A Dialogue with a Saudi Muslim (9)

Soliman al-Buthe (or al-Buthi) wrote an Open Letter to Congress in 2005. Then he initiated a dialogue with me, so we decided on this sequence.

1. In 2005, I commented and asked questions about the Open Letter (in blue).

2. Months later in that same year, Mr. al-Buthe answered my questions and challenged me on various issues (in green). He sought the advice of Saudi scholars, as well.

3. Finally, in 2006, I reply to his challenges and questions (in black). Sometimes I embed this portion in our 2005 dialogue. I too receive help from colleagues.

Open Letter to Congress (continued):

Peace in the Middle East

The just resolution of the Palestinian issue is pivotal to solving many of the problems we witness today. The scholars of Saudi Arabia have always been concerned with the issue, and the Kingdom’s rulers have long sought to resolve the matter; Crown Prince Abdullah’s 2002 peace offer is the latest example. Once the Palestinian issue is solved, the many other issues that separate the United States from the Islamic world will fade away.

JA (2005): Here is a link to Crown Prince Abdullah’s proposal, with further links to UN Resolutions 242 and 338. Does this link accurately summarize the Prince’s proposal?

1. The Prince’s proposal says that Israel must withdraw to its 1967 borders. But here is my assessment not only the [sic] of the Prince’s proposal but also of the Arab world’s proposals, which follows a sequence. First, the Arabs attack Israel in three wars (1948-49, 1967, 1973). Second, Israel beats back their attackers and acquires new territory. Third and finally, the Arabs run to the United Nations to get the Israelis to withdraw from the acquired territories.

For example, after the 1967 war, UN Res. 242 seems to say that Israel should withdraw from all territories acquired by that war. After the 1973 war, UN Res. 338 says that Israel, Egypt and Syria should cease all hostilities and implement Res. 242. Also, the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979 required Israel to give up most of the Sinai Peninsula, which they won during the 1967 war.

2. Does my brief analysis of the big picture seem accurate to you?

3. If the Arab States that launched three wars against Israel had victoriously acquired territories, would Crown Prince Abdullah and other Arab leaders ask the Arab States to give up the acquired territories, as they ask the Israelis to give up theirs?

4. As to theology and geopolitics, why do Muslims claim Jerusalem as their city even though Muhammad never visited it in a down-to-earth way (Sura 17:1 and 60)? Do you agree that Jews have a better claim to the city since they lived there long before Islam came on the scene? Or does Islam take priority over history?

SaB (2005):

The Israeli-Palestine conflict is one created by the superpowers and will continue to be a subject for discussion and debate within and among all of the sides to the conflict.

Westerners unfortunately often ignore and neglect critical historical facts underlying the conflict. The West, and particularly the United States, has shown unwavering, overwhelming bias in support of Israel and against the Palestinians. Not until the historical facts are learned and the "facts on the ground" are understood can one understand the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Such an examination also will probably give some insight into why young men and women are willing to sacrifice their lives in an attempt to liberate their land.

It is not difficult for Americans to get a more balanced view of the conflict; indeed, there are hundreds of Israeli pro-Palestinian groups, numerous anti-Zionist Israeli organizations, and scores if not hundreds of culturally diverse NGOs around the world who recognize and speak out against Israeli policy. Please see:

By the same token, there are no Arab/Muslim "anti-Arab" or "anti-Muslim" groups. (There are two fraudulent groups that lurk under assumed Arab names, but they’ve long been established as neo-conservative fronts for propaganda.)

There appears to be a willing blindness in the United States to the plight of the Palestinians. Recent research establishes that the American media pays far more attention to losses suffered by Israelis than by Palestinians (Israel and Palestine, Choosing Sides). I strongly believe that no reconciliation is possible between the West and the East until the West at least addresses the wrongs inflicted by its unstinting support for the persecution of the Palestinians. Without justice there can be no peace, and the road to peace runs through Jerusalem, not Baghdad.

JA (2006): I divide my response into five sections that address your main ideas.

