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on 19 September 2010
This is an important and well-written book which should be widely read, not only by those interested in Jewish history but by those interested in the history of Islam. The US Amazon site has (September 19, 2010) two excellent reviews by James Comfort and L. King with which I entirely agree and which I cannot better.
Gilbert is far from the first to write a more balanced account than is implied by the myth that "Christians and Jews were always treated well under Muslim rule". This myth was not true in the earliest period of Islam, is not true today (with local exceptions) and as for the periods in between please consult the book. There were indeed periods and places in which oppression by Muslims was markedly less severe than oppression by Christians, but the opposite has also commonly been true. Discrimination has been the rule and attacks, killings and massacres of non-Muslims have occurred throughout Muslim history. Exceptions have occurred mainly during periods of strong European influence. Themes of irrational hatred of Jews have passed freely between Europe and Arab lands, such as the enforced use of discriminatory clothing copied from the Muslim past into Nazi policy and the widespread promotion of translated European antisemitic literature in Arab lands in the present. The number of Jews who fled Arab lands with good reason after 1947 was greater than the number of Arabs who fled Israel when it became independent.
But Gilbert's account is not a demolition job. He recounts the good as well as the bad. The good includes heroic actions by Arabs to protect Jews when their lives were in danger and principled actions by Muslim rulers when Muslim mobs were conducting a Pogrom.
If you want to read nice fairy tales, there are plenty of sources you can use. If you want to understand real history, read Gilbert's book.
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on 18 August 2014
A fairly comprehensive volume, highly nuanced and an absorbing read.
One of the world's most prolific modern historians , Churchill's official biographer and a foremost authority on Jewish history, the Holocaust and the roots of the Middle East conflict , Martin Gilbert takes us from the period of the millenium before the rise of Mohammed and Islam to the present day.
In Chapter 2, The Prophet Mohammed and the Jews he details Mohammed's emulation in some respects of the Jewish faith when creating Islam to his rage at the Jews for rejecting him as the final prophet and his massacre and expulsion of Jews in the Arabian peninsular , after signing agreements with them which he intended to break under the Muslim practise of Taqiya, strategic deceit permitted and actually mandatory in the Islamic faith.
The tribes of Qurayza and the Jews of Khaibar were destroyed and the Jews expelled from the city of Medina which had been theirs for centuries
Down the centuries different Muslim Empires, kingdoms and regimes treated the Jews in their realms in a variety of ways ranging from toleration and even favour (providing they strictly kept to their dhimmni status) to cruel persecution and massacres.
But it is necessary to stress that at all times the future and conditions of the Jews was dependent on the will of the Muslim leaders. They were always expected to accept their subordination as dhimmi community to their Muslim overlords even when they were prosperous and influential.
After an age of tolerance and prosperity for the Jews in the 1000s CE , the invasion of the Almoravids, a puritan Muslim sect from Morocco, meant great persecution for the Jews of Spain, mass forced conversions and massacres and pogroms if they refused.

In Persia, problems particularly became dire for the Jews at the beginning of the Sixteenth Century.
The first Safavid ruler of Persia, Shah Ismail I established Shiite Islam as the state religion, giving the clerical elite almost unlimited control and influence over all aspects of public life.

The clerics emphasised the ritual uncleanliness of dhimnis and Jews in particular, making this the cornerstone of Muslim relations with non Muslims

Dhimnis were barred from building any structure higher than a Muslims, could not ride horses but only donkeys without saddles, could not build any new houses of worship or repair existing ones and were forbidden from making any noises that would attract attention to their worship or burial of their dead.
They had to wear distinctive clothes to identify them, Jews had to wear yellow, and the mandatory yellow patch which was forced upon the Jews by the Nazis had it's origins in Baghdad, and not in Medieval Europe as commonly believed.

The Nineteenth century saw an increase in persecution and atrocities against Jews in the Ottoman Empire including the Levant, in Jerusalem, a traveller recounted that 'Scarcely a day passes that I do not hear of some act of tyranny and oppression against a Jew'.

In his 1854 article in the New York Daily Tribune Karl Marx wrote a hard hitting report of how cruelly Jews were treated in in Jerusalem.
Marx wrote that 'nothing equals the misery and the suffering of the Jews of Jerusalem. They lived 'in the most filthy quarter of the town between the Zion and the Moriah, where the synagogues are situated, the constant object of Mohammedan oppression and intolerance'. While Jews formed a plurality in Jerusalem Marx witnessed how Muslims were the masters in every respect.

