The Volokh Conspiracy

"First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people."

In a January 1976 article in Commentary, titled "The Return of Islam," Bernard Lewis wrote, "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.'"

Today, on many pro-Israel websites and blogs, there are claims that the phrase is common in Arab grafitti, or as a placard in street demonstrations. I am curious about whether these claims are correct, or whether they might be recycled versions of Lewis's statement about 1967.

If you have information about the subject, please supply it in the comments. (Or e-mail it to me from the e-mail link on, if you prefer.) Comments are open only for the purpose of information about the quote "First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people." If you have personally seen such graffiti, or know of sources which have seen such grafitti, please supply the information. Conversely, if you have actual knowledge that the phrase is rare or non-existent in the Arab areas (particularly, areas near Israel) about which you have first-hand knowledge, please supply that information.

Bob Bobstein (mail):
Terrorists already are coming for Sunday people. Merry Christmas!
12.29.2005 3:40pm
anonemouse (mail):
That phrase is referenced in this article:

The FrontPageMag article describes how graffiti with "First the Saturday people (the Jews), then the Sunday people (the Christians)" is found in Bethlehem. It appears to be quoting from "In the Muslim City of Bethlehem" (New York Times Magazine, December 24, 1995) but I don't have access to that article.
12.29.2005 4:00pm
Nobody Special:
Here's the relevant paragraph from the NYT article referenced by anonemouse:

I know the story well. Christians are nervous. Whether or not Freij decides to run, it is quite possible a Muslim will become the next Mayor. This does not worry the Christians as much as the fact that Hamas and Islamic fundamentalist elements will inevitably make life difficult for them as a minority. Bethlehem University, which is partly supported by the Vatican, has been asked to build a place for prayer to accommodate Muslim students. Koranic words have been scribbled on church walls. A few years ago, a graffito in Beit Zahur, nearby, proclaimed, "First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people." To illustrate the extent of Christian fears, a conservative Israeli essayist told me that since the announcement of the redeployment of Israeli soldiers from Palestinian territories, more than 10,000 Palestinians, many of them Christian, have applied for Israeli citizenship.
12.29.2005 4:16pm
iskndarbey (mail):
I've travelled all around the Middle East and I've never seen that phrase except in the articles you mentioned. Racist grafitti certainly proliferates all around Israel and Palestine, so I wouldn't be surprised if someone wrote this on a wall somewhere, but it's not common. It does, however, accurately reflect the perceptions of many Arab Christians I know about growing radicalization in the Islamic world.

Incidentally, I don't believe Hamas would allow such grafitti to proliferate (and they certainly wouldn't allow it at their rallies), since they're trying to attract Christian votes and are even running a few Christian candidates. Islamic Jihad maybe, but none of the more mainstream resistance movements.
12.29.2005 4:51pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
As an aside,

I understand that under the PA, that formerly Christian city of Bethlehem has been gerrymandered into the "Muslim City of Bethlehem" by incorporating surrounding areas and now forcing Christians to flee the city.
12.29.2005 5:08pm
DRJ (mail):
I don't know how common the phrase is, but it's common enough to have been the subject of a Middle East documentary:

"First saturday, then sunday (first we kill the Jews, then we take care of the Christians)"
12.29.2005 9:32pm
Interested Reader:
According to the History News Network:

The general plan of Hamas also includes the imposition of a special tax, called al-jeziya, upon all of the non-Muslim residents in the Palestinian territories. This tax revives the one applied through all of Islamic history to the dhimmi, the second-class Jewish and Christian citizens.

In an interview with Karby Legget, published in the December 23-26 edition of “The Wall Street Journal,” Masalmeh, the leader of the Hamas contingent at the municipal council of Bethlehem, confirmed: “We in Hamas intend to implement this tax someday. We say it openly – we welcome everyone to Palestine but only if they agree to live under our rules.”
12.29.2005 10:30pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Some commentor wrote that Greedy Clerk has been banned from posting. Can someone please say if this is true?
12.30.2005 9:04am
Dave Kopel:
I haven't banned him, although I have warned him that any further violations of the comment rules on any of my threads will result in a ban.
12.30.2005 1:28pm
JBurgess (mail) (www):
I've lived and worked in most Arab countries over the past 25 years and never saw that graffiti outside the pages of Front Line and the NYT.

While it may exist in contested Palestinian areas, it's certainly not widespread throughout the Arab or Muslim world.
12.30.2005 2:25pm

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