1. Unanswered questions

In my first and second points, written in 2005, I was responding to the part of your Open Letter that refers to Crown Prince Abdullah’s 2002 peace offer. It requires Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 borders, which denies its rightful ownership over a united Jerusalem. Then I outlined UN Resolutions that demand that Israel always give up territory that it wins after being attacked. Israel does indeed give up most of it, as seen in the Israel-Egypt Treaty of Peace of 1979 and Israel’s surrender of the Sinai Peninsula. Anwar Sadat was "rewarded" with assassination. The recent election victory of the Terrorist Party of Hamas proves that peace is not at hand and that too many Palestinians do not want peace. Hamas is not their answer.

Further, in my first and second questions, I sketched out the brief history of the conflict since Israel became a legal nation in 1948. (1) Israel is aggressively attacked. (2) It wins back its historic land, which it owned before Islam arrived on the world stage and before the Palestinians gradually, over the centuries, drifted from East of the Jordan River (modern Jordan) into Israel. (3) The defeated Arabs run to the UN, demanding this institution to force Israel to give back its historic lands, which it regained after defeating aggressive Muslims.

In my third question I asked whether the Arabs would return the lands if they won the three wars of 1948-1949, 1967, and 1973.

In my fourth point, I ask why Islam claims a hold on Jerusalem, even though Muhammad never visited it in a down-to-earth way except in an alleged "revelation" or "vision" or "night journey" in one night. See this article written by myself on the topic of Islam’s weak claim to Jerusalem.

Instead of answering my questions directly, you create a long list of links that are anti-Israel, showing how wrong it always is and how right the Palestinians always are. This list does not educate me on the historical facts.

2. A list of other facts

Here is a list of facts that your links may omit. It comes from an article by Dennis Prager, syndicated radio talk show host and author. He writes:

For the many readers who have requested a brief synopsis of the moral arguments in the Arab-Israeli conflict, I offer the following list of numerical data.

Number of times Jerusalem is mentioned in the Old Testament: over 700
Number of times Jerusalem is mentioned in the Koran: 0

Number of Arab leaders who visited Jerusalem when it was under Arab rule (1948 to 1967): 1

Number of Arab refugees who fled the land that became Israel: approximately 600,000
Number of Jewish refugees who fled Arab countries: approximately 600,000

Number of U.N. agencies that deal only with Palestinian refugees: 1
Number of U.N. agencies that deal with all the other refugees in the world: 1

Number of Jewish states that have existed on the land called Palestine: 3
Number of Arab or Muslim states that have existed on the land called Palestine: 0

Number of terrorist attacks by Israelis or Jews since 1967: 1
Number of terrorist attacks by Arabs or Muslims since 1967: thousands

Percentage of Jews who have praised the Jewish terrorist: approximately 1
Percentage of Palestinians who have praised Islamic terrorists: approximately 90

Number of Jewish countries: 1
Number of Jewish democracies: 1
Number of Arab countries: 19
Number of Arab democracies: 0 [I add: Maybe Iraq will develop into a full-fledged democracy] . . .

Number of Christian or Jewish prayer services allowed in Saudi Arabia: 0

Number of Muslim prayer services allowed in Israel: unlimited

Number of Arabs Israel allows to live in Arab settlements in Israel: 1,250,000
Number of Jews Palestinian Authority allows to live in Jewish settlements in Palestinian Authority: 0

Percentage of U.N. Commission on Human Rights resolutions condemning an Arab country for human rights violations: 0
Percentage of U.N. Commission on Human Rights resolutions condemning Israel for human rights violations: 26

Number of U.N. Security Council resolutions on the Middle East between 1948 and 1991: 175
Number of these resolutions against Israel: 97
Number of these resolutions against an Arab state: 4

Number of Arab countries that have been members of the U.N. Security Council: 16
Number of times Israel has been a member of the U.N. Security Council: 0

Number of U.N. General Assembly resolutions condemning Israel: 322
Number of U.N. General Assembly resolutions condemning an Arab country: 0

Percentage of U.N. votes in which Arab countries voted with the United States in 2002: 16.6
Percentage of U.N. votes in which Israel voted with the United States in 2002: 92.6

. . . .

