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"Jihad" will be defined more fully, later, but for now, consider it as holy war by Muslims. When I was citing the history of jihad, a thoughtful person who intends to be fair asked, "Isn't history a matter of interpretation?"
Good question. My companion realizes that some aspects of history are poorly known. Research may be hindered by the absence, inaccessibility, or destruction of records and by some historians' prejudice.
Narrating history is an art. One selects, organizes, and draws conclusions from relevant facts. The conclusions derive not only from logic but also somewhat from one's values. Different cultures have different values and different historians within some cultures differ in their values. Hence, interpretation does play a role. The scanter the archives, the more guesswork and interpretation are needed to understand them.
Some subjects treated by historians have gaps in the records. For example, relatively recently, experts have begun decoding the non-verbal language of Mayan culture. George Minkoff wrote a history-based trilogy of the Jamestown, Virginia settlement in which he had to interpret and interpolate for missing records. Conquerors and dictators may destroy unfavorable narratives. Historians' profession developed only a couple of thousand years ago, soon after followed by the Dark Ages.
Professional historians now are in a position to know most of what happened in the broad context of jihad and especially within the Arab-Israel conflict part of it. Unfortunately, historians and the presentation of knowledge are becoming less objective.
Let us be clear about what we mean by "objective." Human beings cannot escape some subjectivity. But the traditional, professional historians strive for objectivity. They do not try to mislead. Their instances of subjectivity are minor. Being minor, they do not affect the tenor, major findings, and conclusions of their work. Let us not use minor instances of subjectivity as a warrant for deeming their whole body of work subjective. The exception should not be considered the rule.
But lately, the rule is becoming the exception. So there is getting to be an art in understanding what historians present.
The shift from objectivity to subjectivity has spread from totalitarian societies to democratic ones. Originally, Western religions disseminated eternal values. Westerners developed a certain scholarly integrity. That integrity encourages trust in history books. No longer can that be taken for granted in newer works.
Rising secularism in the West, however cloaked in idealism, assaults the old virtues. There now are multi-culturalists, recently repudiated by three major European leaders. Multi-culturalists contend that all cultures are equally valid, and contradictorily, they tend to demean the Western culture that, for all its faults, led to most of mankind's progress, prosperity, and much of its ethics. How can all cultures be equally valid, when some seek to forcibly destroy and absorb the others? More to the point, if believers in another culture want to kill you, and you think bigoted murder is unacceptable, is that other culture equally valid? Should you give it opportunities to conquer you by welcoming it into your midst? Tolerance does not require practically suicidal policies.
Also now among us are moral relativists, who claim that the situation determines right and wrong. Anthropologists have found cases in which there is some truth to that. Carried too far, however, is the claim that there is no right and wrong and no one truth. They think everybody's opinion equally valid.
How valid would they consider the totalitarian, genocidal Nazi and Soviet ideologies? Totalitarianism is just plain evil. Moral relativists unable to perceive totalitarianism's evil give totalitarians, including Radical Muslims, an opportunity to conquer the world.
Utilizing deceit as they do, totalitarians mass-murder and deny it. Little truth and rightfulness is theirs. Moral relativism about totalitarian imperialism is like moral pacifism. A society that becomes pacifist is a society easily conquered. Non-violent resistance worked in India against the British, but does not work in Iran, which murders dissidents without compunction. Not wise to let contemporary barbarians conquer!
If military aggression is evil, then pacifism that submits to it serves evil. Alas, cultural relativists have drifted so far from their religious roots, that they do not acknowledge the existence of evil, or at least of evil-minded people and ideologies. They hamper realistic analysis and self-defense.
Some Israelis take the Arab side. Many gentiles do not understand how this can be. European reporters accept those Israelis' condemnation of Israel as reinforcement of their own prejudices, without examining the condemnation.
Calling themselves "new historians, some Israeli historians diverged from professional standards, and selected and interpreted their research deliberately from an ideological perspective. Two of the original four, including Ilan Pappe, were active Communists. In their modus operandi, Communists distort what they can for propaganda. A third new historian, Benny Morris, realizes he made mistakes and went too far. He has been trying to correct the original misimpressions he disseminated.
The new historians' ideology was, more or less, anti-Zionist. Many gentiles and Jews alike do not realize that part of the new Left has drifted into collaboration with Islam against Israel. First the Left thought that making concessions to the Arabs would bring peace, though appeasement of fanatics brings violence. The Left never noticed. Then the Left accepted Arab slander against Israel. Now leftist Israeli professors are endorsing boycott and terrorism against Israel. They do not realize they have adopted positions that they formerly realized were extremist. But they call patriotic Jews extremist for wanting to defend themselves. What is more natural and the least extreme in wanting to defend oneself? What is more extreme than jihad, that seeks to murder people because of their religion. The Far Left sides with the real extremists. What is more unnatural than those extreme leftists, who side with those who would exterminate the leftists along with the other Jews?
