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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Arab-Jewish relations under Islamic Rule

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.
Ami Isseroff
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:

'Yes, indeed we were Arab Jews – in our habits, in our culture, our music, our menu. But must one remain an Arab Jew if, in return, one has to tremble for one's life and the future of one's children and always be denied a normal existence? We would have liked to be Arab Jews. If we abandoned the idea, it is because over the centuries the Muslim Arabs systematically prevented its realization by their contempt and cruelty.' 'Who is an Arab Jew?', in [Jews and Arabs[Chicago: O¹Hara, 1975]; this essay can also be read on-line here. ).

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

'enjoyed extensive communal autonomy precisely because the state did not care what they did so long as they paid their taxes, kept the peace and remained in place.'

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.

If tolerance means the absence of persecution, then classic Islamic society was indeed tolerant to both its Jewish and Christian subjects ­ more tolerant perhaps in Spain than in the East, and in either incomparably more tolerant than was medieval Christendom. But if tolerance means the absence of discrimination, then Islam never was or claimed to be tolerant, but on the contrary insisted on the privileged superiority of the true believer in this world as well as the next ([Islam in History: Ideas, Men and Events in the Middle East' [London: Alcove Press, 1973]).

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),

'The situation of non-Muslim minorities in classical Islam falls a long way short of the standard set and usually observed in the present-day democracies. It compares, however, favourably with conditions prevailing in western Europe in the Middle Ages, and in eastern Europe for very much longer.'

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' (, 31 August 2003) is that

'the Arab upper classes saw dhimmitude as the cement of the social fabric, helping to guarantee the loyalty of the street. Many Arabs saw in the lowly status of Jews a confirmation of their own worth. And there was special contempt for the Jews, perhaps because, unlike the Christian case, no Jewish states existed to compete with Islamic states.'

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,

'The Arabs . . . have not yet recovered from the shock of seeing their former underlings raise their heads, attempting even to gain their national independence. They know of only one rejoinder ­ off with their heads!'

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?

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Kuwaiti Daily Al-Qabas on "the Zionist Cockroach"

i think he means this as an insult mehitabel.


Kuwaiti Daily Al-Qabas on "the Zionist Cockroach"

In a December 11, 2009 column titled "The Zionist Cockroach" in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas, Kuwaiti columnist Fakhri Hashem Al-Sayyed Rajab compared the Zionists to cockroaches capable of survival in any situation, and said that they used dishonorable means to assure their continued existence. He wrote that the Zionists had taken over the world and caused everyone worldwide to hate the Arabs and the Muslims, while the Arabs failed to display a unified stance and kept their reaction to themselves. "There are [various] types of cockroaches: wingless, winged, German, American, Asian. Cockroaches are among the most primeval of the earth's creatures; they can withstand harsher conditions than any other creature, and adapt rapidly to their environment. They say that there are 4,000 kinds [of cockroaches]. The cockroach can survive a week or two without its head, and a month without food. It can withstand many times more radiation than a human can, and will fight to survive.

"I compare the Zionist to the cockroach: For thousands of years, the Zionist has fought [to remain] alive, by all possible means: plunder, exploitation, deceit, killing, and 'laying [its] eggs' across the world so that its offspring will continue to exist until Judgment Day.

"The Zionists have managed to quietly take over the world, imperturbably... and now they are the most powerful force in the world – not in physical strength and weapons stockpiles, but in their power of thought, economics, and planning in all countries, so that [these countries] obey them, and whoever opposes them must watch out. A simple declaration against them means a cruel attack by them – and antisemites beware!

"Their power, and their veins, branch out to southwards, northwards, westwards, and eastwards, and it was recently learned that the Zionist lobby has infiltrated the British government. An investigation is now underway to uncover where the[ir] funds are coming from and what group is providing support.

"Unfortunately, with us Arabs, everything remains in the heart, even our heartfelt reactions.

"We heard about Switzerland's stance regarding the ban on building new minarets, and we did not hear about the united Arab position condemning this action. None of us disagrees that there is a Zionist cockroach behind every issue that arises and is fabricated against the Arabs, particularly the Muslims. These are the [Zionists'] plans; making the foreign world hate the Arab and Muslim existence; occupying Palestine, the Golan, Sinai, and Lebanon; ; for 9/11, and up to the [Swiss] minaret ban. Maybe in the future they will forbid us from entering their countries.

"Our craftiness is in dance and roulette games; see what [the Zionists] have attained by means of [craftineess in ] science and politics, [and what] we have attained by means of oppression and domination!

"In essence: Woe to the nation whose ignorance has made it the laughing-stock of all other nations!"[1]


[1] A line from a poem by the classical Arab poet Al-Mutanabbi.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Naim Ateek: An Anglican priest disgraces authentic Christianity

Naim Ateek and his Sabeel group are leaders in Christian Israel bashing efforts of mainline Protestant churches in the USA. Ateek and Sabell do not believe in a two state solution and is therefore sabotaging the peace process. If they were Jews with the same ideas, they would be called "ultranationalist" and obstacles to peace. But their one state solution is an Arab state in which the Jews will have no right to self determination. For what reason are they given a platform to legitimize their noxious views at countless churches in the USA?

In his article
e Anglican priest disgraces authentic Christianity, Dexter Van Zile asks what type of god inheres in the so-called peacemaking ministry of Anglican Priest Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, notes that Naim Ateek is drumming up support for his latest book, A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation (Orbis, 2008), in which he falsely accuses Israel of perpetrating a "slow and creeping genocide" against Palestinians — who have one of the fastest growing populations in the world.

Ateek has long been a fixture at "Christian" events of a certain kind. The book gives him an excuse to peddle a vile that repeats Christian anti-Semitic accusations and repackages them as
"theology." As Van Zile points out:

Apparently, leveling false accusations at the Jewish people and their homeland is not enough to get one barred from polite society in 21st century America.
He concludes:

The story Naim Ateek tells about the Arab-Israeli conflict, cloaked as it is in the language of Christian peacemaking, attests to the existence of a deaf, dumb and blind god who would use Muslim and Arab violence against Israel as a scourge against the Jewish people.

Such a god is not worthy of worship.

Ami Isseroff

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

So-called "Arab Jews"

So-called "Arab Jews"

The term "Arab Jews" (eg see "The Mizrahi('Arab') Jews: The Forgotten Refugees" where the word "Arab" is used ironically) is used in many advocacy articles, such as those of David Shasha, Ella Habiba Shohat and others, referring to Jews who lived in Arab countries, and often extended to Jews who lived in Muslim countries. The term was also used by Prince Turki al Feisal of Saudi Arabia, provoking a debate.

Usually "Arab Jews" is employed by anti-Zionists, who are trying to create a mythical Jewish-Arab society where Jews and Arabs lived in peace and harmony, enjoying the benefits of Islamic tolerance and Arab culture that was destroyed by Zionism, as if the Golden age of Harun al Rashid and Muslim Spain had extended throughout Arabdom and Islamdom in space and time. Some pro-Zionist sources have used this term as well, (eg. "Hundreds of thousands of Arab Jews fled Arab states").

