The conjuring up of what we today know as the “Palestinians” is well attested in the literature. My purpose here is to explore the interplay between the religious and the political motivations for the Palestinian jihad against Israel, and how those motivations have come to haunt this “nation.” What follows is less of a history and more of an attempt to understand one particular aspect of Palestinian psychology, and how other Arabs relate to that psychology.
We aim to smash modernism in government and society. In Palestine our first duty as Muslims is to crush Zionism, which is Jewish modernism. It is our patriotic duty. The Qur'an commands it.
Thus spake Hassan Al-Banna, the founder and Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, in 1948. Note that this fascist Grandmaster did not say, our first duty as Muslims in Palestine... For the Arab Nazis in Cairo, Damascus, Beirut, Baghdad and, indeed, Jerusalem, it was not the business of the Muslims of Palestine to crush Zionism, but the sacred duty of all Muslims to crush Zionism in Palestine. In other words, it is obligatory on all Muslims in the world to wage jihad against Israel. That notion lives on in the sentiments and utterances of the Palestinians, such as Abdurrahman Zaidan of Hamas “it is it the duty of every Muslim Palestinian to redeem the land through jihad. It is the duty of every Muslim, not only Palestinian, to redeem this land.”
"Redeem this land," means, “Drive them out from where they drove you out. Though killing is bad, persecution is worse than killing” (Qur’an 2:191). Muslims see any non-Muslim action against them, for whatever reason, as persecution. Non-Muslims have no reason to complain about Muslims killing them, because what those non-Muslims do is worse. "Drive them out," does not mean "establish a Palestinian state," it means establish an Islamic state.
“The faith of a Muslim is tested by belief in the hereafter. One cannot be genuinely Muslim until one believes in the unseen and still to be experienced next life. …It is the true life that every soul should try to reach safely. …This earthly life is too short and worthless, and it is no more than a passage to real life in the hereafter.”
In madrassa we were taught to aspire to success not in this life, but in the next life. Some who took that lesson to heart joined Tablighi Jamaat and badgered the rest of us with, “Do you want success in this life, or in the next life?” Modernity, success in this life, is the consummation of innovation, and Al-Banna was not the only one onto that; Muhammad was, too. By scrupulously avoiding innovation, novelty and deviation from tradition, Muslims improve their chances in the Akhirah, the Afterlife. The prophet of Islam exhorted his followers to remain faithful to the Qur'an and the example of his life so as to avoid innovation and thereby secure their good deeds for the next life.
The best of the speech is embodied in the Book of Allah [the Qur’an], and the best of the guidance is the guidance given by Muhammad [the Sunnah]. And the most evil affairs are their innovations; and every innovation is error. (Sahih Muslim 867a)
If anyone introduces an innovation, he will be responsible for it. If anyone introduces an innovation or gives shelter to a man who introduces an innovation (in religion), he is cursed by Allah, by His angels, and by all the people. (Sunan Abu Dawud 4530)
Allah will not accept any fasting, prayer, charity, Hajj, 'Umrah, Jihad, or any other obligatory or voluntary action from a person who follows innovation (Bid'ah). He comes out of Islam like a hair pulled out of dough. (Sunan Ibn Majah 49)
Of course, it would be nonsense to suggest that Muslims do not innovate, but almost everything about their religion militates against innovation. In fact, to call someone an innovator is an insult. If Islam had the respect for improving this life that the pagan Greeks displayed, Muslims would be celebrating a pantheon of inventive genii as positive role models, rather than the murderers children are now taught to look up to. That Muslims have to make so much of the 12th/13th-century mechanical engineer and inventor Badi’ al-Zaman Abu-‘l-‘Izz Ibn Isma’il Ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari, commonly known simply as Al-Jazari, says more about the dearth of inventors than about Al-Jazari's genius.
Some Muslim apologists will object that the Islamic injunctions against innovation apply only to matters of religion. Some translators will even insert "(in religion)" into the holy texts. This objection or "clarification" falls on two counts, firstly, by Islam not being merely a religion, but a "complete way of life", as Muslims sometimes boast, and by hadiths that warn against innovation in what any non-Muslim would see as clearly not matters of religion, such as:
Do you not see these doors and leaves? These were made of the lote-tree of Urwah, which Urwah used to cut from his hand? He said: "There is no harm in it." Humayd's version adds: "You have brought an innovation, O Iraqi!" He said: "The innovation is from you. I heard someone say at Mecca: 'The Messenger of Allah cursed him who cuts a lote-tree.'" (Sunan Abu Dawud 5241)
Your openly allowing musical instruments and wind instruments is an innovation in Islam. I was thinking of sending someone to you who would cut off your evil long hair. (Sunan an-Nasa'i 4135)
Furthermore, just to be on the safe side, Muslims hedge their bets against Allah's arbitrariness and deceit, and err on the side of caution: if X is forbidden, then better avoid W and Y, too, thereby effectively nurturing a culture that shuns not only innovation, but anything that might lead to innovation. Innovation can be safely avoided by scrupulously imitating the past.
