Arab-Israeli Conflict



A member of ISIS poses in a fighter jet similar to those used in the Prophet’s time.

By Haroon Moghul, Religion Dispatches, August 24, 2015

Last week, The New York Times’ Rukmini Callimachi published “A Theology of Rape,” a report as important as it is horrifying. Unfortunately, like several recent exposés on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), including Graeme Wood’s website-busting What ISIS Really Wants, Callimachi’s reporting is unusually receptive to the movement’s claims. Namely, that plausible Islamic arguments can be made for slavery, rape, and other crimes.

In support of his own argument that ISIS isn’t just “Islamic,” but “very Islamic,” Wood cited Princeton academic Bernard Haykel who insists that anyone who denies ISIS’ Islamic authenticity is being disingenuous (who says this is never elaborated on). Wood then proceeded to analyze ISIS’ “Islamicity” based almost entirely on Haykel, several fringe Muslim scholars, ISIS sympathizers, and no mainstream voices.

This is a problem. Journalist Murtaza Hussain explains that, “We invariably view conflicts involving Muslim groups as being driven primarily by atavistic religious beliefs.” Which is why, he adds, we jump to “texts and ideology to explain contemporary events. We don’t do this with the recent Israeli war on Gaza, even though that conflict also contains clear religious connotations and justifications.”

Only weeks ago Jewish radicals lit a house on fire and burned a Palestinian child to death. Last year another Palestinian child was burned alive. Yet I don’t recall articles in the Times, the Atlantic or any other popular media assessing the act’s conformity with Judaism, or arguing that “price tag” attacks are not just “Jewish,” but “very Jewish.” There are, in fact, radical Jewish sects who preach indiscriminate violence citing G-d and the Torah, but these claims are not entertained as serious.

“ISIS,” laments Hussain, “has been granted full civilizational power to speak for and represent Islam.”

For the rest of this article, click here.



“Photography has brought us closer, it’s enabled us to find a common language.” Photo by Ilan Assayag

The reality exposed by Bedouin women armed with cameras

Mothers and daughters from unrecognized villages empowered through photography.
By Vered Lee, Haaretz,| May 13, 2015

Mahadia Abu-Joda, 53, a mother of 13 and resident of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Za’arura, cradles a red digital camera in her hand. “The first time in my life that I held a camera and prepared to take a picture, about a year and a half ago, I held it upside down and in the wrong direction,” she says through the hijab that conceals her hair and frames her face.

Abu-Joda’s photographs appear in one of the four recently published photography books that document life in four unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev from a feminine point of view: Za’arura, Atir, Wadi al-Na’am and Alsra. The books, which are accompanied by an exhibition on display at present at Multaka-Mifgash, a Jewish-Arab cultural center in Be’er Sheva, were produced by the Negev Coexistence Forum and created during a project operated by the organization Human Rights Defenders, in which about 30 Bedouin women from the unrecognized villages participated. (more…)

There is a nicely done satire by Sean McFate on how to take over a small country. Check it out here. Note: Only the rich may apply.

I had the great honor of attending the presentation and celebration of my friend Serge Berdugo’s book project on the rehabilitation of Jewish cemeteries in Morocco. The event took place at the Institut du Monde Arabe, a magnificent cultural center dedicated to highlighting the cultures of the Arab world. The Institute is headed by the exuberant socialist intellectual Jack Lang, who served as France’s minister of culture throughout much of the 1980s and twice as minister of education in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Ministers, ambassadors, rabbis, imams, bishops, intellectuals, diplomats and many others came together to celebrate Morocco’s millennial Jewish history, the country’s diversity, and many other virtues that single out Morocco in the region and, in some cases, the world.

