Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wave of anti-Christian Muslim violence

Someone finally noticed. Actually. the problem of persecution of Christians in Muslim countries is not new and did not start recently. Copts have suffered for many many years for example - unrelated to specific conflicts.
Ami Isseroff
The wave of anti-Christian violence
Christians in the Muslim world are becoming scapegoats as anger about the 'crusader west' takes hold

Simon Tisdall, Thursday 14 January 2010 16.30 GMT
Coptic Christians protest in Egypt after an attack in which gunmen opened fire on a crowd of churchgoers. Photograph: Khaled El-Fiqi/EPA
A recent wave of violent attacks on Christian worshippers and churches in countries across the Muslim world is intensifying concern that continuing military conflict, cultural friction and economic imbalances embroiling Islam and the west are fuelling a parallel rise in religious intolerance at grassroots level.
The increase in tensions is seen as particularly disturbing in countries such as Egypt where Islam and Christianity have a centuries-old history of largely peaceful co-existence. In one recent incident, gunmen attacked a Coptic Christian congregation near Luxor, on the Coptic Christmas eve, killing six churchgoers and provoking inter-communal rioting and arson.
The Egyptian government said the violence was an isolated event and not sectarian. But many disagreed. About 2,000 Copts took to the streets of Cairo on Wednesday, saying the official response had been inadequate and complaining of systemic ill-treatment. One sign read: "Egypt burns while its leaders sleep."
Egypt's constitution guarantees equal rights for all religions. Yet according to Human Rights Watch's 2009 world report, discrimination against Christians, Bahá'ís and minority Muslim sects is entrenched. Egypt's 78 million population is predominantly Sunni Muslim. Copts make up 10% of the total.
Anger in local Muslim communities about Christian proselytising, alleged desecrations of the Qur'an, or "liberal" attitudes towards women often sparks confrontation. An attack on a Protestant church in Tizi Ouzou in Algeria on Saturday night, when Bibles and hymnals were burned, was reportedly touched off by rumoured Christian attempts to convert Muslims.
Reactions to the incident were typically defensive. "We have always been persecuted in this country. It is not acceptable and the authorities must do something to stop the attacks against us," said Mustafa Krim, head of the Algerian Protestant Church Association. Government spokesman Fellahi Ada was unsympathetic, suggesting such complaints were a western plot.
"The general trend is that Christianity is no longer attractive in Algeria," he said. "This is why some circles outside Algeria are doing whatever possible to portray my country as a country where religious minorities are suffering and that an international intervention is needed to protect them."
The US state department's latest country report on Algeria, whose population is 99% Sunni Muslim, says that "in practice" the Algerian government restricts religious freedom. Restrictions increased in 2009 following implementation of an ordinance limiting public assembly for the purpose of worship, the US said. Twenty-seven churches were closed for non-compliance with the ordinance. It also reported routine antisemitism in Algerian Arab media.
In Tizi Ouzou, other influences may be at work: the town 60 miles east of Algiers, a centre of resistance to French colonial rule, is now sometimes described as a hotbed of al-Qaida in the Maghreb. It was the scene of a suicide bombing in 2008. Islamists there are said to take exception, for example, to women mixing with men in Christian congregations.
Attacks on Christian minorities over the Christmas period were also reported in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, and in mostly Sunni Muslim Pakistan. In one case last year in Gojra, Pakistan, several Christians were burned to death and Christian homes and churches destroyed by a mob after reports circulated that a Qu'ran had been desecrated. "The attacks on Christians seem to be symptomatic of a well-organised campaign launched by extremist elements all over central Punjab," Pakistan's human right commission chairwoman Asma Jehangir said.
Disturbances have also shaken majority Muslim Malaysia in recent weeks, where attacks on churches and a Catholic school followed a row over whether Christians should be allowed to use the word "Allah" to refer to God. In separate incidents, extremist thugs have also picked on Malaysia's Hindu minority.
In Iraq, the problems facing Christians and other minorities are more deadly. An estimated 1,960 Christians have died there in targeted attacks since the 2003 invasion. The Christmas period saw a spate of church attacks in Mosul in defiance of a long, pre-war tradition of co-existence. Other minorities, such as Jews, have also suffered – although by far the biggest toll has been exacted by clashes between Iraq's Sunnis and the larger Shia Muslim community.
Local factors such as disputes over land, objections to the presence of alcohol, large numbers of unemployed young men with not enough to do, or sheer mutual ignorance and suspicion of "rival" religions help explain some of these tensions. And few would argue that somehow all such incidents are linked.
But analysts and academics suggest common threads do exist, notably the impact of globalisation on conservative communities across the Muslim world and a resulting threatened loss of cultural identity. Violence against Christians as representatives of the "crusader west" is also an aspect of what French author Gilles Kepel has described as the far bigger civil war, or fitna, raging within the Islamic world itself.
Yet hostility also arises, in a fundamental sense, from Muslim perceptions of western aggression against Islam, be it the war in Afghanistan, domineering western economic and cultural behaviour, attempts to ban veils, offensive cartoon caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, airline and immigration profiling, or systemic, unchecked and arguably worsening discrimination and harassment of Muslim minorities living in western nations.
To have a chance of overcoming this widening gulf, the west may have to put its own house in order first. One proposed path is wider adoption of Karen Armstrong's new Charter for Compassion, a "spiritual document for the world", whose guiding idea is that while almost every religion has a history of intolerance, all have traditions of compassion that rise above hatred.
For faithful believers of all descriptions, the charter offers a golden rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

