The western-left today thinks that the Jews are oppressive to Muslims in the Middle East. They believe that Jewish Israelis are brutalizing and ethnically-cleansing the innocent "indigenous" population.
In previous decades the so-called "Palestinian narrative" has taken hold of the western imagination. Within that narrative, vicious and militaristic Jews marched out of Europe and violently displaced the native population in the early-middle of the twentieth-century. Jews pushed "Palestinians" out of their native land where, as "Palestinians," they had been living for many thousand of years. Mahmoud Abbas even laughably claimed that the "Palestinians" have a 9,000 year history on that land. He said, "Oh, Netanyahu, you are incidental in history; we are the people of history. We are the owners of history."
If the "Palestinians" are the "owners of history" it must be a secret history that they keep entirely to themselves. I have never heard of a people with a secret history before! The "Palestinians" have lived on that land for 9,000 years and, yet, somehow, history seems to have passed them by. It is a profound mystery. There are no records of a "Palestinian" state on that land. There are no records of the great "Palestinian" artists or leaders or scientists that thrived in the Land of Palestine for all those thousands of years. Yet the foundation of Arab and western-left hostility toward the Jewish Israelis is the idea that they violently displaced the native population. Jews, we are to understand, are illegally "Occupying" - with the Big O - Judea, a land that belongs to Palestinian-Arabs, not Jews.
There is always a charge against the Jews among westerners in every generation.
Every generation they tell us just why Jewish kids deserve a good beating. In previous generations, of course, we were either guilty of killing Jesus or of giving the world Jesus and are, therefore, responsible for the failings of Christianity. We were sometimes thought of as the heinous agents of greedy capitalism or the heinous agents of totalitarian socialism. And, needless to say, in the early part of the twentieth-century, we were the wrong "race." We were considered inherently, essentially, bad people.
In this generation, however, the charge is that we are mean to Arabs.
There are around six million Jews in Israel and something between three hundred and four hundred million Arab-Muslims surrounding them in the Middle East. For reasons having to do with theocratic bigotry, Muslims in that part of the world traditionally despise the Jews and often teach their children to throw stones at us. Throwing stones at Jews in Israel is not a manifestation, as is often claimed, of righteous push-back against the "Occupation," but is a time-honored tradition within Arab culture, grounded in the rankest form of bigotry and persecution of the despised "other."
It was Caliph Omar Abd al-Azziz, who reigned between 717 and 720 CE, who codified the rules of dhimmi status, sometimes referred to as the Pact of Omar or Covenant of Omar, but which I like to think of as Jim Crow for Jews. The first and foremost rule was the paying of jizya tax and acceptance of the conditions of ahl al-dhimma. In Martin Gilbert's In Ishmael's House, we read:
There could be no building of new synagogues or churches. Dhimmis could not ride horses, but only donkeys; they could not use saddles, but only ride sidesaddle. Further, they could not employ a Muslim. Jews and Christians alike had to wear special hats, cloaks and shoes to mark them out from Muslims. They were even obliged to carry signs on their clothing or to wear types and colors of clothing that would indicate they were not Muslims, while at the same time avoid clothing that had any association with Mohammed and Islam. Most notably, green clothing was forbidden...
Other aspects of dhimmi existence were that Jews - and also Christians - were not to be given Muslim names, were not to prevent anyone from converting to Islam, and were not to be allowed tombs that were higher than those of Muslims. Men could enter public bathhouses only when they wore a special sign around their neck distinguishing them from Muslims, while women could not bathe with Muslim women and had to use separate bathhouses instead. Sexual relations with a Muslim woman were forbidden, as was cursing the Prophet in public - an offense punishable by death.
Under dhimmi rules as they evolved, neither Jews nor Christians could carry guns, build new places of worship or repair old ones without permission,or build any place of worship that was higher than a mosque. A non-Muslim could not inherit anything from a Muslim. A non-Muslim man could not marry a Muslim woman, although a Muslim man could marry a Christian or a Jewish woman.
