egypt--tensions that have flared to violence in the past week. It's not going to alleviate tensions between various Arab countries and Iran, it's not going to alleviate tensions between Iraq and Syria on their border, it's not going to alleviate tensions within Lebanon that are caused by Hezbollah and Syrian interference in Lebanese politics. So it seems to me that the gains from negotiation are overstated.
It is clear that most Arab governments would like to see the negotiations underway; I don't think that is because they believe negotiations will lead to a deal in nine months or two years as Senator Mitchell has suggested. I think it's just that they want calm. They don't want to see violence between Israelis and Palestinians, and the talks give a sense of calm and potential progress. I would have to add that that's true as long as they don't break down. The commencement of negotiations as we know from the past twenty years doesn't mean that a deal is imminent. And you sometimes have to deal with the collapse of negotiations and how it exacerbates tensions in the region.
Mitchell also talked about his desire to resume the Israeli-Syrian talks, but there's the problem that Israel doesn't want to deal with the Turks as the intermediaries anymore.
There are a couple of problems, and first is the intermediary problem. In the last two years, Turkish-Israeli relations have become very difficult, and in the last couple of weeks they have worsened. The Israelis have talked about perhaps having France or the United States as intermediaries. The deeper problem though is that if there were a Syrian-Israeli deal, the Israelis would require a complete break in the relationship between the Assad regime in Damascus and Iran and Hezbollah. That is, the Israelis are not going to hand the Golan over to a state that has a deep alliance with Iran and Hezbollah. And there are no signs yet that the government of Syria is willing to make that very deep strategic realignment away from its allies and toward the West.
Lurking behind all this is the situation with Iran. How do you think Washington wants to deal with Iran right now? The United States is going to have talks with its Security Council partners in the coming week to talk about possible sanctions, but it looks like China is not interested, so that would make another round of Security Council sanctions doubtful.
"[W]hen the parties are ready to have a successful negotiation, they will do it whether we like it or not. And our pressure on them, while it leads them to the table, does not lead them to successful negotiations if they're not ready."
The administration's first approach was engagement with Iran as soon as the Iranian elections of June 2009 were over. But of course those elections led to a huge protest movement in Iran that makes that kind of engagement impossible, and it doesn't seem the government of Iran wants engagement with the United States. It now seems that the administration is moving toward a sanctions policy, but as you note, China, and to a lesser extent Russia, don't seem very enthusiastic about that. So the first question is what kind of sanctions can be gotten out of the Security Council and second, can we do sanctions outside the council with the Europeans and Japanese and others in a coalition of the willing? Those sanctions may be enough to get a deal with Iran over its nuclear program, but they also may not, and if they are not, that's going to present the administration with a real conundrum. It already [has] a problem with trying to figure out how much human rights and political change in Iran should play a role in our policy toward that country, and there has been a fair amount of criticism of the administration for sticking too closely to a nuclear-centric policy rather than a human rights-centric policy. And that is a problem that is going to grow this winter and spring.
Coming back to the Israeli-Palestinian situation, is anything really possible until Hamas and Fatah can get their act together?
Well, I would put it another way. There is a lot of pressure from the Saudis and some other Arab governments for Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. But the Israelis have made clear that they are not going to negotiate with a government that is half terrorist, a government that includes representatives of Hamas. So I don't think that Hamas-Fatah reconciliation would be good for negotiations. I would argue that negotiations progress only when there has been progress on the ground. Or to put it another way, diplomacy has got to reflect what is happening on the ground and not vice-versa. If the Israelis see the development of a representative system of government, a legal system, law and order, and a thriving economy in the West Bank, that is much more likely to make them willing to negotiate successfully for establishing a Palestinian state. That is what has to come first.
So you think that just trying to get talks going for the sake of talks is a mistake?
I do, and the example I would give you is Annapolis [where the United States in November 2007 launched a meeting with all Middle East nations to get peace talks started]. The United States can always get talks going if it tries hard enough. The question then is where do they go? And we saw in the case of Annapolis that they did not go anywhere. I suppose that if the administration concentrates almost exclusively on getting a negotiation going, it can get a negotiation going, but it isn't going to go very far. Both the Palestinians and Israel will ultimately decide that their relations with the United States are important enough to sit at the table together, but that's not a formula for successful negotiations; that's just a formula for keeping the United States off your back.
It does recall the efforts of the Carter administration to try to get a grand negotiation going, but it wasn't until Egypt's President Anwar Sadat took the initiative for direct Israeli-Egyptian talks that things got rolling.
That is an important point because the real impetus for those talks, which led to the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement in March 1979, didn't come from the United States, but from Sadat. It would suggest that when the parties are ready to have a successful negotiation, they will do it whether we like it or not. And our pressure on them, while it leads them to the table, does not lead them to successful negotiations if they're not ready.
And you think at the moment they're not ready?
That's right. I think that the Palestinians are not ready to go back to the table until there is a settlement freeze first; second, they are divided between Hamas-Gaza and Fatah-West Bank, and thirdly, one has to remember that Fatah and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which runs Fatah, are facing a generational leadership change. President Mahmoud Abbas, who is the head of the Fatah party, the head of the PLO, and the head of the Palestinian Authority, has announced that he is not going to run again. In fact this month, his term and the term of the legislature are, by anybody's definition, up. They will stay in office until an election can be held. But sooner or later, an election does have to be held, and if Abbas doesn't run again, there is no obvious candidate for replacing him. So they are in the middle of a kind of political crisis, and that is not a great moment for negotiations with the Israelis.
We can only imagine what sort of headlines would have been generated by an attack in Israel on Arab diplomats, but this report will no doubt be taken in stride.
Amos Harel had these alarming observations:
The conclusion that security is compromised is necessarily true and very alarming. The fact that the explosion did not hurt anyone was just dumb luck.
Report: Jordan arrests suspect in attack on Israeli convoy
By Amos Harel and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents and Agencies
Jordanian authorities arrested overnight Thursday in Amman a taxi driver suspected of involvement in Thursday's bomb attack on an Israeli embassy convoy in Jordan, Arabic-language news network Al-Arabiya reported.
Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh called Israel's ambassador to Jordan Daniel Nevo on Thursday after a roadside explosive device went off near a convoy of cars carrying three Israeli diplomats traveling from Jordan toward Israeli earlier.
The blast occurred at around 6 p.m. close to the Allenby Bridge crossing between Jordan and the West Bank. No one was hurt.
Judeh stressed in his conversation with the Israeli ambassador that Jordanian authorities were investigating the incident and that every effort was being made to apprehend the perpetrators of the attack as soon as possible.
Israel's Foreign Ministry emphasized that Nevo was not in the convoy, and was never in any danger.
Thursday's bombing was the first time a roadside explosive device was used in an attack in Jordan, where suicide bombings and shootings have targeted foreigners in recent years. The method is widespread in neighboring Iraq.
The sundown attack also exposed a security breach for Israeli diplomats, who are usually escorted by security personnel from both countries and use different routes and departure times during their occasional travels in Jordan.
The explosion ripped through the right side of a curvy road cutting through hilly villages on the western outskirts of the capital, Amman. The blast left a large hole about 3 feet deep and damaged a highway guardrail.
Jordanian forensic officers were inspecting the site of the attack, a security official said. The area is halfway from the Allenby Bridge over the Jordan River, which links Jordan with the West Bank.