UN organizes terrorist conference in Beirut

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Read carefully what it says in this article:  
The conference, held under the patronage of the United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organization in Beirut (UNESCO), brought together Arab and international resistance organizations.
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?"
You did.
Think about it.
Ami Isseroff

A culture of violence

Israel's security policies must take into account 1,400 years of Arab violence

Yoram Ettinger

Published:  01.10.10, 17:16 / Israel Opinion

Galal Nasser, a prominent columnist in Egypt's al-Ahram Weekly recently wrote: "Violence has become the norm in Arab life, both on official and non-official levels...There are many types of violence besetting the domestic scenes of Arab countries, making relations among them unpredictable and unstable."


Nasser also notes that "Some analysts speculate about a culture of violence and argue that its roots are embedded in religious texts that call for Jihad, that urge the faithful to wage a perpetual fight for virtue and against sinfulness…" he adds that "Neighborliness doesn't seem to count for much either. There are many instances of strained relations among Arab countries. Currently, tensions exist between Morocco and Algeria, Libya and Tunisia, Jordan and Palestine, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq."

Hence, an Israeli withdrawal from the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria (the most effective tank obstacle in the region, overtowering Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the 9-15 mile sliver along the Mediterranean) would ignore the intense, volatile and unpredictable 1,400 year old inter-Arab violence and its implications for the security requirements of the "infidel" Jewish State.


"The state is involved in the production, export and triggering of violence…nourishing some and instigating others, making deals and manipulating players just to keep its ruling elite in place… Ruling elites are fighting tooth and nail to stay in office. Any challenge to their authority is viewed as an act of war. Meanwhile, the opposition can find itself in dire straits: either it faces a slow and painful death or opts for suicide in a hopeless war…"


Meanwhile, Dr. Marwan Kabalan last month wrote in the Persian Gulf News:

"Six decades ago, immediately after the departure of the colonial powers, the Arab world had big and ambitious dreams: unity, development, equality, prosperity and a reasonable degree of economic independence. Sixty years on, one is tempted to ask if the Arab world has really realized any of these objectives and whether they were realistic and achievable in the first place…


"Arab rulers have clung to power with complete disregard for public interest…The result was total failure in every aspect of state activities…and to a consequent increase in the use of force to maintain order and control…One consequence of these policies was the weakening of national identity and the revival of communal tension. Hence, people in Iraq and Lebanon and many other Arab countries came to identify themselves as Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and Christians; rather than Iraqis, Lebanese or whatever else."

"No wonder that the Arab world looks today much more fragmented, poorer and hopeless than it was at the dawn of independence… For most of these ills, Arab regimes have only themselves to blame. They have indeed left us with very little to celebrate."


In conclusion, due-diligence of the 1,400 year track record of inter-Arab violence behooves the Jewish State to maintain a Middle East-driven (and not wishful-thinking-driven) threshold of security.  


Israel's defensible borders and Israel's agreements concluded with Arab leaders must withstand the implications of potential highly probable and violent abrogation and inter-Arab regime-change. Israel's security requirements must be the derivative of the 1,400 year old inter-Arab reality: No inter-Arab comprehensive peace, no inter-Arab compliance with most inter-Arab agreements, no inter-Arab ratification of all inter-Arab borders and no Arab democracy!


