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Jihad By Any Means Necessary?

The following is a part of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series, which is a refutation of Robert Spencer’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades).  Specifically, I am herein refuting chapter one of his book, entitled “Muhammad: Prophet of War.”

An anti-Muslim canard that has gained considerable popularity in the post-9/11 world is the idea that Muslims can do anything, no matter how morally questionable, if it furthers the Islamic cause.  According to this idea, jihad can be waged “by any means necessary.”  Robert Spencer argues this in his book, writing:

Islam’s only overarching moral principle is “if it’s good for Islam, it’s right.” [1]

Spencer traces the birth of this Islamic “principle” to the life story of the Prophet Muhammad, specifically the raid at Nakhla.  To properly debunk this conspiracy theory, we must then transport ourselves back in time to this controversial event.

In the year 610 A.D., Muhammad declared his prophethood.  His people, the Quraysh of Mecca, violently rejected him.  The early Muslims suffered heavy-handed persecution, which they endured with patience for well over a decade.  Finally, the God of the Quran permitted them to take up arms in self-defense.  Muhammad and his followers, who had regrouped in the nearby city of Medina, engaged in guerre de course (commerce raiding) against the powerful Quraysh.

I have discussed Muhammad’s guerre de course in quite a lot of detail in a previous article.  This tactic was not only something considered acceptable in the Arabian context of the time, but also has a celebrated history in the American–as well as French and German–naval traditions.  Historically, it has been considered a valid military strategy and a means of waging economic warfare against a more powerful enemy.

The early military operations led by the Muslims were largely unsuccessful–that is, until the raid at Nakhla.  Muhammad had dispatched Abdullah bin Jahsh with secret instructions contained in a letter that were not to be opened until after traveling two days journey.  (This precaution was designed no doubt to thwart potential spies, who may have informed the Quraysh of Muslim “troop” movements, which could explain the earlier failed military expeditions.)

When Abdullah opened Muhammad’s letter, it read:

When you have read this letter of mine proceed until you reach Nakhla between Mecca and Al-Ta’if. Lie in wait there for [the] Quraysh and find out for us what they are doing. [2]

On the way to Nakhla, Abdullah and his fellow riders happened across a poorly armed Qurayshite caravan.  They debated among themselves whether or not to waylay it, for it was the last day of the month of Rajab.  The pre-Islamic culture at the time assigned four months of the year as sacred (of which Rajab was one), in which fighting was proscribed.  In addition to the four sacred months, fighting was forbidden in certain holy sanctuaries (i.e. Al-Bayt Al-Haram, the area around the Kaabah).

Abdullah’s contingent faced a difficult choice:

If [we] leave them alone tonight they will get into the sacred area and will be safe from [us]; and if [we] kill them, [we] will kill them in the sacred month. [3]

They were also not quite sure what day it was.  Was it the last day of the sacred month of Rajab or the the first day of the next month?  Prof. Reuven Firestone writes of this:

The uncertainty of the day is a natural result of the calendrical system of that period, in which the moon was the primary measurer of time, because the beginning of the month was established only by actual observation of the new crescent moon. [4]

Making matters worse was the fact that, according to the lunar calendar used by the Arabs, days change at sunset, not midnight.  One of the men explained to Muhammad later that

it was becoming evening. We looked at the crescent moon of Rajab, and we did not know whether we [struck during] Rajab or in Jumada [or Sha’aban?]. [5]

Initially, Abdullah and his men hesitated, but then decided to attack.  The Muslims shot and killed one of the Quraysh (a man by the name of Amr Ibn Al-Hadrami), captured two of them, and seized the caravan’s goods.  By killing Ibn Al-Hadrami, the Muslims had violated the pre-Islamic Arabian custom forbidding bloodshed during the sacred month.

When Abdullah and his men returned to Medina, Muhammad rebuked them, saying:

I did not order you to fight in the sacred month! [6]

Sir Thomas W. Arnold wrote of this incident:

In so doing, [Abdullah] had not only acted without authority but had violated the sacred truce within Arab custom caused to be observed throughout the month of pilgrimage.  Muhammad received him coldly with the words, “I gave thee no command to fight in the sacred month;” dismissed the prisoners, and from his own purse paid blood-money for a Meccan who had lost his life in the fray. [7]

Other Muslims in Medina also chastised the men.  Meanwhile, the Quraysh exploited the incident to further their war propaganda against the Islamic nation.  They effectively drove a wedge in the community of Medina, with Muslims distancing themselves from other Muslims, and non-Muslims from Muslims.  Muhammad’s leadership itself was called into question.

It was in this crisis that the following Quranic verse was revealed:

They ask you about fighting in the sacred month. Say, ‘Fighting in that month is a great offense, but to bar others from God’s path, to disbelieve in Him, prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its people, are still greater offences in God’s eyes: [their] persecution is worse than the killing [of Amr Ibn Al-Hadrami].’ They will not stop fighting you [believers] until they make you renounce your faith, if they can. If any of you renounce your faith and die as disbelievers, your deeds will come to nothing in this world and the Hereafter, and you will be inhabitants of the Fire, there to remain.  But those who have believed, who were driven out from their homes, and who strive for God’s cause, it is they who can look forward to God’s mercy: God is most forgiving and merciful. (Quran, 2:217-218)

This response from the God of the Quran successfully rallied the Muslims around their leader and their cause.  Muhammad’s treatment of the raid was splendidly balanced, neither making the Muslims look too warlike nor too humiliated: on the one hand, he paid blood money for the Qurayshite man that was killed (blood money was a form of restitution given to a victim’s family) and freed the two Qurayshite prisoners.  On the other hand, he released the two Qurayshite prisoners only in exchange for two Muslim prisoners, and also accepted the confiscated goods as legitimate spoils of war.