These numbers reveal four things. First, Israel stands virtually alone in the world, except for US support. Second, the United Nations is filled with non- and anti-democratic states. Third, it is also occupied by anti-American and anti-Jewish left-of-center and hard leftist western states. Fourth, Israel is outnumbered by anti-Jewish and anti-Israel Islamic nations. Therefore, many of us in America, usually right-of center, mistrust the UN, except when it feeds the hungry or passes a resolution that says a nation is being harassed. But what good is a resolution? What good is its "army"?

The following additional facts are relevant, as well.

(1) Thousands of Arab Muslims live in Israel, peacefully.
(2) The Israeli government does not destroy their homes.
(3) Arab Muslims are elected to the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament).
(4) Arab Christians living in the Palestinians Territories do not become human bombs because of the alleged Israeli "oppression."
(5) Arab Christians live under Muslim oppression in towns like Bethlehem.
(6) Wherever Islam comes, it must rule. If it once ruled over a city or region, such as Jerusalem after Umar’s conquest in AD 638, then Muslims must take it over again, if lost. Is this belief not the source of problems? Is it not viewed as a great humiliation in the Arab world that Allah would permit the Jews to return to their historic capital and land? Is it possible that Allah wills that the Jews should return?

3. Hamas as oppressors

The fifth point needs to be elaborated. This following excerpt from Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad by Matthew Levitt (Yale UP, 2006), reports that Hamas, in conjunction with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), intimidates the Christian population in Bethlehem. Hamas is the "muscle," and WAMY is the money.

. . . But the Palestinian Christian community is as much a target of Hamas’ efforts to Islamize society . . . In Bethlehem, where about a quarter of the local population (some 40,000 people) is composed of Palestinian Christians, Hamas actively seeks to marginalize and intimidate the Christian population and further radicalize the Muslim population. To this end, the Saudi world Assembly of Youth (WAMY) funded a Koranic memorization program run by the Bethlehem branch of Hamas’ al-Islah Charity Society. In a letter asking that WAMY’s funding for this program continue, the al-Islah charity makes a point of noting that a considerable percentage of Christians live in an area "with their customs and traditions, the exposure to which has significant influence on society." The charity asks for continued funding for the program, which is intended to "correct" the behavior of Muslim youth "which is growing lax." (p. 118)

The excerpt says that the customs and traditions of the Bethlehem Christians have "a significant influence on society." Personally, I hope they bring peace and sanity to that part of the world. However, Levitt goes on to describe how radicalized Muslims in Bethlehem subject Christians to extortion and unwarranted arrest of businessmen to coerce bribes. Perhaps Hamas regards this as a kind of jizya tax for second-class dhimmis.

So does Hamas behave like "oppressors" and "bullies"? You seem to believe that Israel behaves in this way. Is your contempt also directed at Muslims like Hamas?

4. Questions about fairness

You write in your Open Letter:

The just resolution of the Palestinian issue is pivotal to solving many of the problems we witness today. The scholars of Saudi Arabia have always been concerned with the issue . . .

It is unclear (to me, at least) why the little country of Israel, surrounded by an entire ocean of hate—millions of Arabs (and Persians, for that matter)—gets them so stirred up, when they are not directly affected by such matters.

I do not understand why Muslims, even scholars in Saudi Arabia, will not let go of a land that is not theirs to begin with and that belonged to the Jews long before Islam began a thousand miles to the south.

Should Israel return to its pre-1967 borders, which would deny them a united Jerusalem? In reply, should Saudi Arabia allow Jews and Christians to return to their historic home in the Peninsula, before the Hijrah in AD 622 (Muhammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina)? Before Islam came, Jews thrived in Medina and elsewhere, and the Christians thrived in the south and north in the Peninsula, in present-day Saudi Arabia. Now they are nowhere to be found because the few Christians who are left or who have moved to the land of the Two Holy Mosques are hiding in their homes.

