One of the great lies in the present discourse about Palestine and Israel is the myth of eternal hostility between Jews and Muslims.

Here in Australia we have otherwise intelligent politicians promoting the notion that the Muslims and other supporters of Palestine are a threat to Jews, while the only terrorist act so-far has been the arson attack on a Palestinian-Australian burger shop in Melbourne.

In Germany, the centre of the last major genocide, they are contemplating making opposition to Israel an offence.

“The Bundestag ….would discuss two draft laws that propose imposing strict penalties for alleged antisemitic expression and making citizenship conditional on recognising Israel and keeping clear of criticising it.” [New Arab News, 17 November 2023]

While Europe, not just Germany might feel it has a responsibility to protect Jews given its history, it has extended that protection to Zionism.

Zionism, a form of nationalism, does not represent all Jews

As many Jewish commentators have explained and as many Jewish organisations are now demonstrating, Israel is not synonymous with Jewish, just as the numerous self-proclaimed Islamic Republics are not synonymous with Islam.

The Israeli peace movement has a long history and the work of Uri Avnery, who began public life as an Irgun terrorist, lives beyond him.

In response to the Islamophobic diatribe by Pope Benedict XVI in his Regensburg Address, including that Islam was spread by the sword, he said this was a myth long promulgated in Europe but suiting the US needs of the time.

“In this sense, the quote serves exactly the requirements of the present Emperor, George Bush II. He, too, wants to unite the Christian world against the mainly Muslim “Axis of Evil”.

Uri argued that: “Every honest Jew who knows the history of his people cannot but feel a deep sense of gratitude to Islam, which has protected the Jews for fifty generations, while the Christian world persecuted the Jews and tried many times “by the sword” to get them to abandon their faith.”  [Muhammad’s Sword Gush Shalom, 23 September 2006]

Muslims, Heraclius and the Survival of Judaism

As Heraclius was taking revenge on the Jews for their support of the Persian enemy in Jerusalem in 614, Islam was rising. Forced from the city, Heraclius recaptured it in 629 and carried out a massacre of Jews, then banned them from the city.

In 632 after a dream or a prophecy, in which he was told the circumcised ones would take the Byzantine Empire, he ordered the conversion of all Jews to Christianity.

Judaism may not have survived, but for Islam which was spreading.

In 635 the Muslims took Jerusalem and Jews and Christians became protected as People of Earlier Revelations.

The Caliph Omar (r) was not aware of the Roman ban on Jews from entering Jerusalem but when he was told of the situation he revoked that law.

The good relations between Muslims and Jews lasted for hundreds of years.

Jews, Muslims and the Middle Ages

The writings of Benjamin of Tudela who travelled the Muslim world between 1169 and 1171, is a record of relations.

“In Bagdad there are about 40,000 Jews, and they dwell in security, prosperity and honour under the great Caliph, and amongst them are great sages, the heads of Academies engaged in the study of the law.” [The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela: Travels in the Middle Ages. NightinGale Resources. NY 2010]

Uri Avnery wrote:As is well known, under Muslim rule the Jews of Spain enjoyed a bloom the like of which the Jews did not enjoy anywhere else until almost our time. …In Muslim Spain, Jews were ministers, poets, scientists.”

Maimonides became physician to Saladin and his family.

When the Catholics took all of Spain, Muslims and Jews fled and Jews were welcomed into the Muslim lands where they remained until today, some still speaking Ladino.

Jews, Muslims and Nazis

The response of the Muslims in North Africa to the Third Reich is detailed by Robert Satloff in “Among the Righteous. He undertook this work in order to counter the growth of Holocaust denial amongst Arab nationalists but it demonstrated that Islamic principles had not disappeared by the 1940’s.

Many Muslims took grave risks to protect Jews from the Nazis.

The role of the Paris Mosque in saving hundred of Jews from the Gestapo has also been recorded. [Ruelle and Desaix The Grand Mosque of Paris 2011]

The response of the Arab world to Hitler has been overshadowed by Zionist focus upon the Mufti of Jerusalem who was appointed over more suitable candidates by the British High Commissioner for Palestine, Herbert Samuel, who was Jewish.

Gilbert Achcar in “The Arabs and the Holocaust,” describes four currents in the Arab anticolonial independence movement, none of  which  enjoyed dominance. [Metropolitan Books 2010]

Universal values on racism and religious tolerance outweighed the appeal of the anti-British anti-French stance of Nazi Germany, even though the betrayal of the Sykes-Picot Agreement weighed heavily on the minds of community leaders.

An overall account can be found at “Muslim and Arab response to the Holocaust and World War II.”

The Rise of Anti-Israel Sentiment

The attempt to portray the pro-Palestinian movement, which has shot up all around the world, as anti-Semitic, is failing miserably.

Jews for Peace and the Orthodox Jews who emphasise Torah, not Zionism are a feature of that movement, along with Christians and atheists.

Zionism shares many of its attitudes and techniques with Christian Nationalism American style.

The Israeli coloniser violence we witness on the West Bank is more similar to the gang violence of New York than to Judaism, but then many of the colonisers are from the gun loving Land of the Free.

The massacre of the people of Gaza and the revelations about the killings of Israelis by friendly fire on Saturday 7 October  combined with very amateurish attempts at propaganda over the destruction of the Al Shifa Hospital, have done irreparable harm to Israel from which it is unlikely to recover.