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Joan Peters' book From Time Immemorial:
A Review

Peters, Joan (1984/2001) From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine. JKAP Publications - Chicago IL 601 p.

Joan Peters' From Time ImmemorialPaul Gosselin (26/4/2023)

This book is about the Palestinian Question and the historical circumstances that were its cause. Whereas many people give up attempting to understand the situation "as Middle East politics is complicated" Peters' book sorts things out and provides much need context to present events. That said, sometimes the truth can be inconvenient or unpopular... Thus From Time Immemorial is an in-depth look at the "Palestinian Question" and a rather effective antidote to other books such as Blumenthal's biased Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (2013) and looks at material and issues that Blumenthal studiously IGNORED... With justification, some have nicknamed Blumenthal's book a "How to Hate Israel Manual".

One critical issue Peters digs into is the history of Jews who lived for over a thousand years in Muslim dominated nations in the Middle East. In most cases (Sephardic) Jews were living in these lands BEFORE the Islamic conquest and expansion. Peters exposes the situation these Jews had to put up with for many generations. As Peters demonstrates, Sephardic Jews have a deep history of oppression under Islamic rulers, facing continual denial of rights and being basically regarded as cattle to be exploited, robbed, insulted, raped and murdered at the rule's whim or whenever there was social unrest. Here is one example supplied by Peters that provides a brief glimpse of such oppression (1984/2001: 40)

As dhimmis[1], Jews could not even claim to be second-class citizens. For example, even in the case of a Jew murdered by a Muslim, justice was never served, as under Sharia Law, a Jew's testimony would not be heard in court. Only a Muslim's testimony had legal standing. Thus the myth of Jews living peacefully and comfortably in Islamic nations in past years only ever held true if Jews stoically accepted their degradation and exploitation by Muslims. For Muslims, those were "the good old days", when Jews knew "their place"...

In Islam, hatred of Jews has deep roots[2]. In the first pages of chapter 4 (pp. 73-74), Peters provides ample evidence (drawn from the Koran and the Hadiths) that Mohammed himself fostered this hatred of the Jews. This seems to be largely a reaction to the rejection by Jews of Mohammed's teachings. As a result, Jewish communities in Israel and Arabia were exterminated. How far did Mohammed's personal hatred of the Jews go? Well, around the year 624, Mohammed was mocked[3] by the Jewish poet Ka´b ben Asraf. The following text, taken from the Hadiths, describes the order for ben Asraf's assassination, given by Mohammed himself. It should be noted that the set-up for this assassination implies that Muhammad gave permission to the assassins to lie[4] in order to accomplish this purpose:

It has been narrated on the authority of Jabir that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

Who will kill Ka'b b. Ashraf? He has maligned Allah, the Exalted, and His Messenger. Muhammad b. Maslama said: Messenger of Allah, do you wish that I should kill him? He said: Yes. He said: Permit me to talk (to him in the way I deem fit). He said: Talk (as you like). So, Muhammad b. Maslama came to Ka'b and talked to him, referred to the old friendship between them and said: This man (i. e. the Holy Prophet) has made up his mind to collect charity (from us) and this has put us to a great hardship. When he heard this, Ka'b said: By God, you will be put to more trouble by him. Muhammad b. Maslama said: No doubt, now we have become his followers and we do not like to forsake him until we see what turn his affairs will take. I want that you should give me a loan. He said: What will you mortgage? He said: What do you want? He said: Pledge me your women. He said: You are the most handsome of the Arabs; should we pledge our women to you? He said: Pledge me your children. He said: The son of one of us may abuse us saying that he was pledged for two wasqs of dates, but we can pledge you (cur) weapons. He said: All right. Then Muhammad b. Maslama promised that he would come to him with Harith, Abu 'Abs b. Jabr and Abbad b. Bishr. So they came and called upon him at night. He came down to them. Sufyan says that all the narrators except 'Amr have stated that his wife said: I hear a voice which sounds like the voice of murder. He said: It is only Muhammad b. Maslama and his foster-brother, Abu Na'ila. When a gentleman is called at night even it to be pierced with a spear, he should respond to the call. Muhammad said to his companions: As he comes down, I will extend my hands towards his head and when I hold him fast, you should do your job. So when he came down and he was holding his cloak under his arm, they said to him: We sense from you a very fine smell. He said: Yes, I have with me a mistress who is the most scented of the women of Arabia. He said: Allow me to smell (the scent on your head). He said: Yes, you may smell. So he caught it and smelt. Then he said: Allow me to do so (once again). He then held his head fast and said to his companions: Do your job. And they killed him.