Hence, the security indispensability of the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria - the Cradle of Jewish history - for the survival of the Jewish State.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

An Israeli Stalinist Professor's War Against Israel – by Steven Plaut


Islamist fascism has a problem.  It is that traditional Islam, and the Koran in particular, explicitly acknowledge that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people.  The war of Islamofascism against Israel and its population thus directly contradicts the teachings about Jews and Israel found in the Koran itself.  The Islamofascists, however, have found a solution to this dilemma.  And they are being provided with this "solution" by a notorious Jewish anti-Semite.

Let me explain.

The Koran itself is extraordinarily clear about the status of the Land of Israel in Islam.   While in general criticizing Jews for their supposed sinfulness, something the Jewish Bible does quite a lot of also, the Koran relates in Sura 5:21, that Moses (a revered teacher in Islam) tells the Jews to "enter into the Holy Land which Allah has assigned to you."   Moses adds to his people, according the Koran:

"O my people!  Remember the bounty of  God upon you  when  He bestowed  prophets upon you , and  made  you  kings and gave you that which  had not been given to  anyone before you amongst  the nations. O my people!  Enter the Holy Land which God has written for you, and do not turn tail, otherwise you will be losers."

Elsewhere (Sura 17, 104) the Koran proclaims: "And thereafter We [Allah] said to the Children of Israel: 'Dwell securely in the Promised Land. And when the last warning will come to pass, we will gather you together in a mingled crowd.'"   The founder of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl, could not have said it better.

The legitimacy of Jewish claims to the Land of Israel is repeated in Sura 10:93-94:

"We settled the Children of Israel in a beautiful dwelling-place (Israel)…If thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee."

The Koran also explicitly documents the existence of the Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  Sura 17:7 records the destruction of the First Jewish Temple by Babylon and the Second Temple by Rome, and Mohammed never contests the Bible's claim that the Temples were in Jerusalem. Indeed, the return of the Jews to their homeland after centuries of exile can be seen as the fulfillment of Islamic prophecy. Sura 17:104 of the Koran says: "And we said to the Children of Israel afterwards,  'Go live into this land (Israel). When the final prophecy comes to pass, we will summon you all in one group.'"

As noted by Prof. Khaleel Mohammed, from the Department of Religious Studies at San Diego State University, the medieval exegetes of the Koran – roughly analogous to the Talmud for Judaism – recognize Israel as belonging to the Jews, as their birthright given to them by God.  Two of Islam's most famous exegetes explained thus: 'Ibn Kathir said: "That which God has written for you, i.e. that which God has promised to you by the words of your father Israel that it is the inheritance of those among you who believe."  Muhammad al-Shawkani interprets Kataba to mean "that which God has allotted and predestined for you in His primordial knowledge, deeming it as a place of residence for you."'

From the above, one would think that Islamofascism faces a theological quandary in its attempts at conscripting Islam for a genocidal jihad against Israel and the Jews.   But Islamofacsists have invented a solution.  They can jihad all they want against Israel and the Jews, Islamic theology notwithstanding, because they claim that the Jews … are not the Jews.  If modern Jews are really not Jews at all, then Israel is not a country of Jews, and so Israelis have no rights to sovereignty in their own homeland as promised in the Koran.

So just why are modern Jews not Jews, in the pseudo-theology of the jihadis?  Because the Islamofascists are recycling the old mythology about European Jews or "Ashkenazim" being nothing more than converted Khazars.  And the new guru of the "Jews-Not-Being-Jews" hoax is none other than Tel Aviv University history professor Shlomo Sand.

To explain this mind-numbing development, let's take a few steps back.  Yes, there was indeed a Kingdom of Turkic peoples living north of the Black Sea in the Dark Ages called the Khazars, and – yes – its ruling family and part of its population did convert to Judaism.  The Khazar kingdom was largely destroyed by the expanding Russian kingdom in the tenth century, and anything remaining was destroyed in the Mongol invasions.  What actually became of the Jewish Khazars is unknown.  Some may have integrated themselves into other Jewish communities in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe.

Later a myth was created about the Khazars being an important component of European Jewry.  This myth was to a large extent the invention of the 1976 book, The Thirteenth Tribe by Arthur Koestler, a writer better known for his lifelong battles against totalitarianism in all its forms.  Koestler wrote his book largely in order to create interest and sympathy for Jews and Israel, believing the Khazar story would serve as a basis for respect and fascination with Jewish history.  In reality, there is very little evidence of any type, from genetic markers to family and place names, that there is any significant Khazar "blood" among Western or Ashkenazi Jews.

