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.

17 replies »

  1. The reason there will never be peace between Israel and the Palestinians is that no Palestinian leader can ever say, “I will accept the Jewish state.” If he does so, and attempts to negotiate a peace based on that premise, he will be marked for assassination. The putative basis for the conflict is political, but it’s always really been about religion. Virtually all Islamic scholars hold that lands that are considered Islamic (i.e., the entire Middle East) can never come under the dominion of the non-believer (Israel & the Jews). Forever.

  2. Indeed. To utter those six words is to to abandon the demographic weapon they have been fomenting for some 60 odd years and should that happen, the Palestinian people would surely (actually don’t count on it) wake up and see that they have been played by their own “leaders” and Arab “brothers” all along.

    I wish they’d start some sort of internal intifada against the current leadership for some lovely young moderate leader to emerge who says “fuck this, let’s live side by side with Israel”. Will never happen though 😦

  3. “Her parents fled Iraq in 1950.”

    Funny how the Guardian has only ever published articles by as-a-Jew Rachel Shabi, whose parents also fled Iraq, and not Lyn Julius.

    If Shabi ever makes a return to CiF, we should point out this person’s views as an alternative.

  4. The UN resolution 181 of Nov 29, 1947 specifically designated Israel as a Jewish state:

    Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem, set forth in Part III of this Plan, shall come into existence in Palestine ……… The boundaries of the Arab State, the Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem shall be as described……

    So Bibi could have simply pointed out the wording of the resolution and stated that the UN declared Israel to be a Jewish state in 1947 and end of story !

    But Bibi has managed to project himself as someone who will grasp at any straw to delay negotiations that would involve compromise, so it is no wonder that so many regard this “Jewish state” issue as an artificial ploy designed merely to buy time.

    Fortunately he has a willing partner on the Palestinian side who either conveniently fell into the trap or used this convenient excuse to delay negotiations for his own reasons.

    But Israel will be a “Jewish state” as long as it has a strong Jewish majority, even if a resolution is passed declaring it a “Buddhist state”. The absurdity of the issue is that Bibi is pursuing policies that will reduce the Jewish majority in the country; no paper declaration will maintain the Jewish state when Jews are no longer a majority.

    • MindTheCrap

      Israel IS an independent Jewish state and will forever be a Jewish state. Resolution 181 recognises this.

      The issue here is that the most of the Arab world let alone the Palestinians do not recognise a Jewish state and therefore in accordance with your argument they do not recognise resolution 181, and until they do they will never have their Arab state carved out of Judea and Samaria

      Religious Arabs who accept the Koran and the Hadiths cannot accept a Jewish state for the reasons that the Hamas Charter clearly states. Nationalist secular Arabs still embrace the culture of shame and honour and can never accept a Jewish state either. They cannot accept the geographical location of a Jewish state that divides and separates the western Arab world in North Africa from that of the East.

      They are also still many Europeans, both religious and secular, who have historically hated Jews, and loathe seeing a successful independent Jewish State. In recent times the influential progressive Left have their own obsessive ideological hatred of the Jew, Judaism and Israel, which has almost become their raison d’être. Many adopt the Palestinian narrative not because they love the Palestinian but because they hate Israel.

      So you see, MindTheCrap the question is not whether Jews or Israelis should accept Israel as a Jewish state. They do. They have sufficient determination to shake off the Yoke of the dhimmi that they experienced in the Arab World, and they have sufficient strength to rise above the oppression and extermination that they suffered at the hands of the European Christian World for the last 2000 years

      The question then is whether the Arabs world and the Palestinians will now accept Israel as a state for the self determination of the Jewish people. Until they do they will be no Palestinian state. In the meantime the dynamic liberal democratic Jewish state will prosper and strengthen, and will start to absorb greater parts of historical Judea and Sameria into Israel proper.

      You may not like this nor accept this, but this is a consequence of the Palestinians not acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state and their forlorn hope that even if there were to be a two state solution Israel could eventually be destroyed as a Jewish state by forcing millions of Palestinian refugees into Israel proper at some later date.

      Nobody is fooled by this strategy; not least the prime minister of Israel. That is why Israel is insisting that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state. Nor is anyone fooled by the proposed Palestinian self declaration this September as another diplomatic strategy to destroy the Jewish nature of Israel, by allowing for a future return of Palestinian refugees..

      In the meantime the stagnant autocratic Arab world will implode and weaken. The Palestinian cause will become less and less achievable whilst the Western world instead of regarding Palestine as a cause célèbre will see it as a burden and drain on its own weakening economies. You are a witness to this very process and it is happening right now.

      • You have spent a lot of time writing absolutely nothing of substance (I appreciate your sincerity and politeness). Whether or not the Palestinians (and Arabs) “recognize” Israel as a Jewish state is irrelevant to the scenario (“Nobody is fooled by this strategy”) that you have outlined; “Paris is worth a mass”, so why should we be fooled by the alternate strategy of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state ? The bottom line is that either you trust them or you don’t : all declarations of principles are irrelevant if you don’t trust them. If you do trust them, the important part lies is the details, e.g. the R-o-R (as you have correctly identified), which will ensure that Israel remains a Jewish state; haggling about functionally hollow declarations can only hinder progress.

        Of course, my argument rests on the assumption that the parties WANT to reach a fair agreement. If they don’t but are being subjected to international or internal pressure, then issues like this are extremely convenient for the leaders on both sides.

        • You are probably correct stating that Bibi is trying to prevent any progress in the negotiations.


          Whether or not the Palestinians (and Arabs) “recognize” Israel as a Jewish state is irrelevant to the scenario

          A mistake. As the world expects from the Israelis to accept the right of the Palestinians to determine their own state as a Palestinian state, we must require exactly the same from them in a final peace treaty – their acceptance of our national aspirations as a Jewish state. It has nothing to do with demography.