Source : Sahih Muslim / Book 19 / Hadith 4436.

This text demonstrates the limits to intellectual, political and artistic freedom under Islam and that violent censorship has been part of Islam from the very beginning. The calls to assassinate Salman Rushdie after the publication of his Satanic Verses (1988) are nothing new... Clearly Muhammad had no hesitation to order the assassination of individuals who'd only mocked him[5]. This forces the conclusion that had Muhammad ever been betrayed by a close associate or been subject to direct threat to his freedom or life, his reaction would have been light years away from that of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.

One cannot imagine Mohammed saying anything remotely similar had he found himself in the same circumstances. Based on Christ's statement "Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Matt 22: 21) under Christianity there is a clear principle of separation of the powers of the Church and of the State[6], yet under Islam there can be no such separation. In effect, Islam rejects such a separation. The British Social Anthropologist Raymond Firth explained this trait (1981: 589):

The result is that under Islam freedom of political expression cannot be tolerated, as under Islam criticism of a political leader is inevitably, and also, criticism of a religious leader, thus a criticism of Islam[7]... Since in Islam the State and the religion of Mohammed are viewed as inseparable, criticism of the State (freedom of political expression) becomes impossible[8]. For this reason, Islamic States find having a despised minority around (Jews) to be VERY a useful political and social management tool as any criticism of the shortcomings of Islamic political leaders can be easily deflected and refocused on the ideal scapegoat, the hated Jews. As a result, under Islam, Jew-hatred is a very useful mechanism to"safely" let off political steam...

The effendis

As Peters points out, the arrival of Jewish settlers in the 19th century disrupted the local political situation. For centuries the effendis/Muslim landowners ruthlessly exploited Muslim peasants in their lands. One result was what was that the territory to later become Israel had become largely abandoned and uncultivated as Muslim peasants were so exploited and impoverished that they were constantly in debt and had to flee their debtors and leave all behind. Thus when Jewish settlers began to arrive in the 19th century in the province of Syria[9] in the Ottoman Empire, they bought land from the effendis (typically at inflated prices) and began to develop the land. This drew many impoverished Muslim peasants looking for work and less exploitation than under the effendis. As Peters points out, while the effendis pocketed Jewish money from the sale of lands, they nonetheless resented the Jewish settlers as their presence allowed Muslim peasants to escape their exploitation by effendis and Muslim moneylenders. As a result, effendis encouraged violence against Jews. As time wore on these impoverished Muslim peasant migrants from surrounding territories would become what are now known as Palestinians.

One reason why Israel was immediately attacked by surrounding Muslim nations after declaring independence was that from this time on, Muslim political leaders would not only have to deal with the loss of their ideal political scapegoats, the Jews[10], but the mind-blowing reality of an independent Jewish nation would force Muslim political leaders to have to deal with a heretical concept, that is treating Jews as equals. In the long term, such a circumstance would inevitably lead such Muslim political leaders to being forced to reconsider their dealings with other dhimmis/minorities in their midst.

Thus when we come back to Blumenthal's book, understanding of the political dynamics of Islam illuminates Israeli Jewish hatred of Muslims as in the Islamic States many Jews lived under, there was no possibility for a Jew to assert his rights. Under Sharia Law, the Jew was little more than a convenient punching bag and was constantly oppressed and dispossessed, at the mercy of his Muslim overlords. In Israel, these Arab-speaking Sephardic Jews now have an opportunity to "get back at" Muslims. A totally unthinkable opportunity before the existence of Israel... Nonetheless Peters totally demolishes Blumenthal's very one-sided thesis in his book Goliath. Clearly Blumenthal was careful to IGNORE evidence regarding the treatment of Sephardic Jews, that is Jews who for many generations lived under the oppression of Islam as dhimmis.