Israel and Jordan, which signed a peace treaty in 1994, maintain close security cooperation and cordial diplomatic ties.
But anti-Israeli sentiments have been running high as the Israel-Palestinian conflict drags on without a solution. A significant portion of Jordan's population is made up of Palestinians.
Police were trying to determine the size and complexity of the bomb, which appears to have been detonated remotely, the official said, insisting on anonymity because he is not allowed to release details during early stages of investigation.
Israeli media reported that one the timing of the remote-controlled detonation was off and the vehicles were not seriously damaged. The convoy later crossed the bridge to Israel.
The section of road, which is less monitored than the area closer to the bridge, is used by tourists and other travelers visiting the Dead Sea.
After the explosion, the convoy entered a small Jordanian army post as soldiers searched the area, Channel 2 reported.
Jordanian police sealed off the main road leading to the area, sending large numbers of firefighters, police and ambulances to the scene.
Information Minister Nabil Sharif said in a brief statement that an explosive device went off on the side of the road leading to the Jordan Valley as some civilian vehicles were passing by, including two Israeli diplomatic cars.
He said there were no injuries, and authorities have launched an investigation.
Two Jordanian security officials said the attackers may have thought that the Israeli ambassador to Jordan was in the convoy.
In Amman, Israeli Embassy spokeswoman Merav Horsandi confirmed there was a blast next to a convoy carrying embassy employees. "All I can say now is that everyone is fine," she said.
In Jerusalem, Israeli officials said four passengers and two security guards were in the convoy and they were heading to Israel for the weekend.
There have been several attempted attacks on Israeli citizens in Jordan in past years.
In 2001, Israeli jeweler Yitzhak Shnir, 51, was gunned down in Amman. An unknown group claimed responsibility, saying Shnir was an Israeli spy.
In 2005, al-Qaida in Iraq said after its triple hotel blasts in Amman that one of the targets included a hotel known to be patronized by Israelis.
Officials have warned of likely terror attacks against Israeli targets abroad for some time, with Hezbollah thought to seek revenge for the assassination of its deputy chief Imad Mughniyeh in 2008. Though Israel has denied any involvement in the assassination, the Lebanese militia has repeatedly accused Israel of orchestrating the Damascus bombing that killed Mughniyeh, and has vowed to avenge his death.
Over recent years, several attempts have been made to harm Israeli diplomats around the world, notably in an attempt to blow up the Israeli embassy in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku a year ago
The disaster that has befallen the people of Haiti is difficult to imagine. Hundreds of thousands have died, and the government appears to be incompetent, prompting citizens to pile up corpses on the streets in protest. Israel, along with other Western countries (but so far no Arab countries) has sent aid to the scene. An announcement by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs about Israel aid to Haiti tells us
The Israeli ambassador to the Dominican Republic, as noted above, is in Haiti and reported:
Thursday, January 14, 2010
The gist of this artice: All the President's Leaks by veteran Iran policy hand Gary Sick, is that President Obama has backed down from the January first deadline for Iran sanctions, instead proposing something else, "Targeted Sanctions" and has gotten Israel to accept it somehow. He cites articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post:
So all the tough talk about Iran, according to this article, ended not with a bang, but with a whimper. Nobody really noticed! Gary Sick is convinced that the new policy will lead to negotiations and a happy end. There is no basis for that in any pronouncement of the Iranian government, which reiterated monotously over the entire process of negotiations with Europeans and Americans that it will not give up its nuclear development program and also made it clear that it believes that the US is powerless to stop it.
I think Gary Sick is wrong about prospects for negotiations, but of course he is an authority, so who am I to say? Then again, Gary Sick was formerly convinced that the Islamic Republic of Iran has a democratic government. And I think he is also wrong about the prospects for near term regime change in Iran.
It is probable that Gary Sick's optimism about negotiations is shared by the administration. The rationale for this optimism is basically that the alternative is unthinkable. The United States will not go to war with Iran to save its interests in the Middle East, because the political support is lacking for such a war after the Iraq fiasco. Furthermore, Chinese opposition will kill any meaningful sanctions bid, so that is not going to happen either. That leaves what option?
What is amazing, is that nobody in Israel, neither politicians nor journalists, seems to have taken note of the fact that January 1 came and went and nothing happened on the Iran issue.
What is depressing, is that American and Israeli officials strutted about as though they really had a plan for dealing with Iran, and something was going to happen on January 1, but when the deadline came, it turned out that there was no plan and everyone is clueless.
This time he may have delivered a knockout punch, and his slow-witted victims don't even realize it!
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Further to my historical survey of Arab Jewish relations under Muslim rule, Lyn Julius has pointed me to this article about Arab-Jewish relations that was inspired, in 2005 by remarks of Muammar Ghaddafi inviting Jews to "come home." Of course, Jews were never "home" in places like Libya, or else it was a very dysfunctional home. You don't get routinely stoned and insulted in your own home unless your family is dysfunctional.
This article from the Spring 2005 issue of the Jewish Quarterly tries to cast some light on a contentious topic.
Dilemmas of Dhimmitude: Lyn Julius untangles the controversies about Jewish life in Arab lands
'I have not come to rediscover my memories, nor to recognize those I have distorted, nor to imagine that I could live here again. I came to bury all this, to get rid of it, forget it, even hate it, as we are taught to hate those who do not want us.
I now realize that I am behaving in a typically Jewish fashion. I came back to Egypt as only Jews do, asiring to return to places they were in such a rush to flee' – [Andre Aciman, [False Papers: essays in exile.]
Last year, the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafy invited the Jews of Libya to 'come home'. In October, a Jewish delegation did return for the first time in almost 40 years - and was well received. They wished to visit their roots, renew business ties, seek the restoration of Jewish communal sites and compensation for lost property. (A follow-up visit of some 20 Israelis of Libyan origin was scheduled for March 2005, the first time Israeli citizens will have set foot on Libyan soil.) And Libya, anxious to be rehabilitated in the post-Saddam era, seems eager to usher in a new era of reconciliation.
Yet this was not the first time the Libyan leader had asked the Jews to return to the land of their birth. When he made a similar offer in 1975 ('Are you not Arabs like us, Arab Jews?'), Albert Memmi, the Tunisian-born French writer and intellectual, scoffed:
Even if it acknowledges that the Jews ever lived in the Middle East an admission which undermines the oft-heard claim that Israel is a white, European, colonialist settler state - modern Arab historiography has marginalized the Jews and their ancient heritage to the point of invisibility, appropriating their achievements. Maimonides has morphed into an Arab scientist. Schoolchildren are taught that the sixth-century Jewish poet As-Samawaa'l and the medieval luminary Avicebron (Ibn Gvirol) were Muslims. How many know that a Jew helped write the constitution for the modern state of Egypt?
The very expression 'Arab Jews' is a misnomer to describe people who were living in the Middle East and North Africa 1,000 years before Islam and the seventh-century Arab invasion. From these communities sprang the Babylonian Talmud, Rabbi Hillel and the philosopher Philo. In the last 50 years, after almost 3,000 years of unbroken presence, nearly a million Jews fled persecution and legalized discrimination and overcame much hardship to build new lives - mostly in Israel - where they now account for roughly half the Jewish population. The remaining 5,000 live reasonably securely in Yemen, Morocco and Tunisia, in spite of being targeted by recent Al-Qaeda bombings. But a key chapter of Jewish history is drawing to an irrevocable close.
