If there is an explicit biblical explanation for this animosity, it goes all the way back to Abraham. The Jews are descendants of Abraham’s son Isaac. The Arabs are descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael. With Ishmael being the son of a slave woman (Genesis 16:1-16) and Isaac being the promised son who would inherit the blessings of Abraham (Genesis 21:1-3), obviously there would be some animosity between the two sons. As a result of Ishmael’s mocking Isaac (Genesis 21:9), Sarah talked Abraham into sending Hagar and Ishmael away (Genesis 21:11-21). Likely, this caused even more contempt in Ishmael’s heart towards Isaac. An angel prophesied to Hagar that Ishmael would “live in hostility toward all his brothers” (Genesis 16:11-12).
The religion of Islam, to which a majority of Arabs are adherents, has made this hostility more profound. The Qur'an contains somewhat contradictory instructions for Muslims regarding Jews. At one point it instructs Muslims to treat Jews as brothers and at another point commands Muslims to attack Jews who refuse to convert to Islam. The Qur’an also introduces a conflict as to which son of Abraham was truly the son of promise. The Hebrew Scriptures say it was Isaac. The Qur’an says it was Ishmael. The Qur’an teaches that it was Ishmael whom Abraham almost sacrificed to the Lord, not Isaac (in contradiction to Genesis chapter 22). This debate over who was the son of promise contributes to the hostility today.
The second part by by Hagai Mazuz
From the day Israel was established, the Muslim world has been hostile towards the State of Israel. This has been increasing over the years, despite the efforts of so many to settle the conflict. Although Israel signed Peace Agreements with Egypt and Jordan, nevertheless, many leaders in the Arab world, including Egyptian and Jordanian officials, make anti-Zionist and even anti-Semitic statements, and oppose normalization with Israel. When asked why, they answer that this peace is between governments, and not between the people of their countries.
Trying to find solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict, politicians and statesmen have spent endless hours with experts on Islam to understand the roots of the conflict. They have usually heard two answers: "The root of the problem is territorial," and "The root of the problem is religious; it stems from the classic Islamic view of Jews as evil."
Muslims often accuse Jews of harassing and plotting against Muhammad, Islam's founder and prophet, a charge abundantly clear since the start of classic Islamic writings, which are filled with anti-Jewish imagery.
In our "post-modern" age, most Western scholars, who are secular, find it difficult to accept the idea that medieval texts can dictate the lives of, or even inspire, people today. They criticize those who see the conflict as religious, arguing that scholars who see the conflict as religious, place too much emphasis on these ancient texts, as both the times and circumstances have changed. For them, these texts are outdated. In short, secular scholars find it difficult to believe that people even still regard religious ideas as relevant.
In talking with the common people in the Arab and Muslim world, however, it becomes clear that for them, these classical texts are as relevant today as when they were written. For the overwhelmingly majority of Muslims, these texts indicate that the conflict is indeed religious, not territorial.
As Muslims view the world, Muhammad was the ideal Muslim. How he acted is how all Muslims should act. So how Muhammad acted towards the Jews in Medina and Khaybar is how Muslims should act towards Jews.
How, then, did Muhammad act?
In 622 CE, Muhammad asked the Jews to recognize him as a prophet and join Islam. When they refused, he turned against them. After Muhammad became stronger in Medina, he instructed the Muslims to terrorize the Jews. Muhammad's first victim was Ka'ab bin al-Ashraf, the leader of one of the three Jewish tribes in Medina. After the Muslims decapitated him, they brought his head to Muhammad who took it and said, "Praise G-d for the death of Ka'ab." (Source: Kitab al-Maghazi [The Book of Muslim Raids Against the non-Muslims], Vol. 1, pages 184-190).
