A New History of the Arab World Gets the Story Right—Until It Comes to Jews and Christians

March 8 2018

First published in 2011, The Arabs: A History, by the Oxford Professor Eugene Rogan, has recently been issued in a revised and updated edition. Luma Simms finds it a useful book that admirably covers much ground in a single volume, but one that hews too closely to deeply flawed analyses that have become standard in academia. When it comes to the Middle East’s Jews and Christians, Rogan’s blind spots are particularly noticeable.

Rogan has unfortunately picked up some of the Arab attitude toward the Jews, although he does temper it. The Arab milieu—Christian and Muslim—is anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic. . . . Rogan is not anti-Semitic; but he does tend to be partial to the Muslim Arabs. As an Arab myself, I understand that he is trying to stay true to the Arab perspective, but his sympathies have blurred his objectivity. . . .

One thing stands out here as very peculiar: the author’s silence about what the Arabs did to the Jews after World War II. They killed them, confiscated their property and possessions, and drove them out of Arab lands. Aside from the one paragraph he gives to the pogrom in Iraq in 1941, there’s not much on what the Arab Muslims did to the Jews living in their midst throughout the region in the late 1940s and early 1950s. His being so tied to the Arab Muslim perspective leads him to minimize the virulent anti-Semitism in the Arab world to this day. . . .

Rogan himself consistently uses “occupier” when referring to Israel or Western nations—a noun he seldom uses for Ottoman or Arab conquerors, destroyers, or occupiers. . . . Arabs have maintained for years that the problems of their region would go away if they could get rid of the Jews, and Rogan does little to dispel that myth. The statistics show that the Arab lands have been essentially [rendered judenrein], yet the Arab world proceeds in chaos still. . . .

As for Middle Eastern Christians, Simms highlights Rogan’s highly apologetic treatment of devshirme, the Ottoman practice of kidnapping Christian children, forcibly converting them to Islam, and conscripting them into military service:

Rogan excuses [such practices] as a product of the times. . . . The Arabs maintains this double standard throughout. What is done to Jews and Christians is justified away, but the slightest injury to Muslims—real or imagined—is brought to the fore.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Law and Liberty

More about: Anti-Semitism, Arab anti-Semitism, History & Ideas, Middle East, Middle East Christianity

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war