Boris Shusteff

On March 17, in an interview given to the Israeli daily "Ha'aretz," writer Amos Oz, one of the stalwarts of Israeli left, demonstrated his vision of Israel's soul when he said: "our problem, the problem both of the Jewish people and of Israel not merely a problem of land and security, but an emotional problem. Our feeling of isolation, of humiliation. The feeling that they won't talk to us, only about us. "He said that when Anwar Sadat came to Jerusalem he conquered Israeli hearts when "he shook our hand and spoke to us. He was in fact telling us that we were a part of the family of nations. That we were human. That we were not lepers."

In his "exciting recollection" of Sadat's visit Oz forgot to mention where the emotional problems of the Jews come from. He completely neglected to mention that the feelings of "isolation and humiliation" were instilled in the Jews as a result of living for centuries among the Arabs in the capacity of "dhimmi," the same capacity that Arabs want to reinstate for the Jews. He did not mention the Charter of Omar - the twelve laws under which a dhimmi, or non-Muslim, was allowed to exist as a nonbeliever among believers. "The demeanment [sic] of Jews as represented by the Charter has carried down through the centuries, its implementation inflicted with varying degrees of cruelty or inflexibility" (1).

Those who today follow Arab propaganda and say that the Jewish problems with the Arabs began only after the establishment of Zionist Israel, and that prior to that there was serenity in their relations, simply repeat the Arab Orient stories that do not have a grain of truth in them. Just a few facts should be enough to recall how the Jews became so downtrodden.

Sir Thomas Hickinbotam, who was in Aden from 1931 and was appointed Aden's governor in 1951 wrote about relations between the Arabs and the Jews:

"The Arabs consider that the Jews are their social inferiors and, provided they kept their own place, or what the Arabs consider to be their place, there is no trouble at all and the two communities may live side by side in peace for years; but as soon as the Jews tended to forget that they were Jews and began assert themselves as men, then there was always a likelihood of serious trouble" (1).

A similar picture of Arab-Jewish relations was presented by the British vice-consul in Mosul (in Iraq) at the beginning of the twentieth century:

"The attitude of the Moslems towards the Jews is that of a master towards slaves whom he treats with a certain lordly tolerance so long as they keep their place. Any sign of pretension to equality is promptly repressed "(1).

In Egypt, the country most "tolerant" of the Jews, the attitude toward them was the same as in the rest of the Arab world. Egyptologist Edward Lane wrote about the first half of the nineteenth century, asserting that "the Jews are under a less oppressive government in Egypt than in any other country of the Turkish empire"(1). He described this "less oppressive" attitude of the Egyptians:

"They [the Jews] are held in the utmost contempt and abhorrence by the Muslims in general the Jews are detested by the Muslims far more than are the Christians. It is common to hear an Arab abuse his jaded ass, and, after applying to him various opprobrious epithets, end by calling the beast a Jew"(1).

Is it not surprising that, knowing this background, Amos Oz was so impressed by Sadat's arrival in Jerusalem? Shouldn't the slave be excited when his master visits his dwelling? When Sadat came to Israel the Jews completely forgot that it was the same Sadat who was proudly mentioned by Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1964, when he "declared, in an interview, that Egypt still pledged allegiance to the old Nazi cause: 'Our sympathy was with the Germans.' Nasser gave an example of the loyalty: 'The president of our parliament, for instance, Anwar Sa'adat, was imprisoned for his sympathy with the Germans'" (1).

The Israelis did not notice that Sadat was behaving like their master when he made the "lordly" declaration, "What is peace for Israel? It means that Israel lives in the region with her Arab neighbors in security and safety. Is that logical? I say yes. It means that Israel lives within its borders, secure against any aggression. Is that logical? And I say yes. It means that Israel obtains all kind of guarantees that will ensure these two factors." (2). The Jews did not even think at that moment that Sadat was offering them the "protection" that was offered to a dhimmi. "As a grateful payment for being allowed so to live and be 'protected,' a dhimmi paid a special head tax and a special property tax"(1). The Jews did not notice this, though Sadat was more than direct when he said, "we should revive the spirit of Omar ibn Khtab,"(2) the same caliph Omar who delineated, in one of his twelve laws of "dhimmihood," that the Jews were "compelled to wear a yellow piece of cloth as a badge"(1).