In My Name is Red, the novel that propelled Orhan Pamuk to the Nobel Prize for Literature, he describes young apprentice miniaturists at the cultural height of the Ottoman Empire learning to draw horses exactly as a deceased master had drawn them, seeing and obeying. Eventually, they are able to imitate so well that they no longer need to see, at which point they blind themselves with a hot needle through the pupils.
Imitation is a form of obedience, and as such, imitation as a system is antithetical to the individual. The emergence of the autonomous individual in Muslim society, its first stirrings in the late nineteenth century, is the undoing of that society. Not even the fascist Muslim Brotherhood can escape its reach. The civil war raging between the factions and generations within the Brotherhood at time of writing is a direct expression of the conflict between “we hear and we obey” and the “modern” expectation of members to debate, vote on and overturn the leaders’ words. The very modernity that the Brotherhood sought to crush by crushing Zionism, “Jewish modernism”, is now tearing the organisation apart.
Imitation is the antithesis innovation. Muslims are obliged to imitate those deemed more learned than them. By Islam's own admission, its only Golden Age was not one of science and innovation, as so often claimed in apologetics, but one of shunning “reprehensible innovation”, exemplified by the life of Muhammad and his companions. All that came after is lesser. It is a central tenet that although Allah has made Muslims "the best of people," they have steadily fallen, generation after generation, from the high mark of Muhammad's life, to Muslims today openly leaving Islam in their thousands. All Muslim suffering in this world is down to Allah's punishment for their deviation. The obvious answer is to fight modernity and return to the past.
Out of this culture of blind obedience the Muslim Brotherhood forged the fedayeen, whose sole purpose was the murder of Jews. The KGB had but to augment this existing tradition, give it a modern twist, so to speak. "In Palestine our first duty as Muslims is to crush Zionism," became "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free." Zionism in Palestine had to be destroyed so innovation, modernity, could be destroyed. Palestine must be freed so that the Arab nation could form. The new "Palestinian nation" inherited both these aims, irretrievably intertwined in their purpose in life.
These intertwined raisons d'être render the Palestinians inherently incapable of negotiating. Every political offer amounting to less than 100% Jewish capitulation runs up against their hardwired antipathy to innovation, since their religious purpose is to “crush Zionism.” For this they slay and are slain. Any religious offer amounting to less than 100% Jewish capitulation runs up against their hardwired inability to recognise Israel, since their political aim is: “from the river to the sea, Palestine must be free”. For this they give their sons. They can do nothing but answer to the two deaths hardcoded into them. This misshapen nation, its mother was Islam, its father the KGB.
Where these two paths of death intersect, there lies Israel. The country largely attained its final extent after the war of 1967, although it refrained from applying its full sovereignty over all its dominions, opening the festering sores we today know as the "West Bank", Gaza and East Jerusalem. Up until Israel's resounding victory over Egypt and Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War, a Palestinian was any native (Jew, Muslim, Christian or Druze) or immigrant (Jew) residing between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. But because the Muslims had always rejected the designation "Palestinian" in favour of Muslim or Arab, especially during the Palestine Mandate, a Palestinian came to be understood to mean a Jew in Palestine. “We are not Palestinians, we are Arabs. The Palestinians are the Jews.”
Before 1967, killing the Jews in Palestine was only a religious aim, one that lives on today not only in the Muslim Brotherhood and its various offshoots, such as Ra'am in the current Israeli government, but, for all intents and purposes, in the whole Palestinian population. “In Palestine our first duty as Muslims is to crush Zionism.” When Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas chose the occasion of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, to bluntly describe himself before the Knesset as, “a religious Palestinian Muslim Arab,” no one saw the writing on the wall, except his fellow Muslims, of course.
- Sic. He meant 'modernity', not the art movement modernism. The turn of the 20th century saw a dramatic surge in ideas and attempts, especially in the Middle Eastern capital cities, to "modernise" Islam, all as a direct result of colonialism. It is amusing, in this context, to hear Sheikh Dr Yasir Qadhi lamenting "Western boots" defiling "Muslim cities". The Muslim Brotherhood was founded to protect Islam again what its founder, Hassan Al-Banna, called 'modernism', referring to the civilisation, values, norms, lifestyles and artefacts of the West, all of which especially Ashkenazy, i.e., European, Jews brought to Palestine overnight and on an impressive scale. The Muslim duty "to crush Zionism" in Palestine was an urgent project not only to kill Jews, but to nip a potential Islamic civil war in the bud.
- John Roy Carlson, Cairo to Damascus, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1951.
- Rafik Berjak in The Qur'an: An Encyclopedia, edited by Oliver Leaman. Routledge, 2006.
- Jean Patrick Grumberg, When Was the "Palestinian People" Created? Gatestone Institute, 20 November 2017 https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/11401/palestinian-people