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The Legacy of Jihad in Palestine (Continued) By: Andrew G. Bostom
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, December 07, 2004


From Jihad to Dhimmitude in Palestine

Palestinian Authority (PA) Undersecretary for Awqaf [Religious Endowment], Sheik Yussef Salamah, representing the PA at a May 1999 "Inter-Cultural Conference," in Tehran, praised the 7th century system of Ahl Al-Dhimma (i.e, the system of dhimmitude, applied [primarily] to Christians and Jews conquered by jihad wars), as the proper paradigm for relations between Muslims and Christians today. He maintained,

Islam respected people of (other) religions and did not hurt them.45

Palestinian Authority employee, Sheik Muhammad Ibrahim Al-Madhi reiterated these sentiments with regard to Jews during a Friday sermon broadcasted live on June 6, 2001 on PA TV, from the Sheik 'Ijlin Mosque in Gaza:

We welcome, as we did in the past, any Jew who wants to live in this land as a Dhimmi, just as the Jews have lived in our countries, as Dhimmis, and have earned appreciation, and some of them have even reached the positions of counselor or minister here and there. We welcome the Jews to live as Dhimmis, but the rule in this land and in all the Muslim countries must be the rule of Allah. 46 

These hagiographic contemporary Muslim pronouncements on the dhimmis existence in Palestine under Islamic rule, even during an early, so-called “Golden Age” period of Islamic rule, are inconsistent with historical reality.

Moshe Gil’s detailed analysis of the initial four and one-half centuries of Muslim dominion in Palestine following the jihad conquests is based upon a rich profusion of data from Muslim, Christian, and Jewish sources. He captures the stark, unromantic reality of Muslim ruled Palestine during this era which included-the initial jihad conquest and establishment of Arab Muslim rule, from 634 to 661; Umayyad-Damascene rule, from 661 until 750; Abbasid-Baghdadian rule, from 750 through 878; Turco-Egyptian rule- Tulunids and Ikshidids- from 878 until 970- "interrupted" by Abbasid-Baghdadian rule again, between 905 and 930; nearly two generations of war including numerous participants, the dominant party being the Fatimids, from 970 through 1030; just over 40-years of Fatimid-Egyptian rule, between 1030 and 1071; and a generation of (Seljuq) Turkish (or “Turcoman”) rule encompassing most of Palestine, from 1071 until 1099.47

Dramatic persecution, directed specifically at Christians, included executions for refusing to apostasize to Islam  during the first two decades of the 8th century, under the reigns of Abd al-Malik, his son Sulayman, and Umar b. Abd al-Aziz. Georgian, Greek, Syriac, and Armenian sources report both prominent individual and group executions (for eg., sixty-three out of seventy Christian pilgrims from Iconium in Asia Minor were executed by the Arab governor of Caesarea, barring seven who apostasized to Islam, and sixty Christian pilgrims from Amorion were crucified in Jerusalem). 48

The Abbasids moved the capital city from Damascus (seat of the Umayyad Empire) to Baghdad, absorbed much of the Syrian and Persian culture, as well as Persian methods of governance, and ushered in a putative "Golden Age." Gil and Bat Ye’or  offer revealing assessments of this “Golden Age” dhimmitude and its adverse impact on the conquered, indigenous Jews and Christians of Palestine. Under early Abbasid rule (approximately 750-755 C.E., perhaps during the reign Abul Abbas Abdullah al-Saffah) Greek sources report orders demanding the removal of crosses over Churches, bans on Church services and teaching of the scriptures, the eviction of monks from their monasteries, and excessive taxation. 49 Gil notes that in 772 C.E., when Caliph al-Mansur visited Jerusalem,

..he ordered a special mark should be stamped on the hands of the Christians and the Jews. Many Christians fled to Byzantium. 50

The following decade witnessed persistent acts of persecution as well. These details are provided by Gil: 

One source tells of a Muslim who converted to Christianity and became a monk, and renamed Christophorous. He was beheaded on 14 April 789. At around the same time, evidently, there was an Arab attack on the monastery of St. Theodosius, near Bethlehem. The monastery was pillaged, many of the monks were slaughtered and some escaped. The attackers also destroyed two churches near that monastery. A Church source tells about the suffering endured by the monasteries in the Judean mountains during the inter-tribal warfare which broke out in 796…While Bet Guvrin was being abandoned by its inhabitants, who were falling captive to the Arabs, assaults were being made in Ascalon, Gaza, and other localities. Everywhere there was pillage and destruction. 51

