Israel's Place in the Middle East: A Pluralist Perspective

Israel's Place in the Middle East: A Pluralist Perspective

Israel's Place in the Middle East: A Pluralist Perspective

Israel's Place in the Middle East: A Pluralist Perspective


TO MANY, Jews and Arabs stand in permanent opposition, representing two clashing cultures, mentalities, and temperaments. In this book, Nissim Rejwan maintains that this perception is historically inaccurate. From the standpoint of culture, ethnicity, and religion, he says, Israel is an integral part of the Middle East.

As a nation Israel consists largely of Middle Eastern and North African Jews, native-born Israelis of European origin, and Arabs. Rejwan shows that peaceful and neighborly relations among these groups have always prevailed and that the lot of the Jews has been better in the realm of Islam than in the West.

Using Arabic, Hebrew, and English sources, the book traces the course of Arab-Jewish relations from their beginnings in pre-Islamic times to the present, and it offers a survey of Judeo-Arabic culture and literature. It also describes the ideological and cultural origins of Israel and demonstrates the way these roots shape the country's attitudes toward its surrounding.


This book was many years in the making. It originated in a lecture I gave at the American Historical Association's Annual 1971 Program, held in New York in December of that year, and for which I chose the title, Arab- Jewish Relations through the Ages: a Problem for the Historian.

As the reader will notice, throughout this book I have drawn heavily on the work of scholars and specialists in the various fields related to its subject matter. I am indebted to the authors and their publishers for the citations I used. All citations from Arabic and Hebrew sources are translated by me, unless otherwise stated.

Israel's Place in the Middle East consists of two parts, one setting the historical scene and the other dealing with recent developments and future prospects.

Part I, The Jews and Their Neighbors, establishes the historical-cultural background. It deals with the course of Arab-Jewish relations in some detail from their beginnings in pre-Islamic times; analyzes Islam's attitude to the Jews, in theory and in reality; gives a comprehensive though concise survey of Judeo-Arabic culture; and shows how Jews who lived in the domain of Arabic Islam influenced and were influenced by the societies in which they lived without losing sight of or abandoning their own cultural or religious identity.

The last of the three chapters that make up Part I deals with the history of the Jews of Europe and their fortunes. Special emphasis is placed here on the long-standing effects that the respective experiences of these two divisions of Jewry--the Jews of Islam and the Jews of the Christian West-- have had on the attitudes now at play in Israel vis-à-vis its neighbors.

Part ii, Israel as a Middle Eastern Country, traces the deeper roots of Jewry and of Israel in the region and provides a brief survey of certain Arab misconceptions about Israel, especially the claim that it is an alien creation and an intrusion in the Middle Eastern world. the idea, habitually pro-

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