We’re not really conditioned to think about how Israel’s actions impact the world’s perceptions of not just Israel, but Diaspora Jews as well. But we should. Aziz Poonawalla, a Pakistani-American Muslim, has written an interesting blog post on the impact that Gaza has had on his Muslim friends. It’s worth considering:
I am frustrated, because in the past few weeks I’ve received various email forwards from many people I respect that are laden with anger and frustration at Israel’s campaign of collective punishment in Gaza. These are intelligent, tolerant people – mostly muslim, but also christian, hindu and atheist – who have never been tainted by anti-Semitism in the past. But the emails are vicious and invoke Hitler and draw the usual Nazi comparisons. One of the most upsetting is an email which pairs images from Nazi occupation of Poland with images from Gaza and the West Bank, which makes a visceral equivalence that is virtually impossible to reason against.
Gaza has been radicalizing public opinion against Israel worldwide. It’s sad to see how anti-Semitism flourishes and takes root in the space created by the anger and helplessness. Israel may claim to have won the tactical battle but it has suffered a massive, self-inflicted, strategic defeat. And so too have the Jewish people as a whole.
It bears repeating in black and white – the actions of Israel, despite the Isaeli government’s own propaganda to the contrary, are NOT representative of Judaism or Jews as a collective whole, any more than the actions of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda are of Islam and muslims as a whole, or even the actions of the Bush Administration were of America or Americans as a whole.
I am not naive enough to believe that Israel cares about the impact of its actions on Diaspora Jewry. After all, a chief tenet of Zionism is that the Diaspora will wither and die either through assimilation or overt anti-Semitism, which will in turn drive all Jews to return to their homeland, Israel. But if Israel doesn’t care how its behavior impacts us then we sure should. And we should be telling the Israeli government that we care even if they don’t.
Some Jews will argue that Muslims hate us anyway and would no matter what Israel did. Their view is that claiming that Gaza exacerbated Muslim anti-Semitism is a red herring because Muslims are already anti-Semitic. As Aziz says above about the Muslim friends he’s heard from–it’s hard to argue with such nonsense since it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Most of the rest of us know better. We know that what goes around comes around–that Israel’s actions have a direct impact on how the rest of the world views it and Jews. It’s one of the reasons we want a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
In a related development–I regularly get Jewish hate mail especially during times of crisis like the Gaza assault. Whenever Israel is viewed by Jews as being under siege (ironic phrase isn’t it considering what it’s doing to Gaza), the Jewish hate brigade rears its ugly head. I’m going to save some of the choicest bits for another post. All this by way of saying that today I received a precise mirror image from someone who purports to be a Palestinian. I preface this by saying I have no way of knowing who this person is and whether they are really Palestinian or an impostor attempting to make Palestinians look bad.
At any rate, I think it’s instructive both to read the type of hate that the Gaza massacre engenders. At the same time, I’d like you to read a reply sent to this person by one of my Muslim friends, which warmed the cockles of my heart. Naturally, the original commenter refused to stand behind their hate and used a fake e mail address:
Haytham is Palestinian
Submitted on 2009/01/26 at 12:51am
You know its very “ironically” funny when most of you sick minded cunts talk. you must at this moment realize that you are worthless, & are nothing but a waste of natural resources on this planet.. alright this is my prediction over the span of the next century; and bear in mind this is actually quite possible, time shall rewind and play itself as you will be thrown off of earth like you were thrown off Europe, you would know this if you know your history. This is a fact, pre-1917 Israel did not exist, Jewish people lived mostly in Europe mostly on the edges of cities, why? because they were considered trash, yes =) , at some point the trash got piled up and needed to be incinerated, thats when good old hitler burned most of it, but left us some to know why he did it, unfortunately he left the trash that smelled the worse, and as destiny played on, this trash got into power, ofcourse this was achieved by using the “jewish holocaust” as leverage to capture the pity of the world and bear in mind this is true to this day. Now that the garbage demanded rights it demaded a country, thats were the man with mustache comes in , James arthur Balfour, and makes his declaration, puts the garbage on boats and ships it off to Palestine. Europe & the Americas were very thrilled and happy because they had cleaned their nations and were very supportive of Balfour.
By the way, this link is a video that shows Palestine before 1948.. a beautiful country.
The trash doesnt arrive in mass scales until 1948, thats when they start destroying villages setting up colonies and clearing the area to make it a landfill =D and take away the right of return from the people living on and off the land.
ofcourse I can write for endless days about the shameful inhumane acts theyve done, but thats pointless because they are inhuman, they are trash. My point is,
1- Its not Israel its, Palestine.
2- We dont want peace, we want the trash out.
3- They are not suicide bombers, they are Patriots.