Though my ancestors were born in Turkish Palestine, their ancestors had come from Europe. I am not personally affected by this term, but it seems jarring and out of place to me, just as it does to Bataween (see Reject the Expression "Arab Jew" ) , and to Philologos (see Reject the 'Arab Jew'). As I do not have any personal experience or history to rely upon, I can only reason by analogy from the experience of Jews in Europe, which is understood far more clearly.

Ella Habiba Shohat asserted:
"I am an Arab Jew. Or, more specifically, an Iraqi Israeli woman living, writing and teaching in the U.S…. To be a European or American Jew has hardly been perceived as a contradiction, but to be an Arab Jew has been seen as a kind of logical paradox, even an ontological subversion [leading to] a profound and visceral schizophrenia, since for the first time in our history Arabness and Jewishness have been imposed as antonyms…"

Shohat does seem to have a point at first glance. Of course, if Ella Habiba Shohat wants to call herself an "Arab Jew" it is her privilege, but it seems to to me that most Jews from Arab countries object to this term. As an outsider, I have been trying to explore why the term "Arab Jew" turns my stomach, and why it is objectionable to so many Jews whose ancestors came from Arab countries. After all, we do not object to "European Jew" or "American Jew" or "Egyptian Jew." What is the difference? Why is Ella Habiba Shohat wrong?

The question can perhaps be answered in Jewish fashion, by asking two or three other questions. "What do we mean by 'Jew?'" "What do we mean by 'Arab'"? But first let us ask, "Why aren't Arabs who live in Israel called 'Jewish Arabs'"?

Ella Shohat, David Shasha, Prince Turki al Feisal and others may immediately object that "Jew" refers to a religion and not to a people. Therein lies the first part of the problem. Many of the Arabs of Israel, or as many prefer to call themselves, Palestinians, refuse to accept the validity of our nationhood, and would not like to be associated with the Jewish "religion." But I define my own identity. I do not try to define that of Prince Feisal or that of Mahmoud Abbas, but I don't want them to tell me that I am a member of a religion, or perhaps an "Arab Jew," just because I live in the Middle East.

My ancestors came to the land from Europe, over 100 years ago. Some of my cousin's ancestors came to the land from a different part of Europe, Spain to be exact, several hundred years ago. Even if I spoke fluent Arabic and wore a kaffiyeh, I would not be mistaken for an "Arab Jew," and neither should my cousin's ancestors be called "Arab Jews." If there are "Arab Jews" then the statement, "I am an Arab and you are a Jew" would not make much sense. Nor would it make any sense to say that the Arab Arabs attacked the "Arab Jews" of Hebron and Jerusalem in 1929, yelling "Idbah al Yahoud" - "Murder the Jews." Perhaps they should have yelled, "Murder the Arabs." If there were were really Arab Jews, it would make no sense for Arabs to say "Kulu al ard Arabi" (All the land is Arab) or "Filastin Arduna wa'al yahud kilabuna" (Palestine is our land and the Jews are our dogs) in order to assert that Israel does not belong to the Jews.. If we are all different types of Arabs, there would be no quarrel here and no problem. There would not be an Israel-Arab conflict. At most there would be a conflict between the Muslim Arabs of Palestine and the Jewish Arabs of the Land of Israel. We can see immediately that the whole line of reasoning is utterly absurd.

In the anti-Zionist narrative, the "Old Yishuv" Jews of Palestine were "Arabs," while the Zionists were all Europeans. The "Arab Jewsm" so the fiction goes, lived in wonderful harmony with their Muslim neighbors, save for a few pogroms here and there that can be excused on the grounds of Arab exuberance. But the new Zionist European Jews did not fit in. In reality of course, Zionism was "invented" by Sephardi as well as European Jews, and was heralded by the writings of Rabbi Yehudah Alkalai before Theodor Herzl was born, but "narratives" reinvent their own historic reality for their own political purposes.

If all that were required to end the Israeli-Arab conflict would be that the Jews of Israel integrate into Arab culture, we could learn Arabic, eat even more humus, tehina, olives, ful and barud, and learn to play the oud and the ney and dance the debka. The early Shomrim did precisely that. They dressed as Bedu and spoke Arabic and did horse tricks better than the natives. They played the ney and sang Arabic songs and danced Arabic dances. Nonetheless, no Arab would call them Arabs or Arab Jews. We would also have to ask why, If Jews living in the Arab countries were "Arab Jews," these particular "Arabs" were summarily expelled from Iraq, Egypt, Libya and other "Arab" countries.

In times past in the Middle East, there were ethnic groups, but for a long time there were no real nation states or national movements. Therefore, there perhaps was not much occasion for opposing Arabness and Jewishness as antonyms in the past. Jew can refer to a person of a particular religion, or a person belonging to an ethnic group, people or nation. It has only in more recent times consciously assumed the full political and social implications of "nation," because the modern consciousness of nationhood is only a few hundred years old at most. Arab originally referred to the people of the Arabian peninsula, an ethnic and tribal grouping, as well as a language and culture group. They included Jews undeniably, who could in some cases quite properly be called "Arab Jews."

However, after the rise of Muhammad, the Arabs forcibly converted or spewed out all the Jews from among them, beginning infamously at Khaybar. From then on, the existence of "Arab Jews" within Arab society was tenuous at best, just as the existence of "German Jews" in German society was a contradiction that had to resolve itself. "Arab Jews" could never fully participate in Arab society. They could not go to war with Arabs, or take part in all aspects of Arab culture, which were built for the most part on Islam. The Arab empire spread over the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, and the term "Arab countries" was applied indiscriminately to Egypt and to Morocco and Tunisia and Algeria, because the conquered inhabitants of these countries adopted the Arabic language. The so-called "Arab Jews" might occasionally be ministers in these countries or advisers, but they could not, by law, be knights or rulers, and their political successes very often ended in disaster and Pogroms.

These "Arab Jews" moreover, were very unlike the German Jews or the French Jews in a significant way. European Jews came to a host country with a majority culture. The Jews of Persia, later called Iran and Iraq, were there before these countries were Arab countries. In Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey there are also Kurds and in North Africa there are native Amazigh peoples. None of these call themselves "Arabs" and nobody calls them "Arabs" except perhaps in propaganda. Only Jews are given this "honor."

If the term "Arab Jews" was based on reality, and expressed the great identification of the Jewish people or religion with surrounding Arabic society and of the Arabs with their Jewish brethren, then we have to ask why the Jews of Sana in Yemen were expelled in the 17th century for example. Why did one group of Arabs take it upon themselves, for no reason, to persecute a different group of "Arabs?"

In modern times, the division became more acute. Arab nationalism arose and became a political force. The Ba'ath party was created as an expression of Arab nationalism. In theory, all 'Arabs' could join this party, but it seems that while it was created by a Christian and a Muslis and had a Christian and Muslim membership, the Ba'ath party did not include many Jews, if any. How was it that the "Arab" Jews were excluded from such a central and defining "Arab" undertaking? Following the Ba'ath party, Gamal Abdel Nasser developed Pan-Arabism. Isn't it peculiar that the Jews, so active in other progressive movements in Europe and even in the Middle East, were not prominent players in the most important Arab nationalist movements? The Baath party had an unfortunate habit of hanging certain "Arabs," just because those "Arabs" were Jews. Why did they distinguish between one sort of Arab and another? The term "Arab Jew" cannot explain this very well.

