Did the Muslim Brotherhood Threaten to Kill “All Jews”?

The Muslim Brotherhood and other religious parties in Egypt (including the Salafis and the Gama’a al-Islamiya) held a rally at al-Husayn Square in Cairo last Friday to which a few thousand people came. The big rally was at Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo and was dominated by secular forces.

This is an Arabic news article about the Muslim religious rally, clearly written by a reporter on the scene. It does not say anything about the speakers or the crowd threatening to kill all Jews, and I don’t believe any such threat was made.

The allegation was made by Eldad Beck, who complained of “Arab hate” at the rally. Beck, who clearly does not know what he is talking about, said that the crowd repeatedly quoted a verse in the Qur’an that spoke of killing all Jews. There is no such verse in the Islamic holy book. The Jewish revelation from God to Abraham and Moses is retold in the Qur’an, which has positive stories of the Children of Israel. The castigation of the Children of Israel in the Qur’an is of the same sort you see in the Hebrew Bible, and often put in the mouth of Moses or another Jewish prophet.

That Beck’s shoddy and wholly inaccurate reporting has been relayed by the Jerusalem Post and a host of other news outlets without question is shameful. If Beck had simply said that the Muslim Brotherhood crowds want Jerusalem back for Islamdom and evinced hostility toward Israelis, he would have been right. But his breathless exaggeration slides over into Islamophobia.

The background to Beck’s reporting and to one of the concerns of the al-Husayn rally is the illegal Israeli annexation of all of Jerusalem, the addition to the Israeli district of Jerusalem of substantial parts of the Palestinian West Bank, the expulsion of East Jerusalem Palestinians from their homes, the settlement of Israelis in and around East Jerusalem, and the threats made by small Jewish fundamentalist groups such as Revava to destroy the Muslim holy sites atop the Temple Mount. Jewish fundamentalists believe that the original Jewish temple was atop the mount, and that it can only be rebuilt there if the Muslim mosque and shrine are torn down. This policy is not that of the Israeli government, which considers the ultra-Orthodox extremists a pain in the neck. But Revava and similar groups have thrown a scare into the Muslim world about the safety of its shrines under Israeli control. Arson at mosques and grabby Israeli policies toward shared shrines have added oil to that flame.

Jerusalem has never been awarded to Israel by any international body. There were hardly any practitioners of the Judaic religion in Palestine between 1000 AD and 1800, since Jews had adopted the other religions. Instead, for some 1300 years Jerusalem was an Islamicly-ruled city, and the Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount makes it the third holiest city for Muslims after Mecca and Medina.

Radical Jewish nationalists often attempt to deconstruct the Muslim attachment to Jerusalem as recent or shallow, and as a mere form of anti-Zionist politics. Actually, the history of Muslim pilgrimage to shrines in geographical Palestine is quite long, and the history of the religion’s intertwining with this region deep. And, the Jewish predominance in what is now Israel and most of its national myths are also recent in respect to the past millennium. But in any case, most contemporary Muslims do indeed consider Jerusalem their third holiest city, and there are 1.5 billion of them, and they are likely to be a third of humankind by 2100, so get used to it. This Orientalist business of Westerners getting to tell them what they believe is very 19th century.

The Israelis conquered Jerusalem in 1967 and many of them consider the whole of it theirs, appealing to romantic nationalist themes to insist that it is the indivisible capital of Israel. This extremist Jewish nationalism and disregard for international law or any negotiated peace process is common also among American Jews and even congressional leaders such as Eric Cantor.

It is to the extent in the US that simply pointing out that Jerusalem is a final status issue for negotiation, that Israel’s might does not make right, that Palestinian East Jerusalemites should have civil and human rights, and that Jews haven’t even ruled the city for most of its history is considered beyond the pale in public American discourse. In fact, I will be attacked as having “defended” the horrible things the Muslim Brotherhood crowds said (I haven’t), just because I tried to explain where they were coming from. But no one is attacked for actually supporting Gush Emunim policies in Israel, as Eric Cantor, Daniel Pipes and a host of others do.

