From the BBC:

The Israeli army has demolished a number of buildings in West Bank, including one that Palestinians said was a long-established mosque.

Israeli officials said the structures were temporary and built without permits in a military fire zone.

Palestinian villagers said the mosque was built before 1967 when Israel occupied the West Bank.

The UN has criticised Israel for demolishing Palestinian property and prohibiting construction in the zone.

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From the Economist:

In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands. By Martin Gilbert. Yale University Press; 320 pages; £25 and $35. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives. By Gilbert Achcar. Metropolitan Books; 400 pages; $30. Saqi; £25. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

FROM 624 to 628AD, several Jewish clans in the Arabian peninsula joined forces with an Arab tribe, the Quraysh, to make war on a renegade Qurayshi named Muhammad who had had the chutzpah to claim he was a prophet of God. They lost. Piqued at the Jews for rejecting a creed that—with its dietary laws, ritual circumcision and daily prayers towards (at first) Jerusalem—was so closely modelled on their own, the Prophet Muhammad decreed that they, along with Christians, would henceforth be considered dhimmiyeen under Islam; “protected” as fellow monotheists, but subject to a heavy tax and various other indignities.

Dhimma status was later extended to other religions, then abolished by the Ottoman Turks in the 19th century. It is often still invoked by Islamophobes today as proof that Islam is inherently intolerant and, specifically, anti-Semitic. Martin Gilbert, a British Jew who was knighted in 1995, and Gilbert Achcar, a Lebanese-French Christian, have both written books in which this question looms large. It would be hard to find two more different treatments.

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By Gana Pianigiani, for the New York Times:

SIENA, Italy — No horse race is more sacred in Italy than the Palio, which traces its lineage back 700 years. This year, however, the hotly contested chase has taken an unexpectedly ecumenical — and disputed — twist.

For the first time, a Muslim painter was asked to design the Palio, or banner, that the winner takes home at the end of the race, which is conducted two days every year around Siena’s distinctive shell-shaped square.

Not everyone was pleased with the choice, though that was not evident Friday evening, when residents of the winning district, or contrada, as Siena’s 17 neighborhoods within the city walls are known, jumped over fencing that lined the square to grab the Palio, crying and shouting with joy.

The horse representing their contrada had won the race, and they did not seem particularly bothered that the banner has generated controversy in the local and national media during the past weeks over what some have called “a profanation” of the Sienese tradition.

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by David Green, for the Palestine Chronicle:

During Stanford Professor Joel Beinin’s visit to the Urbana campus of the University of Illinois in March of 2000, I was introduced to the seemingly esoteric topic of the plight of Jews in Arab societies subsequent to the establishment of Israel–specifically regarding his research specialty at that time, the Jews of Egypt. In Beinin’s outstanding book on this subject, The Dispersion of Egyptian Jewry, he explores the ultimately unsuccessful attempt of 75,000 Egyptian Jews to “maintain their multiple identities and to resist the monism of increasingly obdurate Zionist and Egyptian national discourses.”

Beinin also spoke presciently—6 months before the beginning of the 2nd intifada–of the dire conditions of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, which he described as “worse than horrible.” Six months after Sharon’s 2000 visit to the Temple Mount, in March of 2001, a political advertisement sponsored by The American Jewish Committee and Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago appeared in the Chicago Tribune titled “The Other Refugees.” It claimed that:

“The Arab onslaught of 1948 and its aftermath tragically produced two—not one—refugee populations, one Jewish and one Arab. More than 700,000 Jews across the Arab world were forced to flee for their lives, their property ransacked in deadly riots, and their schools, hospitals, synagogues and cemeteries expropriated or destroyed.”

The ad went on to compare the absorption of many of these Jews by Israel to Palestinians who ”have remained quarantined in squalid camps,” concluding that “Palestinian leadership, backed by many in the Arab world, seeks the destruction of Israel through the ‘return’ of the refugees and their millions of descendants.” This diatribe concluded by claiming that such a return would mean “Israel’s national suicide.”

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(Jewish Wedding in Morocco by Eugene Delacroix)

By Alfred de Montesquiou for the Associated Press:

RABAT, Morocco — From the western edge of the Muslim world, the King of Morocco has dared to tackle one of the most inflammatory issues in the Middle East conflict — the Holocaust.

At a time when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s dismissal of the Holocaust has made the biggest headlines, King Mohammed VI has called the Nazi destruction of the Jews “one of the most tragic chapters of modern history,” and has endorsed a Paris-based program aimed at spreading the word among fellow Muslims.

Many in the Islamic world still ignore or know little about the Nazi attempt to annihilate the Jews during World War II. Some disbelieve it outright. Others argue that it was a European crime and imagine it to be the reason Israel exists and the Palestinians are stateless.

The sentiment was starkly illustrated in March after a Palestinian youth orchestra performed for Israeli Holocaust survivors, only to be shut down by angry leaders of the West Bank refugee camp where they live.

“The Holocaust happened, but we are facing a similar massacre by the Jews themselves,” a community leader named Adnan Hindi said at the time. “We lost our land and we were forced to flee.”

Like other moderate Arab leaders, King Mohammed VI must tread carefully. Islamic fervor is rising in his kingdom, highlighted in 2003 by al-Qaida-inspired attacks in Casablanca on targets that included Jewish sites. Forty-five people died.

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