Meanwhile, Koestler's public relations ploy backfired.  In recent years, the Khazar myth has been hijacked by Neo-Nazis and Islamofascists to invent a racialist argument against Jews being entitled to self-determination, independence, or a homeland in the Land of Israel.  If Jews are nothing more than converted Khazars, or so goes the argument of the anti-Semitic racialists, then they are foreign interlopers in the Levant and have no right to statehood there.

Now, as a matter of fact, even if the Khazar myth were true, and Ashkenazi Jews were descendent from converted Khazars (and – we repeat – the myth is NOT true!), it still would not make the slightest difference.  Jews never defined themselves in genetic or racial terms.  They always saw themselves as an ethnic group marked off by religion, tradition, and language.  Converts are just as Jewish as are those born to a Jewish mother and just as entitled to participate in Jewish self-determination.  And, to top it all off, most Israeli Jews are not even Ashkenazi Jews.

Meanwhile, the popularity of the Khazar myth among anti-Semites represents a return of modern anti-Jewish bigotry to the racialism of the 1930's and earlier.

Nearly every anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi website denounces Zionists and Israelis as "Khazars."  Web chat lists in which Jews defending Israel are dismissed as "Khazar usurpers" are too numerous to count.

The racialism once again in vogue holds that Jews would only have legitimate claims to the right of self-determination in their homeland if they were appropriately Semitic from a racial point of view.  Palestine is part of the Semitic racial lebensraum and those who do not possess the correct pure racial markings have no business being there.  Racial purity is suddenly the new basis for national rights.

If we take the racialist argument to its illogical conclusions, Palestinian Arabs have the right to exercise all claims to sovereignty in Israel due to their being true racial Jews, while Zionists are non-Jewish Khazars – racial imposters and usurpers.  But to make things even sillier, Arabs themselves are, of course, a mix of racial strains, with a particularly large Caucasian component thanks to Arab intermixing with Spanish and Italian Europeans, Caucasian Berbers, Vandals, Goths, and even some Vikings.

Lest the world dismiss "Khazar Zionist" nonsense as something as pathetic as the conspiracist "911-Truth" form of mental illness, along comes an anti-Semitic pseudo-academic from Tel Aviv University itself to lead the racialist charge against the Israeli "Khazars" and against Jewish self-determination.   Professor Shlomo Sand is a hard-core Stalinist and Jewish anti-Semite.  He was active for a while in the 1960s and 1970s in a tiny Israeli Maoist splinter named Matzpen.  From its ranks emerged an espionage ring of Israeli Jewish and Arab communists, who trained as terrorists in Syria and were jailed by Israel in the 1970s.  Writing mainly in French, Sand has built much of his "academic" career on churning out Marxist boilerplate diatribes.  He is a fanatic anti-Zionist and makes no attempt to hide his desire to see his own country obliterated.

Sand last year recruited himself to the aid of the Islamists seeking to annihilate Israel.  So the Koran says the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews?  In that case, Sand himself, a professor at Tel Aviv University, will recycle Neo-Nazi mythology about Israeli Jews being converted Khazar interlopers.  The result was Sand's book, The Invention of the Jewish People, a pseudo-history published in English by Verso Books, a publishing house set up by "New Left Review," specializing in communist and Bash-Israel "books."

Sand's book about Jews being a fraudulent "invention" is amazingly un-original.  If submitted as a student paper I suspect it would be rejected as plagiarism of the contents of anti-Jewish web sites.   Sand's book has been hailed as ground-breaking scholarship by Neo-Nazis, jihadists, terrorist web sites, anti-Semites and communists of all stripes.  Serious historians have dismissed it as pseudo-academic poppycock, as fraud, and as little more than a comic book recycling of Neo-Nazi myths about Jews being Khazars.  Sand's conclusions from the imaginary "evidence" about the Khazar roots of Israelis resemble those of his jihadi groupies, namely, that Israel has no right to exist and that Jews are not Jews at all, certainly not any sort of a people.  Tel Aviv University has won for itself the dubious honor of serving as home base for arguably the world's worst "academic" anti-Semite, and has raised questions all over the globe about the academic standards it has obviously abandoned.

