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.
This is an important issue because it reveals that the prime motivation for the conflict is not borders or water sources or refugees: it is the Arab refusal to accommodate the existence of a Jewish state. Such a motivation, arising from what in essence is Islamic institutionalized religious apartheid, is inconsistent with the sensibilities of 21st century western culture, and would thus have difficulty finding support among western nations. So Abbas and others lie about it. They pretend that a Jewish state is likely to discriminate against its non-Jewish inhabitants – a rather risible claim since non-Jewish minorities in Israel are far better off than any minorities, Muslim or non-Muslim, in Arab lands. Or they argue that a religious definition of a state is inherently racist – beyond risible since they have no such complaint against the Islamic republic of Iran or the self-identified Muslim states of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, or Saudi Arabia.
To further obfuscate the real motivation for their animus toward Israel, Arab leaders and propaganda sources have focused the world’s attention on a variety of issues such as borders, water rights, refugee repatriation, and the status of Jerusalem: all of which could be resolved in peaceful negotiations, if the Arab side were willing to end the conflict peacefully. All too many of our mainstream media outlets and our political leaders have been duped by this obfuscation. And all attempts at resolution have failed because the focus has been on Israel’s concessions to these propagandistic demands, while ignoring the real cause of the conflict: Arab leaders’ unwillingness to accept Jewish sovereignty over what they still consider Muslim land.
But a Palestinian Authority spokesperson let the proverbial cat out of the bag, perhaps inadvertently, earlier this year. Among the “Palestinian papers” released to the world via wikileaks, there is one called “reasons for not accepting Israel as a Jewish state. Among them: “Recognizing the Jewish state implies recognition of a Jewish people and recognition of its right to self-determination….Those who assert this right also assert that the territory historically associated with this right of self-determination (i.e., the self-determination unit) is all of Historic Palestine. Therefore, recognition of the Jewish people and their right of self-determination may lend credence to the Jewish people’s claim to all of Historic Palestine.”
In other words, if Abbas were to acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish state, then he would have acknowledged that Jews have the right to political self-determination and national self-realization, just what he claims for the Palestinians, and just what the Qur’anic concept of dhimmitude denies to Jews. Arab leaders don’t want to do that because that would strengthen the Israeli argument for Israel’s just demand of those same rights. And such an admission would acknowledge that Jews can have sovereignty over Muslims (Arab Muslim citizens of Israel) and over what Muslims call Muslim land. So Abbas must continue to deny the obvious, no matter how ridiculous it sounds, because to not do so will weaken his own arguments. And to admit that the motivation for the animus that so much of the Muslim world bears toward Israel originates in the Islamic religious concepts of dhimmi and of the inadmissibility of non-Muslim sovereignty on Muslim land would be to reveal the real core issue in the conflict: the Muslim religious apartheid ideology of the supremacy of Islam.
Thus, Netanyahu is right to demand recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Since the real motivator for Arab animus against Israel is the Jewish character of the state, there can be no end to the conflict until Arab leaders abandon these Islamic religious concepts. This is not likely to happen any time soon.