The obvious truth is that unlike the term "European," which is descriptive of a culture and geographic location, "Arab" today refers to a political and national movement that excludes the legitimacy of Jewish nationality. This is especially the case when the term is used by anti-Zionists. So a part of the answer to Ella Shohat's innocent quesion is, "It's the politics, stupid." But of course, she is not stupid and knows very well that the "Arab Jew" canard is trying to make a political point, and to create a political reality where none existed and none ever did exist. In the original countries of their Diaspora, Ella Shohat's ancestors, and David Shasha's ancestors were not "Arabs" when it came to assigning national allegiances, and they weren't included in real Arab national movements. They might have been prominent journalists and even politicians, but they remained on the periphery and found themselves advocating causes that were really alien to their own reality. They might be mistaken for "Arabs" by USA immigration officers, not by Arabs.

Ella Shohat's family in Iraq were Iraqi Jews, just as Theodor Herzl's family were Austrian Jews. But just as Hitler did not include these "Austrians" in his vision of the greater German Reich, so the Arab nationalists who started the Farhud pogrom in Baghdad did not include Ella's family in the Arabic Ouma. Ella's problem with identity is really the same as that of many European Jews, who tried so hard to be good Germans or good Poles or good Ukrainians or Russians or Communists and to advocate the national and political aspirations of their host country or society. In some rare cases this adopted Jewish nationalism succeeded, but very often in ended in tragedy, rejection and murder. With the rise of nationalism, almost every Diaspora community experienced the same problem. They found that despite adopting the language and some of the culture of their host countries, they could not really be "part of the action" in most cases. Sooner or later, many were vomited forth from their adopted societies whether they liked it or not. This produced the deeply conflicted feelings of many Jews toward their "old countries" - whether the "old country" was Germany or Iraq or Egypt. Jews were well off in Iraq, but they had also been well off in Germany and Austria. The rise of nationalism threatened Jewish existence everywhere in the Diaspora. There is nothing new in that statement and no big discovery.

It is too bad that the Shashas and the Ella Shohats of the world didn't yet come to terms with that frustrating and depressing aspect of Jewish existence -- rejection from a host group with which you may want to identify -- but there is no reason for them to invent a false narrative that portrays a perfect Diaspora extence that never was. German Jews could invent a similar tale, if they left out a few unpleasant details. Wasn't the Lorelei written by a Jew? After all, didn't they have their Heine and their Walther Rathenau and their Fritz Haber? Of course, Rathenau was assassinated by the Nazis and Haber died broken hearted after being disgraced and expelled. But they were very very German, these Jews, with all their heart and soul. Only the Germans didn't think so.

Nonetheless, the terms "German Jews" "French Jews," "Egyptian Jews," "Iraqi Jews" or "Yemeni Jews" all have a reasonable meaning, either because they denote the culture of the group of people in question, or their place of residence or their nationalities. "European Jews" makes sense in several contexts. "Europe" is not a nationality opposed to Judaism, and the northern European Jews had in common their own jargon language (Yiddish). set of customs and social network. "Arab Jews" does not make sense in the same way, since Yemenite Jews do not have the same customs as Iraqi Jews and neither are similar to the Jews or Turkey (descendants of Spanish Jews) or those of North Africa. There is only one country called Arabia, and there are no Jews living in it. There is only one national movement called "Arab" and Jews are excluded from this movement as a national group. Exceptions might be made for "token Jew" individuals to "prove" a perverse political point. Turki al Feisal may talk about "Arab Jews" but he will not let any of them become citizens of Saudi Arabia in the foreseeable future. Why would it be desirable or necessary for Israeli Jews, all of us, to become "Arab Jews" in order for there to be peace in the Middle East? Are there Arab Turks and Arab Persians? If someone suggested that all the Arabs must become Jewish Arabs or Zionist Arabs in order for there to be peace, Turki al Feisal would be very angry indeed.

"Arab Jews" might have been a logical possibility 200 years ago, when "Arab" referred only to culture and language, just as "German Jews" were German speaking Jews who lived in the various principalities where German was spoken, but that is no longer a reality."Arab Jews" as a term today seems to have a logic similar to "mice of the feline persuasion." The mice are not invited to the cat party except as dinner, and the Jews are not invited to the Arab party except in a capacity analogous to that of the mice.

Whatever the connotation of "Arab Jews" might have been two or three centuries ago, today the term must represent something between a fiction and an oxymoron. Through my admittedly non-Mizrachi Jewish eyes, it seems to be an absurd attempt at make believe, no less absurd and dangerous than the term "Germans of the Mosaic faith" coined by Reform Jews in 19th century Germany. Just as there are Jews who insist that they are "Arab Jews," so there are Jews who insist, even after all the horrible history of the last century, that they want to be Germans or Poles who are incidentally "of Jewish origin." It is their right to call themselves whatever they like. At best, it will mean giving up and forgetting their Jewish origin. At worst, it will end in tragedy. The tuition for understanding the depth of that folly was prohibitively high, and should not be paid again.

Ami Isseroff

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Arab News Op Ed against Suicide Bombing

New winds are blowing over the hot Saudi deserts. They have suddenly understood that suicide bombing is not all that wonderful after all.

Saudis who want to find the reasons for suicide bombing needn't look far. They need only examine the mounds of Saudi Fatwas and editorials praising "martyrs" and they need only check the huge subsidies paid by petrodollar millionaires to madrassas that crank out Mujahedin like those who did the 9-11 attack. It is good that Saudis are finally frightened of the Jihad genie they unleashed, but they won't solve the problem until they are honest with themselves.

It is not true, as stated below, that suicide bombings are increasingly being called martyrdom operations. They were called "martyrdom operations" from the start

Saudis financed the extremists on the premise (or excuse) that they could export their terrorists to other countries and keep peace at home. Saudis only became horrified at suicide bombings as it became clear that the targets could be themselves rather than Israelis or Americans. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

Ami Isseroff

Four-year-old Duha can barely hold back her tears as she watches her mother getting dressed to leave home. Knowing full well she will not be accompanying her, she implores: "Mommy, what are you carrying in your arms instead of me?"

There are no answers. Not until a day later. Just when teary-eyed Duha has all but given up questioning her mother's return with eyes transfixed on the door, the evening news tells it all. Her mother, it turns out, had blown herself up, killing four Israelis.

The little girl, inconsolable as she is, seeks solace in her mother's belongings. Rummaging through her dead mother's bedside table, Duha finds a hidden stick of dynamite. She picks it up.

And embraces it. By the looks of it, little Duha may well grow up to follow in her mother's footsteps.

That may not be a true a story — it was a macabre music video that appeared on a television show for Palestinian children — but there's no denying that it drew inspiration from any number of similar real-life stories circulating in the Arab street.

