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Israel and the Muslim/Arab world

14 July 2014, 22:30

As intractable as the Israel/Palestinian conflict may seem, with polarised support for one or the other divided by an ever-widening chasm; there remains basic indisputable truths - historical facts and facts on the ground, which commentators on both sides of this conflict need to consider should they wish to be suitably informed.

Should you prefer to remain ignorant and gullible to emotive propaganda from both sides, then read no further and carry on with your boorish blather which is so prevalent in comments on this subject.

HISTORICAL FACTS

Starting from biblical times – in the beginning there was Israel.

Over the centuries and millennia since, both the Christian World and Islamic World have fought over this territory and ruled it, back and forth, while remnants of the original Jewish inhabitants remained, under constant persecution for their faith.

Those that dispersed to the diaspora, and their descendants, put down roots and existed begrudgingly in a multitude of host countries throughout Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, whose societies persistently persecuted these Jewish populations throughout the ages culminating in the Nazi holocaust – an extermination event of horrific proportions, perpetrated against a passive people because of their religion.

At the end of the Second World War, and with the (still begrudging) good grace of the majority of World Governments, it was agreed by the UN that a Jewish Homeland be established and allowed to exist within the territory of Biblical Israel, named Palestine at the time. This territory was then part of the Turkish Empire which was conquered and occupied by Allied forces during the course of the 2nd World War. Great Britain had the Palestine mandate which included current day Jordan, and France controlled the territory which became Syria. At this time the Jews of Palestine were called exactly that, - Palestinians, while the transient and mostly nomadic Arabs of the region, were just tribal clans of Arabs with no affiliation or identity of belonging to any existing nation state.

Since the demise of Biblical Israel, no existing autonomous sovereign country ever existed in greater Palestine. It was not demarcated, had no government, no defence force, no currency, and no recognition as a country belonging to any group, Jewish or Muslim. Ancient holy sites were crumbling in neglect and disrepair.

So the British, with the endorsement of the UN, offered part of their mandate to the Jewish people.

 Originally, the areas allocated were the entire region of biblical Israel from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, with the balance offered to the Arabs being Trans-Jordan – current day Jordan.  The Arabs were enraged, and the British, in accommodating their anger, reduced the area offered to the Jews as a homeland to 22% of the Palestinian Mandate. The Jews of Palestine, bolstered by large numbers of holocaust survivors from Europe begging for sanctuary, accepted a much reduced territory for a home, and declared independence, renaming their new homeland Israel.

The West Bank was offered to the Arab inhabitants, and instead of proclaiming independence alongside the new state of Israel (the original two state solution), they instead refused; - not because they were dissatisfied with the apportioned share, but because they refused the apportionment granted to the Jews. A Jewish entity in the heart of Arab Islam was an incomprehensible anathema, and the Arab Muslim armies of the surrounding Arab League states attacked the newly formed Israel the next day.

(It must be noted that the balance of the territory, now known as the West Bank or Judea and Samaria to the Jews, was immediately and illegally annexed by the newly formed country of Jordan, with no complaints registered by the Arab inhabitants there at the time.)

To the Arab worlds enduring humiliation and shame, Israel survived the attacks on the new state of Israel and repulsed the Arab armies, and it continued to do so with ensuing wars of Arab/Muslim aggression to this day, heaping humiliation and shame upon the Arab psyche to a point of dementia.

A TALE OF TWO ‘NAKBA’S’

The Palestinian nakba

In the chaos and upheaval that followed Israel’s declaration of independence, and the ensuing war, large populations of Arabs who were within the new state of Israel were coerced to move out of Israel, or did so of their own volition, choosing not to live under Jewish rule. It is in the historical record that the leaders of the attacking Arab League, encouraged these Arab populations to ‘make way’ for the Arab assault on Israel, with the promise that they would return once Israel was vanquished and restored to Islamic/Arab ownership and honour.

Additionally, in the ensuing weeks of all-out war, with Israel defeating and pushing back the attacking Arab armies, these Arab civilian populations were also further induced to flee alongside the retreating Arab forces. Never to return.

