Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Israeli / Palestinian Phenomenon

As every one is blogging about the whole middle east issue and that is the topic of choice these days I figured I'd share the following article I read in Dawn. This is a very good opinion piece pretaining to history of the region and the wider world, the interactions between Muslims and Jews etc. If you have not read it its a good piece.

THERE are two very awkward facts about the Israeli-Palestinian phenomenon — awkward for those who today adopt, or pretend to adopt, a high moral ground on the issue. The first awkwardness is the historical truth that it was only during Muslim rule that Palestine enjoyed uninterrupted peace and harmony among Muslims, Christians and Jews.

Religious conflict began the moment Europeans set their feet on the holy land. No history book says anything to the contrary.

Until the first Crusade came to Palestine, there is no record of any conflict between Muslims, Christians and Jews in the holy land. Slaughters began the day Muslim rule ended. The first taste of European rule came during the closing stages of the 11th century, for when the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem (1099), they massacred not only Muslims but all Jews.

Eighty-eight years later Saladin took Jerusalem (1187). His humanism, universally recognised, need not be retold. He brought the Jews back to the holy city. They lived in peace, enjoyed access to Jewish holy places, and had full freedom to practise their religion. This fact is admitted by all western scholars — but not by Israel’s first line of defence, the western media.

Turkish rule did not begin with the Ottoman conquest (1516). The pre-Ottoman era, too, was Turkish. Saladin’s soldiery was 100 per cent Turkish, and the Ayubites, his successors, relied on Turkish soldiers. Baybers, who defeated the Mongols at Ainul Jalut (1260), was a Kipchaq Turk from Ukraine, and it was he who finally wound up the remnants of the Crusader states. There is no evidence that Jews or Christians were harmed in any way under his rule, or there was any conflict between the Jews, Muslims and Christians of Palestine.

Under Ottoman rule, which ended in 1917 when Gen Edmund Allenby took Jerusalem, all the three Palestinian communities had lived in peace. The moment European rule began, religious conflict, marked this time by the eviction of local Arabs (Muslim and Christian), began in earnest with the full might of the British empire at the disposal of the Zionist settlers. There is no historical evidence that during the 11 centuries of Muslim rule, the Jewish community was ever persecuted, evicted from its ancestral homes and farms and forced to leave Palestine.

Incidentally, Jewish settlements had begun even before the British conquest, because the Ottoman empire and Germany enjoyed friendly relations and the sultan agreed to the settlement of German Jews on a modest scale in Palestine. However, because of corruption and misrule towards the fag end of the Ottoman empire, more Jewish families settled than were authorised by Constantinople. Thus, the first riot between Palestinians and European settlers took place in the village of Petach-Teva in 1886, when Palestine was still under Ottoman rule. What caused the riot was the arrival of Europeans in the holy land.

The Balfour declaration, paved the way for the second arrival of Europeans into the holy land. Since then, Palestine has not had a moment of peace and has been suffering nothing but mass evictions, religious persecution, slaughters and a Nazi-style attempt to achieve a demographic change by the deployment of the most despicable means — permanent occupation of Arab lands, diversion of water resources from Arab orchards and villages to Jewish kibbutzim, felling olive and citrus trees to rob the Palestinians of their sources of livelihood, destruction of Arab farms by acquiring land for Jewish settlements and buildings highways and roads that ploughed through Arab villages and farms.

The second “awkwardness” concerns not just the Jews in Palestine but the Jewish community worldwide. Throughout Muslim lands, the Jews lived in peace and freedom in sharp contrast to the Christian world’s unabashed persecution of the Jewish minority for 2,000 years.

In fact, even the most biased of western writers have not come up with allegations of Muslim persecution of Jews during the Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Seljuk or Ottoman rule. (The expulsion of Jews from the Arabian peninsula in the seventh century was in battle conditions during Islam’s early wars, and concerned less than one per cent of the world’s Jewish community, for the majority of Jews were then in Europe, and what today are the states of Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Morocco.)

The most brilliant period of Muslim-Jewish coexistence was Arab Spain, which, as history records, turned out to be the most fertile soil for the cultural flowering of the Jewish genius, which produced outstanding philosophers, grammarians, mathematicians, biblical scholars and poets. It is not just that the greatest of Jewish thinkers, Maimonides, who was born in Spain, was a doctor at Saladin’s court; Jews were co-sharers of the peace, prosperity and cultural and scientific brilliance that Muslim Spain was.

When the end came and Frederick completed the ‘Reconquista’, Jews were slaughtered as much as Muslims. Thousands of those who had converted to Christianity were burnt at the stakes for secretly observing Judaic rituals, and a mass burning of Jewish books took place (circa 1498). As the Jews fled, they found refuge in Islamic lands, for it was the Ottoman empire which offered asylum to the Jews fleeing persecution in Christian Spain. Israel and Turkey officially observed the 500th anniversary of this event when Israeli President Ezer Weizmann went to Turkey to celebrate the occasion.

As against this, there was nothing but misery, persecution and ghettoes for the Jews of Europe. Long before Hitler, King Edward I of England (ruled 1272-1307) asked the Jews to wear the Star of David on their dress, and throughout the Crusades, which raged for two centuries, it was accepted by rulers and people of Europe alike that Crusaders would rob and plunder Jewish homes and shops for providing for their journey to the holy land. The fate of the Jews in Germany and eastern Europe in mediaeval times is a story unto itself. The Zionist movement basically emerged as a reaction to the persecution of Jews in Russia and eastern Europe.

The point to note is that this Jew-baiting was not something specific to the mediaeval times — as western apologists would have us believe; this persecution continued well into the 20th century, for it was again in the thirties and forties in modern and “civilised” Europe that six million Jews were put to death in gas chambers and their bodies burnt in Krupps’ ovens. Muslims can raise their heads with pride: they have done no such evil deed.

Deir Yassin, Sabra-Chatilla, Jenin and now whatever is going on in the occupied territories and Lebanon make us ask: is this the way in which the Jews must express their appreciation to the Muslim world for giving them a thousand years of peace and happiness in their lands?

TAILPIECE: Somehow, the European religious psyche is simply incapable of accepting religious plurality for Palestine. This is astonishing. What is going on in Europe today, because of immigrations, is a slow development of religious pluralism. If the Europeans had gone into Palestine in the 11th century and later in the 20th century with such a background perhaps there would have been fewer slaughters.


Cosmic girl said...

Just perfect!!
I hate to read about politics and the disaster that's going on in Lebanon.. but I just couldn't stop reading what you had to write..
simply brilliant!!

Destitute Rebel said...

Cosmic Girl - thanks, but just a clarification, I did not write the artile I only wish I could write something of this quality, as stated in the post it was taken from Dawn a Pakistani daily and written by Muhammad Ali Siddiqi- I just wanted to share it with people who had missed it.

Cosmic girl said...

yes.. I figured that out and checked the site earlier.. thanx for posting it though..

I would've definitely missed it otherwise..

Zak said...

Hmmi don't agree with generalisations like that..not all jews are pro Zionist ..if they were thered be more jews in Israel than outside..also the story of the Crusades is a long and complicated story. There are quite a few people who think Saladins compassion was his undoing.

Tainted Female said...

Zak.... Zionists spread in other areas of the world create sympathy and empathy for Zionism. The term 'antisemitic' is used to ridicule just about anyone all over the world for the sake of gaining support. No?

DR... I'm sorry this took so long for me to get to. It's an outstanding article. I will post a link to it in my blog. Thank you for pointing this out.