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08 January 2017

Here’s how we’re getting it wrong on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict OPINION | The historical context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been long misunderstood.


OPINION | The historical context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been long misunderstood. Here’s how we’re getting it wrong on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "...Around 1,300 years ago, descendants and followers of the Prophet Mohammad from Arabia poured out of the Peninsular in an orgy of conquest, expansionism and colonization. They first annihilated ancient Jewish tribes in places like Yathrib (known today as Medina) and Khaybar before sweeping north, east and west, conquering what is today known as the Middle East, North Africa and even southern Europe. Wherever Arab and Islamic rulers conquered, they imposed their culture, language and — most significantly — their religion. At first, Arab settlers and conquerors did not want to intermingle with their indigenous vassals. They often lived in segregated quarters or created garrison towns from which they imposed their authority on native populations. Over time, non-Arab converts to Islam were assimilated into Arab-Muslim society through tribal “clientage,” which Abd Al-Aziz Duri describes in The Historical Formation of the Arab Nation, as “help[ing] to promote both the spread of Arabic and the expansion of Arabisation,” while slavery became rampant and unfettered. Slowly, but surely, the “Arab world” that we know today was artificially and aggressively imposed. Ancient communities were destroyed, cultures suppressed and peoples were expelled. Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians were given the status of al-Dhimma, a people who were heavily oppressed and taxed under law, with few civil rights and constantly under threat of expulsion or annihilation in many parts of the region. Even today, Arab elites refer to their origins in the Arabian Peninsular, and many villages and tribes across the Middle East keep lineage records to stress their origins far from where their families may have resided for generations. In the Land of Israel, which was renamed Syria Palaestina after the Roman suppression and expulsion of the indigenous Jewish inhabitants in 135 CE, some Jewish communities remained on their lands and in their cities for hundreds of years. Even Arab writer Muqaddasi complained in 985 CE that “the Jews constitute the majority of Jerusalem's population.” The Jews, the last people to hold sovereignty and independence in the land, were subsequently harassed and unequally treated by a series of Roman, Byzantine and Muslim conquerors, whether Fatimid, Ayyubid, Mamluk or Ottoman. Still, the Jewish presence never disappeared. Jewish holy sites, like the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb, were built over with mosques, and with the imposition of a new Islamic religious and cultural imperialism, Jews were given limited or no rights of worship..."

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