In international law as of 1945-1949, territory occupied by military force cannot be unilaterally annexed. Jerusalem’s Arab inhabitants cannot be expropriated or expelled, and the occupying authority is not permitted to alter the way of life of the occupied population.

Contrary to international law, Israel is in fact making the lives of East Jerusalem Palestinians miserable and gradually trying to expel them and bring in Israeli settlers (many of them Americans) instead.

So one of the themes of the Muslim Brotherhood rally last Friday was “Jerusalem is ours.” It is an obnoxious theme, since Jerusalem ought to be an international city and shared (the way Chandigarh is shared as a provincial capital by provinces in north India). But that was the theme. Muslim fundamentalists are just as vehement on this issue as Eric Cantor from his side.

Sheikh Mukhtar al-Mahdi was sent to represent the Rector of Al-Azhar Seminary, a key center of learning and authority for the Sunni Muslim world. He said that Jerusalem is a “red line,” and that the time is ripe to defend it, now that Egypt has been liberated by the martyrs of Tahrir Square (i.e. from the Mubarak dictatorship, which was in the back pocket of Israel and the United States).

The crowd appears to have shouted that Muslims should raise their children to fight (muqatalah) the Israelis (in colloquial Arabic, Israelis are referred to as “al-Yahud,” “the Jews.”). The word to “kill” (qatala) is from the same root as the word for “fight” (muqatalah). So presumably Beck heard the former and mistranslated it by the latter.

Note that the sheikh did not say this, but some people shouted it from the crowd, according to journalist Amira Salim. We don’t know who those people were. To phrase it that “the Muslim Brotherhood said” it would be bad journalism.

You could argue that what the crowd actually said is just as bad as what Beck alleged. But connotation and context matter.

Saying that “Jerusalem is ours, the Israelis have captured it and are altering its character and gradually chasing out its Muslims and endangering its Islamic shrines, and that we will fight them for it” is not exactly the same thing as saying “let’s kill all the Jews.”

Then Abdul Rahman al-Birr spoke. He is a professor in the school of jurisprudence at al-Azhar and on the board of the Muslim Brotherhood. He said he wanted to underline how important Jerusalem is for the Muslim Brotherhood, and for Muslims and Arabs generally. He said that if Jewish nationalists (Zionists) imagine that the disarray in the Arab world at the moment might give them an opening to demolish the al-Aqsa Mosque, they are sorely mistaken.

Salim says that people shouted slogans such as that Jerusalem is a prisoner and is calling to us, and if we do not return it who will? And, “We are the youth of [Jan.] 25 [i.e. the Egyptian Revolution]– we will never sell you out, Palestine!”

Among the things some shouted was “Khaybar, Khaybar, ya Yahud, Jaysh Muhammad saya’ud” (“Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, the Army of Muhammad shall return.” This is not a verse of the Qur’an. It is just a morally juvenile chant of fanatical Muslim or Palestinian nationalists who reject Israeli dominance. It refers to the Jewish village of Khaybar in Arabia the time of the Prophet Muhammad, which was viewed as treacherous by the Muslims who were being attacked by the Meccan pagans. They subjected Khaybar to exile (sorry, got mixed up earlier– it wasn’t Khaybaris who were executed). It is a mean-spirited chant and not in accord with the spirit of Islam, which recognizes Jews and Christians as people of the Scripture and makes a place for them in Muslim society (in contrast to European Christianity, which often disallowed Jews and Muslims after 1300).

Bad Muslim relations with some particular tribe of Jews in the early period says nothing about the attitude of Islam to Jews. The Israel-Palestine issue has politicized religion in the Levant. This chant is not “Islamic” or from the Qur’an Lots of Jews rose high in Muslim society and politics in the old days before the colonial project of the British and their Jewish nationalist allies in Palestine.