Take Reem Riyashi, a Palestinian mother of two who blew herself up in a suicide attack against Israeli soldiers at a Gaza border crossing in January 2004, for instance. A video statement released hours after her death showed her in battle fatigue, brandishing a semiautomatic rifle.

"I have always wished to knock at the door of heaven carrying skulls belonging to the sons of Zion," Riyashi said menacingly, with a scowl on her face.

Not surprising then that, four years after her bloody death, she continues to be hailed as a courageous resistance fighter throughout Gaza and the West Bank.

But, at the same time, one cannot help but wonder if people had noticed how she was also fighting to ensure that her tough talking did not betray her hidden emotion. The emotion of a mother who was going on a mission from which she would never return to embrace her two children. To take care of them, to caress them.

Never mind. The fact of the matter is: With the number of Riyashis growing everyday, it is not easy to sketch a picture of an archetypical suicide bomber. Not any more.

Today, a suicide bomber could be a weary old man in a wheelchair asking for help on the streets of Baghdad. An elderly lady holding out her palms for charity in a bazaar in Ramallah. Or it could be a zesty young lad cheering along with the crowd at a sporting event in Kandahar.

He could also be a brooding figure offering a hand as a dear one is laid to rest at a cemetery in Mingora town in Pakistan's Swat Valley or a trendy young lad standing outside the discotheque in Tel Aviv.

On the other hand, she could be a mentally handicapped woman nudging past in a Shiite shrine in Karbala or a pretty, young lady sitting next to you on a bus in Colombo.

But that's not all, if slain Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in a bomb-and-suicide attack in Rawalpindi last year, was to be believed, it could be also be an innocent baby.

In her memoirs, she raised suspicion that a baby a young man was holding out to her at a rally in Karachi was laden with explosives. Moments later, a suicide attack killed 180.

Yes, it is true, such pictures of suicide bombers are now etched in our recent memory.

It's worrisome enough that suicide bombers seem to be springing up everywhere. But, what's worse is the fear that they are no longer shadowy figures that were once described as the pride and joy of former PLO chief Yasser Arafat's arsenal.

Today, they are the most deadly weapons of mass destruction which have no known defense. And the reason for their very existence — and subsequent demise — ranges from political vendetta to social vengeance and from ideological differences to economic disparity.

To put it bluntly, suicide bombers today are furiously crawling out of the woodwork and could even be right next to you as you read this.

No, I am not trying to paint a scary picture and suggest suicide bombers have taken over the world in general and the Middle East in particular. Far from it, they exist in pockets. But those pockets are growing alarmingly deeper — and at a far greater pace than you and I had ever imagined.

What's more, the picture of the quintessential suicide bomber — if there was one — is being rapidly replaced by everyday faces.

But now, the question is: Why are people much like you and me dying to kill themselves, knowing only too well there will be no dignity in death?

Moments after they have pressed the trigger to blow themselves and others around them up, their bodies would be splattered into tiny pieces that may never see a funeral, let alone get recognized in the pool of blood and gore. Also, whatever it is that they choose to answer their Creator thereafter, one thing is clear: They will have to explain why they decided to play God.

And took it upon themselves to end the lives of their victims. It would certainly weaken their case if they have to account for innocent women and children in those numbers.

Without venturing into a debate on the merits or demerits of suicide bombings - given that the term is being increasingly replaced by martyrdom operation - the increase in attacks against civilians, as opposed to military targets, does raise alarm bells.

A Hamas training manual, for instance, apparently notes "It is foolish to hunt for the tiger when there are plenty of sheep around." And that's something we can ill afford to dismiss sheepishly.

(Next week: Socio-Economic Reasons.)

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Israel's 12 tribes, per Bradley Burston

Bradley Burston, the Haaretz columnist, sums up Israel as 12 latter-day tribes comprising "the magnificent muck-up that's now about to hit 60." His piece presupposes some familiarity with Israeli politics. Like much of his work, it is amusing and insightful.

Haaretz / Last update - 09:20 25/04/2008
The new tribes of Israel
By Bradley Burston

My life partner and I once found ourselves on a remote part of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. We got to talking with a calm, perceptive and unusually grounded woman who told us she lived there. When she then asked us where we called home, and we told her Israel, she responded with what seemed to her to be the logical, natural, next question: "Oh ... what tribe are you?"

While we, taken aback, groped for an answer, she told us in a manner as matter-of-fact as an observation about the weather, that she was of the Tribe of Ephraim. Everyone at her church, she continued, knew which tribe they belonged to.

Perhaps the question is harder for us to answer because we no longer see ourselves, as the first 12 Tribes did, as the children of the children of Jacob. The tribes that make up the latter-day State of Israel are, in fact, the remnants of revolution, of a surfeit of concurrent revolutions, in fact. Together those revolutions have built and battered Israel into the magnificent muck-up that's now about to hit 60.

A field guide:

The Tribe of Beitar
Tribal lore blends Polish-Jewish culture of nursing grievances as a way of life, with multigenerational Mizrahi rage at the ghost of Mapai (see below).

Political orientation: Raucously hawkish, but once in power, tends to give away occupied land (for example, Sinai, Gaza, most of Hebron).

Religious orientation: Beitar-odox, a fundamentalist belief in Beitar Jerusalem and the redemptive power of soccer. Sabbath observance may include participation in Orthodox minyan, followed by a chain-smoking convoy drive - yellow-and-black Beitar scarf flying from car windows - to the match of the week.

The Tribe of Mapai
Once the proudly dominant clan, running everything from the Israel Defense Forces to health care to steel production. Now splintered, anemic, rudderless, vestigial, yuppified - barely an extended dysfunctional family.

Political orientation: Once strongly social-democratic. Once strongly dovish.

Identifying characteristics: Equivocation. Nostalgia.

The Tribe of Maran
Named for tribal elder Maran (Revered Rabbi) Ovadia Yosef.

Aim: To restore pride to Jews of Mediterranean and Mideast origin, who often faced discrimination and humiliation at the hands of Mapai.

Political orientation: Tough on religious issues, hard-line though occasionally flexible on matters of defense and diplomacy.

Identifying characteristics: By far the best dressed (and groomed) among the ultra-Orthodox. Not to be confused with the Ashkenazi Tribe of Mamaloshen, too varied (think pro-Gush Emunim to pro-Ahmadinejad) to be detailed here.

The Tribe of Tech
One of the newer clans. Believes in the redemptive power of long hours, innovative ideas, Nasdaq and eventual sale of the company to a global corporation for mega-millions.

Political orientation: Vaguely centrist. Believes in stability and furtherance of peace talks as good for investment and the economy.

Identifying characteristics: Bluetooth implant, polo shirt, car with company logo on back fender and bumper sticker reading "How's my driving?" - but with phone number too small to read when vehicle is traveling at warp speed.

The Tribe of Yesha
Includes many of the some quarter-million Jewish residents of the West Bank, plus a huge number of settler would-have-beens in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Modi'in, Brooklyn and elsewhere.