Many gentiles assume that Jews by definition are loyal to their own people; many Jews do not realize that the traditional Jewish subservience to broader society and a desire for peace have turned into anti-Zionism so antagonistic as to be antisemitic.
How do the new historians operate? As traditional historians Efraim Karsh and Uri Milstein have demonstrated, the new historians scour Israeli archives (often ignoring Arab archives) hoping to find admissions damaging to Israel. They don't find them, but lift parts of them out of context so as to appear damaging. For example, PM Ben-Gurion discussed a theory of expelling Arabs. He rejected the notion, but new historians omit his decision. Instead, they unfairly call it Israeli policy. This is dissembling.
In the wider world, the Western media disseminates the Arab position, which is not factual, and omits Arab crimes against Israel, which are factual. Not only history books, but encyclopedias, dictionaries, and travel books distort history even when the record is clear.
It is one thing to review past archives and find mistranslations or other errors and to find new archives. It is another thing where the record is clear and the "new historians" disguise and deny it.
For example, the original newspaper and radio reports, Arab witnesses, and historians' accounts of the 1948 war, a period which I lived through and remember, describe what happened. The Arabs, including those in the Palestine Mandate, refused to accept Jewish sovereignty in any part of the Mideast. They launched a genocidal war against Israel to prevent it and to grab all the land for themselves. They lost and fled, although the Israelis asked them to stay. (How foolish that request was!).
A relatively few Arabs were expelled to provide security along the border or highland strategic areas.
Why did most Arabs flee? For one thing, Invading Arab generals ordered local Arab populations out of their way or be considered disloyal to them. For another, the Labor Party pretended that rival parties committed an atrocity at Deir Yassin. The resulting notoriety frightened Arabs.
Significantly, tens of thousands of Arabs fled from a number of cities where Israeli forces were conquering but had not yet come into contact with the local population. Israeli forces did not expel them and did not have the opportunity. Why do Arabs and Israeli leftists ignore that solid evidence? They, as did the Communists and Nazis, believe that the ends justify the means. The ends are to conquer Zion; the means are to vilify Zionism.
How do most of the new historians treat this issue? They claim that Israel expelled "the Arabs." They try to lay a burden of guilt on the Jews. In doing so, those new historians and journalists who share their ideology provide grist for the European antisemites' mill. That mill is attempting to grind Israel into dust by making it seem illegitimate, to be dissolved. Israelis who collaborate in that effort really are traitors. One is not supposed to use the word, "traitor." But what else are those who collaborate with efforts to destroy their country?
In reaction to the Arab flight and Israel's successful self-defense, Arab states expelled about twice as many Jews as Arabs who fled from Israel. Muslim Arab animosity really is against Jews, not just Israel.
The problem is that deliberately falsified history guides many people's approach to current events. So does "advocacy journalism," which ignores unfavorable news and slants reporting to suit the editors. Therefore, we discuss here not only history but also current events influenced by concepts of history.
My view excludes religious prejudice. As in the Judaic concept of those who follow the ethical Noahide laws, good people are good people, including Muslims. Whatever other people call their supreme being, how many times they pray to it, and which direction they face, that is their business and not mine. I believe in freedom of religion.
Now consider Islam's and jihad's role in history. The record is clear, but many do not know it and others do not want it known.
Islam, however, is more than a religion. It is a way of life. It combines religion and government, putting the latter at the service of the former. Here are the main principles' of Islam's political and military elements.
Islam demands that everybody submit to it. Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians are permitted to live but only as humiliated, taxed people with few civil rights. Other non-Muslims must convert or be killed. Muslims follow through when they can and are aroused.
Islamic teachings condemn Jews as a whole and in vile and violent terms. To that antisemitism, the Arabs incorporated Medieval Christian elements such as blood libel, and Nazi elements, such as genetic inheritance of undesirable characteristics. In other words, racism. A growing Islamist tendency is not to tolerate Jews to live even if they submit.
In the wars to conquer unbelievers, there were more restrictions in the past than Radical Muslim follow now. Deceit always was one of the permitted means. Thus Palestinian Arab leaders: (1) Give press releases to Western journalists condemning terrorism; while (2) Stimulating terrorism among their own people by thoroughly organizing their information systems to promote and honor terrorism. Arab leaders pretend to be making peace, whereas their demands really are for concessions that would strengthen them in the wars they expect to start. Arafat made that clear to his fellow Arabs when adopting the Oslo Accords, explaining it was part of his plan for the phased conquest of Israel. Radical Muslims in the U.S. pretend they are moderate, but support jihad, which is extremist.