Peters also makes a solid case that while the Balfour Declaration (wiki) itself was good-hearted, the actual administrators of the British Palestinian Mandate (both in England and Palestine) were Jew-Haters (with a handful of exceptions) just as much as were the Muslims in surrounding countries. Of course these Jew-Hating British administrators were typically subtle hypocrites (very likely Freemasons[11] in the most critical posts) and cleverly drew attention away from their own Jew-Hating policies by invoking the necessity of "placating" Arab/Muslim demands. As Peters demonstrates, the practical result was that during the Mandate period, under British administrators, Palestine was closed off to immigrating Jews whereas Muslims from surrounding countries could freely travel and settle in British administrated Palestinian territory... Peters describes this hypocrisy in the following manner (1984/2001: 331)

Peters notes that had British administrators ignored Muslim Jew Hatred and kept the British government's Balfour Declaration commitments, then it is likely that at least a million Jewish lives could have escaped the Holocaust. Though it is unlikely any of them are still alive, clearly these Jew-hating British administrators have blood on their hands and should be considered no better than Nazi collaborators. Note that during the time period of the British Palestinian Mandate, there was a huge wave of Jew hatred throughout most of the West. Jews persecuted in Europe were also rejected by most countries, and had no place to turn to, no place of refuge... How many have heard of the tragic story of the steamer St-Louis[12], in 1939 carrying a boatload of desperate Jewish refugees from Germany? This Wiki page covers what happened. This story provides a good glimpse into Western governments attitudes towards Jews in this time period. One must face the fact that all these governments (even the US and Canada) had blood on their hands...

Some may be tempted to think that around the middle of her book Peters "overdid" the time spent on population statistics regarding Arab immigration into Jewish territories in pre-1948 Palestine. Though this part of the book may overwhelm the average reader, I think Peters' emphasis on this matter is understandable, as the Palestinian Refugee myth has become so entrenched in the West that she felt she had to counter this with massive, detailed evidence.

In any case, Peters certainly did NOT pull her punch. She certainly deserves credit for all the time spent going through British colonial archives. I'd guess she MUST have had help from at least one research assistant as I've done such library research myself and it can be mind-numbingly boring work most of the time...

That said, one area where Peters does appear to pull her punch has to do with the term "Arab". While in a few instances when she uses the term, she is actually talking about individuals who are ethnically "Arab", though in many other cases she is talking about individuals who are NOT ethnically "Arab" but who do speak the Arab language (which explains why she occasionally talks about "Arab Jews", which is confusing). And then she often copy-pastes British Mandate administrator's discussions of "Arab policies" when in fact the issue has to do with policies of surrounding MUSLIM nations (whom in some cases are neither ethnically "Arab" nor speak the Arab language). It would have been clearer and more accurate then to talk about "Islamic-inspired policies".

This feeds into discussions of the weak concept of "Anti-Semitism" which in the Middle East immediately flounders on the retort: "But Arabs are Semites too!!". In my view, Peters should have entirely dropped discussions of "Arab policies" and simply talked about Muslim policies as under Islam, there is NO Church/State distinction... In the second chapter Peters provides ample evidence of Jew hatred in the Koran and the Hadiths. Thus there is clear evidence that Jew hatred[13] has VERY deep roots in Islam... This does seem like a missed opportunity, but I'd guess that had she made this point clearer, this would have drawn her more hatred as an "Islamophobe[14]"...

One last quote by Peters covers a lot of ground regarding the Palestinian Problem and is worth reading (1984/2001: 391)


--- (2010) History of MI6 detailed in new book. (BBC News - 21/9/2010)

-- (2020) Israel's borders explained in maps. BBC News 16 September 2020

Bryant, Ben (1958) Submarine Commander. Ballantine Books New York 224 p.

