Why Arabs and Muslims Will Not Accept Israel as the Jewish State
Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital aroused massive outrage in the Arab and Islamic world. This was for two main reasons — one religious and one nationalist.
The religious reason is rooted in Islam’s conception of itself as a faith whose mission is to bring both Judaism and Christianity to an end, and inherit all that was once Jewish or Christian: land, places of worship, and people. In Islam’s worldview, Palestine in its entirety belongs to Muslims alone, because both Jews and Christians betrayed Allah when they refused to become followers of the prophet Muhammad. Their punishment is to be expulsion from their lands and the forfeiture of all rights to them.
Throughout the history of Islam, Muslims turned churches into mosques, including the Great Mosque of Ramle, the Bani Omaya Mosque in Damascus, the Hagia Sofia of Istanbul, and many Spanish churches. The reason is their belief that Christianity, like Judaism, is nullified by Islam, making churches unnecessary.
According to Islamic tenets, the prophets revered by these obsolete religions are Muslims. These include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Aaron. And according to Islam, King Solomon built a mosque, not a Temple, in Jerusalem. (The 1,500-year gap between the king’s reign and the birth of Islam is irrelevant to true believers.)
Jews and Christians can be protected under Muslim rule by becoming subservient to Islam in what is known as dhimmi status, which means that they are legally deprived of many rights, including the right to own land and bear arms. Dhimmis are forced to pay a head tax (jyzia) and are to be kept in a downtrodden state, as is mandated by the Koran. In Islam’s view, Jews are not a nation but a collection of religious communities to be found in various countries: a Jew in Poland is a “Pole of the Mosaic religion” and a Jew in Morocco is a “Moroccan Arab of the Mosaic religion.”
Suddenly, towards the end of the 19th century, everything changed. Jews began coming to Palestine in ever-growing numbers. The Zionists “invented” a new nation — the “Jewish people” — and decided that a certain part of the House of Islam was their homeland, known as Eretz Israel. They built communities and a protective fighting force even though, as dhimmis, they were not supposed to be allowed to bear arms and were subjected to Islam’s protection.
In 1948, the Jews actually declared a state, despite the fact that they did not deserve sovereignty. Then, in 1967, they “conquered” the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Jews now attempt to pray on the Temple Mount, suggesting that Judaism has returned to being an active, living and even dynamic religion. This brings the very raison d’être of Islam into question. After all, Islam came into the world in order to make Judaism obsolete.
Muslims loyal to their religion and aware of this danger cannot possibly accept the existence of a Jewish state, not even a tiny one on the Tel Aviv coast. To them, Israel as the state of the Jewish people is a theological threat to Islam and only secondarily, a national, political, judicial or territorial threat.
President Trump’s acknowledgement of Israel’s existence by recognizing Jerusalem as its capital was a double whammy for Islam: Trump, a Christian, had granted recognition to the Jews. The outraged Muslim world thought this must be a Christo-Judaic plot against Islam. Trump’s declaration reminded them (along with several Jews) of the November 1917 Balfour Declaration, about which the Arabs continue to rail at the world: “You made the promises of non-owners to those who did not have the right to be given those promises.”
In the weeks following Trump’s declaration, Muslims all over the world expressed their fury at the seal of approval granted the Jewish state — despite its very existence being opposed to that of Islam. Leaders and ordinary citizens, men and women, took to the streets to demonstrate their inability to live with the fact that the most prominent Christian head of state had recognized the capital chosen by the Jewish nation, and, by extension, its right to its own land.
The disturbances in Wadi Ara, in central Israel — rioters attempted to block the main road and damaged a public bus — were another manifestation of Muslim fury. The location is not surprising, because the Wadi Ara area includes the city of Umm al-Fahm, where the main concentration of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, headed by the infamous Raed Salah, is to be found. The Northern Branch has been declared illegal, along with some of the smaller organizations it has fostered, resulting in its members having no lawful way to express their fury at the existence of the state of Israel. With little alternative, they act in the public space as individuals without an organizational identity.