Jews were taught that they were the Muslim;s dogs. Zionism meant the total emancipation of Jews and their self-determination over a small country of their own, this meant Jews were no longer the dogs of Muslims and this could not be tolerated.
The roots of Islamic hostility to Israel lie in two areas

The resentment of the Jews becoming equals that the Jewish State of Israel meant as the Jews had always been a despised and subservient minority, The idea of a state-no matter how small-in the heart of Arab Islam, ruled by Jews, was too much to bear, and the insult was compounded by the defeats the lowly-regarded Jews had dealt the Arabs after the many Arab attacks on Israel and the Levantine Jews before that.

The 1930's as Gilbert recounts in Chapter 11 saw a great deterioration in the conditions of Jews in the Middle East, with the spread of Nazi radio propaganda from Germany.

Gilbert includes hundreds of eyewitness accounts by Jews who suffered injury and insult at this time, through all the Muslim countries he includes in his study.

The pogroms carried out against Jews by Arabs in the British Palestine Mandate, of 1920, 1921, 1929, and 1936-1939, coincided as it were, with increasing intolerance of the Jews in the newly independent Arab states of Egypt and Iraq.
As Gilbert states 'From a Muslim perspective...Zionism...which was seen in 1933 as a an unacceptable challenge to Arab national aspirations, and to the deep-seated Islamic perception of the Jew as an infidel '

To appease Arab aggression with the Nazi backed Arab Revolt of the 1930s the British colonial government issued the 1939 White Paper which severely restricted the Jewish immigration to Palestine so there could be no Jewish majority.

Winston Churchill told the House of Commons on 23 May 1939 'So far from being persecuted , the Arabs have crowded into the country and multiplied till their population has increased more than even all world Jewry could lift up the Jewish population. Now we are being asked to decree that all this is to stop and all this is to come to an end. We are now asked to submit, and this is what rankles most with me, an agitation, which is fed with foreign money and ceaselessly inflamed with Nazi and Fascist propaganda'.

Gilbert points out that Churchill was completely correct. As he points out with incontrovertibly researched evidence and documentation and census data of the time 'Between 1922 and 1939 more Arabs had entered Palestine than Jews. There were Muslim immigrants including many illegals from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Iran and Syria, as well as from Transjordan, Sudan and Saudi Arabia...In 1948 many of these Arab immigrants were to be included in the statistics of 'Palestinian' Arab refugees.

With the Second World War anti-Jewish pogroms broke out across North Africa and the Middle East. A Jewish survivor of three days of anti-Jewish riots in the Tunisian city of Gabes recounts the tragic fate of a Jewish women , when a group of Arabs broke into her home. "They grabbed a pot of boiling soup, poured it over her, tortured her in her house, stoned her and then killed her"

The Vichy French in North Africa and the Germans when they occupied Tunisia set up concentration camps there and deported others, to death camps in Europe. They were enthusiastically cheered on and assisted by the local Muslim populations.

In Iraq hundreds of Jews were massacred by pro-Nazi mobs in Baghdad in the June 1941 Farhud.
The Mufti Haj amin al Husseini (who had organized the 1929 and 1930s pogroms against Jews in the Holy Land), fled Iraq in 1941 and first went to Iran, then to Italy and then to Berlin where he
offered his help to Hitler in person.
He then successfully pressed Hitler not to allow the transit of four thousand Jewish children from Bulgaria to Palestine (they were diverted to Auschwitz instead where they were murdered) and was active in the formation of a Bosnian Muslim SS division

But the crux of the book involves the fate of the 900 000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands who fled Arab pogroms with nothing more than the clothes on their back and their battles to gain the same recognition as the 700 000 Arab refugees who left Palestine in 1948.

These are known as the forgotten refugees as their plight is seldom highlighted.Most of them, settled in Israel and are the ancestors of many Israelis, this needs to be highlighted to prove the lie of the idea that Israelis are transplanted Europeans who displaced the 'indigenous Palestinians'
As the Jewish Virtual Library recounts 'Throughout 1947 and 1948, Jews in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Syria, and Yemen (Aden) were persecuted, their property and belongings were confiscated, and they were subjected to severe anti-Jewish riots instigated by the governments. In Iraq, Zionism was made a capital crime. In Syria, anti-Jewish pogroms erupted in Aleppo and the government froze all Jewish bank accounts. In Egypt, bombs were detonated in the Jewish quarter, killing dozens. In Algeria, anti-Jewish decrees were swiftly instituted and in Yemen, bloody pogroms led to the death of nearly 100 Jews. '

The author then gos o to recount the persecution of Jews in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Yemen and after the great benefactor, friend of Israel, and protector of the Jews Shah Reza Pahlavi (May His Blessed Soul Rest in Peace) was overthrown by the bloody Islamic Revolution in 1979, in Iran.

