1. On Aug. 7, 2003, a court in Bali, Indonesia, found Amrozi bin Nurhasyim guilty of having murdered more than 200 people, none of them Jewish, with a car bomb in October 2002. As he stood before the judges and the cameras, all he had to say, in Arabic, was: "Jews, remember the battle of Khaybar -- the army of Muhammad is returning to defeat you!" Over the past two decades, this call, which rhymes in Arabic, has become well known in this part of the world as well. The story of Khaybar is often associated with the Treaty of Hudaybiyya.
Eight years earlier, on Aug. 6, 1995, Yasser Arafat gave a speech at Al-Azhar University in Cairo explaining why he had signed the Oslo Accords despite his "thousand objections" to it. Among other things, he said:
"My brothers, I would like to remind you: when the Prophet signed the Treaty of Hudaybiyya, he wished to preface it with the phrase: 'In the name of Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate.' But the men of the Quraysh tribe stopped him, saying that they did not agree. He also wished to sign his name as 'Muhammad, the messenger of Allah.' But the men of the Quraysh tribe stopped him, saying, 'Who said we recognized you as the messenger of God?' Then the Prophet instructed Ali: 'Cross it out and write 'Muhammad son of Abdullah' instead. Omar ibn al-Khattab ran up and said, 'How can that be, O Prophet of Allah?' The Prophet said, 'Be silent.' … He asked them where it was written -- you know that the Prophet could not read or write -- and they told him: 'It is written here.' He crossed it out himself and they wrote: 'Muhammad son of Abdullah.'
"In addition, my brothers, the Prophet agreed that whoever came from the Quraysh to convert to Islam would be rejected, and they would not stand in the way of anyone who reneged on his conversion to Islam. I merely remind you.
"Omar ibn al-Khattab called the treaty a 'sulha dania' ['despicable truce'] and asked, 'How can we accept such a humiliation of our religion?' But, my brothers, all this applies to the Palestinian people also ... I say this because we are now in the midst of negotiations. In any case, if the Israelis think we have no alternative to negotiations, by Allah I swear they are wrong."
And the Israelis were wrong. They did not want to listen. Those of them who warned of the deception were excoriated as rejecting peace and as yesterday's people. The entire media stood behind the agreement and did not ask questions. Arafat's explicit speeches were forgiven, and promptly forgotten.
2. This week marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords, which was done in the dark. Here are a few facts about Khaybar and the Treaty of Hudaybiyya.
The Quraysh, Muhammad's own tribe, opposed his new religion. Muhammad left Mecca and went to the city of Yathrib, which was later named Medinat al-Nabi (the city of the Prophet). Muhammad's migration from Mecca to Medina, the Hejira, marks the first year in the Muslim calendar.
The members of the large Jewish tribes who lived in Medina refused to accept Muhammad as their prophet. When Muhammad arrived, he signed non-aggression pacts with the Jews. With the Arab tribes he signed a pact that was more binding.
The first Jewish tribe Muhammad attacked was the Banu Qaynuqa. They were expelled from Medina and their property seized. Next was the al-Fatyun tribe; they were expelled in the third year after the Hejira. Then Muhammad turned his attention to the large tribes. Although there was a treaty, well, they were only Jews, so the treaty could be set aside. The Banu Nadir, who were farmers and craftsmen, were attacked on the Sabbath. They surrendered and were expelled.
The Banu Qurayza were left. Muhammad put them under a prolonged siege. They wanted to leave, as those before them had done. But Muhammad refused to let them go, appointing an Arab leader who had been wounded in the battle to decide their fate. His decision was predictably harsh: The men would be killed and the women and children sold into slavery, and their property divided among the Muslims. The next morning, 700 Jews were beheaded in Medina's market square. Their bodies were buried in ditches that had been prepared in advance. Their cruel fate became a precedent for Muslim rulers throughout history. In recent years, the rest of the world has seen it as well.
Then Muhammad signed a non-aggression pact with the Quraysh, his own tribe. In the sixth year after the Hejira, he turned his army toward Mecca. He did not enter the sacred site but instead camped to the west of it, in Hudaybiyya, where he held negotiations with the Quraysh tribe. As Arafat recounted, Muhammad agreed to strike clearly Islamic phrases from the treaty and agreed to a series of fairly far-reaching concessions.
In exchange, he received what seemed to be little but was actually a great deal: a non-belligerence pact that gave him time to gather strength. Now free to complete the work of expelling the Jews, Muhammad turned his attention toward Khaybar, the largest Jewish community in the Arabian peninsula. Muhammad's treaty with the Quraysh canceled out the protection agreement they had with the Khaybar. The rear of Muhammad's army was secure. His soldiers attacked the Jewish farmers as they went out in the morning to work in their fields. The Jews had hoes and baskets. The Muslims had swords. Muhammad burned the date-palm orchards, which were main source of the Khaybar tribe's livelihood, and put the tribe under siege. Within a month, the seven communities of Khaybar surrendered. According to the conditions of the surrender, some of the Jews were allowed to stay and cultivate what remained of their fields, but in exchange they had to give half the crop -- and ownership of the land -- to the Muslims.
The conditions imposed on the Jews of Khaybar became a precedent in Islamic law. That was how the status of the dhimma -- the specially protected non-Muslim but monotheistic subject in a Muslim state -- was created. The historian Martin Gilbert writes that for non-Muslims, Khaybar symbolizes the beginning of organized discrimination that lasted for centuries. Apartheid, if you will. The Egyptian caliph Al-Amir, who reigned during the 12th century, described the poll tax, or jizya, to be imposed upon dhimmi (the plural of dhimma) not only as a source of revenue, but also as a tool of discrimination and humiliation. He refused to exempt any dhimmi, even the most respected, from paying the tax himself. "It must be collected directly," he said, "to shame and humiliate him, so that Islam and the people of Islam will be exalted and the race of infidels will be brought low."
3. Arafat repeated the comparison between the Oslo Accords and the Treaty of Hudaybiyya several times. As far as he was concerned, the main purpose of the "humiliating" and "despicable" treaty signed in Oslo was to buy time to gather strength so that when the time came, the treaty could be broken from a stronger position. That was what happened two years after the Treaty of Hudaybiyya. Muhammad conquered Mecca at the head of a much larger army, and the rest is history.
The advocates of the Oslo Accords called their opponents "yesterday's people" -- people stuck in the past who did not see the great changes happening in the region. But those "people of tomorrow" signed a treaty with an enemy that has conducted -- and still conducts -- their politics and terrorism according to the ancient legends of the region, including the Treaty of Hudaybiyya and the Battle of Khaybar.
The failure to pay close attention to this deep cultural infrastructure is strongly reminiscent of the blindness that preceded the Yom Kippur War.