Wednesday, April 6, 2011

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Martin Gilbert: 'In Ishmael's House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands', part 2.

Inter-faith cultural harmony and nirvana, it was not.

by Ferdinand III

Published in 2010, this book is the best one volume account outlining the history of Jews in Muslim lands including the effects of Dhimmitude – a form of servile second class status to Muslims, that many in the West are so eager to live under. The first review is here. In this second profile we can look at the early origins of the Dhimma contract, first instituted of course upon the Khaibar Jews by Mohammed when he attacked them, unprovoked, under the cover of darkness and after butchering some of their undefended men, gave the Jews a clear choice – submit to Muslim rule as second class slaves, in which 'Islam' [in which Allah and Mohammed are the same of course] owns the land and the production; or die. Pretty simple choice. Nothing nuanced or complicated about that offer. The Jews of Khaibar accepted Dhimmitude, hence the cry today from Muslims when they taunt Jews 'Remember Khaibar'. Remember your slave-status Jew. We will impose the dhimma contract upon you. Dhimmitude is of course a necessary part of tolerance, love and inter-faith harmony is it not?

One of the brilliant aspects of this book, is that Gilbert's facts speak for themselves. For example he lists the history of early Jewish Dhimmitude without making, as I would most certainly, any 'conclusions', and offers no real commentary. His motto; just the facts sir. And the facts are by themselves rather complete and informative. Jews were not only humiliated within Islamic lands from the 7th century onwards; hundreds of thousands or more were forcibly converted to Islam. Pogroms were common, the deaths of Jews a regular occurrence. The capricious character of Moslem rule might mean some self-interested toleration of Jews in commerce, government, the military or in medicine [the most famous doctors in Islamic history were Jews]. But too often the need to tax, to find 'scapegoats', to punish 'ostentatious displays' and to enforce the humiliating second class contract, meant that Jews were assaulted, beaten or killed. There is no denying this. How many Jews were converted or killed by Moslems post 637 AD? Mr. Gilbert does not offer an answer. It is a question that should be answered. The body count of Jewish dead and converted is an important aspect of Jewish history.

And what of Christian anti-semiticism one asks? It is factually true that from 400 to 1097 AD that Jews and Christians lived in tenuous harmony. No pogroms were enacted. This changed after the Islamic invasions. Anti-semiticism which is an important plank in the Moslem political theology, was carried into Christian lands. It is thus a Moslem invention as is Holy War. It is also true that the Jews did aid the Moslems in their successful assault on the Byzantine empire and its key cities in the early days of Moslem imperialism; and later in the Moslem takeover of Visigothic Spain. In fact the Moslem capture of key Spanish or Gothic cities such as Toledo is attributable in large measure to Jewish help. This 5th column activity, would of course quite rightly stoke anti-semiticism in Christian lands during the Middle Ages [something that Mr. Gilibert does not say, but seems to be an obvious fact]. I am not sure how it could be avoided. The allies of your enemy are apparently your enemy. It is also clear that many Jews mistakenly viewed the Moslems, at least in the beginning, as liberators or potential allies against the anti-semitic Byzantine church [which during the time of Heraclius in the 630s AD had started to forcibly convert Jews to Christianity as a reprisal for the Jews helping the Persians capture Jerusalem and large parts of the Byzantine empire].

While the Jews may have welcomed the Moslems in the Levant and elsewhere, the cult of Mohammed viewed the Jews – as Mohammed himself did – as nothing else other than a group to be plundered, taxed and humiliated. The contract of 'Umar or Omar dating from around 640 AD, and written after the Moslem occupation of Jerusalem codifies Mohammed's and Islam's supremacist might over the Christians and Jews:

...Covenant of Omar, which almost certainly dated from this period, and which formally categorized non-Muslims as ahl al-dhimma – 'the People of the Pact'......dhimmis had to pay the jiyza tax to the local ruler and accept the conditions...”

I am sure a PhD somewhere will conflate Omar's oppressive regulations with the US Constitution. Jews were subservient to Moslems. Period.

...They were even obliged to carry signs on their clothing or to wear types and colours of clothing that would indicate they were not Muslims, while at the same time avoid clothing that had any association with Mohammed and Islam. Most notably, green clothing was forbidden.....The property of a dhimmi who died was to belong to the Muslim authorities – not to the dhimmi's community – unitl the heirs could prove their right to it under Islamic (Sharia Law)....A non Muslim man could not marry a Muslim woman.”

