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.

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

For Israelis, Anti-Zionism Kills

Dec. 14 2018

This week alone, anti-Zionists have killed multiple Israelis in a series of attacks; these follow the revelations that Hizballah succeeded in digging multiple attack tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. Simultaneously, some recent news stories in the U.S. have occasioned pious reminders that anti-Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism. Bret Stephens notes that it is anti-Zionists, not defenders of Israel, who do the most to blur that distinction:

Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way from, say, readers of the New York Review of Books: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. . . . Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state—details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it. . . .

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell.

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in [the principle of] separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: to be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian terror