Farah, Joseph (2016) Myths of the Middle East: Exclusive: Joseph Farah declares, 'Palestine is no more real than Never-Never Land'. WND Published November 21, 2016

Farah, Joseph (2017) The Palestinian myth: Exclusive: Joseph Farah exposes nationhood claim as deception for Israel's destruction. WND Published October 29, 2017

Firth, Raymond (1981) Spiritual Aroma: Religion and Politics pp. 582-601in American Anthropologist Vol.83 no.3 Sept.

Gosselin, Paul (2002) Le plaisir douteux de taper sur Israël. Samizdat - May -> French article on Anti-Zionism as Jew-Hatred with a cheap makeover...

WikiIslam List of Killings Ordered or Supported by Muhammad.

Parkinson, Justin (2015) Why is Cecil Rhodes such a controversial figure? (BBC News - 1/4/2015)

Roberts, Andrew (2010) Britain Blew up Jewish Refugee Ships. The Jewish Chronicle. 20/9/2010

Soloveichik, Meir Y. (2023) Why Jews Speak of Memory, Not History. (Commentary - June 2023)


[1] - A "dhimmi" is what Sharia Law recognizes as the protected class of non-Muslims, typically Jews or Christians. But this is protection as understood by the mafia, that is individuals offered theoretical protection in exchange for non-theoretical payment of the jizya tax (which no Muslim had to pay). For centuries dhimmis were then a significant source of revenue for Islamic states. Of course, relative to Muslims, dhimmis had no clear rights. Often they could not own horses, had to wear specific dress and at times were required to live in ghettos. That said, non-Muslims who were not People of the Book, could be enslaved or killed outright if they refused to convert...

[2] - From personal observation, the result of this deep-rooted hatred of the Jew in Islamic societies is that even Christians living under Islam, with few exceptions, after a few generations absorb and replicate this distrust/hatred of the Jew as well... This is tragic as for centuries both communities have suffered under Shari Law, yet Muslim propagandists have managed to turn these potential allies against each other. Centuries of distrust cannot be undone by the snap of a finger... Of course from the Muslim overlord's perspective this has been a huge propaganda victory, poisoning the water and ensuring deep distrust between these potential allies.

[3] - Clearly Mohammed would not have reacted as Christ did to personal affronts: "And every one who shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Spirit it shall not be forgiven." (Luc 12: 10)

[4] - Other translations of this Hadith indicate that Maslama asked Muhammad if he could pretend to no longer be his follower (to lie) and Muhammad agreed to this.

[5] - WikiIslam provides a long list of individuals (documented in the Koran and Hadiths) whose assassinations Muhammad personally ordered.

[6] - Principle, which of course was ignored by the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. Furthermore, Christ reiterated this principle when before the local political power broker Pilate he stated, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18: 36). One could not imagine the prophet Mohammed saying anything like this. From the very beginning, Islam has been intensely interested in military and political power.

[7] - One way of getting a real grasp of the situation would be to consult the annual reports of the Freedom House organisation that assess freedom of the press in the world. The trick is of course to set aside nations where Islam is dominant and examine how freedom of the press fares there...

[8] - This draws attention to the fact that religious freedom MUST precede political freedom. This is confirmed by the results obtained by attempting to implant democracy in Islamic nations solely by means of regime changes (and spilling of blood). Inevitably such attempts are dismal failures... Democracy cannot be easily exported as if it were a McDonald's franchise. Deep changes in the dominant culture are required.

[9] - In the sub-provinces of Beirut Vilayet or the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem, later to become part of Israel. Even the Ottoman Empire had no province named Palestine...

[10] - And with Jews no longer of use as scapegoats, Muslim political leaders find themselves with no means of deflecting attention away from their own political and economic shortcomings...

