I have previously wondered as to why there appears to be a strong anti-Islamic viewpoint from westerners, particularly from America, and to this end, I have taken it upon myself to investigate this subject to ascertain why this is so.
My previous post gave a brief outline of the Islamic religion, and I shall attempt here (the second in my series), to ascertain the events that has occured throughout history which has shaped the Islamic viewpoint of the world to better understand both them, as well as those who oppose them.
The main bone of contention appears to relate to the State of Israel, which houses Jerusalem, which Islamists consider to be the capital of Palestine.
Let us go back in time and see how this was brought about (and if the images are not large enough, please double-click on them to view as a larger picture).
During the later part of the Roman era, a decimated Jewish community in the area managed a revival and for three centuries, the towns and farms extended as far as the coastal plain, and it was during this period that the Palestinian Talmud was compiled (which is a collection of Rabbinic notes on the 2nd century Mishnah - Jewish oral traditions). Moreover, the Jewish population sustained its growth well beyond the Arab conquest in the 7th century, and even under the Seljuk Turks, reached 300,000 inhabitants by the year 1000. This interlude ended abruptly with the arrival of the Crusaders, and the butchery of Jews was so extensive under Christian rule, that in 1169, only a thousand families were still alive.
Eighteen years later, however, Saladin, sultan of Egypt, won a crushing victory over the Latin Kingdoms and began the process that ultimately evicted the last of the Crusaders a century later. Subsequently, under a tolerant Moslem regime, pilgrimages of Jews from overseas augmented the tiny Palestinian remnant. The Spanish expulsion decree in 1492, propelled tens of thousands of Shephardim Jews into all corners of the Mediterranen world, and not less than 8,000 into Palestine, and their arrival corresponded with the Ottoman conquest of the Levant (1517), and in its first century the rule of the Turks proved benign. After this first century, however, the Turks made life difficult for Jews and Christians alike and by 1837, no more than 6,000 Jews lived in the four holy cities.
It was around then, that the concept of Zionism took hold. Due to oppression in Russia and elsewhere in Europe, 25,000 Jews entered Palestine from 1882-1903. Several large tracts were purchased by the Chovevei Zion (formerly known as the Odessa Committee), which were then resold to settlers or land companies. However, the sheer hardships of farming in Palestine, a series of lethal malaria and typhoid epidemics, and the endless legal obstacles interposed by the Ottoman authorities, proved too heavy a burden, and many of the settlers emigrated for Europe.
It should be pointed out that up to this point in history, there was no hatred of the Jews by the Arabs in the area.
However, several events conspired to build up emnity between the two, and these can be broadly surmised as follows:
Control of Region by Europeans
Since World War I, the whole area was split up under mandates and it was generally controlled by England and France, who ended up ‘meddling’ in both Arab and Jewish concerns.
Arab desire to rule their own destiny
After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Arabs began thinking of ruling and controlling their own destiny.
However, control of the area by the Europeans, was not welcome and was seen as European suppression of Arab self-determination. Many Arabs, having been educated in Europe, returned bringing along with them, European anti-semitism thoughts (notably those from Mein Kampf).
Jewish Land Purchasing
Around the beginning of the 20th Century, with more and more Jews moving into the Levant, it was perceived that "wealthy European Jews" were buying up Arab lands, and thus depriving the Arabs of their own land.
Most of the Jews who bought land were hardly wealthy from a European perspective (and they sometimes even pooled their resources to be able to do so), but they had more money than those people living on the land. At the time, the people who held title to the land were often Turks or Egyptians who had acquired the titles during the Ottoman period, renting the land to the locals as absentee landlords in a manner similar to sharecropping.
The local people who actually worked the land were unable to raise the kind of money needed to purchase their own land, so they saw the "wealthy" Europeans as thieving invaders.
Jewish Desire for Own Country
With many Jews owning the land in which they dwelt, they pushed for a state of their own, which was initially agreed to by England, who had the Mandate controlling the area after World War I, in the so-called "White Paper." There have been several White Papers and England tried to back away from their commitment, but due to the Jewish freedom fighters, right after World War II, England gave up and allowed the partition of the land for two states: Israel and Palestine.
Birth of the country, Israel
|The UN Partition Plan - 1947|
It has since been argued whether this declaration was legal.
The Arabs, however, did not want a Jewish state in the region, and on seeing the state of Israel established with a lot of European support, saw this event as further evidence of the European over-riding of Arab autonomy and, having little ability to strike back at London, Paris, or Washington, they focused on Israel itself.
The Ensuing Wars
After the UN allowed the partition, Israel declared the land set aside to it by the UN as a state, but the adjacent Arab countries thought they could push the Jews to the Sea (which, of course, never happened). The adjoining countries fought several wars against Israel, culminating in the 1972 Yom Kippur war, but the war in 1967 is the war in which Israel took possession of the "occupied" area. The Palestinian Army, which was formed right after that war, believe all the land of Israel is occupied territory.
In the ensuing decades, the sore spot of the "invasion" of Israel has often been conflated with the Mein Kampf propaganda, to the point that the region is now full of the sort of anti-Jewish hysteria that one more typically associates with the Nazi era of World War II.
TodayThe issue of the state of Israel is a complex one that can be argued from various perspectives. The Arab people who resent European/American interference with their lives, angered by what they perceive as a land grab by Israelis--who are then characterized as "avaricious Jews"--lends itself to a lot of hatred.
During my research for this post, I found it extremely interesting understanding the reasons behind a lot of the animosity between the Jews and the Arabs, regarding this area. I also find it concerning that Israel has apparently been allowed to amass further land without penalisation from the UN or any of the western world countries, and is something I may look further into, either as an extension of this 'Investigation' or as a separate exercise.
I still haven't come close to answering my original question, concerning the anti-Islamic sentiment by western countries, but feel that I am a step closer to learning the answer to this.
Thought of the Day
Shouldn't there be a shorter word for "monosyllabic"?