Omar of Jordan took the time to write a long response to my post on his long question. I hope this is the beginning of a useful exchange. Before I start, it’s clear that one of the problems with our exchange is that we have two radically different sources of history on the Middle East, and I’m not sure how to reconcile that. Omar, if you can bring your sources to your subsequent responses, I’ll try as much as possible to bring mine to mine. Then maybe we can talk about the “clash of historical narratives.”
Before I start, I’m not sure if you’re the frenchfregoli who I was arguing for the last two days or not, but anyway, I’m going to overlook any relation and respond to you in general.
Thank you. I’m not.
I don’t believe that we’re on opposite sides about everything, the problem from my point of view is that you know less about the Arab world and about me, you base your opinions on information that are facts only according to you.
Let me start by your thought experiment, ok, our “friends” had arrived to Palestine, you’re inviting me to welcome them with hospitality, do you have any idea that Jews had been living in the hospitality of Arabs for over a thousand years, what made us change our minds suddenly?
I think you need to read some more about how the dhimmi Jews were treated by the Muslims in the pre-modern period. Try the works of Bat-Yeor and Bernard Lewis. Although the Christians may have engaged in some really vicious pogroms more often than Muslims, for systematic, legally sanctioned, oppression and humiliation of religious minorities, it’s hard to find a more consistent record than Islam. I don’t have the reference, but there’s a letter from a French Jewish educator who went to Algeria in the early 1800s to see about opening a school for Jews there and came back horrified at the degradation and humiliation of that community. I’m afraid you will have a good deal of difficulty making the case that the Muslims were kind and hospitable to the Jews. That’s part of the Anti-Zionist “narrative”: “We got along fine with our Jews until the Zionists came.” Well, I think if you look at the independent evidence (say the reports from travelers to the Middle East), you’ll find that “getting along fine” meant being on top and able to humiliate at will, and “before the Zionists got here” means before we had to deal with uppity Jews who did not accept their assigned position.
mmm, maybe  the Haganah gangs that were commiting genocides in Deir Yassin to terrorise native Palestinians, or  maybe Palestinians, regardless to their legendary hospitality, don’t like, just like every decent human, somebody coming from Poland taking over their houses over a night and butchering them and their innocent families,  maybe because those “peaceful” Jews wanted, and still do, to conquer lands from Iraq to Egypt claiming that it’s what their god had promised them 3000 years ago! Only by stumbling across this idea of yours, I feel so disappointed.
Wow! I’ll treat each of your three statements separately.
 You are aware that Deir Yassin took place in 1948 and during wartime (aside from its being disputed as to just what happened there), that it came after decades of Arab uprisings and slaughters of Jewish populations in Palestine (including, in 1929, the community of Hebron). I don’t think any fair observer of the Arab-Israeli conflict has ever argued that the Jews started by conquering the land, and in the longstanding debate between Israelis and Arabs about who slaughtered whom, I’m unaware of anyone claiming that the Israelis started it.
 Indeed, one of the most remarkable differences between the arrival of the Jews to Palestine and the European imperialists to Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern and Central Asia, is that while the latter came first as conquerers and only later, after kicking the stuffings out of the natives, as settlers, the latter, the Jews, came as settlers, playing by the rules of the society they found themselves settling in — buying property (sometimes twice, once from the absentee owners/effendis in Egypt, once from the tenant/fellah), bribing officials, building the walls around their settlements in a day to protect from Bedouin raids, etc. The use of violence by the Zionists is a rather late development and clearly in response to the rough neighborhood into which they had moved. And as far as I know, there’s no case of immigrants from anywhere coming and butchering Muslim Arabs in the night to take over their land. Remember that from 1900-1948, the Jews were a distinct minority: they could not afford to resort to that kind of violence even if they wanted to.
You speak of Palestinians not wanting to be displaced brutally by the incoming Zionists. In reality, the advent of the Jews meant a rapid rise in the population of Arabs — from both birth-rate increase (due to better health conditions and hospitals among other things), but also immigration to a place that was doing well economically. After the riots and massacres of 1936-9, the Peel Commission made it a point to ask the Arabs who rioted why they hated the Jews so much, given that the region had clearly prospered since they came. One man responded: “You say we are better off: you say my house has been enriched by the strangers who have entered it. But it is my house, and I did not invite the strangers in, or ask them to enrich it.” (Weathered by Miracles p. 207 (Palestine Royal Comission Report, p. 131). In other words — and I only ask you to consider this as a possibility Omar — the source of the conflict is not because they Jews came in with their zero-sum colonial conquests and slaughtered the Palestinians, but because they came in playing positive-sum rules (everyone can benefit) and disturbed the zero-sum, I-rule-over-you-to-prevent-you-from-ruling-over-me, attitude of the locals. Sooner rule in misery than share in wealth; poke out one of my eyes so the next guy can be blind. Note, this man is not a representative of all Arabs in Palestine; he comes from the specific pool of rioters, of the bully “street” where might makes right and wretched dominion rules the heart of men… the very Muslim Arabs who killed the largest number of their fellow Arab Muslims in the course of the same riots.