Some have propagated the myth that the Jews left of their own free will, or were forced out by Zionist pressure. Israel itself has been complicit in drawing a veil over the Jewish narrative, emphasizing the romance of the Zionist 'pull' factor, while glossing over the unhappy circumstances of the 'push'. The comparatively neglected story of this Jewish exodus continues to live in the shadows.
So what is the truth about relations between Arabs and Jews? The issue is loaded with political implications for today. Consider two extreme views. If Jews and Arabs can be shown to have always coexisted harmoniously, then Arabs bear no responsibility for the existence of Israel; they are the undeserving indirect victims of European antisemitism. If, on the other hand, antisemitism is seen as endemic to the Middle East, that offers uncomfortably little hope for an end to the conflict. One thing is sure: a complex reality, varying from era to era, from region to region and ruler to ruler, does not lend itself easily to sweeping generalizations.
Ask Jews themselves about the life they left behind and they will wax lyrical about the scent of jasmine and lemon trees: sunsets over Alexandria harbour; samekh mousgouf, the fish grilled on the banks of the river Tigris; sleeping under the stars on the roof; a comfortable life of leisure and servants. Yet most of these same Jews fled for their lives with one suitcase.
Many Jews like to reminisce about their charmed lives and do not dwell on their hasty uprooting. But while these rosy images of the past reflect a genuine reality, Albert Memmi insists that it was temporary, a reasonably secure interlude lasting only for the duration of the colonial era, a matter of a few decades.
So what were Arab-Jewish relations like historically? Again there are two extreme competing answers to this question. On one view, Jews and Christians enjoyed the status of a 'protected' minority under Islam, and the Jews in Muslim Spain enjoyed a golden age of peace and prosperity. Others argue that Jews and Christians were 'protected' only from extermination and were never anything but second-class.
Muslims took control of the Middle East through [jihad religious wars of conquest. The indigenous Christians and Jews were spared conversion and death if they abided by certain terms of a dhimma agreement. They had to pay a special tax, the jizya, cede the centre of the road to Muslims, ride only donkeys, not horses. They could not build a synagogue taller than a mosque, could not testify against Muslims in court, could not bear arms, and had to wear distinctive clothing. In short, their status was one of institutionalized inferiority and humiliation.
However, like all other dhimmis, writes Norman Stillman in The Jews of Arab Lands (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1979), the Jews
There were massacres, but these were rare and only occurred when the Jews were thought to have stepped out of line.
The golden age myth
One of leading writers on Islamic history, Bernard Lewis, believes the golden age in Spain is a myth - Jews were persecuted by both Muslims and Christians:
'Belief in it was a result more than a cause of Jewish sympathy for Islam. The myth was invented by Jews in nineteenth-century Europe as a reproach to Christians and taken up by Muslims in our own time as a reproach to Jews.
The truth is that both extreme forms of Arab-Jewish relations (and many in between) could obtain in different times and different places. Conditions for the Jews were good in the early Middle Ages, worse in the later Middle Ages, dire under the Almohads, difficult under the Mamluks. Life was best in the centre of the Ottoman Empire, hardest on the periphery. As the European powers increased their influence and during the colonial era, Jews and Christians acquired near-equal status to Muslims. Crucially, however, conditions for the non-Muslim minorities deteriorated again when Arab nation states gained their independence. To blame was a sinister nexus of European fascism and an anti-western Arab nationalist movement. Today, a virulent Islamist strain of anti-westernism and antisemitism sweeping the Arab and Muslim world bears little resemblance to the more tolerant end of traditional Muslim attitudes.
When the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453, a good period began for the Jews. The Ottoman Turks populated the city not with fellow Muslims but productive and creative Armenians, Greeks and Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. Unlike Europe, where the Jews were the only minority, the Ottoman Middle East was a mosaic of religions and ethnicities. Jews, debarred only from the army and the diplomatic corps, rose to prominence as doctors, merchants and courtiers, at a time, to quote Professor Norman Stone's Foreword to Lord Kinross's study of The Ottoman Empire (Bury St Edmunds: Folio, 2003) when Christian kingdoms were shovelling heretics or Jews out to sea'.
Islam, unlike Christianity, did not view Jews as Christ-killers: they were simply benighted unbelievers. As Bernard Lewis explains in Semites and anti-Semites (New York: Norton, 1986),
Lewis traces the infiltration of specifically Christian hostility towards Jews - with its blood libels, fears of conspiracy and domination, images of Jews poisoning wells and spreading the plague - to the high Middle Ages, when many Christians converted to Islam, and to the particular influence of Greek Orthodox Christians.
Over the centuries a Muslim family, the Nusseibehs, were the keepers of the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, not because the Christian sects squabbled among themselves (although squabble they did) but as a symbol of Muslim primacy. To escape their inferiority, Christians were at the forefront of twentieth-century pan-Arabism; the founder of the League of the Arab Homeland was a Christian.
Christians, more conspicuous and identified with the Ottomans' European enemies, deflected attention from the Jews. They bore the brunt of persecution the 1915 genocide of over one million Armenians being the most extreme example. But their common dhimmitude did not make them any more sympathetic to their economic rivals, the Jews - quite the contrary. It was Christians, for example, who stirred up a blood libel in Damascus in 1840 (and on 34 subsequent occasions), a Christian who first translated The Protocols of the Elders of Zion into Arabic.
Dhimmitude on the fringes
In Iran, where there were fewer minorities, and in Yemen and North Africa, where Christianity had died out, the Jews led a miserable and degraded existence subject to a much stricter application of the rules of dhimmitude. They were confined to mellahs or ghettos and periodically subject to forced conversions. Whereas the Turks had introduced the fez in Iraq in 1808, so that religious groups should not be immediately recognizable by their headdresses, in Tunisia over a century later the social rules of dhimmitude were still in force, even under French colonial rule, and Albert Memmi's grandfather was still expected to wear the obligatory and discriminatory Jewish garb. Every Jew could expect to be hit on the head by any passing Muslim, a ritual which even had a name the chtaka. Shi'ites subscribed to ritual purity prejudices until recent times. A Jewish friend who lived in Shi'a Bahrain tells how her grandmother once picked up some fruit to see if it was ripe. The fruit seller tipped his basket to the ground, crying out 'You have defiled it!' In Iran, Jews were executed for brushing up against Muslims in the rain, and so 'defiling' them.
Dhimmitude and Zionism
Why did Zionism elicit fury from the start? An explanation suggested by Francisco Gil-White in 'Whitewashing the Palestinian Leadership' (http://emperors-clothes.com/gilwhite/Israel.htm#part4, 31 August 2003) is that
The movement for a Jewish state in Palestine overturned the natural pecking order. When slavery was abolished, American whites in the Deep South responded by lynching black slaves. Similarly, as Albert Memmi writes,
In Histoire de chiens (Paris: Mille et Une Nuits, 2004), Nathan Weinstock, a former Trotskyist, claims that the breakdown of the traditional dhimmi relationship was one of the root causes of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Jews became the focus of Arab aggression, he believes, when in 1908 the Hashomer Hatza'ir pioneers of Sejera dismissed their Circassian guards - who protected their settlement against Bedouin raids and replaced them with Jewish guards. For the Jews, this was an ideological statement of self-sufficiency. But for the neighbouring Arab [fellaheen, they had crossed a red line. They had reneged on their part of the dhimmitude agreement: the dog-like dhimmi, who was not allowed to bear arms, should always look to the Muslim for protection. The title of Weinstock's book is taken from the battlecry of those who slaughtered members of the old yishuv in Hebron in 1929: 'The Jews are our dogs!' Because the targets were indigenous Jews, not Zionists, he argues that Palestinian nationalism was predicated on bigotry.