Meanwhile, we have grown accustomed in our 21st century to the bizarre collaboration between Islamist fundamentalists and far-leftists.  Even so, one cannot help marvelling at the spectacle of an Israeli Stalinist professor devoting himself so passionately to prolierating the myths required by Islamofascist fundamentalists, and by so doing grant them the means for ignoring the Koran itself.

Mahmoud Abbas Sponsors Event to Celebrate Terrorist's Brithday

 Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, sponsored an event organized to celebrate the 50th birthday of Dalal al-Maghribi, a female terrorist who participated in the terrorist attack on a bus on the Coastal Road in 1978.2 The ceremony was attended by senior members of the Palestinian Authority, and there was a parade of children. A giant poster bore a picture of Dalal al-Maghribi and the inscription, "With the sponsorship of his Excellency President Mahmoud Abbas." Fatah and the Palestinian Authority have made the terrorist a role model in the same way Hamas makes its shaheed operatives killed in terrorist attacks against Israel into role models. She has been commemorated many times by the Palestinian Authority, and has had schools, computer centers, summer camps, sports tournaments and a square in Ramallah named after her.

Children on parade at the birthday celebration
Children on parade at the birthday celebration
(Photo courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pianist Kissin launches anti BBC bias campaign

Pianist Kissin launches anti-Israel BBC bias campaign

World famous musician launches pro-Israel campaign 

By Stephen Pollard and Robyn Rosen, December 30, 2009
Stand: Kissin.  Stand: Kissin

The Russian-born pianist Evgeny Kissin, who became a British citizen in 2002, has accused the BBC of "slander and bias" against Israel, broadcasting material he describes as "painfully reminiscent of the old Soviet anti-Zionist propaganda".
Mr Kissin, 38, who until now has not generally been known as politically engaged, has written to the director-general of the BBC, Mark Thompson. According to a close friend of the pianist, he has decided to become "actively involved in exposing and countering the evil propaganda of certain British media and especially the BBC."

Mr Kissin's decision to use his fame and artistic renown to campaign on Israel's behalf contrasts with the criticisms against the Jewish state regularly voiced by musicians such as Daniel Barenboim, who holds Israeli citizenship.

In Mr Kissin's letter, he accuses the BBC's Persian Service of a "blood libel concerning Israel's alleged harvesting of Palestinian organs and blood for future transplant".

He continues: "It beggars belief that the British taxpayer should be funding an organisation which is aligning itself with Iran's despotic leader in its antisemitic propaganda. Other print media like the Guardian, which erroneously printed this libel propagated by Israel's enemies, have since apologised. I am not aware of any such retraction from the BBC."

Mr Kissin, who was a child prodigy in his native Russia and is now widely recognised as one of the greatest living pianists, intends from now on to speak out against media bias against Israel, which he sees as both fuelling and being fuelled by antisemitism.

In his letter, he says that when he became a British citizen he was "inspired and proud to belong to the country of Winston Churchill, who famously said: 'There is no antisemitism in England because we do not consider ourselves more stupid than the Jews'. Above all, the BBC and especially its World Service, had always been a beacon of light, of truth and objectivity to those of us behind the Iron Curtain, in the 'Evil Empire'. Reaching out to far corners of the world, it was the voice of a country which for us was a model of democracy and human rights."

He concludes by asking: "Is it not time for the BBC to return to the values for which it was so much respected, before it finds itself in the garbage of history, together with Pravda, Tass, Volkischer Beobachter and Der Angruff?"

The classical music promoter, Lilian Hochhauser, said this week: "I fully support Evgeny Kissin's initiative to counter the increasing bias displayed by the BBC and others against Israel. I encourage all in the arts world to act against the growing stigmatisation of Israel, as well as increasing our cultural co-operation with the country."

A spokesman for the BBC said the corporation was unable to comment until it had received Mr Kissin's letter.


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? 

Israel's economic miracle - without the evil eye

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.
Ami Isseroff
January 12, 2010
Op-Ed Columnist
The Tel Aviv Cluster
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

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.


Palestinian PM and Israel's incitement charge

RAMALLAH (Reuters) – Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad rejected Israeli accusations that he had "incited" hostility to the Jewish state, saying on Tuesday that Israel had made the claims to dodge its own obligations under a peace plan.

Fayyad's comments, to a gathering of businessmen in Ramallah, came on the day that U.S. President Barack Obama's national security adviser Jim Jones arrived in Israel as part of Washington's bid to relaunch peace talks.

Israel has complained to the United States, sponsor of the 2003 "road map" plan for Middle East peace, about both Fayyad and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, saying they had breached obligations under the plan to end such "incitement."

