(This article was first published in At-Takwin magazine of Perdaus, Oct-Dec 2000)
(c) Dr. Ayah Muslim, the writer is a dakwah activist in Singapore
Palestine is a land of great historical and religious significance. It is here that the world’s oldest city, Jericho is located, as is Jerusalem, the city which contain sites holy to all the three monotheistic religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. For the Jews, the occupation of Palestine as the state of Israel is their greatest achievement. For the Muslims, Palestine is perhaps the greatest and most enduring symbol of the impotence that seems to have paralysed many sections of the ruling elites of the Muslim world. It is hard to overestimate the importance of Palestine to the Muslim world and the need to liberate it from the Zionist yoke. There is indeed more than meets the eye in this case. A Zionist state in the middle of the Islamic world did not emerge there as a mere accident of history, and more importantly, perhaps its continuing existence is not the sole concern of the Israeli government. The true extent of the problem is articulated by the late Professor Ismail Faruqi who states, “The Muslim world has tended to regard it (Israel) as another instance of modern colonialism, or at best, a repetition of the Crusades. The difference is not that Israel is neither one of these; but that it is both and more, much more.”
The Basis of the Zionist Claim
The basis of the Zionist claim to Palestine lies in what is claimed by the World Zionist Organisation to be the historic title of the Jewish people to Palestine and the right of the Jews to constitute in Palestine their national home, a claim they unsuccessfully submitted to the Versailles conference in 1919.
The Jews are not the descendants of the original inhabitants of Palestine as historically they were emigrants from Pharaonic Egypt. The Canaanites are the earliest known inhabitants of Palestine. They were joined later by the Philistines and the Israelites. As such it is the Palestinians, if anyone, who have a historic right to the land of Palestine. The Jews did live together with the Canaanites and for a while even ruled the country, but they disappeared from Palestine following the destruction of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
The modern-day Jews who have settled in Israel are mostly descendants of converts to Judaism and possess no racial links with the Israelites or Hebrews who lived in Palestine in biblical times and who disappeared from the country some eighteen centuries ago. Joseph Reinach, a French writer of Jewish origin maintains that the Jews of Palestinian origin constitute an insignificant minority and that most are descendants of other races who converted to Judaism. “To speak of a Jewish race”, Reinach argues, “one must be either ignorant or of bad faith. There was a Semitic or Arab race; but there never was a Jewish race.”
The bible is used as a tool by the Zionists to further their cause, particularly in order to gain the sympathy from the West. The Zionists often quote what they see as God’s promise to Abraham, “To your descendants I will give this land”, the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:7). That would be very convenient for the Zionists had it not been for the fact that this rests upon a distortion, since the term ‘descendants’ is not restricted to Jews but also includes both Muslims and Christians.
Reverend Tony Crowe, commenting on the misuse of biblical texts, observed, “The Bible is a dangerous book, and a happy hunting ground for cranks, who can prove anything by quoting texts out of context, and applying them to contemporary events. Manipulation of the texts was ruthlessly employed by Wisemann, the man behind the Balfour declaration. His biblical language moved the British and American politicians to further the Zionist cause”.
Debates on the biblical validity or otherwise of the Jewish claim to Palestine cuts little ice with the predominantly Muslim Palestinians, but it is an important factor in the legitimisation of the state of Israel in the eyes of the West.
If the Zionist arguments used to justify their claim to Palestine are shown to be weak, then their case is undermined even further by the fact that Zionism itself is an aberration of the Jewish religion, Political Zionism was founded by Theodor Herzl, an Austrian jounalist, who spurred on by the persecution of the Jews in Europe, advocated the idea of the establishment of a Jewish state in either Palestine or Argentina, in a pamphlet named Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), published in 1896.
Uganda was also considered after the British suggested it. Herzl however, wanted Palestine, which the Ottoman Empire (to which Palestine belonged at the time) unsurprisingly refused to relinquish control over. Political Zionism subjugates religion to being merely an expression of the nationalist spirit. By imitating Western concepts of the ‘nation state’ Zionism seeks to establish a type of community radically different from that envisaged by the Jewish faith. Indeed, Zionism acquires an existence of its own, independent of religion, and it is perfectly possible to find professed Zionists even among committed atheists.
