"Abraham was not a Jew," insisted Arab Knesset member Ibrahim Sarsur, party leader of the United Arab List, in a statement released to the Israeli media last week.
Sarsur was responding to a recent assertion by Jewish Knesset members Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel, both of the Jewish Home party, that Israel's claim to Jerusalem and to Judea-Samaria (the so-called "West Bank") is backed up by the Bible. "This claim brings against Israel half a billion Muslims and the entire Christian world," charged Sarsur.
In the Israeli media, the historical and religious dispute over possession and control of these areas is frequently discussed. Jews and Muslims are fighting over the same promised land, and both base their claims on their respective holy books, the Bible and the Koran. This aspect of the conflict is well understood in Israel, but is often glossed over by the Christian West as it seeks to impose a political compromise over what is essentially a religious battle.
And according to the Islamic interpretation of history, the Jews have no inheritance in this land, which was instead promised to the Muslims. "According to the Koran, Abraham was not a Jew, but a Muslim," argued Sarsur. "Abraham believed in Allah, as did his son Isaac and grandson Jacob."
Beyond the Koran, Sarsur also based his argument on the fact that Abraham lived 1,300 years before the historical existence of a group known as the "Jewish people." As Sarsur sees it, this means that "the land belongs to the Palestinians." Remember, this is coming from an Israeli citizen drawing a salary as a public servant of the State of Israel.
Sarsur went on to explain how the Koran makes a clear distinction between the children of Israel under the leadership of Moses and the Jews later in history: "Moses brought the Sharia (Islamic law) to the people of Israel. But after this nation rejected Sharia and Islam, only then does the Koran refer to a people known as the Jews." As such, the Koran sees "Jew" as a negative term, a people who have sinned against Allah.
Like many apologists for the Palestinian cause, Sarsur conveniently sidestepped the fact that the Koran and Islam only came along some 2,700 years after Abraham's time and approximately 2,200 years after Moses and the Exodus.
"The theological contest between Jews and Muslims, between the Bible and the Koran determines the political atmosphere in the country and in this region, and thus many people abroad can not come to terms with," Avichail, a young rabbi from Jerusalem, told Israel Today. "The fact that we (the Jews) now live again in the biblical Land of Israel, this was foretold by the prophets in the Bible and not by the Koran."