          BTW If I had the difficult task to negotiate I’m not sure what could I suggest to the Palestinians – every possible realistic compromise was on the table already (Camp David, Taba, Annapolis) and they rejected all of them. The only possible act what Bibi didn’t do lately and maybe could be done is the continuation of the freeze of the settlement building, but I have very serious doubts that it could be a real possibility in the present political atmosphere whose existence has been caused mainly by the intransigence and unreliability of the Palestinian leaders and their complete inability o deal with the very phenomenon of denying the right of the national existence of the Jews in the Palestinian narrative. (Naturally there are other important roots too…)

          I would be seriously interested to hear your opinion about what should be done to further the possibility of serious negotiations.

          • I note that Ron Lauder, one of Bibi’s closest American friends and supporters,recently made a speech in which he told Bibi to cut out the delaying tactics:

            addressing the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians at a conference that was closed to journalists, Lauder said Israel must present a diplomatic plan in order to regain international support and block Palestinian efforts to obtain unilateral recognition for statehood from the UN in September.

            Lauder also criticized the conditions Netanyahu has set for talks, saying the only way Israel can escape its international isolation is to agree to begin negotiations without preconditions. The international community couldn’t care less about Netanyahu’s domestic political problems, he said.

            • All of the negotiations with or without preconditions lead us nowhere.
              I think that Lauder is correct and Bibi should restart them, but obviously it would be done only for PR purposes. Or do you expect any results now?

              • Even a PR purpose is better than no purpose at all. What bothers me is that Bibi does not seem to realize the obvious – that the recent and upcoming series of crises – flotilla, flotilla, UN vote, etc – are the result of inaction. We can argue about who is to blame and what type of action should be undertaken, but I think we can agree that the undeniable perception is that political stagnation has generated these events. After all, there would be no flotilla if everyone thought that there was progress towards ending the blockade and there would be no UN resolution if there were serious negotiations underway (the Palestinians have had an automatic majority for 30+ years and could have presented the resolution at any time).

                What results do I expect? Everyone knows exactly what the final agreement will be – it hasn’t changed since Oslo via Camp David, Clinton, the Road Map, etc. Negotiations have a momentum of their own. All that is required are leaders – on both sides – who are courageous enough to make decisions and act as leaders. Unfortunately I don’t see any.

                • The we are in full agreement with the exception of this sentence:

                  ,i>…the recent and upcoming series of crises – flotilla, flotilla, UN vote, etc – are the result of inaction.

                  During negotiations the “international public” demanded more and more compromises from Israel and nothing from the other side.

                  Bibi’s politics (or lack of it) definitely doesn’t help, but after the “unity talks” between the PA and Hamas there is nothing that would convince the Israelis about Abbas’ intentions.

                  • But even the “unity talks” between the PA and Hamas has been attributed to Bibi’s lack of action. It is hard to imagine the PA entering into this agreement if it was conducting serious negotiations with Israel.

                    The whole issue of unity as seen by the Palestinians and the Arab world the has been largely ignored by the Israeli media, simply because Palestinian disunity is to Israel’s advantage. However there is widespread anger directed at both parties because their squabbles have damaged the Palestinian cause and there has been tremendous pressure on both sides to patch up their differences and get on with the real issues, particularly since the onset of the Arab spring”.

                    • Whatever you think of Netanyahu and the current Palestinian leadership, surely the author’s main point is the deep-seated religious and cultural resistance in the Arab and Muslim world to recognising that Jews are entitled to political rights. Libertarians at the Guardian are complicit by (inadvertently) supporting the repression of Jewish political rights implicit in support of the Palestinian cause. As Julius says:
                      “It is a tragedy that western libertarians do not see the self-determination of a small, indigenous Middle Eastern people – the Jews – as a progressive cause. Instead they support the Palestinian campaign against Israel – deceptively cloaked in the language of human rights. In so doing, they have become unwitting agents for the re-establishment of Arab and Muslim supremacy over a ‘dhimmi’ people.”

                    • But even the “unity talks” between the PA and Hamas has been attributed to Bibi’s lack of action.

                      You can’t explain the wrongs of somebody with the wrong of its opponents. The Palestinians must be mature enough to see that the inclusion of Hamas in the Palestinian leadership without abrogating their charter and resistance of negotiations is a no-go of the process’s continuation. It has nothing to do with Bibi.

                    • I don’t want to indent this conversation any more 🙂


                      Agreed, but you could easily say that “the deep-seated religious and cultural resistance in the Israeli world to recognising that Palestinians are entitled to political rights”. My points are that (a) negotiations implicitly grant this recognition (b) the aim of Israel as a Jewish state should be achieved through negotiation and not through declarations.


                      I’m not “explaining” in the sense of justifying; I am merely relating what I have seen and heard. We have to accept the fact that Israelis and Palestinians look at the issue of “Palestinian unity” from totally different perspectives. They make their choices and they have to live with the results – as you correctly point out. The question for the Israeli side is whether their decisions can be leveraged or whether they are just being used as a convenient excuse.

  5. It all goes back to 1882. Practically, to the Muslims’ realization in the 1890s that those new Jewish arrivals to Palestine from Russia and Yemen had no intention to live as second-class citizens under the Islamic apartheid system of dhimmitude.

    All the rest—Arab nationalism and the invented but still fake non-Jewish “Palestinian nation”—are either later developments or war by means of deceit. Consequently, all this “pragmatic” talk, such as the fixation MTC here has about the Jewish habitats in Judea and Samaria, is nothing but a pile of red herrings. There is nothing to lose in refusing the Arab imperialists’ every demand. There is nothing to gain in complying to even one demand of theirs.