There is some confusion over the differences between conventional Sunni and Shiite Islam and Radical Islam. The Radicals seem to be more actively violent and ignore the more mellow Islamic jurisprudence of a few centuries ago. Many non-Radicals, however, share with the Radicals a wish to impose Islamic law on others. They may donate funds or offer support to Radicals. Their youth are subject to radical recruitment.
Jihad is a founding tenet of Islam. Its primary meaning is struggle to conquer, by arms, diplomacy, deception, enslavement, rape, castration, propaganda, infiltration, intimidation, civil disobedience, abuse of Western law and tolerance, and elections. When Muslim apologists claim that "jihad" means inner struggle, they are hiding the major meaning behind a minor meaning in order to allay opposition. Semantic dissimulation.
The faith's founders fought within the Arabian Peninsula, exterminating its Jews and uniting its Arabs. Then they expanded into the rest of the Mideast, North Africa, the Indian sub-continent, India, and Europe. They built perhaps the largest empire. They call theirs a religion of peace.
Muslim Arabs initiated the massive African slave trade. They raided African villages, much as Sudanese Arabs do now. Sudanese raiders often murder the men and steal and rape the women.
At first, European slave traders bought slaves from established Arab vendors. Later they rounded up their own slaves or bought them from tribal chiefs. We know that the trans-Atlantic crossing cost many slaves' lives. The Arabs, however, imposed such cruel forced marches upon their captives, that a much higher proportion died en route. Millions more.
How many deaths did the Islamic drive cause? Combining deaths from victims of slave raids, gratuitous slaughter in India that Muslim commanders boasted of, and other genocidal purges and terrorism, one estimate is 180 million, still going, and aspiring to nuclear warfare. That number exceeds the combined total of the Nazis (10 million), Soviet Communists (20 million), and Chinese Communists (30-50 million). Bear this poorly known horror in mind when you hear claims that Islam is a religion of mercy and love.
Many non-Arabs, including leftist Israelis, have a host of misconceptions about Palestinian Arabs. Here are a slew of them. If you don't care for a lot of examples that back up the thesis, stop here.
Do peace treaties make peace? Westerners think that peace agreements make peace. Actually, agreements usually codify the peace that developed.
Do peace agreements keep the peace? Likewise, Westerners equate agreements with peace. Hitler, Stalin, and the Arabs made many peace agreements, but broke them. Remember, the totalitarian cardinal principle, deception. They negotiate to advance military goals.
Arafat violated hundreds of agreements, including the ones he made with Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel, all of which he attacked and tried to take over. Jordan and Egypt made peace treaties with Israel, but violated the terms of normalizing relations. From U.S. tax revenues promised as a condition for signing the treaty, Egypt has built a huge army whose doctrine is war on Israel.
Who are the historical peoples in "Palestine?" The P.A. insists that the Hebrews never had temples on the Mount or even lived in Israel before the Arab invasions. The P.A. claims there is no evidence of ancient Jewish civilization there; it illegally excavates in the Temple Mount and destroys ancient Jewish artifacts in the process. I have seen firsthand much archeological evidence of ancient Jewish civilization there. The second Temple is mentioned within the historical record as well as in the Christian Testament. Somehow Christians do not take umbrage at this Muslim slighting of their Testament.
What was Jesus' nationality and religion? P.A. leaders go further and call Jesus a "Palestinian." A "Palestinian" who observes Jewish law and participates in his last seder? The Arab invasion occurred about 750 A.D., well after the time of Jesus.
The Israelites were early inhabitants of what is now Israel, the Territories, and Jordan. When Jordan in 1948 seized Judea and Samaria, it started calling the area the "West Bank." Judea refers to the area of the big Hebrew tribe of Judah; Samaria refers in Hebrew to the Jewish area that guards the rest.
At about the time that the Hebrews were entering the Holy Land, so were a sea people, the Philistines. They were not Arabs and did not speak a Semitic language. By 70 AD., when ancient Rome put down a Jewish revolt in Judea, the Philistines had long been absorbed into the Jewish people. Nevertheless, Rome renamed the area "Palestine" after the Philistines, in order to make people forget the rebellious Judeans.
Then what is a "Palestinian? When Britain was getting its Mandate set up for the Jewish national home, it used Biblical maps to demarcate the boundaries. Nevertheless, it named the Mandate Palestine. "Palestine" never was a country and never had its own nationality except for the Jewish nationality.