Oppression of Jews by Moslems in Moslem states, and the forcible conversion of Jews including Jewish boys and orphans to Islam, were rampant. Jews might rise and do well in Moslem states. In the areas of finance and medicine as Mr. Gilbert states, the Jews could do very well. A Jew was even a vizier in the Ottoman empire, and Jews were also generals in Moslem armies. But in the main, for the average Jew, the Moslem dhimma-contract was anything but a 'ladder up'. It usually with variations in time and space, made them vulnerable to Moslem predations:

The exclusion and persecution of non-Muslims depended on the severity or leniency of individual Muslim rulers....In Baghdad for Abbasid Caliphs were particularly strict in their interpretation of the dhimmi laws: Harun al-Rashid (786-809) (847-861). In two decrees, one in 850 and the other in 854, al-Mutawakkil ordered Christians and Jews to fix wooden images of devils to their houses...”

Now the modern cultural Marxist and howling socialist will tell you that the above era was a 'Golden Age' of Islam [a myth of course]. Rashid is the famed ruler from 'Arabian Nights', a man who was the most glorious and serene monarch in the world at that time....or so we are told. In reality the enactment of dhimma laws during his reign and indeed for most of the 9th century was harsh in the extreme. I don't recall too many historians, media personalities or academics bemoaning the utter humiliation of Christians and Jews who had to afix images of the devil to their homes, or engage in the most ritualized and debasing of dhimmi practices, including in many cases, the payment of the jiyza or head tax in person to the local Muslim ruler, from a prostrated position [a fact which Mr. Gilbert does not reference unfortunately]. The entire ethos of Dhimmitude is to humiliate the subject in question. As the Koran says, 'make them feel subjugated'. Dhimma laws are thus simply employing what Mohammed [who is Allah] wanted – the destruction of Jewish will.

Dhimmitude was in reality a vicious assault on Jews. We know this from the extant records and sources which Mr. Gilbert uses. Historically the entire Mediterranean went into economic and political decline after the Arab conquests. Out of this was birthed the myth and lies about Europe's Dark Ages. The political-economy and social infrastructure in both Western Europe and Byzantine went into a depression. Trade patterns were obstructed or stopped. Papyrus from Egypt was not exported any longer to the Christian world necessitating the use of hides or parchment for writing [facts which Mr. Gilbert does not mention]. Cities and economies went into decline. The wheel was lost in Egypt for 3 centuries. Both Western European and Byzantine sources confirm this general malaise. Thus the Jews in Jerusalem, along with the city's economy began to disappear after 750 and 'When Jerusalem was later conquered by Egyptian Muslims in 878, the city's Jews were persecuted by their rulers, who enforced the dhimmi laws with extreme rigor.' This pattern was repeated for the next 1000 years. Jews either fled areas of Moslem persecution or felt compelled to convert to Islam.

The cultural attitudes of Moslems towards Jews was also one of denigration and ridicule. A fact still witnessed today by Arabs and Moslems who jeer at Jews and demonize Jews in general or in particular. This cultural attitude gives rise to intolerance, pogroms and a general demonization of the Jew as either a non-human [a pig, a cattle, a donkey], or as a human who is inferior [Hitler's untermenschen]. In either case the Jew becomes a prey to whatever a Moslem desires. Quoting historian David Lewis, Mr Gilbert writes:

'Muslim tolerance was based more on condescension than on generosity.'


Where there was no such law prohibiting robbery, Rabbi Hai wrote that all Muslims 'must be regarded as extortionists and thieves'.

The cultural animus towards Jews was wide and deep in the Islamic world. Under something as repressive as a dhimma contract, this must certainly be an obvious truth. Such attitudes could and did give rise to generational pogroms against the followers of Moses:

'[1066 Granada]...there was a savage attack by local Muslims on the Jewish population of Granada, in which an estimated five thousand Jews were murdered'.

Cultural Marxists use Granada as the exemplar of Moslem greatness. How than to explain the above, which is only one pogrom in this city out of half a dozen which transpired over 800 years. In todays world, the Jews would be blamed for the Muslim mob's murders. If only [insert here] had not existed or if only the Jews had not [insert here]; than the peaceful Muslim mob in Granada would have continued to embrace them in the fellowship of love and tolerance. Or something like that.

In any event it is an enlightening and disturbing read. Jews in Moslem lands were not heralded as equals by Moslems. They were viewed as chattel, tax producing knaves and second-class slaves. Maybe Moslems can explain this to us ?  If Islam is charity and tolerance, how to explain the existence of Dhimmis and the dhimma contract ? More to come from Mr. Gilbert.