 I have heard that Arabs believe this notion, which I think is related to the two stripes on the Israeli flag being the Nile and the Euphrates. Aside from having no grounding in the Israeli reality (the two stripes are symbolic of the Jewish prayer shawl), any look at history suggests how unlikely such an ambition. If the Israelis had those ambitions, and given their military superiority from 1967 onwards, why didn’t they carry out the ambition? The fact is that Israelis are so uncomfortable dominating other people they’re trying to figure out ways to give back the territories they did conquer, and over which they have both strategic and historical claims (not to deny other claims, just to distinguish from claims over the area from the Nile to the Euphrates). I think if you step back from the propaganda that you’ve been raised on, and look at Israeli behavior over the last 60 years, you’ll find it’s distinctly non-imperialist — giving back Sinai, negotiating to give back the Golan, West Bank and Gaza, in exchange for recognition and peace. No nation in history has done such things, especially under the conditions that Israel has been in since conception.
But where did you get this idea? Surely you didn’t get it from reading Zionist literature. And just probably the people who told you this, told you that of course the Zionists wouldn’t admit this plan openly. It’s a dirty secret.
It doesn’t exist. I don’t know one Israeli who doesn’t laugh when they hear this Arab belief. Only after a while do they realize that it’s not funny… that it means that the Arabs cannot leave them in peace because they believe that Israel will never leave them in peace. It’s a recipe for permanent war, it’s a foundation for conspiracy theory. And if it’s wrong — which I beg you to consider — then it’s a tragedy.
let’s turn to your analysis to my question about what’s bad about Syria or Iran, I have two points to explain:
1) You haven’t got my question correctly at all, because simply you haven’t read it correctly, what’s the other part of the question? “that is enough for me to stand with the US against them?”
2) Would I stand with anyone fighting my enemy? Isn’t that a human nature my friend?
Well, I’m not sure. [Note that as you tell me you see me as an enemy, you call me my friend.] Granted, it’s a natural tendency, but unchecked, it plays a devastating role on a society. I believe that the term shamtan is not an admirable emotion for traditional Arab honor-culture. But today, Palestinian media encourage it, indeed we have shamtan exhibits in which Palestinian people — your people, if I’m to understand — can savor the body parts of Israeli families along with their pizza fly through the air after a suicide bomber tore them apart. This is, I submit to your consideration, a catastrophe for your people. Even as you shout loudly about your brothers and sisters “in Gaza being butchered,” your brothers and sisters in Gaza are attending exhibits where they savor their own butchering of our brothers and sisters. This is cultural poison.
So on this question my position is 1) it’s human nature to band together in solidarity, but when it’s “my side right or wrong” you have a recipe for a society at war; and only when you learn to master yourself, can peace between honest people exist. In other words, fighting the tendency to see things in terms of siding with my friend against my enemy, so that it’s a last not a first resort, seems to me to be the foundation of human dignity — the commoner’s honor — and as I understand the greatness of Islam, one of its great contributions to the life of Muslims.
When you resist that “human nature,” you sometimes find out that you’ve mistaken friend for foe and vice-versa. Sometimes, even an enemy is not a permanent enemy, but someone who could be a friend (or at least neutral). If you go through life only seeing enemies and identifying as friends those who are enemies with your perceived enemies, you can make some serious mistakes (as in, below).
What’s better for me, living under the Syrian regime or under the Israeli regime?
Well that’s not an obvious answer for me. Arabs in Syria are wretchedly poor, have no freedoms either cultural (you could not write your blog in Syria) or political (no real representation; if they speak out or engage in militant Islamism they are likely to get slaughtered — men, women and children — as in the case of Hama.
(Note that this massacre of some tens of thousands of people took place around the same time as Christian Arab Phalangists massacred hundreds of Palestinians at Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon. Most people know the latter case well because Israelis were implicated; but the Syrian action is far more representative of the actions of Arab regimes against their own people. As much as it may bother you to acknowledge it, Arab Israelis (i.e., Arabs living under the Israeli regime as citizens) have much higher standards of living, much higher educational levels, levels of political freedom and participation, etc. than the Arabs in the countries around them (except Lebanon before the PLO arrived in 1970).
I know you’ll bring up the conditions of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and I don’t want to get into that debate — at least not yet. For the time being, your question was, “What’s better for me, to live under a Syrian regime or an Israeli one.” I think it’s pretty clear, and the loud protests from Israeli Arabs about not having their villages reassigned to a future Palestinian state are fairly eloquent on the subject.
Part II tomorrow.