Bat Ye'or (Hebrew: בת יאור) is the pen name of Gisèle Littman, an Egyptian-born British author, focusing on the history of religious minorities in the Muslim world and modern European politics. Ye'or has popularized the term dhimmitude in her books about the history of Middle Eastern Christians and Jews living under Islamic governments. Ye'or describes dhimmitude as the "specific social condition that resulted from jihad," and as the "state of fear and insecurity" of "infidels" who are required to "accept a condition of humiliation." She has also popularized the term Eurabia in her writings about modern Europe, in which she argues that Islam, anti-Americanism and antisemitism hold sway over European culture and politics as a result of collaboration between radical Arabs and Muslims on one hand, and fascists, socialists, Nazis, and antisemitic rulers of Europe on the other.
1933 (age 85–86)
Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt
|Pen name||Bat Ye'or (Hebrew: בת יאור)|
|Alma mater||University College London|
University of Geneva
|Notable works||The Decline of Eastern Christianity (French:1991, English:1996)|
Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide (2001)
Ye'or's work on the history of religious minorities under Islamic rule and her use of the term dhimmitude have had a predominantly critical reception among academic specialists in the field. Her work on this subject has been praised by some authors writing for a popular audience. Ye'or's other books have also been a subject of controversy.
Early life and educationEdit
In 1958 she attended the UCL Institute of Archaeology and moved to Switzerland in 1960 to continue her studies at the University of Geneva, but never finished her master's degree and has never held an academic position.
She described her experiences in the following manner:
I had witnessed the destruction, in a few short years, of a vibrant Jewish community living in Egypt for over 2,600 years and which had existed from the time of Jeremiah the Prophet. I saw the disintegration and flight of families, dispossessed and humiliated, the destruction of their synagogues, the bombing of the Jewish quarters and the terrorizing of a peaceful population. I have personally experienced the hardships of exile, the misery of statelessness − and I wanted to get to the root cause of all this. I wanted to understand why the Jews from Arab countries, nearly a million, had shared my experience.
She was married to the British historian and human rights advocate David Littman from September 1959 until his death in May 2012. Many of her publications and works were in collaboration with Littman. Her British citizenship dates from her marriage. They moved to Switzerland in 1960 and together had three children.
Ye'or is credited for employing the neologism dhimmitude which she discusses in detail in Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide. The word, which is borrowed from the French language, bears purposely some phonetic resemblance with the word servitude, which exists both in French and English; dhimmitude was intentionally used and popularized by Bat Ye'or in place of the French "dhimmité" or the English "dhimmity", which should have been the words associated to "dhimma" in a non-polemical setting. In her writings she has credited assassinated Lebanese president-elect and Phalangist militia leader Bachir Gemayel with coining the term, although later she has also claimed that she invented it herself and inspired him to use it through a friend. The term itself is derived from "dhimmi", the adjectival form of the word dhimma, which means "protection" in Arabic and refers to the historical notion of an "indefinitely renewed contract through which the Muslim community accords hospitality and protection to members of other revealed religions, on condition of their acknowledging the domination of Islam".
Ye'or describes dhimmitude as the "specific social condition that resulted from jihad," and as the "state of fear and insecurity" of "infidels" who are required to "accept a condition of humiliation." She believes that "the dhimmi condition can only be understood in the context of Jihad," and studies the relationship between the theological tenets of Islam and the hardships of Christians and Jews under Islamic rule in different times and places. The cause of jihad, she argues, "was fomented around the 8th century by Muslim theologians after the death of Muhammad and led to the conquest of large swathes of three continents over the course of a long history." She says:
Dhimmitude is the direct consequence of jihad. It embodie[s] all the Islamic laws and customs applied over a millennium on the vanquished population, Jews and Christians, living in the countries conquered by jihad and therefore Islamized. [We can observe a] return of the jihad ideology since the 1960s, and of some dhimmitude practices in Muslim countries applying the sharia [Islamic] law, or inspired by it. I stress ... the incompatibility between the concept of tolerance as expressed by the jihad-dhimmitude ideology, and the concept of human rights based on the equality of all human beings and the inalienability of their rights.
Though Bat Ye'or acknowledges that not all Muslims subscribe to so-called "militant jihad theories of society," she argues that the role of sharia in the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam demonstrates that what she calls a perpetual war against those who won't submit to Islam is still an "operative paradigm" in Islamic countries.
