Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Muhammad's War Against the Jews

It's often argued that Islam’s hostility towards Jews is a recent development stemming from the establishment of the state of Israel, the inspiration of European anti-Semitism, and/or the distortion of the writings of Muhammad, “the Prophet.” History shows otherwise. Muhammad himself ethnically-cleansed Medina of Jews, as I wrote in my most cited blog entry, last year.

The denial of Muhammad’s treatment of the Jews takes many forms: it didn’t happen, it was understandable, or it was a one-time exception. The first form of denial is common among Westerners; recently published books omit the complete story, if they tell it at all. Past scholars were duty-bound to present the full history even as they disagreed on its meaning; I examined a case in point in last year's article.

Islamic critics of my depiction of Muhammad’s actions against the Jews, generally argue that it was understandable – the Jews brought it on themselves. This is often touted as a moderate viewpoint! Since Muhammad didn’t do this out of bigotry, hatred, or malice, the argument goes, Islam is moderate – the Jews only have to behave and they haven’t ever since. This viciousness speaks for itself.

Let’s see what Edward Gibbon says about Muhammad and the Jews in his history of the Roman Empire:
The choice of Jerusalem for the first kebla of prayer discovers the early propensity of Mahomet in favour of the Jews; and happy would it have been for their temporal interest, had they recognized, in the Arabian prophet, the hope of Israel and the promised Messiah. Their obstinacy converted his friendship into implacable hatred, with which he pursued that unfortunate people to the last moment of his life; and in the double character of an apostle and a conqueror, his persecution was extended to both worlds. (135)

He seized the occasion of an accidental tumult, and summoned them to embrace his religion, or contend with him in battle. "Alas!" replied the trembling Jews, "we are ignorant of the use of arms, but we persevere in the faith and worship of our fathers; why wilt thou reduce us to the necessity of a just defence?" The unequal conflict was terminated in fifteen days; and it was with extreme reluctance that Mahomet yielded to the importunity of his allies, and consented to spare the lives of the captives. But their riches were confiscated, their arms became more effectual in the hands of the Mussulmans; and a wretched colony of seven hundred exiles was driven, with their wives and children, to implore a refuge on the confines of Syria.
Ethnic cleansing is achieved either by expulsion or genocide. He drove out the first Jewish tribe. Other Jewish tribes realized that conflict was inevitable.
The Nadhirites were more guilty, since they conspired, in a friendly interview, to assassinate the prophet. He besieged their castle, three miles from Medina; but their resolute defence obtained an honourable capitulation; and the garrison, sounding their trumpets and beating their drums, was permitted to depart with the honours of war. The Jews had excited and joined the war of the Koreish: no sooner had the nations retired from the ditch, than Mahomet, without laying aside his armour, marched on the same day to extirpate the hostile race of the children of Koraidha. After a resistance of twenty-five days, they surrendered at discretion. They trusted to the intercession of their old allies of Medina; they could not be ignorant that fanaticism obliterates the feelings of humanity.
At this point apologists try to soften criticism of Muhammad by blaming his associate for the final solution.
A venerable elder, to whose judgment they appealed, pronounced the sentence of their death; seven hundred Jews were dragged in chains to the market-place of the city; they descended alive into the grave prepared for their execution and burial; and the apostle beheld with an inflexible eye the slaughter of his helpless enemies. Their sheep and camels were inherited by the Mussulmans: three hundred cuirasses, five hundred piles, a thousand lances, composed the most useful portion of the spoil.
It didn't end in Medina:
Six days' journey to the north-east of Medina, the ancient and wealthy town of Chaibar was the seat of the Jewish power in Arabia: the territory, a fertile spot in the desert, was covered with plantations and cattle, and protected by eight castles, some of which were esteemed of impregnable strength. The forces of Mahomet consisted of two hundred horse and fourteen hundred foot: in the succession of eight regular and painful sieges they were exposed to danger, and fatigue, and hunger; and the most undaunted chiefs despaired of the event. The apostle revived their faith and courage by the example of Ali, on whom he bestowed the surname of the Lion of God: perhaps we may believe that a Hebrew champion of gigantic stature was cloven to the chest by his irresistible cimeter; but we cannot praise the modesty of romance, which represents him as tearing from its hinges the gate of a fortress and wielding the ponderous buckler in his left hand. (136)

After the reduction of the castles, the town of Chaibar submitted to the yoke. The chief of the tribe was tortured, in the presence of Mahomet, to force a confession of his hidden treasure: the industry of the shepherds and husbandmen was rewarded with a precarious toleration: they were permitted, so long as it should please the conqueror, to improve their patrimony, in equal shares, for his emolument and their own. Under the reign of Omar, the Jews of Chaibar were transported to Syria; and the caliph alleged the injunction of his dying master; that one and the true religion should be professed in his native land of Arabia. (137)
Gibbon, like every historian, has had to rely solely on Islamic sources. One can question their veracity but usually one expects the devout to have a bias in favor of the religion. The description above suggests that Muslims traditionally accepted this narrative; but it might have been worse.

