Two things have prompted me to reassert my animals rights campaign, the first is the calving season in Victoria.  I am forced to listen to the painful cries of mother cows as their babies are snatched from them for a miserable life of milking.  The second is the Islamic festival of Eid, which sees animals slaughtered as sacrifice. The word Eid means breaking the fast and there are two main fasts a year in Islam.  Animal sacrifice is the most barbaric of practices, it makes me sick to just think about it.  Nowhere in the Qur’an does it say animals should be sacrificed in this barbaric way.  It has become a matter of tradition and it should be outlawed.  In many European countries now the practice is coming up against cruelty to animals laws. This needs to happen everywhere… And soon.

There is a growing vegan movement for Muslims happening across the world and hopefully this will bring about changes.

The Truth About Zionism.

                                        Palestinian flag.  Google.

                                        Israeli Flag. Google.

A few years ago, I held an exhibition of my paintings at a Jewish Arts Centre in Melbourne. The exhibition was based on an important historical and theological concept in Judaism named Tikkun Olam (Heal the World). During the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza, I was reminded of the two fundamental teachings in Judaism that most Jews today still adhere to without question. On the one hand, Tikkun Olam, or the obligation to heal the world and on the other the State of Israel, or the designated Jewish homeland. These two critical imperatives dominate Jewish life, but they are also buried in a complex mythology which raises obvious contradictions. How does one heal the world while at the same time a war is being raged against people who disagree with the Jewish interpretation of history?

More than 2000 years lapsed between the Jewish Diaspora and the re-birthing of Israel. There were very few Jews left in the homeland after the mass exodus, but they suddenly arrived in droves in 1948 and in a slow trickle before then. This has led to numerous questions about the role of the Jewish State in modern global politics and whether there has been a deliberate attempt to eliminate the Palestinian population or to assimilate them into one bilateral territory. Israel would not have survived without the backing of the United States, whose leaders saw a strategic advantage in having an ally sitting between east and west. At the end of the Second World War, the establishment of Israel was viewed as a solution for Jews who were homeless following the horrors of the Holocaust, it was also of strategic importance.  Israel has moved ahead exponentially since then and has claimed significantly more territory, while Palestinians have been constantly driven into poverty, oppression and persecution. It begs the question: Was partition a genuine attempt to house desperate and suffering Jews? Or was there another agenda before that?

Undoubtedly, Jewish history is modelled on trauma, but instead of looking retrospectively to deal with the internal pain, many have turned it outwards and created a nationalist and eschatological explanation for decades of conflict and Human Rights abuses. Throughout history Jews have suffered for their beliefs, but they have also brought immeasurable suffering upon themselves. In 1948 the nation that once was Palestine was partitioned, which resulted in the creation of the Jewish State of Israel, but sadly, Israel is not a land of emancipation, but one of exclusivity, insecurity and wars. Israel is a small fortress surrounded by hostile enemies. Is this the Jewish dream or the reality of a horrible nightmare?

The Conflicts.

Two main conflicts took place in 1947 and 1948, the Civil War in Mandatory Palestine and the Arab–Israeli conflict in 1948, but the story that gave rise to these conflicts is much older.

Well before partition a nationalist state for the Jews was already in the planning. The Mandate on Palestine and the conflicts between Palestinian Arabs and Jewish Zionists are well documented, but the events that took place before partition and leading up to the conflict are less known. There was seemingly a plot to eliminate Palestine well before partition. The plot was hatched with the establishment of modern Zionism in Eastern Europe.

Modern Zionism emerged in the context of modern Antisemitism in the late 19th century. It started in Central and Eastern Europe as a nationalist revival movement and as a reaction to the rise in Antisemitism. It was also a response to the Haskalah, or the Jewish Enlightenment. The Jewish Enlightenment was not a lot different to similar movements around the western world. Modern industrialisation had driven many rural people off the land and into cities and factories. Feudalism was being dismantled and a capitalist system was replacing it. Workers received a wage, but it was a poor reward for mass slavery. Importantly, at an intellectual level, the old superstitions and beliefs were being replaced with scientific explanations.

The Haskalah means wisdom and the new knowledge and wisdom among Jews was to be expressed in a burgeoning intellectual movement among the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe who called themselves Zionists.

Zionism differed from other forms of Enlightenment in that it held on to the old traditions, but it also followed the Enlightenment methodology that led to a vast wave of imperialism, territorial expansion and colonialism. During the 1770s to about 1881 Zionism was an ideological worldview that had its roots in Jewish nationalism. This followed the rise of nationalism in England, France, parts of Eastern Europe and the United States. With many nations in the grip of a new nationalism the Zionist movement felt to challenge the Ottoman Empire and lay claim to Palestine as the national home of the Jewish people. The target was the whole of Palestine and the displacement of the Arabic population.

The Promised Land.

According to the Bible and Judaism, Eretz Israel was promised to the Jews by God. Based on this promise, in 1854, an American businessman named Judah Touro bequeathed money to fund Jewish residential settlements in Palestine. The executor of the Will was Sir Moses Montefiore (1784 -1885). Montefiore was a British financier, banker, philanthropist and a Sheriff of London. Montefiore was from a rich Italian-Jewish family and he used his wealth to promote economic development among Jewish communities in the Levant, but he is best known for his contribution to education and the Montefiore schools. He founded the Mishkenot Sha’ananim in 1860, a Jewish residential settlement and almshouse outside of the old walled city of Jerusalem; the first settlement outside Jerusalem’s walled city. As President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Montefiore carried a lot of influence with the British consul in Damascus. The consul Charles Henry Churchill (1841–42) is viewed as pivotal to the development of the new Zionism. 1 Many of the Montefiore funds were used for transporting Jews to Palestine.

In 1812, Moses Montefiore married Judith Cohen (1784–1862). Judith’s sister married Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777–1836) and Montefiore’s firm acted as stockbrokers for the Rothschild’s family business. The two brothers-in-law became business partners. They invested in major projects like gas and insurance. In 1824 Montefiore was among the founding consortium of the Alliance Life Assurance Company (which later merged with Sun Insurance to form Sun Alliance 2

Pogroms.

Between 1881-1884 a mass persecution of Jews took place in the Russian Empire (the pogroms). In 1882, a group of Hovevei Zion members founded Rishon LeZion, the first Zionist settlement in the Land of Israel. It was led by philanthropist Isaac Leib Goldberg. The Zionists got around the political obstacles by registering as a charity. In 1890 The Society for the Support of Jewish Farmers and Artisans in Syria and Eretz Israel came into existence. It was later known as the Odessa Committee. The Odessa Committee was dedicated to the practical aspects in establishing agricultural settlements. One of the major donors was the tea merchant, Kalonimus Wolf Wissotzky (1884-18850, who founded the largest tea company in Russia, Wissotzky Tea. Wissotzky financed agricultural colonies in Palestine. 3

Theodor Herzl

Zionism as an organised movement is generally considered to have been founded by Theodor Herzl in 1897. However, as we have noted, the history of Zionism began earlier and is related to the pogroms. The Hovevei Zion, or the Lovers of Zion, were responsible for the creation of 20 new Jewish cities in Palestine between 1870 and 1897. 4 In 1850, Palestine had about 350,000 inhabitants. Roughly 85% were Muslims, 11% were Christians and 4% were Jews. 5 Upon the outbreak of World War I, political Zionism reasserted itself, and its leadership passed to Russian Jews living in England. Two such Zionists, Chaim Weizmann and Nahum Sokolow, were instrumental in obtaining the Balfour Declaration from Great Britain’s Jews. The failure of the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the wave of pogroms and repressions that followed caused growing numbers of Russian Jewish youth to emigrate to Palestine as pioneer settlers. By 1914 there were about 90,000 Jews in Palestine; 13,000 settlers lived in 43 Jewish agricultural settlements, many of them supported by the French Jewish philanthropist Baron Edmond de Rothschild. The Hovevei Zion, are now considered the forerunners of modern Zionism.

Since the creation of Israel, the country has grown stronger and the importance of the Zionist movement as an organisation has split into factions.

It was the Zionists who had laid the foundations for Arab suppression. It was a deliberate attempt to eliminate the Palestinians and steal back the land. In Jewish circles, Zionism is not talked about in these terms. There are Jews who oppose Zionism, but there are also those who make no division between being a Jew and being a Zionist.

The success of Zionism has meant that the percentage of the world’s Jewish population who live in Israel has steadily grown over the years and today 40% of the world’s Jews live in Israel. The second largest population of Jews reside in the US.

A political opportunity was given to Zionism when Theodor Herzl asserted assimilation as the most desirable remedy for the Jews, but he knew it would never work. He argued that Jews were forced by the external pressure of Antisemitism to form a nation. In a sense this was true, after World War ll, no one wanted a host of displaced Jews. Added to this, there was an immense nationalist push across the western world as the boundaries shifted.  A Jewish State was therefore convenient, it would have its uses.

