Good News Friday

Despite all the bad news and not-so-good news of the past weeks, I’ve decided there’s no point in letting the news get me down, so it’s time to get back into the swing of Good News Friday.  This week’s items all fall into the category of Muslims against extremism in one form or another.

Anet Haskia and her family

Anet Haskia and her family

My first item for today is an article by an IDF soldier’s mother – but not quite the kind of mother (or soldier) you were expecting:

Anet Haskia is not the typical mom of a soldier serving in the Israel Defense Forces. A Muslim Arab, who grew up in a mixed Arab-Jewish city in the north, Haskia is breathing a little easier this week.

For Haskia, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision not to enter the Gaza Strip last week was “brave and right.”

The mother of three children, with a 20-year-old IDF combat soldier, Haskia told Tazpit News Agency, that “many Israeli soldiers’ lives were saved thanks to that decision.”

“Going into Gaza would have yielded success for the Hamas terrorists. Israel did what it had to do for the time being to stop the rocket attacks and played it smart.”

Haskia who was born and raised in Acre (Akko), a mixed Arab-Jewish city in the Western Galilee in northern Israel, is openly vocal about her support for the Jewish state of Israel.

“I am proud to live in Israel,” she says. “I am even prouder that both my sons have served as soldiers for this country.”

“If I was living in Gaza, I would have no rights as a woman under Hamas,” explained Haskia. “And you can’t expect anything different—Hamas is a terror organization, they treat people like animals with no regard to human life. They will never hold democratic elections like they do in Israel.”

“I’m open about these truths,” adds Haskia. “The Arab MKs in the Israeli Knesset don’t represent me. The extremist left-wing in Israel also doesn’t represent me and others in my community who share my beliefs. Those corrupt politicians just contribute to hate, incitement and lies.”

[...]

Haskia has political ambitions as well. “I want to be part of Israeli politics some day and make a change by representing my people politically. There are many people who are too scared to speak up, who love Israel like I do and have done well here. They want a future where their children will not fall to hatred and incitement, but overcome that.  I want to be their voice,” she concludes.

Saying Kol hakavod to Anet Haskia is really too little.  What a wonderful woman and what a wonderful citizen of Israel! If only all our Muslim citizens felt the same way, think what kind of influence that would have on the entire Middle East.  I sincerely hope Mrs. Haskia is successful in her political ambitions too. We could do with a lot more people like her in our body politic.

Nasser Wedaddy

Nasser Wedaddy

My next item is on a similar subject (h/t Challah hu Akbar‘s twitter-feed): An Arab blogger, Nasser Weddady, refreshingly condemns what the Muslim world calls “resistance“, saying it betrays core human values, and the word needs to be redefined (emphases are mine):

“To be rational when everyone else is emotional makes you a traitor,” noted prolific twitterati Iyad El-Baghdadi after his Palestinian identity was questioned when he became critical of Hamas’ extrajudicial killing of five alleged Israel collaborators. Disturbed by the images of bodies dragged in the street by motorcyclists, Al-Baghdadi spoke his mind and paid the price on his twitter feed. Critics lashed out with nasty epithets of “house Arab” and “colonized Arab.”

[...]

Despite being the stateless son of refugees, El-Baghdadi is – in the minds of his fellow Arab Muslim detractors – not supposed to think outside of the box, or at least say his thoughts his out loud. Merely questioning Hamas’ behavior immediately became grounds for Al-Baghdadi’s core identity to be attacked and ultimately revoked. His transgression was to openly question the “wrong” side of the Israel-Palestine equation. The message, El-Baghdadi observes, is “you either uncritically adopt our narrative, or you’re not one of us.”

The outrage – so strong that it would brook no dissent – is ostensibly generated by the Israeli army’s attacks on Palestinian civilians. Yet, when Hamas or another faction blows up a city bus or fires rockets into a classroom it generates no outrage. Why? Many never say but the underlying rationalization of such overt war crimes is “resisting occupation by any means necessary and available” or the even more simplistic “we are oppressed.

[...]

But staying silent has its own terrible cost. It means acquiescing to Hamas’ values, which run counter to a moral core that holds sacred human life regardless of ethnicity or faith. It flattens multiple identities into an imposed internal stereotype of what an Arab is and believes. It also reinforces external stereotypes of Arabs as bloodthirsty barbarians stuck in a pre-modern clan mentality. Both stereotypes deny individuality and the essential human need to express compassion.

Across the Middle East and in the Arab Diaspora, there are millions who have cheered uprisings against repression, throwing off decades of stifling group-think and having the freedom to debate openly about the future. The last two years have been transformative precisely because old dogmas were finally challenged and discarded, at least in part. It is long past time to bring the same spirit to the Arab-Israeli conflict – and most importantly to how we talk about it to each other.

