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.
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.