It is generally accepted that the logic underpinning the Palestinian national movement is wholly based on the negation of the Jewish people’s right to its land and state. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was established in 1964 when the only “occupied” areas were Tel Aviv and Haifa. Its mission was to destroy the State of Israel, a goal Arabs expressed openly before and after the 1948 War.
Despite what some people think, the PLO has never amended its charter calling for the destruction of Israel, as Yasser Arafat pledged to Yitzhak Rabin. The Oslo Accords, and the agreements with the PLO that followed in their wake, were therefore worth nothing. Those persisting in this false belief about the PLO’s intentions despite abundant evidence of the perfidy of Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, continued to foster the illusion of peace in the hearts of war-weary Israelis and anesthetize them in the process.
The goal of the Palestinian national movement is the creation of an artificial Palestinian nation (from scratch, because historically, there has never been such a nation). It is to be made permanent by constructing an Arab state on Israel’s ruins, not alongside it. This is why there is not one map of Israel to be found in the West Bank or Gaza. Every Palestinian map portrays a Palestine in the colors of the PLO flag, extending from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
Note the PLO keffiya, which displays the words “Our Jerusalem” on the right and “Falestin” on the left.
The world, and especially Europe, is divided between a) innocent know-nothings who support a Palestinian state in order to achieve peace; and b) Jew-haters who fully grasp the PLO’s intentions and support them wholeheartedly. The entire Arab world, including those who signed peace treaties with Israel (Egypt and Jordan), willfully ignores the PLO’s real plans and treats the organization as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. If the PLO succeeds in carrying out its plans, no one in Jordan or Egypt is going to mourn Israel’s demise.
Arafat’s followers believe that if they succeed in moving Jerusalem outside the borders of Israel, many Jews will lose all hope and leave Israel for the countries from which they or their parents came. This will be the beginning of the end for the Zionist enterprise, because there is no Zionism without Zion — or Jerusalem. That is why they expend so much energy on Jerusalem. As long as most countries refuse to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the city will be the weak link in the chain holding Israel together.
Arafat attempted to frighten Israelis with the slogan, “A million shaheeds will march on Jerusalem,” meaning that millions are willing to put their lives on the line to free the city from Zionist clutches. This mantra has been internalized in Islamic society, and can be heard at anti-Israel demonstrations all over the world.
Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city dealt the Palestinian nationalist narrative a serious blow, and gave Israel a kind of insurance policy. This maddens the Arabs who flourished on the dream of destroying Israel during the Oslo years. It has now become clear that a very powerful nation, the US, does not see itself as a partner in that dream — and is even willing to act against it.
The Arabs in general, and particularly the Palestinians, can already see the dominos falling. The Czech Republic, Hungary, and other important states are considering moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in recognition that that city is Israel’s capital. In April 2017, even Russian President Vladimir Putin declared his recognition of Western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. There was no outcry in response to Putin’s declaration for one simple reason: the Arabs are deathly afraid of Putin after he made crystal clear to what lengths he is willing to go during the war in Syria, and they carefully refrain from reacting to his statements or decisions.
For both religious and nationalist reasons, the Arabs and Muslims are incapable of accepting Israel as the Jewish state that it is.
The question that Israelis, both Jewish and Christian, are forced to ask themselves is whether they are going to recognize the Muslim and Arab problem but tell them in no uncertain terms that Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, and that they are going to have to learn to live with it — or whether they are going to give in to the Arab and Muslim dreamers who refuse to accept the reality that the Jewish religion is alive and well.
An earlier version of this article, translated by Rochel Sylvetsky, was published on December 14, 2017, by Israel National News.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He served for 25 years in IDF military intelligence specializing in Syria, Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups, and Israeli Arabs, and is an expert on the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups.
BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family.