move really fast nowadays. Just yesterday we hardly dared to call the
Israeli policy of official discrimination against Palestinians by the
harsh word ‘apartheid’. Today, as Sharon’s tanks and missiles pound defenseless
cities and villages, the word barely suffices. It has become an
unjustified insult to the white supremacists of South Africa. They, after
all, did not use gun-ships and tanks against the natives, they did not lay
siege to Soweto. They did not deny the humanity of their kaffirs. The
Jewish supremacists made it one better. They have returned us,
as if by magic wand, to the
world of Joshua and Saul.
the search for the right word continues, the courageous Robert Fisk
proposes calling the events in Palestine a
‘civil war’. If this is civil war, the slaughter of a lamb is a
bullfight. The disparity of forces is too just too large. No, Virginia, it
is not ‘civil war’, it is creeping genocide.
is the point in our saga, where the good Jewish guy is supposed to take
out his hanky and exclaim: “how could we, eternal victims of
persecutions, commit such crimes!” Well, do not hold your breath waiting
for this line. It happened before and it can happen again.
are not more bloodthirsty than the rest of mankind. But the mad idea of
being the Chosen ones, the idea of supremacy, whether of race or religion,
is the moving force behind genocides. If you believe God choose your
people to rule the world, if you think others but subhuman, you will be
punished by the same God whose name you took in vain. Instead of a gentle
frog, he would turn you into a murderous maniac.
the Japanese got a whiff of this malady in 1930s, they raped Nanking and
ate the liver of their prisoners. Germans, obsessed by the Aryan
superiority complex, filled Baby Yar with corpses. As thoughtful readers
of Joshua and Judges,
the father-pilgrim founders of the United States tried on the ‘Chosen’
crown and succeeded in nearly exterminating the Native American peoples.
Jews are no exception. Outside of Jerusalem’s Jaffa gate (Bab al-Halil),
there was once a small neighbourhood called Mamilla, destroyed by real
estate developers just a few years ago. In its place they created a
monstrous ‘village’ for the super-rich, abutting the plush Hilton
Hotel. A bit further away, there is the old Mamilla cemetery of the Arab
nobles and the Mamilla Pool, a water reservoir dug by Pontius Pilate.
During the development works, the workers came across a burial cave
holding hundreds of sculls and bones. It was adorned by a cross and a
legend: ‘God alone knows their names’. The Biblical Archaeology
Review, published by the Jewish American Herschel Shanks, printed a long
by the Israeli archaeologist Ronny Reich on this discovery.
dead were laid to their eternal rest in AD 614, the most dreadful year in
the history of Palestine until the 20th century. The Scottish
scholar, Adam Smith, wrote in his Historical Geography of Palestine:
until now, the terrible devastation
of 614 is visible in the land, it could not be healed.
614, Palestine was a part of the Roman successor state, the Byzantine
Empire. It was a prosperous, predominantly Christian land of well
developed agriculture, of harnessed water systems, and carefully laid
terraces. Pilgrims came in flocks to the Holy places, and the
Constantine-built edifices of Holy Sepulchre and of the Ascension on the
Mount of Olives were among the manmade wonders of the world. The Judean
wilderness was enlivened by eighty monasteries, where precious manuscripts
were collected and prayers offered. Fathers of the church, St Jerome of
Bethlehem and Origenes of Caesarea, were still a living memory.
was also a small wealthy Jewish community living in their midst, mainly in
Tiberias on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Their scholars had just
completed their version of the Talmud, the codification of their faith,
Rabbinic Judaism; but for instruction they deferred to the prevailing
Jewish community in Persian Babylonia.
614, local Palestinian Jews allied with their Babylonian coreligionists
and assisted the Persians in their conquest of the Holy Land. In the
aftermath of the Persian victory, Jews perpetrated a massive holocaust of
the Gentiles of Palestine. They burned the churches and the monasteries,
killed monks and priests, burned books. The beautiful basilica of Fishes
and Loaves in Tabgha, the Ascension on Mount of Olives, St Steven opposite
Damascus Gate and the Hagia Sion on Mt Zion, are just at the top of the
list of perished edifices. Indeed, very few churches survived the
onslaught. The Great Laura of St Sabas, tucked away in the bottomless
Ravine of Fire (Wadi an-Nar) was saved by its remote location and steep
crags. The Church of Nativity miraculously survived: when Jews commanded
its destruction, the Persians balked. They perceived the Magi mosaic above
the lintel as the portrait of Persian kings.
