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Amira Hass – an obstacle to peace

BS”D

 

Amira Hass, columnist at HaAretz, recently wrote a column where she not only defended rock-throwing Palestinians, but encouraged them to continue it. I know that Hass doesn’t harbor any warm feelings for Israel or the Israeli society, even less for the settlers, which are an expression of colonialism according to her opinion, as well as I know that she sympathizes strongly with the Palestinian cause, so much that she now lives in Ramallah. That I don’t have a problem with, I actually sympathize with the Palestinians as well, though not so much that I hate Israel and the Israeli society (true, there are elements I would love to be without, but no society is perfect).

 

Hass is entitled to her opinions on Israel and the conflict, and I can understand some of them, though agreeing with her in general is hard. When she objects to, and criticizes Israeli violence I agree, and I believe it should be condemned. So, for example, when Israeli soldiers are beating up Palestinian children (how often or not it might happen), or when settlers attack innocent Palestinians, on their way to their fields or just passing by. But her condemnations and criticism just underscore the amazing hypocrisy of hers. How in the world can you on one hand condemn violence and on the other hand encourage it? Particularly after the incidents that have passed lately, where we have seen a three-year old girl surviving only by a miracle, after stone-throwers caused the girl’s mother to crash with a truck!

 

I know what Hass would say; that it’s tragic and unfortunate, but that it’s the parents fault for bringing her there, being in the West Bank is cause of danger for Jews (or should be according to her opinion apparently), and to bring a girl there is the fault of those bringing her. Her flawed logic screams to heaven, here are some reasons why:

 

First, how did the stone-throwers know that there were Jews in the car? True, you can see whether the car is Israeli or Palestinian, based on the color of the number plates, but Palestinians with Israeli citizenship drive in Israeli cars, and as such can also be targeted. If this had been a Palestinian girl, rather than a Jewish, what would her explanation and reaction be? No need to guess, Israel would have been blamed for this, since the stone-throwers only throw stones as a reaction against Israeli occupation, leaving the stone-throwers as beings without any ability to reflect and think independently.

 

Second, that she finds it okay to target Jews, is in itself disgusting. If I can find some reason to justify the means, is it then okay to target Palestinians, women, Buddhist, or whatever I can think of, only based on my dislike towards a certain group, making all members of this group responsible for the actions of the few? Or is it up to Hass to decide when it is moral and when not?

 

Let us turn it around for a moment. Is it really a wise advice she gives the Palestinians? Is it something which will improve their situation? No, not really. Here are some reasons for that:

 

First, we already have enough violence, the last intifada should be proof enough for anyone that violence is not the answer, that violence only hardens the attitude of the Israelis, who need to be part of a stable agreement ending the conflict, making it harder for any Israeli political attempts to improve the situation.

Or let us say, for the sake of argument, that the Israeli politicians don’t want peace. Still, these actions of violence juts gives them excuses for not doing anything to improve the situation. Whether the one or the other, these actions of violence will backfire.

 

Second, the youth (and yes, we are talking mostly about youngsters, who most likely are bored and think that they actually are doing a great deed for the Palestinian cause) are endangering themselves. Make no mistake, some settlers are armed, and very ready to use their weapons in self-defense. Note; self-defense. Hass is encouraging young people to put their life at risk, for her confused sense of justice, knowing very well that stone-throwers most likely won’t make any changes, besides worsen the situation for the Palestinians. How I can know that? You don’t see her with the Palestinians throwing stones, she knows very well the dangers connected to doing this.

 

But here is the worst reason why Hass’ encouragement is despicable. She could be a bridge, she could connect the two sides, be an intermediate partner for peace, taking advantage of her knowledge and status in order to promote actions, where people from both sides could create something together and improve relations. Instead of that she chooses to encourage to violence and by that saw hatred on both side.

 

Hass is not among the “disciples of Aharon”, those striving for peace, ready to put themselves out there, risking themselves, in order to connect striving parties, creating communications and establishing friendship on the two sides, such as for example the late R. Froman, z”l, was. She is rather among the followers of Korach, who rebelled against the establishment of the Jewish people, not in order to promote justice, but in order to gain prestige and honor not deserved.