In 1897 Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress at Basel, Switzerland, which drew up the Basel program of the movement, stating that “Zionism strives to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law.”

The centre of the movement was established in Vienna, where Herzl published the official weekly Die Welt (“The World”). Zionist congresses met yearly until 1901 and then every two years. When the Ottoman government refused Herzl’s request for Palestinian autonomy, he found support in Great Britain. In 1903 the British government offered 6,000 square miles (15,500 square km) of uninhabited Uganda for settlement, but the Zionists wanted Palestine.6

At the death of Herzl in 1904, the leadership moved from Vienna to Cologne and then to Berlin. Prior to World War I, Zionism represented only a very small number of Jews, mostly from Russia, but led by Austrians and Germans. By 1933 Jewish immigration remained relatively slow, until the rise of Hitler in Europe. The Arabs anticipated trouble and feared that Palestine would eventually become a Jewish state so they resisted Zionism and the British government that was known to have Zionists as members. British forces struggled to maintain order in the face of a series of Arab uprisings. The strain of suppressing the Arab revolt of 1936–39, ultimately forced Britain to reassess its hold on Palestine. In hopes of keeping the peace between Jews and Palestinian Arabs and retaining Arab support against Germany and Italy in World War II, Britain placed restrictions on Jewish immigration in 1939. The new restrictions were violently opposed by Zionist groups such as the Stern Gang and Irgun Zvai Leumi, which committed acts of terrorism and assassination against the British. They also organised illegal Jewish immigration to Palestine.7

Following the mass extermination of Jews by Hitler many surviving Jews sought refuge in Palestine and the United States. Zionism achieved its aim of establishing a Jewish State in Palestine, but at the same time, it became an armed stronghold surrounded by hostility and it has impacted on the security of much of the western and middle eastern world.

Israel is still iconic in Jewish history, philosophy and the lived experience. Zionist organisations in many countries continue to raise financial support for Israel and to encourage Jews to immigrate there. Jews have been raised to see Israel as central to their existence. Many Jews have been led to believe they are living their lives in exile and they need to relocate to the homeland.   The psychological damage of not belonging is immense and Israel has exacerbated this by not accepting many of its own people. Qualifying as a Jew is predicated on the burden of proof and it can never be neutral.

The Six Day War.

On 14 May 1948, in accordance with the UN resolution, partition enabled Israel to become a nation state for the Jewish people. Zionism had, in part, fulfilled its objectives. As a result, many Zionist institutions became government institutions and the three Zionist militias were combined to form the Israeli Defence Forces.

The 1967 the Six Day War between Israel and the Arab states marked a major turning point in the history of both Israel and of Zionism. Israeli forces captured the eastern half of Jerusalem, including the holiest of Jewish religious sites, the Western Wall of the ancient Temple. They also took over the remaining territories of pre-1948 Palestine, the West Bank (from Jordan) the Gaza Strip (from Egypt) as well as the Golan Heights (from Syria). As Israel grew stronger Arab nationalism was also growing with demands that Palestine become an Arab state and hostility continues to escalate as the wounds of 1948 are still remembered and relived.

Ethnic Cleansing.

In a book called The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine authored by the Historian Ilan Pappé and published in 2006, the writer claims that in the 1948 Palestinian war around 720,000 Palestinian Arabs out of the 900,000 who lived in the territories that became Israel, fled or were expelled from their homes. In his own words, Ilan Pappé makes the case for the paradigm of ethnic cleansing and use[s] it to replace the paradigm of the war in 1948. 8 Pappé argues that the forced removal of Palestinians to the Arab world was a long-time objective of the Zionist movement. We now know this to be fact.

According to Pappé, the 1948 Palestinian exodus resulted from a planned ethnic cleansing of Palestine that was implemented by the Zionist movement leaders, mainly David Ben-Gurion and the other ten members of his consultant committee. It was called Plan Dalat and it was aimed at the expulsion of 500 Arab villages.

Dalet is the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the word Dalet means door, the door stands as the opening of the house the beit. Among Orthodox Jews who read the Zohar Dalet is the awareness of one’s own power and the power to achieve success, but that power also depends on Divine aid. The Jewish Talmud describes a story where one man is carrying a heavy object and another man comes to help him by placing his hands under the object, but in reality, the help is just an appearance, the first man is still carrying the weight.9 The weight of war and oppression has been carried by the Zionists and this is still the case today. It is true to say that the Palestinians launch rockets across the border and that they are a cause of great annoyance, but these are not high-powered weapons we are talking about, they a backyard experiments which are no match for Israel’s defence system. Palestine has no army, it has no tanks or sophisticated weapons, no fighter jets or battleships. The border skirmishes consist of children, teenagers and a few adults throwing rocks at Israeli personnel. In retaliation Israeli soldiers shoot to maim or kill.

In 2021 where are we now? Israel pounded Gaza with bombs and heavy artillery for 11 days where at least 243 people, including more than 100 women and children, were killed. According to its health ministry, Israel has said it killed 225 militants.

Israel has always claimed its 1967 land conquests were not planned. According to Haaretz, Declassified Documents Reveal Otherwise.10

3Pioneers of Zionism: Hess, Pinsker, Rülf, Julius H. Schoeps

4 Penslar, Derek Jonathan (1991). Zionism and Technocracy: The Engineering of Jewish Settlement in Palestine, 1870-1918. Indiana University Press. pp. 20–. ISBN 0-253-34290-2. Hovevei Zion, the name attached to an informal network of Jewish nationalist societies that sprang up in the wake of the 1881 pogroms and which was officially constituted in 1884

5 Scholch, Alexander (November 1985). “The Demographic Development of Palestine, 1850-1882”. International Journal of Middle East Studies. Cambridge University Press. 17 (4): 485–505. doi:10.1017/S0020743800029445. JSTOR 163415.

6https://www.britannica.com/topic/Zionism

7Ibid

  • 8 Ilan Pappé (2006). Preface xxvii The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Oneworld Oxford.

9Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh. 1990 Dalet in the Hebrew Letters: Channels of Creative Consciousness. Jerusalem Gal Einai Publictions p66

10Haaretz 4th June 2021. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israel-said-67-land-conquests-weren-t-planned-declassified-documents-say-otherwise-1.9873297?fbclid=IwAR1LvPodYwJwIXo2aMQrpiPhna8b_zKn2eI1zFqaT5FEPDSMY80k-pT9Gx4 Retrieved 4th June 2021.

 

 

Free Palestine.

 

 

                                             Gaza 2021.    ABC News.

The following article was written in response to Israel’s 2021 attack on Gaza.

Free Palestine

 

I was born in January 1948. It was a remarkable year. Israel was born on May the 14th 1948 and as I grew in awareness it featured strongly in my mind.  I could imagine many Jewish families sitting around the radio listening to the inauguration speech by David Ben-Gurion, leader of Mapai and head of the Jewish Agency. My family would still be in mourning, my grandfather, an engineer and inventor, served in the Middle East during the First World War and on his return he committed suicide. My grandmother never spoke of his experiences, but she spent her days grieving for him. My grandfather had been a proud and devout Jew serving his country. He  might have died on the battlefield or in a camp,  but he died by his own hand. Wars have terrible consequences.

Since its birth every Jew is beholden to support the State of Israel, a land mass that was previously known as Palestine. The area is a small region that has been significant in ancient and modern history because it sits at the crossroads between the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The name Palestine derives from the Greek word, Philistia, which dates back to Ancient Greece and it was used to describe the area by writers’ in the 12th century BCE.

Palestine typically refers to the geographic region located between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan. Arab people who call this territory home have only been known as Palestinians since the early 20th century and much of the land is now considered to be the State of Israel.

How the Jews got to settle in Palestine.

 The Hebrew Bible tells us that God commanded Moses to liberate the Jews from slavery in Egypt and they would receive a reward, the Promised Land. Thus, the area has always been considered by Jews as rightfully belonging to the Jews. That Jews originated in the Land of Israel is recorded in the Egyptian Merneptah Stele, circa 1200 BCE. , when most of the region had been conquered. During Biblical times, two kingdoms occupied the zone, the Kingdom of Israel (Samaria) in the north, and the Kingdom of Judah in the south. The Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Neo-Assyrian Empire (circa 722 BCE), and the Kingdom of Judah by the Neo-Babylonian Empire (586 BCE). Jews were then exiled to Babylon. Upon the defeat of the Neo-Babylonian Empire by the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great (538 BCE), many of the Jewish elite returned to Jerusalem and they built the Second Temple.

In 332 BCE the kingdom of Macedonia under Alexander the Great conquered the Achaemenid Empire, which included Judea. This event started a long religious struggle that split the Jewish population into traditional factions and the Hellenic adherents.