devastation was not the worst crime. When Jerusalem surrendered to the
Persians, thousands of local Christians became prisoners of war, and were
herded to the Mamilla Pool area. The Israeli archaeologist Ronny Reich
writes: ‘They were probably sold to the highest bidder. According to
some sources, the Christian captives at Mamilla Pond were bought by Jews
and were then slain on the spot’. An eyewitness, Strategius of St Sabas,
was more vivid: ‘Jews ransomed the Christians from the hands of the
Persian soldiers for good money, and slaughtered them with great joy at
Mamilla Pool, and it ran with blood’. Jews massacred 60,000 Palestinian
Christians in Jerusalem alone. The earth’s population was probably about
50 million then, 100 times smaller than today. A few days later, the
Persian military understood the magnitude of the massacre and stopped the
his credit, the Israeli archaeologist Ronny Reich does not try to shift
the blame for the massacres onto the Persians, as it is usually done
nowadays. He admits that ‘the Persian Empire was not based on religious
principles and was indeed inclined to religious tolerance’. This good
man is clearly unsuitable to write for the New York Times. That
paper’s correspondent in Israel, Deborah Sonntag, would have no trouble
describing the massacre as ‘retaliatory strike by the Jews who suffered
under Christian rule’.
holocaust of the Christian Palestinians in year 614 is well documented and
you will find it described in older books, for instance in the three
volumes of Runciman’s History of The Crusades. It has been
censored out of modern guides and history books. It is a pity, as without
this knowledge one cannot understand the provisions of the treaty between
the Jerusalemites and Caliph Omar ibn Khattab, concluded in year 638. In
the Sulh al Quds, as this treaty of capitulation is called, Patriarch
Sofronius demanded, and the powerful Arab ruler agreed to protect the
people of Jerusalem from the ferocity of the Jews.
the Arab conquest, a majority of Palestinian Jews accepted the message of
the Messenger, as did the majority of Palestinian Christians, albeit for
somewhat different reasons. For local Christians, Islam was a sort of
Nestorian Christianity, but without icons, without Constantinople’s
interference and without Greeks. (The Greek domination of the Palestinian
church remains a problem for the local Christians to this very day.)
ordinary local Jews, Islam was the return to the faith of Abraham and
Moses, as they could not follow the intricacies of the new Babylonian
faith anyway. The majority of them became Muslims and blended into
Palestinian population. The accommodation of Jews to Islam did not stop in
the 7th century. A
thousand years later, in the 17th century, the greatest
spiritual leaders of the new-founded Sephardi Jewish community of
Palestine, Sabbatai Zevi and Nathan of Gaza, the successors to the
glorious Spanish mystic tradition of Ari the Saint of Safed, also embraced
‘the law of mercy’, as they called Islam. Their descendants, the
comrades of Ataturk, saved Turkey from the onslaught of the European
troops during WWI.
Jews do not have to feel guilty for the misdeeds of Jews long gone. No son
is responsible for the sins of his father. Israel could have turned this
mass grave with its Byzantine chapel and mosaics into a small and
meaningful memorial, reminding its citizens of a horrible page in the
history of the land and of the dangers of genocidal supremacy. Instead,
the Israeli authorities preferred to demolish the tomb and create an
underground parking lot in its place. It did not cause a murmur.
Israeli guardians of the Jewish conscience, Amos Oz and others, have
objected to the destruction of the ancient remains. No, not of the tomb at
Mamilla. They ran a petition against the keepers of the Haram a-Sharif
mosque complex for digging a ten-inch trench to lay a new pipe. It did not
matter to them that, in an op-ed in Haaretz, the leading Israeli
archaeologist of the area denied all relevance of the mosque works to
science. They still described it as ‘a barbaric act of Muslims aimed at
the obliteration of the Jewish heritage of Jerusalem’. Among the
signatories, I found, to my amazement and sorrow the name of Ronny Reich.