According to journalist Adi Schwartz from Haaretz, the fact that she is not an academic and has never taught at any university, but has worked as an independent researcher, has, along with her opinions, made her a controversial figure. He quotes professor Robert S. Wistrich, head of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, who notes:
Up until the 1980s, she was not accepted at all. In academic circles they scorned her publications. Only when Bernard Lewis published the book 'Jews of Islam' with quotations from Bat Ye'or did they begin to pay any attention to her. A real change toward her emerged in the 1990s, and especially in recent years.
Lewis, though, on another occasion, called the notion of Jewish "dhimmi"-tude, i.e., of their "subservience and persecution and ill treatment" under Islamic rule, a "myth", which, just as the myth "of a golden age of equality, of mutual respect and cooperation", "contain[s] significant elements of truth," with the "historic truth" being "in its usual place, somewhere in the middle between the extremes."
British historian Martin Gilbert in his book A History of the Twentieth Century has called her "the acknowledged expert on the plight of Jews and Christians in Muslim lands" who "brought the issue of [their] continuing discrimination to a wide public."
Hans Jansen, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Utrecht University and MEP for Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom, wrote in Middle East Quarterly that "In 1985, Bat Ye'or offered Islamic studies a surprise with her book, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam, a convincing demonstration that the notion of a traditional, lenient, liberal, and tolerant Muslim treatment of the Jewish and Christian minorities is more myth than reality."
Mark R. Cohen said that Bat Ye'or "has made famous" the term dhimmitude, though he thinks it is "misleading". He feels that "[w]e may choose to employ" it keeping in mind that it "connotes protection (its meaning in Arabic) and that it guaranteed communal autonomy, relatively free practice of religion, and equal economic opportunities, as much as it signified inferior legal status."
Michael Sells, John Henry Barrows Professor of Islamic History and Literature at the University of Chicago, argued that "by obscuring the existence of pre-Christian and other old, non-Christian communities in Europe as well as the reason for their disappearance in other areas of Europe, Bat Ye'or constructs an invidious comparison between the allegedly humane Europe of Christian and Enlightenment values and the ever present persecution within Islam. Whenever the possibility is raised of actually comparing circumstances of non-Christians in Europe to non-Muslims under Islamic governance in a careful, thoughtful manner, Bat Ye'or forecloses such comparison."
In a review of The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude, the American historian Robert Brenton Betts commented that the book dealt with Judaism at least as much as with Christianity, that the title was misleading and the central premise flawed. He said: "The general tone of the book is strident and anti-Muslim. This is coupled with selective scholarship designed to pick out the worst examples of anti-Christian behavior by Muslim governments, usually in time of war and threats to their own destruction (as in the case of the deplorable Armenian genocide of 1915). Add to this the attempt to demonize the so-called Islamic threat to Western civilization and the end-product is generally unedifying and frequently irritating."
Sidney Griffith, the head of the department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures at the Catholic University of America wrote in a review of Decline of Eastern Christianity that Ye'or has "raised a topic of vital interest"; adding, however, that the "theoretical inadequacy of the interpretive concepts of jihad and dhimmitude, as they are employed here", and the "want of historical method in the deployments of the documents which serve as evidence for the conclusions reached in the study" serve as dual barriers. He goes on to say "[quotations] are presented out of context, with no analysis or explanation. One has the impression that in their bulk they are simply meant to undergird the contentions made in the first part of the book", concluding that thus Ye'or has "written a polemical tract, not responsible historical analysis."
In a review of The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam, City University of New York Distinguished Professor of History Chase F. Robinson writes,
[R]eaders interested in a dispassionate account of confessional relations or a nuanced discussion of the widely diverse experience of Jews and Christians in the dar al-Islam will need to look elsewhere: [...] this is a work of polemic -- scholarly polemic, but polemic just the same. To list errors of fact would probably fill this entire number of the Bulletin.
According to the American scholar Joel Beinin, Bat Ye'or exemplifies the "neo-lachrymose" perspective on Egyptian Jewish history. According to Beinin, this perspective has been "consecrated" as "the normative Zionist interpretation of the history of Jews in Egypt."
Robert Spencer, an American anti-Islamic polemicist, described her as "the pioneering scholar of dhimmitude, of the institutionalized discrimination and harassment of non-Muslims under Islamic law". He argued that she had turned this area, which he believed the "Middle East studies establishment" has hitherto been afraid of or indifferent to, into a field of academic study.