Bat Ye’or elucidates the fiscal oppression inherent in eighth century Palestine which devastated the dhimmi Jewish and Christian peasantry: “Over-taxed and tortured by the tax collectors, the villagers fled into hiding or emigrated into towns.”52 She quotes from a detailed chronicle of an eighth century monk, completed in 774: ‘The men scattered, they became wanderers everywhere; the fields were laid waste, the countryside pillaged; the people went from one land to another’. 53 

The Greek chronicler Theophanes (as summarized by Gil) provides a contemporary description of the chaotic events which transpired after the death of the caliph Harun al-Rashid in 809 C.E., and the ensuing fratricidal war which erupted between the brothers al-Amin and al-Ma’mun.

According to him [Theophanes] these events caused the Christians an enormous amount of suffering. Many churches and monasteries in Jerusalem and its environs were abandoned, such as those of Sts Cyriac, Theodosius, Chariton, Euthymius, and Mar Saba. Four years later, in 813, the disturbances broke out anew and many Christians, both monks and laity, fled from Palestine to Cyprus and Constantinople, where they found refuge from the Arabs’ terrible persecution in those days of anarchy and civil war. Palestine was the scene of violence, rape, and murder. 54

Perhaps the clearest outward manifestations of the inferiority and humiliation of the dhimmis were the prohibitions regarding their dress "codes", and the demands that distinguishing signs be placed on the entrances of dhimmi houses. During the Abbasid caliphates of Harun al-Rashid (786-809) and al-Mutawwakil (847-861), Jews and Christians were required to wear yellow (as patches attached to their garments, or hats). 55 Later, to differentiate further between Christians and Jews, the Christians were required to wear blue. In 850, consistent with Qur’anic verses associating them with Satan and Hell 56, al-Mutawwakil decreed that Jews and Christians attach wooden images of devils to the doors of their homes to distinguish them from the homes of Muslims. Bat Ye’or summarizes the oppression of the dhimmis throughout the Abbasid empire under al- Mutawwakil as “..a wave of religious persecution, forced conversions, and the elimination of churches and synagogues…” 57

Paroxysms of violent persecution erupted yet again in October-November 923 C.E. according to the patriarch of Alexandria, Sa’id b. Bitriq, as well as two Muslim chroniclers [summarized by Gil]:

…the Muslims attacked…in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (26 March 937) and set fire to the southern gates of Constantine’s church and to half of the exedra, whereupon the Church of the Calvary and the Church of the Resurrection collapsed…According to al-Makin and al-Maqrizi, the Church of the Resurrection and the Church of the Calvary were also robbed of their treasures…It seems at the same time the Muslims attacked in Ascalon again. According to Yahya b. Sa’id, the assault was made on ‘the great church there, known by the name of Mary the Green. They destroyed it and robbed it of all its contents and then set fire to it’…The bishop of Ascalon then left for Baghdad to get permission to rebuild the church, but he did not succeed. The church was left in ruins, for the Muslims who lived in Ascalon agreed amongst themselves that they would not allow it to be built again. As to the bishop, he never returned to Ascalon and remained in Ramla until his death. 58

During the early 11th century period of al-Hakim’s reign, religious assaults and hostility intensified. As Gil notes,

…the destruction of the churches at the Holy Sepulchre [1009 C.E.]  marked the beginning of a whole series of acts of oppression against the Christian population, which according to reliable sources, extended to coercion to convert to Islam. 59

Yahya b. Sa’id’s description of the events surrounding the destruction of the Churches of the Holy Sepulchre is summarized by Gil:

They dismantled the Church of the Resurrection to its very foundations, apart from what could not be destroyed or pulled up, and they also destroyed the Golgotha and the Church of St Constantine and all that they contained, as well as the sacred grave stones. They even tried to dig up the graves and wipe out all traces of their existence. Indeed they broke and uprooted most of them. They also laid waste to a convent in the neighborhood…The authorities took all the other property belonging to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its pious foundations and all its furnishings and treasures. 60 

Citing both Muslim (al-Quda’i, Ibn Khallikan, and Ibn Al-Athir) and non-Muslim (Bar Hebraeus) sources, Gil also describes the edicts al-Hakim imposed upon the Christians and Jews beginning in August 1011 C.E.:

