Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mecca and Israel

People say there's no precedent for the Jews returning to Israel. Indeed, nobody has ever repatriated their land after nearly two thousand years in exile the way the Jews did. That doesn't mean there's no precedent though, there's another historical incident in the region that's worth mentioning here.

Image: The Kaba in 1880; Source Wikipedia

Mohamed began his ministry in the city of Mecca where he was born. The existing powers in Mecca saw Mohamed and his followers as a threat, so the newly formed Muslims escaped to Yathrib (later called Medina). When they were strong enough and made the right alliances, the Muslims returned to Mecca, conquering it and the rest of the Arab Peninsula.

Likewise, the Jews were born in Palestine (then called Judea), but the existing power (Rome) saw them as a threat so they were exiled to Europe. Although it took nearly two thousand years, when the Jews were strong enough and made the right alliances, they returned to Judea (then called Palestine) to reclaim their land and re-establish the nation of Israel.

To be fair, the Muslims took control of Mecca in 630 c.e. and the Jews claimed their independence in Israel in 1948 c.e. One would hope that in thirteen-hundred years, human beings would have grown in civility, and indeed I think they have in many ways, but the moral implications and similarities of both events remain applicable.

I'm not wise enough to say whether or not the Jews had a right to take their land back, but I can say that morally it's not all that different from the Muslims taking Mecca. Both were done for the same reasons and both either displaced other people or forced them to convert.

I would like to point out one difference though. For the Jews there is no site more holy than the temple mount, yet when they returned to power they allowed Islam to maintain a mosque on the site, completely under muslim control, but when the Muslims returned to Mecca, they immediately took control of the Kaaba, destroying any non-muslim statue or reference in it or near it, including statues of Jesus and Mary.

I'm a believer in the two-state-solution in Palestine, but for it to work, Islam has to agree that the Jews have a right to establish their own state. One step toward that might be pointing out that what the Jews did in 1948 wasn't really that different from what the Muslims did in 630.

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