And so, a group of refugees from Palestine came into being.

These refugees were not forced into ‘foreign’ lands. They were just displaced, and they found themselves in the exact same culture, religion, language and people from whence they came. Yet they were herded into prison concentration camps by their own brethren, and refused the right to assimilate, get employment, receive basic services, attend universities,  and much more terrible hardships. To this day they are kept in limbo, a classless and homeless people denied just about everything, living off the charity and largess of hated Western nations, a further humiliation heaped upon humiliation.

A terrible treatment visited upon them by their very own brothers, for a very simple and perverse reason - honour. This is the Nakba of the Palestinian people. Nothing other than the intense humiliation of having Arab (Islamic) honour besmirched.

To understand this ‘honour’ issue, is to understand the entire conflict between Jewish Israel and the Islamic Arab world.

Below are excerpts from an article written by Richard Landes, a professor of history at Boston University. See http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/176673/emotional-nakba#DYL28tJTZwZxu2St for full context.

“…in some cultures the dominant voices openly promote honor/shame values and in a way that militates against liberal society and progress. Arab political culture tends to favor ascendancy through aggression, the politics of the strong horse,” and the application of “Hama rules”—which all combine to produce a Middle East caught between prison and anarchy, between Sisi’s Egypt and al-Assad’s Syria.

In order to understand the role of hard zero-sum, honor-shame concerns in the attitude of Arabs toward Israel, one must first understand the role of the Jew in the Muslim Arab honor-group. For the 13 centuries before Zionism, Jews had been subject to a political status in Muslim lands specifically designed around issues of honor (to Muslims) and shame (to Jews). Jews were dhimmi, “protected” from Muslim violence by their acceptance of daily public degradation and legal inferiority.

Noted Chateaubriand in the 19th century: “Special target of all [Muslim and Christian] contempt, the Jews lower their heads without complaint; they suffer all insults without demanding justice; they let themselves be crushed by blows. … Penetrate the dwellings of these people, you will find them in frightful poverty.”

For more than a millennium, Arab and Muslim honor resided, among other places, in their domination and humiliation of their dhimmi—and when the occasional reformer equalized their legal status, he struck a heavy blow to Muslim honor. Noted a British envoy on the impact of Muhammad Ali’s reforms: “The Mussulmans … deeply deplore the loss of that sort of superiority which they all & individually exercised over & against the other sects. … A Mussulman … believes and maintains that a Christian—& still more a Jew—is an inferior being to himself.”

To say that to the honor-driven Arab and Muslim political player, in the 20th century as in the 10th century, the very prospect of an autonomous Jewish political entity is a blasphemy against Islam, and an insult to Arab virility, is not to say that every period of Muslim rule involved deliberate humiliation of dhimmi. Nor is it to say that all Arabs think like this. On the contrary, this kind of testosterone-fueled, authoritarian discourse imposes its interpretation of “honor” on the entire community, often violently.

Thus, while some Arabs in 1948 Palestine may have viewed the prospect of Jewish sovereignty as a valuable opportunity, the Arab leadership and “street” agreed that for the sake of Arab honor Israel must be destroyed and that those who disagreed were traitors to the Arab cause.

Worse: The threat to Arab honor did not come from a worthy foe, like the Western Christians, but from Jews, traditionally the most passive, abject, cowardly of the populations over which Muslims ruled. So, the prospect of an independent state of should-be dhimmis struck Arab leaders as more than humiliating. It endangered all Islam. Thus Rahman Azzam Pasha, the head of the newly formed Arab League, spoke for his “honor group” when he threatened that “if the Zionists dare establish a state, the massacres we would unleash would dwarf anything which Genghis Khan and Hitler perpetrated.” As the Armenians had discovered a generation earlier, the mere suspicion of rebellion could engender massacres.

The loss in 1948, therefore, constituted the most catastrophic possible outcome for this honor-group: Seven Arab armies, representing the honor of many millions of Arabs (and Muslims), were defeated by less than a million Jews, the surviving remnant of the most devastating and efficient genocide in history. To fall to people so low on the scale that it is dishonorable even to fight them—nothing could be more devastating.