 

And why a newspaper like HaAretz wants to take part in this, is above me to understand.

Israel, Hamas, and the futileness of discussions

BS”D

 

Most of you probably already know, Israel and Hamas (and helpers) have again engaged in a round of escalated violence. Yet again the escalated attempts at killing each other of will begin, and yet again the discussions about who is to blame, with direct reporting from here and there, and experts sitting in the studio (who often aren’t experts) will tell us all how wrong the one side is, and how much the other side suffers.

I still remember January 2009 and its aftermath. Too many people were killed, and all over Europe there was an outcry for justice, which apparently for some involved the killing of all Jews. It will come again, in the same level, this time though – at least for the aware person – in the background of the killing of more than 30,000 civilians in Syria, without any greater demonstrations taking place.

Yet again we will here blame directed at the Palestinians or at Israel, attempting to portray either of them as terrorists and murderers. Yet again people will be blind to the faults of their own side, only seeing the faults of the other side. I’ve already witnessed it to great extant in less than 24 hours.

 

Last time I took active part in the discussions, this time I most likely won’t. People are dying on both sides, mostly innocent civilians, children. This morning three Israeli civilians died as well as the baby child of a Palestinian journalist. Being a soon-to-be-father I can imagine the pain, just the thought of seeing my own unborn son, has v’halilah, makes me cry. This won’t bring any good with it, just as last time we won’t see this lead to the end of fightings and the killing of people. On the contrary this will expose a lot of hypocrisies, particularly the double standards being exposed in way of criticism.

 

At work I have two colleagues being personally involved in this round of fightings. Well, all of us living here are, all of us have friends or family being within range of fire. But these two have close family in Gaza and Beer Sheva, the one being a Palestinian the other a Jew. When they meet today at work they can talk about the safety of their loved ones, or rather, the chances that they won’t see them again. Who is to blame? Forget about that, just let them be able to meet after this is over and be able to say, Alhamdulillah, my family is in good health.

 

So who is to blame? Let’s just have a couple of words or three about that. And who will benefit from this? The Israeli right wing and the extremist religious fanatics among the Palestinians, they will benefit from this. Some people have expressed thoughts on how curious it is, that this always happens before Israeli elections. I don’t know about “always”, but it does happens, and yes, it is curious. These people present it as a plan from the Israeli right wing, a scheme in order to make them seem strong and protective in the eyes of the Israeli public. Is this true? Yes and no. The Israeli right wing cannot just start a war, just because they want to. It is true that Likud and other right wing parties are gaining much more from this, politically, than the left wing, and that this certainly is a good time (if any) for the escalation of violence. But what these critical people fail to acknowledge (of some reason or another) is that this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Israel doesn’t just begin to bomb, just to do it. These people are totally ignoring the rockets being shot into Israel for a longer period or trying to excuse it. I’m sorry to say, I don’t accept any excuses for the conscious and deliberate targeting of civilians, no matter what. These critics – who blame Israel for breaking the ceasefire – also ignore the four rockets fired into Israel earlier yesterday before Israel targeted Ahmad Ja’abari, one of the top leaders in Hamas. This is ignoring facts, in order to make your understanding of what is going on fit into your bigger picture of things. And it is dishonest.

But here’s the deal. Even if Israel – per se – is only defending herself after the recent attacks on her civilians – and yes, I do believe that Israel has an obligation to do that, as any government in the world has, rather than killing them – the Israeli government, or Israel at large, does hold responsibility itself. Not necessarily for this particular escalation of violence, but for the overall situation we’re having. For making a mockery of the Palestinian side, though the Palestinian leaders also do that well. For not really wanting to give the Palestinian leadership something to bring their people, some acknowledgement of sort. Mahmoud Abbas lately stated in an interview, that he refused to hold the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel as a holy principle, acknowledging that it wouldn’t happen and Palestinians shouldn’t expect it to happen. For that he received a great deal of criticism among his own, while some Israeli politicians and opinion makers ridiculed him, refusing to take him serious. The same, of sorts, happened to Salem Fayyed when he tried to be productive, both among his own, but also among Israeli leaders. Fayyed is one person among the Palestinian leaders, which Israel really could trust, who was struggling (and still is) for honest and open relations, as well as attempting to fight corruption. He is today a shadow of what he was, after attempts to crush him both from Israelis and Palestinian leaders.