They were ordered to wear black turbans. The Christians had to wear a cross the length of a cubit and weighing five ratls around their necks around their necks; the Jews were obliged to wear a block of wood of similar weight…they had to wear some distinguishing mark in the bath-houses, and finally al-Hakim decided that there were to be separate bath-houses for their use…Ibn Al-Athir conveys…that al-Hakim ordered (after the destruction of the Chucrh of the Resurrection in Jerusalem…) that all the churches in the realm be destroyed, and this was done, and that the Jews and Christians were then to accept Islam, or emigrate to Byzantine lands. They were also obliged to wear special distinguishing signs. Many converted…Bar Hebraeus speaks of thousands of churches which were destroyed in the Fatimid kingdom at that time; the decree regarding the wearing of the cross around the neck was also, he says, a means of pressuring the Christians to convert. The wooden block the Jews were obliged to wear, had to be in the shape of a calf, as a reminder of the golden calf… 61

In a separate, focused analysis of the conditions of the dhimmis of Jerusalem, Gil concludes that during the early through the mid 11th century, the Jews suffered both economically and physically:

 

Economic conditions in Jerusalem were rather harsh, and the yeshiva often issued urgent appeals for aid. Besides, there were frequent acts of oppression on the part of the Muslim authorities. Very often special heavy taxes were imposed, which aggravated the already precarious situation of both the yeshiva and the Jewish population of Jerusalem. It must be remembered that taxation in Jerusalem was probably different from that found in other parts of the Muslim world. It seems that Jews there had to pay a comprehensive lump sum for the whole Jewish population of the city, regardless of its numbers. When the population decreased as a result of wars and Bedouin upheavals, the burden on each individual became heavier. In such situations the yeshiva was forced to borrow money, against heavy interest, from wealthy Muslims. When the time of repayment arrived, Jewish notables were in danger of being imprisoned, as the yeshiva was not in a position to accumulate the funds it had to return. In some cases people were actually incarcerated and it took a great deal of effort to collect the funds necessary for their release. An example is the letter written by Abraham, the son and main assistant of Solomon b. Yehuda, head of the yeshiva, to the sons of Mevasser, a family of parnasim of Fustat, asking them to keep their promise to send the aid in time to pay the kharaj. 62

 

Muslim Turcoman rule of Palestine for the nearly three decades just prior to the Crusades (1071-1099 C.E.) was characterized by such unrelenting warfare and devastation, that an imminent “End of Days” atmosphere was engendered. 63 For example, Gil describes one of Atsiz b. Awaq’s jihad campaigns in Syro-Palestine at around 1077 C.E.:

 

Then Atsiz advanced on Jerusalem from Damascus, placed the city under siege, and promised its inhabitants the aman; on this basis, the inhabitants opened the gates of the city to him. Atsiz prevailed over Jerusalem, completely ignoring his promise of aman, and went on a rampage. He slaughtered 3,000 people there…He also conducted campaigns of annihilation against Ramla, until all its people had fled, and against Gaza, where he murdered the entire population. He likewise massacred people in al-'Arish and elsewhere and wrought endless havoc in Damascus, where only 3,000 of the original 500,000 inhabitants had remained, due to starvation and scarcity. Jaffa, too, was attacked, and its governor…fled from the town to Tyre, together with all the city's inhabitants, while the walls of Jaffa were destroyed on Atsiz' orders. 64

 

A contemporary Russian chronicle cited by Gil indicates that the Turcomans, “…destroyed and desolated the cities and the villages from Antioch to Jerusalem. They murdered, took captive, pillaged, set on fire; they destroyed churches and monasteries”.65

 

Gil notes that these observations are confirmed by Geniza documents, describing how, “…the Turcoman occupation denoted terrible calamities, such as the taking captive of the people of Ramla, the cutting off of roads, the obduracy of the commanders, the aura of anxiety and panic, and so on.” 66 He continues, “We do not know what Atsiz' attitude was to the Jewish population in 1078, during the cruel suppression of the uprisings and the destruction of towns, but the fact that from this date onwards, we barely find letters from Palestine (apart from Ascalon and Caesarea) in the Geniza documents, speaks for itself.” 67

 

A contemporary poem by Solomon ha-Kohen b. Joseph, believed to be a descendant of the Geonim, an illustrious family of Palestinian Jews of priestly descent, speaks of destruction and ruin, the burning of harvests, the razing of plantations, the desecration of cemeteries, and acts of violence, slaughter, and plunder:

 

They were a strange and cruel people, girt with garments of many colors,/Armed and officered-chiefs among ‘the terrible ones’-/And capped with helmets, black and red,/With bow and spear and full quivers;/And they trumpet like elephants, and roar as the roaring ocean,/To terrify, to frighten those who oppose them,/

 

And they are wicked men and sinners, madmen, not sane,/ And they laid waste the cities, and they were made desolate/And they rejoiced in their hearts, hoping to inherit./

 

He [God] also remembered what they had done to the people of Jerusalem,/ That they had besieged them twice in two years,/ And burned the heaped corn and destroyed the places,/ And cut down the trees and trampled upon the vineyards,/And surrounded the city upon the high mountains,/And despoiled the graves and threw out the bones,/And built palaces, to protect themselves against the heat,/And erected an altar to slay upon it the abominations;/And the men and the women ride upon the walls, Crying unto the God of gods, to quiet the great anger,/ Standing the whole night, banishing sleep,/While the enemy destroy, evening and morning,/And break down the whole earth, and lay bare the ground,/ And stand on the highways, intending to slay like Cain,/ And cut off the ears, and also the nose,/And rob the garments, leaving them stand naked,/ And also roar like lions, and roar like young lions;/ They do not resemble men, they are like beasts,/ And also harlots and adulterers, and they inflame themselves with males,/ They are bad and wicked and spiteful as Sodomites./ And they impoverished the sons of nobles, and starved the delicately bred./ And all the people of the city went out and cried in the field,/ And covered their lips, silent in their pains,/ And they had no mercy on widows, and pitied not the orphans. 68

 

Gil concludes that as a result of the Turcoman jihad,

 

Palestine was drawn into a whirlpool of anarchy and insecurity, of internal wars among the Turks themselves and between them (generally in collaboration with the Arab tribes) and the Fatimids. Here and there, in one or another area, a delicate state of balance was arrived at for a few years. By and large, however, the Turcoman period, which lasted less than thirty years, was one of slaughter and vandalism, of economic hardship and the uprooting of populations. Terrible suffering, eviction and wandering, was the par­ticular lot of the Jewish population, and chiefly its leadership, the Pal­estinian yeshiva. 69 

Gil offers this sobering overall assessment from his extensive, copiously documented analysis of the initial period of Muslim rule of Palestine, from 634 to 1099 C.E.:

These facts do not call for much interpretation; together they simply form a picture of almost unceasing insecurity, of endless rebellions and wars, of upheavals and instability... 70

The brutal nature of the Crusader’s conquest of Palestine, particularly of the major cities, beginning in 1098/99 C.E., has been copiously documented. 71 However, the devastation wrought by both Crusader conquest and rule (through the last decades of the 13th century) cannot reasonably be claimed to have approached, let alone somehow “exceeded”, what transpired during the first four and one-half centuries of Muslim jihad conquests, endless internecine struggles for Muslim dominance, and imposition of dhimmitude. As Emmanuel Sivan has observed, regarding Crusader dominion,

 

…practical considerations appear to have outweighed religious fanaticism and, when it came to the peasantry, the ‘infidel children of the devil’ in the villages were spared. It was clear to the Crusaders that they were themselves too few to dispense with the labor of local …farmers in cultivating the soil. 72

 

Moreover, we cannot ignore the testimony of Isaac b. Samuel of Acre (1270-1350 C.E.), one of the most outstanding Kabbalists of his time. Conversant with Islamic theology and often using Arabic in his exegesis, Isaac nevertheless believed that it was preferable to live under the yoke of Christendom rather than that of Islamdom. Acre was taken from the Crusaders by the Mamelukes in 1291 in a very brutal jihad conquest described by Runciman:

           

Soon the Moslem soldiers penetrated right through the city, slaying everyone, old men, women and children alike. A few lucky citizens who stayed in their houses were taken alive and sold as slaves, but not many were spared. No one could tell the number of those that perished…Some prisoners were freed and returned to Europe after nine or ten years of captivity…Many women and children disappeared for ever into the harems of Mameluk emirs. Owing to the plentiful supply the price of a girl dropped to a drachma a piece in the slave market at Damascus. But the number of Christians that were slain was greater still…As soon as Acre was in his power, the Sultan (al-Ashraf Khalil) set about its systematic destruction…The houses and bazaars were pillaged, then burned; the buildings (of the Orders) and the fortified towers and castles were dismantled; the city walls were left to disintegrate. When the German pilgrim, Ludolf of Suchem passed by some forty years later, only a few peasants lived amongst the ruins of the once splendid capital…73