If Saudi Arabia is unwilling to permit this "right of return" to Christians and Jews, then on what basis does it demand that Israel give the Palestinians the pre-1967 borders? In that case why cannot Jews and Christians demand that Saudi Arabia give back their land that it conquered on the Peninsula, by AD 644, the end of Umar’s Caliphate?

Are Jews and Christians so unclean that they are not permitted to enter the city limits of Mecca (I omit a discussion of the precinct of the Kabah shrine itself)? This seems like prejudice of the worst kind. What if the Israeli government forced all gentiles from Jerusalem or their entire Holy Land, as Muhammad and Umar did to Jews and Christians in Arabia, and Saudis still do today, particularly in Mecca? Saudi Arabia is much larger than little Israel. However, since Israel is compatible with modernity, it does not make these demands.

Further, I do not understand why Jordan (the historic home of the Palestinians) does not relinquish a part of its huge country to them, so they can build their own nation. However, I prefer to live in the real world, so I will not wait for Jordan’s offer.

Regardless of the specific geography and the fight over small territories (Israel is no bigger than New Jersey, one of the smallest states in the US), why do not the Palestinians build their own country as prosperously and successfully as Israel has done? Where have all the billions of dollars in financial aid from western and Islamic governments disappeared? Corruption in the Palestinian Authority and Fatah? Will Hamas remain uncorrupted (if it ever were)? Maybe if the Palestinians focused on solving their own internal problems and lack of economic development, they would not have time to worry so much about Israeli "oppression." Does anyone of a sound mind, which has not been clouded by bitterness, believe that the Israeli government would randomly attack a peaceful and prosperous Palestinian state, just for sport or a matter of policy?

Though it may be difficult to believe, Israel wants to live in peace. Israeli fathers and mothers would like their children to grow up to be professionals, not human bombs. Israel has time and again offered to give up most of its territories or in fact has given them up. It completely turned over Gaza to the Palestinians. It gave up south Lebanon in 2000. But every time it capitulates for peace, it gets slapped in the face or gets Qassam rockets fired in its direction. But it simply cannot give up Jerusalem united, its historic capital.

Other nations squabbled over borders as the nations were being established. For example, Mexico and the US fought a war in the middle of the nineteenth century. The US paid compensation to the Mexican government. But do Mexicans strap on bombs and blow themselves up in a US shopping mall or on crowded busses? China raped Tibet. Does any Tibetan strap on a bomb and kill innocent Chinese? The list of border disputes and conflicts is endless. Why do only Muslims kill innocents, believing that they as "human bomb martyrs" will go to Islamic heaven? If Islam as a religion is not to be blamed entirely, can it be excused entirely?

Why does Islam alone control the privilege of dictating terms and calling this or that piece of land holy? That question applies especially to Saudi Arabia. Why do only a few people in the West ever question Islam’s pushy geopolitical and religious demands? It is high time we did this. We Westerners should stop the self-loathing and understand that Islam is also imperialistic, up to right now. It does not suffer from self-loathing.

Further, why are Islamic nations obsessed with a piece of real estate, the land of the Jews, when Muslims have vast lands of their own and the Kabah? Muhammad never visited Jerusalem, and the name of the city never appears in the Quran, even in the so-called "Night Journey," which no one can verify independently outside of a "revelation" that somehow materially benefits Islam. This "revelation" has stirred up too much trouble.

Finally, you say that "the road to peace runs through Jerusalem, not Baghdad." In reply, Jerusalem and Baghdad aside, the road to peace leads through the human heart. Too much hatred of Jews preoccupies the Arab world. This hatred has produced blindness and needless obsession.

