Why do Palestinians, who present themselves as victims of land-grabbing Israeli oppressors, extol and find inspiration in the land-grabbing oppressors of history?
On April 16, 2021, Al Jazeera published an article by 'Adnan Abu 'Amar, "head of the Political Science Department at the University of the Ummah in Gaza," on the topic of jihad during the month of Ramadan. In it, he explains how Palestinians find "inspiration" in various jihads throughout Islamic history, "prominent among them the raid of Badr, the opening of Mecca, the opening of al-Andalus, and the battle of the pavement of martyrs [the Battle of Tours]."
Interestingly, in all these battles, the Muslims were the aggressors. They invaded non-Muslim territory, butchered and enslaved its inhabitants and appropriated their lands—and for no other reason than that they were "infidels," non-Muslims.
The battle of Badr was occasioned by Muhammad's raids on non-Muslim caravans; the "opening" of Mecca—in Muslim historiography, the euphemistic word "opening [to the light of Islam]" is always used in place of "conquest"—was simply that, the conquest of a non-Muslim city; the opening/conquest of al-Andalus is a reference to the years 711-716, when Muslims invaded and slaughtered countless thousands of Christians in Spain and torched their churches; and the battle of Tours is, of course, where the Muslim invasions into the heart of Europe were finally halted in 732.
In fact, Palestinian elements are constantly praising the unjustified conquests of others. On May 29, Hizb al-Tahrir—the "Liberation Party"—often holds large, outdoor events near al-Aqsa mosque to commemorate the anniversary of the Islamic conquest of Constantinople (May 29, 1453). During one of these, after all the takbirs (chants of "Allahu Akbar") had subsided, Palestinian cleric Nidhal Siam spoke:
Oh Muslims, the anniversary of the opening [that is, conquest] of Constantinople brings tidings of things to come. It brings tidings that Rome will be conquered in the near future, Allah willing.... [Moreover,] Islam will throw its neighbors to the ground, and its reach will span across the east and the west of this Earth. This is Allah's promise, and Allah does not renege on his promises.
He and the assembled throng then repeatedly chanted, "By means of the Caliphate and the consolidation of power, Mehmed the Conqueror vanquished Constantinople!" and "Your conquest, oh Rome, is a matter of certainty!"
Why are Palestinians seeking to emulate those who steal the lands of others?
Again, the question must be emphasized: why are the Palestinians—who, when speaking to and seeking sympathy from the international community, present themselves as an oppressed people whose land is unjustly occupied—finding inspiration in and seeking to emulate those who oppress and steal the lands of others?
If anything, should the Palestinians not sympathize with, say, the Christians of Spain, whose land was occupied, and they themselves brutalized by the occupiers, namely, the Muslim invaders from North Africa?
Similarly, if, as they claim, the Palestinians are an oppressed people whose land was stolen, should they not sympathize with the Christians of Constantinople, rather than Mehmet the Conqueror, an unsavory pedophile who invaded and conquered the ancient Christian city, while subjecting its indigenous inhabitants to all sorts of unspeakable atrocities?
As for Rome, what does it have to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict that it too deserves to be conquered? Absolutely nothing—except that, since the conquest of Constantinople, Islam has seen Rome as the symbolic head of the Christian world, and therefore in urgent need of subjugating; or, to quote the Islamic State, "We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah... [We will cast] fear into the hearts of the cross-worshipers."
Perhaps most telling is Palestinian cleric Siam's claim (delivered to thundering applause) "that Islam will throw its neighbors to the ground, and that its reach will span across the east and the west of this Earth." In other words, no non-Muslim is safe from the sword of jihad—including those who live countless leagues away from and have nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Surely all this must seem surreal when placed in context? How can Palestinians present themselves as a conquered and oppressed people whose land was stolen—while, in the very same breath, praising former and hoping for future conquests, replete with oppression and land grabbing from other peoples, only because they were/are non-Muslim?
And that is the grand lesson: when all is said and done, Islamic notions of "justice" are based on a simple dichotomy: whenever Muslims conquer, slaughter, subjugate, and steal land, that is eminently just; whenever they have to live under "infidel" authority, that is intolerably unjust. Hence the virulent hatred for Israel.
Raymond Ibrahim is the Judith Friedman Rosen Fellow at the Middle East Forum.