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.
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.
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!