“Islam and Islamic values now have a level of immunity from comment and criticism in the Western world that Christianity has lost and Judaism has never had.” [Bernard Lewis]
Professor Lewis’ prophetic observation is reflected in his book, as titled in this essay, which appeared in 2001. Indeed the book could have been written in this era. The insightful Lewis observed in 1979 that the Iranian Shah’s overthrow by Muslim cleric would not lead to social improvement and democracy, but to theocracy, intolerance and clerically controlled mayhem.
Thus spoke the distinguished historian of the Islam Arabic and Middle Eastern words. As such, he faced protesting radical leftist students whom he proved quite wrong. Obviously, this was no surprise given that his studies on the Muslim world, its history, literature and culture at that time, dated over 30 years. This was some time prior to 9/11.
What Lewis was writing about then in “What Went Wrong?” concerns one of the greatest cultural and political divides in modern history. Fact is, that those with power in Muslim societies found it impossible to contemplate the separation of religion and state, or to admit to a changed place in society for women or to entertain or permit the free exchange of ideas, particularly if they were unpleasant.
When discussing Islamic reformers, Lewis posits a split into 2 diametrically opposed camps – the Western oriented movement, who contemplated adaption, imitation and accommodation with modernity, though within a moderately Muslim order of things; and the conservatives, who argumentatively alleged that the reason for the decline was due to traitorous forces within their own societies, those who had strayed from the true path of the Prophet. These forces, the conservative insisted, were even more sinful and deserved more punishment than the infidels themselves.
Bernard Lewis lamented that even if Bin Laden were to be killed and his Qaeda network destroyed accompanied by a reasonable truce in Afghanistan; the problem he identified will remain. This is simply because of a far deeper and larger issue for world society than even the dreadful attacks on the US late into the pervious summer. His summary suggests that only the Muslim world itself can remedy the situation.
Unless otherwise, there will be a continuance in “——-a downward spiral of hate and spite, rage and self-pity, poverty and oppression.” The “otherwise” implies abandoning grievances and victim-hood, settling their differences while joining their talents, energies and resources “in a common creative endeavor, one which would not only be beneficial to themselves, but also to the rest of our planet.
Obviating a horrible and troubled future, would do us all – Muslim and non-Muslim alike, a remarkable service. In an earlier work of Lewis, “The Middle East and the West” , we find other observations of consequence. “The basic objective of Israeli foreign policy is survival” with general agreement that its purpose is best served “—by a pro-Western policy, short of actual alliance.” Further, these policies are based on a normal mixture of tradition and calculation.
We also learn that the official Arab demand is no longer for the immediate destruction of Israel, but for “its reduction to the frontiers laid down in the 1947 partition proposals – obviously as a first step towards its ultimate disappearance.”
A step forward in history. On June 10, 1967 Israel concluded the Six Day War. This resulted in UN Resolution 242 on November 22, 1967. Curiously, among its contents appeared the words “—-inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” How convenient! Never in all the years preceding this time is there evidence of a winner punished for winning a defensive war. The terminology in vogue was always, “To the victors goes the spoils”, dating as far back as the first century B.C. during Julius Caesar’s eight year war on Gau.
However, this assertion is not even applicable in the cited case. For when Palestinian Arabs speak of “—-the occupation of Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem in 1967”, they are referring to land that is not, nor has ever been part of a Palestinian state. It is, in fact, land which has been disputed for decades, land they desire to own as a future “Palestinian” state.
In 1949, there were no universal objections to Israel acquiring additional land. This was simply because the lands acquired were not “seized in an offensive war against another country”, but were disputed lands obtained in a defensive war. In a similar fashion, the West Bank and Gaza were secured in 1967 and the Sinai peninsula was returned to Egypt while in 2005, Israel departed Gaza, leaving it completely intact.
In any event, Israel should never have accepted the subject statement. As suggested, throughout history, nations who have waged war and lost, have faced disastrous consequences. The belligerent was punished with a loss of political legitimacy and enforced demilitarization. Besides being obviously correct on moral grounds, it is essential to suppress the endless appetite of warmongers. Those who would tend to settle old scores.
Answering the question, “What Went Wrong” manifests itself in a history of Arab rejection of peace with Israel. Apart from a few leaders such as King Faisal, who in a January 3, 1919 letter to Chaim Weitzman, wished “the Jews a most hearty welcome home”, the list speaks volumes:
*1917 – British government adopted the Zionist goal on the Balfour Declaration which viewed with favor the creation of ” a National Home for the Jewish people” The “Palestinians” regarded it as “the greatest political crime in the history of mankind.
“*1920 February – Winston Churchill “there should be created in our own lifetime by the banks of the Jordan, a Jewish state.”*1929 August 23-29; Arab riots, 133 Jews killed and 339 injured. This followed the Churchill White Paper of 1922.
