The Drought That May Have Led to the Fall of a Jewish Kingdom in Arabia, and Paved the Way for Islam

By analyzing stalagmites in a cave in northern Oman, a team of scientists have found evidence of a severe draught that struck the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula in the beginning of the 6th century CE. Reading the data they collected in the context of the historical record, they concluded that lack of rainfall contributed to the demise of the Jewish kingdom of Himyar that once dominated the region, thus creating a geopolitical vacuum that facilitated the rise of Islam. Ariel David writes:

The Himyarite kingdom was founded in the late 2nd century BCE in today’s Yemen. It gradually extended its control over most of southern Arabia by conquering neighboring states, including Saba (or Sheba), the ancient kingdom whose queen of biblical fame supposedly visited King Solomon. During the 4th century CE, the Himyarite elite abandoned its ancestral polytheistic beliefs and converted to Judaism, followed by an unknown percentage of the broader population.

The choice of Judaism as a state religion may have been a way to maintain neutrality among various rival regional powers: the Christians of the Byzantine empire and of the kingdom of Aksum in Ethiopia, as well as the Zoroastrians of the Persian empire. All these powers eyed the lucrative spice trade of Arabia that enriched Himyar and they eventually played a part in the kingdom’s demise.

Until the 6th century, Himyar managed to fend off foreign encroachment, but around 525 it suddenly fell to an invading Ethiopian force. . . . With Himyar definitely out of the geopolitical picture, the Byzantine and Persian empires were now free to vie for influence over southern Arabia and its rich trade in myrrh and frankincense. But very quickly these two powers would also cripple each other in a long and bloody conflict that lasted from 602 to 628.

With the economic turmoil and political fragmentation of the period it was only a matter of time until the tribes of Arabia united under a new leadership, which they ultimately found in the prophet Mohammad and his successors from the 620s onward.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Ancient Near East, Arabia, Islam, Jewish history, Yemen

What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship