It has become an axiom of contemporary social critique that the reality of Israel amounts to a loss for those Arab Muslims within its power to affect, namely, those in Judea and Samaria, in Gaza, and inside Israel. Lately, the cries of “apartheid state” and “colonial settlers”, together with “discrimination against the Palestinians”, “war against the Palestinian people”, “killing of Palestinian children,” and so on and on, have become especially shrill. So intimidating has been this propaganda juggernaut that many would never contemplate pausing to ask whether any of this is true. Standing alone against the tide can be a terrifying prospect for most. If you have it within you to stand up to the lies you have been taught about Islam, then you have it within you to stand up to the lies you are being told about Israel.
Steven Emerson reports that Throughout August, Israel Faced Terrorist Attacks on All Fronts. Also in August, there were other, more low-key, but no less significant reports. Israel Haysom carried an open letter by Nael Zoabi objecting to Crude generalizations of Arab Israelis, the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University published The Radicalization of the Israeli Arabs by Prof. Efraim Karsh and also MidEast Powers Vie to Shape the Next Generation of Muslims by Dr James M. Dorsey. Of course, “no less significant” is an understatement. Terrorism can go on month after month and simply perpetuate this awful stalemate unless Israel finally takes the bull by the horns and deals with its root cause, Islam. But the latter three publications highlight a developments in the zeitgeist that has been slow to be recognised: firstly, whatever the cause of the Palestinians’ misery might be, it is not Israel; and secondly, the centuries-long grip that Islam has had on the psyche of the Arab Muslim is slipping.
UN Human Development Reports have for some time highlighted the awful levels of education, health, living standards and life expectancy in Muslim lands, but have always shied away from identifying the root cause. In the modern world, such deference towards Islam is an existential threat. The correlation between misery and Islam is stark and in your face in the case of “the Palestinians”. It has just been a case of pulling the data together in one place, seeing what they show. Whether they show what you want to see is another matter. Professor Karsh has collected the data. They show, for example, that “The end of the 1948 war found the Palestinian-Arab community profoundly shattered.” Yet,
By the early 2000s, more Arabs than Jews owned the dwellings they lived in—91.5% vs. 68.6% in 2000; 82.3% vs. 70.4% in 2008; 87.6% vs. 69% in 2018—with housing density in the Arab sector dropping sharply (e.g., the percentage of four-plus persons per room fell from 11% in 1984 to 0.8% in 2009) and Arab ownership of key durable goods often surpassing its Jewish counterpart. In 2018, for example, 99.9% of Arab households owned refrigerators compared to 99.8% of Jewish households. The same applied to deep freezers (45.4% vs. 21.4%); washing machines (98% vs. 96.3%); televisions (97.2% vs. 86.2%); two cellular phones or more (86.1% vs. 74.7%); at least one car (74.6% vs. 72.6%); and electric scooters (4.9% vs. 3%).
One does not have to agree with Professor Karsh’s “radicalisation” thesis to see the immense value of his work. The psychology, sociology and political economy of the Arab population within Israel, as well as in Judea and Samaria and in Gaza are nightmarishly complex and lend themselves to crude generalisations, both intentional and unintentional. It is a demographic that makes fertile ground for wishful thinking of all varieties, from Islamic revivalists to liberals dreaming of coexistence to outright racists.
Nael Zoabi would in all likelihood take offence to any suggestion that his letter might be an exercise in Taqiyya, intended to lull his targets into a false sense of security. It might also be that his letter is sincere. He describes himself as a Muslim, which means both scenarios are possible. For sake of discussion, I will treat it as opening a gentle window onto the complex inner struggles of a Muslim in Israel.
This “Muslim educator and entrepreneur” personifies perfectly the flux and change that the Muslim is undergoing in his shifting relationship with Islam. Those fixated on Islamic reform are looking through the telescope from the wrong end. The significant change is that which is taking place within the Muslim himself, and it is a change that not only obviates the need for Islam, but is positively antithetical to it, for it is a change that is bringing forth the human in the Muslim. It was only a matter of time before a Muslim of sufficient influence emerged to channel and give voice to the humanity finally emerging from deep within the Muslim where it has lain battered and broken by more than a thousand years of Islam. Such Muslims may not yet be ready to openly walk away from Islam, but in their hearts, they have already done so.
Zoabi’s description of himself as a “Muslim educator and entrepreneur” and “a proud Arab Israeli citizen who is happy to have the privilege of living in the State of Israel, a Jewish and democratic state, proud of its symbols, enjoying its rights, and fulfilling my duties as a decent citizen,” encapsulates perfectly the Muslim’s inner struggle, but also announces a more-or-less stable platform from which he can pursue a fulfilling life. Critically, is a "Muslim educator" a madrassa teacher, or just someone who generally inculcates Islamic values into children or young people? Either way, this is a problem.
Is a "Muslim entrepreneur" someone who avoids the borrowing and lending of money at interest, or someone who believes that Muslims must live at the expense of non-Muslims, or someone who engages in jihad against the financial system and those associated with it? If none of these are in play, he will not be a problem for his non-Muslim compatriots, yet he will only have peace and a secure place to stand as long as other Muslims do not turn up at his door to "bring him back to the straight path," that is, reclaim him or his children for Islam/Palestine. That will be when we find that the distasteful utterances of those who make "crude generalisations of Arab Israelis," may well contain kernels of truth, because Zoabi has not shed the beacon “Muslim”, pulsing away for the next revivalist to pick up its signal and zero in on.
Zoabi is correct to point out “Crude generalizations of Arab Israelis,” but in that very formulation he reveals his wishful thinking. “Arab Israelis” is by no means a confident, settled and recognised identity. This is Zoabi’s dream running away with him. It is a dream I share. It would be a huge leap forward if the Arabs in Israel were all Israelis before whatever else they might be, in other words, "Israeli Arab" becomes anathema. Of course, naïve (woke?) Jews might argue that the Arabs “feel excluded” and that Jews “must do more” to help them integrate. Prof. Karsh’s data put paid to that.
When Zoabi describes himself as a Muslim, this is significant, not because his identity proves “Jewish-Arab coexistence,” as many are wont to pounce on as validation of this fantasy, but that the inner struggle that every Muslim in the modern world must live with is compounded so many times over if the Muslim happens to find himself a resident of Israel. Prof. Karsh tells us that,
If in the mid-1970s less than half of Israeli Arabs defined themselves as Palestinians and one in two repudiated Israel’s right to exist, by 1999 more than two-thirds of them identified as Palestinians and four out of five repudiated Israel’s right to exist.
That their inner struggles, both as Muslims and as Muslims living in Israel, remain far from resolved has all along been clear in their equivocating demonyms: “Israeli Arab”, “Israeli Palestinian”, “Palestinian Israeli”, “Resident of Jerusalem”, “Arab resident of Israel”, or, as in Mansour Abbas’s case, “Arab Palestinian.” All of this was brought to a head when it began to look as if President Trump’s “Deal of the Century” had a real chance of making many Israeli Arab towns and villages part of a future Palestinian State. Those potentially affected were out on the streets, demonstrating to remain in Israel. Their panic could, on the one hand, indicate unwillingness to cede more “Muslim land” to the Jews, in other words, jihad by staying put, which could well have been orchestrated by Arab parties in the Knesset. It could also, on the other hand, indicate the depth of the Zoabi phenomenon, which could be the more likely, given Hamas and PLO opposition to the increasing East Jerusalem Arab applications for Israeli citizenship.
Professor Karsh suggests that such equivocation is a luxury attendant to the vast improvement in the Arab standard of living. Yet one must wonder why no one else turns against their own state when their lives improve. Zoabi openly declaring himself an Arab Israeli, that is, a kind of Israeli, rather than a kind of Arab, is not only an enormous personal accomplishment for him against all the social pressure of living amongst Muslims, but a marker, along with several others, of the extent to which ideological control over the Muslim mind has slipped of late. This begs the question of the provenance and nature of such ideological control.
The explanatory power of the "radicalised silent majority" formulation, premised on an unsubstantiated assumption of Arab dissatisfaction with being a minority in a Jewish state, does not do justice to the very impressive data that Professor Karsh has amassed.
The more prosperous, affluent, better educated, and politically aware the Israeli Arabs have become, the greater their leadership’s incitement against their state of citizenship—to the point where many ordinary Arabs have come to openly challenge their minority existence in the Jewish State, (emphasis AP).
Yet, Professor Karsh himself says,
The Palestinian Arab leadership, headed from the early 1920s to the late 1940s by Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin Husseini, unleashed repeated waves of anti-Jewish violence—in 1920, 1921, 1929, and 1936-39. These culminated in the 1947-48 genocidal attempt to destroy Palestine’s Jewish community and to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state.
The Palestinian Arabs were not a minority during the Mandate period, yet displayed exactly the same behaviour post-1948 as before. Yasser Arafat had to go much further than Hajj Amin al-Husseini to compensate for having made peace with Israel, something that Islam forbids and the Palestinians were ready to string him up for. Not acknowledging the role of Islam, especially of jihad, in Palestinian political manoeuvring leads to jihad being mistaken for mere “Palestinianisation” and “terrorist attacks,” if not wilfully trivialised to such.
In February 1978, scores of Palestinian intellectuals signed a public statement urging the establishment of a Palestinian state. A year later, Israeli Arab students openly endorsed the PLO as “the sole representative of the Palestinian people, including the Israeli Arabs,” voicing support for the organization’s pursuit of the “armed struggle” (the standard euphemism for terrorist attacks), indeed for its commitment to Israel’s destruction.
1978-79 was precisely a period of major escalation in global jihad. It overturned even minuscule Muslim communities in places as far away as Cape Town. I think that Professor Karsh is quite wrong to attribute the antipathy of Arabs in Israel towards the country in which they live to “their minority existence in the Jewish state”. Does minority existence motivate the Haredim in Israel, or the Khuzestani Arabs in Iran? The former, Jewish citizens, are as opposed to Israel’s existence as those Arabs within Israel who call themselves “Arab Palestinians,” such as Mansour Abbas, who sits in government despite breaking the state’s most basic laws. The Arabs are, indeed, an abused minority in Iran. They have real economic grievances; grievances that the Arabs in Israel do not have, yet many would rather secede than obliterate Iran.
Very large numbers of Arabs in every Arab country, even those that recognise Israel, hate Israel as much as the "Palestinians" in the Knesset do, yet are not in Israel, let alone a minority within it. Very large numbers of Muslims in Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, Somalia, Malaysia, etc., hate Israel. They are neither Arab nor Israeli. Christian Arabs and Druze Arabs in Israel do not display the patterns of behaviour so easily associated with “the Arabs”, though their standards of living increased even more than that of Muslim Arabs.
These distinctions are glossed over as if Professor Karsh is doing everything to avoid looking where he does not wish to look: Islam. For example, “Having inculcated its constituents with an abiding hatred for their Jewish compatriots, the Palestinian Arab leadership, …unleashed repeated waves of anti-Jewish violence.” Jew-hatred comes from the Qur’an and the hadith. It is inculcated in the madrassa and reinforced in the mosque, the home and social circles. The leaders merely channel and amplify it. This is not the place for that discussion. Suffice it to say that the role of jihad, both in trying to prevent the establishing of Israel and in the constant attempts at destroying it, is well documented. Christian Arabs and Druze Arabs are not imbued with Jew-hatred.
What Professor Karsh’s data, Nael Zoabi’s letter, the Abraham Accords and Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s Vision 2030 all point towards is that the Arab Muslim is finally ready to move on from Islam, at this stage still something that must be done with some caution, hence MbS’s lip service to the Qur’an that confuses so many in the West. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that a study such as Dr James M. Dorsey’s MidEast Powers Vie to Shape the Next Generation of Muslims should be published at this time. Significantly, Dr Dorsey centres his exposition around Muhammad bin Salman’s declaration:
Today, we cannot grow, attract capital, offer tourism, or move forward, with the existence of extremist ideology in Saudi Arabia. If you want millions of jobs, decline of unemployment, economic growth, and better income, then you must uproot this project… Any person who espouses an extremist ideology, even if he is not a terrorist, he is still a criminal who must be held accountable before the law.
Again, one does not have to agree with Dr Dorsey’s conclusions to appreciate the significance of his work. The “project” that MbS refers to is jihad. The “extremist ideology” is not Wahhabism, as many, including Dr Dorsey, suppose; it is none other than Islam itself. There will be no fudge here. There is, though, in Prof. Karsh’s reluctant insertion of jihad and Islam, softened to “jihadist” and “nationalist/Islamist,” at the end of his thirty-seven page report in which neither jihad nor Islam made any analytical input.
An entire generation of Saudis has had enough, and it is this demographic that MbS has made his power base. The educational policy divergence that is becoming prominent in the Islamic lands has been evident for some years now, with timid recognition in places such as Malaysia that the society needed better social capital than it has been able to produce through rote learning. Rote learning is the mainstay of Islam, and since Malaysia has no MbS, it has been unable to break that cycle. Dorsay puts the range of educational policies down to foreign policy rivalry for leadership of the Muslim world:
The divergence in educational approaches takes on added significance because countries that are competing for leadership of the Muslim world, like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Turkey, and Iran, export their visions of what the faith stands for in a variety of ways. These include funding religious, cultural, and educational institutions in other countries and lobbying for policies that bolster their approach and counter those of their rivals.
Educational reform in the Muslim world can also be seen, and more importantly so, as a domestic policy issue: different ruling elites trying to steer Islam into social positions more beneficial or less detrimental to themselves. If MbS threatens to put people in jail for pushing “extremist ideology”, he is laying the foundations for recasting the Saudi mindset. These foundations will carry the educational reforms necessary for his vision.
Dr Dorsay is right in pointing out the foreign policy dimension of educational policies of those Muslim countries with foreign policy ambitions, and the overlap with domestic policy is clear when he quotes Erdoğan as declaring that, “The joint goal of all education and our teaching system is to bring up good people with respect for their history, culture and values,” to forge a “pious generation” that “will work for the construction of a new civilization.” Coming from the mouth of Erdoğan, “a new civilisation” can only mean a restoration of the caliphate. It is precisely this that MbS is antithetical to, and will have to gear all his education and his teaching system towards pre-empting. It is not clear whether Dorsay quite appreciates the profundity of his own conclusion: “It’s that new civilization that is at stake in the battle for the soul of Islam.” Beheld with the telescope the right way round, “the battle for the soul of Islam” presents as a crisp image of the battle for the soul of the Muslim, the hitherto monopolising element having been Islam.
Far from Israel having no right to exist, it is Islam that has no right to exist. “Civilisation and Islam are two different things,” insists Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Islam stands as an offence against civilisation. It is a crime against humanity on so many counts. It engenders genocide and war crimes of every kind. It brings out the absolute worst in human beings and holds forth as its divine duty to impose barbarism, brutality, fear, misery, ignorance and iniquity upon all it gains sway over. Compare Islam’s execrable track record to the following:
Israeli Arabs can expect to live as long [as] Americans (80.4) and longer than the average EU citizen (77.6). …Thanks to Israel’s medical and health education programs, infant mortality rates have …been slashed: from 56 per 1,000 live births in 1950 to 5.6 in 2019—slightly above the US mortality rate (5.2 deaths/1,000 live births) and much lower than that of Arab and Muslim states (in Algeria, for example, it is 24.9 deaths/1,000 live births; in Iraq 20.1; in Egypt 18.2; in Iran 15.1; in Indonesia 20.2, etc.).
In short, Israel is the best thing that ever happened to Muslims. Full stop.
Since publication, the following has come to light:
Syrian journalist and political analyst Hoda Jannat posted a photo of the Palestinians at one of the registration offices along with the following comment:
"This is the Gaza Chamber of Commerce. Thousands of Palestinians, including those with [academic] degrees, are fighting for a job in Israel. I guarantee you that if Israel announced that it wants workers from Algeria, they would cross the Sahara [Desert] on foot to work in Israel to escape the hell they are living in at home." — Thanks to Khaled Abu Toameh.
Abu Toameh adds, "As has now become clear for all to see, Israel has become the only hope for the hungry workers in the Gaza Strip". I repeat, Israel is the best thing that ever happened to Muslims. Not even the Qur'an can argue with that.
- At several points, in different ways, Prof. Karsh refers to “the massive material gains attending Arab-Jewish coexistence,” citing “Jaffa, Haifa, Acre, Ramla, and Lod, among others [as] long considered showcases of Arab-Jewish coexistence.” The Jewish state lavishing money on its Arab citizens is not coexistence, neither is Jews and Arabs not actually killing each other. To call a one-sided fleecing relationship that periodically descends into pogroms for which the perpetrators enjoy virtual immunity "co-existence," is to see something that isn't there, a practice that is bound to end in tears, leaving the deluded perplexed, time and time again.