This includes sham trials and executions of Jews accused of 'Zionism' and espionage.

A very important and timely work which examines a subject that has not received enough study.
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on 22 April 2014
This is a compelling account of the mixed fortunes of the Jewish communities in lands that became engulfed in the complex world of Islam. It brings home the size of these communities and the remarkable contributions that they made to the countries that, with justification, especially where their residence preceded the advent of the Islamic faith, they regarded as their homes. The climax is reached with the twentieth century story of the emergence of the state of Israel, prompting expulsions that in scale were more than comparable to the exodus of Palestinian refugees. This should be required reading for anyone seeking a balanced understanding of the issues arising from the events of 1948 and subsequent years.

It is a pity that this edition does not contain the illustrations that the author has gathered.
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on 20 October 2010
Martin Gilbert is to be congratulated on this, his latest work.
He has drawn together a vast amount of information from across the Islamic Empire and, with little or no comment, clearly demonstrates the attitude of traditional Islam towards Jews and those of other faiths. In particular, he demonstrates that the hostility of traditional Islam towards Jews, even today, has little to do with the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, but has been ongoing for 1400 years, since Islam was founded.
Few books have been written about the position and experiences of other faiths living under Islamic rule and Sharia Law and most people in the West are ignorant of this matter. Thus, this well-researched book is extremely useful for reference purposes.
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on 6 November 2010
This is a thoroughly researched and comprehensive account that anyone interested in Israeli/Palestinian relations should read.
It's hard to add much to the other reviews that have been written, but after reading this book, I have the following comments:
1. It's not a book that you can read cover-to-cover in a day or two; you need time to reflect on each chapter, partly to prevent yourself from being desensitised to the accounts.
2. If you have a superficial or popular media-influenced view of Israel, you will find it extremely challenging.
3. The author tries hard to end on a high note, with some optimism towards the future. Whilst this is commendable, I find it hard to share his optimism.

This book is essential to understanding how zionist aspirations developed and were fueled mainly by intolerance.
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on 25 June 2012
Well worth reading. Not anywhere near as good prose as Gilbert's other works. This reads as though he was asked to produce something quickly. Full of references, it is a convincing case that life for Jews, as inferior people under Moslem rule, was harsh for Centuries. But it is an exhausting read, cataloguing one massacre after another. It is the Arab World that populated Israel, their descendants make up more than half the population and they were all robbed, dispossessed and expelled. The book dispels the myth of alien intruders from Europe. Their grandparents have Arabic as their mother tongue. Pity, if this book was an easier read, it could make a significant impact on the Peace process.
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on 24 September 2011
Whilst the author intially sets out in a peaceful and honourable way to pay tribute to the Arab and Muslims lands of the Jewish diaspora, the book in reality quickly become something altogether different. In some ways, he compares Muslim lands favourably with the West's bloody past (neither so bad as the worst, nor so good as the best). Yet it is a tremendous catalogue of unprovoked violence, humiliation, savagery and sheer horror, precisely drawn from historical sources, with Gilbert's characteristic rigour. As one considers the events described, it looks suspiciously like the tip of a much larger iceberg. There is no more effective antidote to the mindless PC whitewash peddled by pseudo-historians of an Andalousian paradise of Islamic tolerance, than a few minutes browsing through these pages. It is difficult not to see the repeated motif of this evil. Its main motivation appears one founded in a jealous, religious determination to disprove the reality of Jewish genius and contribution, and maintain a torn veneer of Muslim cultural supremacy.

As with the Shoah (holocaust) there are scattered islands of nobility and relief from nobler Muslim neighbours, but on the whole the book is a dark and terrible indictment of the midnight of the Middle East, and the mountain of forgotten injustices against the Jews, more especially in the 20th century than in those that preceded it. No wonder that many Middle Eastern Jews who once opposed Zionism found themselves bound to Zion as their only refuge in the gale of malice.
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on 12 October 2010
I have read so many books on the Holocaust so this book seemed like a natural selection and I have been proved right. Well researched , well written,well balanced and unbiased view on the life of the Jewish people under Muslim rule. It explains alot of the historical aspects which led upto the holocaust . I have to say that people who blindly champion the Palestinian cause should read and reflect on the facts rather than form their opinions based on the pitiful journalism we experience in the UK and the proclamations of the likes of George Galloway
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on 12 December 2013
An excellent book well researched keeps the reader interested all the time.Uses history well and uses the facts in their correct context.
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on 18 February 2015
Brilliantly done!

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