Why are Palestinians paying for Germany’s sins?
– Susan Abulhawa 1
To explain why the Palestinians are not “paying for Europe’s sins” this article will focus on four key areas:
- Israel is not compensation for the Holocaust
- Israel is a necessity for Jews escaping antisemitism
- During the Holocaust Israel was “shut” to Jews
- Antisemitism is not exclusive to Europe, Muslims have also persecuted Jews
Israel is not “compensation” for the Holocaust
The question of the Holocaust, as a human catastrophe, must be separated from the creation of the state of Israel. For two thousand years Jews have yearned to return en masse to Israel and they were settling the land long before the horrors of the holocaust.
The common Palestinian (and Arab) understanding of Jewish history is riddled with malice and myth. None more so than the holocaust, where opinions range from believing the Zionists orchestrated the holocaust to exploiting it to create their state.
Such positions illustrate a lack of understanding of the chronology of the State of Israel. In 1917 the British Government informed the Zionists that they were committed to help setting up a Jewish National Home (in the Balfour Declaration). In 1922 the League of Nations, which was made up of 51 countries, awarded the Mandate of Palestine to Britain on the condition they help establish a Jewish National Home. This means that two decades before the holocaust took place the international community had already committed to establishing a Jewish National Home in Mandatory Palestine.
Israel is a necessity for Jews escaping antisemitism
Severely persecuted throughout the ages, the Jews had realized that their fate as a people laid in establishing their own country. For only in a Jewish state could the security of the Jewish people be guaranteed. Only in a Jewish state could they live their lives fully according to their own customs, culture, religion and sense of nationhood. Only in a Jewish state could asylum be guaranteed to Jews fleeing persecution.
In the late 1800s, Theodor Herzl and Chaim Weizmann founded Zionism, a political movement dedicated to the creation of a Jewish state. They saw Israel as a necessary refuge for Jewish victims of oppression, especially in Russia, where pogroms were decimating the Jewish population. The Early Zionists were so desperate for a refuge at one point that they even considered a proposal to create a Jewish homeland in Uganda, Alaska and Siberia. But the only land that truly inspired Jewish people worldwide was their ancient homeland which at that time was sparsely populated strip of land in the Ottoman Empire.
In accordance with its raison d’etre Israel now offers citizenship to any individual the Nazis would have considered Jewish. This policy ensures anyone facing persecution for being Jewish is provided with a place of refuge. This policy is particularly striking as the Nazi definition is not the same as the Jewish definition (Judaism considers anyone born of a Jewish woman or who has a converted to be Jewish, while the Nazis considered anyone with a Jewish grandparent).
Since its establishment Israel has taken in millions of Jews fleeing persecution and has undoubtedly saved many, many lives:
- 500,000 Holocaust survivors were granted refuge in Israel
- Over 1,000,000 Jews that were fleeing persecution in Muslim lands found refuge in Israel
- Approx. 300,000 Jews fled Soviet persecution and were granted refuge in Israel
- To this day Jews fearing for their safety in nations like France are seeking sanctuary in Israel
During the Holocaust Israel was “shut” to Jews
During WWII the British controlled immigration to Israel as they had they were the ruling power. Tragically they all but locked gates of Palestine to Jews for the duration of the war, stranding hundreds of thousands of Jews in Europe, many of whom became victims of Hitler’s “Final Solution”. Even more shocking than not granting the Jews refuge was that Britain opened the gates throughout this period to hundreds of thousands of Arabs, whose lives were not threatened.
After the war Britain still refused to allow the survivors of the Nazi nightmare sanctuary in Palestine. On June 6, 1946, President Truman urged the British government to relieve the suffering of the Jews confined to displaced persons camps in Europe by immediately accepting 100,000 Jewish immigrants. Britain’s Foreign Minister, Ernest Bevin, sarcastically replied that the America wanted displaced Jews to immigrate to Palestine “because they did not want too many of them in New York.” 2
Some Jews were able to reach Palestine, many smuggled in by way of dilapidated ships organized by members of the Jewish resistance organizations. Between August 1945 and the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948, 65 “illegal” immigrant ships, carrying 69,878 people, arrived from European shores. In August 1946, however, the British began to intern those they caught in camps in Cyprus. The majority of whom were refugees, weak and disheveled having just escaped the Nazi death camps of Europe. In a cruel twist of fate they now found themselves imprisoned behind the wire fences of another European superpower. Hundreds died and 53,000 refugees were detained, 3 28,000 of whom were still imprisoned when Israel declared independence.4
If Israel was created as a consequence of the holocaust, why were so many Jewish victims denied entry?
Antisemitism is not exclusive to Europe, Muslims have also persecuted Jews
The belief that Christendom persecuted its Jews while the Islamic world protected them is one of the many myths that plagues Middle East discourse. In reality there were Christian rulers that bestowed great kindness upon their Jewish citizens, while other Christian rulers inflicted unimaginable horrors. The same was true for the treatment of Jews at the hands of rulers Muslim rulers – at times it was good and other times brutally cruel.
Jews living in Muslim lands are considered dhimmis (protected people) and thus subjected to a number of restrictions – the application and severity of which varied with time and place. Restrictions included residency in ghettos, obligation to wear distinctive clothing, public subservience to Muslims (such as these conditions from the Pact of Umar: A Jew must rise when a Muslim enters a room, and they should offer up their seat if a Muslim want it), Jews were also ordered to pay a special poll tax (the “jizya”). These conditions ensured that even when times were good Jews were still second class citizens (their status was considerably worse than in today’s liberal democracies).