William H. McNeill in his classic 1963 text, The Rise of the West, [p442] describes very briefly Muhammad’s relations with the Jews:
When it became clear that Mohammed could not win the support of the Jewish colony in Medina, he instructed his followers to drive the Jewish farmers from the oasis. He then distributed their land among the faithful. But the community of believers grew so rapidly trough the adherence of outsiders that this entirely failed to solve the economic problem. Territorial expansion beyond the oasis of Medina was the next step. Accordingly, Mohammad’s followers quickly subjugated another Jewish oasis settlement situated some miles north of Medina. This time, however, the victorious Moslems refrained from driving the Jews from their lands, but instead compelled them to pay tribute to the Moslem community, which the Prophet then distributed among the faithful according to their needs and deserts. This incident provided the model for subsequent dealings between Moslem conquerors and their Jewish or Christian subjects, who as “People of the Book” were allowed to retain their own religion, customs, and institutions as long as they paid tribute.
Thus, prior to the PC era (politically correct era) it was common to explain, not explain away, Muhammad's ethnic-cleansing. The policy became contingent upon the refusal to submit to Islamic rule but it remains a back-up option for recalcitrant Jews. Today it is the goal of major Islamic leaders in both Shiite and Sunni communities. In the decades after WWII, close to one million Jews were ethnically-cleansed from Tangier to Tehran with two-thirds settling in Israel. In a vast land stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Hindu Kush, Muslims find it intolerable that even this tiny sliver of land remains in Jewish hands. The legacy of Muhammad lives on.


Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

Jason does a fine job of demonstrating how Muhammad treated the Jews. That is a worthwhile subject, but I wish instead to address their response, i.e., "Alas!" replied the trembling Jews, "we are ignorant of the use of arms, but we persevere in the faith and worship of our fathers; why wilt thou reduce us to the necessity of a just defence?"

The article "Power, Powerlessness, & the Jews" by David Vital, appeared in Commentary magazine in Jan. 1990. Therein, Vital demonstrated the commitment of the Jews to leave "the ranks of the warring nations, and put their fate altogether in the hands of God."

Perhaps this is the one way in which it can be said that the Jews were partially to blame for what befell them. When a bully encounters a patsy, what do you expect to happen?

I mention this because it indicates the only sound response to aggression, namely to counter it as best you can. Moreover, it indicates the disparity between Judaism & Christianity, which can appreciate sacrificing for peace, and Islam, which can only fathom sacrificing others for the sake of war. If America is going to defend herself, she must abandon the pretense that one can deal with aggression by behaving peacefully.

8/29/06, 5:53 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

That’s a good point. I posted the whole selection from Gibbon as it is written so that we could see what this 18th century historian had to say about Islam back then. I didn’t take anything out of context but I also couldn’t comment on many of the interesting points. Allan picks out an important point to bring into focus.

8/30/06, 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now granted that this is a polemic... I offer it simply for the sake of argument (for there is a distinction in it with which I disagree). Nietzsche, "The AntiChrist"....


Christianity destroyed for us the whole harvest of ancient civilization, and later it also destroyed for us the whole harvest of Mohammedan civilization. The wonderful culture of the Moors in Spain, which was fundamentally nearer to us and appealed more to our senses and tastes than that of Rome and Greece, was trampled down (--I do not say by what sort of feet--) Why? Because it had to thank noble and manly instincts for its origin--because it said yes to life, even to the rare and refined luxuriousness of Moorish life! . . . The crusaders later made war on something before which it would have been more fitting for them to have grovelled in the dust--a civilization beside which even that of our nineteenth century seems very poor and very "senile."--What they wanted, of course, was booty: the orient was rich. . . . Let us put aside our prejudices! The crusades were a higher form of piracy, nothing more! The German nobility, which is fundamentally a Viking nobility, was in its element there: the church knew only too well how the German nobility was to be won . . . The German noble, always the "Swiss guard" of the church, always in the service of every bad instinct of the church--but well paid. . . Consider the fact that it is precisely the aid of German swords and German blood and valour that has enabled the church to carry through its war to the death upon everything noble on earth! At this point a host of painful questions suggest themselves. The German nobility stands outside the history of the higher civilization: the reason is obvious. . . Christianity, alcohol--the two great means of corruption. . . . Intrinsically there should be no more choice between Islam and Christianity than there is between an Arab and a Jew. The decision is already reached; nobody remains at liberty to choose here. Either a man is a Chandala or he is not. . . . "War to the knife with Rome! Peace and friendship with Islam!": this was the feeling, this was the act, of that great free spirit, that genius among German emperors, Frederick II. What! must a German first be a genius, a free spirit, before he can feel decently? I can't make out how a German could ever feel Christian. . . .