One thinks, he might tell them who obliterated the vestiges of the Jewish
heritage at Mamilla Pool.
do I find it necessary to tell the story of the Mamilla bloodbath? Because
there is nothing more dangerous than the feeling of self-righteousness and
perpetual victimhood reinforced by a one-sided historical narrative. Here
again, the Jews are not unique. Eric Margolis of the Toronto Sun [ii]
wrote about Armenians inflamed by the story of their holocaust. They
massacred thousands of their peaceful Azeri neighbours in the 1990s, and
caused the uprooting of 800,000 native non-Armenians. ‘It’s time to
recognize all world’s horrors’, Margolis concludes.
history creates a distorted picture of reality. Recognition of past is a
necessary step on the way to sanity. The Germans and the Japanese have
recognized the crimes of their fathers, have came to grips with their
moral failings and have emerged as humbler, less boastful folks, akin to
the rest of human race. We Jews have so far failed to exorcise the haughty
spirit of the Chosenness, and found ourselves in a dire predicament.
is why the idea of supremacy is still with us, still calling for genocide.
In 1982, Amos Oz [iii]
met an Israeli, who shared with the writer his dream of becoming a Jewish
Hitler to the Palestinians. Slowly this dream is becoming a reality.
Haaretz published an ad on its front page [iv],
a fatwa, signed by a group of Rabbis. The Rabbis proclaimed the
theological identification of Ishmael, i.e. the Arabs, with the Amalek.
‘Amalek’ is mentioned in the Bible as the name of a tribe that caused
trouble for the Children of Israel. In this story, the God of Israel
commands His people to exterminate the Amalek tribe completely, including
its livestock. King Saul botched the job: he exterminated them all right,
but failed to kill nubile unwed maidens. This ‘failure’ cost him
his crown. The obligation to exterminate the people of Amalek is
still counted among the tenets of the Jewish faith, though for centuries
nobody made the identification of a living nation with the accursed tribe.
was one exclusion showing how dangerous the ruling is. At the end of WWII,
some Jews, including the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, identified
the Germans with Amalek. Indeed, a Jewish religious socialist and a
fighter against Nazis, Abba Kovner, hatched in 1945 a plot to poison the
water supply system of German cities and to kill ‘six million
Germans’. He obtained poison from the future President of Israel, Efraim
Katzir. Katzir supposedly thought Kovner intends to poison ‘only’ a
few thousands of German POW’s. The plan mercifully flopped when Kovner
was stopped by British officials in a European port. This story was
published last year in Israel in a biography of Kovner written by Prof
Dina Porat, head of Anti-Semitism Research Centre at Tel Aviv university [v].
plain English, the Rabbis’ fatwa means: our religious duty is to
kill all Arabs, including women and babies and their livestock; to the
last cat. The liberal Haaretz, whose editor and owner are
sufficiently versed to understand the fatwa, did not hesitate to
place the ad.
Palestinian activists recently criticized me for associating with the
marginal Russian weekly Zavtra and for quoting the American weekly Spotlight.
I wonder why they have not condemned me for writing in Haaretz? Zavtra
and Spotlight have never published a call to genocide, after all.
would be unfair to single out Haaretz. Another prominent Jewish newspaper,
The Washington Post, published an equally passionate call to
genocide by Charles Krauthammer [vi].
This adept of king Saul cannot rely upon his audience’s knowledge of the
Bible, so he refers to General Powell’s slaughter of routed Iraqi troops
at the end of the Gulf war. He quotes Colin Powell saying of the Iraqi
army, "First we're going to cut it off, then we're going to kill
it." For Krauthammer, with his carefully chosen quotes, multitudes of
slain Arabs do not qualify for human pronoun ‘them’. They are an
‘it’. In the last stage of the war in the Gulf, immense numbers of
retreating and disarmed Iraqis were slaughtered in cold blood by the US
Air Force, their bodies buried by bulldozers in the desert sand in huge
and nameless mass graves. The numbers of victims of this hecatomb are
estimated from one hundred thousand to half a million. God alone knows
wants to repeat this feat in Palestine. ‘It’ is already cut off,
divided by the Israeli army into seventy pieces. Now it is ready for the
great kill. ‘Kill it!’, he calls with great passion. He must be
worried that the Persians will again stop the bloodbath before the Mamilla
Pool fills up. His worries are our hopes.
Here and there
in the Land of Israel, Amos Oz
20 Apr 2001