Films such as Exodus, together with the horrific images that emerged from Germany’s concentration camps left an indelible mark on humanity, and rightly so. The effects of these images have also played a crucial role in what has evolved into a crisis in the Middle East that has one party, the Palestinians, crying foul, and the other, the Israelis, claiming rights to land Palestinians have lived on for 1300 years. In assessing any perspective, the temptation to see things from one side or the other is a very real problem. The Zionists, searching for Palestinian roots, wrote their history of the Jews in Palestine in the Middle Ages; the European Christians did the same. As Barnai (1992) suggests, history is often written through nationalistic eyes and as such may be rife with distortions that favor the side writing it. Abdullah’s and other arguments must be subject to that scrutiny.
His first argument that Jews and Arabs lived in harmony for centuries, and that “For nearly 2,000 years Palestine has been almost 100 percent Arab” is faulty. His contention that current animosities have nothing to do with tribal enmity is doubtful as well from a historical perspective. What Slovan (2010) refers to as the Jewish insistence that Judenhass or Jew Hate is largely responsible appears to have weight when evidence is examined.
While few reliable documents from very early times exist pertaining to the Jewish presence in Palestine and their treatment there, documents from the Ottoman Empire of the sixteenth century indicate they were there in significant roles. Barnai (1992) writes, “Jews were quickly integrated into the Ottoman Empire... [and] acquired key economic positions and were active in...industry, trade, and finance” (p.11). Jews even then were persecuted by local Arab officials. Barnai found, [There were] “laws discriminating against the Jews...prohibitions on buying land, on building houses and synagogues, and on riding horses, and restrictions in matters of dress and inheritance...” (p. 13).
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