8/30/06, 3:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nietzsche believed that Gibbon attributed the fall of the Roman Empire to Christianity. I can't find the exact quote, but as evidence I offer the following exerpt from "Human, All to Human:


Cycle of the human race. Perhaps the whole human race is only a temporally limited, developmental phase of a certain species of animal, so that man evolved from the ape and will evolve back to the ape again, while no one will be there to take any interest in this strange end of the comedy. Just as with the fall of Roman culture, and its most important cause, the spread of Christianity, there was a general increase of loathsomeness in man within the Roman empire, so the eventual fall of the general world culture might also cause men to be much more loathsome and finally animalistic, to the point of being apelike.
Precisely because we are able to keep this perspective in mind, we may be in a position to protect the future from such an end.

8/30/06, 3:45 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

I understand that Gibbon does blame Christianity for the fall of the Roman Empire. No one could say that Gibbon's description of Islam was based on “Christian prejudice.” That’s one of the reasons I went looking for his writings on Arab and Islamic history.

Nietzsche was quite hostile to Christianity mainly because of the pacifist self-effacing self-renunciation ethos that he saw as weakness. Of course, there are Christians like that today and this sentiment, often more common on the secular left, is a part of our culture that worries me. The “winning the hearts and minds” appeasement approach of the President is unfortunate; but so is the leftists’ whining about our imaginary atrocities and “disproportionate” response. Nietzsche, like him or not, didn’t grovel or appease.

Let’s also remember that our military is largely populated by devout “muscular” Christians that can get the job done if we didn’t hold them back. We did it in WWII and we’re none the worse for it; we can do it today if need be.

8/30/06, 4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have my doubts that we can still get it done Jason. The kind of muscular Christians we need for this job wouldn't experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. That's a sympton of their Christianity or its' derivative secular liberal values fighting them.

And if it were simply a matter of combat, I wouldn't worry either. It's public support for a sustained and perhaps indefinite conflict. If we are to accomplish that end... we are going to have to do some quick educating, and time is not a resource that works to our advantage. It's hard to convince all our PhD holding elite's that they lack an education, especially a liberal one. It's something they think they already have and know.

8/31/06, 12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

muscular Christian's... don't you know that democracy is a woman? Athena. And for this fight, she needs to put on armour. Pallas Athene.

And Mohammed is all man.

8/31/06, 1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The number 6 is Athena. Pallas is 7. Hephaestus is only 5. (Sacred geometry... don't blame me, AoW got me going on numbers this am). LOL!

8/31/06, 1:16 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

I have my doubts that we can still get it done ...

The weakness of our current state is a problem. But there’s two points to make. The first is factual: what’s the problem and what would be the best course of action if minds were open to consider it. The second is cultural: given the limits on altering our values, habits, and thoughts, what’s the best we can do now. Given the second, I agree. It will cost us more and take longer before precisely because we have to come from behind as we slowly change our thoughts and feelings. It will happen. I only hope it can be informed and intelligent rather than in a panic after a horrible attack.

The West was slow to fact fascism and Nazism. It was slow to face communism. It took 30 years, from the Bolshevik Revolution to Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech, before we really took that threat seriously. And it cost losing half of Europe and half of Asia before it sung in. It will take time for the Islamic threat to sink in. Not everyone awakens at the same time.

I wonder how it felt to see Hitler’s ominous rise to power but to feel helpless in the face of indifference (see my 1st link above.) Or see Stalin’s regime sink into depravity while others try to minimize the problem (see the 2nd link above.) If those sounding the alarm could remain firm while others refused to see the rise of 20th century barbarianism, we must be firm in getting the message out in the face of the revival of 7th century barbarianism. We don’t have to agree on the details (do we ever?) but in the big picture is becoming clear. And it will become clear to everyone.

8/31/06, 1:22 PM  
Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

Jason has “doubts that we can still get it done ...” Allow me to reinforce those doubts. He first raises the objective situation, asking “what’s the problem and what would be the best course of action…” Here, (as he noted) the proximate problem is Islamic revival, which requires the action of trouncing it. Yet the underlying problem is our faith (or religion) of Social Democracy, which has enabled, rewarded, and closed off serious opposition to Islam. Next, he addresses the cultural issue with regard to “the limits on altering our values, habits, and thoughts…” Here, Jason speaks of the time it takes, and hopes that it will not require a horrible attack. I view the situation as bleaker, and claim that *this is not merely a matter of acknowledging aggression, but of an inveterate addiction to refusing to acknowledge reality*. (We even have those who deny that there is such a thing as aggression, or even reality, and aver instead that all is a matter of what people choose to believe.)