Immediately thereafter, Muslim tradition talks about the murder of the Jewish trader ibn Sunayna by the Muslim, Muhaysa bin Mas'ud. When Muhaysa's brother Huwaysa, heard about the murder, Huwaysa beat his brother mercilessly and said to him: "Much of the fat in your stomach is due the man (i.e., the Jew) you just murdered." Muhaysa responded, "If the one who commanded me (i.e., Muhammad) to slaughter ibn Sunayna would ask me to kill you – my own brother – I would do so." His brother responded, "a religion that can make a brother kill his own brother is a wonderful/amazing religion." Huwaysa immediately converted to Islam. (Source: Kitab al-Maghazi, Vol. 1, pages 190-192). Simultaneously, the Muslims murdered many more Jews in the back alleys of Medina.
In 624, when the Muslims besieged another Jewish tribe in Medina, the Jews gave up. Muhammad wanted to execute them, but one of the powerful non-Muslim allies of the Jews prevented Muhammad from doing so. Muhammad gave in, but exiled the Jews and expropriated their property and agricultural lands. A year later, Muhammad did the same thing to another Medinan Jewish tribe. (Source: Kitab al-Maghazi, Vol. 1, pages 176-180 & pages 363-380).
In 627, Muhammad besieged the last Jewish tribe in Medina. Their powerful non-Muslim ally had by that time died; the Jews had no one to protect them. The Jews then sent a messenger to Muhammad and expressed their willingness to surrender and leave the city. Muhammad said no and told them that if they agreed to surrender, he would appoint a negotiator who would settle the issue. When the Jews agreed. the negotiator Muhammad appointed was the man who had organized the murder of the above-mentioned Ka'ab, and who passionately hated the Jews. He decided that the Jewish men would be executed, and that their women and children would be distributed among the Muslims. About 750 Jews were then murdered in the marketplace in Medina, and heaped into a common grave. Muslim tradition teaches that Jewish blood flowed like a river through the market. (Source: Kitab al-Maghazi, Vol. 2, pages 496-520).
Interestingly, this image has been used over and over again throughout Muslim history. In 2004, for example, when Nick Berg, an American Jew working in Iraq, was kidnapped and then murdered by the Iraqi al-Qaida leader al-Zarqawi, as Zarqawi was about to behead Berg, he said: "I will do to you what Muhammad did to the Jews in Medina."
In 628, Muhammad besieged the Jewish city Khaybar. Before doing so, he sent in assassins to murder the Jewish leaders of the city, thereby terrifying the rest of the people. A bloody battle ensued; the Jews surrendered. Muhammad imposed on them the Jizya tax [for non-Muslims], and they thus became "dhimmis" [officially second-class citizens]. Muhammed also demanded that the Jews turn over to the Muslims half of their crops (note: the Muslims did not know how to raise crops). On the day that the Jews of Khaybar surrendered, Muhammad married to Jewish wife of the leader of the city, whose father Muhammad had previously killed. At the same time, her husband was tortured to death so he would tell the Muslims where he had hidden his treasure. (Source: Kitab al-Maghazi, Vol. 2, pages 440-479).
The victory against the Jews in Khaybar is deeply etched in the Muslim historical memory; it has become a source for mockery of the Jews so much so that it is constantly invoked at every opportunity when discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is very common to hear Palestinians, when demonstrating against Israel, shout "Khaybar Khaybar Ya Yahud Jaish Muhammad sa-Ya'ud, (Khaybar Khaybar, Oh Jews, Muhammad's army shall return!") -- as the Turkish terrorists on board the Flotilla headed towards Gaza shouted just a few months ago.
There is also another version of this slogan - "Khaybar Khaybar Ya Yahud, ila Falastin na'ud, (Khaybar Khaybar, Oh Jews, We Shall Return to Palestine). In this context, the message is to return to "all of Palestine," including Israel's pre-1967 borders, as can been seen on virtually every Palestinian and Arab map.
The Muslim victory at Khaybar also serves as an inspiration for Hizbullah, the Shiite terrorist organization. Its spokesmen constantly invoke the imagery of Khaybar regarding their struggle against Israel, for example, calling the Fajar 5 rockets they fired at Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War "Khaybar Rockets;" and in 2002, the Iranians developed a rifle they named "Khaybar 2002."