4- This war in Gaza is a falwless victory for its people and a war crime to note in your ever growing list.
Now to address the Gaza incident specifically, I will say, What gives you the right to kill 1300 people more than half of which are women and children, what gives you the right to bomb and destroy 25 Mosques, what gives you the right to use white phosphorus that inflicted more than 3000 injuries, what gives the right to bomb 7 schools, what gives you the right to bomb the medical & food storages warehouses with the UNROA flag on it, what gives you the right to bomb two hospitals when you know they are full of injuries from your weapons, what gives you the right to randomly bomb more than 10,000 Residential housings, what gives you the right to bomb the research facilities of al-quds university, what gives you the right to cut off electricy and water, what gives you the right to shoot down ambulances, what gives you the right prohibit people from burying their dead, what gives you the right to bomb a grave yard, what gives you the right to prohibit people from praying In al-Aqsa, dome of the rock.. tell me what? the American “Vito” ..
for all of you who say that palestinians started it with the rocket bombings, this is a little piece of information for you, Gaza was under siege for more than two years, with a very limited food and water supply, an hour of electricity each day, the people were not allowed to exit or enter the gaza strip, in other words they were dying slowly, and you dont expect them to fight! hahaha, No they will fight, & before they fight with their weapons they will fight with their hearts and faith and thats very far away from what your f-16’s, dime’s, & phosphorus can reach, you cant hurt what we are made from, and thats determination, we will battle your f-16 with home made rockets, and we will watch you shiver behinde your bunkers, wearing your armour carrying your guns affraid of the rock in our hands. these zionist acts will be punished one day, and history does not forget, one day, and that day will come & Palestine will be FREE.
Of course, there is no point responding to this. The writer didn’t even both to do the least research in publishing his or her comment to discover what my views were about Gaza. The fact that I agree about the facts of the Gaza attack as they’re laid out here would have no significance for someone like this. (Of course, the anti-Semitism and historic judgments about the Jewish people and Israel are nothing for which I have the least sympathy.)
The truth is that no matter how odious this comment is–it is a response, no matter how illegitimate–to the hate and violence levelled by the IDF against the people of Gaza. Israelis tend to see their every action as motivated by defense. They tend to see themselves as victims. They refuse to see how their actions can engender a mirroring hate among Palestinians. They refuse to understand that what goes around comes around.
I was so shocked by this comment that I circulated it to some Muslims with whom I’ve developed friendships in the course of writing this blog. One of them, Jeff Siddiqui, was so kind as to write a wonderful reply to “Haytham”:
Assalam alaikum (I presume you are an Arab and Muslim),
I was pained and shocked by the hate and crudity you displayed in your letter to Tikun Olam.
I am disgusted (as is TO’s owner, Richard Silverstein) by what Israel did to Gaza and what it has done to Palestinians over the past decades, but NONE of it deserves the shower of profanity and hate you threw.
I cannot believe that a Muslim who wishes only the best for Palestinians, would be satisfied to wish the worst for Jews…by doing so you dive into the same sewer as those who wish to hate us.
Your letter shamed me.
American Muslims of Puget Sound
Solve the problem yourself or accept a fate you may not like…from this perspective, the ethic of personal responsibility gains appeal.
Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer? It is keeping peace and good relations between people, as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Do you know who is a poor person? A poor person in my community is someone who will come on the Day of Resurrection backed with prayers, fasting, regular charity, and pilgrimage, but also with a number of injustices to others, such as abusing this one, taking the property of that one, slandering someone, hitting another, or shedding the blood of someone else. Thereafter, [that person’s] good deeds will be taken one after one and will be given to (those) who were wronged by him. (Sahih Muslim, Hadith 1179)
“Those in whose hearts is no mercy for others will not attain the mercy of Allah.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
I am deeply grateful to Jeff for speaking up not only on my behalf but on behalf of Islam. It is important to realize that the worst among us do not necessarily reflect who the rest of us are whether we are Muslims or Jews.
And lest anyone think my purpose is to single out Muslims for criticism, there are huge levels of racism in Israel against Islam and Palestinians. Shortly, I will be writing about one such horrible instance as related in Haaretz. So if you’re ready to jump to any conclusions about the nature of Islam being intrinsically anti-Semitic, hold your fire until you’ve read what Israeli Jews are capable of.
My general conclusion is that there is more than enough hate already in the Middle East. What we need is a little more love. Or at least a little less hate.
There are a lot of posts about the extremist reactions (on both sides). I dialogue with Ethan Bronner’s article in the NYT about this.
What we have is more evidence of how antisemitism and the oppression of Palestinians reinforce each other.
