There are not-infrequent moments which perfectly illustrate what our long-standing conflict is all about. Many, especially around the world, accept the lazy assumption that it is mainly about land, occupation and settlements. However, for this to be true it would be a sine qua non that before Israel liberated Judea and Samaria in 1967, built a single community over the Green Line or even before the State of Israel was proclaimed, there was no conflict.
However, those with knowledge of history will be familiar with an ancient enmity expressed by radical adherents of Islam toward the Jewish People.
It is surely no coincidence that one of the most popular rallying calls at anti-Israel demonstrations around the world is “khayber khayber ya yahud, jaysh Muhammad saya’ūd!” (“remember the Khyber, oh Jews, the army of Mohammed is coming now”). This genocidal chant recalls perhaps the first massacre of Jews under Islam as the ancient Jewish community of Khayber (in present day Saudi Arabia) was almost wiped out by Muhammad and his first followers. Those that did survive had their land confiscated, were humiliated with oppressive laws and forced to pay the jizya tribute tax.
These enforcements, meant to hold the Jews collectively in an endless inferior status, set the standards for Jews who found themselves under Islam during the Arab conquest and occupation of the Middle East and North Africa over the next almost millennia and a half.
During this time, tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Jews were massacred across what became known as the “Arab world,” in places like Granada, Fez, Algiers, Damascus and Sana’a. All of this long before the rise of modern political Zionism.
In Hebron, the oldest Jewish community in the Land of Israel, during 1929, 67 Jews, many of whom were yeshiva students, were hacked to death, disemboweled and burned.
These types of attacks occurred throughout the Arab world long before the reestablishment of Jewish statehood in Israel, and decades before a single Israeli settlement was built.
Although it is hard to accept, the roots of the conflict are a negation of the rights of the Jewish People to equality and liberation from the yoke of Arab torment. The highest insult to the Islamist sensitivity was the reconstitution of Jewish sovereignty in the heart of dar al-islam, an area which was theologically assigned to Islam in perpetuity.
This is what fueled the wars against Israel and still fuels the hatred against Jews around the world. The war has never been against Israel per se, it has been against the Jewish People, and its major front is directed against the Jewish state.
This is nowhere stated more clearly, proudly and openly than in Article Seven of the Hamas Charter, which aspires to a religiously-inspired war of genocide, not against Israelis or Zionists, but against Jews everywhere.
That is why the murder of Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse, France, or of tourists at the Jewish museum in Brussels, Belguim, are targeted as much and as vehemently as are students trying to hitch a ride home for Shabbat in Gush Etzion. The same hatred is at the root of these geographically distant but ideologically similar murders.
Last night, in and around the Israeli Arab city of Qalansawe and elsewhere, motorists were stopped and asked if they were Jewish. When they answered in Hebrew, their cars were attacked and set on fire by mobs. These near-lynchings did not distinguish between ideology, religiosity or background. You were simply a target if you were Jewish.
The simple question “are you a Jew?” has once again reaffirmed the age-old animosity of those who seek to kill, not in the name of nationalism or an ideology but out of pure, unadulterated hate.
Those Jews whose origins are in the Arab world know this question well. It was frequently the precursor to attacks, riots and lynchings in and around the Mellahs and Jewish Quarters throughout the Arab world.
As then, we as Jews are not targeted because of our Zionism, our ideology, or out of some sense of revenge. The question is so refreshingly yet hauntingly simple it breaks down all the pseudo-intellectualism that surrounds our conflict and simply wishes to identify a potential victim to fulfill an ancient bloodlust.
Of course, not all Arabs or Muslims are to be tarnished by these acts. Just as throughout the ages, many Arabs and Muslims sought peaceful coexistence with Jews and even came to their aid during the pogroms, many have nothing but disdain for the actions for those who purport to act in their name.
The radical medievalist strain of Islamism does not just target Jews, as is witnessed by the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria, the crucifixion of Christians in Syria and execution of Bahais in Iran.
However, our conflict throws up the greatest confusion and anger, perhaps because the Jewish state is the greatest negation of the supremacist strain of Islamism. The Jews were the first and mortal enemy that was meant to be subjugated, enslaved and reduced, not sovereign.
For those who throughout history have sought to identify Jews for attack, the latest outrages in Qalansawe are markedly different. Today, we have a sovereign state, army and enforcement agencies that can defend Jews and take action against the perpetrators.
Nevertheless, this episode should remain as a “teachable moment” for all of us, especially those who see racism only in the Jewish sphere. These particular Arab citizens of the State of Israel have demonstrated once again why there is a need for a greater discussion around loyalty and citizenship.
These rioters will never fully accept Jewish sovereignty, yet they gain daily from its benefits.
We should ask a question ourselves. Not “Are you an Arab or Muslim?” but, “Are you a law-abiding, loyal citizen of the State of Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish People?” If your answer or your actions demonstrate in the negative then you should no longer receive the same benefits as those who are, regardless of background. If they are not willing to abide by one’s basic civic obligations then it might be time to discuss and consider the removal of the rewards of citizenship.
While rights are sacrosanct, benefits are not, and they should be commensurate to your contribution in society.
It is time the state asked the questions.
The writer is a Knesset member for Yisrael Beytenu and chairs the Knesset committees for the Struggle Against Anti-Semitism and for the Rights of the Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands.
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