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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demands that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as a “Jewish State.” The Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmud Abbas refuses. Netanyahu demands again and Abbas refuses. Netanyahu tells the US Congress that if only Abbas would recognize Israel as a Jewish State then 90% of the conflict would be over; but Abbas refuses.
One might think that we are witness to two five-year-olds engaged in a playground argument: “Yes you will!” “No I won’t!” “You must!” “I can’t!”
But one would be wrong.
The issue of Israel’s existence as a Jewish State is the very core of the conflict. If Abbas, or any other Muslim leader for that matter, were to agree that Israel is a Jewish state, he would be in opposition to the Islamic religious concepts of “defense of Muslim lands” and of non-Muslims as dhimmi.
Though not found in the Qur’an, the obligation for the defense of Muslim lands is a core concept in medieval and modern Muslim theology, dating back to the 13th century Muslim exegete Ibn Taymiyyah, who declared that all Muslims are obligated to rise up and attack any non-Muslim who takes Muslim land. It is a compulsory duty (fard Ayn) to wage interminable jihad until the Muslim land is reclaimed and again under its divinely ordained and rightful Muslim sovereignty.
There are Muslim scholars who disagree. They quote the Qur’anic references in Chapters V and XVII and elsewhere which state specifically that Allah gave the Promised Land to the Children of Israel as an eternal inheritance. However, Ibn Taymiyyah’s interpretation, that Palestine is Muslim land and must be reclaimed from the Jews, despite the Qur’anic references to God’s promise to the Israelites, seems to prevail in modern Muslim thought.
The concept dhimmi is based upon a Qur’anic source, Sura 9:29, in which Muslims are commanded to make the defeated non-Muslims feel low and subdued. The “Pact of Omar” written during the time of the Caliph Omar II (early 8th century), but ascribed to the 7th century Caliph Omar 1, established a list of regulations detailing the status of non-Muslims under Muslim rule, and circumscribing their behavior. While there is scholarly debate about the extent to which these laws were enforced, it is clear that the position of the dhimmi was subordinate to that of Muslim, and as such the dhimmi could never be a full citizen of any Muslim state, and could never be in a position of authority or sovereignty over Muslims.
Given the high antiquity and religious authority of these concepts, no Muslim leader can acknowledge or recognized Israel as a Jewish state. To do so would be to ignore Allah’s command that Jews (along with other non-Muslims) are condemned to dhimmitude and are not free citizens with their own sovereignty. Similarly, an acknowledgement of Jewish sovereignty and statehood would be an admission that “Palestine” is not Muslim land but is in fact Jewish “Israel.” And, most critical of all, such acknowledgements would mean that there is no basis for declaring a jihad against Israel or against Jews. Instead, by refusing such recognition and maintaining that Israel is an illegal occupier from an Islamic ideological viewpoint, holding Jewish sovereignty over Muslim land contrary to God’s will, Arab leadership can declare the need to maintain a holy jihad until the land is again under divinely ordained Muslim sovereignty.
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