For Hatem Bazian, the Balfour Declaration which the Zionists had worked so hard for, and regarded as their greatest pre-state triumph, represents “the total surrender of Jewish moral and ethical agency.” This will certainly come as a surprise not only to Jews, but to historians of Zionism and Israel. The Zionists thought that the state of Israel, which the Jews had to fight for, first diplomatically, with the Balfour Declaration, and then had to defend through force of arms, and to build into the astonishing country it has managed to become despite every conceivable obstacle, represented the highest form of Jewish “agency.”
Hatem Bazian knows better:
Zionism has achieved the role of a middle man for European political, economic, social, and religious hegemony in relations to the Global South. Accepting the impossibility of “integration” of a Jewish person in Europe is the highest form of anti-Semitism and racial epistemology,
a position that Herzl and the founders of Zionism have accepted and internalized.
So Zionism was never about Jewish liberation, but was always a stalking-horse for European hegemonists, an agent of European oppressors in “the Global South.” And that’s what makes it the enemy not just of Muslim Arabs, but of everyone who opposes colonialism and racism.
The crisis in Palestine emerges directly from the depths of European history of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
That’s really what Bazian wants — to liken “Islamophobia,” a word which is used to shut down legitimate criticism of Islam, to antisemitism, which killed six million people within recent memory. It was “antisemitic” to try to push the Jews out of Europe to Palestine, which is Bazian’s version of the Balfour Declaration. It was “Islamophobic” to allow Jews to settle in Palestine, where Muslim Arabs had been living for centuries. Israel then becomes, in Bazian’s fanciful analysis, the product of a marriage between antisemitism and Islamophobia. What could be worse or, from Bazian’s point of view, what could be better?
Bazian claims that the Balfour Declaration was antisemitic, an attempt to rid Europe of its Jews. Lord Balfour insisted that the “rights and status” of Jews in Europe should remain unaffected by the recognition of Jewish rights in Palestine. His emphatic statement in the Declaration needs to be repeated, and loudly enough so even Hatem Bazian can hear it: “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” Bazian is careful not to quote any part of the Balfour Declaration. He prefers to make up his own version. Why let facts get in the way?
Bazian refers to the “severing of long standing relations…between Muslims, Arabs and Jews” caused by the Balfour Declaration. Those happy memories of convivencia are a total fiction. Jews in Muslim lands were dhimmis, as were Christians, allowed to stay alive, and to practice their faith, but required to pay the jizyah, which was “protection money” paid annually to the Muslims so that they would not harm the dhimmi payer. They were excluded from public office and armed service, and were forbidden to bear arms. They were not allowed to ride horses or camels, to build synagogues (or, for Christians, churches) taller than mosques, to construct houses higher than those of Muslims or to drink wine in public. They were not allowed to pray or mourn in loud voices as that might offend the Muslims. The dhimmi had to show public deference toward Muslims, always yielding them the center of the road. The dhimmi was not allowed to give evidence in court against a Muslim, and his oath was unacceptable in an Islamic court. To defend himself, the dhimmi would have to purchase Muslim witnesses at great expense. This left the dhimmi with little legal recourse when harmed by a Muslim.
Dhimmis were also forced to wear distinctive clothing. In the ninth century, for example, Baghdad’s Caliph al-Mutawakkil designated a yellow badge for Jews, setting a precedent that would be followed centuries later in Nazi Germany.
And there were periodic outbursts of Muslim violence against Jews. For example, in 1066, Joseph HaNagid, the Jewish vizier of Granada, Spain, was crucified by an Arab mob that proceeded to raze the Jewish quarter of the city and slaughter its 5,000 inhabitants. The riot was incited by Muslim preachers who had angrily objected to what they saw as inordinate Jewish political power.
Similarly, in 1465, Arab mobs in Fez slaughtered thousands of Jews, leaving only 11 alive, after a Jewish deputy vizier supposedly treated a Muslim woman in “an offensive manner.” The killings touched off a wave of similar massacres throughout Morocco.
Other mass murders of Jews in Arab lands occurred in Morocco in the 8th century, where whole communities were wiped out by the Muslim ruler Idris I; North Africa in the 12th century, where the Almohads either forcibly converted or decimated several communities; Libya in 1785, where Ali Burzi Pasha murdered hundreds of Jews; Algiers, where Jews were massacred in 1805, 1815, and 1830, and Marrakesh, Morocco, where more than 300 hundred Jews were murdered between 1864 and 1880.
Decrees ordering the destruction of synagogues were enacted in Egypt and Syria (1014, 1293-4, 1301-2), Iraq (854-859, 1344) and Yemen (1676). Jews were forced to convert to Islam or face death in Yemen (1165 and 1678), Morocco (1275, 1465 and 1790-92) and Baghdad (1333 and 1344).
And I’ve not even gotten to all the attacks on Jews in the 20th century, especially those pogroms that went on in Arab lands after the attempt to snuff out the young life of the nascent Jewish state had failed.
The “convivencia” that Bazian wants us to believe existed between Muslims and Jews, who were supposedly united in their opposition to racist Christian Europeans, does not survive historical scrutiny. But do you think Hatem Bazian would ever have the decency to admit to this long, painful, cruel history of Muslim mistreatment of Jews? Don’t be silly. He insists that the Jews and Muslims were the best of friends, until the Zionists came along with their antisemitic Balfour Declaration and their antisemitic and islamophobic state of Israel, and ruined everything.
If you think the Balfour Declaration was meant to drive the Jews from Europe, that this document so earnestly desired by Zionists was actually — as Hatem Bazian believes he has shown simply by repeating some impenetrable epistemic or epistemological mumbo-jumbo — deeply antisemitic, if you believe that the Balfour Declaration put paid to the long and happy history of Jews and Muslims living in harmony together, if you think Europe has a monopoly on racism and slavery, then Hatem Bazian’s the historian for you. He’s epistemic and epistemological (just google his name and either of those words). If, on the other hand, you’re not quite ready to take leave of your senses, then probably you will choose someone else — say, Robert Spencer, or Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or Ibn Warraq, or such historians of Spain as Henry Lea, Benzion Netanyahu, and Richard Fletcher — to be your guide from Islamic Spain to Mandatory Palestine.