For some Arab liberals, this change has already begun. Arguably the most influential Lebanese blogger Mustapha Hammaoui recently published a post provocatively titled: “What is the proper ‘Arab’ way of talking about Gaza?” After criticizing commentators from across the Lebanese spectrum, his piece grew to a crescendo: “Does being Arab require that I protest loudly when innocent Palestinian children are killed, but that I completely give away my humanity and turn a blind eye when innocent Israeli children are killed?”

[...]

Here is my first attempt to articulate these values, which deserve a rigorous and open debate:

  • Be yourself and allow others to be themselves. Don’t impose ideologies.
  • Discussion is not treason – don’t expel people (Arabs have had enough of that).
  • Self-criticism and introspection are healthy because they help clarify the truth.
  • Criticizing and even denouncing Palestinian leaders does not mean abandoning the plight of Palestinians. In fact, it may be the best thing you can do for them.
  • Don’t let the Islamists set the agenda and use Palestine to delegitimize liberals.
  • Keep perspective: Bashar Al-Assad today has more civilian blood on his hands that any non-Arab oppressor.
  • Avoid whenever possible cheapening rhetoric like “Holocaust” and “martyrdom.” (And no need to be holier than President Morsi, who kept the Rafah Crossing locked, destroyed smuggling tunnels, and just certified the Muslim Brotherhood’s recognition of Israel.)
  • Stand up for liberal values with consistency, recognizing that reality is complicated and doesn’t always have simple solutions.
  • It’s okay to be friends with Israelis, Jews, athiests, gays, masons – as it should be with a conservative religious Muslim.
  • Feel free to disagree with me.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak out even if you feel alone and the mob comes for you. If no one else does, I still stand with you.
  • Arab liberals must avoid the temptation to take leave of our moral values whenever Israel enters the conversation. I do not have the solution to the conflict with Israel, but I know that having a sense of compassion and humanity can help lead the way. But in the end, our main challenge is not Israel, but rather our (in)ability to have a conversation without fear or self-censorship.

Read it all. Even if we don’t agree with everything he writes, I find it enormously heartening that there are voices out there in the Muslim world who are willing to break with the group-think and have the courage to call human-rights violations for what they are.  Would that there were hundreds of thousands more like Nasser Weddady.

My last item for today (h/t cba) relates back to Operation Pillar of Cloud (aka Pillar of Defense). A Gaza cleric has called violation of the ceasefire with Israel “sinful”:

A leading Islamic cleric in the Gaza Strip has ruled it a sin to violate the recent ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas militant group that governs the Palestinian territory — according a religious legitimacy to the truce and giving the Gaza government strong backing to enforce it.

The fatwa, or religious edict, was issued late Saturday by Suleiman al-Daya, a cleric respected by both ultra-conservative Salafis and Hamas. Salafi groups oppose political accommodations with Israel.

“Honoring the truce, which was sponsored by our Egyptian brethren, is the duty of each and every one of us. Violating it shall constitute a sin,” the fatwa read.

Of course it seems obvious to us that a ceasefire must be honoured, otherwise it can hardly be called a ceasefire. But against the background of Palestinian violations of ceasefires, and the religious justification given to their rocket fire and other terrorist acts, it is both refreshing and rather hopeful to see that a Muslim cleric has warned against violating the truce.

Once again, would that there were many more religious figures like Suleiman al-Daya, not only in Gaza but throughout the Muslim world.   Then we really could look forward to a proper peace.

May we all have a peaceful Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom everyone!

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14 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. Rob Harris says:

    Interesting roundup, thanks Anne. You know its pretty clear to anyone who has a moderate knowledge of the conflict but doesn’t come to the table filled with prejudice/misinformation that Israel does a lot of good for Palestinians and minimises casualties despite decades of conflict and anti-Semitic incitement.

    A bit of this knowledge even percolates into the Arab world itself, despite the extreme censorship and vicious propaganda, and some are even brave enough to speak out. The fact that there are still a few moderate Arab-Islamic voices around despite the region being in the grip of extremism has to provide a little hope, although put in perspective it should be noted that it is not very much. It gives water and electricity to Gaza. It tries to get Gazan civilians out of the way before raids, and has the lowest civilian to combatant ratio of any army engaged in serious conflict, to the best of my knowledge. I suspect quite a number in the Arab world must have noted how restrained Israel was in comparison to Assad. Besides which, Islamism may be facing a backlash with the reaction to Morsi.

    One thing that struck me was how willing the people in Northern Ireland wanted peace after 30 years, whilst the mainland British didn’t! Blair’s move to really help bring peace wasn’t that popular and many English folks are still resentful. Its not a perfect parallel but the Arab world is in the grip of extremism, whilst Israel represents Western values that they would see as both good and bad. Many would see them as having at least some good as indicated by the numbers seeking to emigrate there, and the increasingly internationalised media makes it harder to hide their own lack of freedom and cultural difficulties. Perhaps its time for Israel to mount a cultural outreach programme to the Arab world?