Richard Silverstein says
I just read the Bronner piece & it’s full of his usual fence sitting (usually on Israel’s side). I can’t believe the amt of self-pity dripping from the text. He writes as if no reporter has ever succeeded in writing about the I-P conflict and gotten it right. He writes as if you’ll always be hated by one side or another & that you just can’t please anyone. I utterly reject the terms. Numerous NYT reporters before him have gotten things right or pretty close to right. But Bronner & to a lesser extent his predecessor, Steven Erlanger, lean in their reporting toward Israel’s perspective. They don’t always do so, but they do so more often than not.
I also note that in quoting from his critical readers Bronner seems to have chosen the ones who expressed the most antagonistic & extreme views. Are there no thoughtful critics of his work? So he set’s up a charade saying: “you see, each side hates me. I can’t make anyone happy.” Perhaps he should try to find thoughtful criticism of his work & try to learn a thing or 2 from it instead of feeling sorry for himself & only quoting the most intrasigent critics.
I note that my one attempt to write to Bronner was met with silence. I haven’t bothered since.
I’ve been sitting at my computor, wanting to write a reply to this post and yet, words are failing me.
Therefore, it will be short.
I wanted to reply as a show of support for the great work you do and for caring. I’m sure you take a lot of abuse. I hope you never give up.
Richard Silverstein says
Thanks, Julie. The abuse used to bother me more when I first started blogging. I took it more personally. Now, while it still rankles at times, I look at it more philosophically as an expression of the depths of aberrant behavior of which human beings are capable.
Khaled Hamid says
Dear richard: I am sorry you have to get that sort of junk on regular basis (regardless of the religioon of the sender).
I live in the middle of a very diverse Muslim community in the USA. Most of the Muslims and non-Muslim Arabs in my environment are not, understandably, big fans of Israel. A significantly smaller number may even harbour strong feeling against Jews in general. Yet I have NEVER come across anyone that utters that kind of trash expressed by hateful coward who wrote the initial comment sent to you.
You and I both know that on all sides there are the nut ones that are already ‘lost cases’. Their ‘loud’ presence is felt consistently in the fringes regardles of the issue being discussed: religion, politics or even sports. It frequentlly seems that their mere existence is a total waste of life force, and even a waste of oxygen.
As a believer in God, and a believer that what we face in life is a test from God, I can see the reason for hateful people to exist: they are here as test to our ability to keep sanity in the face of hate and stupidity. In the Quran (chapter 7:99) god tell us to “… MAKE due allowance for man’s nature, and enjoin the doing of what is right; and leave alone all those who choose to remain ignorant.”
“خُذِ الْعَفْوَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْعُرْفِ وَأَعْرِضْ عَنِ الْجَاهِلِينَ”
He, almighty, also reminds us that “… [true] servants of the Most Gracious are [only] they who walk gently on earth, and who, whenever the foolish address them, reply with [words of] peace” (chapter 25:63)
“وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا”
I am thankful to your friend Jafer siddiqui for his thoughtful and beatiful answer.
As for the ugly mind that posted the hateful comment, my guess is that it is just a provocateur, that wants to stir useless arguments and waste energy of the praticipants and readers of your blog. We can only pray the likes of him would not succeed in wasting our ‘communication bandwidth’.
Finally, Richard, please accept my thanks for all that you have to go through trying to get common sense and justice to prevail.
Crimson Ghost says
Israeli poll: Killing Palestinians shortest way to winning elections
PIC&Ikhwanweb – Palestine
Monday, January 26, 2009
An Israeli opinion poll has displayed that the shortest way to win general elections in Israel was to kill the biggest possible number of Palestinians.
The poll published by Hebrew daily Ha”aretz on Sunday indicated that the right wing parties in Israel would secure 64 seats in any current elections, which would bring Benjamin Netanyahu to the premiership.
The Israeli war minister Ehud Barak also enjoyed soaring popularity with 70% favoring him in the poll after the war on Gaza while before the war his popularity was only 53%, the paper noted.
Israeli foreign minister and leader of the Kadima party Tzipi Livni had warned that a new Israeli government with Netanyahu as premier would be on a collision course with the new American administration.
Meanwhile, the same paper said that a number of issues were not solved yet despite the end of the war on Gaza, explaining that the issue of arms smuggling and that of the captive soldier Gilad Shalit were not resolved.
Economic sanctions imposed on Gaza before the war did not benefit in changing Hamas”s demands for the release of more than a thousand prisoners from Israeli jails, the paper added.
I wish I could do more than tap out the same supportive words…
Thank You, Richard and Jerry and those who post thoughtful, nonviolent statements…
We have so much more in common than we have dividing us. Laila Lalami wrote a wonderful passage on that theme on her blog one or two years ago…alas I didn’t copy it…