Dhimmi Roots of the Arab-Israeli Conflict

This was written by Lyn Julius, and published at The Propagandist. Julius co-founded Harif, a UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. Her parents fled Iraq in 1950.

Six little words. That’s all it will take to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. So said Benjamin Netanyahu last week, on the eve of yet another Quartet meeting to kickstart the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process.

Those words are:  “I will accept the Jewish state.”

We’ve been hearing these six little words lately – but never from the lips of a Palestinian leader. In early June Nabil Sha’ath told an Arabic newspaper that the Palestinians will never recognise a Jewish state – only a state of Jews, Muslims and Christians in Israel.

Until Netanyahu decided to make a stand on Israel ‘s acceptance ‘as a Jewish state’,  Israeli negotiators assumed that if Arabs accepted the ‘two-state solution’ they automatically accept Israel as a Jewish state. They do not. Having obtained UN approval in September to achieve their independent state of Palestine on the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinians will move on to their next target : achieving their ‘right of return’ to Israel proper – a surefire euphemism for turning Israel into an Arab-majority state.

The refusal to utter those six little words points to the Arab rejectionism  at the heart of the conflict. As Netanyahu states, ‘The issue is not over what Israel calls itself, but rather over what it is’.

Netanyahu’s appeal echoes that of Abraham Foxman, national director of the influential Anti-Defamation League. Foxman has also called for Arab leaders to utter those six little words. But Foxman goes further. He puts his finger on the nub of the conflict between Muslims and the Jews of Israel. The root of Arab/Muslim rejectionism lies in Dhimmitude.

 “It speaks to the long history of relations between Jews and Muslims  through the centuries, a relationship that in many ways was better than  that of Jews living under Christians in Europe, but was still  characterized by a consistent Muslim belief in Jewish inferiority and  second-class status, Abraham Foxman wrote in the Huffington Post.” Israel, if it stands for anything in the Arab mind, is an assertion  of Jewish equality. This is difficult for Arabs and Muslims to swallow  under any circumstances, but particularly so because that assertion is  being made in the heartland of the Arab world.”

The Muslim denial of collective minority rights is rooted in the  historical rejection of non-Muslim peoplehood. Dhimmitude, a term coined by the historian Bat Ye’or, describes the Islamic practice of denying equality to Jews and Christians who live under Muslim rule. Islam offers them religious autonomy, not  national freedom. The orthodox Palestinian line has been to deny Israel’s existence, but to offer to allow Jews, after Israel’s demise, to live in a “secular and  democratic” Palestinian state. Implicit even in the Saudi peace initiative, hailed by many Israelis as a moderate and reasonable blueprint, is the notion that, in return for ‘normalisation’ ,the Jews of Israel must agree to submit to the traditional cultural and political dominance of the Arabs.

Read the rest of the essay, here.

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