In 165 BCE, after the religion-driven Maccabean Revolt, the independent Hasmonean Kingdom was established. In 64 BCE, the Roman Republic conquered Judea and made it a Roman province. Although coming under the influence of various conquerors the area of ancient Israel was predominantly Jewish until the Jewish–Roman wars of 66–136 CE. During the wars, the Roman Empire expelled most of the Jews from the area and formed the Roman province of Syria Palaestina. This was the beginning of the Jewish diaspora. The movement of Jews went in two directions north to Spain,  Southern France and beyond and South West to Eastern Europe. By the time of the Muslim conquest of the Levant the Jewish population made up only 10 to 15% of Palestine’s total population.

Since the Diaspora the Jews have achieved their wish for a a return to the region and a modern Jewish State, but its acquisition and establishment a point of contention that causes pain and suffering for Jews and Arabs everywhere as well as contributing to global insecurity.  How did this happen?

 Modern History.

The story begins at the end of the Second World War. The Ottoman Empire had dominated the region for over 600 years. At its peak in the 1500s, the Ottoman Empire was one of the biggest and most powerful empires controlling an expanse that included, not just its base in Asia Minor, but also much of Southeastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The Ottomans governed an area that stretched from the Danube to the Nile Rivers. It flourished because it had a strong army and a wide variety of solid and impressive economic interests, but it was not to last!

The Ottomans made a strategical error in siding with the Germans in World War I. After suffering defeat, the empire collapsed and it was dismantled by treaty in 1922, when the last Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed VI, was deposed and left the capital of Constantinople (now Istanbul). What remains of the Ottoman empire today is known as Turkey, a nation that still harks back to a proud history.

The battle against the Ottomans was fought largely by the British and French, who in turn recruited help from the Arabs by promising them a parcel of land if they helped to defeat the Ottomans. The Arabs agreed to the deal and in return they were offered the Arab peninsula. However, the British and French reneged on the deal. When the Lands were divided up the Arabs were left out of the bounty. Instead, the British took Palestine Jordan and Southern Iraq and the French got Northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

More than a year after agreement with Russia, the British and French representatives, Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges Picot, authored a secret agreement regarding the future spoils of the Great War. Picot and Sykes represented a small group determined to secure European control and avoid the spread of Arab nationalism and namely, Islam. Hitherto, the Arabs fell under European colonial rule.

While the British were occupying Palestine another movement was operating in the wings. The Zionists were focused on a return to Zion and they based their movement on Biblical teachings. The Torah describes the story of the plagues and the Exodus from Egypt, which is estimated at about 1400 BCE. This is the journey of the Jewish people toward the Promised Land, the Land of Israel. These events are celebrated annually during Passover. The Passover meal traditionally ends with the words “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Demands for the homeland had been growing rapidly prior to and during the war years, After the fighting the Zionists increased their campaign for a mass migration to Palestine.

Soon after, Britain declared its intention to establish a home for the Jewish people. The Balfour Declaration, which resulted in a significant upheaval in the lives of Palestinians, was issued on November 2, 1917. The pledge is generally viewed as one of the main catalysts of the Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 – and the conflict that followed with the establishment of the State of Israel.

The statement came in the form of a letter from Britain’s then-foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour and it was sent to a major figure in the Jewish community, Lionel Walter Rothschild. Between 1922 -1935 the Jewish population jumped from 10 percent to 27 percent. According to records 376,415 Jews arrived in Palestine between 1920 and 1946 giving rise to the British recommendation of a Partition. The British also advised the forced removal of the Arab population whereby thousands of Palestinians lost their lives in subsequent protests. By 1947 the region was in chaos and Britain handed the problem to the United Nations. The events caused 11.9 million Palestinians to be forced out of their homes, 530 villages and cities were destroyed and  years of occupation in Palestine began. These details do not go uncontested.

US Intervention.

Although the United States supported the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which favored the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had assured the Arabs in 1945 that the United States would not intervene without consulting both the Jews and the Arabs in that region. The British, who held a colonial mandate for Palestine until May 1948, are believed to have opposed both the creation of a Jewish State and an Arab State in Palestine as well as unlimited immigration of Jewish refugees to the region. The British were known to have turned back the ships of Holocaust survivors. Great Britain wanted to preserve good relations with the Arabs to protect its vital political and economic interests in Palestine.

According to US historical records, when President Truman took office, he appointed several experts to study the situation in Palestine. In 1946, Truman established a special cabinet committee whereby members entered into negotiations with a parallel British committee to discuss the future of Palestine. In May 1946, Truman announced his approval of a recommendation to admit 100,000 displaced persons into Palestine and in October publicly declared his support for the creation of a Jewish State. Throughout 1947, the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine examined the Palestinian question and recommended the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and Arab State. On November 29, 1947 the United Nations adopted Resolution 181 (also known as the Partition Resolution) that would divide Great Britain’s former Palestinian mandate into Jewish and Arab States in May 1948 when the British mandate was scheduled to end. Under the resolution, the area of religious significance surrounding Jerusalem would remain separated and held under international control administered by the United Nations.

The question of who was to blame for the partition of Palestine still rages today. In a meeting with Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann in 1922, Arthur Balfour and then-Prime Minister David Lloyd George reportedly said the Balfour Declaration “always meant an eventual Jewish State”. The Jewish State was destined to take the region in another direction that would serve western interests and curtail any further spread of Islam.

These events have been hotly debated. Some academics have argued that many in the British government at the time were Zionists themselves, others say the declaration was issued out of an Antisemitic reasoning, that giving Palestine to the Jews would be a solution to the “Jewish problem”. Nonetheless, control over Palestine was a strategic imperial tactic to keep Egypt and the Suez Canal within Britain’s sphere of domination and to enable free trade.

While Britain is generally held responsible for the Balfour Declaration, it is important to note that the statement would not have been made without prior approval from the other allied powers during World War I, in particular the United States of America, whose interests in the region should not go unnoticed. Israel was allowed to establish agencies with the aid of foreign assistance, most of which came from the US., while the Palestinians were forbidden to do so, which paved the way for extreme Arab hardships and deprivations as well as constant attempts at revolt.

The Threat of Islam.

The Ottoman Empire had been defeated, but the question remained, was Islam still a threat to western culture and economic imperatives? In his pronouncements, Osama bin Laden made frequent references to history. One of the most dramatic was his mention, in the October 7th videotape, of the “humiliation and disgrace” that Islam has suffered for “more than eighty years.” The Turks eventually succeeded in freeing their homeland without contest from the west because they did so, not in the name of Islam, but as a secular nationalist movement. In 1922 one of their first acts was to abolish the sultanate. During the Ottoman era the sovereign was not just a sultan, the ruler of a specific state; he was also widely recognized as the caliph, the head of all Sunni Islam, and the last in a line of such rulers that dated back to the death of the Prophet Muhammad, (PBUH) in 632 A.D. The demise of the sultan would have been a direct affront to many Islamic believers and a serious tampering with Muslim belief and identity. Like most others, the Muslim people are shaped by their history, but Muslims to do not see life in the same way as westerners, there is only religion, which has often been described by the west as medieval. 

The Arabs have produced a vast canon of literature in relation to their struggles against Christianity from the first conflicts of the eighth century to the collapse of the Ottomans. The struggle was not just about religion it was about survival. The Arabs almost always referred to their western enemies as Infidels (kafir), but they never referred to their own sides by nation, but as Muslims, one people. Islam has a lot to teach the west about unity.

Europeans have been given a very misguided view of Islam. While Europe was still in the Dark Ages, it was Islam that was the advanced society. Each of the historical advances in scientific disciplines that Europe has lain claim to are detailed in the Qur’an. Islam does not advocate war, but it does reserve the right to defend itself.   The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) fought these same battles, hence the inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock. built in Jerusalem between 691 and 692 A.D., they include a number of directly anti-Christian polemics: “Praise be to God, who begets no son, and has no partner,” and “He is God, one, eternal. He does not beget, nor is he begotten, and he has no peer.” the western interpretations of these commentaries have led to gross misunderstandings.

Historically, under Muslim rule, Jews and Christians were allowed to practice their religions and run their own affairs (with some limitations). Today, we would call such people second-class citizens, but second-class citizenship, was far better than the total lack of citizenship which has been the fate of many Palestinians.

The Aliyah.