The Muslim Brotherhood is a kind of Muslim-Arab nationalism, and it has most of the same flaws as hard line Jewish nationalism or Zionism. As we saw in the horrible 20th century, nationalists can start wars over territory that end up slaughtering millions of people.

I don’t approve of nationalism, whether Zionism or the Muslim Brotherhood. I don’t approve of what the crowd shouted at the Muslim Brotherhood rally. But these sentiments do have a context as a response to Greater Israel expansionism. If the Israelis had followed through on the Oslo peace process, withdrawn from the West Bank, allowed a Palestinian state, and shared Jerusalem with the Palestinians, then the Muslim Brotherhood wouldn’t have an issue here.

You can’t judge the Muslim Brotherhood by what hotheads in a crowd shout out. You have to judge it by its own officials’ pronouncements and actions. The Brotherhood says that if the Egyptian people, which is sovereign, wants to keep the Camp David Peace Treaty with Israel, it will. (A large majority of Egyptians wants to keep the peace treaty). So the party may be lying, but in its public pronouncements at least, it isn’t acting like wild men.

The Qur’an doesn’t call for all Jews to be killed, and neither did the Muslim Brotherhood last Friday.

It is silly to fight over territory. Tel Aviv is only 20 meters above sea level, and global warming will almost certainly produce a sea level rise of greater than that within two or three centuries, so I wouldn’t get too attached to that territory if I were the Israelis and Palestinians. If we lose a sixth to a third of the world’s land mass to rising oceans, a lot of people are going to be refugees and a lot of land around which myths and tribalism were constructed isn’t going to be there any more. For better or worse, Jerusalem is pretty elevated, so it is going to be around to fight over if a formula for peaceful sharing isn’t found.

32 Responses

  1. Prof. Cole, you stated:
    ———————————————————–
    Jewish fundamentalists believe that the original Jewish temple was atop the mount
    ———————————————————–
    Are you stating that it is not an agreed historical fact that there was a Jewish Temple on the site that predated Al-Aqsa? Also, is it a myth that Jews have viewed Jerusalem as their holy city, again pre-dating the Muslim conquest? Since most Jews are not Jewish Fundamentalists, it seems you are saying that most Jews do NOT view the Temple Mount as historically important or holy, only this small group of Fundamentalists.

    Thank you.

    • If you are talking about a temple allegedly in the 1000s BC, I don’t know if it existed at all, much less where.

      It is what the fundamentalists want to do about the Temple Mount that is distinctive to them.

      As for Jewish attitudes to Jerusalem in the medieval period, most would have thought the contemporary Zionist project an insult to the Messiah. Their veneration was expressed in pilgrimage and prayer, not military conquest and state-building.

      By the way, I’m going to be on the road a bit Sunday, so posting of comments may be delayed.

      This is the last comment I will allow not specifically on the subject, which is what exactly the Muslim Brotherhood officials and crowds said and why.

      • The temple mount and western wall are the remains of the Roman fort Antonia, which was sited just north of Herod’s temple on the ridge of the spur (city of David) directly over the Gihon spring.

        According to Flavius Josephus the only structure standing after the desolation of Jerusalem was the Roman fort. The Jewish temple was particularly targeted and razed to its foundations.

  2. Thank you for writing this. I’m not a native Arabic speaker, so unfortunately much of my news is filtered through news sources, but you provide a lot of context and better translation that others don’t bother to explain.

  3. A very rational article, as a Muslim living in Iran I personally ( and my fellow citizens as well) have no grudge towards the Jews, nor the Quran says such a thing, most of these propaganda are for the sake of those Zionists in Israel who have confiscated Jewish religion in their own favour to prop up Zionism agenda, otherwise no Muslim has any problem with Jews or Christians as long as they respect us, but unfortunately they do not.

    • There is nothing unfortunate about not respecting the rather vile iranian regime currently in power and which stands on the necks of the citizens of Iran…who are worthy of respect.