When times were bad they were gruesome and through the centuries hundreds of thousands of Jews were slaughtered by the hand of their oppressive Muslim rulers. Since the 19th century this has got progressively worse in the Arab world and by the 1980s, according to Bernard Lewis, the volume of antisemitic literature published in the Arab world, and the authority of its sponsors, suggests that classical antisemitism has become an essential part of Arab intellectual life, considerably more than in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century France, and to a degree that has been compared to Nazi Germany.5 During the Nazi era it was also horrendous and many Arab leaders lusted after the annihilation of the Jewish people, so much so, that when Hitler introduced the Nuremberg Race Laws many of them sent messages of congratulations.6 The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem went on to work closely with the Nazi’s, providing them with advice for their “Jewish problem”, meeting with Hitler and even setting up a German division of the Waffen SS.
Below are a list of just some of the antisemitic massacres carried out by Muslims (before the establishment of the State of Israel), it is by no means complete and there were many more that took place (particularly in Israel).
In Medina, Saudi Arabia Muhammad beheads 900 Jewish males
In Khaybar, Saudi Arabia 93 Jews are killed
The Jews of Cordoba are slaughtered when Sulayman ibn al-Hakam attacks
A Muslim leader conquers Morocco’s former capital city Fez and massacres upto 6,000 Jews.
A Muslim mob stormed Grenada in Spain and slaughters 4,000 Jews
Again in Grenada 2,000 Jews are slaughtered in another massacre
The Almohads conquer Tlemcen in Algeria and slaughter any Jew that doesn’t convert to Islam
The Almohads take Sijilmasa in Morocco and slaughter 150 Jews who refuse to convert
The Almohads capture the Moroccan cities Fez and Marrakech and slaughter over 100,000 Jews
The Jews are allowed to return Marrakech, but this enrages local Muslims who slaughter all of them
Jews were again offered Islam or death in Meknes, many were massacred
Moors massacre 40 Jews in Fez
The Jews of Baghdad in Iraq are massacred
The entire Jewish community of Fez is massacred
Abd-al-Karim al-Meghili orders destroys the synagogues of Touat and massacre many Jews
Ottomans rape and massacre Jews in Hebron, Israel
The Jews of Algiers in Algeria are massacred
The Jews of Basra in Iraq are massacred
Ali Gurzi Pasha murders hundreds of Jews in Tripoli, Libya who refuse to convert to Islam
Sultan Yazid orders the murder and rape of dozens of Jews in Tetuan, Morocco
Muslims massacre 500 Jews in Algiers, Algeria
Muslims burn eight Jews at the stake in Algiers
The Jewish community of Baghdad in Iraq are massacred
The Jews of Algiers are massacred
The throats of 400 Jews are slashed in Tabriz, Iran
Half of the Israeli city of Safed were Jewish, but the city was subject to a viscous massacre in which Muslims raped, murdered and then expelled the Jews
In Mashhad, Iran thirty six Jews were murdered and seven young girls kidnapped and forced to become Muslim brides
There are continuous pogroms against the Jews of Marrakech
In Barfurush, Iran twenty two Jews were murdered, while the women and girls kidnapped and forced to become Muslim brides
Sixty Jews were slaughtered in Settat and Taza, Morocco
Thirty Jews were massacred in Casablanca, Morocco
Twelve Jews were slaughtered in Shiraz, Iran
Forty two Jews were slaughtered in Fez, Morocco
A number of Jews were massacred in Damascus, Syria
In Constantinople, Algeria 34 Jews were butchered
Inspired by Nazi Germany the Muslims of Baghdad massacre 750 Jews
The Tripolitania pogrom in Libya leaves 140 Jews dead
The Aleppo massacre in Syria leaves 75 Jews dead
In Aden 82 Jews are slaughtered by a Muslim mob
With such ancient and growing antisemitism in the Muslim and Arab world, it is understandable that the Jews of this region desired a nation of their own to escape these horrors. To date over one million Jews have fled to Israel from Muslim lands. The Palestinians didn’t need to pay any price, they simply needed to agree to share the land with another people who had lived their for centuries.
- International support for the creation of a Jewish National Home in Israel pre-dates the Holocaust by decades
- Israel is a necessity for Jews escaping antisemitism, to date it has granted asylum to over one million Jews
- Israel was essentially closed to the Jews during the Holocaust, while unfettered Arab immigration meant thousands of Arabs flooded the land
- Israel was not just a sanctuary for Jews fleeing European antisemitism, but also Muslim persecution. Over one million Jews fled to Israel from Muslim lands
Learn more about how Israel as created:
- Did Israel get all of the good land?
- Did America create Israel?
- Is it true that Israel stole Palestinian land?
- Was there ever a Palestinian people?
- Was there ever a country called Palestine?
- Was the Zionist movement a plot to colonise the Middle East?
- Were the Jews unwilling to share Palestine?
- Was the UN Partition Plan unfair to the Palestinian majority?
- Are Israel’s borders expanding?
- Is it true that Britain created Israel?
- Why should the Palestinians pay for Europe's wrongs during the Holocaust?
1. “Why are Palestinians paying for Germany’s sins?”, Susan Abulhawa, The Electronic Intifada, 14/4/2012
2. George Lenczowski, American Presidents and the Middle East, p23.
3. Tucker, Spencer C.: The Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Political, Social, and Military History
4. Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, (NY: Funk and Wagnalls, 1970), p174
5. Lewis, Bernard. Semites and Anti-Semites, New York/London: Norton, 1986, p. 256.
6. “Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice”, Bernard Lewis, p148