Israel is designed to be the resting place of all the world’s Jews and it is a powerful regime to aspire to. All Jews are encouraged to make aliyah, this means they are encouraged to leave the country wherever they are living and return to the Promised Land. This, to most Orthodox Jews is the fulfillment of God’s Promise and a return to their perceived origins. The Law of Return is open to all Jews as long as they can prove they are of Jewish heritage. However, it was not until March 2021 that Reform Jews could be eligible for Israeli citizenship. The High Court of Justice ruled that people who convert to Judaism in Israel through the Reform and Conservative movements must be recognized as Jews for the purpose of the Law of Return, and are thus entitled to Israeli citizenship. The decision overturned the longstanding orthodox monopoly on conversions. This was not just a gesture of kindness, but one of strategic importance. Israel has a low birthrate and the number of migrants into Israel have reduced significantly over the past few years. The total number of immigrants into Israel in 2020 was 19,713 in the previous year it was 34,000, in 1995 it 76,361 and in 1993 it was 76,805. Clearly, immigration to Israel is not proving as attractive as it was and immigration is crucial to Israel’s future development.

The exodus of Soviet Jews to Israel in the 1990s bolstered the Israeli economy and it was a timely event. There was a wave of highly skilled labour and technological know-how.  Migrants integrated well into the domestic labour market. This wave of immigration changed the economic landscape significantly raising productivity and underpinning the advance of the information age. Indeed, Israel’s robust assimilation of immigrants into the economic sphere and the electoral system transformed the political balance and created numerous social changes along with increased incomes.

Immigration has far-reaching economic and social effects.   Migrants become part of the society and they contribute greatly to the developing cultures, often mixing their own cultures with the new. However, not all Jews are the same. Not all assimilate well. Further, the issue of migration raises an even more complex question, who is a Jew?

Definition of a Jew.

The common belief is that a Jew is defined by combining religion and ethnicity, whereby the individual or group see themselves as having a Jewish identity. In the most detailed sense, this pertains to genealogical dimensions. Orthodox Jews follow Jewish Law (Halakah), which regards the person as Jewish if the mother is Jewish, the grandmother or great grandmother is Jewish. The alternative is to undergo conversion. Reform Jews follow both the matriarchal and patriarchal lines.  For most Jews their identity is formed around their heritage and the recent court decision has seen this heritage extended. It coincides with a lowering of migration into Israel and the high incidence of Israelis’ living abroad.

In a book titled The Invention of the Jewish People, the author Shlomo Sand examines the notion of Jewish nationalism and heritage He accuses Israelis’ of having a significant lapse in memory, when it comes to Jewish identity.  He goes on to describe Israel’s nationalism and what he describes as the “Khazar past”. Sand tells his readers that there was immense anxiety about the legitimacy of Zionism due to an intense fear that it might become known that the mass of settlers into Israel where not direct descendants of the Children of Israel. He suggested, there would be tensions because such a challenge invokes the State of Israel’s right to exist.

In 1954 a comprehensive study of the Jewish Khazars was undertaken by the scholar Douglas Dunlop. He showed through their language that the Khazars were influenced by Islamic, Byzantine, Caucasian, Hebrew and Old Russian Sources and they were not uniquely guided by the Hebrews. Crucially, among the Khazars there was no imperative for racial purity. In other words, there was no authentic Jewish lineage. In 1976 Arthur Koestler published a book called the The Thirteenth Tribe, in which he advanced the thesis that Ashkenazim Jews are not descended from the historical Israelites of antiquity, but from the Khazars, a Turkic people. Koestler hypothesized that the Khazars (who may have converted to Judaism in the 8th century) migrated westwards into Eastern Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries when the Khazar Empire was collapsing. Koestler used the works by Douglas Morton Dunlop as his main sources. Koestler’s aim was to eradicate Antisemitism by disproving its racial basis.  

It was never Koestler’s intention to deny the existence of Israel, rather to have it founded on a sounder basis of International Law. Koestler was a pioneer member of the Zionist Movement in his youth, but he grew disenchanted at the nationalist imperatives. He opposed all forms of racism and Antisemitism and fought against them in his literary canon.  He wrote:

The large majority of surviving Jews is of Eastern European origin and perhaps mainly of Khazar -origin. If so, this would mean that their ancestors came not from Jordan, but from the Volga, not from Canaan, but from the Caucasus, once believed to be the cradle of the Aryan race; and that genetically they are more related to the Hun, Uigur and Magyar tribes than to the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Should this turn out to be the case then the Anti-semitism would become void of meaning, based on misapprehensions shared by both the killers and their victims. The story of Khazar Empire, as it slowly emerges from the past, begins to look like a cruel hoax which history has ever perpetrated.

Whatever the origins of the Jewish population the State of Israel was founded on the basis of a genocide and by the 1970s Israel was caught up in the further expansion of its territories.   The nation was thus, founded on Biblical literature and dismissing the Biblical past was perceived as harming Israel’s future.

It was not the first time the use of heritage was called into question, The German scholar Jacob Fullmerayer had suggested that the Greeks were not decedents of Ancient Hellenes. Many writers have since attempted to follow the lives of Jewish decedents from Eastern Europe, particularly of those who spoke the Yiddish language which was dominant among Easter European Jews.

DNA Testing.

A cursory reading of history sees Jews spread around vast areas of the world before the common era. This cross fertilization makes it almost impossible to tell who is an authentic Jew. DNA tests have been used in Israel to verify a person’s Jewishness, but this brings an even bigger controversy since it harks back to an era of eugenics and racial preferences. It raises many questions. What does it mean to be genetically Jewish? And, can you prove religious identity scientifically? The ambiguities are endless and often heartbreaking.

The Law of Return.

The Law of Return was passed in Israel on 5 July 1950, which gives Jews the right to move and to live in Israel as permanent residents or with citizenship. Section 1 of the Law of Return declares: “every Jew has the right to come to this country as an oleh [immigrant].” The law is not unique to Israel. The right of return is a principle in International Law which guarantees everyone’s right of voluntary return to, or re-entry to, their country of origin. The right of return is part of the broader human rights concept of freedom of movement and it is detailed in “The Human Rights Committee General Comment on Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (November 1999)” which is overseen by Human Rights Watch. Included in these protocols is the right to abode. Importantly, these rights are not new, they were formulated in several modern treaties and conventions, most notably in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1948 Fourth Geneva Convention and are considered to be International Law.  In essence, Palestinians should also have a right of return.

In the Law of Return, the State of Israel gave credence to the Zionist movement’s demands, which called for the establishment of Israel as a Jewish State. Clearly, this was a State to be based not just of religion or culture, but also on racial purity.   Jews would argue that conversion makes for exceptions to the rule. However, the processes towards conversion is not easy, it probably takes a lifetime to learn how to become a good Jew.

In 1970, the right of entry into Judaism and settlement in Israel was extended to people with one Jewish grandparent and /or a person who is married to a Jew, whether or not he or she is considered Jewish. On the day of arrival in Israel or at a later date, a person who enters Israel under the Law of Return as an oleh would receive a certificate stating that s/he is indeed an oleh. The oleh has three months to decide whether s/he wishes to become a citizen and can renounce citizenship during this time. The right to an oleh certificate may be denied if the person is engaged in activity directed against the Jewish people, which can also be read as being against the government’s policies. It also means that the governing body will be wholly and solely made up of people with Jewish interests. There is no room for dissidents or anyone who does not represent the dominant group.

Arab Israeli Status.

How to refer to the Arab citizen of Israel is a highly politicized issue, and there are a number of self-identification labels used by members of government and the community. According to a United Nations 2009 report and the Human Rights Watch report Second class: Discrimination against Palestinian Arab children in Israel’s Schools. 2001. Human Rights Watch, supporters of Israel tend to use Israeli Arab or Arab Israeli to refer to this population without mentioning Palestine, while critics of Israel (or supporters of Palestinians) tend to use Palestinian or Palestinian Arab without referencing Israel.

According to The New York Times, 2012 most Arabs preferred to identify themselves as Palestinian citizens of Israel rather than as Israeli Arabs.   The New York Times uses both ‘Palestinian Israelis’ and ‘Israeli Arabs’ to refer to the same population. Every Israeli resident has an identity card, which identifies Palestinians as Arab Israelis. This is the same system that was used in South Africa during apartheid, which saw citizens and others denoted by race and/or colour.   The discrimination is blatant. Added to this, Arab Israelis rate among the poorest residents in Israel. According to the Jerusalem Post 2021, about 2 million people in Israel live below the poverty line. This is 23% of Israeli citizens and 31.7% of Israeli children. In the Arab sector, 702,832 are poor, with 346,397 of this population being children. In the Jewish population, the proportion of the poor is 17.7%.  In the Arab population, 35.8% who live in poverty.

The report’s findings show that the standard of living of families in Israel, as measured by the median economic income, fell by a considerable 22.7% in 2020, with the main victims being of the middle class. In addition, there was a significant increase in poverty and inequality from 22.4% in 2019 to 23% in 2020. This clearly reflects the political turmoil in Israel, which manifests in the hesitancy of migrants to relocate to their homeland.

Israel is imploding from within. Four elections in two years is taking its toll. Israel’s society is hurting. The country is divided and Arab Israeli’s are finding their voice. This raises some significant issues in relation to change and the direction it might take.