Political orientation: Vanguard of the religious right, but drifting. Youth are having second thoughts. The disengagement from Gaza shattered faith in the government, the state, the Yesha Council and national Orthodoxy, giving rise to the hardal - the Haredi Leumi amalgam.

The Tribe of Bil'in
A small, poorly organized but vocal clan, with offshoots in South Tel Aviv lofts and elsewhere. Signature ritual is protest against West Bank fence near village of Bi'lin.

Religious orientation: Personal anarchism. Antipathy to Israeli governmental institutions and policies. Antipathy may extend to Zionism as a philosophy, and/or to bourgeois parents.

The Tribe of Kach
The rightist version of the Bil'inist. Feels compulsion to spend all Jewish holidays in Hebron. Feels compulsion to spray-paint "Kahane was right" on all available bus stops.

Political orientation: Far right. Fervent belief in expelling Arabs from Greater Israel. Often characterized by excessive interest in and carrying of large handguns. Tribe has many fellow travelers, notably Women in Green.

Identifying characteristics: Oversized kippot. Oversized earlocks. Oversized sidearms.

The Tribe of Tibi
Israel's Arab minority, perhaps the most difficult grouping to typify, as it is made up of numerous minorities and clans of diverse religions, cultures, and political and social attitudes.

These include Christians, Muslims and Druze, Negev and Galilee Bedouin, IDF officers and firebrand Islamists. Their position also makes them vulnerable to the simultaneous suspicions of fellow Israelis and neighboring Palestinians.

The Tribes of Sheinkin and Bombamela

Two sides of a similar coin, this group - largely native-born Ashkenazi in origin - may tend toward artistic/New Age/yuppie commercial ventures on the one hand, and patchouli-flavored hippie dropout status on the other.

The Tribe of Vesty
More than a million strong, "the Russians," as immigrants from ex-Soviet lands are collectively known, have created a subculture of their own. In some disciplines, notably music, they have brought a level of formality and seriousness, which may put them at odds with the more offhand approach of the native-born.

P.S. After almost two decades here, I still have little idea which tribe is truly mine. Perhaps a little perspective is in order. Perhaps another visit to Kauai.

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Iraq Author: Jews have a historic right to Palestine

There is much to ponder in this wonderful article, including this:

"This enormous lie is what the Arabs called the Nakba – that is, the establishment of two states in Palestine: the state of Israel, which the Jews agreed to accept, and the state of Palestine, which the Arabs rejected.

"In our times, when science, with its accurate instruments, can predict climatic changes that will lead to drought or the movement of tectonic plates that causes earthquakes, it is inconceivable that a modern man can, without making a laughingstock of himself, attribute the destruction of cities ancient or modern to the wrath of Allah. Nevertheless, today, 80% of Arabs claim this to be the case. They are neither embarrassed nor afraid of being laughed at.

"This high percentage includes not only the illiterates who densely populate rural areas, villages, and small and large cities, but also students, teachers, lecturers, graduates of institutions of higher education, scientists, technology experts, physicians, graduates of religious universities such as Al-Azhar, historians, and politicians who have held or are currently holding public office.

"It is those numerous educated elites who have forced the Arab mentality into a narrow, restrictive, and deficient cultural mold, spewing violence, terrorism, and zealotry, and prohibiting innovative thought... All this was done to instill a false sense of oppression in the hearts of the Arabs, and to destroy them with the infectious disease of despair and confusion.

"[This attitude] is rooted in the 1947 Arab League resolution stating that Palestine is a 'stolen' land and that none but a Muslim Arab is entitled to benefit from it as an autonomous [political entity], even if another's historic roots there predate those of the Muslims or the Arabs."
"Why did the partition resolution, which gave a state in Palestine to the Jews and one to the Arabs next to it, become the Nakba – [the star] that rises and sets daily over the Arab lands without emitting even the tiniest ray of light to illuminate the path for their peoples?

"Did the Jews have any less right to Palestine than the Arabs? What historic criteria can be used to determine the precedence of one [nation's] right over that of the other?

"Refusing to recognize the right of the other so as to usurp his rights was a governing principle of the Islamic conquests from the time of 'Omar bin Al-Khattab; during that historical period it was the norm. [But] at the turn of the [20th] century, this principle was abandoned and prohibited, because it sparked wars and [violent] conflict. The international community passed laws restricting the principle of non-acceptance of the other, in the founding principles of the League of Nations in 1919. Subsequently, with the U.N.'s establishment, these laws were developed [further], with appendices and commentary, to adapt them to the current historical era and to express the commonly accepted values of national sovereignty and peoples' right to self-determination.

"But because of their sentimental yearning for the past and zealous adherence to [old] criteria, the Arabs purged their hearts of any inclination to adjust to the spirit of the age. They thus became captives of the principle of non-acceptance of the other and of denying the other [the right] to live, [among] other rights.

"As a result, damage was done to the rights and interests of non-Arab nations and ethnic groups in the Arab lands – among them the Kurds, the Copts, and the Jews. [Thus,] the Arabs still treat the numerous minorities that came under their dominion 1,400 years ago in accordance with the laws from the era of Arab conquest.

"Despite the consequences of denying the other the right to exist, not to mention other rights – that is, [despite] the oppression, conflicts, wars, and instability [resulting from this]... the Arabs have steadfastly clung to their clearly chauvinist position. All problems in the region arising from minorities' increasing awareness of their rights have been dealt with by the Arabs in accordance with [the principle of non-acceptance]... [even] after the emergence of international institutions giving these rights legal validity, in keeping with the mentality and rationale of our time."

Iraqi Author 'Aref 'Alwan:
The Jews Have an Historic Right to Palestine

In an article posted December 7, 2007, on the leftist website ,(1) 'Aref 'Alwan, an Iraqi author and playwright who resides in London and is the author of 12 novels,(2) states that the Jews have an historic right to Palestine because their presence there preceded the Arab conquest and has continued to this day.

In the article, titled "Do the Jews Have Any Less Right to Palestine than the Arabs?" 'Alwan called on the Arab world to acknowledge the Jews' right to Palestine, because justice demanded it and also because doing so would end the violence and the killing of Arabs, as well as intra-Arab strife. He added that such a move would also open up new avenues for the Arab world that would be more consistent with the values and needs of modern society.

'Alwan writes that the Arab League is to blame for the refusal to recognize the 1947 U.N. partition plan, for starting a war to prevent its implementation, and for the results of that war, which the Arabs call the Nakba (disaster). He points an accusing finger at the Arab regimes, the Arab League, and the educated circles in the Arab world, saying that they had all used the term "nakba" to direct popular consciousness toward a cultural tradition that neither accepts the other side nor recognizes its rights – thereby promoting bigotry, violence and extremism. He also claims that there have been attempts to rewrite Palestinian history, in order to deny any connection between it and the Jewish people.

'Alwan contends that the "Nakba mentality" among Arabs has boomeranged, giving rise to tyrannical rulers, extremist clerics, and religious zealots of every description. In his view, the Arab world will never shed the stigma of terrorism in the West unless it abandons this concept and all that it entails.