Following the presentation of the book, three French Moroccans—an imam, a rabbi, and a bishop—all practicing in the same district of Évry, a suburb of Paris, were awarded medals of honor by the King of Morocco through his sister, Princess Lalla Meriem. It was during this moment that France’s Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, a man who has been in the limelight following the recent terrorist acts in Paris, walked to the podium, condemned all forms of discrimination, and then proceeded to explain the badly misunderstood concept of laïcité (which approximates the American idea of secularism) by showcasing the three men of god who were being honored as perfect examples of why laïcité protects freedom of religion by keeping the government out of people’s private faiths.

It is often said that France went too far with its anti-clerical revolution, but Valls gave his nation’s ideology—laïcité—a decidedly Jeffersonian meaning.

Bravo.


Image by Naji al-Ali. Painted on the Palestinian side of the separation barrier close to Bethlehem.

by Ammiel Alcalay, Warscapes,
August 11, 2014,

You know as well as I do that a people under occupation will

be unhappy, that parents will fear for the lives of their precious children,

especially when there is NOWHERE TO HIDE.

You know as well as I do that a husband’s memory of his wife forced to

deliver their child at a checkpoint will not be a happy one. You know as

well as I do that the form of her unborn child beaten to death in the womb

will never leave a mother’s mind. And you know as well as I do that a girl will

have cause to wonder at the loss of her grandfather, made to wait on his

way to the hospital, and she’ll have cause to cry at the bullet lodged

in her brother’s head — You know as well as I do that watching

someone who stole the land you used to till water their garden

while you hope some rain might collect to parch your weary throat

(more…)

The Irony of Erasing Arabic
Making Hebrew Israel’s Only Language Ignores History

By Liora R. Halperin, Forward, October 06, 2014

In late August, a group of Knesset members from the right flank of the Likud party, Yisrael Beiteinu and the Jewish Home party proposed a bill that would make Hebrew the only official language of Israel, annulling a requirement in existence since the British Mandate period that all official documents be published in Arabic as well as in Hebrew. Similar bills to eliminate or demote the official status of Arabic were proposed in 2011 and 2008. Critics have pointed out that this bill is part of a broader effort to affirm the “Jewish” character of the state (as opposed to its democratic character) by enshrining Jewishness into Israel’s basic laws. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, for one, has spoken out against it.

A historical perspective is worth adding to the discussion, one that highlights a contradictory Zionist view of language that has existed since the British ruled Palestine: As Zionists advocated forcefully for the very principle of national language rights, they fantasized about a society in which there would be no national competitors to Hebrew. Israel still is navigating between these two positions. (more…)

Statement by Jewish Studies Professors in North America Regarding the Amcha Initiative

Forward, October 1, 2014

We the undersigned are professors of Jewish studies at North American universities.
Several of us have also headed programs and centers in Jewish studies. Many of us have worked hard to nurture serious, sustained study of Israeli politics and culture on our home campuses and elsewhere.

It is in this latter regard that we call attention to the activities of an organization called the AMCHA Initiative whose mission is “investigating, educating about, and combatting antisemitism at institutions of higher learning in America.” Most recently, AMCHA has undertaken to monitor centers for Middle Eastern studies on American campuses including producing a lengthy report on UCLA’s in which that center is accused of antisemitism.

AMCHA has also circulated a list of more than 200 Middle Eastern studies faculty whom it urges Jewish students and others to avoid because, it asserts, they espouse anti-Zionist andeven antisemitic viewpoints in their classrooms.

It goes without saying that we, as students of antisemitism, are unequivocally opposed to any and all traces of this scourge. That said, we find the actions of AMCHA deplorable.

Its technique of monitoring lectures, symposia and conferences strains the basic principle of academic freedom on which the American university is built. Moreover, its definition of antisemitism is so undiscriminating as to be meaningless. Instead of encouraging openness through its efforts, AMCHA’s approach closes off all but the most narrow intellectual directions and has a chilling effect on research and teaching. AMCHA’s methods lend little support to Israel, whose very survival depends on free, open, and vigorous debate about its future. (more…)

There is an extraordinary cartoon video on Vimeo that gives the historical background to the current battle in Gaza. Check it out here. And God bless Andy Williams.

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