|For Middle Eastern Jews, „peace through victory“ is no slogan. It’s an existential imperative.|
Ever since the Muslim conquest, occupation and colonization of the Middle East and North Africa in the seventh century, Jews, among others, lived under a dhimmi status. While the term dhimmi has been translated as „protected,“ the actual meaning is far more sinister.
Under Islamic law, Jews were less than second-class citizens, they were a brutally oppressed minority, forced to pay special taxes called jizya, frequently forced to place distinctive signs on their houses and clothing, and sometimes brutally humiliated by other restrictions.
The Egyptian-born British author Bat Ye’or wrote that the dhimmi status was a „relationship between conqueror and conquered“ and „the dhimmi peoples bore the role of victim, vanquished by force; and indeed, it is after a war, a jihad, and after a defeat, that a nation becomes a dhimmi people.“
|Jews lived throughout the region before being forced to flee (mostly to Israel) in the last century.|
The Jewish People had lived in the region for millennia before being expelled and forced to flee by Arab leaders in the twentieth century. Almost a million Jews had lived in the Middle East and North Africa before their status was turned from a perilous one to an entirely unwanted one around the middle of the last century, most fleeing to the nascent State of Israel.
On November 30, we will remember them on the Day of Commemoration for the Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries and Iran. We will remember their history, culture and tradition under difficult circumstances, and commemorate their ethnic cleansing.
However, there are also lessons we need to learn.
Those of us whose origins are in lands now known as Arab countries and whose family were dhimmis understand well this history of being conquered, vanquished and defeated.
Perhaps this is why, according to numerous surveys, including data collected by the polling firm Panel Proyect Hamidgam and analyzed by Dr. Dror Feitelson on the 2015 elections, Israeli Jews whose origins are from the Middle East and North Africa (Mizrahi) are disproportionately more likely to vote for hawkish political parties than others. They understand, better than most, that in this region there are only two types of people, the conquerors and the conquered.
|Israel’s Mizrahi Jews are disproportionately more likely to vote for hawkish political parties than others.|
They lived as the conquered for far too long, and that is why they push harder for Israel to defeat its enemies and those who seek to turn us once again into a stateless people.
We have seen in recent years how the stateless are treated, whether Kurds in Turkey, Syria or Iraq, Christians in Egypt and Yazidis in Iraq, among others.
This was the lot of the Jewish People for 1,300 years in the region.
When extreme Islamist terrorist organizations like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, and the Islamic Republic of Iran talk about destroying Israel they seek to undo what they see as the unnatural occurrence of Jewish sovereignty on territory they previously conquered.
They see Israel as sitting on dar al-harb (lit. land of war), territory ruled by non-Muslims, some of which might previously have been ruled by Muslims and should be claimed in battle. Just a cursory look at the Hamas Charter, and the comments from leaders like Hassan Nasrallah and Ayatollah Khamenei serve as witness that for them this is not an outdated term, but a religious obligation.
Thus, for Israel to survive in such a region, with such enemies, it has to unfortunately prove itself on the battlefield and defeat its enemies.
The reason that Islamist extremists do not try and battle to reclaim Spain or parts of the Balkans that were also ruled under Islam is because there is an understanding that they cannot win and these countries will never be reclaimed.
Sadly, many regimes and Islamist organizations in the region do not see Israel in the same category. They believe that Israel can and will be defeated.
Iranian leaders have repeatedly stated that Israel will be „wiped off the map“ as they move towards building a nuclear arsenal capable of achieving the horrific and genocidal task. Hezbollah leader Nasrallah regularly states that Israel will be „defeated“ and ultimately „vanish.“
Even Palestinian Authority officials, who are deemed more secular than their Hamas counterparts, claim that like the Crusader state, Israel is a foreign implant in the Middle East that must be gradually constricted and finally expunged.
The expression, even popular on European streets and university campuses, used by pro-Palestinian supporters, „khaybar, khaybar ya yahud, jaysh muhammad saya’ud,“ (Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, Mohammed’s army will return) is a thinly disguised call to kill Jews today, referring to a battle when Mohammed slaughtered scores of Jews.
The world wishes to see the Israel-Palestinian conflict as about land and Palestinian statehood, whose resolution can be negotiated in foreign capitals.
For the Jews whose origins are in the Middle East and North Africa, we know that is a massive over-simplification and, based on Israel’s past far-reaching concessions and generous offers to the Palestinian leadership stretching back almost a century, grossly incorrect.
The State of Israel continues to survive because we defeated our enemies in the past who sought our annihilation.
Peace will only come when it is clearly understood that Israel will not be defeated and will not vanish. Then, when Israel’s enemies grasp this and they are ready for peace, negotiations can begin in earnest.
|Only a sovereign people seen as undefeatable and indestructible are secure in this region.|
An Israel victory is good for the chance of peace, security and prosperity for all the peoples of the region, because once our enemies cease using their resources, assets and energies to seek our destruction whether through conflict, diplomatically or economically, they can redirect them for social welfare, education, health and building a healthy democratic polity.
Only a sovereign people who are seen as undefeatable and indestructible are secure in this region. One doesn’t have to look at the many ethnic and religious minorities in our region, just ask the Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.
Nave Dromi is the director of the Middle East Forum’s office in Israel.