Her books Eurabia and Europe, Globalization, and the Coming of the Universal Caliphate are about the alleged relationship from the 1970s onwards between the European Union (previously the European Economic Community) and the Arab states. Ye'or argues that Islam, anti-americanism and antisemitism hold sway over European culture and politics as a result of collaboration between radical Arabs and Muslims on one hand and fascists, socialists, Nazis, and antisemitic rulers of Europe on the other. Bat Ye'or popularized the use of term "Eurabia" in the sense of:
. . . a geo-political reality envisaged in 1973 through a system of informal alliances between, on the one hand, the nine countries of the European Community (EC) which, enlarged, became the European Union (EU) in 1992 and on the other hand, the Mediterranean Arab countries. The alliances and agreements were elaborated at the top political level of each EC country with the representative of the European Commission, and their Arab homologues with the Arab League's delegate. This system was synchronised under the roof of an association called the Euro-Arab Dialogue (EAD) created in July 1974 in Paris. A working body composed of committees and always presided jointly by a European and an Arab delegate planned the agendas, and organized and monitored the application of the decisions.
In a The Jerusalem Post interview, referring to Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis the British historian Martin Gilbert stated "I've read Bat Yeor's book. I know her and have a great respect for her sense of anguish ... I'm saying that her book – which is 100 percent accurate – is an alarm call that will ultimately prevent what she's warning about from taking place."
Bruce Bawer, writing in The Hudson Review on Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, wrote that "[n]o book explains the European Muslim situation, in all its complexity, more ably," "[i]t's hard to overstate this book's importance ... Eurabia is eye-opening and required reading for anyone seriously interested in understanding Europe's current predicament and its probable fate."
According to Daniel Pipes,
Bat Ye'or has traced a nearly secret history of Europe over the past thirty years, convincingly showing how the Euro-Arab Dialogue has blossomed from a minor discussion group into the engine for the continent's Islamization. In delineating this phenomenon, she also provides the intellectual resources with which to resist it. Will her message be listened to?
According to historian Niall Ferguson, "future historians will one day regard her coinage of the term 'Eurabia' as prophetic. Those who wish to live in a free society must be eternally vigilant. Bat Ye'or's vigilance is unrivalled." British writer David Pryce-Jones called her a "Cassandra, a brave and far-sighted spirit."
The notion of "Eurabia" has been dismissed as a conspiracy theory by other commentators. For example, writing in Race & Class in 2006, author and freelance journalist Matt Carr states:
In order to accept Ye'or's ridiculous thesis, it is necessary to believe not only in the existence of a concerted Islamic plot to subjugate Europe, involving all Arab governments, whether 'Islamic' or not, but also to credit a secret and unelected parliamentary body with the astounding ability to transform all Europe's major political, economic and cultural institutions into subservient instruments of 'jihad' without any of the continent's press or elected institutions being aware of it.
Carr argues that Bat Ye'or is the "main inspiration" for many conspiracy theories current on the far-right. Furthermore, Carr notes that "[s]tripped of its Islamic content, the broad contours of Ye'or's preposterous thesis [in Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis] recall the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the first half of the twentieth century and contemporary notions of the 'Zionist Occupation Government' prevalent in far-right circles in the US". He notes further that Bat Ye'or's analysis is driven by a contempt of "Islam's celebrated cultural achievements" and a view of Islam as a "perennially barbaric, parasitic and oppressive religion".
Ye'or's Eurabia theory gathered additional media attention when it was quoted and praised by the perpetrator of the 2011 Norway massacre Anders Behring Breivik in his manifesto released on the day of the attacks. Ye'or expressed regret that Breivik took inspiration from her writings.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (August 2012)
Bat Ye'Or sits on the Board of Advisors of the International Free Press Society, identified as a "key organization" of the Counterjihad-movement. She is considered as its "main ideologue", with roots in Ye'or's Eurabia important to the movement.
She is the author of eight books, including Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis (2005), Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide (2001), The Decline of Eastern Christianity: From Jihad to Dhimmitude (French: 1991, English: 1996), and The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam (French: 1980, English: 1985).
- Understanding Dhimmitude, 2013, RVP Press, ISBN 978-1-61861-335-6 (paperback).