My departure, is precisely that of rejecting the model of how we responded to fascism and communism. There, as Jason said, it took time, and involved huge costs, before the threat was faced seriously. Yet with regard to fascism, we believed in America, and with regard to communism, we felt that accommodation would be advantageous to our way of life. In recent decades, we have ceased to believe in America, and are more concerned with acting for the sake of pleasing other nations and peoples. It is not that our analyses are mistaken, but that we avoid making them to begin with.

Consider protecting our borders, where now there are terrorists, who have insinuated themselves into the Mexican community, so as to enter America. We speak of the great problem of preventing entry, and cannot consider shooting those who are crossing the border. This attitude did not exist in America at the time of Hitler or Stalin. Nor is this merely a concern for human life. *Virtually no punitive action is acceptable with regard to precluding entry.* Could we spray the entrants with indelible ink? Certainly not, for that would be nasty. Ask most anyone what they would be willing to battle the illegals with, and the response is pathetic.

Consider, the North Korean use of missiles. Have we fired on them as they rose, or hit their sites on the ground? Of course not, for the world would not appreciate that. Consider Iran’s defiance in building her nuclear arsenal. Has there been any serious response on our part? Have we even focused our own missiles on Iran, and put them on notice that if we are hit (regardless of whether we can prove they did it) that they will automatically be decimated? Of course not, for our allies wouldn’t go along with such nastiness. Russia, China, France et al, have no compunction at breaking their word to us, for they know that we haven’t got what it takes to make them pay a price. (We hear the arguments that if we used the bomb, then our enemies would be willing to do so, as though they would not do so otherwise.)

We pretend that the UN will disarm Hezbollah, and prevent it from rearming. Is this a recognition of reality? Can we even claim that there is any justification for a UN presence at all?

It is true that we were blind to fascism and communism, but now we are committed to an even greater blindness, to the point where we cannot examine reality. Our addiction has not only permeated every Western country, but also their conservatives, patriots, and religionists. There simply is no meaningful opposition to our self-denial.

My approach to those who claim we are not at war, is not to affirm that we are, but to say “I respect your religion, to sacrifice our lives for your faith in man.” So I aver once again that only after devastation on our soil will we begin to recognize the enemy within and without. I would welcome evidence to the contrary.

8/31/06, 6:13 PM  
Blogger beakerkin said...


The Palestinian shell game is the lie of the century. When one is asked what is the basis of this ethnicity one gets no response. Arabs have a host of stolen land allready and are well versed in Colonialism themselves.

9/1/06, 1:51 AM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

So I aver once again that only after devastation on our soil will we begin to recognize the enemy within and without. I would welcome evidence to the contrary.

I don’t have evidence to the contrary as matters are as grave as you describe. However, in the effort to awaken the nation and revive a robust self-appreciation of our historic values and tradition, we may not beat the clock, but we will lay the ground work for a more effective response in the aftermath.

Those who warned about communism in the 20s and 30s didn’t succeed in reaching those in power. But their writings provided a basis to understand what had happened when Stalin expanded his power in Eastern Europe and Mao rose to power in China. Rand, Hayek, and others, wrote (during the war) explanations that became required reading to explain the new threat.

Thus, we need to formulate an understanding, first by a course description, but subsequently with greater nuance and depth. This will create both expertise and a literature when the time is ready. Those who understand the foreign threat will also set domestic agenda.

9/1/06, 12:00 PM  
Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

In response to my pessimism, Jason writes “in the effort to awaken the nation and revive…our historic values and tradition…we will lay the ground work for a more effective response…formulate an understanding…create both expertise and a literature when the time is ready…and also set a domestic agenda.

I agree completely, and hold that his response is precisely what is called for.

9/1/06, 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel like a Frenchman with a broken radio sitting behind the Maginot Line with his binocculars focused on a column of Panzers....

9/1/06, 5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Post snipped from an anti-dhimmi British blog...

"Israel is the 'canary in the coal mine' . Israel is the prototype of the nation states to be snuffed out by EUrabia. Once Israel is destroyed, the project will move on to destroy other Kaffir nation states leading to the ultimate objective of the worldwide Islamic caliphate.

Israel, though Jewish, is Christian Europe's front line. Hence the Biblical prophecy "Those who bless Israel will be blessed, those who curse Israel will be cursed"

If you British, Dutch, Danish, Norwegians, Lithuanians, Poles, Greeks, Spanish and all the other nationalities in Europe wish to keep your cultural identity within the encompassing Judeo-Christian heritage, then bless Israel and ensure her survival.

If you fail to do so, then once they have finished with the Jews they will come for YOU."

9/7/06, 8:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have tested it and writing form your personal experience or you find some information online?

3/13/10, 12:02 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Read the classic history books cited in the blog entry.

3/13/10, 12:41 PM  

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