Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages
by Mark R Cohen
The exacerbation of Arab-Israeli conflict at the time of the Six-Day War in 1967 gave birth in some quarters to a radical revision of Jewish-Arab ... Show synopsis The exacerbation of Arab-Israeli conflict at the time of the Six-Day War in 1967 gave birth in some quarters to a radical revision of Jewish-Arab history. At stake was the longstanding, originally Jewish, "myth of the interfaith utopia" in which medieval Muslims and Jews peacefully cohabited in Arab lands - a utopia that many Arabs claimed had continued until the emergence of modern Zionism. Some Jewish writers challenged this notion with a "countermyth of Islamic persecution, " suggesting that Jews fared not much better socially and politically under Islamic rule than they did under Christendom. Full of implications for Jewish, Islamic, and European historians, both myths form the backdrop of this provocative book aimed at enriching our understanding of medieval gentile-Jewish relations. Addressing general readers and specialists alike, Mark Cohen offers the first in-depth explanation of why medieval Islamic-Jewish relations, though not utopic, were less confrontational and violent than those between Christians and Jews in the West. Cohen presents a systematic comparison of the legal, economic, and social situations of Jews in medieval Islam and Christendom, offering particularly fresh insights on issues of hierarchy, marginality, and ethnicity and on the topic of persecution and collective memory. His analysis includes differences in theology that helped influence the way Muslims and Christians treated Jews. Written for a broad audience, this book draws on many salient primary sources, which let the voices of medieval Islam, Christendom, and the Jews speak for themselves.