Conclusion.

I began this work with the memory of my grandfather who died before I was born. From what I remember of my childhood, Jews had no quarrel with Islam, Muslims and Jews were cousins; family. I am pretty sure my grandfather would have been impressed with Islam, for its morals, its discipline, its advocacy for peace and its ban on usury. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and perhaps the western ideologues feel threatened by it. At the same time western values have fallen into disarray. The western adage of “cause no harm” has become meaningless.

The development of western thought has conceived a dislike for all forms of religion and Islam has become significantly visible in recent years. This makes for obvious tensions. America like other European countries pour millions of dollars into war games, which adds to the insecurities and leads to real wars. Market forces have much to gain from the post war military economies. Justification is all too easy  when people do not understand the details of what is happening. Islam is a religion of peace and should be defended.

Free Palestine.

Sources.

History.com  Palestine.

Wikipedia. Ottoman Empire.

Aljazerra.com  Palestine

US Office of the Historian. Creation of Israel.

Jewish Virtual Library. Migration.

The  Times of Israel.

Voxeu. Org. Migration.

Shlomo Sand. The Invention of the Jewish People.

Arthur  Koestler. The Thirteenth Tribe.

 

Zionism v Hamas.

 

 

 

 

Hamas:  AFP Getty images.

While the Zionists have stepped up their aggression, Hamas has not relinquished its past.  Note the narrative of the Hamas Charter:

“Ye are the best nation that hath been raised up unto mankind: ye command that which is just, and ye forbid that which is unjust, and ye believe in Allah. And if they who have received the scriptures had believed, it had surely been the better for them: there are believers among them, but the greater part of them are transgressors. They shall not hurt you, unless with a slight hurt; and if they fight against you, they shall turn their backs to you, and they shall not be helped. They are smitten with vileness wheresoever they are found; unless they obtain security by entering into a treaty with Allah, and a treaty with men; and they draw on themselves indignation from Allah, and they are afflicted with poverty. This they suffer, because they disbelieved the signs of Allah, and slew the prophets unjustly; this, because they were rebellious, and transgressed.” (Al-Imran – verses 109-111). To read the rest go to http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp

The  name Hamas is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, originating as it did in 1987 after the beginning of the first intifada, or Palestinian uprising, against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
It originally had a dual purpose of carrying out an armed struggle against Israel – led by its military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades – and delivering social welfare programmes.  Since 2005, it became political and entered the  contest for government  and become the first Islamist group in the Arab world to win an election through the ballot box.

Deadly clashes between Fatah and Hamas erupted in Gaza in June 2007, after which Hamas set up a rival government, leaving Fatah and the PA running parts of the West Bank not under Israeli control.

Israel held Hamas responsible for all attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip, and has carried out three major military campaigns in Gaza – Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in July 2014.

The offensives were preceded by escalations in cross-border fighting, with scores of rocket attacks from Gaza, and air strikes against it by Israel.

Hamas emerged from the 2008 and 2012 conflicts militarily degraded but with renewed support among Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank for having confronted Israel and survived.

The group nevertheless continued to struggle under the joint blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt, and became increasingly isolated after falling out with regional powers in the wake of the Arab Spring. The overthrow in July 2013 of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a key ally, was a further blow.

In April 2014, Hamas agreed a reconciliation deal with Fatah that led to the formation of a national unity government, but it has never been fully implemented.

Hamas came to prominence after the first intifada as the main Palestinian opponent of the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

Despite numerous Israeli operations against it and clampdowns by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas found it had an effective power of veto over the process by launching suicide attacks.

Image copyright AP Image caption Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was killed in an Israeli missile strike in March 2004

In February and March 1996, it carried out several suicide bus bombings, killing nearly 60 Israelis, in retaliation for the assassination in December 1995 of Hamas bomb maker Yahya Ayyash.

The bombings were widely blamed for turning Israelis off the peace process and bringing Benjamin Netanyahu – a staunch opponent of the Oslo accords – to power.

In the post-Oslo world, most particularly following the failure of US President Bill Clinton’s Camp David summit in 2000 and the second intifada which followed shortly thereafter, Hamas gained power and influence as Israel clamped down on the Palestinian Authority, which it accused of sponsoring deadly attacks.

Hamas organized clinics and schools, which served Palestinians who felt let down by the corrupt and inefficient Palestinian Authority, dominated by the Fatah faction.

Many Palestinians cheered the wave of Hamas suicide attacks in the first years of the second intifada.

They saw “martyrdom” operations as avenging their own losses and Israel’s settlement building in the West Bank, wanted by Palestinians as part of their own state.

After the death of Fatah leader Yasser Arafat in 2004, the Palestinian Authority was taken over by Mahmoud Abbas.

He viewed Hamas rocket fire as counter-productive, inflicting relatively little damage on Israel but provoking a harsh response by the Israeli military.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Fifteen people died in this 2001 Haifa suicide attack, one of 30 claimed by Hamas that year

When Hamas scored a landslide victory in 2006, the stage was set for a bitter power-struggle with Fatah.

Hamas resisted all efforts to get it to sign up to previous Palestinian agreements with Israel, as well as to recognize Israel’s legitimacy and to renounce violence.

Hamas’s charter defines historic Palestine – including present-day Israel – as Islamic land and it rules out any permanent peace with the Jewish state.

The charter also repeatedly makes attacks on Jews as a people, drawing charges that the movement is anti-Semitic.

Hamas has, however, offered a 10-year truce in return for a complete Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967: the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

It insists though that millions of Palestinian refugees stemming from the 1948 war must be allowed to return to homes in what became Israel – a move that would threaten Israel’s very existence.

Over the years Hamas has lost many members in Israeli assassinations and security sweeps:

  • Sheikh Yassin was killed in a missile attack in March 2004
  • Abdul Aziz al-Rantissi emerged as Hamas leader in Gaza before he too was assassinated in April 2004
  • Other prominent Hamas officials killed by the Israelis include Qassam Brigades leader Salah Shehada in July 2002; Ismail Abu Shanab in August 2003; Said Siyam in January 2009; and Qassam Brigades commander Ahmed Jabari in November 2012

After the death of Sheikh Yassin, Khaled Meshaal became the group’s political leader in exile. He was succeeded by Gaza-based Ismail Haniya in May 2017.

Hamas’s decision to stand in elections in 2006 was a major departure for the movement.

The new government was subjected to tough economic and diplomatic sanctions by Israel and its allies in the West.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Israeli offensives have reduced but not destroyed the capacity of Gaza’s militants to launch rocket attacks

After Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza in 2007, Israel tightened its blockade on the territory, and rocket-fire and Israeli counter-raids continued.

In December that year, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead – a 22-day offensive aimed, Israel said, at halting rocket attacks from Gaza. More than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

Israel cited the same reason for Pillar of Defence in 2012- which began with an air strike that killed Ahmed Jabari, the Qassam Brigades commander. Some 170 Palestinians – mostly civilians – and six Israelis died in the eight-day conflict.

Palestinian sources say Hamas largely tried to maintain calm after the conflict ended, with the Qassam Brigades not joining in the rocket attacks on Israel.

But Hamas also did not move to halt the rocket fire altogether, apparently because it was concerned that Palestinians would see it as less committed to fighting Israel than rival militant groups, particularly Islamic Jihad.

Rocket fire increased in mid-June 2014 when Israel arrested many Hamas members across the West Bank while searching for three murdered Israeli teenagers.

Then on 7 July, Hamas claimed responsibility for firing rockets at Israel for the first time since 2012, and Hamas and Israel became embroiled in the most intensive fighting for months.

The fighting ended after 50 days with a ceasefire. At least 2,189 Palestinians were killed, including more than 1,486 civilians, according to the UN. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers were killed along with the six civilians.

References

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-13331522

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-13331522

The Hadith by Bill Warner PhD

Image by the author of the review.

Should a review of the Hadith be accepted by someone who is not a Muslim?  We all have a right our opinions and good journalism means being impartial.  So how should we read the following review?

 

The Hadith:  Review of Bias in Warner’s

The Hadith.

(I have retained the original spelling).

Dr Chris James

Abstract.

Discrimination against Muslims in the west has always existed, but since 9/11 it has become intensive. This paper is a response to the growing bias towards Muslims. In particular it addresses, what I view as an offensive post 9/11 work, titled “The Hadith: The Traditions of Mohammed by Bill Warner, PhD.” In my opinion, the work by Bill Warner, calls into question, what is a fair critique of modern-day Islam, what is permissible as credible academic literature and what constitutes bigotry and Islamophobia.   I am a scholar of religions with  a particular interest in Islam, its future and what it means for humanity in general. I present this review because the aforesaid work and its interpretation of the Hadith, is in my view, lacking,  misleading,  and unhelpful to the analysis and progress of philosophical studies and debate, but unfortunately it is not the only example, just the one I choose to focus on here. Post 9/11, Muslims are experiencing an unwarranted social and political backlash. Many Muslims were killed in the terrorist attacks on the US World Trade Centre in 2001 and the majority of Muslims condemned the violence. Nonetheless, Muslims are still perceived as threatening and unwelcome in many quarters of the western world. The problem appears to be, not so much one of race, but religious doctrine. From time to time all religions come under scrutiny, but in this respect, Islam stands alone from all other forms of religious examination because the scrutiny is relentless. Warner’s work is a typical example of this relentless scrutiny and it needs to be challenged.

