One of the fundamental things that we are trying to do at Israel Thrives is simply rethink the conflict. Two things, to my mind, could absolutely not be more clear. The first is that the vast Arab majority in the Middle East, including those in Gaza, Judea, and Samaria, have no intention whatsoever of giving up the long war against the Jews. If that much is not clear by now, I cannot even begin to imagine what it will take for people to acknowledge the obvious.
The second thing that is absolutely clear is that the very way we speak on the issue is detrimental to the Jewish people because the language that we use comes from our enemies. We need to wrap our brains around this notion, because it’s harming us and harming Israel. This war, as much as it is anything else, is a cognitive war.
The Arab war against the Jews in the Middle East started off as a street fight by the Arab majority against the indigenous Jewish population. It started in 1920 with riots and pogroms against the Jewish minority, turned to a civil war in November of 1947, became a conventional war (the kind with tanks and formal armies) between between 1948 and 1973, after which it is characterized by terrorism and the international effort to delegitimize both the Jewish people and the Jewish state.
A major element in the delegitimization process is the use of language. Terms like “Occupation” or “West Bank” or “Israel-Palestine” are terms that determine the outcome of the discussion before the discussion even begins, because they immediately, and falsely, suggest Jewish guilt. I’ve talked about this kind of thing before, but it’s vital and needs to be emphasized. The terms above are central to our conversation around the Arab-Israel conflict, yet they are terms which automatically suggest Jewish guilt and Arab innocence. That would be fair enough if these terms reflected actual or historical reality, but they do not. What they represent are Arab and Soviet propaganda terms designed specifically to put the Jews and Israel back on our heals in the face of toxic anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist aggression.
The Big “O” in “Occupation”:
The Big “O” in “Occupation” suggests that the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria is the mother of all occupations. It conveys the notion not only that Jews have no rights to live, and thus build, in that region, which I would submit is illiberal on its face, but that the Jewish presence is somehow the source of all other occupations. How else to explain the use of the Big “O” among the enemies of the Jewish people? Whatever its purpose, the effect of this usage is to create hatred toward Jews. It tells the rest of the world that the Jewish presence on Jewish land is an atrocity that should not be sanctioned or allowed.
“The West Bank”
Judea and Samaria only became known as the “West Bank” after Jordan stole that land during Israel’s War for Independence. It represents the west bank of the Jordan River, but it only became known as the “West Bank” after Jordan took that land and ethnically-cleansed the Jews throughout the region. For four thousand years Judea and Samaria was know as “Judea” and “Samaria,” but once the Jordanians captured Jewish land they sought to remove any Jewish association with it, thus they use the term “West Bank.” For obvious reasons the Arabs are not going to call Judea “Judea” because out of what they take to be religious necessity they refuse to allow Jewish sovereignty on any part of Jewish land.
There is no “Israel-Palestine Conflict.” There is the Arab war against the Jews in the Middle East, or perhaps even the Arab-Muslim war against the Jews in the Middle East, but whatever this thing is it is not limited to the Jews and the local Arabs. On the contrary, the history of the conflict shows very clearly that it is a conflict between if not 1.5 billion Muslims against 6 million Jews in Israel, then at the very least it is a conflict between 400 million Arabs in the Middle East versus the tiny Jewish minority. For thirteen of the last fourteen centuries that Jewish minority has been persecuted under the boot of Arab-Muslim imperialism and religious supremacy throughout that part of the world. The system of dhimmitude in the Middle East kept both Jews and Christians as second and third class citizens for centuries within a system that was never better than was the American system of Jim Crow at its very worse.
This is how Martin Gilbert describes Jews under dhimmitude in In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands:
There could be no building of new synagogues or churches. Dhimmis could not ride horses, but only donkeys; they could not employ a Muslim. Jews and Christians alike had to wear special hats, cloaks and shoes to mark them out from Muslims… A dhimmi could not – and cannot to this day – serve in a Muslim court as witness in a legal case involving a Muslim… men could enter public bathhouses only when they wore a special sign around their neck distinguishing them from Muslims… Sexual relations with a Muslim woman were forbidden, as was cursing the Prophet in public – an offense punishable by death. (pgs. 32 – 33)
The great Muslim poet Abu Ishaq, from the eleventh century put it this way:
Bring them down to their places and
Return them to the most abject station.
They used to roam around us in tatters
Covered with contempt, humiliation and scorn.
They used to rummage amongst the dung heaps for a bit of filthy rag
To serve as a shroud for a man to be buried in…
Do not consider that killing them is treachery.
Nay, it would be treachery to leave them scoffing. (pg. 49)
The fundamental problem is that the Jews are tiny in number because we have been kept tiny in number. The reason that we have been kept tiny in number is because Europeans and Arabs continually tell themselves just why it is that we deserve a good beating and many Jews – immediately the term “progressive Zionist” comes to mind – tend to agree. We have to understand that the reason so many imams scream for Jewish blood in the mosques throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds is not because we’re guilty of something.
The Jews of the Middle East are not the aggressors in this conflict.
They are the victims.
So few people speak obvious truths on this issue, but here’s one. There are about six million Jews with their backs to the Mediterranean surrounded by around four hundred million Arabs who do not want them there and many of those people are willing to use violence to get them to leave.
That is the most basic fundamental fact of the conflict and if you do not grasp that – if that truth is not central to your understanding – then you have no idea what is going on.
Mike Lumish is the editor of Israel Thrives.