*  *  *  *  *

Robert Spencer writes of the Nakhla raid:

In Medina, these new Muslims began raiding the caravans of the Quraysh, with Muhammad personally leading many of these raids.  These raids kept the nascent Muslim movement solvent and helped form Islamic theology–as in one notorious incident when a band of Muslims raided a Quraysh caravan at Nakhla, a settlement not far from Mecca.  The raiders attacked the caravan during the sacred month of Rajab, when fighting was forbidden.  When they returned to the Muslim camp laden with booty, Muhammad refused to share in the loot or to have anything to do with them, saying only, “I did not order you to fight in the sacred month.”

But then a new revelation came from Allah, explaining that the Quraysh’s opposition to Muhammad was a worse transgression than the violation of the sacred month.  In other words, the raid was justified.  “They question thee, O Muhammad, with regard to warfare in the sacred month.  Say: warfare therein is a great transgression, bu to turn men from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel his people thence, is a greater sin with Allah; for persecution is worse than killing” (Quran 2:214).  Whatever sin the Nakhla raiders had committed was overshadowed by the Quraysh’s rejection of Muhammad.

This was a momentous revelation, for it led to an Islamic principle that has had repercussions throughout the ages.  Good became identified with anything that redounded to the benefit of Muslims, regardless of whether it violated moral or other laws.  The moral absolutes enshrined in the Ten Commandments, and other teachings of the great religions that preceded Islam, were swept aside in favor of an overarching principle of expediency. [8]

In true Spencerian fashion, he misleads the reader using lies of omission and commission.  Spencer does not clearly state that Muhammad had dispatched the “band of Muslims” on a reconnaissance mission, in order to “find out for us what [the Quraysh] are doing.”  This is why the Prophet of Islam later disavowed Abdullah’s actions, for he had “acted without authority.”  Also, no mention is made in Spencer’s book of the difficulty in ascertaining the day and month in which the raid took place.

Spencer’s biggest lie, however, is the following doozie:

Whatever sin the Nakhla raiders had committed was overshadowed by the Quraysh’s rejection of Muhammad.

In fact, it was not merely “the Quraysh’s rejection of Muhammad”, but, in the words of the Quran itself, their persecution [of the Muslims that] is worse than the killing” of Amr Ibn Al-Hadrami.  Here, the Islamic holy book was referring to the over decade-long period of Qurayshite persecution, during which the early Muslims suffered beatings, imprisonment, torture, and forced conversions; some of the early believers were even killed.  This, the God of the Quran argued, was worse than what the “band of Muslims” had done.  It would be difficult to argue otherwise.

Spencer goes on to say:

In other words, the raid was justified.

No, it wasn’t.  In fact, the Quran recognized and affirmed that the Muslims had committed a grave sin: “Fighting in [the sacred] month is a great offense.”

Many Western commentators have claimed that Muhammad and the Quran, by this passage, abandoned observation of the ban on fighting during the four sacred months.  The insistence on this view is based on their blind acceptance of the traditional opinion [9], held by various Islamic exegetes in medieval times, that this was a pre-Islamic tradition that was overturned by the advent of Islam.

Yet, a neutral reading of the Quranic text–both this passage and those that follow it–reveals the exact opposite: the Prophet Muhammad affirmed and respected the sanctity of the four sacred months.  The Quranic verse starts by saying, “They ask you about fighting in the sacred month.”  Obviously, Muhammad was being accosted by all sides about the raid at Nakhla, which threatened to be a public relations disaster for the Muslims.  How much easier it would have been for the Prophet of Islam to have simply declared the four sacred months a “pagan belief” that the Muslims did not accept.

After all, in another controversy in early Islam’s history, when Muhammad received significant criticism for having married his adopted son’s ex-wife Zaynab bint Jahsh, the Quran justified the act by declaring that: firstly, unlike in the pagan custom of the time, in Islam there is no prohibition against such a thing; and secondly, it was God himself who commanded Muhammad to marry Zaynab, and therefore, “the Prophet is not at fault for what God has ordained for him” (Quran, 33:38).  (It should be noted that the Islamic permission to marry one’s adopted son’s ex-wife is no more disconcerting than Judaism’s permitting of marriage to one’s nieces.)

The point is that the Quran didn’t just take the easy way out, which would have been to reject the four sacred months altogether.  (Muhammad could have also simply declared the pagans to be “disbelievers”, licit to be attacked at any place or any time.)  Instead, the Quran affirmed that it was indeed a grave offense to fight therein, and in fact, commanded Muhammad to tell the people so:

They ask you about fighting in the sacred month. Say, ‘Fighting in that month is a great offense.’ (Quran, 2:217)

The Islamic affirmation of the four sacred months occurs throughout the Quran.  Muslims are not to fight in these months, so long as the other side respects this prohibition:

Fight during the sacred months if you are attacked therein, for a violation of sanctity is subject to the law of just retribution.  So, if anyone commits aggression against you, attack him as he attacked you. (Quran, 2:194)

The Quran also affirms the idea of sacred spaces:

Do not fight them at the Sacred Mosque unless they fight you there. (Quran, 2:191)

This topic deserves greater elaboration, but for now, suffice to say that even in the jihad passages of chapter nine of the Quran–which the Islamophobes insist are (in the words of the anti-Muslim website ReligionOfPeace.com) “the final ‘revelations’ from Allah” about jihad–the four sacred months are affirmed.  For example, in the so-called “verse of the sword” (ayat al-saif), the Quran declares:

When the sacred months are passed, then fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them… (Quran, 9:5)

Leaving aside for now the fact that the verse right before this one (verse 9:4) explains that this injunction refers only to those pagans who broke a treaty and waged war against the Muslims, there is another obvious point to be made here: Islamophobes insist that this passage was revealed in Muhammad’s last years and was his final, all-out call to war against non-Muslims.  (I will refute this argument in a future article.)  If we are to accept this claim, then we see that–even in this late stage of Muhammad’s decrees about jihad–the sacred months are to be respected.