  4. Thank you for that article and so many others based on facts and history not ideology. I read your website every day in order to be truly informed about these divisive and incendiary issues.

  5. It helps to be an expert on Jewish/Muslim historical claims of ownership of Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank, but to the novice it smacks of old fashion ethnic cleansing.

  6. Please don’t take too seriously the idea that a rising sea may quench passions over low-lying lands. Consider sea level vs. the topography of the Netherlands, both historically and in light of modern construction techniques.

    • The kind of sea rise we’re looking at is not amenable to engineering solutions.

  7. “It is silly to fight over territory. Tel Aviv is only 20 meters above sea level, and global warming will almost certainly produce a sea level rise of greater than that within two or three centuries,”

    This explains why Ariel Sharon was so eager to dump Gaza and to move as many Palestinians as he could there.

  8. Since January 28, the Muslim Brotherhood’s involvement has become more prominent, with its support of Mohamed ElBaradei to lead the opposition forces against the government. In the streets of Cairo, Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators disdainfully call people like ElBaradei “donkeys of the revolution” (hamir al-thawra) – to be used and then pushed away – a scenario that sees the Muslim Brotherhood exploit ElBaradei in order to hijack the Egyptian revolution at a later stage.
    There has been a great deal of confusion about the Muslim Brotherhood. In the years after it was founded in 1928, it developed a “secret apparatus” that engaged in political terrorism against Egyptian Copts as well as government officials. In December 1948, the Muslim Brotherhood assassinated Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmoud al-Nuqrashi Pasha. It also sought to kill Egyptian leader Abdul Nasser in October 1954.
    Former Brotherhood Supreme Guide Muhammad Akef declared in 2004 his “complete faith that Islam will invade Europe and America.” In 2001, the Muslim Brotherhood’s publication in London, Risalat al-Ikhwan, featured at the top of its cover page the slogan: “Our Mission: World Domination.” This header was changed after 9/11.
    The current Supreme Guide, Muhammad Badi’, gave a sermon in September 2010 stating that “the improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death, just as the enemies pursue life.”

  9. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG
    November 27, 2011
    I HOPE MUSLIMS WILL DENOUNCE THIS PUBLICLY. I HAVE LED RALLIES TO PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF ALL PEOPLE INCLUDING MUSLIMS. I NOW CALL UPON THE MUSLIM LEADERSHIP TO NOT BE SILENT. RABBI DR. BERNHARD

    • Like the outpouring of support the palestinians receive from world jewery?? I’ll have you know rabbi, there are many Muslims speaking out against hatred, intolerance and injustice IT’S OUR RELIGIOUS RESPONSIBILITY!! But, for some reason, Fox, NBC or the WSJ never seem to be able or willing to feature a story about an observant Sunni (about 80% of Muslims) talking about justice. The only explanation I’ve heard as to why that is is poo pooed as a conspiracy theory, but I know from experience that you can find such a thing on any given Friday. Perhaps, Rabi, you could explain this to me.

  10. The History of Jerusalem goes back to the Old Stone Age,
    the earliest signs of human activity are of the Pleistocene
    period. In Jerusalem vicinity 48 prehistoric surface stations have been found divided as follows: Paleolithic period 16,; Mesolithic,2; Neolithic,23; Chalcolithic,7. Before Abraham entered 5000 B.C. years old Canaan from Ur, Jerusalem was already a city of worship to a (Great God). Many factors have contributed to the tradition of holiness associated with this city. When Jerusalem fell at the conquest of David, in beginning of the 10Th Cent.B.C., it was already considered holy; Melchizedek was ‘priest to the most high God’ in Jerusalem referred to as Salem in Genesis,
    long before the conquest. About 14 B.C., before Joshua’s
    invasion of the country, the city was a vassal to Egypt. It was called Urusalim, the name once thought to mean ‘peace is now understood to mean ‘the foundation of the God Shalem
    well-known west Semitic deity, (Western Syria).
    Salam – Shalom – Arabic – Hebrew.
    Damascus Desert of Shem (Sem) is still the name today of Desert of Sham, the Arabic name of Damascus.