Martin Gilbert, In Ishmael's House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2010) 32 - 33.The unacknowledged foundation of the conflict is Arab-Muslim Koranically-based bigotry against Jews... we children of orangutans and swine. Were it not for Islam, there would be no conflict. Or, another way of putting it is that if Israel was not a Jewish state, but yet another Muslim state, there would be no conflict based on a supposed need for a "two-state solution." In fact, not only would there be no conflict, there would not even be any "Palestinians." The reason for this is because the designation "Palestinian" only came into being so that Arab-Muslims could make their hysterical claims upon historically Jewish land. The great majority of local Arabs did not consider themselves "Palestinian" until the latter third of the twentieth-century. And some even remain skeptical concerning it to this day.
"Palestinian" does not represent an ethnicity any more than "Saharan" represents an ethnicity or "Californian" represents an ethnicity. If we must use outdated terms, then anyone who lives in Israel - a part of the former British Mandate of Palestine - must be considered a "Palestinian." There are Muslim Palestinians and Jewish Palestinians and Christian Palestinians and Rosicrucian Palestinians and Rastafarian Palestinians and Atheist Palestinians. To claim that only Muslims and Christians can be "Palestinian" would be something akin to claiming that only Rastafarians and Rosicrucians can be "Californians." As someone who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, it sometimes seems as if California is, in fact, run by Rastafarians and Rosicrucians, but no one would ever suggest that only some people can be Californian.
Furthermore, it must be understood that "Palestinian," as an ethnic designation, was artificially constructed or contrived. It did not emerge, as other ethnicities have, organically, but was primarily a creation of Yassir Arafat and the Soviets. Even Rashid Khalidi in Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness only finds the first quiet notions of the idea emerging around the turn into the twentieth-century, but everyone who understands the history of the conflict knows that most "Palestinians" only came to see themselves as "Palestinian" in the 1960s with the creation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
Many would suggest that, contrived or not, "Palestinian" as an ethnic or national designation now exists and that as a matter of general human decency, if not liberal ideology, it must be acknowledged. And, of course, the world has acknowledged the "Palestinians" as a distinct people with a history and with rights. What I fail to understand, however, is just why it is that Jewish people are under any moral or ethical obligation to acknowledge a people who only recently came into existence as a people for the purpose of undermining, and eventually destroying, Jewish national autonomy?
Jews may acknowledge the "Palestinians" or we may not. Jews may negotiate with "Palestinians" or we may not. It may even be in Israel's best interest to both acknowledge and negotiate with "Palestinians" or, maybe not. But just why in this world are we under any sort of ethical obligation to acknowledge a people who only emerged as a people for the sole purpose of destroying Jewish freedom on our own land?
I suppose that I am trying to slam the barn door only after the horses have escaped, but I am one of those who has come to the conclusion that the very biggest mistake that Israel ever made was in acknowledging a distinct "Palestinian" people and, therefore, agreeing to negotiate with their alleged representatives, the PLO terrorist organization. Were it up to me Israel would only agree to negotiations with legitimate state actors. Israel may legitimately negotiate with Iran, but it certainly should not negotiate with the Islamic State (IS), which Barack Obama deceptively refers to as ISIL in order to veil the Islamic nature of the group. And just as Israel should not negotiate with the Islamic State, so it should not negotiate with either Hamas or the Palestinian Authority.
Neither represent legitimate state actors and both are entirely riddled with genocidal anti-Semitism.
As we are seeing with the Iranian bomb situation, Israel can no longer afford to allow itself to be pushed around. People respect those who respect themselves and letting the murderers of Israelis out of Israeli prisons, as a concession to Mahmoud Abbas and Barack Obama, does not suggest self-respect, but its opposite. The only way for Jews to have self-respect, however, is to see through the "Palestinian narrative" for the tissue of lies that it represents. Otherwise both Israeli Jews and diaspora Jews must, by necessity, see themselves as complicit in a terrible crime against the innocent indigenous population.
I recommend against it and history backs us up.
Michael Lumish is a blogger at the Israel Thrives blog as well as a regular contributor/blogger at Times of Israel and Jews Down Under.