[11] - In this vein, the well known British Freemason and imperialist, Cecil Rhodes, was convinced of the superiority of the "British race" and an enthusiastic supporter of racist policies that provided the impetus to exploiting "inferior races" and setting up Apartheid in South Africa. He is known to have stated "Why should we not form a secret society with but one object," he once said, "the furtherance of the British Empire and the bringing of the whole world under British rule, for the recovery of the United States, for making the Anglo-Saxon race but one Empire?" Canadian media exposed his racist views about Black Africans

One of his worst acts as prime minister was to disenfranchise African voters, a policy which some argue laid the foundations for South African apartheid. As he put it, "the native is to be treated as a child and denied the [voting] franchise. We must adopt a system of despotism..."

[12] - On pages 366-69 Peters also mentions the steamship Struma, which in 1942 attempted to bring Jewish refugees to Palestine Mandate territory but was stopped in Turkey. After leaving Turkey an explosion occurred and on the 24fh of February the Struma sank with all passengers except one (Wiki: Struma disaster).

Seeing Peters mentions elsewhere (p. 362) that the British had actually fired on other refugee ships (only "warning shots"?? Peters doesn't say) attempting to go bring Jews into Palestine Mandate territory then it does seem conceivable that a British submarine may have actually sunk this ship... It is a known fact that British submarines were active in the Mediterranean during WWII (Ben Bryant's memoires describe a number of sub missions in the Mediterranean)... That said, Wiki does mention another hypothesis for the sinking,

Seems a bit odd that Soviet subs would have been active in that area and furthermore by 1942 the Soviets were at war with Germany, not the Allies... This doesn't make much sense, except for the fact that it conveniently exonerates the British government... Bryant's (later Rear Admiral Bryant) memoire appears to exonerate him as in autumn 1941 (p. 127) he relinquished command of the sub Sealion and in spring 1942 (p. 130) assumed command of the Safari. Normally he would not have been commanding a sub or been in the Mediterranean in Feb. 1942. Furthermore research by UK historian Keith Jeffery exposes how entrenched Jew hatred was in the Mandate period British government and how far it was willing to go to restrict Jewish immigration. A BBC article (2010) notes:

Who knows what other dirty secrets still lie buried in British WWII archives?... But then again, regarding a possible torpedoing of the Struma by a British submarine, this could be rather effectively covered up by discretely ripping out the appropriate page in the sub's logbook... Nothing to see here, move along...

[13] - One issue I wondered if Peters would address is whether she notes any evidence of Arab hatred of Jews BEFORE the arrival of Islam... The thought occurs that this may have deeper roots, perhaps going back to Genesis and the ill treatment of Hagar and of Hagar's son Ishmael by Abraham's wife Sarah. When one woman "affronts" another this affront may be never forgiven. Thus in response Hagar may have cultivated this hatred of the chosen son of Abraham in her own family... I wonder if Arab hatred of Jews might not have it's original roots in this story. Yes, of course with a demonic thread woven in too... Perhaps Jewish historians of pre-Islamic times might shed some light on this matter. The Pentecostal preacher Derek Prince was a young British soldier in during WW2, being initially posted in North Africa then ending up in Palestine 1942 to 1948. During the war for Independence Prince was living in Jerusalem and describes 100lb shells supplied by the British used by Arab attackers landing in his garden. In the sermon below, Prince observes (from 37-54 minutes) that during the Indpendace war the British administration had clearly sided with the Muslim nations attacking the Jews.

Israel: Past, Present & Future, Pt 1 - How I Became Involved With Israel - Derek Prince. (YouTube - 77 minutes)

[14] - When postmoderns use the "phobe" label (as in homophobe, transphobe or whateverphobe...) they are basically saying nothing more that "I don't like what you're saying and want to use this label as a weapon to discredit you and to shut you up. And if I consider what you are saying to be a threat to my power and influence then I consider it my right to use (as the Nazi Brown Shirts did) intimidation, threats and violence against you. It is of no concern of mine that such behaviour violates your rights." Of course the fact that postmoderns readily use the "phobe" label to shut people up is good evidence that the use of such labels is a cover for the weakness of their own argument in a truly open debate.