Sadat even told the Israelis what the "special tax" should be. Although the Jews were the victims of constant Arab enmity, Sadat declared: "I tell you, you have to give up once and for all the dreams of conquest and give up the belief that force is the best method for dealing with the Arabs... There are Arab territories that Israel occupied and still occupies by force. We insist on complete withdrawal from these territories including Arab Jerusalem" (2). Didn't Sadat sound like a master when he said: "I have not come to you under this roof to make a request that your troops evacuate the occupied territories. Complete withdrawal from the Arab territories occupied after 1967 is undisputed fact. Nobody should plead for that" (2).

Sadat insulted the Jews by saying, "If you have found moral and legal justification to set up a national home on a land that did not all belong to you, it is incumbent upon you to show understanding of the insistence of the people of Palestine for establishment once again of a state on their land"(2). Sadat dared to tell the Jews that Eretz Yisrael was not their land. He lied in saying that a "Palestinian" state existed there before, and the Jews applauded him. The dhimmi attitude was deeply ingrained in the souls of the Jews. The same behavior was characteristic of the Yemenite Jews in 1910, "If they are abused, they listen in silence as though they had not understood; if they are attacked by an Arab boy with the stones, they flee" (1).

Perhaps the "slaves" should be pardoned for not being as smart as their masters? Apparently, at the time of Sadat's visit the Israelis did not know that, already in 1971, Mohamed Heikal, an important spokesman of Egypt's leadership and an editor of the semiofficial Al Ahram "called for a change of Arab rhetoric - no more threats of "throwing Israel into the sea" - and a new political strategy aimed at reducing Israel to indefensible borders and pushing her into diplomatic and economic isolation. He predicted that "total withdrawal" would "pass sentence on the entire state of Israel" (1).

Following Heikal's advice the Arabs achieved results that have surpassed all their expectations. Israel is shrinking in size like a punctured balloon. At the same time the Arab hatred toward the Jews is not disappearing. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak explained in an interview on March 29 why this is happening,

Israel, although it has been in the Arab world for quite a long time, till now [does not] understand the Arab mentality. They should understand from the culture of the Arab countries, their mentality, how they think They cannot understand how to deal with the Arabs without making them hate them or be on bad terms with them (3).

If we translate what Mubarak said into plain language, we end up with the idea that if the Jews "keep their own place, or what the Arabs consider to be their place, there is no trouble at all and the two communities may live side by side in peace for years." For Israel that would mean that she should obey her Arab master and stop being a Jewish and a Zionist state. That this is what the Arabs are dreaming of was proved during a survey conducted among a representative sample of 500 Israeli Arabs carried out by Dr. Assad Ganem of the Institute For Peace Studies at Givat Haviva during November 1999. When asked what option they would choose as a solution to the problem of the Arabs in Israel, only 8.2% said that they could live in Israel that "will continue to be a Jewish Zionist state and Arabs in Israel will enjoy democratic rights." 62.2% wanted Israel to stop being a Jewish and Zionist state and 25.8% wanted to establish a pure Palestinian state in all parts of Palestine (4).

Those Jews who think that by dropping her Jewish and Zionist essence Israel will gain acceptance by the Arabs, at least by the Israeli Arabs, should first attend to the words of Mohhamed Heikal. On March 3, the veteran writer gave an extensive interview to the Egyptian weekly Al Ahram where he spoke about "the possibility of the de-Zionisation of Israel." He did not altogether dismiss the possibility, which would "provide a new basis for Israel's relations with the Arab world," but wondered what would "remain of Israel if it is de-Zionised?" He saw this question as the fundamental contradiction at the heart of Israel's existence, "for if you remove its Zionist basis, you remove the foundations of the state" (5).

Isn't it interesting that Heikal, the Arab writer, understands that Zionism is the basis of the Jewish state, but Oz, the Jewish writer, is ready to get rid of it in order for them "to talk to us and not only about us." Well, on the other hand, maybe it should not be surprising: the mentality of a master and a slave are light years apart.


1. Joan Peters, "From Time Immemorial," Harper &Row, Publishers, New York, 1984.

2. "The Israel-Arab Reader," Walter Laquer and Barry Rubin, editors, Penguin books, 1995.

3. Charlie Rose Show interview with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Subject: Israel-Syria peace negotiations. Time 1:00 PM. Date: Wednesday, March 29, 2000.

4. Survey of Israeli Arab Attitudes, March 30, 2000, http://join.virtual.co.il/cgi-win/imra.exe/0003304".

5. IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis), 3/19/00.



Boris Shusteff is an engineer in upstate New York. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.

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