5. The Media on Israel

After your long list of links, you say that the Western news media "pays far more attention to losses suffered by Israelis than by Palestinians." This is so untrue. All I ever hear from the media is how oppressive Israel is and helpless the Palestinians are. Consider the latest incursion in the Gaza Strip. I heard that the Israeli military planned to rescue a soldier, but I had not heard on television or radio news about Qassam rockets that the Palestinians had launched into Israel on a (near) daily basis—after Israel dismantled the settlements in Gaza. If the Kuwaitis fired rockets into Saudi Arabia, or Saudi Shi’ites did this to a Saudi Sunni community, would the Sunni government of Saudi Arabia sit idly by? In the same way, these Palestinian rocket launches are acts of aggression, even war. I repeat: these rockets were launched after Israel withdrew completely from Gaza. Note how the Palestinians did not wave good-bye to the withdrawing Israelis and then turn around and say, "Let’s roll up our sleeves and build a prosperous Gaza!" No, the real problem, according to the Palestinians, is the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East. The same goes for the leader of Hezbollah who calls it a tumor in the body of Islam—note how he assumes that the land belongs to Islam.

Consider the tragedy at Qana in south Lebanon, where children died from an Israeli missile strike in the middle of the night. Curiously, the Red Crescent was not notified until 7:00 in the morning. The building did not collapse until many hours after the strike. Next, why does Hezbollah use humans as shields? Why does it fire its rockets or other weapons from populated neighborhoods? According to legal scholars, indiscriminant attacks, such as using badly aimed weapons, are against international law. Israel (and the US) works hard at avoiding civilian casualties. They have developed precision-guided weapons. Do Hamas and Hezbollah works as hard? No. Do the mainstream news media report this and other suspicious facts? No.

Israel tries to destroy the military potential of Hezbollah, its rockets, and their launching pads. Because Hezbollah places them mostly in civilian neighborhoods, it is very hard to avoid civilian deaths. And consider this: Hezbollah launches its rockets almost exclusively into civilian neighborhoods in Israel. They are aimed randomly, whereas Israel tries hard to pinpoint their targets. Hezbollah does not even target the Israeli military; they only try to create terror by killing civilians. Where is the outcry against this? And the Palestinian rockets and suicide bombers are the same. Their targets are nearly always only civilian. Why are the news reports and worldwide condemnation so unevenly distributed? So your assertion that the news media pay more attention to the losses suffered by Israelis than by Palestinians and Muslim organizations and peoples is inaccurate.

The worldwide media are made up mostly of left-of-center reporters, journalists, writers, and editors. This means that they focus on the plight of the poor v. the rich, the weak v. the strong, the powerless v. the powerful, and the marginal v. the privileged. The media’s concern is not so much for the truth or facts. In the eyes of the media, the Palestinians are poor, weak, powerless, and marginal. The media’s leftward stance means, in turn, that they favor the Palestinians over the Israeli "oppressors" and "bullies."

However, the media wrongly overlook the fact that little Israel struggles for its existence in an ocean of hatred, including the President of Iran, who says that Israel needs to be "wiped off the map." If you were an Israeli (and you could keep your Islam in Israel), would you believe that you were threatened? What if Iran said this about Saudi Arabia and then said it was seeking nuclear technology (read: nuclear weapons)?

Moreover, does a national Israeli TV network broadcast programs like this one seen on national IQRA TV in Saudi Arabia? The link has interviews with "the man on the street." Every one of them despises Jews and would not even shake their hand. The Jews are the "eternal enemies," say two Muslims. Saudis or not, Wahhabis or not, these interviews were aired on Saudi national TV and fuel the fire of "Jew hatred" in your country. For now, the above link has a further one that is broadcast in Arabic. Please inform MEMRI if there is a mistranslation, as you assert generally in Part Ten about this organization that actually provides a valuable service.

I repeat the question: Does Israel broadcast such venom and hatred on national TV? No. It is compatible with modernity.

Maybe such Arab TV programs stir up hatred in ordinary Muslims who really do not care about Jerusalem or Israel or the Palestinians. Maybe average Muslims would like to live in peace and prosperity, which are too often denied in Islamic nations, especially when shariah (Islamic law)—brutal and excessive by its very nature—is followed closely and applied literally.

The next part is the last one in our dialogue: Part Ten.

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