Friday, September 29, 2006

Neither Pope Nor Bush the Emperor Are Wearing Any Clothes

Reflecting for days on the Pope's recent coming out as a Bush ally in the war against "Islamofascism" has left me struggling to find an excuse for his clear and utter ignorance both of history and theology - at least anything not Catholic. It seems that both the Pope and Bush have more in common then Islamophobia. What I do find stunning is his blatant historical revisionism as though the Inquisition and the Crusades were a mere aberration worthy of naught. Or has he conveniently forgotten the expulsion of the Jews and Muslims from Spain with death to any who chose not to convert to Christianity? It is about time that the "sword" image that has dominated Euro-Western vilification of Islam since the fall of Constantinople be shown for the fiction that it is.

I came across the words of a wise man from Israel, Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom, who writes of this travesty so eloquently. Here is an excerpt:

Muhammad's Sword (excerpt)
by Uri Avnery
For many centuries, the Muslims ruled Greece. Did the Greeks become Muslims? Did anyone even try to Islamize them? On the contrary, Christian Greeks held the highest positions in the Ottoman administration. The Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians, Hungarians and other European nations lived at one time or another under Ottoman rule and clung to their Christian faith. Nobody compelled them to become Muslims and all of them remained devoutly Christian.
True, the Albanians did convert to Islam, and so did the Bosniaks. But nobody argues that they did this under duress. They adopted Islam in order to become favorites of the government and enjoy the fruits.

In 1099, the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and massacred its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants indiscriminately, in the name of the gentle Jesus. At that time, 400 years into the occupation of Palestine by the Muslims, Christians were still the majority in the country. Throughout this long period, no effort was made to impose Islam on them. Only after the expulsion of the Crusaders from the country, did the majority of the inhabitants start to adopt the Arabic language and the Muslim faith - and they were the forefathers of most of today's Palestinians.

THERE IS no evidence whatsoever of any attempt to impose Islam on the Jews. As is well known, under Muslim rule the Jews of Spain enjoyed a bloom the like of which the Jews did not enjoy anywhere else until almost our time. Poets like Yehuda Halevy wrote in Arabic, as did the great Maimonides. In Muslim Spain, Jews were ministers, poets, scientists. In Muslim Toledo, Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars worked together and translated the ancient Greek philosophical and scientific texts. That was, indeed, the Golden Age. How would this have been possible, had the Prophet decreed the "spreading of the faith by the sword"?

What happened afterwards is even more telling. When the Catholics re-conquered Spain from the Muslims, they instituted a reign of religious terror. The Jews and the Muslims were presented with a cruel choice: to become Christians, to be massacred or to leave. And where did the hundreds of thousand of Jews, who refused to abandon their faith, escape? Almost all of them were received with open arms in the Muslim countries. The Sephardi ("Spanish") Jews settled all over the Muslim world, from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east, from Bulgaria (then part of the Ottoman Empire) in the north to Sudan in the south. Nowhere were they persecuted. They knew nothing like the tortures of the Inquisition, the flames of the auto-da-fe, the pogroms, the terrible mass-expulsions that took place in almost all Christian countries, up to the Holocaust.

WHY? Because Islam expressly prohibited any persecution of the "peoples of the book". In Islamic society, a special place was reserved for Jews and Christians. They did not enjoy completely equal rights, but almost. They had to pay a special poll-tax, but were exempted from military service - a trade-off that was quite welcome to many Jews. It has been said that Muslim rulers frowned upon any attempt to convert Jews to Islam even by gentle persuasion - because it entailed the loss of taxes.

Every honest Jew who knows the history of his people cannot but feel a deep sense of gratitude to Islam, which has protected the Jews for fifty generations, while the Christian world persecuted the Jews and tried many times "by the sword" to get them to abandon their faith.
THE STORY about "spreading the faith by the sword" is an evil legend, one of the myths that grew up in Europe during the great wars against the Muslims - the reconquista of Spain by the Christians, the Crusades and the repulsion of the Turks, who almost conquered Vienna. I suspect that the German Pope, too, honestly believes in these fables.

Labels: ,

14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Avneri may not have read this (which is quoted in article 7 of Hamas' Charter)

http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/hadithsunnah/muslim/041.smt.html#041.6985

"Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews."

Or this (article 28 from Hamas' Charter):

http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/hamas.htm

“Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Muslim people: ‘May the cowards never sleep.’” [Note: Not just Israel & Zionism, but Judaism and Jews.]

--

Or this

"[The] Koran describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e. killing the prophets of Allah, corrupting His words by putting them in the wrong places, consuming the people’s wealth frivolously, refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do, and other ugly characteristics caused by their deep-rooted lasciviousness…only a minority of the Jews keep their word….[A]ll Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims, the bad ones do not."

--Banu Isra’il fi al-Qur’an wa al-Sunna [Jews in the Koran and the Traditions], 1986. English translation by Dr. Michael Schub

--

Or this

http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sr&ID=SR01102

Or this

http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP36302

Or this

http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sr&ID=SR00398

2:45 AM  
Blogger Dahlia said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Dahlia said...

Since you chose to remain anonymous, I can only assume that even you recognize that such a litany of distortions is not worthy of serious response. It does no one any good when you take passages out of both situational and historical context. If you would like, I too could recite endless passages of hate filled dogma from Zionist and Hebrew so-called "scholars", but I recognize, as should you, that it is only by increasing the size of the middle ground, that we all begin to recognize that no God created man with any favorites in mind. It is up too us to celebrate our common cause, and not take the easy route of division.

9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Since you chose to remain anonymous, I can only assume that even you recognize that such a litany of distortions is not worthy of serious response."

I don't recognize that at all. I remain anonymous because this web-site is accessible to anyone, and I am worried about anti-Semites.

"It does no one any good when you take passages out of both situational and historical context."

In what context are any of them justified?

"If you would like, I too could recite endless passages of hate filled dogma from Zionist and Hebrew so-called "scholars", but I recognize, as should you, that it is only by increasing the size of the middle ground, that we all begin to recognize that no God created man with any favorites in mind."

It's not necessary to have an idea about favorites in order to think that in addition to all the states in the world where Christians and Muslims are the majority--including 22 Arab states-- there should be _one_ where Jews are the majority.

"It is up too us to celebrate our common cause, and not take the easy route of division."

Yes, okay. But compare political spectrums on the Israeli and Palestinian sides. On the Israeli side, even if you subtract the non-Zionist part of the Left, you have Meretz & Labour wanting to negotiate further withdrawals, and even the unilateralist Olmert wanting to meet with Abu Mazen about some issues. It is only when you go further right, to the opposition Likud, that you get people like Netanyahu who are opposed to any negotiation right now. Compare that with Hamas, the majority party in the PA. Its charter still calls for Israel's destruction.

I don't know what to say about a general category like "common cause," because I don't know how you define the term. But if one of the common causes is a two-state solution, it's not clear to me how Israel's adversaries are working to promote it: Israel's no longer in Gaza, but rockets are fired from there. Israel withdrew from Lebanon under Barak, but rockets were still fired from there.

Now: suppose I am an Israeli who thinks that Israel should withdraw from much of the West Bank, and I am trying to persuade other Israelis that this will be a step towards peace. Do the precedents of Lebanon and Gaza make me look convincing?

12:37 PM  
Blogger Dahlia said...

Thank you Anonymous
No one said anything about those passages being justified. However, when you point to them as indicative of an entire population's attitude and indict them on that basis, then you are conflating and generalizing and serving no purpose other than misinformation and deeper divisiveness. Why don't you find some positive messages and highlight those? I would be happy to direct you to many, and they are not historical - they are from people, on the ground, today!

As for your hypothetical, I absolutely believe that the horrors that took place in Lebanon this summer and the continuing plight of the Palastinian people in Gaza should be more than enough fodder to appeal to Israeli sense of morality as well as self-preservation. It does no one any good, especially the Israeli's, for this continued abrogation of the human rights of Israel's neighbors to continue. Israel suffers attacks on its citizens and that is aggregious, however this is not a case of chicken or egg. If Isreal won't treat the Pelstinians with the same rights it claims for itself, then we should not be surprised when they (the Palestinians) lash out. Finally, and unfortunately, everyone has blood on their hands. No one has any standing to claim righteous indignation. The only solution is to "Just Do It" and get out of the West Bank. Israel is a powerful state and I don't think it has any legitimacy in claiming that it fears for its "preservation" - not any more.

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dahlia,

"Why don't you find some positive messages and highlight those? I would be happy to direct you to many, and they are not historical - they are from people, on the ground, today!"

Please do. And please tell me what basis there is for thinking that the positive messages are more representative than the ones I quoted. It is not that I want to believe the worst. But Hamas, with its charter, is the party that won the Palestinian elections (_after_ Israel had withdrawn from Gaza).

"As for your hypothetical, I absolutely believe that the horrors that took place in Lebanon this summer and the continuing plight of the Palastinian people in Gaza should be more than enough fodder to appeal to Israeli sense of morality as well as self-preservation. It does no one any good, especially the Israeli's, for this continued abrogation of the human rights of Israel's neighbors to continue."

Okay. But in Israelis' perception, things are as I stated them: there was a withdrawal from Lebanon, but we were attacked from there. There was a withdrawal from Gaza, and even if there is not yet a Palestinian state, the sensible thing for Palestinians interested in a two-state solution to have done in order to achieve such a state would have been to say to Israelis: "You see: we are not attacking you from where you have withdrawn from. So withdraw from the West Bank as well." ..But that isn't what happened.

"Israel suffers attacks on its citizens and that is aggregious, however this is not a case of chicken or egg. If Isreal won't treat the Pelstinians with the same rights it claims for itself, then we should not be surprised when they (the Palestinians) lash out."

Chicken and egg questions are questions of causality. So by saying that this is not a question of chicken and egg, you're saying that this is not a question of causality. But then in the next sentence ("If Israel won't treat the Palestinians...") you suggest that Palestinians' lashing out _is_ caused by what Israel does. So is it a question of causality or not?

"Finally, and unfortunately, everyone has blood on their hands. No one has any standing to claim righteous indignation. The only solution is to "Just Do It" and get out of the West Bank. Israel is a powerful state and I don't think it has any legitimacy in claiming that it fears for its "preservation" - not any more."

Let's agree to disagree re. whether the fears are legitimate. My point is that even if, as you say, they aren't, you won't, given Israeli perceptions of the precedents where territory withdrawn from has been used for attacks against Israel, be successful in persuading Israelis to withdraw from yet another place based on a morality argument alone. Especially since morality itself attaches some value to self-preservation. Self-preservation shouldn't just be understood in terms of the actual existence of the state (although even there, there is reason to be concerned about the threat from Iran) but also in terms of vulnerability to things like rocket attacks. So I ask you: what guarantee is there that a withdrawal from the West Bank would put an end to rocket attacks? In order to be skeptical about that, it's not necessary to think that the Palestinians are less motivated by justice than other national groups. Indeed: I don't think they are different in this respect myself. I think they are like every other national group, motivated by a mix of justice and self-interest. And I think that many (perhaps not a majority, but if not then a significant minority) of them think that if they wait long enough, they will have all of Israel/Palestine. That _that_ is their self interest. That is why they are willing to pay the price (in terms of not getting the West Bank now) of attacking Israel from Gaza: because even though they realize that in the near future they won't get the West Bank, they think that in the long term they will get not only the West Bank, but also Tel Aviv. Maybe that is not a majority view. But it's definitely Hamas' view.

Please tell me where I'm wrong.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Dahlia said...

My Friend - Your logic is only too familiar; it is the logic that leaves the Middle East stranded in the quandary of cross purposes. I can only say this: Yes, I do hope that Israelis make choices based only on morality. A lack of morality is what failed them for centuries, and it is only their morality now that will save them. Questions of chicken or egg are indeed questions of causality. When I said that what we should be asking chicken or egg, I meant, we should not dwell on blame. However, causality is very much in play here. The more Israel oppresses the Palestinians, the more the Palestinians will look for vulnerabilities to strike back. You can not keep the lid on a pressure cooker for long before steam escapes.... It is illogical and fruitless to expect the oppressed to show magnanimity or even cool wisdom. If peace is the objective, only the more powerful can afford such qualities.

9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dahlia,

"My Friend - Your logic is only too familiar; it is the logic that leaves the Middle East stranded in the quandary of cross purposes. I can only say this: Yes, I do hope that Israelis make choices based only on morality."

Like which other nation? Which other nation, weak or strong, has made choices based on morality alone? Russia? China? The US? Egypt? The Palestinians?

"A lack of morality is what failed them for centuries, and it is only their morality now that will save them."

Israelis haven't existed for centuries, only since '48. Is this a claim about Jews? How would it sound if I made a claim like "a lack of morality is what has failed the Arabs for centuries"? For a much narrower claim than that about anti-Semitism in Islam, you said that I was distorting things, etc. Now you want to say that Israelis (or the Jews as a whole) have lacked morality for centuries? Either sweeping statements are permitted or they aren't. But I can't see what good goals it advances to make them only about Israelis.

"Questions of chicken or egg are indeed questions of causality. When I said that what we should be asking chicken or egg, I meant, we should not dwell on blame. However, causality is very much in play here. The more Israel oppresses the Palestinians, the more the Palestinians will look for vulnerabilities to strike back."

..And the less likely Israel will be to cede more territory.

"You can not keep the lid on a pressure cooker for long before steam escapes.... It is illogical and fruitless to expect the oppressed to show magnanimity or even cool wisdom. If peace is the objective, only the more powerful can afford such qualities."

*Is* peace Hamas' objective? Will withdrawal from the West Bank bring peace? Will it strengthen Palestinian moderates? One scenario is that it will. But I don't see why it's at all a more likely scenario than another one, in which Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank is seen as a victory for Hamas. "You see," they will say, "our rocket attacks from Gaza got them to withdraw from the West Bank. If we attack them from the West Bank, maybe they will also withdraw from pre-'67 Israel." Since Hamas' charter still calls for Israel's destruction, what basis is there for ruling out the more pessimistic scenario? Or even for judging it less likely than the more optimistic one?

12:01 AM  
Blogger Dahlia said...

Please don't twist my words. The lack of morality I was referring to is what the Jews suffered at the hands of others! I think you knew that is what I meant, and if you did not, then perhaps that is the symptom of the problem.... You choose to believe the worse without taking a breath and thinking about it first.
And, yes, the Palestinians want peace. As for Hamas, Israel has no one to look to for the causes of Hamas' creation other than themselves.

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dahlia,

I'm sorry I misunderstood, especially since you are my host on this blog, and you've been generous in letting me debate you on it. But it was an easy misunderstanding since it wasn't specified whose lack of morality was meant, and since historically Israelis and Jews have been accused of everything under the sun, including a lack of morality. In addition, when it's said that x has failed a group and that only y will now save them, what's usually meant is that it is _that group itself_ that has tried x and that should now try y.

And there is an additional point. I agree that Israel ought to have, as a core motivation in its interaction with the Palestinians, the question of justice. But sometimes one hears arguments like "because of what the Jews suffered, they have a special obligation not to inflict suffering on others." That has never made sense to me. We all have the same obligation not to inflict suffering on others. Israel doesn't have any less of an obligation because of the history of Jewish suffering, but it also doesn't have a greater obligation because of that history. You haven't claimed explicitly that it does, but if it doesn't then I don't see where others' lack of morality towards the Jews is supposed to fit in your argument.

About Hamas I partly agree with you about Israel's role. But in the end it was the Palestinians who voted them into office. Hamas explicitly declares its goal to be the destruction of Israel. They currently lack the capability to do that, but for Israelis--even for Israelis who don't feel any ideological attachment to the West Bank and who see that there is a question of justice with respect to the Palestinians--the argument that says that Hamas will only use any land that is ceded for even deadlier attacks against Israel, is a very compelling one. It's different, for example, from the case of Egypt. Israel was able to withdraw from Sinai knowing that it would not be attacked from there. The Egyptian army doesn't have a charter like Hamas'. So there is not anything like the same kind of confidence with respect to the West Bank that there was with respect to Sinai. I don't see how there can be.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Dahlia said...

Yes, the Palestinians voted for Hamas. But, why do seem surprised by that? Fatah had failed to make their lives better. Hamas was on the ground providng education and health care. At the end of the day, the average person is concerned with basic needs and has very little luxury to reflect on the wider systemic level of international relations. All they see is Israeli oppression in the form of subhuman treatment, dead children, and a generally bleak bleak future coupled with Fatah failure and Hamas relief. In other words, from that perspective they had nothing to lose and perhaps a little to gain. What in that equation do you find hard to understand?

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you mention dead children, do you mean shahada? If so, then voting for Hamas isn't exactly going to solve the problem, since Hamas _promotes_ shahada. Here, for example, are the opinions of two Palestinian girls:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Em-MnAYiEWk&mode=related&search=

(I imagine that once again, you will tell me that I'm taking things out of context, etc.)

12:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Em-MnAYiEWk&mode=related&search=

(The link wasn't clickable when I pasted it a moment ago, so I thought I'd try again.)

1:01 AM  
Blogger Dahlia said...

No, I do not mean shahada, which is hideous of itself but also sad that human beings can be reduced to such desperation. I was referring to all the children killed by Israeli soldiers..... in Gaza, in the West Bank .... and in Lebanon

10:39 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home