Continued here: What were Arab-Jewish relations really like?
It's wonderful to have good news about Israel for a change. But it seems to me that perhaps we are spending too much effort celebrating Israel's hi-tech economic miracle, rather than contemplating the work that went into making it and looking forward to what must be done in the next generations.
If we spend too much time patting ourselves on the back, we will get nothing but dislocated elbows.
As Brooks rightly points out, Palo Alto and the Boston Area beltway beckons to many Israelis - less religious fanatics there, lower taxes, not much danger of terrorism - at least relative to Israel. To our sorrow, Israelis - bright and energetic and educated ones - are our most valuable export branch.
One other thing: This article made me remember the Palestinian lady writer who insisted that Tel-Aviv is a typical Palestinian city. The relation between reality and imagination is tenuous in the Middle East. The glass and concrete towers of downtown Tel-Aviv, in her imagination, mark it as a Palestinian city. In her "narrative," Nablus was like Paris before the evil Zionists came.
January 12, 2010
The Tel Aviv Cluster
By DAVID BROOKS
Jews are a famously accomplished group. They make up 0.2 percent of the world population, but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates and 31 percent of the medicine laureates.
Jews make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, but 21 percent of the Ivy League student bodies, 26 percent of the Kennedy Center honorees, 37 percent of the Academy Award-winning directors, 38 percent of those on a recent Business Week list of leading philanthropists, 51 percent of the Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction.
In his book, "The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement," Steven L. Pease lists some of the explanations people have given for this record of achievement. The Jewish faith encourages a belief in progress and personal accountability. It is learning-based, not rite-based.
Most Jews gave up or were forced to give up farming in the Middle Ages; their descendants have been living off of their wits ever since. They have often migrated, with a migrant's ambition and drive. They have congregated around global crossroads and have benefited from the creative tension endemic in such places.
No single explanation can account for the record of Jewish achievement. The odd thing is that Israel has not traditionally been strongest where the Jews in the Diaspora were strongest. Instead of research and commerce, Israelis were forced to devote their energies to fighting and politics.
Milton Friedman used to joke that Israel disproved every Jewish stereotype. People used to think Jews were good cooks, good economic managers and bad soldiers; Israel proved them wrong.
But that has changed. Benjamin Netanyahu's economic reforms, the arrival of a million Russian immigrants and the stagnation of the peace process have produced a historic shift. The most resourceful Israelis are going into technology and commerce, not politics. This has had a desultory effect on the nation's public life, but an invigorating one on its economy.
Tel Aviv has become one of the world's foremost entrepreneurial hot spots. Israel has more high-tech start-ups per capita than any other nation on earth, by far. It leads the world in civilian research-and-development spending per capita. It ranks second behind the U.S. in the number of companies listed on the Nasdaq. Israel, with seven million people, attracts as much venture capital as France and Germany combined.
As Dan Senor and Saul Singer write in "Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle," Israel now has a classic innovation cluster, a place where tech obsessives work in close proximity and feed off each other's ideas.
Because of the strength of the economy, Israel has weathered the global recession reasonably well. The government did not have to bail out its banks or set off an explosion in short-term spending. Instead, it used the crisis to solidify the economy's long-term future by investing in research and development and infrastructure, raising some consumption taxes, promising to cut other taxes in the medium to long term. Analysts at Barclays write that Israel is "the strongest recovery story" in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Israel's technological success is the fruition of the Zionist dream. The country was not founded so stray settlers could sit among thousands of angry Palestinians in Hebron. It was founded so Jews would have a safe place to come together and create things for the world.
This shift in the Israeli identity has long-term implications. Netanyahu preaches the optimistic view: that Israel will become the Hong Kong of the Middle East, with economic benefits spilling over into the Arab world. And, in fact, there are strands of evidence to support that view in places like the West Bank and Jordan.
But it's more likely that Israel's economic leap forward will widen the gap between it and its neighbors. All the countries in the region talk about encouraging innovation. Some oil-rich states spend billions trying to build science centers. But places like Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv are created by a confluence of cultural forces, not money. The surrounding nations do not have the tradition of free intellectual exchange and technical creativity.
For example, between 1980 and 2000, Egyptians registered 77 patents in the U.S. Saudis registered 171. Israelis registered 7,652.
The tech boom also creates a new vulnerability. As Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic has argued, these innovators are the most mobile people on earth. To destroy Israel's economy, Iran doesn't actually have to lob a nuclear weapon into the country. It just has to foment enough instability so the entrepreneurs decide they had better move to Palo Alto, where many of them already have contacts and homes. American Jews used to keep a foothold in Israel in case things got bad here. Now Israelis keep a foothold in the U.S.
During a decade of grim foreboding, Israel has become an astonishing success story, but also a highly mobile one.
Israeli supermodel Esti Ginzburg joins the army
She's young, she's beautiful, and she's in the army. International supermodel Esti Ginzburg has joined the Israel Defense Forces while still juggling a career as a model and actress.
There aren't many international supermodels who would choose to serve in the Israeli army - right smack bang in the middle of their careers, but Israeli model Esti Ginzburg isn't about to let that stop her.
The 19-year-old from Tel Aviv, who has modeled for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, and designer names like Tommy Hilfiger, Burberry, FCUK, Pull & Bear, is now serving a two-year military service for the Israel Defense Forces, while also juggling international modeling jobs.
Ginzburg's job in the army is to talk to high-school students about their options in the service. It's a far cry from the exotic photo shoots, glittering events, and designer clothes she's used to, but Ginzburg doesn't mind.
"If you live in this country and you grow up in this country then you have to serve and do the minimum," she tells ISRAEL21c. "It's the values I grew up on and I always knew I was going to go in, even though it's hard."
Last year, Ginzburg - who began modeling at the age of eight - made her acting debut in the film, Twelve, directed by Joel Schumacher, which will premier at the upcoming Sundance film festival.
[Translated by ATFP]
The following is a quote from a Reuters article published in the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi on November 30:
"Princess Ferial, 71, daughter of King Farouk and Queen Farida, died yesterday in Switzerland. She was born in the coastal city of Alexandria on November 17, 1938. She left Egypt with her father on the 26th of July, 1952, a few days after the revolution that ended the reign of the dynasty of Mohammad Ali which was replaced by a republic a year later. In a press release from Cairo, Lotus Abdul Kareem said that Ferial suffered from cancer. She was the oldest of King Farouk's girls. In the Fifties she enlisted in a secretarial school, worked as a secretary and taught typing. In 1966 she married Jean Pierre, a Swiss citizen who died in 1968. They had one daughter, Yasmine, who lives in Cairo, who was with her mother when she died. Ferial was the last surviving daughter of King Farouk after the death of her sisters Fawzieh and Fadia. Ferial's body will arrive in Cairo tomorrow, Tuesday."
