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The Ran states (Drashot Haran 2):

דרשות הר"ן דרוש ב: שארית הגוים אשר קדמו לאברהם כבר ראו כי בו בחר השם יתברך, וזרעו ראוי להיות יורש (ארץ) עצר, ולזה לא תרע עינם בממשלתו כלל. וכן ראוי להיות דבר האומות המסתעפות ממשפחת אברהם לבל יקנאו בזרע יצחק, אבל יחלקו כבוד לבני הגבירה, כי כן למדום אבותם, ולזה מונחים לטבעם לא ירעו ולא ישחיתו קדש ה' אשר אהב, ולא תרע עינם ולא יקנאו בממשלת ישראל, The rest of the nations that preceded Avraham already saw that God had chosen him and that his descendants were fit to inherit the crown. Therefore, they did not resent his rulership. It was similarly appropriate for the nations branching out from the family of Avraham (Yishmael and sons of Keturah) not to be envious of Yitzchak's descendants, rather they would accord honor to the children of the senior Wife (Sarah), for so their fathers had taught them. And therefore, it was implanted in their natures that they would neither injure nor destroy the holy of God Blessed Be He, which He loved.

Rashi equates 'Arabians' with Yishmael (Genesis 21):

(ישעיהו כ"א), כְּשֶׁהָיוּ מוֹלִיכִין אוֹתָם אֵצֶל עַרְבִיִּים, הָיוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל אוֹמְרִים לְשׁוֹבֵיהֶם בְּבַקָּשָׁה מִכֶּם הוֹלִיכוּנוּ אֵצֶל בְּנֵי דוֹדֵנוּ יִשְׁמָעֵאל וִירַחֲמוּ עָלֵינוּ, When they were bringing them near the Arabians the Israelites said to their captors, “We beg of you bring us to the children of our uncle, Ishmael, who will certainly show pity to us.”

Assuming that the Ran agrees with Rashi, and that he also holds that today's Arabs are those same 'Arabians,' aren't they, by nature, NOT supposed to be contentious or belligerent towards Yisrael or its ancestral claims? What changed?

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  • This question, as stated, doesn't contain any information that challenges the Ran's statement. The question would be a great deal more compelling if it presented: 1) Why one might believe that contemporary Arabs are descendants of Yishmael, and 2) What behaviors by contemporary Arabs seem to challenge this statement. For what it's worth, note that the Ran lived in the 1300s, in Spain, so he would likely have been very aware of behaviors of the Arabic world toward Jews before and during his time.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jan 24 at 17:56
  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Mi Yodeya Meta, or in Mi Yodeya Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jan 28 at 0:02

2 Answers 2

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Rabbenu Nissim lived in 14th c. Barcelona, i.e. Christian Iberia. The period in which he lived was wrought with intense Christian/Church orchestrated anti-Jewish violence. Thousands of Jews were slaughtered and thousands others forced to convert to Christianity. They perpetually fled from kingdom to kingdom (Aragon, Castille, etc.) seeking refuge and an alleviation from their great affliction. This is the context in which he wrote and it cannot be discounted. Given that the greatest tormentors of the Jews of his native land were Christian (conceived of as בני-עשו/אדום), his emphasis reflects that.

Nevertheless that is not to say that he was oblivious to Muslim persecution of Jews, indeed in the first derashah he wrote:

עד שהראשון שהתחיל זה והוא אברהם קרה לו מה שקרה עם נמרוד עד שהוצרך לעזוב ארצו וללכת אל ארץ אחרת ואין ספק שאותם צדיקים שהיו יחידים בדורות ההם היה להם חילוק האומות והממשלות לטוב ולתועלת כי כאשר תצר להם האמונה באיזה מלכות ישוטטו אל ארץ אחרת שיוכלו שם לעבוד ה' יתברך כרצונם כאשר קורה לנו בגלותנו היום כי כאשר נתחדש שמד בארץ ישמעאל נסו פליטיהם אל ארץ אדום ומאדום לישמעאל וזה אצלנו מחיה מעם בעבדותינו

So that the first to begin this call, Abraham, experienced what he did at the hands of Nimrod until he was compelled to leave his land and go to a different one. Now, unquestionably, for those righteous men who were unique in those generations the division of peoples and kingdoms was a good and a benefit. For when the people of a certain kingdom would oppress them, they would move on to a different land, where they could serve the Lord as they desired, as is the case in our present day exile. For when enforced conversion began in the Ishmaelite lands, the Jews fled to the lands of Edom, and from [the lands of] Edom, back to [the lands of] Ishmael. And this gave us a lease on life in the midst of our afflictions and our toils.

From this quote we see that he did not intend to imply that Ishmael does not nor never will persecute Jews.

We are thus left with trying to understand what his intention was in the second derashah from which you quote. By light of what we know of the period and his other statement, I think that we must say that he was characterizing the motive, character, and intensity of the children of Esau (i.e. Edom/Christianity) in their persecution of Jews. He accordingly would have seen Ishmaelite oppression of Jews where/when it occurs as not similarly characterized by jealousy per se.

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This doesn't fully answer the question but FWIW this may be relevant.

See my answer here:

Is the original nation of Amalek extinct?

It would appear from that source that Nations surrounding Yisra'el can be considered Amalek and not Yishmael.

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