Editor’s Note: This is a worthy article written about eight years ago by
a university professor who understood Islam too well
Moshe Sharon is an Arabic studies researcher. He is a professor of
the Oriental studies department of the Jewish University in Jerusalem -
When I asked my student, Armi Abu, who is in our chair, and by the way, a
nephew of Arafat: “What kind of peace do you want?”, he promptly answered:
“What kind of peace do you mean? What we mean is a temporary cease-fire”. This
is the logical misunderstanding of the Oslo agreements and what these
agreements mean at all. The Arab terminology differs greatly from what
Europeans mean, – the professor goes on.
The Arab language has many nuances. To understand an Arab phrase one has to understand the context and follow the intonation. Not everything you hear should be accepted as real. Most of our Israeli politicians are completely ignorant of understanding the outlook of our enemies, especially Palestinians. If the country’s policy is based on ignorance then it is worth nothing. This is the exact image of Israeli policy towards Palestinians now.
With this shocking monologue by professor Moshe Sharon our conversation began. - Is it true that Muslims really want to rule the whole world? Isn’t it a terrifying prospect? - Unless we understand the culture of Muslims and how their outlook differs from ours, this idea itself will seem incredible. But we have to know – this is the basis of Islam. Both secular Arabs and Muslims, who are fundamentalists, pursue the same purposes which have the same roots called Islam.
The laws of Islam are built on two inviolable principles. They are Koran and “precedents”. The word “precedents” means the life and doings of Mohammed. Whatever Mohammed did is the rule for Muslims to follow. He, according to Islam, was faultless. That is why all generations follow the laws of Islam (sharia – in Arabic), which are based on two sources. On the one hand, it is Koran, on the other hand, it is Sunah, that is commentaries, which explain Koran’s directives. The laws of Islam are the corner stones of civil, government and
criminal codes. They are also the corner stones of Arab outlook, laws of Arab countries, as well as of laws on peace and war.
criminal codes. They are also the corner stones of Arab outlook, laws of Arab countries, as well as of laws on peace and war.
- Nevertheless, Israeli politicians think that Koran and Sunah are not the today’s reality.
- This is a mistake. Moreover, it is the mistake that gave ungrounded roots for the idea “to build a new Middle East…” We, Jews, are discussing this idea between ourselves. Our idea of “a new
Middle East” is a
fruit, say, product of our imagination. It is torn off from reality
and does not take into account the environment we live in. Shimon Peres wrote
the book called “New Middle East”, in which he solely believes in his “message
to descendants”. The book made a different impression on the Arab World. Some
see in it another proof of Jew’s vicious intention to spread their ruling over
the whole Arab world. The reaction towards the book was not adequate. Some say
that, having heard about the book, President of Egypt Mubarak asked: “What shall
we do with the old Middle East? Why don’t Jews like it?” There is some kind of
jealousy in this question.
- Still, the Muslims are realists. They don’t try to seize what they are not able to now.
- Nevertheless that does not mean that they shouldn’t fight. On the contrary, Muslims should wage wars until Islam conquers the whole world. Here I want to stress that Arabs do not intend to convert all people into fanatic Muslims who are praying towards Mecca 5 times a day. There is no missionary in Islam. Their aim is to put the whole world under Islam and to recognize its superiority. They divide the world into two parts – “the house of war” and “the house of Islam”. The contemporary Muslim world is “the house of Islam”. They call the part, which they try to conquer, “the house of war”. Any territory, which in some historical period was under Muslims, is considered a Muslim land forever. Therefore, creation of State of Israel on the territory that once belonged to Muslims was a historic revolution for them. Muslims cannot accept this fact in principle. Nevertheless, they are still realistic politicians… They do not hurry. They are waiting. Their actions depend on the situation, on the difference of their military might and that of the enemy.
- Is there a slightest hope to conclude peace with Arabs?
- Not in the least. The long hand of Ishmael (ancestor of all Arabs) knows no other state than that of permanent war. This is jihad, the sacred war of Muslims against “infidels”. Jihad is a duty established by Koran.
- Still, there are cases when jihad was stopped, say, by Egypt when we concluded a peace treaty with it in Camp David.
- I regret to say but many people in Israel do not understand what such treaties are worth of. Islam does not envisage in principle any peace treaty with “infidels”. Real treaties are possible only between Muslims. The principle of commanded war is always in force and waits for the time and real chance to be realized. Even Anvar Sadat who put his signature under the “peace treaty” knew that he was signing only a temporary cease-fire agreement. But Sadat made a sin and broke the commandment when he publicly announced, “There will be no war any more. No bloodshed”, – and paid his life for that.
- Tell me then what is the reason for Arabs to conclude temporary cease-fire agreements?
- The situation in the world insistently demands contacts with “infidels”. Under “infidels’” pressure Arabs have to take some obligations. Europeans are expecting real peace. But the peace offered to them by Arabs has a short life.
- How do we know that Muslims will, by all means, break the treaty, which they have signed themselves?