At the bottom of the article, a reader by the name of Saeed posted a comment, one of many similar comments that are prevalent on the website of that paper, which stated:
"In 1966 she married Jean Pierre, a Swiss citizen who died in 1968. They had one daughter, Yasmine. Does this mean that the Muslim Princess married a Christian and they had a child together? Did she convert to Christianity or did he convert to Islam? To me, this is more important than the news of her death."
How do we account for such a comment?
At first glance, we have little idea who Saeed is. We obviously know that he is one of the readers who found this article interesting and worthy of a comment. We also know that he is Arab and Muslim. But we have no idea of how old he is, what he does for a living, or what country he is from. We may be quite sure that he lives in an Arab country. Whatever knowledge we have of Saeed notwithstanding his near-total anonymity actually only increases his value as a representative of a demographic group. He is an Arab who can read and write, uses the internet, and feels compelled to comment on public issues.
From his comment at the bottom of the article, we can deduce additional information about his interests, education, and maybe political inclinations too. The death of a princess, for instance, is irrelevant to him. The fact that a princess who lived in exile, worked as a secretary, taught typing and was widowed after only two years of marriage does not prompt him to reflect on the tragedies of life that are the common lot of all humanity. His only concern is to scrutinize her marriage and make a determination of whether it was in compliance with sharia law.
Although the article does not directly address the issue that bothered Saeed, the husband's foreign name must have set off alarm bells in his mind. The clanging in his head was so loud that he decided that the only way to seek relief was to purge himself of it in writing.
In a sense, as Saeed was pondering all these troubling questions, he also provided us with further information about himself: he is a supervisor of the behavior of others, making sure they comply with sharia, and sees it as his role to bring these concerns to the awareness of other readers who might have missed that point, thereby helping them to differentiate between what is wheat and what is chaff.
At this stage of our analysis, we can safely say that the information provided to us by Saeed tells us more about his own attributes as a representative of a broader cultural and political group than about himself as an individual, given our lack of knowledge about his age, country, level of education and full name.
And in fact, he is not entirely anonymous anymore. Most probably he is in his twenties or thirties. That is a safe assumption since according to the estimates 60 percent of the population of the Arab World is young. He is probably unemployed. At the present there are 21 million unemployed people the Arab World. Or maybe he works in one of those armies of bureaucrats that are in effect forms of thinly-veiled unemployment in many countries.
The world Saeed lives in has a hundred million illiterate human beings out of a population of 328 million Arabs. Since he can read and write website comments, he must have had some secondary education, and probably graduated from some university in the Arab World, universities that rank among the lowest rungs in the world in the field of higher education. In all probability he resides in or nearby a city, since 53 percent of Arabs resided in cities ten years ago and 61 percent will in ten more years. More importantly, Saeed grew up in a world divided between rich and poor. The oil rich, who are a very small segment of the Arab population, own all media outlets, financial institutions and labor markets and have managed to impose their impoverished and irrelevant culture on the others.
We therefore actually know quite a lot about Saeed.
But there is one additional point that we will borrow from José Ortega y Gasset, who in 1930 pointed out that what was threatening Europe then was not the rise of "the masses," but rather the fact that "mass man" was made up of individuals who had no respect for knowledge and specialization. In the past, it was assumed that people who work in politics, fine arts, the humanities and sciences were people who have talent and expertise. This assumption no longer exists, because knowledge and specialization lost their social significance and hence the "satisfied young man" or "mass man" has acquired the belief that he should pontificate on every issue, and is so infatuated by the idea of equality that nobody can understand or know more than him.
That is Saeed.
He reads the editorials of Abdel-Bari Atwan in Al-Quds Al-Arabi. He is in love with the Qatari Al-Jazeera. He absorbs the rhetoric of the sheikhs and "thinkers" he listens to. He volunteers to be the guardian of morality. He assumes for himself the position and status that enables him to set the priorities in a world where 54 percent of doctors and 26 percent of engineers emigrate, and half the student population prefers to stay in foreign countries; a world that occupies the lowest levels in all indexes that measure freedom. Why do we need doctors, engineers and educated people when we have Saeed?
With such Saeeds, have a happy new year!
Ray Hanania is right. It is not just the Arab media who are helping Hamas, but all those who rant about the "Gaza siege." Mr Galloway and his Hamas groupies are not Arabs. BBC is not "Arab Media." CNN is not Arab media.
We can see from the below that moderate Palestinians are fighting a lonely battle for peace. Rabbi Brant Rosen, whose side are you on? American Friends Service Committee, whose side are you on? J Street, whose side are you on?
Pro-Hamas media bias and Gaza activists block peace
Jan. 12, 2010
Ray Hanania , THE JERUSALEM POST
When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas complained recently in Qatar that the media there was pro-Hamas, and that tis bias was threatening the ability to achieve peace, he struck a chord that many Palestinians know is true.
It isn't just the mainstream Arab media that is pro-Hamas, branded a "terrorist organization" by many nations, but it's also the groups that support Hamas that slowly dominate the Middle East landscape unchallenged that are threatening peace.
A good example of this is the issue of the Gaza Strip, where Palestinians complain they are under an oppressive military and economic Israeli siege and where Israelis counter that radical elements there continue to target their civilians with Katyushas and Kassam missiles.
Gaza is a very complicated issue, but not that hard to really understand.
The area has been controlled by Hamas and radical Muslims since the 1970s. Although Hamas's parent organization, the Islamic Association, did provide health and social care to its citizens, that care was only given to those who embraced its hard-line religious ideology.
Hamas opposes genuine peace with Israel, and used the most pernicious form of violence - suicide bombings - throughout the 1990s to destroy the peace process and prevent compromise. Its mission is not to achieve peace based on compromise, but to pursue the impossible dream - more a nightmare for everyday Palestinians - of destroying Israel and returning Palestine to what it was in 1917, before it came under British colonialism.
THAT HAMAS desire is not only shared by the religious extremists who continue to grow, but by those who are secular fanatics yet also oppose peace based on compromise. Most of those activists are based in Western countries, where it is easy to chant for the destruction of not only Israel but of Abbas's secular Palestinian government which does support compromise based on two-states.
These are strange bedfellows in the Palestinian extremist camps, religious fanatics shoulder-to-shoulder with secular extremists like the Popular Front and the rejectionists led by the activists and fawned on by the Arab media that mistakenly believe "freedom" means embracing the most extremist activists.
The Arab media, which glorify religious extremism and even violent attacks, don't realize, of course, that under a Hamas-run government, it wouldn't just be Jews, Christians and secular Muslims who would be oppressed. The media in a Hamastan would be among the primary targets, stripped of the "freedoms" they enjoy today - of criticizing Abbas, two states and peace based on compromise.
THE ISSUE for the Free Gaza protesters is not about bringing freedom to the 1.3 million Palestinians there or lifting Israel's "oppressive military and economic siege." It's about their long-term goals. By "freeing" Gaza, they mean declaring Hamas the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people." But that's not their goal.
The purpose of many of the protesters is to strengthen Hamas. They know that Israel is forced to deal first with the threats rather than the compelling cases for peace. And Hamas is a threat not only to Israel but also to the Palestinians, secular Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan, to Christian and Jewish religious independence and, more importantly, to the goal of achieving a peace based on nonviolent compromise.
The activists continue to cling to the false and irrelevant claims that Hamas won one election in 2006 and ignore the fact that Hamas was ousted from political leadership in the same way it was installed. It was a corrupt election that was poorly constructed, allowing the divisions of the majority of Palestinians to be merged with Hamas's faith-based reticence. In Western nations with elections, they separate the two processes, allowing individual parties to select their candidates from internal battles before putting them up against candidates from the other parties.
