Saturday, March 17, 2007

Shameless Neocon exploitation of Benny Morris: Jews in the Muslim World

The following is an actually not-bad description of the place of Jews in the Islamic world from the much celebrated and deplored Israeli new-Historian Benny Morris (Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict 1881-1999, [Knopf 1999], pp. 10-11):
Some of the restrictions to which the dhimmi were subjected no doubt originated in real considerations of security. But they came to be codified in Islamic law, and were later invoked and implemented without reference to changing realities. Jews were forbidden to bear arms; were permitted to ride asses only, not camels or horses, and only sidesaddle rather than astride; and were obliged to wear distinctive garb. Other restrictions had nothing to do with security and everything to do with religious and economic discrimination, and Jewish poverty in most of the Ottoman lands in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries appears to have been, in some measure at least, the result of discriminatory practices.

Mass violence against Jews, akin to the pogroms in Western Europe in the late Middle Ages and in Eastern Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was rare in the Muslim world. But it did occur, often when a Jew who had risen to a senior government position fell from grace, died, or excited the hostility of envious Muslims. In 1066 nearly three thousand Jews were massacred in Granada, Spain. In Fez, Morocco, some six thousand Jews were murdered in 1033, and massacres took place again in 1276 and 1465. There were massacres in Tetuan in Morocco in 1790; in Mashhad and Barfurush in Persia in 1839 and 1867, respectively; and in Baghdad in 1828. The Jewish quarter of Fez was almost destroyed in 1912 by a Muslim mob; and pro-Nazi mobs slaughtered dozens of Jews in Baghdad in 1941. Repeatedly, in various parts of the Islamic world, Jewish communities-contrary to the provisions of the dhimma-were given the choice of conversion or death. Usually, though not always, the incidents of mass violence occurred in the vulnerable extremities of the Muslim empire rather than at its more selfconfident core. But the underlying attitude, that Jews were infidels and opponents of Islam, and necessarily inferior in the eyes of God, prevailed throughout Muslim lands down the ages.

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