- It is said in “the precedent” established by Mohammed. In 628 he signed a treaty with the Kureisha tribe known as the “khadivia treaty”. At that time Kureisha warriors were stronger than his. The treaty was for 10 years. But not even two years passed and Mohammed unleashed the war and seized Mecca. Kureisha people did believe in the oath and mutual obligations and felt themselves secure. However, the temporary cease-fire agreement had also additional purpose, that is to lullaby the enemy’s vigilance. When Mohammed struck and began to advance, the citizens of Mecca crawled to him on their knees. They pleaded for negotiations to resolve contradictions that made Mohammed to renew the war. But Mohammed ordered his security not to let the delegation of respectable people of Mecca come in. Mohammed spent two years of truce for preparing for a new war because he knew that the war was inevitable. He knew about it when he was singing the peace treaty. He violated the treaty at the suitable for him moment. This is how the notion of hudna (cease-fire between enemies) was established in Islam. Muslims never sign armistice for a long and indefinite period of time. One of the main rules for them is to set the validity period of such an agreement. When Muslims feel that they are strong enough to resume the war, they should cancel the armistice. If they feel not strong enough to resume the war, they are allowed to automatically prolong the validity period of the treaty for 10 years, and not necessarily to negotiate with the opposite party about it.
- As I remember, Arafat spoke about the possibility of building a secular Palestinian state.
- His words mean nothing. Immediately after singing the agreement in Oslo he made a speech in the Johannesburg mosque (South Africa), in which he outlined his political intentions. He said that he understands peace as Islam means it. Then he resorted to the lessons from Arab history. We have to know that when an Arab leader resorts to history he means the present principles and situation because there is no such notion as “ancient” in Islam. Islam is a culture of life, the present way of life. Islam is the past that becomes the present and shows the way to the future.
Arafat publicly said that in Oslo he meant a temporary cease-fire (hudna). When he was saying this he knew he would be understood in the right way. Unfortunately, few people paid a serious attention to these words. They were addressed to those who knew “the course of events”. My friends and I tried to persuade others that Arafat’s words were a code and we had to understand the clandestine meaning of his speech. However, Israeli leaders didn’t want to listen to our advice. Jews were dreaming about peace at that time through the prophecy of Yeshayagu: “and swords will be beaten into ploughshares”. By the way, they’re some interesting facts about the treaty with Egypt. After it had been signed, a festive party was organized and President Carter made a public speech. In his speech he decided to use quotations about peace from books of the three religions. It was not difficult to find quotations on peace in Tanakha and he took those that could sound Christian. However, the President’s advisers could not find an appeal to peace in Koran. The thing is that there are no peace appeals in Koran.
- So, does it mean that Arabs’ peace assurances are a thumping lie?
- There is an Arab proverb: “Words are tax free”. We have to learn to negotiate from Palestinians. They follow the example of a Muslim caliph Ali who negotiated with the rebelled ruler of Damascus when each side was not able to gain victory…The caliph’s representative suggested that the enemy should speak first. He wanted to know the enemy’s plans before making his own decision. The enemy spoke first and step-by-step disclosed everything he had in mind. The caliph’s representative was listening attentively and assenting to him occasionally. After the meeting was over, the Damascus representative in his summarizing speech said that the caliph’s representative agreed that Damascus should receive independence. His opponent stopped him and said, “I have never agreed to this”. This classic example should teach us not to make proposals. We have to make the opponent disclose his position. When the opponent knows what your interests are, their costs immediately go up. When Begin started negotiating I told him, “Do not come out with proposals. Let them speak out.” But even Begin was not ready to understand and accept this. There were negotiations with Palestinians in 1996. Peres was negotiating with Arafat. Peres was very pleased with the talks and said after the meeting, ” They agree with all Israeli proposals. To each proposal they were approvingly nodding their heads”. Exactly like caliph Ali’s representative did…
- Tell me, do Arabs mean real war when they speak about jihad?
- Those who support Muslims try to represent this notion like it looks in the West. They say it is a “struggle” for Muslims’ interests. It is not true. This is a bloody war to the final victory until the enemy surrenders to Islam.
Traditional Muslim books say that Islam will take over the world but only after Muslims defeat and destroy Jews. These books also say that Jews will hide themselves behind trees and rocks. But the time comes and one “great day” the rocks and trees will start shouting: ” Hey, Muslim, there is a Jew behind me! Come and kill him!” Only one tree will keep silence. In Islamic it is called “el oseg” (the tree of Jews). I mean the tree of sne (a bush from which God appeared before Moshe). This tree is mentioned in Muslim books for Muslims not to forget to look for Jews even behind this tree. These books are studied in all Arab schools, and political leaders make quotations from them in their speeches.
- What do we have to do then?
- Our task is to make Arabs disarm and sign a cease-fire treaty for a long term.
- How can we achieve this if any treaty for Arabs is rather conventional?
- There should be a reason for Islam to abandon the idea of war. The reason can be our military supremacy over them. For example, in 1229, Sultan El Melek El Kamal from Egypt handed Jerusalem, which had been under Muslims since the rule of Saladin, over to the Christian king Fredrik the Great, because the latter made the whole world fear him…
Israel’s policy is weak and, thus, leaves no choice for Palestinians. Under this condition they simply must fight with us. Until now they have no military might to oppose Israel, that’s why they try to weaken the Jewish state.
If we become much stronger than them, they will have to postpone jihad again and again. They should feel our might; they should feel they can’t defeat us. Only then they will disarm even if the terms are not favourable for them.