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UK: Loonwatch Cited in the Independent

Robert Irwin wrote an excellent review of Martin Gilbert’s recent book on a history of Jews in Muslim lands. Martin Gilbert you may remember was a pundit on Obsession: Radical Islam’s War against the West (debunked by the website Obsession for Hate) which essentially claimed Islam was the same as Nazism.

Irwin mentions that Gilbert cites Bat Ye’or favorably a number of times even though she is thoroughly discredited on all fronts and he cites Loonwatch as a source exposing her loonieness and shoddy scholarship, referring particularly to our piece, “Bat Ye’or: Anti-Muslim Loon with a Crazy Conspiracy Theory Named “Eurabia.”

The House of Ishmael: A history Of The Jews In Muslim Land, By Martin Gilbert

by Robert Irwin

The subtitle to Martin Gilbert’s new book (his 81st?) is a little misleading. This is not really a general account of the fortunes and misfortunes of Jews under Muslim rule from the seventh century until the present day. The early centuries are rushed through and, although Gilbert is aware of the magnificent and fabulously detailed account of Jewish lifein medieval Egypt provided by SD Goitein’s five-volume A Mediterranean Society, he makes little use of it.

Similarly, though Gilbert quotes Bernard Lewis once, he has made surprisingly scant use of Lewis’s brilliant articles on the Jews under Turkish rule, which drew both on Hebrew sources and the Ottoman archives. Lewis’s The Jews of Islam (1984) remains the best, most balanced and accessible account of the Jews under Muslim rule.

By contrast In the House of Ishmael reads more like a bill of indictment than a history. It is overwhelmingly focused on the sufferings of the Jews in the Islamic lands in the 20th and 21st centuries in the wake of the foundation of the Zionist movement, the establishment of Israel and the successive victories of Israel over Arab armies. The indictment is damning indeed.

From Afghanistan to Morocco, Jews were made to suffer for the successes of Zionism. They were humiliated, robbed, raped, imprisoned, tortured and killed. In Iraq and elsewhere there were mass hangings of innocent Jews. For one Iraqi Jew driven out by pogroms of the 1940s this was “a tragedy which turned out to be a blessing in disguise – it got us out of that dreadful country and away from its destructive, treacherous and savage people”.

Gilbert makes use of copious anecdotal evidence and statistics to chronicle a shameful side of Arab and Islamic history. In the aftermath of the creation of Israel, 726,000 Palestinian Arabs were made refugees, while 850,000 Jews had to abandon their homes in the Arab lands. With some difficulty, Israel succeeded in assimilating most of the Jewish refugees. By contrast, the Palestinian refugees still languish in crowded camps. The paradox is that violent Arab racism and paranoia helped populate Israel.

Gilbert has so much material and such a strong case that it should not have been necessary to stack the deck. Yet it seems to me that he has done so and his use of sources is sometimes questionable. For his account of how the Jews in 13th-century Basra were forced to wear clothing that marked their lower status he cites a Jewish traveller, Jacob of Ancona, who allegedly travelled from Italy to China. But when in 1997 the purported narrative of Jacob’s travels was published by David Selbourne as The City of Light, the Sinologists Jonathan Spence and Tim Barrett, the Jewish historians David and Bernard Wasserstein and myself all challenged the authenticity of the text. Since then no original manuscript has turned up. It would have been safer to have relied on Goitein’s material.

Gilbert’s notes cite Bat Ye’or with approval several times. When, in 2002, her book Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide appeared, I reviewed it and then threw the book away. Bat Ye’or is not an academic and her books are poorly ordered assemblages of facts, real or alleged, that relentlessly show Islam and Arabs in an unfavourable light.

She believes that there is an Islamic conspiracy to turn Europe into something she calls “Eurabia”. Those interested to get a fuller sense of the dementedly Islamophobic polemics of this woman should consult the website

When Gilbert discusses what was happening in Palestine during the British mandate, he quotes Joan Peters’s From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine to back up his assertion that more Arabs than Jews entered Palestine as immigrants in the 1930s. But when that book was published in 1984, critics swiftly demonstrated that its use of archives and statistics was seriously flawed and substantially misleading. Yehoshua Porath, professor of Middle East History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, denounced the book as “sheer forgery”.

Israel can be seen as the salvation of the Jews of the Middle East, but it can also be seen as their curse. One Iraqi Jewish woman confessed that she “nursed a grudge. I felt that all the horrible things that were happening to us were because of Israel, because of your dream and your wars. You celebrated the victories, and we paid the price of those wars. Now I can see that we were saved because of the existence and efforts of Israel”.

In the House of Ishmael, full of vivid accounts of Jewish sufferings in the Middle East, did not need the testimony of false friends to pad its grim story out. Its account of the slow-burning tragedy of the extinction of Jewish communities in the Arab world is moving and important. It should be read.