Introduction.

This paper is in response to a book titled The Hadith: The Traditions of Mohammed, by Bill Warner, PhD. Bill Warner established the Centre for the Study of Political Islam (CPSI), an acclaimed educational organization, which states it provides “factual knowledge about political Islam”1 A short biography of Dr Warner gives the reader an overview of “a life-long interest in religions, including Islam, and their effects on history and civilization.” Warner’s aim, according to his biography, is to make the “Islamic political doctrine, which he says, impacts non-Muslims, available to the average person.”2 Warner’s work is based largely on the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) whereby he uses statistical methods to identify, what he calls “dualism” and “submission” as the foundational principles of the Islamic doctrine.3 However, Warner’s interpretation of these criterion is significantly incomplete and in my view, biased.

The Hadith is one of a series of books included in Warner’s “Self-Study Course on Political Islam”. The course is taught in two levels, the first A taste of Islam, which is based on four books, The Sira Law for Non-Muslims, The Hadith, The Koran and The Sharia. The second level also contains four books, Persuasion, Slavery, Women, and Christians and Jews. I have limited my critic to The Hadith.

Objectives.

I am always dubious when an outsider steps up and produces a critical treatise on something s/he has not had first-hand experience in. Academic critique of works is a crucial component in scholarship, but balance and context are also important. The Hadith as prescribed by Warner, “is a condensed version of the Islamic Hadith Collections,” but in my opinion, it is deliberately negative and presents Islam as an archaic system of superstition, oppression, violence and persecution. I am not a Muslim, but I am a scholar of Hebrew and Islamic studies and in my reasoning, I would suggest that Warner’s work is extremely offensive to anyone who identifies as Muslim. Literary critique and political polemic are not the same thing. I have respect for the right to critique religious and political texts, but fair academic critique should not be weighted solely on the side of disparaging statements that are devoid of contextualization and a cross fertilization of scholarly interpretations. Further, Warner’s post 9/11 work is not the only example of discrimination and angst against Muslims or their supporters. There are in my opinion, two levels of global attack against Muslims, one is in the prevalent dismissal of bias and hate speech, the other is to ignore the wars, persecutions, hardships and attempted genocides that have been an integral part of world history and our modern society. Warner’s examples of the Hadith texts are replete with unexplained violence. Wars were carried out against Muslims in the time of Muhammad (PBUH) and his followers and they are still being carried out against Muslim populations today. Some Muslims have reserved the right to fight back, but this is not an act of advocating or condoning violence, but one of survival. We must face the realities; the world is divided and when one side bullies the other side it will strive to retaliate and mediation is a delicate process.

If we adhere to the universal right to freedom of religion then it is important to call out any limits imposed upon that freedom, be they individual or en-mass. Just a peripheral glance at the statistics on social bifurcation, pain and displacement of the worlds’ peoples’ today, the vast majority who are suffering are Muslims. In my opinion Warner’s book incites further hostility and suffering, it does nothing to close the gap.

Dedication.

Warner’s book dedication is to the “millions of victims of jihad over the past 1,400 years.”4 If we were to relocate this dedication to Two World Wars alone, fought largely in the west, we would be remembering the warriors on all sides as heroes, not victims, albeit there are no winners in wars. Importantly, the word’s “jihad” and “victims” put together carry a very heavy payload, they form part of a common and very selective vocabulary aimed at targeting one particular group and labelling them the enemy of western civilization. Muslims are not the enemy of the west. Governments trade with them, share their achievements and celebrate mutual international agreements. Many Muslim migrants make a huge contribution to public life and the western economies. Why then are they so alienated?

Warner’s note to his readers, tells us that after the attack on the World Trade Centre Towers in 2001, “no one knew the doctrine of Islam”, he therefore devoted his life “to educating the world about its political doctrine.” The very nature of this goal draws concern. To devote one’s life to targeting and exposing a particular group of difference is, in my view, far from helpful or indeed, healthy. Warner goes on to say his work “contains objective knowledge, not opinion.”5 Perhaps the word “selective” would be more appropriate. The quotations marked for his volume are extremely selective and misleading. In the following paragraph Warner tells his readers, “the common dismissal of Islamic doctrine is that moderate Muslims do not follow it. He states, “the book is not about Muslims, moderate or extreme, but about Islamic political doctrine and history.” Warner, then pushes back against this statement by saying, “You will only get a personal point of view when you ask a Muslim about Islam. And what kind of Muslim do you ask, a moderate Muslim or a jihadist? Both moderate and jihads all submit to the Sunnah of Mohammed and the Koran.”6 The statement speaks for itself, all Muslims are tarnished with the same brush, there is no individualism and no Muslim is worthy of consideration.

There is not a Biblical or classical text in history that is free of some kind of violence or innuendo. The one most important piece of information missing from the debate is that the Qur’an contains both the Hebrew Torah and the Christian New Testament. Hitherto, if one is a portrait of violence then all must be viewed from this perspective. However, the measure of attack against the Jewish or Christian Scriptures is in no way measurable at the level of that against the Qur’an and other relevant Islamic discourses.

The Texts.

Dr Maurice Bucaille in his work The Bible, the Qur’an and Science (1987) tells us that Muhammad’s own attitude (PBUH) towards the Qur’an was quite different than that of his personal sayings because the Qur’an constituted the teaching of Allah and was proclaimed by him as a Divine Revelation.

Over a period of twenty years the words were classified with what had to be written down and what had to be learned by heart to become part of the liturgy of prayers. The Hadiths, according to Bucaille, are in essence an account of the Prophet’s deeds and personal reflections, but he left it to others to find an example in them for their own behaviour and to make them public however they liked: he did not give any instructions.7 We can deduce from this that only a very limited number of the Hadiths may be considered as the Prophet Muhammad’s thoughts (PBUH). The Hadith then is dealing with the thoughts of men of his time, hence when compared to the Qur’an there are profound and anticipated differences, both in context and theological articulation. The differences serve to highlight the extraordinary chasm between the Revelation given to the Prophet (PBUH) and the lives of those upon whom the knowledge was bestowed.

According to Islamic tradition, the Qur’an is regarded as the literal word of God as recited to Muhammad (PBUH) through the archangel Gabriel and according to tradition Muhammad (PBUH) recited what the archangel Gabriel revealed to him for his companions to memorize and write down. Muslims believe that the wording of the Qur’anic text available today corresponds exactly to that given to Muhammad in the years 610–632,.8

However, language changes over time. The early Arabic script transcribed 28 consonants, of which only 6 can be readily distinguished, the remaining 22 having formal similarities which means that what specific consonant is intended can only be determined by context. It was only with the introduction of Arabic diacritics some centuries later, that an authorized vocalization of the text, and how it was to be read, was established and became canonical. 9 Prior to this period, there is evidence that the text could be read in different ways, with different meanings. We know this from the work of Al-Tabari who wrote history, theology and Qur’anic commentary. He prefaces his early commentary on the Qur’an showing that the precise way to read the verses of the sacred text was not fixed, even in the day of the Prophet (PBUH). As the story goes, two men disputing a verse in the text asked Ubay ibn Ka’b to mediate, and he disagreed with them, coming up with a third reading. To resolve the question, the three went to Muhammad who then asked the first man to read out the verse, and announced it was correct. Then the second man was asked to read the verse. He made the same response when the second alternative reading was delivered. He then asked Ubay to provide his own recital, and, on hearing the third version, Muhammad also pronounced it, ‘correct!’ Noting Ubay’s perplexity and inner thoughts, Muhammad then told him, “Pray to God for protection from the accursed Satan”.10 Clearly, according to the Prophet (PBUH) the text was never definitively absolute.

The Doctrine.

