Did Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Medieval Spain Really “Just Get Along”?

In Neighboring Faiths, a recently published collection of essays, the historian David Nirenberg explores the relationship among the three religions during the Middle Ages. Alex Novikoff writes in his review:

Medieval Iberia has often been held up as a mirror to our own society, and for quite understandable reasons. For some, this bygone era represents a beacon of interfaith tolerance and cultural exchange of the sort we might learn from today. Convivencia (“living together”) has long been the descriptive term of choice, a word that over the years has achieved a sort of sublime meaninglessness. . . .

For others, medieval Iberia is best seen as a harsh and unrelenting mill that, through the grating and grinding of competing cultures and hostile takeovers, churned out some of the worst templates of religious intolerance: jihad and crusade, forced conversions, torture and inquisition, racial exclusion, wholesale expulsions, and more. . . . Yet other scholars . . . favor a more nuanced middle ground of [simultaneous] conflict and coexistence. . . . In this stimulating and deeply learned collection of essays . . . David Nirenberg reaffirms his mastery as an original and challenging expositor in this third category of historical interpreters.

Many who pick up this book will want to know whether Nirenberg has a special message to a modern audience bathed both in the gruesome stories of religiously inspired violence that flood our daily news feeds and in the seemingly endless discussions of the allegedly “medieval” behavior of modern fundamentalist groups. . . . By the close of the book I could not quite tell whether Nirenberg is pessimistic or optimistic about the future of our neighborly relations. . . . . He gently entreats his readers to draw their own conclusions from the terrain that has been mapped and the issues that have been raised. My own conclusion is one that [the poet] Robert Frost, I suspect, must have known all along: good fences don’t make good neighbors; good neighbors make good neighbors. The fences we build play a more ambiguous role.

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Read more at Marginalia

More about: History & Ideas, Jewish-Christian relations, Middle Ages, Muslim-Christian relations, Muslim-Jewish relations, Spain

Demography Is on Israel’s Side

March 24 2023

Yasir Arafat was often quoted as saying that his “strongest weapon is the womb of an Arab woman.” That is, he believed the high birthrates of both Palestinians and Arab Israelis ensured that Jews would eventually be a minority in the Land of Israel, at which point Arabs could call for a binational state and get an Arab one. Using similar logic, both Israelis and their self-styled sympathizers have made the case for territorial concessions to prevent such an eventuality. Yet, Yoram Ettinger argues, the statistics have year after year told a different story:

Contrary to the projections of the demographic establishment at the end of the 19th century and during the 1940s, Israel’s Jewish fertility rate is higher than those of all Muslim countries other than Iraq and the sub-Saharan Muslim countries. Based on the latest data, the Jewish fertility rate of 3.13 births per woman is higher than the 2.85 Arab rate (since 2016) and the 3.01 Arab-Muslim fertility rate (since 2020).

The Westernization of Arab demography is a product of ongoing urbanization and modernization, with an increase in the number of women enrolling in higher education and increased use of contraceptives. Far from facing a “demographic time bomb” in Judea and Samaria, the Jewish state enjoys a robust demographic tailwind, aided by immigration.

However, the demographic and policy-making establishment persists in echoing official Palestinian figures without auditing them, ignoring a 100-percent artificial inflation of those population numbers. This inflation is accomplished via the inclusion of overseas residents, double-counting Jerusalem Arabs and Israeli Arabs married to Arabs living in Judea and Samaria, an inflated birth rate, and deflated death rate.

The U.S. should derive much satisfaction from Israel’s demographic viability and therefore, Israel’s enhanced posture of deterrence, which is America’s top force- and dollar-multiplier in the Middle East and beyond.

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Read more at Ettinger Report

More about: Demography, Fertility, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Yasir Arafat