In fact, the Quran goes so far to claim that it was God himself who decreed these months to be sacred.  More than this, the God of the Quran chastises the Qurayshite pagans for violating the four sacred months by “transposing them” for other months in the year, something they did out of convenience:

God decrees that there are twelve months–ordained in God’s Book on the Day when He created the heavens and earth–four months of which are sacred: this is the correct calculation. Do not wrong your souls in these months–though you may fight the idolaters at any time, if they first fight you–remember that God is with those who are mindful of Him.  Transposing sacred months is another act of disobedience by which those who disregard God are led astray: they will allow it one year and forbid it in another in order to outwardly conform with the number of God’s sacred months, but in doing so they permit what God has forbidden. Their evil deeds are made alluring to them: God does not guide those who disregard Him.  (Quran, 9:36-37)

In conclusion, it is not true that Muhammad justified the Nakhla raid, nor is it valid to claim that the Prophet of Islam simply made it legal when Muslims did it.  Spencer’s claim that “if it’s good for Islam, it’s right” finds no basis.

The Quran acknowledged that the killing of Amr Ibn Al-Hadrami in the sacred month was a “grave offense” and Muhammad offered restitution to the victim’s family.  This mea culpa indicates that the Prophet of Islam acknowledged that wrong had been committed and he sought to right it.  Meanwhile, the “band of Muslims” involved in the escapade were duly chastised.  After they had expressed remorse for their sin, the God of the Quran forgave them “for God is Forgiving, Merciful” (2:218), and reassured them of their salvation.  That forgiveness was necessary in the first place indicates that they had committed a sin.

What the Quran didn’t do is claim that the Muslims had done nothing wrong.  All it did was point out the hypocrisy of the Quraysh, for they had committed greater offenses against the Muslims.  Robert Spencer would quickly claim that the Quran was committing a tu quoque fallacy, but there is a difference between a valid tu quoque argument and an invalid tu quoque fallacy.  Tu quoque (“you too”) arguments are not always illegitimate.  Of significance is the fact that, following the Nakhla raid, Muhammad (1) admitted that the Muslims had committed an offense, and (2) willingly submitted to the penalty of that offense (i.e. paid blood money).

The Prophet of Islam didn’t try to make something right because the enemy did something wrong.  More importantly, he didn’t try to get out of the penalty for the offense.  Instead, he admitted that his side had done something wrong, paid the penalty for it, and then pointed out that his accusers had committed far greater offenses without making any amends for it.  He was not trying to get out of the penalty, but only highlighting the Qurayshite hypocrisy so that they would not exploit the incident to further anti-Muslim propaganda.

Islamophobes today are also guilty of hypocrisy on this front: they are among America and Israel’s most hawkish proponents of war in Muslim lands.  During Muhammad’s pre-Badr expeditions, the Muslims had killed only one person, and this was in violation of their orders.  What about the hundreds and hundreds of Muslim victims who die at the hands of the American and Israeli military, without any form of restitution given to them?  We are told then that “this is war”…But when Muhammad’s men kill one person, then it’s the greatest tragedy in all of history.

Related to our opening question (Is Islam more violent than other religions, specifically Judaism and Christianity? Was Muhammad the most violent prophet or religious figure in history?) lies another question: the Biblical prophets–such as MosesJoshuaSamson,DavidSaul, etc.–engaged in genocide against the natives of Canaan.  Thousands and thousands of innocent people were slaughtered.  Are there any stories in the Bible of any of these Judeo-Christian prophets and holy figures giving restitution to the victim’s families?  One can already hear Robert Spencer crying “tu quoque, tu quoque!”, a word that he obviously does not properly understand.  Islam, identified as our enemy in the post-9/11 war, is put through a special standard, one that Spencer’s own religion could not withstand.

*  *  *  *  *

The Islamic principle of justice is to apply the law equally to all.  There are numerous verses of the Quran to this effect (i.e. 16:90: “God commands you to uphold justice and to do good to others”) and this topic would require another article to elucidate fully.  For now, however, it would suffice us to refer to the opening of sura (chapter) five, which is said to be among the final revelations of the Quran.  It was revealed after the conquest of Mecca.  In it, we see once again that the Quran affirms the idea of sacred months and sacred spaces.  More importantly, it commands Muslims to uphold justice and be fair even to their enemies:

Do not violate the sanctity of God’s rites or the Sacred Months…or the people coming to the Sacred Space…Do not let your ill-will towards a people–because they barred you from the Sacred Mosque–cause you to transgress against them.  Help one another to do what is right and good.  Do not help one another towards sin and aggression. (Quran, 5:2)

Robert Spencer traces “Islam’s only overarching moral principle” of “if it’s good for Islam, it’s right” to the raid at Nakhla, but the evidence simply does not bear his argument out.  Instead, all that becomes apparent is the Islamophobic tactic: if it makes Islam and Muslims look bad, let’s run with it.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

Footnotes
1. Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), p.79
2. Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasulullah, p.287 (tr. A. Guillaume)
3. Ibid.
4. Reuven Firestone, Jihad, p.57
5. Ibid. Update [5/1/2012]: Refer to footnote 77 on p.154 of Firestone’s book for a discussion of whether it was the first or last day of Rajab, making the other month either Jumada al-Thani or Sha’aban.
6. Ibn Ishaq, p.287
7. Thomas W. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, p.30
8. Spencer, pp.5-7
9. It should be noted that the nineteenth century gave birth to the modernist movement within Islamic thought, which redefined jihad and challenged the long-held “traditional” opinion on the matter.  Today, the “traditional” opinion is held only by a few ultra-conservative Muslims, a view that should not to be conflated with that held by radical Muslims such as Osama Bin Laden.