Robert Irwin’s ‘For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and Their Enemies’ is published by Penguin

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  • Wandering Jew

    It would seem to me that both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict have accused the other of being Nazis, and both have accused the other of plotting to take over the world. All this seems very childish to me.

    It is certainly true that Israel has a far more sophisticated military, a more advanced industry and a deeper understanding of international finance than the Arab world, and is thus capeable of inflicting greater damage.

    It is also true that the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Hadj Amin Al Husseini was a personal friend of Hitler and that “Itbah al yehud” has been shouted by angry mobs.

    The Jewish people do indeed harbour a not-so-secret hope that the Jewish Temple will be one day rebuild, that the nations will “beat their swords into plowshares” and that the Messiah will usher in an era of earthly peace.

    Important leaders in the Muslim community have spoken of rebuilding the Caliphate and suggested the Sharia is ultimately a more just and humane basis for a legal system than the western ideal of universal human rights.

    So, where does all this leave us in the world today?

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32) Warning Contains Irony

    Wandering Jew
    “Showing Arabs and muslims in an unfavourable light is not “islamophobia”, just as criticising Israeli policy is not anti-semitism”
    Not sure if these two statements equate to each other .
    Criticising Isreal policy thats just politics and OK as far as I am concerned . I agree its not antisematism because you make the valid point the being jewish is a religious definition and does not equal the state of Isreal although many people would have us believe it so.
    Showing Arabs and muslims in an unfavourable light. Firstly this statement assumes thayt all arabs are muslim and that they are all the same when manifestly they are not just as you would I am sure be the first to agree that all Jews are the same or all black people are the same . Secondly most muslims are not Arabs , muslims are a pretty diverse lot . Looking at other posts on this furum will show you that .
    I agree no cililzation is perfect and I think some are not trying very hard 😉
    Constructive self criticism need to come from a base belief and unfortunetly when criticism comes from the basis of someone being an islamaphobe then it reveals its self in invalid wrong assumpions then its conclusions need to be rejected out of hand and more wise sage councel sought.

  • SKhan

    @Wandering Jew:

    So…saying that a religion is tantamount to Nazism is “constructive self-criticism”? Sorry, I might be misunderstanding, but could you make your point clear? It sounds as if you support this Martin Gilbert.

  • Wandering Jew

    Showing Arabs and muslims in an unfavourable light is not “islamophobia”, just as criticising Israeli policy is not anti-semitism. No civilization is perfect. Constructive self-criticism and learning from the mistakes of history is the only way foreward.

  • LaRoja

    Great article.

  • mike

    Salaam peeps.. one of my friends just made this documentary about park 51..
    check it out. he has some Kahane loytalists at the end..

  • Mohammed Abbasi

    Did anyone mention UK? :)

    Salaams from the Association of British Muslims!

  • NassirH

    “Loonwatch has been in the media quite a bit, The New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, etc. and now NPR and Professor Juan Cole at his Informed Comment.”

  • UK Muslim

    Great to hear that Loonwatch de-bunking is spreading slowly but surely into the mainstream. The Looons too earlier infiltrated the UK the same way. I think the process can be speeded up by comments in UK discussion forums linking back to Loonwatch.

  • Military Religious Freedom Foundation

    LOL, NassirH yes, Spencer or his other half (Hugh Fitzgerald the anonymous writer) has yet to rise to the challenge, the prize coward. I’m not sure whether Spencer is scared or whether he is nursing a crush on Danios. Either of those two reasons, could explain why he is scared to mention Loon Watch.

  • NassirH

    Good job Loonwatch, you’ve sent the loons running. Even Robert Spencer is too scared to mention your name.

  • Rise of Islam

    Great, glad to hear Loon Watch is becoming more and more mainstream.

    Gilbert has a history of trying to whitewash history, including Churchills. He is not a scholar that is taken seriously.

  • marco

    Eurabia has become a very central pillar of the anti islam movement. Apparently, France has fallen to Shariah law, as has Britain ( or slowly is). Its this kinda racist hateful fearmongering that leads to events like the Rwandan genocide or the holocaust.

  • marco

    Oh and to add to that. Its great that loonwatch is getting alotta publicty in the media the past year. Loonwatch is ranking very highly in the search engines for the names of these lunatics like Rob Spencer, Pam Geller etc

    Hopefully in 2011, it’ll be even a bigger year for Loonwatch. The bigger the site can become, the more the people can be vaccinated against the lies spewed by these racist fascist supporting loons.

  • marco

    It’d have been nice if they coulda made that mention of Loonwatch a proper html link ( for SEO purposes, it’d been a great backlink).

    Only 1 thing i can point out he didn’t mention was that Joan Peters’s From Time Immemorial was infact throughly debunked by my main man, Professor.Norman Finkelstein, as part of his doctoral thesis at Princeton University.

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32) Warning Contains Irony

    Wow wtg guys and gals a major newspaper notices Loonwatch is here.
    He is dead right about Batty Yaor and her made up statistics and paraniod delusions about eurabia.

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