 

Accordingly, despite the precept to dwell in the Holy Land, Isaac b. Samuel fled to Italy and thence to Christian Spain, where he wrote:

 

The word ziz in Arabic is derogatory, for when they wish to say in that tongue, ‘Strike him upon the head,’ ‘Give him a blow upon the neck,’ they say zazzhu (‘hit him’)…Indeed, on account of our sins they strike upon the head the children of Israel who dwell in their lands and they thus extort money from them by force. For they say in their tongue, mal al-yahudi mubah, ‘it is lawful to take money of the Jews.’ For, in the eyes of the Muslims, the children of Israel are as open to abuse as an unprotected field. Even in their law and statutes they rule that the testimony of a Muslim is always to be believed against that of a Jew. For this reason our rabbis of blessed memory have said, ‘Rather beneath the yoke of Edom [Christendom] than that of Ishmael.’ They plead for mercy before the Holy One, Blessed be He, saying, ‘Master of the World, either let us live beneath Thy shadow or else beneath that of the children of Edom’ (a Talmudic verse) 74

 

Following the interlude of Crusader dominion over Palestine (1099 to 1291 C.E.), Muslim rule was restored under the Mamluks. Professor C. E. Bosworth characterizes the repercussions for the dhimmi Christian and Jewish communities in Egypt and Syro-Palestine due to efforts by the Mamluk Sultans [1250-1516, C.E.] “…to keep alight the spirit of jihad and the feelings of Muslim xenophobia.”, as follows:

 

All through the Mamluk period, Muslim feeling was whipped up by popular preachers, by fatwas against the lawfulness of employing dhimmis in public offices, and by books and tracts from scholars of such eminence as Ibn Taymiyya. Persecutions and massacres mounted, with peaks of violence in such years as 700/1301, 721/1321 and 755/1354; discriminatory laws against dhimmis were revived; efforts were made to reduce the …proportion of Copts in official positions; and churches and monasteries were closed or destroyed. It was often only necessary for the state to give a lead and then let popular feeling do the rest. One might in this connection cite the destruction of the Zuhri church in old Cairo in 721/1321, which an-Nasir Nasir ad-Din Muhammad b. Qala’un did not pull down outright, but left high and dry by excavating around it, until a fanatical mob finished off the job by deliberately destroying the church. The tribunals of qadis, whose primary concern was with Muslim heterodoxy, not infrequently dealt in a draconian manner with the back-sliding Christian renegades and some Christians and Jews. From the later Sultanat of Muhammad b. Qala’un (709-41/1309-40, his third and longest reign), [H. Laoust] dates the real ruin of Coptic Christianity as a force in the mainstream of Egyptian life. Conversions to Islam, always a steady trickle, now became a flood, and even in regions like Upper Egypt, which adjoined the Christian region of Nubia and had long been a Coptic stronghold, became majority Muslim. The Jews were less obvious targets for Muslim wrath, being numerically weaker and unsupported by powerful external nations of the same faith; nevertheless, Muslim historical sources and the Geniza documents…have amply shown that the lot of the Jews of Egypt at this time was hard indeed. 75

 

Although episodes of violent anarchy diminished during the period of Ottoman suzerainty (beginning in 1516-1517 C.E. ), the degrading conditions of the indigenous Jews and Christians living under the shari’a’s jurisdiction remained unchanged for centuries. For example, Samuel b. Ishaq Uceda, a major Kab­balist from Safed at the end of the 16th century, refers in his commentary on The Lamentations of Jeremiah, to the situation of the Jews in the Land of Israel (Palestine):

 

‘The princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!’ …Perhaps this is an allusion to the situation that prevails in our times, for there is no town in the [Ottoman] empire in which the Jews are subjected to such heavy taxes and dues as in the Land of Israel, and particularly in Jerusalem. Were it not for the funds sent by the com­munities in Exile, no Jew could survive here on account of the numer­ous taxes, as the prophet said in connection with the ‘princess of the provinces’: ‘They hunt our steps, that we cannot go into our own streets’…The nations humiliate us to such an extent that we are not allowed to walk in the streets. The Jew is obliged to step aside in order to let the Gentile [Muslim] pass first. And if the Jew does not turn aside of his own will, he is forced to do so. This law is particularly enforced in Jerusalem, more so than in other localities. For this reason the text specifies ‘…in our own streets,’ that is, those of Jerusalem. 76