The Qur’an does not stand alone as the doctrine of Islam. Complimentary information of a legislative nature was sought in relation to the Revelation. These came from an oral tradition. Those who undertook the task were faced with what Bucaille calls very “taxing…accounts of past events.” They nevertheless aimed for accuracy and this is illustrated by the fact that in all of the Prophet’s sayings (PBUH), “the most venerable collections always bear the name of those responsible for the account.” This included an examination of those who first collected the information from members of the Prophet’s family (PBUT) or his companions.11 A number of the Prophet’s words (PBUH) appeared under the name of Hadith, the word means “utterances”, but the Hadiths also covered details of the Prophet’s deeds. The first collections, made after the Prophet’s death (PBUH) were said to be fairly restrained and two hundred years elapsed for more words were recorded, so we might question the accuracy of the statements and attributions. Bucaille tells us that the statements by Al Bukhari are the most reliable, but they are still vulnerable to interpretation. Bucaille warns against translations that are inaccurate or contain untruths, or, to put it differently, those “which are more interpretation than translation.”12 Bucaille informs us that on occasions the Hadiths have had such considerable change that there is no sense in which they contain the real meaning. Indeed, he compares some of the versions with the inaccuracies contained in the Christian Gospels, which are known to be somewhat inaccurate.13 In more recent years a bilingual Arabic/English edition of the Hadiths has been issued by Doctor Muhammed Muhsin Khan of the university of Medina, which promises fewer errors.14

Bucaille has explored the Hadiths just to see how the Prophet (PBUH) expressed himself outside the context of the Revelation, while being aware that the texts were originally from an oral tradition. His focus was on issues of science as quoted in the Qur’an. What Bucaille found was that the Hadiths already set out in sections of the Qur’an and modern science were highly accurate. These are the only Hadiths he was concerned with. However, he tells us that “Hadiths which have as their subject interpretation of certain verses of the Qur’an sometimes lead to commentaries which are hardly acceptable today”15 and many Muslims recognize this, but by the same token, the errors provide a weapon for any opponents.

Bucaille provides the following example of literary embellishment.

(Sura 36, verse 36) dealing with the Sun, “which runs its course to a settled place”.

Here is the interpretation given of it in a Hadith: At sunset, the sun…prostrates itself underneath the Throne, and takes permission to rise again, and it is permitted and then (a time will come when) it will be about to prostrate itself…it will ask permission to go on its course…it will be ordered to return whence it has come and so it will rise in the West…(Sahih al Bukhari).

The original text (The Book of the Beginning of Creation.Vol lV p 283, part 54 chapter lV number 241 is, according to Bucaille, obscure and difficult to translate. Nonetheless, Bucaille says, “this passage nevertheless contains an allegory, which implies the notion of a course the Sun runs in relation to the earth: science has shown the contrary to be the case. Bucaille then tells us that the authenticity of this Hadith is doubtful.16 Hence, differentiating between the Qur’an and the Hadiths is essential, specifically for good scholarship.

Bucaille goes on to question other Hadiths that have been given poetic licence. The Qur’an does not give any advice on remedial arts, barring one exception (Sura 16 verse 69) comments on the possibility of using honey as a therapeutic aid. On the other hand, the Hadiths devote a great deal of attention to medicine. According to Bucaille there is a Hadith that certain kinds of date may be used against the effects of magic.17

Conflicting Groups.

In the years that followed the Prophet’s death (PBUH) texts were to be recorded with two groups of teachings. Emphasis needs to be put upon the disparity between these two groups of texts. In the years that were to follow the Prophet’s death (PBUH) the first gathering of Hadiths was created 40 years after Hegira, (the shift from Mecca to Medina), while the first collection of Qur’anic texts had been made beforehand under the guidance of Calif Abu Bakr. There are some differences that have never been settled.

Bucaille concludes his investigations by asserting that while the Qur’an appears commonplace, concealing data that science was later to bring to light, certain statements in the Hadiths, which allude to absolute agreement with the ideas of the times, are also opinions that are out of step with science today. Bucaille suggests, “they have slipped into an aggregate of statements concerning Islamic doctrine and legislation, whose authenticity is unquestionably acknowledged, but not in line with Muhammad’s (PBUH) own views.”18

Bucaille concludes, that the truth of the Hadiths, from a religious point of view is beyond question, but when they deal with earthly affairs, they can be called into question. Bucaille tells us that one Hadith gives an account of the Prophet (PBUH), which should be noted first hand: “When I command you to do something related to religion do obey and if I command you do something according to your own opinion (do remember this) I am a human being.”

Dualities.

There is no doubt that many of the Hadiths contradict the Qur’an and Warner’s work gives its impetus to the most negative of literal readings. He writes:

The Hadiths include brutality by Mohammed and the Muslims. Mohammed ordered that some thieves have their hands and feet removed, hot nails put in their eyes and that they be left to die of thirst lying on sharp rocks in the hot sun.”19

One cannot deny a history of brutality in the regions. It is not a history that is unique to the Middle East. Notwithstanding, who might we blame? It is a philosophical question that has little relevance to today’s reading of Islam. The world has changed and most devotees of religion are seeking unity.

Many Muslims note the unreliability of some Hadiths and they focus on the Qur’an, but this is dismissed by Warner as an excuse and he suggests that the Qur’an does not offer enough information on how to practice Islam. In fact, Warner claims, “if you throw out the Hadiths, you can’t practice Islam.”

Segregation.

Warner puts a strong impetus on the word Kafir to distinguish the Muslim from the Other. In today’s climate the word Kafir is deeply offensive. As part of the ancient Qur’anic discourse, the term typifies all things that are unacceptable and offensive to God. The most fundamental sense of kufr in the Qur’an is “ingratitude”, the wilful refusal to acknowledge or appreciate the benefits that God bestows on humankind, including clear signs and Revealed Scriptures. 20 Kufr is an Arabic term which marks a person as an infidel, a pagan, or someone who rejects Allah, a nonbeliever. The meaning of the word today is politically painful and often used as a demarcation between black and white people.

The term Kufr is used in different ways in the Quran, with the most fundamental sense being ungrateful or thankless towards Allah. Its opposite is īmān or faith. 21 Kafir can be used interchangeably with mushrik, a polytheist. Sometimes overlapping Qur’anic terms for wrong doers are allām (villain, oppressor) and fāsiq (sinner, fornicator).22 Historically, while Islamic scholars agreed that a polytheist/mushrik is a kafir, they sometimes disagreed on the propriety of applying the term to Muslims who committed a grave sin or to the People of the Book. The term has a history of disparity not acceptance.

The Qur’an distinguishes between mushrikun and People of the Book, reserving the former term for idol worshippers. Some classical thinkers view the Christian doctrine to be a form of shirk. In modern times, kafir is used to describe self-professed Muslims, particularly by members of Islamist movements.23 The term is indeed, historical and loaded with separatism and alienation, but this is no reason to continue its use. By implication Warner suggests that Islam is religiously divisive, which in the modern context has no basis since there is more religious unity across beliefs today than ever before. Added to this, Islam is the most open and hospital of all the religions requiring only a belief in Allah as the only one God and the most merciful. Compared to other religions conversion is simple, welcoming and without complex learning or ceremony. It demands that the person be ethical.

Warner implies there are different sets of ethics, one for the Muslim and another for the Kafir. “One set tells how to treat the Muslim and the second that describes how to treat the Kafir” and they are, in Warner’s opinion, not equal.24 This is clearly out of step with the more modern liberalised Muslim beliefs. Warner also puts the focus on Jihad. Warner states, “The suffering caused by jihad, slavery, dhimmitude (non-Muslims), and the killing of apostates is all based upon the duality.”25 According to Pew’s statistics the number of people who leave Islam in the US is about equal to the numbers who join. Further, there is no record of killing those who leave.26

Unification.

There should be no quarrel between Islam and the other Book Religions. The Qur’an mentions many of the people who are previously mentioned in the Bible. The Islamic view of Revelation is that it is one of three Testaments, the First was the Jews, the Second was the Christians, the Third and final one is Islam. The Testament of Islam is one for our times because as most scholars agree, the world is in a period of crisis. Stories related in the Qur’an usually focus more on the spiritual significance of events rather than the details. The stories are generally comparable, but there are differences between Testaments. One of the most profound differences is the Islamic view of Jesus and the crucifixion. The Qur’an maintains that Jesus was not crucified and did not die on the cross. Jesus was a teacher and prophet, he may well have been killed, but he was not crucified. This is only to reiterate what many have been thinking.

Conclusion.

It is often said that the Qur’an is not a book of science, but a book of signs and while the many discourses on science in the Qur’an have been found to be correct, the work is most definitively a tool for changing human behaviour towards a disciplined existence. Warner claims his work uses the scientific method, but in my view, it is neither neutral, nor has it progressed beyond theory. A distinction must be made between a scientific theory and fact. Theory is intended to explain the not already known details which must be tried and tested to gain the facts. Modern science must also be current and purposeful. The only purpose I could find in Warner’s work was to describe a Muslim culture in such a manner that it might elevate the culture of the imperial west and make it sacrosanct.

