Islamic law and non-Muslims
Some pro-Israeli opinion cite traditional interpretations of sharia (Islamic law) which requires, among other things, that Muslim territory encompass all land that was ever under Muslim control, as a source for the Arab-Israeli conflict. Since the territory of Israel, prior to being the British Mandate of Palestine, was once part of the Ottoman caliphate, some Islamic clerics believe it is unlawful for any portion of it to remain 'usurped' by non-Muslims. By contrast, pro-Arab opinion points at the pronounced religious tolerance of the caliphates, where Christians and Jews coexisted "harmoniously" with Muslims and were granted limited self-autonomy. Resentment of Israeli Jews, this argument concludes, only emerged as a result from and after the rise of the Zionist enterprise in Palestine.
Pro-Israeli views, however, often dismiss this explanation with the argument that Muslim Arab hostility towards Israel is largely derived from the sharia dictation that Jews or Christians are not to be considered equal to Muslims. Pro-Arab commentator view this as running counter to the tradition of tolerance towards "People of the Book" in Islam. They also point towards the long tradition of Palestinian Christians in their resistance to Israel and its policies, including such noted figures as Edward Said and George Habash, and the various Palestinian secular movements such as the PLO itself. In turn pro-Israeli proponents refer to a declining Christian Palestinian population (along with those of most Arab Christians) as, at least in part, a product of Muslim hostility towards non-Muslims, in general. According to a report published in December 2001 by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies think tank.The Christian Exodus from the Middle East (http://www.defenddemocracy.org/usr_doc/Christian_Exodus.pdf), in December 1997 The Times noted: "Life in (PA ruled) Bethlehem has become insufferable for many members of the dwindling Christian...
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