Britain illegally severed Jordan from the Mandate area open to Jewish development and in 1946 from the Mandate. Jordan became a Palestinian Arab state.
Then the UN recommended that the rest of Mandatory Palestine still not allocated to any country be divided between Jews and Arabs. Rather than have their own state, the local Arabs preferred war to prevent Jews from having their own state. They took offense if called "Palestinian."
In that war, Jordan and Egypt seized Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. Those people, who now indignantly call Israel an occupier for controlling Judea and Samaria, did not call Jordan and Egypt occupiers, then.
Arafat, born in Egypt, took to calling his followers and himself "Palestinian," not because his people were of a separate nationality, but because by naming his people after the misnamed Mandate area, he made it look as if his people, all ordinary Arabs, were aboriginal there. Actually, about three-fourths of the Arab families there were of relatively recent immigrants.
Is the Arab-Israel conflict one over the alleged occupation? People think that the current strife is because Israel controls Judea-Samaria. The strife started before Israel controlled it. Obviously, the conflict has another origin. Jihad.
Is Israel expansionist? In a recent letter to the New York Times, an official of Iran, which claims surrounding countries and islands, accuses Israel of being expansionist. Based on what? The jihadists started the various wars on Israel, because they were expansionist, consider themselves religiously superior, and believe that their past glory entitle them to conquer the world, as Iran boasts it will do.
Expansionist? Israel withdrew from parts of Lebanon it had occupied in order to fend off terrorist attacks. It never took steps to acquire the area. Israel withdrew from the Sinai, greater in area than all of Israel. Actually, Israel had as good a claim to the Sinai as Egypt. Israel also withdrew from Gaza, a great test of the Palestinian Arabs' professed desire for peace. The Arabs failed that test. From Gaza, those Arabs make more war on Israel than before. Israel offered most of Judea-Samaria to the Arabs, though Israel is more entitled to the area and ceding it would render its borders indefensible. That is not expansionist.
The Palestinian Arabs are expansionist. They already have one state in what was Mandatory Palestine, e.g. Jordan. They teach their people to fight to take over Israel.
Does Israel occupy Judea, Samaria, and Gaza? Israel's reputation is blackened by claims that Israel is occupying "Palestinian" territory and doing so unlawfully.
Under international law, one country occupies another, sovereign state or part of it, if by its presence its people control that area. The occupation is legal if the result of self-defense. Examples of legal occupation are the U.S. control of Germany and Japan after WWII.
Another example was legal Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights in self-defense from Syrian aggression. Later, Israel incorporated the Golan Heights into the State of Israel. You see, a principle of international law meant to deter aggression and to provide security from future attempts at it permits an occupying power to incorporate occupied territory. The idea is not to reward aggressors by automatically returning their territory, so they have nothing to lose, territorially, from aggression. This is important with jihadists, who do not mind losing people and resources but who consider loss of territory to non-believers unacceptable.
Some governments refuse to recognize the incorporation of the Golan Heights and of eastern Jerusalem. It is not proper for them to repudiate international law out of prejudice against another country. They rationalize their contention by citing some parts of international law but omitting parts and explanations adverse to them.
Likewise, some people contend that international law opposes gains from war. The contention is not an ethical advance, it is wishful thinking and ethically backward.
Israel has never occupied "Palestinian territory," because there is no such thing. As stated before, there never was a Palestinian nationality or sovereign state. The PLO Covenant explains that Palestinian Arabs' nationality is Arab. The Territories' legal status is that of unallocated parts of the Palestine Mandate, to which Israel is the primary heir.
Israel should withdraw from all of Judea-Samaria? People who propose that Israel withdraw from all of Judea-Samaria never explain why. Palestinian Arabs never had a country there, Jews did. The war on Israel of 1948 ended in an armistice, which separated Israeli and Jordanian forces at a line between Judea-Samaria and Jordan. That happenstance is not justification for claiming the Arabs are entitled to Judea-Samaria. Ironically, if the Arabs got it, it would be a case of Arabs gaining territory from war and terrorism. Terrorism pressures Westerners to make concessions.
More examples are available, but those suffice to prove the point. Indeed there are such things as facts. Honest assessment of the facts about jihad does not permit significantly different interpretation. What we often read are dishonest assessments, but deliberate dissembling is not bona fide.
Richard Shulman is a veteran defender of Israel on several
web-based forums. His comments and analyses appear often on
Think-Israel. He provides cool information and right-on-target
This essay was submitted April 21, 2011.
May-June 2011 Featured Stories
News On The Web
Richard Shulman is a veteran defender of Israel on several web-based forums. His comments and analyses appear often on Think-Israel. He provides cool information and right-on-target overviews. This essay was submitted April 21, 2011.