From BESA* Center Perspectives Papers No. 87, July 28, 2009, by Mordechai Kedar**:
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish nation-state, or as the rightful homeland of the Jewish People, is a necessary condition of any future Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty – according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Arab and Islamic leaders have rejected this demand. The reason for Arab inability and unwillingness to consider Netanyahu's demand is the fact that the Islamic world is ideologically incapable of according legitimacy to the State of Israel, for deep-seated religious, nationalistic and historical reasons.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has set out five conditions for the conclusion of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal involving establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The first, and the hardest for the Arab world to accept, is Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish nation-state, or as the rightful homeland of the Jewish People. In fact, it is close to impossible, because Islam is intrinsically incapable of according legitimacy to the State of Israel for the embedded ideological reasons detailed below.
The First Component: Religion
According to Islam, the Jewish religion was invalidated by the birth of Christianity, which in turn was invalidated by the arrival of Islam. This concept was set down in the Koran: “Surely the true religion with Allah is Islam” (Chapter 3, Verse 19). Thus Allah does not recognize any other religion besides Islam. Islam – according to its own perception – brought the message of truth to the world, after the Jews and Christians changed and distorted the word of Allah given to them. In light of their conduct, Allah removed their religious role and theological message and passed it to the Muslims, who are the sole “believers.” Thus, Islam’s basic approach is not that it came to the world to exist alongside other religions as equal among equals, but to replace them.
A conclusion from this is that Judaism as a religion has lost its significance and role in the world. If so, how could one establish a Jewish state? And how could one claim that land can be holy to Judaism after this religion has been declared null and void? And since when do Jews – members of a meaningless religion – have the right to a state in any land, after they betrayed Allah and refused to accept Din al-Haqq "the religion of truth," Islam? In practice, Islam recognized the Jews as “people of the Book” and not as infidels, although on condition that they live under Islamic rule as "dhimmis" – protégés of Islam, and “pay the Jizya (per capita tax) with willing submission.” (Koran Chapter 9, Verse 29). However, once they conquered land, and killed and deported Muslims, they lost the privileges granted to them by the “Pact of Omar.”
Therefore, Israel’s demand that Islam recognize it as a state for the Jewish People contradicts the most basic tenets of Islam, which view Judaism as null and void. Israel’s demand actually requires Islam to recognize Judaism as a legitimate religion even though God himself stated in the Koran that “whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, will never be accepted” (Chapter 3, Verse 85).
The Second Component: Nationality
Judaism is perceived in the Islamic world as a communal religion, without either an ethnic or national basis. There are other instances of this. The people living in Iraq consist of many religious groups: Muslims, Christians, Sabaiis, Mandeans, Yazidis, and Jews. They are all members of the Arab nation, all sons of the Iraqi people and they all have a place in Iraqi land. There are Arab Iraqi Muslims, Arab Iraqi Christians and Arab Iraqi Jews, all members of religious communities which are part of the Iraqi people. The same goes for Yemen – which has Arab Yemenite Muslims and Arab Yemenite Jews, and for Morocco and the rest of the Islamic states, which have Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities. Furthermore, from an Islamic perspective this is a way to view other countries: the Jew in Poland is Polish from an ethnic perspective and Jewish from a religious perspective. The French Jew is a member of the French nation who practices Judaism. Thus, there are no ethnic Jews in the world, just as there are no ethnic Christians or Muslims.
Suddenly, Jewish communities declare that they are one people, sharing the same ethnic background, as if all the Jews in the world look alike, speak the same language, share customs and cuisine, and dress in similar fashion! This is the "great lie" of the Zionist movement, according to Islamists: creating a Jewish people out of nothing, and trying to convince the world at large that a Jewish People does indeed exist. Even worse, these Jewish communities have decided to migrate to Palestine, to "displace" the original inhabitants and to establish a state, whose name has no connection to the Jewish people but to the mythological Sons of Israel. So, from the Islamic perspective, how can one recognize this state as the "State of the Jewish People” – an ethnic group that does not really exist?
The Third Component: Land
Palestine was sanctified as Muslim land by two acts. The first was its conquest during the period of Khalif Omar bin al-Khattab in the third decade of the seventh century. This placed Palestine within the group of countries which were under Islamic rule, like Spain, Sicily and part of the Balkans, and which must be returned to the bosom of Islam. The second act was the Islamic tradition which claims that the Khalif Omar declared Palestine, from the sea to the Jordan, as Waqf (holy endowment) land, consecrated for all Muslim generations forever. So how can the Jews – whose religion is illegitimate and who are not an ethnic people – demand that the Muslims recognize the conquest of the land of Palestine which is holy to Muslims alone?
Thus, according to Islam, the State of Israel is not legitimate. From a religious point of view, Judaism is void. The Jewish nation is an invention of the Zionist movement. The land called "Israel" is considered Islamic Waqf land, consecrated for Muslims.
Netanyahu’s insistence on recognition of the state as a Jewish nation-state contradicts the Islamic faith, and questions the very essence of Islam, whose relevance is based on the invalidity of Judaism (and Christianity as well).
Therefore, there is no escape from the conclusion that Israel’s struggle for survival is religiously based, even if externally it assumes the form of a territorial struggle. It does not matter what its size, Israel will never gain recognition by the Arab and Muslim world as a legitimate state. Similarly, international documents which legitimize the "Jewish State," such as United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 of 29 November 1947, are viewed by Muslims as illegitimate.
Many say: “You are turning a territorial conflict into a religious one,” when they mean to say that territorial concessions would facilitate the recognition of the Arabs and Muslims in the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Such a statement assumes that the Arab and Muslim world is as secular as our own, and shares our concepts, values and priorities. This is the result of Israeli and Western ignorance of all that is related to Islam and the Arab world, derived from the fact that Westerners do not understand Arabic and Arab and Islamic culture. Israelis and Westerners alike are not exposed to the harsh truths which are expressed in the local tongues, and are well-concealed by spokesmen of “inter-religious dialogue.”
Recognition of Israel as a legitimate Jewish nation-state has no hope or chance as long as Islam perceives itself – and itself alone – as “the true religion with Allah.”
*BESA Perspectives is published through the generosity of the Littauer Foundation
**Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a research associate at the BESA Center and a lecturer in the departments of Arabic and Middle East Studies at Bar-Ilan University, is a 25-year veteran of IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinians and Islamic groups.