  11. I think you still have the Khaybar story slightly wrong. Khaybar was taken by the Muslims after the Jews of Medina, viewed as a fifth column, were mistreated in various ways (extermination of the males of one tribe, expulsion of another, and the fate of the third not entirely clear). Khaybar was “only” required to pay an annual 50% income tax to the conquerors. A few years later, when it was decreed that none but Muslims could live in Arabia, the Jews of Khaybar were expelled.

  12. Thank you for clarifying these misquotes which are so evilly successful in lying us into war: witness the warmongers’ never-ending use of the “wipe Israel off the map” misquote. Similarly, on CNN State of the Union 10/23/11, the GPS interview of Fareed Zakaria with Iranian President Ahmadinejad was hyped as purporting to show that Iran intends to move into Iraq when we move out. Zakaria had told Ahmadinejad that Obama had announced all American troops will be out of Iraq, and Zakaria asked whether in light of this announcement Iran would increase efforts to train the Iraqi military. Ahmadinejad replied that this is a good idea which should have been done 7-8 years ago. A close attention to Ahmadinejad’s comments makes it clear that he was not saying that the good idea was that Iranians should have moved in 7-8 years ago. He was saying that Americans leaving was a good idea which should have been done 7-8 years ago. The Americans should have left at that time since, as he goes on to say, this would have avoided killing so many Iraqi people and Americans as well. The Iraqis did not accept the presence of Americans in Iraq. Then in answer to the question, Ahmadinejad said that the Iraqi government is independent and sovereign and will decide for themselves who will provide training for their military.

  13. As distasteful as Muslims and Arabs find it, Zionism and Judaism are inseparable. Zion/Israel/Palestine, whatever you want to call it, IS the promised land. It makes no difference to us Jews whether you justify your anti-Jewishness by splitting up Zionism and Judaism or by overtly denouncing Jews. The end result feels the same to us. The “modern” Zionist movement, while historically of a different flavor than what preceded it in Jewish history and culture, is nevertheless a continuation of what has been in the hearts and minds of Jews for thousands of years. Until Arabs understand that, there will be no basis upon which to negotiate.

    • Not only rediculous, but an insult to a large segment of the Jewish diaspora. What percentage is arguable but it would be interesting, though improbable, to see those poll results.

    • Soooo… when will Jews understand that Moslems are stuck with the belief that Moslems everywhere are supposed to go to the aid of Moslems who are driven out of their homes? I mean, that belief is no more medieval than Jewish beliefs in their entitlement, which is ultimately what both sides are using to demand that the other side retreat. We Christians are stuck with some crazy beliefs too, which if acted upon would endanger the world’s survival. It would be nice to just be able to revise your religion when it is in conflict with higher concepts of human rights, rather than cynically turning your inalienable beliefs into bargaining chips.

      • Quite Frankly, when it has come to reform of religion, I think Christianity and Judaism have been well ahead of Islam. Think of the Vatican II Council, and the Reform Movement of Judaism. However, I am just pointing out to you an underlying current of this conflict, not proposing that it is immutable. But most people who denigrate Zionism are not aware of just how inseparable it is from Judaism.

        • I’d be willing to bet you’ve never read a book on Islamic modernism or reform, and that you don’t know who Muhammad Abduh or Ali Abdul Raziq are.

          What is the status of Reform Jews in Israeli law?

          A significant proportion of American Jews is not Zionists now, and virtually none were Zionists in the 1920s. Jewish nationalism is not inherent in Judaism as you (mindlessly and ahistorically) assert. Nationalism itself is a new phenomenon in history.

