The spike in anti-Semitism right after the latest skirmish between the Palestinian political-terrorist group Hamas and Israel seemingly caught many people off guard even though the same thing happened in 2014. The surprise is rooted in the delusion that the conflict is between two ethnic groups (Arabs and Jews), when in fact it is a religious war between Muslims and Jews, much like the crusader wars between Christians and Muslims centuries ago. The religious battles in the holy land quickly ignite anti-Semitism globally, especially when holy sites are involved.
Sovereignty: Islamic Ottomans versus Zionist Jews
Various peoples have ventured through the holy land over thousands of years, as the small strip of land is the only corridor connecting Africa on one hand, and Europe and Asia on the other. Different races, religions and ethnicities came and went with sovereignty falling under different regimes.
From 1517 to 1917, the Ottoman Turks ruled the region as part of its vast empire. The Ottomans were Islamic and gave preference to members of its faith. Early in its rule, Ottomans kicked Jews off of the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest location, and relegated them to a small part of the western supporting wall of the Temple Mount. That area, the Kotel, has since become the stand-in for Jews for their sacred spot. Similarly, the Islamists forbade Jews from entering the Cave of the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron.
When the British and French defeated the Ottomans in World War I, they divided the empire into distinct mandates which would ultimately become various countries including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Israel. Upon announcing that the Jews would get to reestablish their homeland in the Balfour Declaration which became codified in international law in the 1920 San Remo Agreement and 1922 Mandate of Palestine, the Muslim Arab world went berserk. It was one thing for the far-away, non-Arab Ottoman regime to rule Palestine, but at least they were Muslims. It was an insult to Islamic pride to have the land ruled by Jews.
Goodbye Jewish Neighbors
Once the notion of Jewish sovereignty was introduced, the basic presence of Jews became a problem.
Muslim Arabs slaughtered Hebron’s Jews in 1929, making the British feel that the removal of Jews from the city was the right course of action rather than punishing the murderers. The British would fold to Muslim Arab anti-Semitism again after their multi-year riots from 1936 to 1939, and instituted the White Paper which forbade the Jews fleeing Nazi Europe to enter Palestine, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews.
During World War II, the Mufti of Jerusalem met frequently with Hitler and other Nazi leaders to conspire against the Jews, making sure they were killed and could not flee to Palestine.
After the war, in the shadow of the Holocaust, Muslim nations routed Jews from their lands, with roughly one million Jews fleeing Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere. These were not Zionists but Jewish neighbors who had lived for hundreds of years in Muslim lands. They were attacked simply for sharing the faith with Jews in Israel.
Whether in Europe, the Middle East or North Africa, Christians and Muslims trounced the local Jewish communities.
Toxic Islamic Anti-Semitism
While the Christian world rethought systemic anti-Semitism in the Second Vatican Council of 1965, the anti-Semitic toxicity level continued to spread among Muslims, especially after their defeat in 1967 when they went from smug warriors about to finish off the Jews a mere generation after the Holocaust, to embarrassed losers in just a week.
The 1988 Hamas Charter remains the most anti-Semitic foundational document of any political party ever written. It combines the vileness of Hitler’s Mein Kampf with the Russian forgery Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It blames Jews for starting all wars for profit, controlling the media and global resources as well as “uncleanliness, vileness and evils.” The document calls upon Muslims around the world to fight the Jews and kill them in a messianic jihad. “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it…. Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious…. the Palestinian problem is a religious problem, and should be dealt with on this basis…. Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Moslem people.” The conflict is anchored through the lens of a religious war against Jews and Judaism.
The charter makes clear that the issue is not 1967 borders or even 1948 borders, but that “struggle against the Zionist invaders… goes back to 1939,” the beginning of the Holocaust. For Hamas, the core of the issue is that Jews survived the Holocaust and came to Palestine. The root of the current hastags #Hitlerwasright has nothing to do with a property dispute in Sheikh Jarrah in eastern Jerusalem, but that the Jews continue to exist.
Regular Islamic Anti-Semitism
Not all Muslims believe that all Jews are sinister and must be punished for re-assuming sovereignty of the holy land as they had thousands of years ago. Many are garden-variety anti-Semites.
In 2005, the Palestinians voted a man who wrote his doctoral thesis on Holocaust denial, Mahmoud Abbas, as their new president. The following year they voted the political-terrorist group Hamas to 58% of the parliament. In 2014, the ADL conducted a poll which found that 93% of Palestinian Arabs – almost every single person polled – held anti-Semitic views.
Beyond the holy land, a 2015 ADL poll found that Muslims around the world were two to five times more likely to be anti-Semites than Christians in the same country.
When Palestinians poll themselves they continue to favor Hamas. A June 2021 poll found that 59% would vote for Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas for president. They are overwhelmingly in favor of attacking Jewish Israeli civilians inside Israel.
As further proof that the dispute is between religions and not ethnic groups, Hamas’s biggest sponsors are not Arab countries but non-Arab Islamic countries of Turkey and Iran (which has threatened to wipe Israel off the map). Religion, not ethnicity, drives the conflict.
The Sensitivity of Religious Sites
While Muslim Arabs object to Jews living anywhere in what they perceive as an Islamic waqf, the sensitivity is heightened around religious sites. The Muslim world calls for “days of rage” when anything happens around Jerusalem and especially the al Aqsa Mosque. Even during peaceful times, Muslim Mourabitoun harass Jewish visitors to the Jewish Temple Mount, while they simultaneously leave Christian visitors alone.
The Indignity of the “Jewish State”
Underscoring the religious dimension of the conflict is the refusal of Palestinian Authority President to accept Israel as the “Jewish State,” even though doing so costs nothing in terms of the main desires of Palestinian Arabs which seek sovereignty and to move into neighborhoods where ancestors once lived. Abbas would be willing to forgo an independent Muslim Arab state if he has to simultaneously acknowledge Jewish sovereignty in Israel.
The Broader World’s Embrace of Muslim Anti-Semitism
The non-Muslim world has accepted many of the Muslim charges, seemingly re-connecting with its own historic toxic anti-Semitism.
Only Jewish Israelis moving east of the 1949 Armistice Lines are labeled with the unique term “settlers,” while Muslim Israeli Arabs moving to eastern Jerusalem or other parts of the West Bank are simply called “Palestinians.” Airbnb has one policy for Jews renting homes in the West Bank and another for non-Jewish neighbors renting out their homes. Europe seeks to have distinct labels for products coming from Jewish businesses in the West Bank and a different one for Muslim businesses. The dividing line is not whether the owner is Israeli or Palestinian but whether the Israeli is Jewish or Muslim.
The examples go on.
The two-state solution has been long been marketed as creating sovereign entities for two ethnic groups – Jews and Arabs – but that has always been a myth. The Arabs already have dozens of countries and Palestinian Arabs were content being part of Muslim Arab Jordan from 1949 to 1967 and the Muslim non-Arab Ottoman Empire from 1517 to 1917. The conflict stems from the massive Muslim world’s distaste for the single small Jewish state. The Islamists proposed solution is ideally to wipe the Jewish State off the map. Failing that, making the country exceptionally small, without control of any religious sites, and converted into a bi-national (non-Jewish) state is the most they could accept.
The “Palestinian-Israeli” or “Arab-Israeli” Conflict is actually the “Muslim-Jewish Conflict over the Holy Land.” It is therefore no surprise that flare-ups in Israel rooted in noxious Palestinian Muslim anti-Semitism should ignite the same vile reactions against local Jews around the world, led by regional Muslim fanatics and abetted by other willing anti-Semites.
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