Hamas and the activists have allowed the Gaza Strip to fester in economic squalor because it suits their purpose. They can't rally support based on their ideals because they have no realistic ideals. They call for the destruction of Israel and the destruction of a secular two-state Palestine, and also for the destruction of Egypt and pretty much anyone who doesn't agree with their extremist agendas.
Rather than help the besieged people of the Gaza Strip achieve freedom and build the first steps of a secular Palestinian state that would lead to the creation of full Palestinian statehood in the West Bank, the protesters have helped to encase the Palestinians there in continued suffering.
THE PROTESTERS seeking to enter Gaza have closed their eyes to the oppression and brutality that is the true Hamas. They have limited their criticism to Egypt.
More importantly, this bizarre alliance between the religious fanatics and the secular extremists which today is focused on the Gaza Strip is silent on the campaign of terror that Hamas continues to wage against secular Palestinians.
Hamas has made it easy for some to oppose Palestinian statehood, and is the main obstacle standing in the way of peace.
The Arab media are going through an internal struggle no different than the one now dominating Arab and Palestinian politics. It's one between extremists who see the media as an instrument of activism and those of us who believe the media must remain objective witnesses to the truth.
Truth means that not all of today's tragic events can be blamed on Israel, Egypt, Abbas or on the failure, so far, to achieve peace.
The writer is a Palestinian American columnist, satirist and founder of Yalla Peace.
This article can also be read at
This survey introduces a collection of brief readings from sources that illuminate the condition of Jews living under Muslim rule. It is not intended to provide an exhaustive or even a balanced picture. It is purposely designed to counter false the impression that has been created, and furthered in recent years by certain groups, that there was no anti-Semitism in Arab lands including the land of Israel/Palestine, and that Jewish life in those countries was an unalloyed paradise of coexistence.
The social position of Jews in Muslim and Arab countries was generally better than it was under Christian rule. From this undoubted fact, various propagandists have fashioned a mythical paradise of coexistence. The myth grew up for many reasons, not the least of which was the marked contrast between the relative well being of Jews in Arab lands, and their usually far more miserable existence in Europe. Early Zionists contributed to the myth because they wanted to attract European Jews to live among the Arabs of "Palestina" (as it was called in most European languages). They were not going to dwell on pogroms or discrimination in Palestine under Muslim rule. Arabs and anti-Zionists, including the self-styled "Arab Jews" have contributed to the myth in order to blame current Jew hate in modern Arab society on "Zionism" or Christian influence.
Jews were never granted equality in Muslim lands. Both Christians and Jews lived under conditions of official inferiority. Formally, the legal and social position of Jews and Christians in Muslim lands was defined by the Quran and the Pact of Umar. They were protected second class citizens - Dhimmi, subject to various indignities and abridgement of rights, special dress, restrictions on occupations and other humiliating regulations. Jews and Christians could not hold office or ride horses or serve in the army or wear a sword, as well as being subject to many other restrictions.
These formal restrictions of the Pact of Umar were raised time and again in later years (for example see Decree against the Dhimmi ) when reactions set in to liberal administrations that had, despite the pact of Umar, allowed Jews and Christians to serve in high office.
In the folk belief of Muslims, the Pact of Umar was ancient and unchangeable, and had been set down by the Caliph Umar al Khatib in the seventh century, close to the inception of Islam. In fact however, there are several versions of the Pact of Umar and all of them, at least all those that contain the restrictive and humiliating regulations, are probably no older that then the ninth century.
Muslim rule stretches and stretched over many thousands of square miles and over thirteen centuries. The actual treatment of Jews and Christians varied from time to time and place to place, and enough justification could be found in scriptures to justify policies of leniency but also persecutions, forced conversions and even pogroms.
The payment of the Jizya tax is often depicted as a fair exchange for the fact that Jews and Christians did not pay the Muslim charitable tithes or serve in the army. In fact, implementation of this tax varied greatly. Some Christians did not have to pay it. The rate was set in an arbitrary way and as it was a poll tax, it could be made into a great burden on the poor. On at least one occasion, and probably many others, Jews who could not pay the Jizya were forced to convert. This took place not in the darkness of the Middle Ages, but in the 19th century (See Collecting the Jizya tax in Mogadore).
Beyond the restrictions of Dhimmi status, that applied to both Christians and Jews, however, there was evidently a strong strain of folk anti-Semitism - specifically anti-Jewish sentiment, that put Jews at the bottom of the ladder, beyond the contempt reserved for Christians. This seems to have been endemic to Muslim civilization from the earliest times, and is discussed frankly in a ninth century treatise of al Jahiz, that cannot hide the prejudices of the author despite its relatively "objective" tone (see Why Muslims hate Jews more than Christians). The Qasida, a polemic poem against the Jews by Abu Ishaq of Elvira, is far more bitter and outspoken against the Jews, not because they were poor, ignorant and unintelligent, as al-Jahiz had averred, but because in Granada, Spain, they had grown too powerful and wealthy and were too "clever."
A manuscript of the 13th century by Ghazi al Wasiti provides an egregious example of vehement anti-Semitism and anti-Christian sentiment (see Treatise against Dhimmi - anti-Semitic anecdotes).
The anti-Semitism was not just theoretical. The writings were the handmaidens not only of civil service purges of Jews and Christians and repeated enforcement of the Dhimmi laws (see Decree against the Dhimmi ) but of violent acts. The poem of Abu Ishaq was written in Granada, shortly before the pogrom that destroyed the Jewish community, consequent to the fall of the ruling dynasty and the Jewish vizier, Joseph ibn Naghrela. Despite the strictures of the Pact of Umar, Jews often rose to high positions in government, especially in Muslim Spain and in Morocco. This was not due necessarily to love of Jews. Because of their vulnerability to the hatred of the masses, the loyalty of Jewish ministers to the regime which appointed them, which was often a regime of Berber outsiders, was beyond question. And indeed, when the dynasty or ruler who had appointed them fell, it was an occasion not only to murder the Jewish vizier, but also for ferocious pogroms such as those that took place in Granada, in Tetouan and elsewhere (see Tetouan Pogrom). These cannot be ascribed only to the vicissitudes of politics, since they were fueled, as our documents witness, by anti-Semitism, and since they were due to the peculiar position of the Jews in Muslim society.
The Dhimmi laws in practice were always humiliating and were supported by the anti-Jewish sentiments of the populace, as noted in the Report on the condition of the Jews of Baghdad in the 11th century:
The protection offered by the Dhimmi laws was not always honored, and on more than one occasion there were forced conversions, though these were sometimes rescinded (see Forced conversion of the Jews of Aden). Muslims could always invoke as justification, and they often did, the claim that the Jews had violated the pact of Umar by their behavior and were no longer deserving of protection. In addition to major catastrophes and constant intimidations, there were a thousand ways in which the wheels of justice turned against the Jews. A Jew, especially a rabbi could be accused of blaspheming or slandering the prophet. The penalty for this offense was death.