"This is clearly part of a systematic effort to isolate us internationally," said Fayyad, a former World Bank economist who enjoys wide support among Western governments.

Under the road map, Israel was required to freeze all settlement activity in occupied lands where the Palestinians seek to establish an independent state. Both sides agreed to end "incitement" to hostilities.

Abbas reiterated on Tuesday that any resumption of talks is conditional on a full halt to settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem -- a position that has frustrated U.S. efforts to restart the peace talks which have stalled for more than a year. A partial, temporary freeze Israel announced in November is insufficient, Abbas has said.


Israel has long accused the Palestinian Authority of both encouraging and failing to condemn attacks on Israel, particularly under Abbas's predecessor, Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004.

Abbas and Fayyad say that cooperation between new, Western-trained Palestinian forces and Israel means much of that criticism is now misplaced, a view echoed by Western diplomats.

However, Israelis have complained that Abbas recently endorsed honoring a Palestinian who led a 1978 bus hijacking in which more than 30 people were killed.

And Fayyad drew Israel's ire by condemning the killing by Israeli troops in the West Bank last month of three men accused of killing a Jewish settler, calling them "martyrs" and describing their deaths as assassinations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday called on Abbas to stop incitement against Israel in the media and schools.

"Sadly, there has been a retreat in this area in recent months, both within the Palestinian Authority and by its leaders," he said.

"These serious actions represent a harsh violation of the Palestinians' international obligation to prevent incitement. This is not how peace is made."

(Writing by Erika Solomon, editing by Tom Perry and Robin Pomeroy)

Arab opinion: Saeed and a Happy New Year!

Hassan Khader
Al-Ayyam (Opinion)
January 12, 2010 - 12:00am

[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!

Killing Palestinians in Gaza

Those who are incensed by brutality in Gaza need to watch this video.

Human rights group: Hamas disinters Christians in Gaza

Every three minutes a Christian is being tortured in the Muslim world, and in 2009 more than 165,000 Christians will have been killed because of their faith, most of them in Muslim countries, according to a human rights organization that is visiting Israel starting Sunday.

"Hamas digs up the bodies of Christians from Christian burial sites in the Gaza Strip claiming that they pollute the earth," said Reverend Majed El Shafie, President of One Free World International (OFWI), who will head a delegation of human rights activists, members of parliament from Canada and religious personalities.

During their visit to Israel the delegation will hold a conference on human rights and persecuted minorities at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem. The conference will provide new statistics on the persecution of minorities in Muslim countries.

El Shafie said that between 200-300 million Christians are being persecuted in the world, 80 percent of whom lived in Muslim countries and the rest in communist and other countries.

Members of the delegation will meet with Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon and Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat in the hope of enlisting Israel to champion their cause.

OFWI is a human rights organization whose headquarters are located in Toronto, Canada. The organization numbers some 3,000 members, divided into 28 branches that are active in countries all over the world, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and even Iran.

El Shafie, 32, was born in Cairo to a distinguished Muslim family of lawyers and judges. Through a Christian friend he was exposed at an early age to hatred toward the Christian minority in Egypt.

He decided to convert to Christianity, wrote a book about it and as a result became an outcast and a victim of oppression.

In 1998 he was arrested, imprisoned, tortured and condemned to death.

El Shafie managed to escape, fled to the Sinai, where a Beduin family hid him for two months, and crossed the Israeli border on a jet-ski. With the assistance of the UN, Amnesty International and the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, which managed to obtain political asylum for El Shafie in Canada, where he emigrated. He founded OFWI in 2004.

Who will stand up for peace and against Hamas?

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?
Ami Isseroff
Pro-Hamas media bias and Gaza activists block peace
Jan. 12, 2010
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

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jews in Arab countries: a discussion and source readings

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:

...Abu Shuja imposed two distinguishing signs upon Jewish women. Each woman had to wear one red shoe and one black shoe. Furthermore, each woman had to have a small copper bell on her neck or on her shoe which would tinkle so that all would know and differentiate between the women of the Jews and of the Muslims. he assigned cruel Muslim men to watch over the Jewish men and cruel Muslim women to oversee the Jewish women, in order to oppress them with every sort of insult, humiliation, and contempt. The Muslims would mock them, and the common rabble, together with their children, would beat Jews throughout all the streets of Baghdad.  

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. 

Ami Isseroff

January 11, 2010