To boost his claim that the Jews have an historic right to Palestine, 'Alwan provides an overview of Jewish history in the land of Israel. He questions the validity of the Islamic traditions underpinning the Arab claim to Palestine, Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount, and presents evidence that religions that preceded Islam had conducted rituals on the Temple Mount.

As an example of the traditional Arab mentality that does not accept the other or recognize his rights, 'Alwan discusses the Arabs' abuse of the Kurds in Iraq and of the Christians in Egypt and Lebanon.

The following are excerpts from the article:

The Nakba: A Great Lie

"When the Salafi mob in Gaza tied the hands and feet of a senior Palestinian official and hurled him, alive, from the 14th floor, I asked myself: What political or religious precepts must have been inculcated into the minds of these young people to make them treat a human life with such shocking cruelty?

"Earlier, I had watched on TV as the bodies of two Israeli soldiers were thrown from the second floor [of a building] in a Palestinian city. Whether or not it was the same Salafi mob behind that incident, [one asks oneself]: What language, [or rather,] what historic linguistic distortion could have erased from the human heart [all] moral sensibilities when dealing with a living and helpless human being?

"Arabs who are averse to such inhuman behavior must help me expose and eliminate the enormous lie that has for 60 years justified, extolled, and supported brutality. [Such behavior] is no longer limited to the expression of unconscious [impulses] by individuals, but constitutes a broad cultural phenomenon, which began in Lebanon, [spread to] Iraq and Palestine, and then [spread] – slowly but surely – to other Arab states as well.

"This enormous lie is what the Arabs called the Nakba – that is, the establishment of two states in Palestine: the state of Israel, which the Jews agreed to accept, and the state of Palestine, which the Arabs rejected.

"In our times, when science, with its accurate instruments, can predict climatic changes that will lead to drought or the movement of tectonic plates that causes earthquakes, it is inconceivable that a modern man can, without making a laughingstock of himself, attribute the destruction of cities ancient or modern to the wrath of Allah. Nevertheless, today, 80% of Arabs claim this to be the case. They are neither embarrassed nor afraid of being laughed at.

"This high percentage includes not only the illiterates who densely populate rural areas, villages, and small and large cities, but also students, teachers, lecturers, graduates of institutions of higher education, scientists, technology experts, physicians, graduates of religious universities such as Al-Azhar, historians, and politicians who have held or are currently holding public office.

"It is those numerous educated elites who have forced the Arab mentality into a narrow, restrictive, and deficient cultural mold, spewing violence, terrorism, and zealotry, and prohibiting innovative thought... All this was done to instill a false sense of oppression in the hearts of the Arabs, and to destroy them with the infectious disease of despair and confusion.

"[This attitude] is rooted in the 1947 Arab League resolution stating that Palestine is a 'stolen' land and that none but a Muslim Arab is entitled to benefit from it as an autonomous [political entity], even if another's historic roots there predate those of the Muslims or the Arabs."

The Nakba Boomerang

"[The upshot] of this confusion in [Arab] mentality is that the lie has boomeranged on the Arabs. [Thus] appeared [on the scene] Saddam Hussein, Hafez Al-Assad, Bashar Al-Assad, Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, Hassan Nasrallah, Nabih Berri, Khaled Mash'al, Isma'il Haniya, and Mahmoud Al-Zahar, whose young [thugs] threw the senior Palestinian official from the 14th floor. Finally, from the foot of the eastern mountains bordering the Middle East came Ahmadinejad, who is committed to preparing the way for the anarchy and destruction that accompanies the advent of the long-awaited Mahdi, who will resolve the Palestinian problem.

"Today, owing to the ideological distortions that have afflicted the Arab popular consciousness since the so-called Nakba, and [also owing] to the lies that have accumulated around this notion, [the label of] 'terrorism' has become attached to Arabs, wherever they are.

"Despite the great political and cultural efforts by large and important Arab states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and some Gulf states to restore Arab ties with the rest of the world, and to curb the culture of terrorism in Arab societies, they have all failed. This is because these attempts to rectify [the situation], from both within and without [the Arab countries], both stemmed from and were a logical extension of the concept of the Nakba.

"This proves that the Arabs have no hope of extricating themselves from the cultural and political challenge of terrorism unless they come up with [new] and different [fundamental] premises, and with an outlook completely free of the fetters of the religious ritual that they have devised in modern times and called the Nakba.

"Although Palestinian senior officials, leaders, educated circles, and public figures, whose patriotism is beyond doubt, have come to terms with the existence of the State of Israel, the aforementioned 80% of Arabs... do not accept this view, and consider it religious apostasy. Leaders of the [Arab] states in the region, and party leaders, inflame sentiment, entrancing them with the drumbeat of extremism.

"With the strident chorus of its secretaries, the Arab League ensures that every car crash in Gaza or the West Bank is interpreted as an Israeli conspiracy against the Arab future. This is because the Arab League... was established as a pan-Arab entity whose main function was to write reports and studies rife with distortions of fact so as to quell the conscience of any Arab who dared think independently and expunge [the concept of] the Nakba from his consciousness. [It has done] this instead of devising creative strategies for cultural and economic development, so as to improve the deteriorating standard of living in the Arab societies."

The Nakba is Rooted in a Culture that Does Not Recognize the Right of the Other

"Why did the partition resolution, which gave a state in Palestine to the Jews and one to the Arabs next to it, become the Nakba – [the star] that rises and sets daily over the Arab lands without emitting even the tiniest ray of light to illuminate the path for their peoples?

"Did the Jews have any less right to Palestine than the Arabs? What historic criteria can be used to determine the precedence of one [nation's] right over that of the other?

"Refusing to recognize the right of the other so as to usurp his rights was a governing principle of the Islamic conquests from the time of 'Omar bin Al-Khattab; during that historical period it was the norm. [But] at the turn of the [20th] century, this principle was abandoned and prohibited, because it sparked wars and [violent] conflict. The international community passed laws restricting the principle of non-acceptance of the other, in the founding principles of the League of Nations in 1919. Subsequently, with the U.N.'s establishment, these laws were developed [further], with appendices and commentary, to adapt them to the current historical era and to express the commonly accepted values of national sovereignty and peoples' right to self-determination.

"But because of their sentimental yearning for the past and zealous adherence to [old] criteria, the Arabs purged their hearts of any inclination to adjust to the spirit of the age. They thus became captives of the principle of non-acceptance of the other and of denying the other [the right] to live, [among] other rights.

"As a result, damage was done to the rights and interests of non-Arab nations and ethnic groups in the Arab lands – among them the Kurds, the Copts, and the Jews. [Thus,] the Arabs still treat the numerous minorities that came under their dominion 1,400 years ago in accordance with the laws from the era of Arab conquest.

"Despite the consequences of denying the other the right to exist, not to mention other rights – that is, [despite] the oppression, conflicts, wars, and instability [resulting from this]... the Arabs have steadfastly clung to their clearly chauvinist position. All problems in the region arising from minorities' increasing awareness of their rights have been dealt with by the Arabs in accordance with [the principle of non-acceptance]... [even] after the emergence of international institutions giving these rights legal validity, in keeping with the mentality and rationale of our time."

