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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.

Shari’a in Israel

BS”D

First, let me send thoughts to all the victims from Sandy, whether in the States or elsewhere. If any of you readers felt the impact, then let me express my relief that you are able to read this post by now. I sincerely hope that you weren’t affected too much of the storm.

 

Back to the title.

Yes, you read correct.

Israel is – or at least claims to be – a secular Jewish democracy, but yet is religious law part of Israeli law. One might not be so surprised that Jewish religious law, Halachah, is influencial on Israeli secular law, Mishpat Ivrit, but some might wonder why and how Shari’a can be influential on Israeli law.

There’s a good explanation. Israeli law is to a certain extent based on the model of Ottoman law, which was taken over by the British during the mandate period, and now in Israeli law. To be more precisely, based on Ottoman law Israel recognize a number of religious groups, which are governing themselves according to their respective religious law, in matters related to family law and privacy law. It is clearest expressed in matters of marriage and divorce, but also guardianship is falling under the religious courts, but whereas Israeli secular law rarely relates to the two first, the latter is more a focus of controversy, as well as cases involving the question of equality (as is the case for most conflicts between Israeli secular law and religious law in Israel). More about that in another post.

Israel has eight regional Shari’a courts, in Bir al-Sabi’, Jerusalem, Yaffo, Taybe, Baqa al-Gharbiya, Hayfa, Nazareth, and Acco, as well as the Shari’a court of Appeals, sitting in Jerusalem, which works as the court of appeals (hence the name). The Shari’a Court of Appeals plays a crucial role in the development of Shari’ah in Israel, since it is this institution which takes the most confrontations with the Israeli legal system, as well as being able to overrule rulings from the regional courts. It is headed by Qadi Ahmad Natour, and besides him has Qadi Farouk Zoebi and Qadi Zachi Madlaj, all elected in 1994 on permanent status (first time that happened).

The Shari’a Court of Appeal is challenged from three sides; the Israeli Supreme Court of Justice, on matters where Israeli secular law and the rulings of the Shari’ah Court of Appeals conflict, from the Islamic Movement(s), which questions and challenges the authority of the Court, and from feminist groups, challenging the lack of sensibility to the status of women and human rights.

 

There are a number of scholars dealing with the subject, mostly Israelis (Jewish and Palestinians), but three of them stand out in particular, Aharon Layish, who have written indepth on a number of subject connected to Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) within Israel (both in case of the Shari’a courts and conflicts between the courts and the litigants) and historically. Moussa Abu Ramadan, who has written very indepth on the rulings and practices of the Shari’ah courts, particularly the Shari’ah Court of Appeals. And Alisa Rubin Peled, who has written about the debates and attitudes to the Shari’ah courts.

It is these three that I will base most of my study of Israeli Shari’ah upon, but still relate to others as well.

 

This post is a little introduction to my study of Shari’ah in Israel, and I hope there will come many more posts. From what I have read so far it really seems like an interesting subject, not only because it’s about Isreal and Shari’ah (in context of each other), but also because it raises some interesting thoughts on the relation between religion and a/the secular society it exists within. What is the role of religion in a modern society? Where should the borders go, if there should be any at all? Is it possible to implement religious law into secular law? And so on.

 

Enough for this time. Take care out there.

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.

A third way(?)

BS”D

I know that I’ve said earlier that I’m not going to focus much on politics, and I’m intending to keep those words, though only to a certain extent.

The thing is, I live in Israel, in what is popular known as a “settlement”. If you wonder why I’m putting settlement in quotation-marks, then it’s because that the “settlement” I’m living in is basically a city (Ma’aleh Adumim), with more than 35,000 citizens, among them some few Palestinians (yes, you read correctly).

Anyway, I don’t live here based on any kind of ideological motives, especially not that the Palestinians don’t have any rights to live here. I simply live here, because that’s where I’m ended up (more or less, my wife lived here when we got married, and our budget is not to finding an apartment big enough for four people and a dog in Jerusalem or anywhere near Jerusalem – not that I would’ve moved would we have the money, maybe, maybe not).

That said, what bothers me to a certain extent is how Jews and Palestinians in general are being portrayed in relation to each other. Either Jews as evil imperial or colonial settlers, harassing and beating up innocent Palestinians, or Palestinians as fanatic religious extremist with the sole purpose in life being to blow themselves up in the middle of Jewish civilians. Or simply that we hate each other and want each other dead.

There is some truth in the above description, but it is far from the general picture you’ll get when living here. Sure, there are people who want to do everything they can in order to make you believe that, but they are not telling the whole truth, namely that most people here just live, and live together. It has to be added though that it’s not always harmonious or that we hang out together, but it’s not the opposite either.

Anyway, in order to challenge the stereotype presentation of Israel/Palestine, I will once in a while write posts on incidents, groups, organisations, something else, which shows that Jews and Palestinians actually can and in some extent also do live and share lives together. Not only in Tel Aviv or Haifa, but also on the West Bank (or as it is known in Hebrew, Shomron and Yehudah). As far as possible these representations will be nonpolitical, in that sense that it will deal more with the general lives than political discussions. And, if possible, I will invite friends to write posts about their lives here, Jews as well as Palestinians.

The first two incidents I will present is dealing with the Gush Etzion bloc, which is just south-west of Jerusalem, next to Bethlehem. The first is a video presenting the initiative for dialog between Palestinians and settlers in the area (the settlers belonging to R. Froman’s, shelita, group, a group of religious settlers struggling for promoting mutual understanding, acceptance and coexistence.

The other a recent happening, in connection to Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish New Year for the trees, just being celebrated, where Jews and Palestinians planted trees together.

But before we get to it then a short word to all of you guys out there only focusing on the negative in the other, and being pessimistic. Yes, Jews can be evil, Palestinians as well, no group of humans has patent on that one. And maybe we don’t see Jews and Palestinians flocking on the street to jump into each other’s arms, wanting peace, but we won’t get peace, if we don’t believe in it.

Enough talk, here you are:

Settlers for Peace on Youtube

Jews, Palestinians Plant Trees Together in West Bank

Note: All opinions expressed in the material is not necessarily the same as my opinions. Nor am I attempting to promote any political opinion, or saying who is right or wrong.