In the land of Israel, or "Palestine" as the Arabs now call it (it was not called that at the time), the Jews did not usually fare much better, and often worse, than in the remainder of the Muslim lands. In Jerusalem, their condition was usually miserable ( See Jews in Medieval Jerusalem) rather than being a model of respectful coexistence with Muslims, as Arab apologists might have you believe. In Safed and other towns the Jews could be subject to pogroms and whims of the government such as an attempt at forced mass deportation (see Safed Deportation Order),
As we approach the modern age, the incidents of Jew hate did not necessarily abate, but rather took on new forms, now inspired more or less directly by Christian anti-Semitism. This anti-Semitism was not necessarily newly imported from the West. It was probably present in the Christian community before the 19th century, but it was only then that Christians felt sufficiently confident, and had the backing of certain European consuls, so that they were able to carry forward their accusations against the Jews. This was the origin of the Damascus blood libel of 1840, and a string of blood libels that followed (See Letter concerning the Damascus blood libel and Blood libels in Damanhur, Egypt )
These documents should not be taken as representative of the entire spectrum of Jewish life in Arab lands by any means. Nor would it be fair to state that Islam is somehow intrinsically worse than Christianity or other religions. Worse sentiments against Jews can be found in the writings of Martin Luther, and the worst pogroms of the Arab world were not as bad as the murderous orgies of the Crusades or worse than the persecutions of the Spanish Inquisition. But here are Arabs explaining and expounding their anti-Semitism in their own words, here are the records of outside observers regarding the miserable condition of the Jews and the evils that befell them. It is not possible to explain all of this evidence, and there is much more of it, as temporary "aberrations" and to insist that there was no anti-Semitism in the Muslim world before the modern era, or claim that there was no violent persecution of Jews under Arab and Muslim rule.
January 11, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
"Never" is a long time. Benjamin Netanyahu won't be around forever, and he is not omnipotent. Walking on water is reserved for the current president of the United States. Perhaps Mr Netanyahu would have been wiser to confine his remarks about Jerusalem to refuting the obnoxious Arab propaganda slogan, "Arab Jerusalem" and to insisting that Arabs will have to recognize some Jewish national rights in East Jerusalem. If not in "Arab East Jerusalem" then in Jewish East Jerusalem. "Arab Jerusalem is meant to include the entire Old City that is holy to Jews, and that had a Jewish community for hundreds of years before 1948 as well as being the ancient capital of Israel. The term is obnoxious because it assumes the truth of fanciful Arab propaganda claiming that Jews did not rule in Jerusalem in ancient times. It is the basis of apartheid Arab insistence on re-instituting the racist ethnic cleansing of Jews from Jerusalem that was perpetrated in 1948. A war crime cannot be the basis of a peace treaty.
Last update - 11:52 12/01/2010
Netanyahu: Israel will never share Jerusalem with Palestinians
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, and Agencies
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Tuesday that Israel would never cede control of united Jerusalem nor retreat to the 1967 borders, according to a bureau statement.
The statement came after Egypt's foreign minister said in Cairo last week that Netanyahu was ready to discuss making "Arab Jerusalem" the capital of a Palestinian state.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority could abandon its demand for a freeze on construction in East Jerusalem in exchange for an easing of the siege on Gaza and a halt to Israeli assassinations in the West Bank.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit met the foreign ministers of Egypt, France, Jordan, Spain and Tunisia in Cairo last week to revive the nascent Mediterranean Union. He briefed them about Netanyahu's talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a few days earlier, Israeli and European officials said.
Aboul Gheit reportedly said Israel's willingness to give the Palestinians "100 percent of the West Bank" and the readiness to discuss Arab Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine indicate "openness, goodwill and a change compared to the past."
According to the Arab foreign ministers, the Palestinians have agreed to waive their conditions for reopening the negotiations with Israel in exchange for other terms that Netanyahu could accept more easily.
The Palestinians previously had demanded a complete freeze on construction in East Jerusalem and resuming talks from the point they left off. Now their conditions are Israel stopping its assassinations and military operations in Palestinian cities; easing the blockade on the Gaza Strip and bringing in construction material to enable Gaza's rehabilitation; rezoning West Bank areas where Palestinians have full authority (A) and where they have only civil authority (B) - meaning, having the Israel Defense Forces withdraw to where it was before the Al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000; releasing certain Palestinian prisoners to the PA; and removing eight specific roadblocks in the West Bank.
If Israel agrees to these terms, the Palestinians will return to the negotiations even if the building in East Jerusalem continues and the talks do not pick up where they left off.
Aboul Gheit said the United States would issue a statement against Israeli construction in East Jerusalem and expressing its commitment to the territory of the future Palestinian state.
The visiting foreign ministers agreed that the difficulty in resuming the talks is due to Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' refusal to announce their new positions publicly.
Of course, nobody really knows who killed the atomic scientist or why. There are several possibilities, including Iranian opposition, or the sort of mysterious "sudden death syndrome" that seems to affect opponents of the Hezbollah and Syria in Lebanon. . But when you are engaged in a risky profession of course, accidents can happen.
The Mossad and the CIA are blamed by nut cases for the 9-11 attacks and for Mumbai murders as well. But in this case, the accusation does not lack credibility entirely.
Iran's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday it had evidence that a bomb that killed a Tehran University professor was planted by "Zionist and American agents".
"The assassination of Mr Mssoud Ali-Mohammadi, a nuclear scientist and a committed and revolutionary Tehran University professor, was detonated by a remote control," state broadcaster IRIB said on its website.
"As a result of the bomb planted by Zionist and American agents two cars and a motorcycle were severely damaged and the windows in the surrounding residential units were shattered," it said. Iran usually refers to Israel as the "Zionist regime."
The state broadcaster earlier said "anti-revolutionary elements" were behind Mohammadi's death, describing it as a terrorist act.
Mohammadi "was martyred this morning in a terrorist act by anti-revolutionary and arrogant powers' elements," IRIB said on its website. Iran usually refers to its Western foes as "the global arrogance."
The official IRNA news agency said it was not yet clear how many people were killed in the blast, suggesting there may be more than one victim.
Mohammadi was killed near his home in the Iranian capital by a booby-trapped motorbike, according to television reports.
The incident occurred at a time of heightened tension in the Islamic Republic, seven months after a disputed presidential election plunged the country into turmoil.
Iran has seen its most serious domestic unrest since the Islamic revolution in 1979, as opposition supporters stage protests against the election result that have turned violent.
Authorities deny opposition charges that voting was rigged.
Eight people were killed in clashes between security forces and opposition supporters on Ashura, the day of ritual Shi'ite Muslim mourning that fell on Dec. 27.
George Mitchell wasn't supposedly threatening Israel over the loan guarantees. He was simply discussing a "fact of historical context" whatever that is.
Yeah, well, you know. It's like, you know, when the Godfather explained that accidents can happen, to you or your family, he wasn't signaling any, you know, particular course of action. You know.
And of course, if a US representative asked about the solution to the problem of Iran would, you know, explain that in the past the United States has used, you know, nuclear weapons, that would not, you know,be signaling any particular course of action, and you know, nobody would get excited about it, right? That would be simply, you know, someone commenting on a matter of history.
Last update - 23:26 11/01/2010
State Dept.: U.S. not planning to withhold Israel loan guarantees
By Natasha Mozgavaya, Haaretz Correspondent
The U.S. State Department on Monday reiterated that special Mideast envoy George Mitchell's suggestion that Washington could withhold loan guarantees if Israel continues to delay the peace process was merely a fact of "historical context."