And this humiliating event occurred on center stage of the new postwar global community, before whom the Arab league representatives had openly bragged about their upcoming slaughters. In the history of a global public, never has any single and so huge a group suffered so much dishonor and shame in the eyes of so great an audience.

So, alongside the nakba (catastrophe) that struck hundreds of thousands of the Arab inhabitants of the former British Mandate Palestine, we find yet another, much greater psychological catastrophe that struck the entire Arab world and especially its leaders: a humiliation so immense that Arab political culture and discourse could not absorb it. Initially, the refugees used the term nakba to reproach the Arab leaders who started and lost the war that so hurt them. In a culture less obsessed by honor and more open to self-criticism, this might have led to the replacement of political elites with leaders more inclined to move ahead with positive-sum games of the global politics of the United Nations and the Marshall Plan. But when appearances matter above all, any public criticism shames the nation, the people, and the leaders.

Instead, in a state of intense humiliation and impotence on the world stage, the Arab leadership chose denial—the Jews did not, could not, have not won. The war was not—could never—be over until victory. If the refugees from this Zionist aggression disappeared, absorbed by their brethren in the lands to which they fled, this would acknowledge the intolerable: that Israel had won. And so, driven by rage and denial, the Arab honour group redoubled the catastrophe of its own refugees: They made them suffer in camps, frozen in time at the moment of the humiliation, waiting and fighting to reverse that Zionist victory that could not be acknowledged. The continued suffering of these sacrificial victims on the altar of Arab pride called out to the Arab world for vengeance against the Jews.

The Arab leadership’s interpretation of honour had them responding to the loss of their own hard zero-sum game—we’re going to massacre them—by adopting a negative-sum strategy. Damaging the Israeli “other” became paramount, no matter how much that effort might hurt Arabs, especially Palestinians. “No recognition, no negotiations, no peace.” No Israel. Sooner leave millions of Muslims under Jewish rule than negotiate a solution. Sooner die than live humiliated. Sooner commit suicide to kill Jews than make peace with them.

In the meantime, wherever Muslims held power, they drove their Jews out as a preliminary act of revenge.” END

The Jewish nakba

Immediately upon Israel’s declaration of independence, Arab Jews residing for millennia within Arab countries from Morocco to Iraq, were systematically driven out of these lands, with all possessions, assets and properties confiscated by their hosts. Approximately 850 000 Arab Jews (those that were not murdered along the way) made their way to Israel as displaced and disenfranchised refugees.

This was a greater number by far than those Arab Palestinians who, with their progeny, remain as stricken refugees today in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Unlike the hapless Palestinian refugees, the Arab Jews were welcomed to Israel and immediately assimilated into Israeli society. These Arab Jews of Israel now account for more than 60% of all Jewish Israeli’s and their place in the Middle East is secured. Isn’t it ironic that this act of revenge against Jewish populations in the Arab world because of Israel’s existence, created the migration of even more Jews to bolster Israel’s Jewish majority and strength.

Footnote.

The point of this article is not to humiliate Muslims further, although this will not resonate well with them for reasons of honour and shame that they subject themselves to, but rather to offer the opportunity for some much needed introspection. Any person with a three digit IQ, Palestinians included, knows that Israel is here to stay. They also know that Israel is not an aggressive actor, other than to defend its existence and security of its citizens. From the above narrative, it is obvious that the current conflict with Hamas is just a continuation of Arab aggression driven by its humiliation at the hands of the ‘dhimmi’ Jews.

Hamas is caught up in a psychotic self-destructive cycle of murdering its own civilian women and children with Israeli bombs. It also informs Israel that no amount of negotiating or truce will attain for Israel the peace it desires. Dismantling Jewish settlements and discontinuing the occupation of the West Bank will not appease the Arab Muslims, but rather serve to encourage greater effort to eradicate Israel.

There is no moral equivalency between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel has no other option than to continue to crush its opponents whenever necessary, or die, which it will not do. So far, the only victory that Hamas can proclaim is that the Neil Young concert was cancelled in Tel Aviv.

Anyone handing out sweets?

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