    • anneinpt says:

      its pretty clear to anyone who has a moderate knowledge of the conflict but doesn’t come to the table filled with prejudice/misinformation that Israel does a lot of good for Palestinians

      You’re quite right. The trouble is the people with the loudest voices and the greatest access tot he media are the ones who are either misinformed or prejudiced.

      A bit of this knowledge even percolates into the Arab world itself, despite the extreme censorship and vicious propaganda, and some are even brave enough to speak out.

      I think there is more than just “a bit” seeping into the Arab world. The problem is they are more scared of their own extremists than they are of Israel. The commenter Aridog has correctly pressed this point many times – until the “Arab Street” stops being scared of its own extremists we won’t see much if any change. Therefore the bravery of these Arabs I wrote about today is so unusual and so refreshing.

      Your remarks about Ireland are extremely interesting. I admit I have very little knowledge of the “troubles” or the peace-making efforts that followed. I grew up during the IRA bombing campaigns of the UK, but left before the peace efforts really got under way. From what little I read about Blair’s efforts I was very impressed with him, but I didn’t realise there was that much resistance from the English side.

  2. Rob Harris says:

    Anne wrote: “I think there is more than just “a bit” seeping into the Arab world. The problem is they are more scared of their own extremists than they are of Israel. The commenter Aridog has correctly pressed this point many times – until the “Arab Street” stops being scared of its own extremists we won’t see much if any change. Therefore the bravery of these Arabs I wrote about today is so unusual and so refreshing.”
    I was just using loose language when I said “a bit” in part because I don’t know how much gets through to be honest. I take your point about the fear of speaking out but at the same time I think the differences between Arab nations and Israel is starker than ever with Islamism taking grip, The contrast of increasingly oppressive societies with that of Israel means that Israel us better able to reach out even if it takes a very long time to make its mark and only appeals to a silent but substantial minority, e.g. in Egypt where I suspect many have come to regret the end of Mubarak.

    It would also be a useful counter to the incitement against Israel and Jews more broadly. I know I’m being very optimistic but maybe, just maybe such an approach would be part of a long term strategy that helps the Arab world reconcile itself with the existence of Israel.

    Indeed a lot of English people are still extremely shitty about the Irish peace process, as if no compromise should have been made with the IRA, despite the dramatic improvements instituted in the “Norf”. Ironically many of the same seem to think Israel should bend over backward for Hamas!

    • anneinpt says:

      We seem to be in basic agreement about the positive aspects of Israel seeping through to the Arab world. As far as I know there are daily Israeli Arabic news broadcasts (at least there used to be. I hope they still continue) which Arabs outside of Israel listen to because they know they are getting real news and not propaganda. But it will take a critical mass of the population to effect any real change on the ground.

      Re Mubarak, for sure Egyptians are regretting the rise of Morsi even if they don’t regret ousting Mubarak himself. Just look at the huge demos that have been taking place there in the last few days.

      I find it both fascinating and amusing, if not highly irritating, that the English feel comfortable opposing the Irish peace agreement while being angry that Israel feels the same about its own – even though Israel’s “peace agreement” is an absolute existential danger for it, whereas for the Brits the Irish problem was more an irritant than anything else by that stage.

      • Aridog says:

        For whatever it is, for better or worse, the local Arabs here read Haaretz on-line almost daily. If and when I know I am going to be in a conversation with anyone around here, I, too, read up on Haaretz so that I will know where a lot of their information is coming from. My view is the interpretation is influenced by both culture and religion. For the current record: Not one Arab Muslim that I’ve spoken to (over 100)regarding the Egypt and Benghazi disasters has even mentioned the video, (majority have said “what video”)…and I started asking on 9/12 right after General Martin Dempsey phoned up the government stooge (makes trouble, so that the government can pose as peacemakers…yada yada) pseudo-pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach (huge audience…all 29 members) and church of what’d happening now scam. Demspey called Jones for one reason…to give the video BS roots in the public forum. Petraus did the same thing 2 years ago, as did SECDEF Gates. Trust. None. Of. Them. They have an agenda and it is NOT a good one for Israel or any other free nation.

        • anneinpt says:

          If your local Arabs are getting their Mideast news from Haaretz then it’s Oy Vey time. Haaretz, especially the English language edition, is the Israeli al-Guardian with Israeli anti-Israelis like Gideon Levy and Amira Hass (who actually lives in Ramallah). It’s dreadful, and worse still, it gains “street cred” because it’s an Israeli paper. It’s one of the worst propaganda tools against Israel out there.