Refusing to Accept the Other: The Kurds in Iraq; the Christians in Egypt and Lebanon

The Kurds

"The denial of the Kurds' national rights by the Iraqi government, and the Arab League's support for it, has brought on wars lasting 50 years – that is, three-quarters of the life span of the state that arose in Iraq...

"After fabricating arguments to justify the [1921] combining of the Basra region with the Baghdad region in order to establish a new state in Iraq, British colonialist interests demanded that a large area historically populated by Kurds be added to the new state. [This was done] to satisfy the aspirations of King Faisal bin Al-Hussein [bin Ali Al-Hashemi], who had been proposed as head of state in return for protecting British interests in the region.

"In his persistent refusal to grant the Kurds their rights, from 1988 through 1989 Saddam Hussein murdered approximately 180,000 Kurds, in an organized [genocidal] campaign he called 'Al-Anfal.' He then used mustard gas against one [Kurdish] city (Halabja), killing its residents (5,000 people). The Arab conscience silently acquiesced to this human slaughterhouse, while Arab League secretary-general (Shadhli Al-Qalibi) called the international press coverage of these events 'a colonialist conspiracy against the Arabs and the Iraqi regime.'

"Syrian Kurds are considered second-class citizens, and are banned from using their language or [practicing] their culture in public."

The Christians in Egypt and Lebanon

"The ethnic oppression of the Kurds [in Iraq] was echoed by sectarian extremism against the Copts [in Egypt]. In both cases, the Arabs used the principle of denying the existence of the other so as to strip him of his rights.

"The Copts, who [initially] assimilated Arabs into their society, but who have over time themselves assimilated into Arab society, discover time and again that this assimilated state is but a surface shell, which quickly cracks whenever they demand equality... As a result, Egypt, as a state, is gripped by constant social tensions that keep rising to the surface and threatening to undermine its stability...

"Sectarian extremism in Egypt took the form of an organized party with the 1928 emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood, with the aim of splitting Egyptian society into two mutually hostile and conflicting parts. This was in line with the Arab religious and political principle of denying legitimacy to all non-Muslims or non-Arabs, [a principle practiced] since the Muslim armies reached Egypt in 639 [CE]...

"In Lebanon, the presence of armed Palestinian militias – which was in accordance with the decision of the Arab states – encouraged the formation of Lebanese militias, both Sunni and Shi'ite. Chanting slogans proclaiming Palestinian liberation, they frightened Christians by appearing armed in streets swarming with Lebanese [citizens] and tourists.

"This eventually led to a confrontation with Christian militias, which had also armed themselves out of fear of the pan-Arab slogans and fear for the [preservation of] the rights of the Christian sects.

"Lebanon was engulfed by an ugly 15-year civil war, that ended only after Syria, which had played an ignominious role as instigator [of the hostilities], attained full protectorate status over Lebanese affairs and the Lebanese people – [and this] took on the nature of colonialist hegemony...

"After the Lebanese were liberated from this [Syrian] control, in 2005 the clouds of civil war – albeit of a different kind – reappeared on the Lebanese horizon. The Arab League is making no effort to prevent the eruption [of this civil war] for two main reasons. First, the Syrian regime still supports ethnic tension, in order to regain control of Lebanon; and second, the current majority government, which opposes the renewed Syrian influence, is predominantly Christian...

"We had hoped that the Arab national conscience would recover from the illness afflicting it since the time of the Nakba, and that it would adopt [views] which, if not ahead of their time, would at least be appropriate to our time. But a group of journalists, writers, and several Arab historians guided by the principle of non-acceptance of the other has twisted the facts and concocted a false and gloomy history of the region – thereby trampling these dreams to the ground."

Jews Have a Rich and Ancient History in Palestine

"The Arabs see the Palestinian problem as exceedingly complicated, while it actually appears so only to them – [that is], from the point of view of the Arabs' emotional attitudes and their national and religious philosophy. The Arabs have amassed false claims regarding their exclusive right to the Palestinian land, [and] these are based on phony arguments and on several axioms taken from written and oral sources – most of which they [themselves] created after the Islamic, and which they forbade anyone, Arab or foreigner, from questioning.

"When the Arabs agreed to U.N. arbitration... to resolve the Palestinian problem, it transpired that their axioms clearly contradicted reliable historical documents [that] this new international organization [had in its possession]. As a result, they wasted decades stubbornly defending the validity of their documents, which do not correspond to the officially accepted version of the region's history – which is based on concrete and solid evidence [such as] archaeological findings in the land of Palestine, the holy books of the three monotheistic religions, accounts by Roman, Greek, and Jewish historians... and modern historical research..."

Jewish and Christian Ritual Sites in Jerusalem Predate Muslim Sites

"[A look at] the story of Al-Aqsa is now in order – a site considered holy by Muslim Arabs, who call it 'Al-Haram al-Qudsi al-Sharif' [The Noble Sanctuary] and [believe that] it was set aside for them by Allah since the time of Adam.

"[This site] contains several places of worship, including the Dome of the Rock, built by the [Umayyad Caliph] 'Abd Al-Malik bin Marwan in the seventh century CE – that is, 72 years after the Muslim conquests. This religious public gathering place was erected over a prominent [foundation] stone at the peak of 'Mount Moriah.' [Mount Moriah] contains three ancient Jewish public worship sites, as well as [some] Christian sites... The octagonal structure of the Dome of the Rock Mosque was constructed on the site of an ancient Byzantine church, adjoining Solomon's Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

"Since the majority of Muslims claim that the Temple Mount is an Islamic site to which no one else is entitled, they do not acknowledge the presence of Jewish and Christian places of worship predating the Dome of the Rock within its walls...

"The Arabs take great pride in their tolerance of and benign treatment of the Jews and Christians who lived under the Muslim rule since the Muslim conquests. This account is part of the distortions underpinning the edifice of the Arabs' religious and national culture. [Arab] writers and historians keep eulogizing this epoch... while the truth is the opposite of what they claim. [Indeed,] the Pact of 'Omar [compelled] the Jews and the Christians to choose between either abandoning their religion and embracing Islam, or paying the [poll] tax in return for being permitted to reside... and receive protection of life and property in their homeland. [The Pact of 'Omar] allowed them to practice their religion, build new houses of worship, and repair the old ones [only] with the permission of a Muslim ruler, and subject to numerous conditions.

"In subsequent historical periods, the Muslims imposed [additional restrictions] on the members of [these] two religions: They forbade them to raise their voices during prayer; [they forced them] to conduct their prayers and religious ceremonies in closed areas so as not [to disturb] passersby; they forbade them to carry weapons, ride saddled horses, or build houses taller than those of the Muslims. [Christians and Jews] were required to show respect for the Muslims, e.g. by giving up their seat to a Muslim if he wanted it. They were banned from holding government posts or from working in 'sensitive' public places.