Perhaps the most telling attack on Zionism comes from the Orthodox Jews, such as the members of Naturei Karta, a group active in New York and Jerusalem, who oppose Zionism and the State of Israel on religious grounds. In a statement published in the New York Times on April 26 1985, they declared the following: “Zionism in its nature is the very enemy of the Jews and Judaism … According to Jewish law the Jews are forbidden to have their own state before the coming of the Messiah … It is not the ambition of the Jewish people to have a strong navy or air force, and .. the defence of the State of Israel is neither practicable nor desirable. For the name of Israel was usurped by the Zionists to mislead the Jews and the nations of the world….”
The Players Behind The Curtains
The Zionists could not have established the state of Israel on their own without the help of countries such as Britain which particularly through the Balfour Declaration played a crucial role in helping to change the course of Middle Eastern history. The events of this period also show how devastating and shameful the consequences can be when Muslim leaders fall victim to greed and, like the Zionists, begin to slavishly follow alien concepts of nationalism which the West helped to introduce into the Muslim world.
Sharif Hussayn, the then ruler of the Hijaz and of Makkah and Medina, who Faruqi, describes as a ‘naïve simpleton with an air for self-deceiving grandeur’, was approached by the British during the First World War with the suggestion of an anti-Ottoman revolt, with the promise that following an Allied victory over the Ottoman Empire, the whole territory between Egypt and Iran would be his. Hussayn succumbed to this, blissfully unaware that under the Sykes-Pocot agreement that very territory had already been carved out into five segments between Britain and France.
The British had in fact made several pledges during this time in addition to the one they made with Hussayn. They had pledged with the Palestinians that they would indeed recognize and help the independence of Palestine from the Ottoman Empire if they were try and achieve this by means of a revolt. It was at about this same time that the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, in a letter to Lord Rothschild, had also made the contradictory pledge to the Zionists to help establish a national home for the Jews in Palestine. This latter pledge later became known as the Balfour Declaration.
Zionist Terrorism and Treatment of Muslims
It is not surprising then, that a country founded on such a treachery and utter disregard of the opinions of the original inhabitants of that land, does not pay much attention to international behavioural norms after it has rooted itself so firmly in the land of Palestinians. However, Israel’s barbaric suppression of a people it displaced requires mention.
The deliberate effort of social engineering in an attempt to change the demography of a country whose overwhelming majority was Palestinian began in earnest during the British Mandate over Palestine, from 1922 to 1948. During this period the Jewish population increased more than ten fold from 56,000 in 1918 to 608,239 in 1946, out of a total population of 1,972,560. It goes without mention that this was blatantly against the wishes of the Palestinian people, who manifested their anger in the form of riots and a civil war lasting from 1936 to 1939.
Concerned about this ensuring civil disorder, the British government announced in a White Paper in 1939 that it intended to limit Jewish immigration into Palestine and to grant Palestine its independence. Belated though it was, this angered the Jews who unleashed a campaign of terror directed at the British and Palestinians alike. It was during this period that the Jewish terrorists blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the seat of the then government, killing ninety-one of its most senior officials. They also blew up hundreds of homes and bombed many Arab market squares, and thus subjecting the Palestinians to live in terror in their own country.
Indeed, as could only be expected, when these same Zionist terrorists had all the trappings of a state behind them after their declaration of a state of Israel in 1948, they purposely saw to it that as many Palestinians as possible were made to leave the country. “Rarely in history – at least in modern history,” writes Henry Cattan, a distinguished international authority on the Palestinian issue, “has a majority of the population of a country been forcibly displaced and uprooted by a militant minority of foreign origin. Yet this happens in Palestine in 1948 when nearly a million Palestinians were expelled or otherwise forced to leave their homes”. Cattan obviously wrote this before the horrors of Bosnia or even Rwanda, but the Palestinian case was different to either of these latter tragedies.