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  • @ Yossi – You say that the Neturei Karta would disagree with me, and you link to an article (and then quote from it without indication that you’re quoting) in a way which would seem to indicate it’s a Neturei Karta article disputing my position. In fact the article you quote is a Zionist article spouting myth and fable directly contrary to what the Neturei Karta clearly maintain (as indicated by the very clear statement which I quoted – and I think its obvious why I quoted it).

    The Neturei Karta clearly maintain that the present “Jewish State of Israel” is a criminal and ungodly state, un-Jewish in its very foundation. No ‘Divine Right’ Jewish people may believe they have to the land of Palestine can give them the right to militarily murder or expel the indigenous population of Palestinians. They maintain that the Jewish people do not have the right to set up a State in an uninhabited land, much less an already inhabited land. They call for the complete dismantling of the “Jewish State” and the return of sovereignty to the Palestinians.

    Because they fairly obviously don’t believe that the prophecies concerning a Messiah were fulfilled either by Jesus the Nazarene or by Muhammad (peace be with them both), they believe the Messiah is still to come. It is when he comes that the ‘return’ of the Jews will occur by some sort of miracle; and whatever that ‘return’ may mean, it does not include any attempts at ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians, because another miracle to occur is that the whole world will be converted to serve the One God. At that time, apparently, there will be no genuine distinction between Jew and Gentile – all will be one in the service of God.

    The storyline given in your quote of the land remaining infertile, and refusing to produce for the Palestinians in the absence of the Jews, is pure fable. The passage from Leviticus (VAYIKRA) which was quoted may have been literally fulfilled in the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, but the part about the land lying desolate has most certainly been untrue since the Romans destroyed Jerusalem (and particularly since Caliph Umar conquered Jerusalem from the Byzantines).

    In an article, “Twenty Zionist Myths Exposed”, by M. Amir Ali, Ph.D ( http://www.ilaam.net/Intl/ZionistMyths.html ) there is this quote from Edward Said, “The Question of Palestine” (under Myth #4):

    “Palestine became a predominately Arab and Islamic country by the end of the seventh century. Almost immediately thereafter its boundaries and its characteristics – including its name in Arabic, Filastin – became known to the entire Islamic world, AS MUCH FOR ITS FERTILITY AND BEAUTY AS FOR ITS RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE… In 1516, Palestine became a province of the Ottoman Empire, BUT THIS MADE IT NO LESS FERTILE, no less Arab or Islamic… SIXTY PERCENT OF THE POPULATION WAS IN AGRICULTURE; the balance was divided between townspeople and a relatively small nomadic group. All these people believed themselves to belong in a land called Palestine, despite their feelings that they were also members of a large Arab nation… Despite the steady arrival in Palestine of Jewish colonists after 1882, it is important to realize that not until the few weeks immediately preceding the establishment of Israel in the spring of 1948 was there ever anything other than a huge Arab majority. For example, the Jewish population in 1931 was 174,606 against a total of 1,033,314.”

    This article ( http://www.palestineremembered.com/Acre/Palestine-Remembered/Story665.html ) thoroughly explodes Zionist mythology about the land lying infertile just waiting for “the apple of God’s eye” to arrive and militarily ethnically cleanse the land. The article uses figures for the years 1944-1945 from the British Mandate survey of agricultural production. It is pointed out that 97% of agricultural production came from the non-Jewish Palestinians, with only 3% coming from the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine; and this was 3 to 4 years before the Zionist State was established. So much for the fable of the land refusing to yield its fruit to non-Jewish people. (And if the land was so infertile, one wonders where those olive, orange, and other crops came from which the Zionists destroyed when they murdered and expelled the Palestinians, and destroyed their towns.)

    Regarding the quote from Mark Twain and its reliability, check out this article – http://www.palestineremembered.com/Acre/Articles/Story845.html . You will find that Mr. Clemens also said this concerning Greece:

    “From Athens all through the islands of the Grecian Archipelago, we saw little but forbidden sea-walls and barren hills, sometimes surmounted by three or four graceful columns of some ancient temples, LONELY AND DESERTED—a fitting symbol of desolation that has come upon all Greece in these latter ages. WE SAW NO PLOUGHED FIELDS, VERY FEW VILLAGES, NO TREES OR GRASS OR VEGETATION OF ANY KIND, AND HARDLY EVEN AN ISOLATED HOUSE. GREECE IS A BLEAK, UNSMILING DESERT, WITHOUT AGRICULTURE, MANUFACTURES, OR COMMERCE, APPARENTLY.” (The Innocents Abroad, p. 203)

    Did he accurately describe Greece? May we believe that at his time Greece was as deserted and infertile as he would have us to believe was the case with Palestine? Perhaps Greece is just waiting for ‘Zionists’ to take over that uninhabited land and make its desert to blossom as a rose! It’s another “land without a people for a people without a land”. 😆

    The whole fable in itself reeks of that Jewish ‘chosenness’ and ‘specialness’ which you and “InPeace” want so much to disclaim. “Only the Jews can make the land produce”, because of course they’re “God’s chosen” and rightly own the land; what bunk!

    The idea of the Jews being given 613 laws to observe, while God lets Gentiles get by with only 7, also reeks of ‘chosenness’, though perhaps in a more subtle manner. I maintained, quoting the Qur’an (it wasn’t just ‘Stephen Parker’s’ peculiar ideas) that Jews and Christians are just human beings like everyone else, and have EQUAL standing before God. You try to show that Jewish theology actually teaches that by referring to teachings that show them to be greatly UNequal! 😆

    And what, I wonder, is the basis for this great inequality (613 laws versus 7)? Is it because Jews believe they are such an obstinate and rebellious people that God has to be stricter on them than on the more righteous and spiritual Gentiles? 😀 I ‘sorta’ doubt it!

