I’m surprised I had not heard the phrase in the title of this post before today.

Though I’m certainly familiar with the concept, it’s one we’ve explored here many times when discussing (i) that the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the inability of Muslims to accept any non-Muslim entity in the Middle East, but particularly not a Jewish national entity; (b) the plight of Christians in the Middle East who are on the receiving end of what would happen to the Jews in Israel if Israel ever lost a war; and (c) the Islamist-Leftist anti-Israel coalition, in which useful Western leftists are oblivous (at best, giving them the benefit of the doubt) to the threat they would be under if forced to live under the rule of their coalition partners as they demand of Israeli Jews.

I got to the phrase in a round-about way. First, I saw Martin Kramer’s Tweet linking to his Facebook post:

Exactly 40 years ago, Commentary published Bernard Lewis’s landmark article, “The Return of Islam.” Remember, in January 1976, the Shah was still firmly on his throne, the Muslim Brothers were nowhere to be seen, and there was no Hamas, Hezbollah, or Al Qaeda. So how did Lewis discern the “return”? He saw that regimes, including secular ones, were beginning to invoke Islam. This, he surmised, must be a reaction to a more profound trend. Perhaps the most prescient article ever written about the Middle East.


Then I read through (skimmed parts) of Lewis’ Commentary article, The Return of Islam (Jan. 1, 1976), which is quite long.

The central thesis of the article is that the West completely misunderstands the nature of the conflict, seeking to put it in the types of “left” and “right” disputes that dominate Western politics:

“…. one finds special correspondents of the New York Times and of other lesser newspapers describing the current conflicts in Lebanon in terms of right-wing and left-wing factions. As medieval Christian man could only conceive of religion in terms of a trinity, so his modern descendant can only conceive of politics in terms of a theology or, as we now say, ideology, of left-wing and right-wing forces and factions.

This recurring unwillingness to recognize the nature of Islam or even the fact of Islam as an independent, different, and autonomous religious phenomenon persists and recurs from medieval to modern times….Modern Western man, being unable for the most part to assign a dominant and central place to religion in his own affairs, found himself unable to conceive that any other peoples in any other place could have done so, and was therefore impelled to devise other explanations of what seemed to him only superficially religious phenomena….

To the modern Western mind, it is not conceivable that men would fight and die in such numbers over mere differences of religion; there have to be some other “genuine” reasons underneath the religious veil….This is reflected in the present inability, political, journalistic, and scholarly alike, to recognize the importance of the factor of religion in the current affairs of the Muslim world and in the consequent recourse to the language of left-wing and right-wing, progressive and conservative, and the rest of the Western terminology…. “

I’m not going to try to summarize the rest of the article. Read it.

The article seems relevant to the ideological war on Israel by Western leftists who view “the occupation” as the sole and overarching reason for the conflict; they can’t admit what historian Benny Morris finally acknowledged about the Arab refusal to accept Israel’s independence — it was primarily a religious war against the Jews, not a territorial war (emphasis added):

“What I discovered in the documentation relating to the war, at least from the Arab side, was that the war had a religious character, that the central element in the war was an imperative to launch jihad. There were other imperatives of course, political and others—but the most important from the enemy’s perspective was the element of the infidels who had the nerve to take control over sacred Muslim lands and the need to uproot them from there. The decisive majority in the Arab world saw the war first and foremost as a holy war, but until today historians have not examined the documentation that proves this. In my view, they have also ignored Arab rhetoric of the day, which universally included religious hatred against the Jews, because they thought the Arabs adopted this as normal speech that did not emanate from deep mental resources. They thought this was something superficial, that everyone talked like this. But I am positive the Arab spokesmen in 1948 did go beyond this and clearly and explicitly talked about jihad.”