The savage acts of Zionist terrorists were undoubtedly behind much of the Palestinian exodus. Certainly the exodus of 1948 can be ascribed primarily to their Deir Yassin massacre, whereby on April 9 1948 the Irgun (a terrorist organization led by Menachem Begin) massacred 300 men, women and children “without any military reason or provocation of any kind”, as reported by the Chief Delegate of the International Red Cross, Jacques de Reyneir.
The massacre achieved its purpose of terrorizing the Palestinians into leaving their country. In a bitter twist of Middle Eastern history, even a massacre of this magnitude however, was not allowed to stand in the way between its leader, Menachem Begin and his subsequent appointment as Israel’s Prime Minister, and in addition to this, a Nobel Peace Prize. As a matter of fact, Israel to the present day has been implicated in innumerable violations of human rights with regards to the Palestinians.
To try and list the instances where families were usurped from their houses, properties destroyed and lives taken indiscriminately would be impractical. Suffice it to mention that Israel has been shown to have played a leading role in the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon, on September 16 1982, as a result of which some 3,000 to 3,500 people lost their lives in a savage act of genocide. The act of massacring the civilians was itself carried out by Lebanese Phalangists.
The Phalangist Christians, hostile to the Palestinian presence in Lebanon (with the Palestinians having been driven out of Palestine by the Israelis) were manipulated and exploited by the Israelis who is secret forged an alliance with the Phalangists. The massacre was a culmination of Israel’s efforts in this regard.
Muslim Treatment of Jews
In contrast, it is a well-known fact that it was under Islamic rule in Spain that the Jews enjoyed maximum peace and security and were able to prosper. In the face of persecution by Europe, Jews saw Muslim Spain as a safe place where they could reside and take advantage of the unique justice and security that only Islam could provide. Cattan points out that during Islamic rule in Palestine the countries demographic structure was not changed. “It is essential to observe that the Arabs did not colonise Palestine. They brought to the country no immigrants, but only their religion and culture.”
There can be no greater contrast between the gentleness, the kindness and the tolerance that the Muslims have shown toward the Jew at a time when Islam was a great world power. Even from a position of great strength Muslims did not forget their religious duties. Contrast that to the deceit, the barbarity and the contempt that the Zionists have shown towards Muslims (and Christians) of Palestine. Europe’s guilty conscious led it to seek a home for the Jews after the persecution they had dispensed upon them. The price for Europe’s mistakes is being paid by Muslims of the Middle East.
The Zionists habitually refer back to the days when they were gassed simply because of their religion and invoke those sentiments of sorrow and guilt in the Western mindset whenever the Jews are in a position of weakness. The thought is never entertained that the Palestinians might have a valid case in that Palestine is in fact their original home. It is very hard to ignore the fact that Israel and her allies are able with impunity to completely disregard the opinions of the Palestinian people and depict the efforts of those who wish to liberate their own country from the occupying power as terrorists, intent upon killing ‘innocent settlers’. The dark days of Israeli and Zionist terrorism are conveniently consigned to the dustbin of history.
The issue of Palestine is inextricably linked to a wider question of Islam’s role in the world. When it comes to justice, Muslims have very few friends in the wider community. Muslims must learn to treat issues like Palestine, Bosnia, Chechnya and Kashmir as inter-linked. To liberate one will require the resources of the entire Muslim world. The same forces that ensure Palestine is not liberated are also preoccupied with suppressing the Islamic movement wherever it raises its head. For Muslim rulers the history of Palestine and its present state of affairs stands as a damming indictment upon their inaction. As a people we will not succeed until we decide to look back at the only remaining alternative. The Islamic solution will not be easy to apply, but we must try and keep faith in Allah.
It is apt to end with a quote from a sermon delivered in 1991 in Hebron. In it the Imam, Sheikh Abdul Karim, marvelously encapsulates the extent of the change that has occurred in people’s attitude towards the Palestinian issue and lends us hope for the future. He observed “Ten years ago, this mosque contained only the old and the indignant. Today I see before me the young and the educated. Ten years ago this mosque taught only a few children. Today it has replaced the schools which the Jews have denied us. At last, the people have learnt that Palestine is an Islamic issue, and that God alone can deliver us from this oppression.”