The Arab and non-Arab Muslim umma, or global community, vehemently denies pre-Islamic Jewish, and ignores pre-Islamic Christian connections to all the territories that comprised historical Syro-Palestine—including Judea, Samaria, modern Israel within the 1949 armistice borders, and Gaza. This historical negationism is melded to Islam’s own theological supersessionism which abrogates Judaism and Christianity as deliberately corrupted, crude manifestations of the one true primordial monotheism, Islam (See Koran 3:67—“No; Abraham in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian; but he was a Muslim and one pure of faith [i.e., Islam]; certainly he was never of the idolaters.”) Such an eternal religio-political worldview should raise grave doubts about the prospects of negotiating a permanent peace settlement between the Israelis and the local Arab Muslim representatives of the global Islamic umma, the Palestinian Arabs.
Consider a fatwa written January 5, 1956—at the height of so-called secular Arab nationalism—by then Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Hasan Ma’moun, and signed by the leading members of the Fatwa Committee’s major representatives of all four Sunni Islamic schools of jurisprudence at Al Azhar University in Cairo, the most authoritative religious educational institution within Sunni Islam. This ruling elaborated the following key initial point: that all of historical Palestine having been conquered by jihad, was a permanent possession of the global Muslim umma (community), “fay territory” (booty/spoils), to be governed by Islamic Law. The January, 1956 Al Azhar fatwa’s language and arguments are indistinguishable from those employed by Hamas (in its Covenant), revealing the same conjoined motivations of jihad, and conspiratorial Islamic Jew hatred:
Muslims cannot conclude peace with those Jews who have usurped the territory of Palestine and attacked its people and their property in any manner which allows the Jews to continue as a state in that sacred Muslim territory.
[as] Jews have taken a part of Palestine and there established their non-Islamic government and have also evacuated from that part most of its Muslim inhabitants… Jihad… to restore the country to its people.. is the duty of all Muslims, not just those who can undertake it. And since all Islamic countries constitute the abode of every Muslim, the Jihad is imperative for both the Muslims inhabiting the territory attacked, and Muslims everywhere else because even though some sections have not been attacked directly, the attack nevertheless took place on a part of the Muslim territory which is a legitimate residence for any Muslim.
Everyone knows that from the early days of Islam to the present day the Jews have been plotting against Islam and Muslims and the Islamic homeland. They do not propose to be content with the attack they made on Palestine and Al Aqsa Mosque, but they plan for the possession of all Islamic territories from the Nile to the Euphrates.
Moreover, the “Peace Process” blithely ignores the permanent goal of the Islamic jihad—manifested by both Hamas and Fatah: to bring humanity, en bloc, under the jurisdiction of Islamic Law—a totalitarian system of religious governance, particularly oppressive to all non-Muslims, and women. How this legacy of jihad conquest affected historical Palestine, in particular—past as prologue to the present—is critical to understanding the endless conflict in the region today.
Seminal analyses by Moshe Gil, Bat Ye’or, and S.D. Goitein dispel persistent myths about the pre-Islamic demography of the region, detail the lasting destruction wrought by this initial wave of jihad conquests, and elaborate on the human toll of these Muslim campaigns. Gil emphasizes the singular centrality that Palestine occupied in the mind of its pre-Islamic Jewish inhabitants, who referred to the land as “al-Sham”. Indeed, as Gil observes, the sizable Jewish population in Palestine (who formed a majority of its inhabitants, when grouped with the Samaritans) at the dawn of the Arab Muslim conquest were “…the direct descendants of the generations of Jews who had lived there since the days of Joshua bin Nun, in other words for some 2000 years…”. He also explodes the ahistorical thesis of scholars who,
…perceive an ethnic motivation behind the [jihad] conquests. They see Arabs everywhere: even the Canaanites and the Philistines were Arabs, according to their theories. This applies to an even greater degree to the population of Palestine and Syria in the seventh century, who were certainly Semites. Thus, according to their claims, the conquering Arab forces in the course of their battles, actually encountered their own people or at least members of their own race who spoke the same language…This is of course a very distorted view: Semitism is not a race and only relates to a sphere of language. The populations met along the route of battle, living in cities or the country side, were not Arabs and did not speak Arabic. We do know of Bedouin tribes at that time who inhabited the borderlands and the southern desert of Palestine, west of the Euphrates (Hira) in the Syrian desert, Palmyra, and elsewhere. But the cultivated inner regions and the cities were inhabited by Jews and Christians who spoke Aramaic. They did not sense any special ties to the Bedouin; if anything it was the contrary. Their proximity and the danger of an invasion from that quarter disturbed their peace of mind and this is amply reflected both in the writings of the Church Fathers and in Talmudic sources.