 

But also ordinary people are to blame. When we relate to each other as pure trash or bugs, then no wonder there is hatred and will for war, rather than attempts to create a future coexistence of some sort. Already now I have read statements like “make Gaza into a parking lot”, “bomb the fucking Arabs”, “a good Arab is a dead Arab”, “I won’t cry a single tear for any dead Palestinian, civilian or terrorist, since they all are terrorists”, as well as “Hitler lived for a purpose”, “I long to crush the Jew under my foot”, “a good Jew is a dead Jew”, and so on.

As related to earlier, also the one sided, black and white criticism is a cause for this. Just as critics of Israel is ignoring the faults of Hamas and other extremist groups, so do critics of the Palestinians ignore the faults of Israel, as already mention, but particularly the needs and suffering of the other side. Just as it should be acknowledged that Israeli children have to be near shelters at all times, also in schools, and that they didn’t choose this for themselves, neither did their parents, so it should be acknowledged that the Palestinians in Gaza didn’t accept this existence for themselves. Forget the “they voted for Hamas”. That is just ignorant. They didn’t vote for Hamas, they voted against Fatah and the corruption, and they really didn’t have an alternative.

 

There is a lot to be said, and many things probably will be said. The world will go crazy and fight about who is the sinner here, but the truth is that most of us are, and that the world are only helping to keep this conflict going with the ideologist or material interest there might be here, while refusing to relate pragmatically to what is going on.

In the meantime innocent will suffer and be killed, on both sides. Israelis and Palestinians are not two sides fighting each other, we are one side suffering from the same source. And we will continue to suffer until we realize this and relate to our situation pragmatically.

 

Happy New Year to all my Muslim brothers. I hope this latest escalation may be the last, inshallah, and that this new year will be a more peaceful one for all the children in ash-Sham, as well as in the rest of the world, inshallah.

It’s been some time

BS”H

It’s been more than a week since my last post. I’m sorry, but I simply have been too preoccupied with things connected to my studies and private life. I’m still alive though, B”H.

Anyway. After this Shabbat I could turn on the computer to two news which made me feel a little, well, confused in feelings.

The first one, and I choose on purpose to talk about the negative one first, rather want to end in the positive, is about a group of racist Jews feeling that it’s their right to let our their frustrations on others, who are attempting to build something constructive. In Israel, between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv-Jaffo, there’s a small village called Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salâm, which has as its mission to encourage coexistence, and it indeed has a mixed population of Arabs and Jews.

The night to Friday some idiots decided to let out their frustration of what is going on with Ulpana (an illegal settlement decided to be removed) on these people, who have nothing whatsoever to do with that decision. Not that that worries these idiots much, they are controlled by hatred to anything which is seen as being opposed to their goals. They present the worst of Israel, showing contempt for innocent, for positive attitudes, for the dreams and hopes of people, only considering what they feel is “right.” They don’t like you if you’re not a Jew, and they don’t like you even if you’re a Jew and you’re not a hundred and ten percent on their side.

It pisses me off. All this “price tag”-shtuyot is, well, shtuyot (bullshit, sorry), only intended to destroy everything for people who are seen as “enemies,” whether they have anything to do with these people or not. They are going after the innocent. And it pisses me off. That people who are claiming to be righteous in their approach to thing, can act so unjustly, and then claiming Judaism as the morality for acting such, is despicable, and these people doing this are simple criminals.

On the other hand I could also open the computer to a story about Israeli doctors treating wounded and sick Syrian civilians on the Turkish-Syrian border, knowing that they probably won’t be shown any gratitude for this act, knowing that most of the people they are treating them, probably hate them. But yet they do it. Not to gain from it, but only to give.

This is Israel. Hatred and caring, destroying and sacrificing. And it sometimes leaves me confused.

Ain’t that an enlightened fellow?