And it remains so today. David Collier has a brilliant take-down of the leftist Jewish “theoretical Zionist.” Read the whole thing, here is an excerpt:

It cannot be said often enough or strongly enough that Israel is at war. Not a theoretical ‘cold war’ but a real battle, a battle that they cannot afford to lose. Israel is only there today because the IDF is strong. Can you imagine if Israel was protected by extreme left wing ‘Zionists’? This is why Israel has lost campus, because its international diplomatic corp – the Zionists- have been duped into giving platforms and status to people who do not like the Zionist state. How do you defend something you don’t like very much? When someone from one of these left wing groups argues against BDS, how can they win? The position they put forward doesn’t even exist beyond a dreamlike theory of a Middle East that is disintegrating before Islamic radicalism as I write. Remember, almost every one of these people would have wanted Israel to give up the Golan in the 1990’s. Today, had they been given their wish, ISIS would be on the shores of the Kinneret.

But it was the opening sentence of the final paragraph of Lewis’ article that caught my eye and gave rise to this post (emphasis added):

In the period immediately preceding the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967, an ominous phrase was sometimes heard, “First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.” The Saturday people have proved unexpectedly recalcitrant, and recent events in Lebanon indicate that the priorities may have been reversed. Fundamentally, the same issue arises in both Palestine and Lebanon, though the circumstances that complicate the two situations are very different. The basic question is this: Is a resurgent Islam prepared to tolerate a non-Islamic enclave, whether Jewish in Israel or Christian in Lebanon, in the heart of the Islamic world? The current fascination among Muslims with the history of the Crusades, the vast literature on the subject, both academic and popular, and the repeated inferences drawn from the final extinction of the Crusading principalities throw some light on attitudes in this matter. Islam from its inception is a religion of power, and in the Muslim world view it is right and proper that power should be wielded by Muslims and Muslims alone. Others may receive the tolerance, even the benevolence, of the Muslim state, provided that they clearly recognize Muslim supremacy. That Muslims should rule over non-Muslims is right and normal.9 That non-Muslims should rule over Muslims is an offense against the laws of God and nature, and this is true whether in Kashmir, Palestine, Lebanon, or Cyprus. Here again, it must be recalled that Islam is not conceived as a religion in the limited Western sense but as a community, a loyalty, and a way of life—and that the Islamic community is still recovering from the traumatic era when Muslim governments and empires were overthrown and Muslim peoples forcibly subjected to alien, infidel rule. Both the Saturday people and the Sunday people are now suffering the consequences.

I’ve never expressed an opinion or view of Islam as a religion, for the same reason I’ve never expressed an opinion or view on Christianity or Hinduism or other religions as religions — I don’t claim any expertise and casual conceptions of any religion can be wrong.

But you don’t need to be an expert on Islam to understand how Islam is practiced as a political matter in many parts of the world, and particularly in the Middle East. You only need to be able to read the news and to listen to what the Islamists tell us they want and intend on doing.

I believe Hamas when it says, in its charter, that it wants to slaughter all the Jews, quoting a passage from the Hadith:

The Islamic Resistance Movement is one link in the chain of jihad in confronting the Zionist invasion. It is connected and linked to the [courageous] uprising of the martyr ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam and his brethren the jihad fighters of the Muslim Brotherhood in the year 1936. It is further related and connected to another link, [namely] the jihad of the Palestinians, the efforts and jihad of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1948 war, and the jihad operations of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1968 and afterwards. Although these links are far apart, and although the continuity of jihad was interrupted by obstacles placed in the path of the jihad fighters by those who circle in the orbit of Zionism, the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to realize the promise of Allah, no matter how long it takes. The Prophet, Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him, says: “The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,’ except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews.” (Recorded in the Hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim).

Getting back to how I could have missed the phrase, I must be nearly alone. Kirsten Powers has mentioned it on Fox News:

It’s been the subject of posts at The Weekly Standard (Saturday People, Sunday People) and elsewhere.

But I’m glad I found the phrase. It explains a lot.

About how the fates of Jews and Christians are intertwined, and not just in the Middle East.