"The Koranic verses cursing the Jews and casting doubt on [the veracity of] their Holy Book [the Torah] promulgated a desire among Arabs to set themselves above the Jews who lived in their midst, humiliating and persecuting them even without pretext. In time, this treatment made large numbers of Jews abandon their cities and their land and emigrate... while those who stayed [in Palestine] until the 19th century remained marginalized, living among the Arabs like criminals in a foreign land...

"The Arabs claim that the 'Wailing Wall' has been their property since the Prophet Muhammad tied his horse Al-Buraq to one of its supports when Allah transported him by night from the Holy Mosque in Mecca to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem... Although this night-journey story seems dubious, Arab historiography after the advent of Islam contains such oddities as giving a horse the prerogative of making a wall weighing more than 2,000 tons into Muslim property. This is only one of thousands of examples of tales concocted by zealots, with which they swept away the Arab imagination.

"...When the U.N. resolution on the partition of Palestine was issued on November 29, 1947... the Arabs refused to recognize it. They thereby rejected the state set out by the resolution as the right of the Palestinians and the Arabs, with the aim of establishing legal and historical equity. The Arabs called this resolution the Nakba, while their new states, formed several years before the State of Israel, launched the first war against Israel, in which regular military operations were combined with local attacks by gangs comprising Palestinians and Arabs from Arab regions near and far. [That war] ended in [the Arabs'] defeat. Persisting in their error, the Arabs established refugee camps for the Palestinians who had fled during and after the war...

"Chairman Mahmoud 'Abbas... was the first Palestinian leader to acknowledge that the Christian church in Gaza plundered by Hamas gangs had stood there 'before [we] came to Gaza.' By this he meant 'we the Palestinians' – particularly the current Gaza residents, [the descendants of] Bedouins from the Sinai and the Arabian Peninsula and of others, of unknown origin. [These people were] attracted by the wealth of the new Islamic state that extended from Persia to Southern Ethiopia, and came after the Muslim conquests and set themselves up over the local population – Christians, Jews, Phoenicians, Byzantines, and the remnants of the Sumerians...

Arabs Must Recognize the Jews' Right to Palestine

"In order to prevent more bloodshed among the innocent [population]... and in order to keep the deteriorating situation in Lebanon, Iraq, Gaza, and the West Bank from making [these regions into] a quagmire that will spread to engulf all Arab states and societies, the Arabs must reassess the question of the Nakba and come up with a new, courageous vision for the region and for the future of its residents.

"[This vision] must involve public recognition of the Jews' legitimate right to their state – which is based on historical fact – instead of [recognition] of the writings filled with anger and demagogy produced and formed into an ideology by the confused [Arab] consciousness – a consciousness built upon lies, myths, and distortions stemming from the principle of non-acceptance of the other.

"The most important factor in strengthening such a new vision is [the adoption of] a principle [requiring] official condemnation of all individuals, groups, companies, religious and political parties, and totalitarian regimes that built their glory and hollow leaderships upon the notion of the Nakba, and which are always ready to absorb other false claims and fabrications.

"This must be done, so that a modern Arab face is turned to the world – [a face reflecting] ethical values that will not allow any Arab, under any pretext, to oppress his son or his brother who differs from him in religion, ethnicity, or ideology."

(1) (formerly, December 7, 2007.
(2) 'Aref 'Alwan is the first Arab author to publish his novels on the Internet. His doing so was the subject of his January 20, 2005 interview in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Yad Vashem opens Arabic Web site

Teaching about the Holocaust - in Arabic
Last update - 19:35 24/01/2008    
 Yad Vashem launches Arabic Web site to combat Holocaust denial 
By The Associated Press 
The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem on Thursday launched an Arabic version of its Web site, including vivid photos of Nazi atrocities and video of survivor testimony, to combat Holocaust denial in the Arab and Muslim world.
Among those featured on the site is Dina Beitler, a survivor of the Nazi genocide that killed 6 million Jews in World War II. Beitler, who was shot and left for dead in a pit of bodies in 1941, recalls her story on the site, with Arabic subtitles.
"Holocaust denial in various countries exists, and so it is important that people see us, the Holocaust survivors, that they'll listen to our testimonies, and learn the legacy of the Holocaust - also in Arabic," Beitler, 73, said at Yad Vashem on Thursday.
Last year, Yad Vashem presented a similar version of its Web site in Farsi, aimed at Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called the Holocaust a myth and said Israel should be wiped off the map. He has also hosted a conference that questioned whether the Holocaust took place.
On the Arab street, many are indeed hostile to Israel, but Ahmadinejad's comments stand out as much harsher than those of any mainstream Mideast leaders.
A wide range of sentiments toward the Holocaust exists across the Arab world, from simple ignorance about its details to outright denial, to a more complicated belief - often expressed by many Arabs - that the Holocaust did indeed happen but does not justify what is viewed as Israeli persecution of Palestinians.
Nazi literature is accessible in many Arab cities and some of the media engage in anti-Semitic incitement. However, even Iran last year permitted the broadcast of a television miniseries that told the tale of an Iranian diplomat in Paris who helped Jews escape the Holocaust - and viewers were riveted.
"Still, Holocaust denial is quite common," said Edward Walker, a former ambassador to Israel and Egypt.
"Students often write their Ph.D. theses denying the Holocaust," he said. "Children are taught by elders that the Holocaust was a hoax. It's widespread in big universities in Cairo, so that means it's probably as common in the small ones in the rest of the country as well."
The problem also exists in Israel.
Last March, a poll showed that 28 percent of Israel's Arab citizens did not believe the Holocaust happened, and that among high school and college graduates the figure was even higher - 33 percent.
The poll, conducted by Sami Smooha, a prominent sociologist at the University of Haifa, surveyed 721 Arabs and had a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.
Raleb Majadele, Israel's lone Arab Cabinet minister, said the Yad Vashem site was imperative in battling that trend. The Internet is difficult to block with barriers of censorship and hate. "From now on, also Arabic speakers will be able to learn the truth about the Holocaust," he said.
Speaking in Hebrew at the ceremony marking the site's launching, he called the Holocaust a horrific act against the Jewish people, but not just against the Jewish people. "It was against humanity, against all nations, against all religions."
Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said Arabic-language Holocaust education was long overdue.
"Providing an easily accessible and comprehensive Web site about the Holocaust in Arabic is crucial," he said. "We want to offer an alternative source of information to moderates in these countries, to provide them with reliable information."
The site also includes chapters about Albanian and Turkish Muslims who risked their lives to save Jews during World War II, a film that documents a recent joint visit of Jews and Arabs to the Auschwitz death camp and a 25-minute video address by Prince Hassan of Jordan.
"All the children of Abraham feel a sense of enormous distress at the Holocaust, which afflicted one of the branches of our interlinked family," he said in Arabic.
In 2007, Yad Vashem said nearly 7 million people, from more than 200 countries, visited its Web site.
Some 56,000 of those came from Muslim countries, including 32,500 from Arabic-speaking countries. Yad Vashem said it hoped the new Arabic site would increase that number drastically and said it had discovered encouraging findings that indicated there was a large demand.

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