          Try and guide them towards the Jerusalem Post or Times of Israel if you can. I wouldn’t want to push them as far as Arutz Sheva quite yet. Baby steps :-)

      • Rob Harris says:

        Hi Anne, I suppose it would be expected that there might be some Arab language content broadcast on the News since its Israel’s second official language as IMHO the “apartheid” bullshitters need reminding. The thing about broadcasts is that they have a limited range unless on short wave radio and that appears to be a technology approaching redundancy now, with it rarely featured on radios today. I personally would like to see a more systematic cultural engagement programme reaching out to the Arab world, one that expresses more strongly what Israel does for the Palestinians, and how Israel does not somehow diminish Arabic culture by being a principally Jewish state.

        Indeed, the British are still whinging about the IRA when, as you say, they never posed anything like the threat that Israel faces. Furthermore, a Northern Irish comedian called Patrick Kielty, called republican “gentleman terrorists” in contrast to Islamists. The IRA in later years always gave coded bomb warnings and tended for the most part to target those involved with the conflict politically or militarily. There were still terrorists of course, and much of what they did was repugnant but they tended to avoid the softer civilian targets. Yet you still commonly hear British folks moaning about the IRA’s fundraising activities in the USA, when in Britian they seem to give organisations closely associated with extremists a fairly free hand, and look at the way people like Chris Patton at the EU waved away concerns over foreign funding going to incitement and Palestinian terrorists!

  3. Aridog says:

    Sort of on topic with Anne’s and Rob’s conversation….Israel hits back first! and in keeping with the “good news” theme of the thread.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thanks for posting that video Aridog. I saw it a couple of days ago and it had me grating my teeth in intense irritation – seeing the constant little annoyances building up against the victim (i.e. Israel) and then the kid (“Israel”) getting caught by the principal – it’s such an accurate portrayal of what’s going on here.

      And yet your average onlooker doesn’t seem able to understand that Israel is the victim in all this – simply because we have more bomb-shelters and take better care of our citizens.

      Far better good news: Israel to approve construction of 3000 housing units in Jerusalem and West Bank

      • rrW says:

        The video is very well made … BUT reading up on the comments shows that none of the anti Semites understand it. They say ” you take the green child’s place in school” and that is why he is pestering you. They do not understand, that we jews are entitled to Israel, and that they (the Arabs) are the invaders. They seem to think that history started in 1967 and not before.
        Personally, I think it is time to -
        a) leave the UN – much like Taiwan – they seem to be doing well on their own.
        b) Stop all funding of Hamas and PA
        c) Close all electricity, water, phone and other utilities to Gaza.
        d) Kick out all the Arab MKs who do not believe in the State of Israel.
        e) Stop all medical treatments of arabs who are not aligned with the state. ( i.e. Arabs from Ramalla will not be allowed in hospitals.)
        f) Kick out all journalists from foreign countries that are hostile to Israel (BBC journalists and CNN journalists for example)
        h) Try and convict all the Israelis that behave as traitors to Israel – ie. Amira Hess, Yariv Oppenheimer etc.
        g) Put massive tax levies on goods exported to non-friendly countries – (aka countries that voted for the PA or abstained in the UN vote).
        Some of you will say, that we will be burying ourselves. However, at first it will appear this way, and there will be some difficult times ahead. But in the long run, the world will come crawling back (especially, when their medicine and technology goes down the drain) -
        Anyway, just my two cents

        • anneinpt says:

          RRW, I’ve more or less given up reading talkbacks after most media articles. The filth and evil which comes seeping out of the woodwork is nauseating. Some writer or journalist said that talkbacks are like the exhaust of a car – noxious fumes which serve no purpose. There’s no point in even joining in the discussion. You’ll persuade no one and just raise your own blood pressure needlessly.

          As for the points you raise:

          a) leave the UN – YES
          b) Stop all funding of Hamas and PA – YES
          c) Close all electricity, water, phone and other utilities to Gaza.- YES
          d) Kick out all the Arab MKs who do not believe in the State of Israel – YES.
          e) Stop all medical treatments of arabs who are not aligned with the state. ( i.e. Arabs from Ramalla will not be allowed in hospitals.) – YES (with occasional humanitarian exceptions)
          f) Kick out all journalists from foreign countries that are hostile to Israel (BBC journalists and CNN journalists for example) – YES
          h) Try and convict all the Israelis that behave as traitors to Israel – ie. Amira Hess, Yariv Oppenheimer etc. – YES (but be careful that it doesn’t backfire if the gov’t changes).
          g) Put massive tax levies on goods exported to non-friendly countries – (aka countries that voted for the PA or abstained in the UN vote). – Not sure. Wouldn’t that be cutting off our nose to spite our face?

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