Opinion

Thank you to Haaretz’s David B. Green for forcing me to research the Arabs in Andalusia

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I owe the veteran Haaretz journalist, David B. Green, thanks for forcing me to search the internet for some quick and simple information about the Arabs in Andalusia.

I am not a historian and, for decades, my medical and public health education and practice had limited my intellectual forays to related scientific fields. With that narrowed vision, I had forgotten what little relevant historical information I had learned in elementary school under the British Mandate. And anything I learned after that was filtered clean either through the Zionist sieve or through my professional focus. I now recall reading some of Maimonides’s original writings in the Arabic Language at the Harvard Medical School Countway Library. I recall reading about the First Aid approach to cases of snakebite and being amazed how, in fact, such approach hadn’t changed in near a millennium. Or was it Avicenna’s treatise that I read on the subject of snake bite? At least to me, the two are equidistant culturally, emotionally and as sources of pride. Wouldn’t you know it, some uppity modern-day Emergency Medicine physician had gone and changed that. You no longer put a tourniquet proximal to the bite.

But I digress. Not only that there was little in our school curriculum after the Nakba about Arabs as a whole, what with our Old Testament and Jewish History studies and needing to convert all relevant dates to different eras of the first or second temple, but also that there was an undeclared ban on applause when teachers spoke of Arab history. I know of at least one teacher in my village in Galilee, who was fired for singing the praises of the Arabs in Andalusia to his students. A student ratted on him. He had such a difficult time finding another job that he up and left to Norway where he got a PhD in anthropology and commenced, among other things, to document life in erased Palestinian villages in Israel on the eve of their destruction. Go figure! What can you do to stop those Palestinians from muddying your pure springs of knowledge?!

David B. Green (Photo: Twitter/@davidbeegreen)

But I digress again. Nearly ten years ago, I corresponded with Mr. David B. Green who, at the time, was in charge of the English-language editorial page in Haaretz. He assured me then that he intended to give my voice the chance to be heard. After I had submitted one article about the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza and exchanged a few emails with him, I realized that he wanted my voice to be heard saying what he thought. Our correspondence ended.

Today I read his article about congresswoman elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez discovering her Jewish roots. When I saw the heading I thought to myself: What a great opportunity for my wise friend of old to butter me up by mentioning the congenial relations between Muslims and Jews that prevailed in Andalusia and the great strides in science and philosophy that their combined peaceful efforts had achieved.

“Please, Mr. Green,” I reflected, “just try and milk this one a little for a positive gesture toward the twenty percent of your co-citizens and potential readership. After all, Muslims and Jews coexisted with a modicum of harmony for near eight centuries. And when it all ended, both Muslims and Jews were driven out together. In fact, many more Muslims than Jews were expelled or forced to convert to Christianity.”

Not a chance! I read the article again and repeated my mental appeal to Mr. Green: “Since you allude to genetics and family trees in your article, let me challenge you to a wager: I bet you my last keffiyeh that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and I have more genes in common than she does with your prime minister. Please, if not for me, then just for the context, please, in the future, do mention those darn Muslims. Just for the record!”

Not once this time around! The whole issue was the sole concern of Jews and Christians. And would you believe it, when I googled it in various forms, the scores of different references I found give the same general impression: The history of Andalusia seems to revolve around its Jews versus its Christians. I wonder if the Department of Arab Education in Israel is in contract with Google?

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“Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and I have more genes in common than she does with your prime minister.” and of course not forgetting the Berbers, the Almoravid, Almohad and personal favorite dynasty the Awlad Ziri, Zirids of Grenada, and the Zayyanid, Hafsid, Marinid, Wattasid etc berber dynasties that ruled in the Maghreb and sometimes Spanish kingdoms, often allying with both Grenada and the Iberian, Kings of Castille, kind of like America pre 1861, when it all went… Read more »

AOC is a fast learner. Those Sephardic/Jewish roots she has suddenly uncovered should come in handy. I just hope she won’t make the mistake Elizabeth warren did and try for that little DNA test. I fear that if she did, those “Sephardic” roots will turn out to be Berber in origin. May be we should buy her Shlomo Sand’s book? (the first one)? Also, this article reminded me – unfortunately – the utter boredom I… Read more »

It is a myth that Muslims, Jews and Christians lived a peaceful life in Andalusia. There were constant conflict and war even among Muslims themselves. The fact is that Christians won – and the same queen who sent Columbus to discover new routes to India also sent first Jews, then Muslims packing. The fact is also that Spain now is trying to milk its former Jewish presence to the fullest. In every city now there… Read more »

Thank you Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh and Mondowiess for this article on al-Andalus!! If they ever invent a time machine my first choice for a journey into the past would be Al-Andalus (Andalusia) during the 8th century. One of my pet peeves is that for whatever reason, its magnificent history and enormous contribution to civilization is virtually ignored in the western world’s high schools. From my notes: Perhaps the most outstanding example of the harmony that… Read more »

thankyou dr. kanaaneh for sharing your curiosity and learning process.