The Qur’an has been tried and tested over the centuries and it has served to produce harmonious communities across the globe. There is an inner peace to be had away from the politics and worldly competition and skirmishes. The main focus of the Qur’an is not war or hostility it is an opportunity for peace and prayer, that can only be brought about by honour, respect and self-discipline. With this in mind, I find Warner’s interpretation of the Hadith misleading and mischievous. The Qur’an encourages every Muslim to follow Muhammad’s example (PBUH). Warner’s work covers a vast range of topics, but none are presented as peaceful or liberating, while Islam is predicated on a spiritual liberation in this world and the next.

 

References.

1Bill Warner 2010. The Hadith, The Traditions of Mohammed. UK Centre for the Study of Political Islam www.cspipublishing.com

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid

4Ibid p iii

5Ibid pv

6Please note I have retained Warner’s spelling which differs from my own.

7Maurice Bucaille. 1987 The Bible, the Qur’an and Science. The Holy Scriptures examined in Light of Modern Knowledge. Paris Seghers p264.

8 John Esposito, Islam the Straight Path, Extended Edition, p.19-20 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_the_Quran

9Christoph Luxenberg 2007 The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran: A Contribution to the Decoding of the Language of the Koran. Verlag Hans Schiler, p.31.

10Christoph Luxenberg, 2007 p.36

11Maurice Bucaille. 1987 The Bible, the Qur’an and Science. The Holy Scriptures examined in Light of Modern Knowledge. Paris Seghers p260.

12Ibid.

13Ibid.p260

14Ibid.p260

15Ibid p261

16Ibid 261.

17Ibid 263.

18Ibid

19Bill Warner 2010. The Hadith, The Traditions of Mohammed. UK Centre for the Study of Political Islam p12. www.cspipublishing.com

20 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kafir and Adams, Charles; Reinhart, A. Kevin. “Kufr”. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. Retrieved 16 April 2021.

21Ibid.

22Ibid.

23Emmanuel M. Ekwo Racism and Terrorism: Aftermath of 9/11 Author House 2010 page 143

24Bill Warner2010. The Hadith, The Traditions of Mohammed. UK Centre for the Study of Political Islam p12. www.cspipublishing.com

25Ibid.

26https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/01/26/the-share-of-americans-who-leave-islam-is-offset-by-those-who-become-muslim/

 

 

The Sun will rise in the West.

                                                       Image from NASA

The Qur’an tells us that Allah the Almighty created the sun which is a sign that indicates the Power and the Mercy of Allah. Allah says in Surah 24 Al-Nur (The light): Allah alternates the night and the day. Indeed, in that is a lesson for those who have vision.1

The Qur’an has disclosed information about many scientific aspects including the planetary motions of sun, earth and moon. It has been reported that between the eighth and twelfth centuries AD, when development in science was restricted in the Christian world, a large number of studies and discoveries were made at Islamic universities. It was said that the Calif’s library at Cordoba contained 400,000 volumes and Greek, Indian and Persian sciences were taught.2 The scientific considerations that appear in the Qur’an are highly accurate in nature and in line with today’s modern science.

Accordingly, in Islam, whether everything in this universe is observable or not, it is under the writ and guidance of Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala (SWT)), which translates as “Glory to Him, the Exalted” As the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him (PBUH)), said literally or philosophically… that Sun goes (i.e. travels) till it prostrates Itself underneath the Throne and takes the permission to rise again, and it is permitted and then (a time will come when) it will be about to prostrate itself but its prostration will not be accepted, and it will ask permission to go on its course but it will not be permitted, but it will be ordered to return whence it has come and so it will rise in the west).3

When the Earth’s magnetic poles shift, North to South, it is said that the East would be the West and thus the sun would rise in the West. The process of the pole shift is called a geomagnetic reversal or a change in a planet’s magnetic field such that the positions of magnetic north and magnetic south are interchanged (not to be confused with geographic north and geographic south). The Earth’s magnetic field has alternated between periods ( These periods are called chrons) of normal polarity in which the predominant direction of the field was the same as the present direction, and reverse polarity, in which it was the opposite. In recent years, hypotheses have advanced toward linking reversals to mass extinctions. The end of superchrons have caused vigorous convection leading to widespread volcanism, and the subsequent airborne ash caused long periods of darkness, leading to extinctions. As the Earth’s magnetic field would also be much weaker during such reversals, high-energy particles trapped in the Van Allen radiation belt could be liberated and able to bombard the Earth, which would be exposed to radiation infiltration without the existing strong magnetic field to protect it. Detailed calculations confirm that if the Earth’s dipole field disappeared entirely (leaving the quadrupole and higher components), most of the atmosphere would become accessible to high-energy particles, and cosmic ray collisions would produce secondary radiation in the atmosphere of beryllium-10 or chlorine-36. This would be fatal to life on earth, and potentially it would destroy most life forms in what could be considered the final hours.4 Scientists therefore claim that the geomagnetic reversals could be cataclysmic leading to the extinction of life. In simple language this could be explained through the prediction of the rising sun in the West, as described in Islam. It has been suggested that the flipping of the Earth’s poles together with a drop in the solar activity 42,000 years ago could have generated an apocalyptic environment that may have caused the extinction of the megafauna and the end of Neanderthals. 5

The Earth’s magnetic field acts as a protective shield against damaging cosmic radiation, but when the poles switch, as has occurred many times in the past, the protective shield weakens dramatically and leaves the planet exposed to high energy particles.

One temporary flip of the poles, known as the Laschamps excursion, happened 42,000 years ago and lasted for about 1,000 years. Previous work found little evidence that the event had a profound impact on the planet, possibly because the focus had not been on the period during which the poles were actually shifting. Now scientists say the flip, together with a period of low solar activity, could have been behind a vast array of climatic and environmental phenomena with dramatic ramifications. According to Prof Chris Turney of the University of New South Wales and co-author of a study, “it probably would have seemed like the end of days”.6

1Qur’an Surah 24 an Nur 44

2Dr Maurice Bucaille. 1986. The Bible the Qur’an and Science. Seghers Publishers p125.

3 When writing the name of God (Allah), Muslims often follow it with the abbreviation “SWT,”

4 S. Cassim. 1998. (BSc from London School of Economics and Political Science) https://www.quora.com/According-to-Islam-the-sun-will-rise-in-the-west-in-the-final-hours-Is-there-any-scientific-explanation-to-support-this Retrieved 30th March 2021.

5 The Guardian January 2021 End of Neanderthals linked to flip of Earth’s magnetic poles… https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/feb/18/end-of-neanderthals-linked-to-flip-of-earths-magnetic-poles-study-suggests Retrieved 30th March 2021.

6Ibid.

Islamic Art.

Islamic art: We look at it, we admire it, but how much do we know about it and why should we bother?

Not only is Islamic art beautiful, it tells us about the past and the future. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world today and it is predicted to become the only religion. Islam is rigid, disciplined and aimed at survival.  That said, as things stand we, as a people,  are undisciplined and destroying everything around us.  We no longer have prophets to save us. Even the Torah notes the importance of Muhammad as the last prophet. Many people make judgements about Islam based on false information.   Sometimes what is  promulgated as Islam is really just political and fundamentalist.  The true Islam is in the Quran.

Crime and punishment.

                                                   Art by Yiskhah

There is a discussion of crime and punishment in the Talmud that reminds me of the modern notion of deterrents. Do they work? The evidence suggests they do not work. From the position of psychotherapy deterrents fail to work because what drives us to action is not always a matter of conscious awareness. We are by and large, not rational human beings, we tend more towards the emotions and the chemicals that thrive on drama and challenge, the same chemicals that make us creative individuals and keep us alive.  “An eye for an eye” appears to be a suitable form of natural justice, but it does not take account of the power relations that sit beneath almost all forms of harmful activity. As Freud pointed out, we are taught to love our neighbour, but who truly loves their neighbour when they throw rubbish into your yard or they keep you up all night with heavy metal music? Love becomes a false premise! I spent several years working in criminal justice in the belief that regardless of the crime, every human being has a right to dignity and fair treatment. Retribution in any form does not resolve the underlying features that create societal problems which are grounded largely in inequality and a lack of opportunity to thrive. All crime and retribution is, in my view, a form of neurosis because it takes place in the context of fear. There are some people who commit offences regardless of their social disposition because they are fully embedded into a competitive capitalist system and need to express emotionally as well as physically.  The system itself generates immense fear in the minds of those who must live in it. Society creates its own criminals, but rather than address the aetiology of the offence we punish the perpetrators because it provides a feeling of being in control. However, the reverse is true. When we demand rights, we do not consider the number of new laws we need to enforce them. The more laws we have the more incentive to break them. The very nature of this duality insists that when one side of the duality gains more power the other must rise to match it.  Studies have shown that when perpetrators of crimes are forced to confront their victims to explain why they committed the offence, the discussion is far more effective for behavioural change than locking someone up in detention. This is a hard process for the victim, but it also opens the pathways for healing because it is only when we confront our worst fears that we can be truly healed.