Gil and Bat Ye’or summarize the wanton destruction and massacres that accompanied these jihad conquests, as follows:
[Gil]….one can assume that the local population suffered immensely during the course of the war [i.e., jihad conquests] and it is very likely that many villages were destroyed and uprooted in the frontier regions, and that the lot of these local populations was very bitter indeed. It appears that the period of the conquest was also that of the destruction of the synagogues and churches of the Byzantine era, remnants of which have been unearthed in our own time and are still being discovered. The assumption is based both on what is said in a few Christian sources…and on Muslim sources.…Towns in the western strip and the central strip (the region of the red sand hills and the swamps) in the Sharon, decreased from fifty-eight to seventeen ! It is estimated that the erosion of the soil from the western slopes of the Judaean mountains reached – as a result of the agricultural uprooting during the Muslim period – the gigantic extent of 2,000 to 4,000 cubic meters….We find direct evidence of the destruction of agriculture and the desertion of the villages in the fact that the papyri of Nessana [in the Negev] are completely discontinued after the year 700. One can assume that at the time the inhabitants abandoned the place, evidently because of the inter-tribal warfare among the Arabs which completely undermined the internal security of the area.
[Bat Ye’or]…Abu Bakr organized the invasion of Syria [Syro-Palestine] which Muhammad had already envisaged. He gathered tribes from the Hijaz, Najd, and Yemen and advised Abu Ubayda, in charge of operations in the Golan, to plunder the countryside, but due to a lack of adequate weaponry, to refrain from attacking towns. Consequently, the whole Gaza region up to Cesarea was sacked and devastated in the campaign of 634. Four thousand Jewish, Christian, and Samaritan peasants who defended their land were massacred. The villages of the Negev were pillaged by Amr b. al-As, while the Arabs overran the countryside, cut communications, and made roads perilous. Towns such as Jerusalem, Gaza, Jaffa, Cesarea, Nablus, and Beth Shean were isolated and closed their gates. In his sermon on Christmas day 634, the patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius, lamented over the impossibility of going on pilgrimage to Bethlehem, as was the custom because the Christians were being forcibly kept in Jerusalem: ‘not detained by tangible bonds, but chained and nailed by fear of the Saracens,’ whose ‘savage, barbarous and bloody sword’ kept them locked up in the town…Sophronius, in his sermon on the Day of the Epiphany 636, bewailed the destruction of the churches and monasteries, the sacked towns, the fields laid waste, the villages burned down by the nomads who were overrunning the country.
“Why is there no end to the bloodshed? Why are churches being destroyed and the cross desecrated? The Saracens, “abomination of desolation” foretold by the Prophet (Daniel 12:11), are passing through lands forbidden to them, plundering cities and destroying fields, burning villages and razing holy monasteries…and priding themselves they will conquer the whole world.”
In a letter the same year to Sergius, the patriarch of Constantinople, he mentions the ravages wrought by the Arabs. Thousands of people perished in 639, victims of the famine and plague that resulted from this destruction.
The countryside [in Syro-Palestine, Iraq, Persia, and Armenia] suffered constant razzias, while those who escaped the sword swelled the contingents of enslaved women and children, shared out among the soldiers after the deduction of the fifth [share of the “booty”] reserved for the caliph.
S.D. Goitein, in referring to Sophronius’ descriptions, as well as other contemporary sources, adds,
…we learn incidentally that the villages and unwalled cities suffered more than the fortified cities from the sudden invasion by the sons of the desert. This is also evidenced by the ruins of the synagogues [at Eshtamo’a] in southern Judea.
Moreover, the Muslim chronicler Baladhuri (d. 892 C.E.) maintained that 30,000 Samaritans and 20,000 Jews lived in Caesarea alone just prior to the Arab Muslim conquest; afterward, all evidence of them disappears.