    Rather the idea is that those ‘special’ Jews are so much more highly advanced spiritually and morally than the Gentiles, that God needs to give them a greater challenge to overcome. The Gentiles, of course, being so spiritually obtuse, need God to ‘cut them some slack’ – a great deal of ‘slack’, in fact. Otherwise, they simply couldn’t make it with God – unlike the Jews, who are up to a greater challenge.

    However, I doubt all Jews accept those notions. But even if they do, I can easily get along with them while disagreeing with them if that’s the only thing their idea of ‘chosenness’ implies. I’m happy to let them try to follow those 613 laws. The criminality of the Zionist regime is something I cannot abide, though.

  • Yossi

    InPeace, sorry, I didn’t understand what you said. Looking above, I see your first post is correct. We don’t encourage proselytes for that reason, because the burden of the law (Torah) is not necessary for the non Jew to be righteous, they can follow the 7 Noahide laws, Non Jews are only obligated to follow the 7 Noahide laws, to have a place in the world to come and be amongst the righteous, and yes Jews and Noahides have equal access to G-d’s mercy.
    If you are saying Steve Parker told you otherwise, it’s misinformation, like much of his letter to me.

  • Yossi

    Steve
    and keep them out, in the name of a “Divine right” to that land.

    Since you’re not G-d, it’s a tad presumptuous to tell people what ‘divine rights’ he gave them. The anti Zionist Jews whom you are using to justify your trumped up story would disagree with you there so it’s beyond me why you’re citing them, http://www.eretzisraelforever.net/Articles/Articles_ViewArticle.asp?sAction=view&iArticleId=-339839737

    But just as the Jewish people were devoid of our former honor in the exile, the Land of Israel was also stripped of her illustrious beauty. She became barren without her soul-mate to rule over and nurture her soil. Her great splendor had departed and she was reduced to a wasteland. “I will make the land desolate; and your foes who dwell upon it will be desolate. And you, I will scatter among the nations, I will unsheathe the sword after you; your land will remain desolate and your cities will be in ruin.” (VAYIKRA 26:32-33) The Ramban explains that the verse “your foes who dwell upon it will be desolate” is a partial blessing which guarantees through all generations that the Land of Israel will not receive any foreign nation in place of her rightful indigenous people.

    He points out that in the entire world, there are no other lands which were once good and bountiful but are now (in the time of the Ramban) as desolate as Eretz Yisrael.

    A century before Hebrew sovereignty was returned to Eretz Yisrael, American author Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) visited the country and described it in The Innocents Abroad Or The New Pilgrim’s Progress as a “desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds – a silent mournful expanse…A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action…We never saw a human being on the whole route…There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”

    While the Hebrew Nation wandered through a dark and bitter exile, the Land of Israel lay in barren devastation. Many foreigners tried desperately to cultivate her once rich soil. But the land was unwilling to provide for illegitimate rulers, steadfastly remaining faithful to the Jewish people. Only with Israel’s return did the country once again resume productive life. In an astonishingly short time, the once desert country became a major world exporter of flowers and fruits (even the Sinai Peninsula, when under Hebrew control, became a tropical paradise that regrettably withered once abandoned to Egypt).

    The reunification of the Nation of Israel with the Land of Israel miraculously infused new life and strength into both. Only three years after the decimation of six million, Jewish remnants on our native soil stunned the world with unmatched courage and military prowess. The valiant Hebrew Nation was reborn and the Land of Israel once again bore fruits. Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael are inseparably connected in a bond so tight that they even share the same name. Our deep spiritual connection to our country – like the connection of the soul to the body – transcends all rational human understandings. Our soil is an intrinsic part of us and a deep inner basis for our function in the world as neither we nor it can attain full expression devoid of the other. Without the Jewish Nation in it, the land is doomed to desolation (as was the case for nearly two thousand years).

  • InPeace

    InPeace, Jewish belief is that G-d chose us to be a holy nation to him by observing the 613 laws, that is what it means to be ‘chosen’. G-d’s mercy extends to all of humanity who observe the 7 Noahide laws,

    Thank you for your comment, Yossi, but I think you misunderstood what I said. I am actually agreeing with you in a previous post of mine when I said:

    Jews have more laws to follow; non-Jews have seven simple to follow laws

    But thank you anyway. It would appear we would disagree with the common misunderstanding of what “chosen” means; such as the following post by Stephen Parker claiming that Jews do NOT believe the following:

    are all simply human beings, and have EQUAL ‘access’ to both God’s mercy and punishment.

  • Yossi

    InPeace, Jewish belief is that G-d chose us to be a holy nation to him by observing the 613 laws, that is what it means to be ‘chosen’. G-d’s mercy extends to all of humanity who observe the 7 Noahide laws,

    See the Chabad video here, and if you want, there is more below http://www.chabad.org/multimedia/media_cdo/aid/466119/jewish/The-Seven-Noahide-Laws.htm

    The Noahide Laws
    Seven commandments which, according to Jewish tradition, are incumbent upon all of humankind.
    http://www.myjewishlearning.com/beliefs/Issues/Jews_and_Non-Jews/Legal_Issues/Noahide_Laws.shtml
    “God speaks to Noah and his children as they exit the ark: ‘Behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you’ (Genesis 9:9).”

    Although rabbinic texts preserve various traditions about the details of this covenant, the Talmud reports the following:

    “The children of Noah were commanded with seven commandments: [to establish] laws, and [to prohibit] cursing God, idolatry, illicit sexuality, bloodshed, robbery, and eating flesh from a living animal (Sanhedrin 56a; cf. Tosefta Avodah Zarah 8:4 and Genesis Rabbah 34:8).”

