Sunday, July 18, 2010

Jews and Muslims in Post-Israel Middle East

I want to share a very interesting article by Dr. Azzam Tamimi on the relationship between Jews, Zionists and Muslims below. Comments are most welcomed.

Jews and Muslims in Post-Israel Middle East

Azzam Tamimi

It has been fifteen centuries since the Muslims established themselves as a state in which followers of all three monotheistic religions coexisted peacefully and equitably. Until the beginning of the 19th century the Islamic empire, whose terrain extended over three continents, provided an atmosphere of tolerance that, in contrast to the history of Europe and the Western world in general, prevented the progression of ideological and religious differences into physical conflict. Islam, whose values and principles governed the public and private conduct of individuals and groups, recognised the citizenship rights of Christians and Jews within the Islamic State. In accordance with these rights, their blood, honour, wealth, faith and shrines were sanctified. This recognition enabled the followers of these creeds to realise their potential capabilities and thus innovate and participate on equal footing with the Muslims in building the Arab-Islamic civilisation. Muslims never used the term 'minorities' to describe fellow-citizens who followed other religions. The Islamic State provided a safe haven to those oppressed in their own countries. Jews in particular suffered persecution and banishment at the hands of European Christians who blamed them for every single crisis or catastrophe incurred. It was only in Muslim lands that the Jews found peace, security and freedom.

The Muslims' perception of the Jews remained unchanged during the first 13 centuries of Islam. They saw them as People of the Book who, together with the Christians, shared with the Muslims common values of faith and conduct that entitled them to citizen rights in the Islamic state. Such perception began to change after the Zionist movement managed to embroil Jews in its colonial project with the aim of establishing a national home for the 'Jewish People' in Palestine. In the wake of the Second World War, and as a result of the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany, the scene was set for the accomplishment of the Zionist dream. The determination of the world order to enable the Zionists to establish a Jewish state in Palestine turned Jews into enemy number of both Arabs and Muslims. The Muslim hatred for the Jews was augmented by the fall of Arab Jews in the trap of Zionism. Historic homes of Jewish communities, such as the Arab Maghreb, Egypt, Iraq and Yemen, witnessed massive exodus of Jews who migrated to the recently established Zionist entity in Palestine. It turned out later that it was the Zionist movement's acts of terror that intimidated the Arab Jews into emigrating. It was then that the Arabs no longer discriminated between the Zionist invaders who came all the way from Poland, Russia, America, Western Europe or South Africa and the Jews who had been living with Arab Muslims and Christians, and who, for many centuries, shared the same history and civilisation with them.

In spite of the undisguised secularist - even atheist - root of the Zionist project, some Arab and Muslim thinkers deemed it necessary, perhaps useful, to focus on a purely religious explanation for the Zionist phenomenon.

Through a re-reading of history aided by a re-interpretation of the sacred text, these thinkers sought to prove that Jews, by virtue of some inherited characters, have always been corrupt and ill intentioned. But the real help came from Christian anti-Jewish writings. The most influential document in this regard has been the one entitled 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion", which concludes that Jews have hatched a global conspiracy aimed at imposing their control over the world and at subjugating all else to their influence so as to serve their own interests. The occupation of Palestine and the establishment of a Jewish state in it have been said by the believers in this theory to be a crucial part of this Jewish conspiracy.

Some Muslim writers have gone as far as interpreting the Qur'anic narrative vis-à-vis the Israelites and the Jews in light of what the Protocols had claimed. Hostility to the Zionist project may have blurred the eyes of many Muslims from seeing the difference between the Qur'anic chastisement of bad conduct and ill-manners, which some Israelites and some Jews practised - and which Muslims and Christians have been warned from copying, and the Qur'anic injunction concerning the right of Jews, as well as Christians, to Covenant rights the violation of which by Muslims is a sin in the eyes of God.

Undoubtedly, the Zionist project bears full responsibility for this shift in the Arab and Muslim perception of Jews and Judaism. After all it was this Zionist project that embroiled Judaism in its intrigues so as to bestow religious legitimacy on itself and to gain the support of the world's Jewry. The myths of a 'Jewish nation', the 'Land of Promise' and the 'Chosen People of God' were revived in order to convince the Jews, most of whom had initially been opposed to Zionism, to adopt the Zionist solution to the Jewish problem in the West. The ultimate objective had been to persuade the Jews to sponsor the State of Israel, which had been given a theological dimension that transformed it in the Zionised Jewish conscience into 'the end of time Messiah'. The ideology was in the beginning condemned by Jewish religious leaders as an adulteration of Jewish faith that had been predominant until the beginning of the 20th century and which forbade Jewish migration into Palestine with the purpose of settling there permanently. Such an action was viewed by Jewish Orthodoxy as a violation that entailed the forcing of the will of God and that amounted to the sin of apostasy.

Many Arabs and Muslims still do not realise that anti-Zionist Jews, who do not recognise the legitimacy of the state of Israel, do still exist. In spite of the gradual decline in their numbers during the first seven decades of the 20th century, anti-Zionist Jews are now believed to be on the increase. There are indications that the trend of Jewish anti-Zionism is growing. This may, at least partly, be due to the increasing public consciousness of the racist and fascist nature of the State of Israel whose policy and actions contravene the sublime values which people of religion from all faiths respect and seek to protect.

In essence, the Zionist project is a Western colonial enterprise whose success depends on two main factors. The first factor is the determination of a powerful West to see this enterprise continue. The second factor is the weakness of the Arabs and the Muslims who have lost ability to self defend. As for the first factor, so long as the Zionist project serves the purposes of the current World Order, and so log as the economic and military capabilities of this World Order permit it to prolong the life of Israel, no effort will be spared in sustaining Israel. However, no sane person would imagine that this situation would continue forever. The imperialist West is in retreat and its escalating domestic problems will soon preoccupy it and divert its attention from many foreign affairs that have so far been considered strategic interests. The Zionist entity lacks the ability to self-sustain and therefore cannot survive without the U.S. umbilical cord that supplies it with funds and weapons. As for the second factor, the weakness of the Arabs and Muslims is only temporary and will sometime in the future be reversed. Evidently, the Muslim world is witnessing a massive awakening that may be destined to initiate the change from weakness to strength. When Arab and Muslim gain of strength and confidence coincides with the retreat of the West due to the shrinkage in material and military resources and the augmentation of domestic crises, the end of the Zionist project will come and the State of Israel will no longer be.

But, what about the Jews? How will they be perceived by the Arabs and the Muslims? How are they going to be treated? How will the Qur'anic text referring to them be interpreted? Will they, after all, have a place in our region and in our culture, or are we going to annul their right to the Covenant guaranteed to them by God and His Messenger?

Preparation for the post-Israel era should now begin. This would have to include a revision and elimination of false concepts that make no distinction between Jew and Zionists. The first is a bearer of Jewish faith and if not involved in aggression against the Muslims is entitled to the right of Covenant. The second is a bearer of a settler colonial enterprise, an act of aggressor that should be resisted and deterred. This revision necessitates restoring respect to the contextual interpretation of the Qur'anic text which clearly distinguishes in its narration of the history of the Israelites and the Jews between those who do well and those who do not and between those who are righteous and those who are mischievous. It also necessitates exposing fabricated documents such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and discrediting conspiracy theory explanations of past and present events. While doing so respect should be reinstated to the Qur'anic justice-based tadafu' (interaction of forces) theory which is a much more credible explanatory paradigm and which, unlike the conspiracy theory, provides motivation and hope.

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