Robert Festenstein

What next?

Day 80. There has in recent days been some discussion about what a post-war Gaza might look like. Egypt has recently produced a proposal which involves – inevitably – Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and a “technocratic Government” being put in place. The withdrawal would take place after phase two of the three-phase plan. According to a recent Times of Israel report:

The second phase would see an Egypt-sponsored “Palestinian national talk” aimed at ending the division between Palestinian factions – mainly the Fatah party-dominated Palestinian Authority and Hamas – and leading to the formation of a technocratic government in the West Bank and Gaza that would oversee the reconstruction of the Strip and pave the way for Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections.

I don’t know what a technocratic government would look like, but I do know that the solution to the hatred coming out of Gaza and Judea & Samaria is not one which can be sorted out in a few weeks. Consider the position with post-war Germany.  This was a country where the Jew-hating government was in control for 12 years, from 1933 to 1945. Prior to the Nazis taking power and certainly before 1930, Germany had been a place of relative safety for Jews. There was no Israel then, and so the safety or otherwise of Jews in any country in the world was based wholly on the attitude of the host nation.

On that subject, the position of Jews in Arab lands varied from country to country with a background of Jews being treated as inferior citizens. They were denied various rights afforded to their Muslim counterparts under the concept of the Dhimmi. This meant that Jews (and Christians) were protected under Islamic law so that the traditional concept of the dhimma (writ of protection) was extended by Muslim conquerors to Christians and Jews in exchange for their subordination to the Muslims.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library:

Dhimmis were excluded from public office and armed service, and were forbidden to bear arms. They were not allowed to ride horses or camels, to build synagogues or churches taller than mosques, to construct houses higher than those of Muslims or to drink wine in public. They were not allowed to pray or mourn in loud voices-as that might offend the Muslims. The dhimmi had to show public deference toward Muslims-always yielding them the centre of the road. The dhimmi was not allowed to give evidence in court against a Muslim, and his oath was unacceptable in an Islamic court. To defend himself, the dhimmi would have to purchase Muslim witnesses at great expense. This left the dhimmi with little legal recourse when harmed by a Muslim.

Dhimmis were also forced to wear distinctive clothing. In the ninth century, for example, Baghdad’s Caliph al-Mutawakkil designated a yellow badge for Jews, setting a precedent that would be followed centuries later in Nazi Germany.

So why is this historic background relevant? Simply because it is that very background that dictates so much of the attitude towards Jews in Israel by their Muslim neighbors. For centuries before the 1948, Jews were considered second class citizens across North Africa and Arabia. Their sudden and abrupt change in status following the creation of the State of Israel has been something which has motivated Arab hostility to the present day. Even before 1948, when it was clear that the Jews were making progress in buying land and creating communities in mandated Palestine, the Arab reaction was manifest; the deadly attacks by Arabs against Jews in August 1929 being a good example.

Back, then, to post-war Germany. After 12 years of Nazi rule, it took many years for Germans generally to come to terms with their defeat. According to work carried out by the University of Illinois, in eleven surveys between November 1945 and December 1946, an average of 47% expressed their feeling that National Socialism was a good idea badly carried out; by August 1947 this figure had risen to 55% remaining fairly constant throughout the remainder of the [Allied] occupation.

Consider that: 12 years of Nazi rule, complete defeat in war and still 2 years later 55% of those surveyed amongst the German population thought that Nazism was a good idea badly carried out.

Contrast then the position of the Arabs in Gaza and Judea & Samaria with hundreds of years of understanding Jews as second-class citizens behind them, constantly being told by their leaders that the Shoah is a hoax and school children being taught to hate Jews and you have some understanding of the size of the task ahead. It is huge. No amount of calling for a ceasefire or demands for a two-state solution will come anywhere close to dealing with this toxic inheritance.

There have been calls for a massive investment to bring about economic growth in both Palestinian areas. This is all very well but without a similarly massive educational programme dealing with the historic attitudes towards Jews, the money will just be wasted.  Currently many of the Western leaders and certainly the media seem to think that the starting point to understand the background between the Jews and Arabs is 1948, despite all evidence to the contrary. In order though to make a success of the future, it is essential that we all understand the structures and beliefs of the past and that means starting hundreds of years before 1948. Failure to do so that will make the task of a peaceful future impossible.  Whether those involved in trying to create a post-war structure grasp this concept remains to be seen.

About the Author
Robert Festenstein is a solicitor based in Manchester with considerable experience in Court actions. He is active in fighting the increase in anti-Semitism in the UK and is President of the Zionist Central Council, an organisation devoted to promoting and defending the democratic State of Israel.