Arabs and mirrors

April 23, 2006

A certain person of considerable notoriety, who lived some two thousand years ago and declared that the new age of love and forgiveness should replace the old one of severe justice, had at times contradicted himself by talking in exactly the stern Old testament metaphor he claimed to have opposed. More than once, he rather unkindly suggested that a critic of any action should look into a mirror and judge himself by the same standards by which he judges the others. Observing a crowd that was just about to meter out the punishment allotted by the Mosaic law to a lady caught in a situation not exactly befitting a lady, he put a mirror in front of the crowd – and at one glance into that mirror, the crowd suddenly stopped in its tracks and melted away. On another occasion, he recommended to those who’ve spotted a speck in their neighbor’s eye, and were eager to appraise the neighbor of the fact, to first look in the mirror – so as not to miss a perhaps much, much bigger one in their own.

Though dissonant with his message of forgiveness, and deeply Old-testamental in its emphasis on austere justice, there is no denying that this approach is not unfair. While our indignation at the actions of the others can reach feverish pitch, we tend to be much more lenient towards ourselves, and we drastically lower the standards when it comes to examining our own behavior.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an exhibit A of this tendency. Arab vocabulary is red-hot with righteous indignation. “Aggression and occupation,” “imperialist colonization,” “stolen Arab land,” “oppression of indigenous population,” “right of return of the refugees” are typical samples of Arab vocabulary.

But let’s place a mirror in front of the Arabs, and see what it would show. “Aggression and occupation”? Well, isn’t that precisely how the Arabs came to possess the lands outside of the Arabian peninsula? Starting a campaign of conquest (or “Arab aggression and occupation”) from what is now Saudi Arabia in about 634 CE, and stopping only when defeated in France and Byzantium, within less than a century Arabs were in possession of the whole of North Africa, of Spain, and of a chunk of Asia stretching to India’s border. When Rome conquered Spain, Palestine, and other lands, it was called “Roman empire.” Seven centuries later, Arabs conquered Spain, Palestine, and other lands – so this time around we have an “Arab empire.” “Imperialist colonization” is thus taken care of – to become “Arab imperialist colonization.”

“Stolen Arab land?” Let’s add numeric qualifiers to the term “Arab land,” demarking the dates when a particular piece of land become “stolen” by the Arabs, and when it was taken back: Palestine is “Arab land 634 –1948,” Spain is “Arab land 710-1490”; France would have became “Arab land” in 732 – along with the rest of the Western Europe, one suspects, but that Charles Martell stole it from Arabs by defeating the Arab invasion in the battle of Tours; Eastern Europe would have turned into “Arab land” in 717 – if not for the emperor Leo III of Byzantium, who stole from them that particular hunk of the globe by crushing the advancing Arab army. “Oppression of indigenous population?” – don’t forget that there are two groups, not one, that claim a title of the “indigenous population” in that area; not only the Arabs (634 –1948) but also the Jews (2000 BC – 200 CE, and 1948-present). As to the “right of return of the refugees” – isn’t Saudi Arabia – the hub of the Arab empire – a proper place for that?

But this ignores the religious aspect of the problem, it may be argued. There is, after all, a fundamental difference between the Arabs and the Romans – or all other non-Moslems, for that matter. Not all “aggressions and occupations” are created equal. Mohammed is the Seal of the prophets; while the Romans did not have the True Faith, the Arabs do – and when they conquer lands, they not just enlarge their territory, but, far more importantly, expand the habitat of the Truth. See the difference? So here: once a Moslem land, always a Moslem land.

Sorry, but this is just idolatry, pure and simple. The problem of the third party denies us the ability to know whether a divine revelation happened; all prophets, Mohammed including, are merely alleged prophets, merely “may be or may be not” prophets. We are blocked from knowing whether a prophecy occurred – and when we claim to know, we commit idol-worship.

So what would Hamasers and their ilk see the mirror? They’d see blood-smeared idolaters, raging and raving about justice, not noticing that their “justice” is aimed only at perpetuating Arab “aggression and occupation,” “imperialist colonization,” and “oppression of indigenous population.”

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