    The Details

    The prohibition against idolatry refers specifically to idolatrous worship, and not to beliefs. In later generations, Jews had to determine whether the prevailing religious cultures in which they lived were idolatrous. Since Islam is strictly monotheistic, Muslims have always been considered Noahides. Since the later Middle Ages, Jews have acknowledged that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity was not the same as idolatry, and they were also recognized as Noahides.

    http://www.noahide.com/minimum.htm
    The Law contains two parallel (but separate) paths for the world: 613 commandments for the Jews, and 66 commandments (contained in the 7 Noachide Laws) for gentiles.

  • Thank, Yossi, for your comment. But my concern is not about what may occur some time in the future when the hearts of the Jewish people as a whole may be turned back to God, justice, and righteousness. My concern is with the unjust state of things at present, and reflects the same viewpoint as the Neturei Karta. I feel certain that at whatever time in the future such a ‘return’ occurs, it will not involve the unjust displacement of non-Jewish Palestinians from their lands and homes; and it appears to me that Neturei Karta agrees with this. Here is a portion of a statement in a “Speech by Rabbi Dovid Feldman of Neturei Karta International, Jews United Against Zionism, at a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon on March 29, 2012, one day prior to the Global March to Jerusalem” ( http://www.nkusa.org/activities/demonstrations/20120329.cfm ):

    “Jewish opposition to Zionism is not new. It is not just since the recent assault on Gaza. It is not just since the occupation in 1967, nor since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. It goes back as far as the 1890’s, at the very dawn of the Zionist movement. The vast majority of Jewish rabbinic leaders and their communities at that time opposed this new movement vehemently.

    Jerusalem was always considered by Jews as a holy city, BUT THIS WAS NEVER A REASON FOR CONFLICT. The very name “Jerusalem” means the city of peace. It was so for centuries and should remain so forever. Religion was never a reason for conflict between Jews and Arabs, despite the differences in our religions. THE ONLY REASON FOR CONFLICT WAS THE INVENTION OF ZIONISM, AND THE CURRENT OBSTACLE TO PEACE IS THE STATE AND ITS CRIMINAL POLICIES.

    We declare that the criminal acts committed by the State of Israel must be stopped.

    WE DECLARE THAT THE SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE ENTIRE HOLY LAND MUST BE RESTORED TO ITS INDIGENOUS POPULATION.

    We declare that the State of Israel does not speak in the name of the entire Jewish community and certainly not in the name of the Jewish religion.

    It is because we are humans that we condemn the oppression in Palestine.

    It is because we Jews that we are embarrassed that this is being done in our name.

    It is because we are religious Jews that we are so upset that this in being done in the name of religion.

    It is because we are descendents of Holocaust survivors that we feel the suffering of others.

    WE PRAY FOR THE PEACEFUL DISMANTLEMENT OF THE ENTIRE STATE OF ISRAEL. We hope this takes place with no suffering to anyone, Arab or Jew. THEN WE HOPE TO EXPERIENCE ONCE AGAIN THE BEAUTIFUL HARMONY BETWEEN OUR PEOPLES THAT EXISTED IN THE REGION PRIOR TO THE INVENTION OF ZIONISM.

    Ultimately we hope to merit to see the day when the glory of the Almighty will be revealed throughout the universe and all humanity will recognize the One G-d and serve Him in peace and harmony. Amen.”

    Sorry, but I can’t see how I, in my supposed “anti-Semitism”, (or any supposedly ‘anti-Semitic’ Muslim) could have stated opposition to the current “Jewish State of Israel” more forcefully. If I am “anti-Semitic”, then so are those Orthodox members of Neturei Karta. But I am not anti-Semitic – because I have no problems with Jews so long as they can live peacefully with ‘Gentiles’ without imagining they have the right to forcefully expel some of them from their lands and homes, and keep them out, in the name of a “Divine right” to that land.

  • InPeace

    @MaratSafin:

    Thank you for your post, but how is what you wrote connected to my comment that “chosen ones” doesn’t mean Jews have more access to God’s mercy and justice as Stephen Parker claimed?

    Are you saying Jews *DO* receive special, favorable treatment from God (as Stephen Parker, Muslims, and Antisemites often assert)?

    I’m curious to hear your answer or if you just misread my post.

  • Yossi

    Steve G Parker

    The only way anti-Zionism could be a cover for anti-Semitism is if one were to believe that all Jews are by definition ‘Zionists’ or supporters of the ‘Jewish State of Israel’. If I believed that, then I guess I would indeed be anti-Semitic.

    It is Anti-Semitic, the difference in our belief and the anti Zionist Haredi or Satmar Jews (they are a tiny minority) is only over when the Exile ends and who leads us there.  Even they say it is a hillul Hashem to say any part of Eretz Yisroel is not ours. Anti-Zionist Haredim may say that we should not set up a state at the present time for religious reasons, but none of them say that Eretz Yisroel doesn't belong to us or that our destiny is in Eretz Yisroel when Hashem ends the Exile.

    You don't appear to understand what anti Zionism means to the Satmar and Neturai Kerta and the Haredim.  Even anti Zionists sacrificed their lives for Israel.
    Rav Sonnenfeld, Chief Rabbi of the anti Zionist Haredi community in Yerushalayim during the British Manadate was an avowed anti Zionist.  The then Mufti,Haji Amin suggested to him: 

    “We’re both anti Zionists. Let’s form an alliance against Zionism”

    To which the Rav responded: "We cannot work together. You hate what is Jewish about the Zionists, but we hate what is non-Jewish about them"

    Charedim and the State of Israel: then and now 

    Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld who lived in the Old City, had to go to Meah Shearim as a Mohel [circumciser]. His family and friends were terribly worried about him, and they begged him not to go, but he insisted. He would not forego the mitzvah.

