Editor’s Prologue

In 1917 Great Britain issued the Balfour Declaration supporting the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The League of Nations confirmed a British mandate for Palestine after World War I – based on the British promise– to establish a ‘Jewish homeland’. In 1920 the first riots against Jewish immigration broke out in Jaffa in Palestine. Some decades later as Nazi power grew in Germany, Jewish immigration to Palestine increased, the Arabs of Palestine protested and began a revolt against British control. The British first proposed the Peel Plan (1937), which would have created a very small Jewish state and a much larger Arab state. The Jews accepted, but the Arabs refused. Shortly after the British issued the White Paper of 1939, which limited Jewish immigration to Palestine. Nevertheless, in 1947, after the Holocaust and murder of 6,000,000 Jews, a new wave of Jewish migration to Palestine started, and thus conflict between the Jews and Palestinian Arabs increased. In 1947 United Nations approved a new partition plan to divide Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. In this plan, Jerusalem was announced as an internationalized city. Again, the Jews accepted the plan, but the Arabs did not. As a result, a civil war between the Jews and Arabs of Palestine ensued and in reality, the mentioned plan could not be implemented. However, during this time, the Jews gained control of most of the territory ceded to them by the United Nations. The first wave of Palestinian refugees was the direct consequence of this conflict. A Middle Eastern dilemma which less than two decades later instigated the Six-Day-War in June 1967 followed by various Palestinian movements and riots; events and conflicts, whose backgrounds have been meticulously explained by the author of the present book.

De facto the broad term of ‘Arabo-Jewish conflict’ meanwhile is parallel and partially linked to the ‘Israeli-Palestinian conflict’. This phenomenon is characterized by the problematics of the mentioned Palestinian refugees, the exacerbation of the Palestinian national desire for a state-building – initiated in the 1920s – as well as the emergence of groups of Palestinian activists in the late 1960s carrying out bombings, hostage-taking and hijackings. The present work gives the reader a comprehensive insight into the aforementioned subjects.

One of the unresolved issues related to Jewish-Arab conflicts in history and present is the ‘status of Jerusalem’, which both sides Israelis and Palestinians claim as their capital. During all these conflicts starting already after World War I, Jerusalem has always been in the eye of the storm. For many people involved on both sides – and certainly also for some observers – the Middle East conflict has a strong religious component as ‎Jerusalem is a holy city for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. For the very same reason, numerous Jews do not want to give up the Temple Mount, on which the Temple stood until 70 CE, and its western outer wall – the so-called Wailing Wall – which today is the most important shrine of Judaism. For the Jews, there is ample historical evidence for this claim. They connect the promises of the Torah and the ‎waiting for the Messiah with the return to the Holy Land and the conquest of Jerusalem in 1967-War. Based on the same ideology the settlement of holy sites such as Hebron in the West Bank would not have been possible to this extent without ‎religious motivation.‎

Equally the Dome of the Rock, located in East Jerusalem, represents a special sanctuary for Muslims. This glorification, as we will learn from reading this book, obviously does not have any historical archaic roots in Islamic scriptures. The veneration of Jerusalem is rather a consequence of events in the 20th century. For ‎radical Muslims, however, the very existence of Israel in Jerusalem is a ‘problem’, because an area that once belonged to the ‎sphere of Islamic influence cannot be left to ‘infidels’.‎ The most important concern of the Muslim Palestinians is therefore Jerusalem as the capital of a separate state with the Temple Mount as its center. Part of this idea is based on the early Umayyad Caliphate tradition and according to the story narrated in Sura 17, verses 1-2 of the Quran. The account refers to the meeting of prophet Muhammad with Allah accompanied by the archangel Gabriel and prophet’s ascension to heaven. This miracle – so the narrative – occurred at the location of today’s Dome of the Rock. The author has dealt in detail with this almost ‎mythological event and its subsequent exegetic interpretations by some prominent Muslim scholars.

Since there is not even agreement on the applicable decisive criteria on both sides, ‎respectively because each side postulates the principles most useful to them in the argument as authoritative, the long-lasting and tenacious conflict is inevitable. This crisis is fueled even further by ‎continuously creating new facts on the ground. The establishment of new Israeli settlements in the West Bank is often cited as an example. On the other hand, fears are expressed on the Israeli side that the overall significantly higher natality among Arabs would change the existing demographic situation in the long term and lead to an Arab preponderance. However, this is often contrasted with the equally high birth rate in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. These and ‎other arguments make it difficult to reach a consensus on the establishment of two equal ‎states side by side.‎

Even if the author of this book is not a historian by training, he offers the non-specialist reader a broad knowledge, particularly from the inside, about the Jewish-Arab conflicts and this is supported by the application of a comprehensible diction with numerous facts. The author accompanies and helps the reader to better grasp the background of the conflicts and the basis of the disputes between Israelis and Arabs respectively the Jews and the Muslims and to understand the historical background of this mutual ressentiment. Last but not least, the writer does not leave the reader with mere historical facts and data, in Chapter V he pleads for a possible peace or at least a peace solution based on the already existing common grounds, mutual understanding, and consolidative respect.

In many aspects, such an optimistic viewpoint is not farfetched from reality as some of the recent political initiatives and international treaties in and with the Muslim world and the Middle East, in particular, would leave certainly some space to ponder on such a peaceful solution. In this manner, Egypt and Jordan were the first Arab countries which signed a peace treaty with Israel, in 1979 respectively in 1993. Furthermore, the Abraham Accords, signed on September 15, 2020, were two peace treaties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates on the one hand and between Israel and Bahrain on the other. Another event happened on October 23, 2020, as former US President Donald Trump announced that Israel and Sudan would normalize their relations. Subsequently, an agreement was signed on January 6, 2021, in Khartoum. On December 10, 2020, Israel and Morocco agreed to normalize their relations under an agreement negotiated with the help of the United States. Hence a joint declaration was signed on December 22, 2020, in Rabat. And finally, On January 30, 2022, Israeli President Isaac Herzog began the first-ever official visit to the UAE at the invitation of Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Thus, for the first time in the history of the Modern Middle East, the national anthem of Israel Hatikvah (Hebrew: ‘hope’) has been orchestrated in the prince’s palace in Abu Dhabi.

Even though in none of the aforementioned promising agreements with the state of Israel Palestinian authorities had any share or contribution, nevertheless the recent events show that the Muslim world can and should not be characterized as a unified body with a monotonic strategy towards Israel and the Jews. The aforementioned initiatives would undoubtedly make a difference and probably could be also imperative for other Muslim populations including Palestinians.

Farshid Delshad

Los Angeles, Winter 2022