  14. I realise that I will be labelled ‘conspiracist’ but let us not delude ourselves that Lieberman / Mossad will not be covertly working to derail and besmirch the Arab Spring. When as a state they engage in assassination, it’s not beyond the realms of reason to suggest that they will employ a few thugs to assault female reporters atTahrir Square and chant inflammatory slogans at Brotherhood rallies. Even if I’m wrong, are these slogans more provocative than settlers daubing insults on local mosques and ripping up Palestinian olive trees when Netanyahu makes a gesture of trying to reign them in, personally I think not. Moderate Jews know that it’s Zionism and it’s plans for expansion of Israel that is the greatest threat to ME stability.

    “In 1937, during earlier partition proposals, David Ben Gurion, who was to become Israel’s first prime minister, wrote to his son,

    “A partial Jewish state is not the end, but only the beginning. The establishment of such a Jewish State will serve as a means in our historical efforts to redeem the country in its entirety….We shall organize a modern defense force…and then I am certain that we will not be prevented from settling in other parts of the country, either by mutual agreement with our Arab neighbors or by some other means….We will expel the Arabs and take their places…with the force at our disposal.”
    Quoted in Jerome Slater, “What Went Wrong? The Collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process,” Political Science Quarterly, vol. 116, no. 2, 2001, pp. 173-74.”

  15. Professor Cole obviously knows more about Islam than he does about Judaism and Jewish history, which is his right. It is beyond me why he feels compelled to not really care whether or not there was a Jewish Temple at the so-called Temple Mount. Or why he thinks that medieval Jews would have rejected modern Zionism (which is rather a silly thing to say one way or the other). As for Jewish life under medieval Islam, I’d recommend Marc Cohen’s scrupulously judicious Under Crescent and Cross. While recognizing the privileges enjoyed by Jews under Islam, Cohen’s research casts a much more critical light on (also rather silly and ahistorical) claims regarding some halcyon Islamic-Jewish symbiosis.

    I am of one mind with Professor Cole’s rejection of right wing Jewish or Islamicist nationalism. And I clearly don’t trust the reporter from the Jerusalem Post,which is a rightwing rag. I don’t think, however, that it is to anyone’s interest, this apologetic attempt to “contextualize” the way anti-Israeli invenctive easily slips into anti-Jewish hate.

    As for the call to kill the Jews. The reference is probably to the passage about the Jews fighting the Muslim and on Judgment Day, the Jew hides behind the rock and the tree. “But the rock and tree will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, a Jew hides behind me, come and kill him.” So no, this is not in the Koran, and no it is not a practical political platform. But it is an eschatological vision and it is included in at least one collection of hadith. It has a pretty nasty afterlife in anti-Zionist polemics.

    I don’t understand why Professor Cole has to hem and haw here. It behooves us all to be honest and forthright about these things, about competing claims to Jerusalem, about justice and injustice, and about Islamaphobia and antisemitism (or whatever you want to call it). And it’s a shame that Professor Cole has not thought through these questions more clearly than is indicated in his recent blog.

    • They didn’t say they wanted just to fall on all Jews and kill them, as was alleged in a paper of record. Worth correcting. Being upset with Israeli actions in Jerusalem is not antisemitism.

      There are thousands of hadith. Most Muslims don’t accept the weak or obscure ones. The Arabic accounts don’t report that one chanted at al-Husayn

      • We are probably not too apart here.

        I agree that “being upset with Israeli actions in Jerusalem is not antisemitism.”

        I am also sure that it is correct to say that “There are thousands of hadith. Most Muslims don’t accept the weak or obscure ones.”

        My point about this one, though, is more simple. Even obscure sayings (as this one from the Hadith or other types of anti-gentile expression in rabbinic literature) can take on a nasty afterlife about which modern interpreters need to be honest and very careful.

        After all, this This religion stuff is toxic material.

  16. Prof Juan Cole writes as follows:
    “There were hardly any practitioners of the Judaic religion in Palestine between 1000 AD and 1800, since Jews had adopted the other religions. Instead, for some 1300 years Jerusalem was an Islamicly-ruled city. . .”