"I know that Senator Mitchell's interview with Charlie Rose last week caused some angst in various quarters perhaps in Israel. Just to clarify this, he wasn't signaling any, you know, particular course of action," Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley said.
Mitchell, when asked in a television interview last week what sort of pressure could be applied to Israel, replied that "under American law, the United States can withhold support on loan guarantees to Israel."
Mitchell told PBS interviewer Charlie Rose that George W. Bush's administration had done so in the past. But he quickly added that he preferred persuasion to sanctions.
"Mitchell was simply asked a question with an historical context. You know, are there sticks that are available? And I think he mentioned that this is a step that the United States has taken in the past," Crowley said Monday.
"He wasn't signaling that this is something that we're forecasting in the future. You know, but it is - it obviously is something that we have in our toolbox. It's not that we're out, you know, wielding that particular tool at this particular time."
"The reason why Senator Mitchell is in the region or in Europe this week and he will meet with Israeli officials while he's in Europe - have other meetings as we go forward - is expressly to continue to push, you know, the parties and all who are supporting this process, to get the negotiation restarted as quickly as possible where we can," added Crowley. "... Put all the issues on the table and see if we can, you know, move towards a comprehensive peace in the Middle East."
Mitchell on Monday arrived in Paris to begin a week of talks with European officials on restarting the Middle East peace negotiations
Monday, January 11, 2010
A recent debate in Israel about whose portrait should be on the yet-to-be issued new currency notes put the focus on the role of women in the history of the state of Israel and the years leading to its establishment.
This led me to make this long, yet incomplete list of prominent and other remarkable women in the history of Israel and Zionism. I've gathered most of the information from the Hebrew web. On some there is material in English, and I provided links in those instances. In many cases the information is scant, some had even been forgotten from Israel's collective memory.
This list is by no means complete, but a farther research will require some leg work in universities and public libraries. I do hope that by just mentioning them I'm giving them some of the honor they deserve, though no doubt they deserve far more than a blog post can provide.
Was this item in your local newspaper, next to descriptions of the "moderate" government of "moderate' Mahmoud Abbas, and the "ultranationalist" "right wing" Israeli leadership? Did they explain that the moderate Abbas immoderately praised the moderate terrorist Dalal Mughrabi? Did they note that the moderate Fateh is still calling for immoderate armed "resistance" (blowing people up)?
What would your local media have to say if the Israeli government declared Baruch Goldstein (the murderer of Palestinians) to be a national martyr? Do you think such an event would go unnoticed? What would they say, and do they say, when the least rabbi in the West Bank makes a statement saying that in theory, it is permitted to kill Arabs?? So why do they ignore Palestinian incitement, by the US funded and backed Palestinian Authority? Are your tax dollars doing their job? Don't you want to know about it?
If these items were not carried by your local media, ask them why, please. Find out if it is because inept Israeli public relations, or perhaps there is another reason. We are all very interested to know.
Behind the Headlines: Palestinian incitement distances peace
Despite Israel's efforts to encourage the Palestinian Authority leadership to return to the peace talks, the PA continues to boycott negotiations and to incite against Israel and praise terrorists.
Text of banner in Arabic reads: "Under the auspices of President Mahmoud Abbas - The Political and National Education Authority - Ceremony on the anniversary of the birth of the bride of the cosmos - The Shahida (Martyr) Dalal Mughrabi" (Photo: Palwatch.org)
Despite Israel's numerous efforts to encourage the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership to return to the peace talks, the PA continues to boycott negotiations and to incite against Israel and praise terrorists.
Among the incidents that indicate an upsurge in incitement in the past month, are the official sponsorship of the naming of a Ramallah square after a terrorist who slaughtered 37 Israelis and the glorification of the murderers of the late Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai, killed on 24 December 2009 in a drive-by shooting.
This incitement is occurring despite the fact that the current Israeli government, like previous governments, has made great efforts to advance peace. Time after time, it has declared its commitment to peace and its willingness to make the necessary compromises to reach that goal. It has also undertaken numerous acts, such as a moratorium on settlement housing construction, that tangibly demonstrate its commitment to negotiations while improving the lives of Palestinians living under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Additionally, like all Israeli governments, it invests a great deal of effort into educating for peace.
The requirement for the Palestinians to end incitement has constituted one of the core foundations of the peace process since its inception. The need to end incitement stems from the recognition that true peace cannot be achieved as long as the propagation of hate continues. As Prime Minister Netanyahu noted (10 January): "Peace is made by educating towards reconciliation, by encouraging good neighborly relations and by developing mutual respect."
Incitement not only pushes peace farther away, it also jeopardizes Israel's security. Words can be dangerous. Hero-worship of terrorists and their despicable acts - which has transpired not only in the past but in recent days - inspires further violence.
Anti-Israeli incitement, including by the highest-ranking Palestinian officials, also persists in official Palestinian media outlets and in the educational system.
The last week of 2009 provides a regrettable sample of Palestinian official incitement. In one short week, incitement increased, terror attacks were carried out both inside and outside the pre-'67 lines, and condemnation of the terrorist attacks by the PA was conspicuously absent.
Following is a short summary of the most egregious events of the last week of December 2009:
• Veneration of a mass-murdering Palestinian terrorist:
On 29 December, PA President Mahmoud Abbas funded and sponsored a ceremony celebrating the memory of Dalal al-Maghrabi. She was the terrorist responsible for the Coastal Road massacre in 1978 in which 37 Israelis were murdered within the pre-67 "Green Line". During the ceremony - one of many held in her honor - dignitaries sang her praises and children marched in honor of this murderer's 50th birthday. For quite some time, the PA has strived to turn this female terrorist into a role model for young Palestinian children. Indeed, two high schools for girls, a computer center, children's summer camps and a square in the Ramallah area have all been named for her.
• Expressions of support for the murderers of Rabbi Chai:
On 24 December, Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai was shot to death while driving in his car. Even though members of the PLO's own Fatah faction took responsibility for the shooting attack, PA officials saw no reason to denounce the attack or even to express their condolences to his wife and seven children. Incredibly, PA President Abbas sent a representative to pay his condolences to the families of the terrorists (who were subsequently killed while resisting arrest) and to declare them shahids (holy martyrs). Abbas even had letters sent to their families on his behalf to console them and praise the murder these terrorists carried out.
In a further outrageous act, the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Salam Fayyad personally visited the families of the terrorists, accompanied by a delegation of dignitaries which included PA government ministers and the Chief of the Palestinian Police, all the while condemning Israel's attempt to apprehend the terrorists.
• Fatah calls for armed "resistance" over peace negotiations:
Fatah, which is headed by President Abbas, issued a statement on its official website following the Rabbi Chai murder which called for the continuance of the "armed struggle" by Fatah and all the other factions. It declared "resistance," and not negotiations, "as the primary option for liberating Palestinian lands from the filth of the children of Zion [Jews]." This announcement, and others like it, receive the support of the leaders of the movement, including members of the Palestinian Authority leadership.
The continuation of incitement by the PA leadership constitutes a serious violation of the Palestinians' international obligations and calls into question their commitment to peace. It is manifestly clear to all parties interested in promoting peace in the region that the cessation of incitement is an essential condition for achieving a genuine peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel calls upon the Palestinian leadership to stop the incitement and to return to the negotiating table.
This is the Israel News and Commentary Weblog of Zionism-Israel Center. Contact: info(at)Zionism-Israel.com
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