 

A century later Canon Antoine Morison 77, from Bar-le-Duc in France, while traveling in the Levant in 1698, observed that the Jews in Jerusalem are “there in misery and under the most cruel and shameful slavery”, and although a large community, they were subjected to extortion. Similar contemporary observations regarding the plight of both Palestinian Jews and Christians were made by the Polish Jew, Gedaliah of Siemiatyce (d. 1716), who, braving numerous perils, came to Jerusalem in 1700. These appalling conditions, recorded in his book, Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem, forced him to return to Europe in order to raise funds for the Jews of Jerusalem:

 

We [Jews] were obliged to give a large sum of money to the Muslim authorities in Jerusalem in order to be allowed to build a new syna­gogue. Although the old synagogue was small and we only wanted to enlarge it very slightly, it was forbidden under Islamic law to modify the least part. . . . In addition to the expenses in bribes destined to win the favor of the Muslims, each male was obliged to pay an annual poll tax of two pieces of gold to the sultan. The rich man was not obliged to give more, but the poor man could not give less. Every year, gener­ally during the festival of the Passover, an official from Constantino­ple would arrive in Jerusalem. He who did not have the means to pay the tax was thrown into prison and the Jewish community was obliged to redeem him. The official remained in Jerusalem for about two months and consequently, during that period, the poor people would hide wherever they could, but if ever they were caught, they would be redeemed by community funds. The official sent his soldiers throughout the streets to control the papers of the passers-by, for a certificate was provided to those who had already paid the tax. If anyone was found without his certificate, he had to present himself before the official with the required sum, otherwise he was impris­oned until such time as he could be redeemed.

 

The Christians are also obliged to pay the poll-tax…during the week, the paupers dared not show themselves outside…in their wickedness, the [Muslim]soldiers would go to the synagogues, waiting by the doors, requesting the certificate of payment from the congregants who emerged...

 

No Jew or Christian is allowed to ride a horse, but a donkey is permitted, for [in the eyes of Muslims] Christians and Jews are in­ferior beingsThe Muslims do not allow any member of another faith—unless he converts to their religion—entry to the Temple [Mount] area, for they claim that no other religion is sufficiently pure to enter this holy spot. They never weary of claiming that, although God had originally chosen the people of Israel, He had since abandoned them on account of their iniquity in order to choose the Muslims

 

In the Land of Israel, no member of any other religion besides Islam may wear the color green, even if it is a thread [of cotton] like that with which we decorate our prayer shawls. If a Muslim perceives it, that could bring trouble. Similarly, it is not permitted to wear a green or white turban. On the Sabbath, however, we wear white tur­bans, on the crown of which we place a piece of cloth of another color as a distinguishing mark. The Christians are not allowed to wear a turban, but they wear a hat instead, as is customary in Poland. Moreover, the Muslim law requires that each religious denomination wear its specific garment so that each people may be distinguished from another. This distinction also applies to footwear. Indeed, the Jews wear shoes of a dark blue color, whereas Christians wear red shoes. No one can use green, for this color is worn solely by Muslims. The latter are very hostile toward Jews and inflict upon them vexations in the streets of the city…the common folk perse­cute the Jews, for we are forbidden to defend ourselves against the Turks or the Arabs. If an Arab strikes a Jew, he [the Jew] must ap­pease him but dare not rebuke him, for fear that he may be struck even harder, which they [the Arabs] do without the slightest scruple. This is the way the Oriental Jews react, for they are accustomed to this treatment, whereas the European Jews, who are not yet accustomed to suffer being assaulted by the Arabs, insult them in return.