*1937 – Lloyd George, British PM when the Balfour Declaration was issued, clarified its purpose to be the establishment of a Jewish state. At that time, the Palestinian leadership refused the British offer of a two-state solution.
*1937 – Peel Commission – “if the experiment of establishing a Jewish National Home succeeded and a sufficient number of Jews went to Palestine, the National Home might develop in course of time into a Jewish State.” The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem al-Husseini demanded that Jewish immigration should immediately cease and that Palestine should be bound to Britain by treaty relationship similar to that enjoyed by Iraq and Egypt etc. By 1939, 144 Jews had been killed
*1939 June – Jan Smuts, a member of the Imperial War Cabinet when the Balfour Declaration was published, said of Palestine that he could see “in generations to come, a great Jewish state arising there once more.” Owing to Arab agitation, the British produced a White Paper limiting Jewish immigration to a pathetic 10,000 per annum.
*1947 November 29 – UN Resolution 181, partitioning the British Mandate into two, uses the term Jewish state 27 times. The other part of Palestine was to become an “Arab state” not a Muslim state nor a “Palestinian” state. The city of Jerusalem was to be governed under the Trusteeship Council of the UN. The Arabs refused to accept Resolution 181 and never declared an independent state, whereas the Jews accepted the partition. 1947-1948, the First Arab-Israeli War, also known as the Independence War – Egypt, Syria and Jordan together with an expeditionary forces from Iraq invaded Jewish Palestine and were defeated . Israel declared independence on May 14,1948.
*1964 -January Arab League Summit in Cairo laid the groundwork for the PLO which was founded in May to encourage “Palestinian” terror attacks. The second Summit in Alexandria during served the purpose for declaring the goal of eliminating Israel.
*1967 Aug 29 – -Sep.1; The ‘3 No’s’ Khartoum, Sudan attended by Arab League [Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen] plus the PLO. to reject any reconciliation with Israel. This was the 4th Arab League Summit add with no to peace with Israel, no to recognition of Israel and no to negotiations with Israel it represented the ultimate rejection of Israel.
*1974 At the 7th Arab League Summit held in Rabat, Morocco, following the Yom Kippur War, the PLO was recognized as “the sole legitimate representative of the “Palestinian people” and affirmation was given to their rights to self-determination in “Palestine”.
The “Palestinians” have stood on the wrong side of history from WW2 to this day. In this age they enjoy greater than equal standing with Israel in negotiations, command the sympathies of the international community, successfully projecting themselves as refugees and victims of events entirely of their own making.
We need also to recall their origin under the guise of their originator, the savage Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the important Axis ally who significantly aided the destruction of European Jewry. In particular, he was responsible for recruiting Muslim soldiers to serve in the Waffen-SS. And through his personal intervention and relationship with Holocaust war criminal Adolph Eichmann ensured that thousands of Hungarian Jewish children, who were to be allowed to flee the clutches of the Nazis were re-routed and dispatched to the gas chambers of Poland.
As per his recent UN address, Abbas is demanding a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. He absolutely rejects the idea that Israel is a nation state and this apparently is the fundamental crux of the conflict. He assumes that all have forgotten the outcome of the Oslo Accords, which rather than a peace process became a war process. He also chooses to forget the over generous offers made by Barak [Camp David 2,000; 73% West Bank plus 100% Gaza] and Olmert [Ramallah 2008; 93.7% West Bank, !00% Gaza and Temple Mount] respectively , which the Palestinians rejected in total.
Hopefully, both Trump and Netanyahu will not repeat the previous stupidity and elect to offer one of several completely different proposals which have been published.
Abbas continues to refute several of the basic Oslo requirements. There is no evidence of school children being educated away from hatred nor a halt to rewarding families of terrorists. Ari Fuld, an Israeli hero and the most recent victim who died at the hands of a Palestinian terrorist, “—knew that the enemies of Israel did not distinguish between Tel- Aviv and Efrat or between the Galilee and Judea.”
It is clear that among Israel’s enemies are included those presently educating teenage boys to desire to stab Jews anywhere and for whom all of Israel is ‘occupied territory.’ “Even the ‘moderate leader’ of the PA, Mahmoud Abbas has made it crystal clear that he holds this ahistorical position.” [JTA September 17, 2018].
In reviewing the history of Israeli and American relationships with Arafat and Abbas and the UK’s experience with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, a single word emerges – truth. One has to wonder how the shallowness of the given leaders could not detect the absence of truth in these less than honorable specimens. But then, they did not study the Koran, nor apparently were they well versed in history.
Bernard Lewis helped to improve the world’s understanding of Islam and the Arab world. Too bad that he was not always listed to.