Among the Palestinians, it is now an essential and integral part of the education system throughout most of the Muslim world, most notably in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and among Israel's Arabs as well.
Throughout the centuries, these stories have been passed down from father to son, and have become deeply rooted in the Muslim psyche. These images are constantly also used in Friday sermons in mosques, and are a deep source of inspiration for the Islamic terrorist organizations.
This, in short, is the source of the Muslim-Jewish and, therefore, the Arab-Israeli conflict.
More Quotes About "Palestine"
"There is no such country as Palestine. 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria. 'Palestine' is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it".
- Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, Syrian Arab leader to British Peel Commission, 1937 -
"There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not".
- Professor Philip Hitti, Arab historian, 1946 -
"It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria".
- Representant of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations, 1956 -
Concerning the Holy Land, the chairman of the Syrian Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in February 1919 stated:
"The only Arab domination since the Conquest in 635 c.e. hardly lasted, as such, 22 years".
"There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent (valley of Jezreel, Galilea); not for thirty miles in either direction... One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings. For the sort of solitude to make one dreary, come to Galilee... Nazareth is forlorn... Jericho lies a mouldering ruin... Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and humiliation... untenanted by any living creature... A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds... a silent, mournful expanse... a desolation... We never saw a human being on the whole route... Hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil had almost deserted the country... Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes... desolate and unlovely...".
- Mark Twain, "The Innocents Abroad", 1867 -
"In 1590 a 'simple English visitor' to Jerusalem wrote: 'Nothing there is to bescene but a little of the old walls, which is yet remayning and all the rest is grasse, mosse and weedes much like to a piece of rank or moist grounde'.".
- Gunner Edward Webbe, Palestine Exploration Fund,
Quarterly Statement, p. 86; de Haas, History, p. 338 -
"The land in Palestine is lacking in people to till its fertile soil".
- British archaeologist Thomas Shaw, mid-1700s -
"Palestine is a ruined and desolate land".
- Count Constantine François Volney, XVIII century French author and historian -
"The Arabs themselves cannot be considered but temporary residents. They pitched their tents in its grazing fields or built their places of refuge in its ruined cities. They created nothing in it. Since they were strangers to the land, they never became its masters. The desert wind that brought them hither could one day carry them away without their leaving behind them any sign of their passage through it".
- Comments by Christians concerning the Arabs in Palestine in the 1800s -
"Then we entered the hill district, and our path lay through the clattering bed of an ancient stream, whose brawling waters have rolled away into the past, along with the fierce and turbulent race who once inhabited these savage hills. There may have been cultivation here two thousand years ago. The mountains, or huge stony mounds environing this rough path, have level ridges all the way up to their summits; on these parallel ledges there is still some verdure and soil: when water flowed here, and the country was thronged with that extraordinary population, which, according to the Sacred Histories, was crowded into the region, these mountain steps may have been gardens and vineyards, such as we see now thriving along the hills of the Rhine. Now the district is quite deserted, and you ride among what seem to be so many petrified waterfalls. We saw no animals moving among the stony brakes; scarcely even a dozen little birds in the whole course of the ride".
- William Thackeray in "From Jaffa To Jerusalem", 1844 -
"The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is of a body of population".
- James Finn, British Consul in 1857 -
"The area was underpopulated and remained economically stagnant until the arrival of the first Zionist pioneers in the 1880's, who came to rebuild the Jewish land. The country had remained "The Holy Land" in the religious and historic consciousness of mankind, which associated it with the Bible and the history of the Jewish people. Jewish development of the country also attracted large numbers of other immigrants - both Jewish and Arab. The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts... Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen... The plows used were of wood... The yields were very poor... The sanitary conditions in the village [Yabna] were horrible... Schools did not exist... The rate of infant mortality was very high... The western part, toward the sea, was almost a desert... The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants".
- The report of the British Royal Commission, 1913 -