 

Even the Christians are subjected to these vexations. If a Jew offends a Muslim, the latter strikes him a brutal blow with his shoe in order to demean him, without anyone's being able to prevent him from doing it. The Christians fall victim to the same treatment and they suffer as much as the Jews, except that the former are very rich by reason of the subsidies that they receive from abroad, and they use this money to bribe the Arabs. As for the Jews, they do not possess much money with which to oil the palms of the Muslims, and conse­quently they are subject to much greater suffering. 78

 

Professor Moshe Maoz has summarized the conditions of those Jews and Christians living under Ottoman rule within their indigenous homeland of (Syro-) Palestine, as follows:

 

the position of the Jews was in many ways precarious. Like their Christian fellow subjects, the Jews were inferior citizens in the Muslim-Ottoman state which was based on the principle of Muslim superiority. They were regarded as state protégés (dhimmis) and had to pay a special poll tax (jizya) for that protection and as a sign of their inferior status. Their testimony was not accepted in the courts of justice, and in cases of the murder of a Jew or Christian by a Muslim, the latter was usually not condemned to death. In addition, Jews as well as Christians were normally not acceptable for appointments to the highest administrative posts; they were forbidden to carry arms (thus, to serve in the army), to ride horses in towns or to wear Muslim dress. They were also not usually allowed to build or repair places of worship and were often subjected to oppression, extortion and violence by both the local authorities and the Muslim population. The Jews in Ottoman Palestine and Syria lived under such ambivalent and precarious conditions for a number of centuries79

 

And these prevailing conditions for Jews did not improve in a consistent or substantive manner even after the mid 19th century treaties imposed by the European powers on the weakened Ottoman Empire included provisions for the Tanzimat reforms. These reforms were designed to end the discriminatory laws of dhimmitude for both Jews and Christians, living under the Ottoman Shari’a. European consuls endeavored to maintain compliance with at least two cardinal principles central to any meaningful implementation of these reforms: respect for the life and property of non-Muslims; and the right for Christians and Jews to provide evidence in Islamic courts when a Muslim was a party. Unfortunately, these efforts to replace the concept of Muslim superiority over "infidels", with the principle of equal rights, failed. For example, the Scottish clerics A. A. Bonar and R. M. McCheyne, who visited Palestine in 1839 to inquire into the condition of the Jews there, published these observations in their A Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews from the Church of Scotland in 1839 (Edinburgh, 1842):

 

There is none of the sacred places over which the Moslem's keep so jealous a watch as the tomb of Abraham…travellers in general being forbidden to approach even the door of the Mosque [built by the conquering Muslims over the tomb of Abraham]…The Jews at present are permitted only to look through a hole near the entrance, and to pray with their face toward the grave of Abraham…the synagogues of Jerusalem…are six in number, all of them small and poorly furnished, and four of them under one roof…The reading desk is little else than an elevated part of the floor, enclosed with a wooden railing…We were much impressed with the melancholy aspect of the Jews in Jerusalem. The meanness of their dress, their pale faces, and timid expression, all seem to betoken great wretchednessWe found all the Jews here [in Safed] living in a state of great alarm…the Bedouins were every day threatening an attack to plunder the town…We observed how poorly clad most of the Jews seemed to be, and were told that they had buried under ground all their valuable clothes, their money, and other precious things. It was easy to read their deep anxiety in the very expression of their countenances…And all this in their own land! 80

 

Almost two decades later, British Jerusalem Consul James Finn, reported (November 8, 1858) that the treacherous conditions for non-Muslims in Palestine had not improved, despite a second iteration of Ottoman “reforms” in 1856:

 

In continuing to report concerning the apprehensions of Christians from revival of fanaticism on the part of the Mahometans, I have…to state that daily accounts are given to me of insults in the streets offered to Christians and Jews, accompanied by acts of violence…the sufferers are afraid, if natives, to report them to Turkish authorities, inasmuch as notwithstanding the hatti-humayoon [i.e., the Tanzimat Reforms imposed on Turkey by the European Powers to abrogate basic Shari'a-prescribed discrimination against non-Muslims] as far as I have learned, there is no clear case yet known of a Christian's evidence being accepted in a court of justice, or in a civil tribunal (Medjlis) against a Moslem…even in matters of important personages the same evils occur…Only a few days ago his Beatitude the Greek Patriarch was returning through the streets from the Cadi's Court of Judgment (having perhaps paid a visit to the new cadi), preceded by his cavasses and dragoman, but had to pass through a gauntlet of curses hurled at his religion, his prayers, his fathers, etc…This in Jerusalem, where Christian Consuls have flags flying, including the Russians…The occurrence is rather one indicating the tone of public mind, than one to deal with by punishment of offenders, which could scarcely be done…81

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Andrew G. Bostom is a frequent contributor to Frontpage Magazine.com, and the author of The Legacy of Jihad, and the forthcoming The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism.



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