- Europe, Globalization, and the Coming of the Universal Caliphate, 16 September 2011, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, ISBN 1-61147-445-0
- Verso il Califfato Universale: Come l'Europa è diventata complice dell'espansionismo musulmano, Lindau, Torino: May 2009. ("Toward the Universal Caliphate: How Europe Became an Accomplice of Muslim Expansionism")
- Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, 2005, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, ISBN 0-8386-4077-X
- Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide, 2001, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, ISBN 0-8386-3942-9; ISBN 0-8386-3943-7 (with David Littman, translated by Miriam Kochan)
- The Decline of Eastern Christianity: From Jihad to Dhimmitude;seventh-twentieth century, 1996, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, ISBN 0-8386-3678-0; ISBN 0-8386-3688-8 (paperback).
- The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam, 1985, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, ISBN 0-8386-3233-5; ISBN 0-8386-3262-9 (paperback). (with David Maisel, Paul Fenton and David Littman; foreword by Jacques Ellul)
- Les Juifs en Egypte, 1971, Editions de l'Avenir, Geneva (in French, title translates as "The Jews in Egypt")
- 17 chapters in Robert Spencer (ed.), The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims, Prometheus Books, 2005. ISBN 1-59102-249-5.
- "The Dhimmi Factor in the Exodus of Jews from Arab Countries" in: Malka Hillel Shulewitz (ed.), The Forgotten Millions. The Modern Jewish Exodus from Arab Lands, Cassell, London/New York 1999; Continuum, 2001, ISBN 0-8264-4764-3 (pp. 33–51).
- "A Christian Minority. The Copts in Egypt" in W. A. Veehoven (ed.), Case Studies on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. A World Survey. 4 vols. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1976, ISBN 90-247-1779-5.
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Most of those who went elsewhere did so as 'stateless refugees, among them Gisele Orebi (later Gisele Littman), who was to become the acknowledged expert on the plight of Jews and Christians in Muslim lands, and their vigorous champion: her book The Dhimmi. Jews and Christians under Islam, written under the pen name Bat Ye'or, brought the issue of continuing discrimination to a wide public.
- André, Darmon (July 2007). "Interview with Bat Ye'or". Israel Magazine'.
I was born in Egypt, in Cairo, into a family of the Jewish bourgeoisie, of an Italian father and a French mother. My grandfather, to whom Egyptian nationality was accorded by exception, was crowned Bey by the Ottoman sultan. My father decided to renounce Italian nationality as a result of Mussolini's racist laws, but when Nasser came to power, my mother's goods were confiscated because she was French and my father's because he was Jewish. We were forced to stay home, we were chased out of public places and at that moment we decided to flee Egypt. Many fled secretly from fear of being imprisoned. We were forced, like all Egyptian Jews, to sign papers according to which we renounced all our goods, our passport and our nationality, for those who had it, since the Jews had been for the most part Ottoman subjects and not Egyptian. The Jews promised in writing not to demand anything of the Egyptian State. The only right we had was to take one suitcase, which was searched and thrown to the ground and 20 Egyptian pounds that were taken from us anyway by the customs officials, not to mention the insults and acts of terror in front of my parents, both of whom were invalids.
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- "I founded the word dhimmitude and I discussed it with my Lebanese friends [...] My friend spoke about this word to Bashir Gemayel who used it in his last speech before his assassination." in An Egyptian Jew in Exile: An Interview with Bat Ye'or Archived 7 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine Archived 9 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, newenglishreview.org, October 2011
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- Adi Schwartz from Haaretz.com 'The protocols of the elders of Brussels' Archived 30 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine "Bat Ye'or's opinions have made her a controversial figure, as has the fact that she is not an academic and has never taught at any university. She conducts her research independently. Since the 1970s, Bat Ye'or, who is now 71, has published about 10 books, most of which deal with the life of the Christian and Jewish minorities in Muslim countries. "
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- "Of course I regret if this man took inspiration from what I wrote or from what other writers wrote," she said Monday in an interview with the Associated Press. [...] But she warned that her ideas, and those of fellow authors and leaders on the anti-Muslim right, could continue to have violent repercussions if Mr. Breivik proves influential. "I'm afraid that this is something that other people will imitate." Saunders, Doug (25 July 2011). "'Eurabia' opponents scramble for distance from anti-Muslim murderer". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 9 April 2018. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
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