    The eighty-year-old rabbi, clad in his tallit, walked to Meah Shearim not by way of Jaffa Gate, but by way of Damascus Gate, a troublesome spot even in normal times. He walked calmly along the same route where thousands of murderers had walked, in order to fulfill the mitzvah of circumcision, and he returned by way of Jaffa Gate. When he was later asked why he went precisely by way of Damascus Gate, he responded, “So that the Arabs would not think that they had succeeded in banishing the Jews from even one corner or street in Jerusalem.” And why had he returned by way of Jaffa Gate? “Such is my regular custom, in order to fulfill the words, “Walk around Zion. Circle her” (Psalm 48:13) (BeDor Tahapuchot, Rabbi Shlomo Zalmen Sonnenfeld, pages 226-229;393-396).
    It is well-known that the illustrious Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld was not a Zionist. Quite the contrary, he ascribed to the opposite view. To say that the Charedim did not sacrifice themselves for this land is a severe libel. Meah Shearim was established on a spot where people were afraid of bandits.The Charedim sacrificed themselves for the Land, or more precisely, for the word of G-d, who commanded us to settle the Land.

  • MaratSafin

    Someone up there said:
    It appears maybe there’s a misunderstanding to the term “choseness” that many – often Muslims and Antisemites (and sometimes both) – make from my experience.

    This is a Nazrani (christian) belief swallowed by gullible Muslims due to the Israel/Palestine land struggle. Nazranis believe that Jesus nullifed the ‘chosen’ contract (of the Jews) for them, and as they rejected the Talmud, Tanach and Books of Moses, they didn’t used to believe that Israel would be a nation again as Jews believed. Nazranis always thought that they were the new Israel, and Jews would never be a nation. 1948 must have come as a shock to them.

    Which is why you will hear Nazranis insisting that ‘Jews are not chosen’ because they wanted to kill Christ or killed him as some believe and are not deserving. Even Christian Zionists do not support Jewish independence, they too are only frenemies, and believe they are the rightful heirs to Israel, and the stubborn Jews who are holding up their fire and brimstone will be toast eventually and they will rule for 1000 years.

    Muslims who blindly follow everything ‘western’ (christian) swallow their memes, and couch it into anti Israelism, somewhere along the lines the fine line between anti Zionism and Anti Semtism got blurred, it’s no co-incidence the most anti Israel voices are Chrstian Arabs, including the PLO leaders.

    Terrorism’s Christian Godfather
    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1707366,00.html

    Middle Eastern Christians and anti-Semitism
    by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
    http://www.aymennjawad.org/10029/middle-eastern-christians-anti-semitism

    AT THIS point, many would no doubt be inclined to explain away this anti-Semitism by pointing to the anti-Jewish sentiments that are mainstream among the Muslim populations of the region. Living in such an environment – the reasoning goes – Christians would naturally be careful not to denounce deeply held convictions among their Muslim neighbors for fear of provoking persecution.

    However, the cancer of hostility toward Jews among Middle Eastern Christians goes much deeper than that.

    Indeed, it is telling that other non-Muslim minorities that have suffered discrimination and violence at the hands of Islamists – including the Yezidis, Mandeans and Bahá’ís – have never blamed Jews or Zionism for their persecution; their religions have not featured anti-Semitic doctrines.

    The case of the Bahá’í community is especially important because, with the religion’s global center located in Haifa, charges of collaboration with Israel can easily be leveled against Bahá’ís. Yet the Universal House of Justice has never complained of a Jewish/Zionist conspiracy against the Bahá’í communities in Iran and the wider region. Rather, it has always rightly identified the problem as enforcement of traditional Islamic law on the treatment of non-Muslims and apostasy, along with the supremacist attitudes fostered by the promotion of Shari’a.

    Ultimately the malaise of anti-Semitism among Middle Eastern Christians is entrenched in charges of deicide (i.e., of killing Jesus) against the Jewish people as a whole. As Saliba put it, Jewish conspiracies are “only natural” because the Jews repaid Christ for his miracles by crucifying him. In particular, Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church lambasted the Western churches for exonerating Jews for Christ’s death, in a televised interview on April 8, 2007. He argued that Jews were “Christ-killers” because “the New Testament says they are.”

    It is clear that in general, the Eastern churches have yet to move beyond the noxious anti-Semitic motifs repudiated by the Vatican in its Nostra Aetate declaration issued in 1965, after the Second Vatican Council. If anti-Semitism in the Middle East and North Africa is to be eradicated, the burden of theological reform will evidently not be a task for Muslims alone.

  • AJ

    I am pro-Jewish and anti-Israel (in its current form). I support the two state solution that I think Israelis would lean towards.

    Am I anti-Semitic?

  • IbnAbuTalib

    Muslim Heritage thinks Stephen Parker is a Christian fundamentalist? I’m sure she also thinks Wafa Sultan is a radical Islamist as well. Is this opposite day?

  • @ Muslim Heritage.com

    Your willful ignorance, or just plain malicious lying, again displays itself. The only way anti-Zionism could be a cover for anti-Semitism is if one were to believe that all Jews are by definition ‘Zionists’ or supporters of the ‘Jewish State of Israel’. If I believed that, then I guess I would indeed be anti-Semitic. However, I certainly know – and I believe you know as well – that there are at least some Jews (and some very Orthodox Jews) who decry the ‘Jewish State of Israel’ as being in fact un-Jewish. They believe in the same “one state solution” which I believe in – one Palestinian State in which all citizens (whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or anything else) are equal. And they decry the “Jewish State” as being in its very foundation immoral and ungodly. I believe those Jews have the right of it, and I side with them.

    Of course I love the Qur’an for what I ‘imagine’ it says, just as you love the Qur’an because of what you ‘imagine’ it says. What I ‘imagine’ it says is in the main consistent with what I see other unquestionably true Muslims claiming it says (on such sites as The American Muslim, Loonwatch, and Dr. Hesham Hassaballa’s site Midwestern Muslim – http://www.chicagonow.com/midwestern-muslim – for instance). Admittedly I have SOME rather ‘non-traditional’ interpretations; but I have never attempted to hide that fact. Anyone who bothers to read what I have to say can see that for him/herself, and can either agree or disagree with me.

