The 7th-Century Massacre of Arabian Jews, and Its Legacy

Two months ago, a crowd of protestors gathered in front of the Amsterdam Holocaust memorial, chanting an Arabic refrain, now familiar from such gatherings, that translates as “Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews. The army of Mohammad is coming.” The reference is to a location in what is now Saudi Arabia, and to an oft-forgotten piece of Middle Eastern Jewish history. Lawrence Schiffman recounts this story, which begins in 622 CE, when the founder of Islam moved from Mecca to the city of Medina, which at the time was home to three large Jewish tribes.

This was Mohammad’s first regular contact with a full-scale Jewish community. Jews had a long history in the Arabian Peninsula, probably going back to [the 1st century CE]. There is considerable archaeological evidence for Jewish communities in southern Arabia, much of it in the form of cemetery inscriptions, going back as far as the 4th century CE. By the 7th century, some Jewish tribes had migrated north and establish themselves in agriculture—especially the cultivation of date palms—at Medina. In fact Jews were the majority of the population of this town.

Local Arab tribes had long been locked in a struggle for domination of the town, and they hoped that Mohammad would bring peace. While these tribes swore allegiance to Mohammad and accepted the new religion of Islam, they imposed a simple condition: that their Jewish neighbors who clung strongly to their faith would be protected. Little did the Arabs of Medina know that Mohammad would soon drive out two of the Jewish tribes and slaughter the men of the third, selling the women and children into slavery.

The turning point came after one of those tribes, the Banu Nadir, chose to sit out a battle rather than fight alongside the prophet—because they didn’t want to fight on Shabbat. When he was defeated, he took out his rage on these Jews:

[Mohammad] turned against the Nadir, besieged them, and ordered them to leave Medina. They surrendered [and] departed to the northeast, to the Jewish oasis of Khaybar, proudly marching through the streets of Medina in a caravan reported to have consisted of 600 camels, with music and fancy clothing. Two years later, the men of this Jewish tribe would be killed when Mohammad attacked Khaybar.

Read more at Ami Magazine

More about: Arabia, Jewish history, Jewish-Muslim Relations, Mohamed

How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy