Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Not One and the Same Thing

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

When I write about Israel my choice of words betrays my anger and disapproval. This is due to Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians and refusal to accept Security Council resolutions, and international and Arab peace initiatives.
To many Jews, criticizing Israel is anti-Semitism. I find it hard sometimes to explain how I could be their friend and an enemy of Israel at the same time. For them, censuring Israel is religious blasphemy and racial hatred. They seem to insist that you take Judaism and Israel, Jews and Israelis as one package. If you do otherwise, you enter that long, ugly black list, with the Pharaohs, Romans and Nazis. Some messages are so partisan, but not all. In fact, most, especially from American Jews, are scholarly and reasonable, if sometimes misinformed. Here is a typical exchange with an American Jew:
Dr. Batarfi,
Why must you and others like you continue to pursue the line that Israel “terrorizes the region?” If the Islamic world would only recognize its scripture and history, one would know that Islam recognizes the Jewish people and their right to a homeland in the Israel/Palestine region.
This is why no Islamic leader would ever build a mosque on the Al-Aqsa site for the first six centuries of Islam (!!!). In fact, a recognized mufti in Palestine contradicted the Jerusalem mufti by suggesting that the Jews should be welcomed back to the region, not perpetually warred against.
It is true that Israeli policies have caused undue suffering to the Palestinians, but Arab state policies in the region have also caused undue suffering to the Jewish people in Israel.
When intellectuals in the Arab world like yourself begin to recognize that Israel will and should exist and that Zionism is not as sinister as you think, peace will come much closer. In turn, Allah will be happier knowing that the descendants of Abraham are getting along. Your first sentence implies that Israel is “the enemy”. This is not the way to a lasting future for all peoples in the region.
Dear Samuel,
We seem to agree on most issues. I would support the 2-state solution, but my first choice is one democratic, viable nation. Palestine is too small to divide, so I would call for a secular state and a US-like Constitution. Citizens and residents, visitors and pilgrims, be they Muslim, Christian and Jewish Arabs or Jews from Europe, America, Russia, Africa and elsewhere should be treated equally — same rights, same duties.
The Qur’an never stated that Israel is the house of the Jews. This and other claims such as that Qur’an never mentioned Jerusalem, and no mosque was built in the first six centuries, are incorrect.
Salam, Shalom,
I don’t know if my above statements would go far enough to explain my position as an Arab and Muslim, but I will always try. Some of my Jewish friends understand that even if we agree to disagree we continue to be friends. I hope we all learn to discuss political differences without ending up enemies.

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