    Again you talk about my ‘Christian Supremacism’ – which again proves your absurdity and vicious lies. One might, perhaps, legitimately accuse me of ‘Islamic Supremacism’ – if one means by that what God said through His Messenger Muhammad (peace be with him and his family) in 49:13 – “… in God’s eyes, the ones most honored of you are the ones most mindful of Him: God is all knowing, all aware.”

    My “Christianity” is the “Christianity” of Muhammad: I believe that Jesus was (and is) God’s Christ, a human being to whom God was pleased to give His message (or ‘Gospel’). Jesus’ message, like that of Muhammad, was that men should worship God alone, and not set up any ‘partners’ with Him.

    My ‘Christian Supremacism’ is the ‘Christian Supremacism’ of Muhammad (3:55): “God said, ‘Jesus, I will take you back and raise you up to me: I will purify you of the disbelievers. TO THE DAY OF RESURRECTION I WILL MAKE THOSE WHO FOLLOWED YOU SUPERIOR TO THOSE WHO DISBELIEVED. Then you will all return to Me and I will judge between you regarding your differences.” Of course, those who truly follow Jesus, and who are therefor ‘superior’ to the disbelievers, are those who believe his message of the unity of God, and that God alone is to be worshiped and served (the same basic message as Muhammad and all the other Prophets of God). Those who have distorted his message to come up with the ideas of a ‘Trinity’ and the ‘Deity of Christ’ – and who have invented such ludicrous doctrines as ‘vicarious atonement’ – are not his true followers.

    The idea that the current ‘State of Israel’ is a ‘reborn Israel’ in any Biblical sense of the word (whether the Hebrew Law and Prophets, or the teaching of the “New Testament”) certainly does clash with my beliefs (as it does with the beliefs of some very Orthodox Jews). But since so many ‘Christians’ today (especially in the USA) believe that the ‘State of Israel’ IS a Biblically ‘reborn Israel’, my denial of this can hardly be called ‘Christian Supremacism’ (except in the sense already given, taken from 3:55, of ‘Islamic Christian Supremacism’). I am surrounded by such ‘Christians’ who believe in this supposedly ‘reborn Israel’ – and I definitely ‘clash’ with them!

    I certainly believe in Israeli/CIA conspiracies and ‘false flags’, and I believe it is indisputable. But since the official policy of Loonwatch is ‘anti-conspiracy theories’, I try not to use the comments section as a sounding board for my ‘conspiracy theories’. I give my reasons – or at least some of them – on my own blog, and I don’t hide my beliefs at all. Anyone who wishes to see my reasons can go to my blog site. But again, there are certainly some very Orthodox Jews who agree – in the main, at least – with my positions.

    Being “anti-State of ‘Israel'” is hardly the same as being “anti-Semitic”. And denying that Muslims did many of the atrocities of which they are accused is certainly not the same as “excusing” Muslim crimes. The crimes are inexcusable no matter who did them. I just don’t believe most of them were actually done by Muslims. If I am mistaken, and those who did them really were ‘Muslims’, then I do not excuse them any more than I excuse the USA/Israeli terrorists whom I am convinced were the real perpetrators.

    You just seek to ‘demonize’ me by spreading Zionist propaganda and lies. But, God willing, you will not succeed.

  • Parker

    It’s interesting that you would rather side with someone who ridicules Islam as an evil religion which believes in attacking Christians and Jews simply for what they believe, than side with someone who loves the Qur’an and the ‘religion of Truth’, Islam (submission to God alone).

    I’m not siding with anyone, i’m taking issue to someone who abuses the Quran. You don’t love the QUran, you love what you imagine it says.

    It is offensive.

    Your love for the Quran has as much credence as Kevin Macdonald would have if he were claiming he supports the Palestinian causes. Both have an hidden agenda.

    Your anti Zionism is a cover for your anti Semitic Christian supremacist beliefs, as is evident from the conspiracies you espouse, blaming Israel for everything, and excusing the crimes of Muslims doens’t endear you to Muslims. It simply affirms that you practice the bigotry of low expecations by holding them to a very low standaard.

    This is the type of love you have.

    Anti Zionism is the ‘respectable’ face of anti Semitism for many, but the average person can discern the difference.

    You abuse the legitimate Palestinian cause, and you think you can couch it in anti Zionism, when in reality is you are confused because a reborn Israel clashes with your confused Christian supremaicst beliefs. Hence your confusion.

  • fox news

    Great work.

  • InPeace

    are all simply human beings, and have EQUAL ‘access’ to both God’s mercy and punishment.

    It appears maybe there’s a misunderstanding to the term “choseness” that many – often Muslims and Antisemites (and sometimes both) – make from my experience.

    Jews actually believe non-Jews are more likely to enter “heaven” than Jews (Jews have more laws to follow; non-Jews have seven simple to follow laws). In that way, non-Jews actually have better access to God’s mercy and are less liable to inflict God’s punishment than Jews.

  • Just Stopping By

    @Muslim Heritage:

    Thanks for the explanation. I don’t know of any Jewish sources recognizing a community of Jews who thought that Ezra was the son of God. I’ll leave it to scholars to argue whether there was such a group or if the Qur’an is incorrect, because that’s not a debate I wish to enter.

    My understanding of the Ebionites is that while they thought that Jesus was the messiah, they did not consider him divine or the son of God, and that they followed (at least pretty much) Jewish law. If that is correct, they might be considered Jews who erred in following a false messiah, but the particulars would probably depend on more about their view of Jesus than I know of. Anything that suggested that God was not a singlular being (e.g., a belief in a trinity) with no son would be heresy to Judaism.

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