BS”D

 

I love the debates about homosexuals, I simply do. They bring out the best in everyone, presenting us with real enlightened thinking, such as this guys:

 

Okay, rewind. I don’t get it, I simply don’t. Yesterday I was presented this picture:

This, my dear friends, is a picture of three guys beating up a gay. Why? Because he is gay. This is taken in Ukraine, where the gay community planned to conduct a Gay Pride Parade, but because of security concerns it was cancelled. Seeing this I understand it, though I disagree strongly.

Okay, I do follow the arguments stating that if homosexuals want to be concerned as equal to everybody else, not being something weird, then why do they need to establish a Gay Pride parade? That is certainly a legal question, but this reaction as seen in the picture is not. In no way. And the idea of putting homosexuals into two fenced areas like cattle, while waiting for them to die, is not only totally ridiculous, it is also an offensive and hateful thought, reminding too much of horrors done not that long ago.

This is what I don’t get. Fine, you’re straight, only attracted to the opposite sex, me too, and you might find the thought of being with someone of your own sex somewhat, well, not repulsive but not attractive either (let’s use nice words), but nobody is forcing you. All the homosexual are asking for is the same rights as anybody else.

If one doesn’t agree with other people’s lifestyle, then don’t life like them. If you don’t like port, then don’t eat pork. If you don’t like beer, then don’t drink beer. And if you don’t like to be forced to live in a certain way, then don’t force others to it either, simply just allow other people to live as they see fit. It really isn’t that hard. Having to deal with hatred like that witnessed by the video and picture here, that is hard, it is hurtful, and it is deeply insulting.

News about Jews – May 20, 2012

BS”D

Okay, I thought I wanted to try something new, making my blog a little more relevant for those who don’t find the nerdy studies of religion interesting. I still want to keep the Jewish twist, as well as the focus on religion, so I was thinking about making a news-update on what’s going on in the Jewish religious world. The first post though is not so connected to religion, as it is to the political changes around in the world. Just needed to write a little about it.

 

Changes are happening around the world, not only in the Arab world but certainly also in Europe. These changes probably don’t come as any news for most, considering that we are talking about Tunesia, Greek, and Hungary, or at least these are the countries that will be focused upon a little here.

Greek is in tumult, something it has been almost since the financial crisis broke out some years ago. The country is moving towards an election, and not all parties are equally democratic and embracing in their world view. Take for example the party “Golden Dawn,” considered neo-Nazi and has such wonderful points on their charter as the exclusion of “non-Aryans” from their party. The lack of democratic thought in this should be obvious, it doesn’t matter whether you agree in their views or not, you’re simply excluded alone based on an outdated belief in human races.

In Hungary a political party called Jobbik, which is anti-Jewish and anti-Gypsy, entered the Hungarian parliament already two years ago. And having the country being in a situation where people want scapegoats, the party certainly is doing its best to point out who they believe is the cause of the bad financial situation. Yes, you guessed it, the Jews.

 

Tunisia is a different chapter, having gone through its changes not based on the finance crisis, but rather, well, the Arab world’s crisis of dictators. And as such the picture is also different, but still rather unsure when it comes to the Jews. The around 1,000 Jews who are living in Tunisia seem positive, though cautious, believing and hoping that the changes will be for the best. The Tunisian tourist minister,  Elyes Fakhfakh, has done his to make the Jews feel at least a little more secure, appearing to the feast which is part of the Lag Ba’Omer, showing his positive attitude to the Jews’ role in Tunisia. But yet some recent incidents have done theirs to put emphasis on the unsure position of the Jews, as the vandalizing of Christian and Jewish cemeteries some time ago, as well s the thought of Islamists running the country doesn’t make the Jews feel any more secure.

 

Jews around the world are worried, not only in the mentioned countries. Though some people, of obscure reasons, attempt to deny the extent of the problem, the Jews in Malmo are leaving. On the other side of Øresund, the strait between Denmark and Sweden, the Jews of Copenhagen also feels the growing radical tendencies. I could mention a lot of places in Europe, having Jews being singled out not only on the streets, but also in other places such as university campuses.