    Muslims did not rule Jerusalem for 1300 years. This leaves out the 103 years of Crusader rule in the city in two periods, 1099-1187 and 1229-1244, plus the short Mongol conquest.

    Moreover, in fact, Jews have been a significant part of the Jerusalem population since the city was resettled in 1260 after withdrawal of the Mongol invaders. In his book, Jerusalem in the Nineteenth Century, Prof Yehoshua Ben-Arieh estimates that in 1806 [approx.] Jews were about 22% of the total population of the city. These were mainly NOT newcomers. They were there before 1800. Chateaubriand visited in 1806 and found a significant Jewish presence there. Francesco Suriano, the chief Roman Catholic official in the Land of Israel in the late Mamluk period –he was Custos Terrae Sanctae and a Franciscan monk– noted a significant Jewish presence [ link to it.wikipedia.org ] in a book that he wrote circa 1500.
    In 1839, because of an earthquake in Safed in northern Israel, many Jews moved from there to Jerusalem and Jews became the largest single group in the city outnumbering Christians and Muslims separately. By 1853, if not before, Jews became the absolute majority of Jerusalem inhabitants and have been since then.

    • Nice trick, using 19th century statistics to try to refute a statement about 1000 – 1800

      The total numbers of Jews found when the French took Palestine in 1799 were a few thousand. They were a tiny proportion of the population.

      Jerusalem in the 19th century developed Russian charities for people to retire there for Torah study in their old age. It was in any case a small village at that time.

      You deploy statistics for the purposes of Romantic nationalism, of Blood and Soil. They don’t support your case because the premise of Blood and Soil was always a stupid one, and has caused the deaths of hundreds of millions of people.

      • I don’t think, Prof. Cole, that it is right to issue a blanket condemnation of nationalism because of the wars it has caused. The fact is, before we had nationalism, we had feudalism. Nationalism was an absolutely necessary step in moving forward from a world in which legal equality simply didn’t exist at all in any political community to one where it was conferred locally by ethnicity, a substantial improvement over the injustices of nobility and caste. Joan of Arc, for instance, was a warrior who hated war, who fought because she saw the cause of suffering for the French people was the way that they were passed back and forth between sovereigns like cattle at an auction. By demanding that her sovereign fight for his subjects rather than treat them as property, she was laying the basis for the idea of a public interest, without which we could hardly have progressed to parliamentary democracy.

        So we have gone from fighting wars for feudal portfolio-building to wars of faith to wars of mass ideology, and now we do have big problems because the nationalities that had the money and soldiers to gain sovereign rights have done so and evolved into weak, selfish bourgeoise market-states, while the weaker nationalities left behind to fight over the scraps are fighting ever more viciously using purchased weaponry. We are bumping up against the limits of the big-heartedness of human nature, the willingness to share our welfare with ever-wider defintions of fellow humanity, and we face the danger of splintering back into narrow tribalism. See, for instance, how socialist programs which once exploited our pride in nationalism (even LBJ’s “Great Society”) to obtain benefits for the poor are now being reversed because too many of the poor are immigrants.

        However, until we possess the means of engendering that loyalty to universal humanity in the hearts of all people, the nation-state is the best tool we’ve got to maintain the very rudimentary concepts of international law and equality of citizenship that we’ve managed so far. It could all be lost in a heartbeat.

  17. There is a simple and only solution to all these madness: establish one secular state where Jews, Muslims, Christians, etc. can live as citizens and neighbors as they did for 13 hundred years before Israel was created and the land was divided on the basis of a tentative UN resolution as an experiment. The experiment failed for six decades. It is long overdue to implement the only solution. The two-states will not be able to address the issue of the ‘Right of Return’, the settlements that made the land look like swiss cheese and the overall issue of justice without which peace cannot be achieved.

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