 

I do want to be positive, but I don’t think the situation will change for the better, at least not before it has become worse. It is natural that crises strengthen radicalism, that we have seen time and time again through history. Apparently it is also very natural that that has to come out through hatred directed against minorities, especially Jews and Gypsies (in Europe), nothing new there. When it comes to Europe I certainly am pessimistic.

When it comes to the Arab world, on the other hand, I might not be outright optimistic, but I’m certainly more curious as to what will be. Europe does have a long history of antisemitism, while the Arab world might have presented the world for harsh degrees on Jews, but nothing like European antisemitism. I’m wondering what will happen within the next ten to twenty years, hopefully a better and more wise world will appear. But I fear what will be in the meantime.

 

A couple of articles on the subject:

Greek Election Day: Jews worry about far-right

Political, Social turmoil worries Hungary’s Jews

Islamist rising casts shadow on Tunisian Jews

Settlers beating Palestinians!

BS”D

And this is actually positive news. No, I haven’t suddenly turned extremist, what I’m referring to is a friendly match between settlers from Beit Aryah and Palestinian residents from the neighboring city of al-Laban, who celebrated a new soccer field with a friendly match. Here’s the good news: the settlers beat the Palestinians 11 to 0! Yeah! No, as one of the Palestinians said, “this is for fun, for sport and for friendship,” and that is good news.

Sure, the conflict is still on, the situation hasn’t suddenly changed 180 degrees, people in Israel still have to fear terror and Palestinians are still living under occupation, but that settlers and Palestinians are showing more and more signs on wanting to exist together, is definitely something that points in the right direction. So for me, at least, this is great news and it is yet one of those positive stories, which also takes place down here.

Read more here.

Being True to Yourself

BS”D

Some time ago we had Matisyahu shaving of his beard, sending shock-waves through the Jewish world, mostly the religious part of it. And this even though his sole statements was that had left Hassidic Judaism, not Judaism itself. No Hassidic superstar, as he stated, all he had to leave people was “all you get is me…no alias.”

Sure, coming from a secular background, becoming super-religious, changing from Chabad to another Hassidic group, the Karliner, and then suddenly declare himself non-Hassidic, might make people think that this young lad doesn’t quite know what he wants in life. Might be, but from my perspective he is being honest to himself, not denying himself in this process of finding out who he is.

Today another person came out, though it probably won’t make the same waves, though it certainly is a bigger “coming out,” not being as known as Matisyahu. Y-Love, or Yitz Jordan, is ready for love, that is the title on the article, where he tells of himself being homosexual. It is for sure that people will feel provoked by this, but whether Jewish religious law forbids the sexual act between two men (not being homosexual, important differences), then I choose to admire this fellow Jew, who have the courage to be true to himself.

 

One of the most important things in life is to be true to yourself, whether people like it or not. Having to suppress who you really are, just to satisfy others is not the way. We all have things that we are struggling with, things we fear others to find out, but few takes or has to take such a hard and brave decision in order to stay true to themselves, as Matisyahu and Y-Love have had to. And everybody feeling that he or she has to condemn them for that, should take a real long look in the mirror and ask themselves, whether there isn’t a couple of flaws they should struggle with themselves, before they feel the need to tell others how to live their lives.

Learn Arabic With Maha

BS”D

Some time ago I wrote some thoughts on the being pro- or anti-something. Often when we are dealing with various conflicts people are either found pro- the one side or anti- the other side. We see it in the debate in Europe about Islam and Muslims, where people are either taking the side for or against, mostly. Not very many are attempting to stay nuanced and balanced in their approach to European Muslims or Islam in Europe. The schism is focused around the meeting between Western Culture on the one hand, and Islamic Civilization (as I’ve seen it expressed) on the other hand. In this meeting the contrasts are very outspoken, for example in issues such as freedom of speech vs. not making blasphemous and hurtful comments, as well as the way of dressing, dressing sexual provocative vs. covering up in hijab and the like. Another good example is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where people are often either for Israel or for Palestine. Or that is how it appears. I’m inclined to think that there are a lot of people who are pro-Israel/anti-Palestine, as well as a lot of people who are anti-Israel, without necessarily being pro-Palestine. Why? Well, when the whole focus is on how bad Israel is, without thinking in wider terms of circumstances of the Palestinians, such as in Lebanon, Syria and other countries, while the whole focus is on how evil Israel is, then people don’t come out as pro-Palestinian to me, but rather anti-Israel. Their focus is Israel, not Palestinians, and only in the negative. For example, why don’t you see these people promote Palestinian culture? Or struggling for the rights of Palestinians in for example Lebanon? Because their focus is against Israel, not for Palestinians. The only reason they are “for Palestinians” is mostly because the Palestinian is used as the opposition to Israel. Sadly.

Okay, why am I stating all this, and what does that have to do with my title? Well, once in a while I do come across a true pro-Palestinian person or approach. I admire the few who take this approach, wanting to represent the Palestinians for their best. Maha, who has a Youtube-channel, where she teaches Arabic (as well as Italian and Hebrew once in a while), is one of these persons. I believe that we would come a long way, if only more people would take her approach, attempting to show the best, especially if it happened on both “sides.” We don’t need haters, we need lovers. Not necessarily lovers of both sides, but at least people who love their own side, without having to succumb to hatred for the other side.

I have to point out, and apologize to Maha in advance if it is going to be the case, that she hasn’t herself expressed any of the above views, those views and thoughts are mine or based on how I understand and experience things. I don’t want to catch her in a political fight, I’m not aware of her political views, the sole reason for promoting her, is that she – for me – come out as a positive example, that more people should strive to become like. She might hate Israel and Israelis from all of her heart (I don’t think so), but if so she has chosen not to let that be what defines her, rather her love for the Arabic language, Palestine and Palestinian culture. Whether I agree with her or not, I truly do respect that.

So, all of you out there reading this, please check her channel out, especially if you want to learn Arabic and how Palestinians also can express themselves. It’s definitely a visit worth.

The Arabs and their Muslim Women

BS”D

Some of you may have read Mona Eltahawy’s recent article “Why Do They Hate Us” at Foreign Policy. I’ve read it, thought a little about, and seen a LOT of reactions, both for and against it.

One of these reactions is Monica L. Marks’ “Do Arabs Really ‘Hate’ Women? The Problem With Native Informants” at Huffington Post.

Both articles are interesting, though I do see problems with both approaches. I can certainly follow Monica’s criticism of Mona as generalizing way too much, and not relating to the cultural differences in the various countries, but Monica’s approach to Mona is also somewhat problematic, basically casting suspicion on Mona and others like her (Monica mentions a number of women ‘informants’ in the article), especially with wordings like the second part of the title and sentences like stating that “by stirring up our sympathies and reinforcing our prejudices, individuals like Ms. Hirsi Ali and Ms. Eltahawy have climbed to the top of the media ladder,” hinting that they are doing this more to get sympathy and a good carrier, than based on a sincere wish to change the ME societies.

But as said, I do think that Monica has some correct points of view, such as when she objects against the leveling these actions and incidents, which are being described by Mona, with the whole religious system of Islam (is she?), and that there isn’t only one reason for the Muslim woman to wear a scarf, whatever shape and form it comes in. She especially has a point when she states that “many people in the Middle East believe that Western women who wear miniskirts and bikinis do so because they are oppressed by a culture that objectifies & sexually commodifies women’s bodies, or because they are simply morally loose women.” Not that I necessarily agree in this view, but how people understand cultures and cultural behaviors differ. We have to understand that we are not always viewing things the same way, and what for some people might seem as being imprisoning oneself, might seem for others to climb on a higher level of discipline.

I do still agree with Mona to a great extent, I do believe that there is a problem here in the ME (also partly here in Israel), but I’m not sure I would blame the religion (Islam), but rather how people are expressing it, maybe there is the problem found.

 

What do you think?

 

Ps. Regarding the title, I know that it can be understood somehow as an attack on Arabs, but just as Arabs are not all Muslims, so not all Muslims are Arab. That duality was my attempt to capture in the title. If I didn’t succeed, then please let me know.