Thursday, November 27, 2014
Arab Xenophobia and Global Religious Conflict
After the murder of four rabbis in a Jerusalem synagogue the news soon spread. In Judea and Samaria and in Gaza, thousands of Arabs celebrated the bloody slaughter. They handed out sweetmeats. When Baruch Goldstein killed Arab worshipers, in an address to the Knesset, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin denounced Goldstein. Rabin, addressing not just Goldstein and his legacy but also other settlers he regarded as militant, declared:
You are not part of the community of Israel... You are not part of the national democratic camp which we all belong to in this house, and many of the people despise you. You are not partners in the Zionist enterprise. You are a foreign implant. You are an errant weed. Sensible Judaism spits you out. You placed yourself outside the wall of Jewish law... We say to this horrible man and those like him: you are a shame on Zionism and an embarrassment to Judaism.
That ethical difference between the two separate nations is what drives antisemitism in the West today.
Xenophobia is defined as an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers – but I would object to the word ‘unreasonable’. To fear that which is unfamiliar or different to one-self is understandable but not reasonable. It is something easily over-come if both sides are willing to work at it and again, if both sides have the desire to accept the other. It is the latter part of this particular social paradigm that is most acutely felt to be missing from the immigrant experience in the contemporary western world.
Many Muslims do not want to integrate into Western Society and they take this ambivalent immigration experience in a wholly surprising direction when they turn that expectation on its head and demand we integrate their cultural values into our homes, our workplaces and our public places. Before I am attacked for being selectively biased, there are ultra-orthodox Jews who are the same but they are overwhelmingly, a minority, even amongst Jews. And there is, even then, usually one difference. Judaism created a template for people to live together, without fear of one another. As a behavioral principle, ‘derekh eretz’ stands out in rabbinic literature as a guide for human relations. It is typically defined as doing what is right but the important condition here is that each society has its own definition of decency; it is incumbent upon the Jewish community to reconcile its ethics to those of the dominant cultural community. Not then the same concept as practiced by our Muslim friends.
We seem to have forgotten that society is evolutionary and that justice, for nearly all of human history, has taken second place to the whims of those who wielded power. A surprising failure of modern scholarship is the inability of thinkers to even attempt to understand the circumstances of peoples’ lives in other times in comparison with how we all live today. One of the working principles of archaeology is to try to understand the past by reference to what we know in the present. We seem to have missed the point that the present is similarly informed by the past.
These meandering thoughts came to mind as I read the Israeli and foreign press during the past couple of weeks. Terrible things had been happening. The bloody slaughter of four rabbis as they prayed in a Jerusalem synagogue (and the Druze policeman who came to their aid); a three month old baby murdered by a pious Palestinian, there were two things that all acts of terror and not just these two examples shared. The first was the hedging of condemnation by the worlds’ journalists and politicians. The second was the reflexive apologia for Islam that absolved its adherents of any individual guilt. This collectively racist approach is damaging our society as it excuses theirs for the evil that they now commit at every possible opportunity.
We are living through a period of contradictions and uncertainty. Prosperity has made us less dependent on faith for our emotional well-being. Our physical insecurity may be minor but we are constantly exposed to news about terrifying plagues, gratuitous acts of violence and wars, brought into our living rooms and interpreted for our entertainment, by the global media. It is unsettling so we retreat behind simple explanations and a consumer lifestyle that pushes all that bad news away.
The West has lost its purpose. Its obsessive focus on the State of Israel is partly demographic (Muslim immigration), but in part it is an indictment of the complexity with which we are unable to cope. How else to explain the racism that forgives every atrocity carried out in the name of Allah, the passionate debate on the Left that pardons every hate crime as a product of Zionism?
The Left and its Muslim allies have discarded truth as an inconvenience that prevents them from living a life that to any normal person living in a normal environment is wholly illegitimate for its love of violence and worship of hate. We forgive our academics and their students, the street activists and their Muslim allies for the lies that they use to validate their behavior. They have redefined normative behavior as deception and dishonor. In our society today dishonesty is no longer viewed as a sin. The truth becomes a lie and the lie an unalterable truth. “Hitler called his propaganda theory ‘The Big Lie’. It was easy enough, he explained, just make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually the world will believe it.” (Mark Langfan)
An example follows: For most pro-Palestinian activists Jerusalem was always Muslim, Islam came before Judaism (we were always usurpers), and Islam has always treated us well, it has never deprived us of our religious rights to pray at our holy sites and by the way, the Temple Mount was never a Jewish site of prayer or holiness. Similarly, Jews may or may not have lived in Israel; their historical narrative may have been located elsewhere but in any case the Holy Land is an Islamic endowment just as Spain is. Jews have left the stage of history and have no right to return to it.
So here is one problem. We are again being fed propaganda that we appear to be unable to combat. If we leave the information war to our enemies it is interpreted as validating their narrative. We arrived here because our secular societies dismissed with arrogant delusion the multiple threats that abandoning philosophy to the extremists posed to our way of life. Much of what afflicts our society today results from the triumph of science over faith. I will explain:
The degree to which humanity is capable of exercising free will has been a matter of speculation by philosophers as well as scientists. If we are all the product of divine providence then we have no free will; if all that matters is the physical world then free will does not exist and we are all of us subject to the whims of scientific forces that can be explained diagrammatically. If science can determine that the physical universe is governed by mechanistic causation then our own actions become deterministic. This theory absolves us of personal responsibility for the choices we make.
Human beings have created an ethical framework for living that regulates our universe to the degree that we can control our spiritual environment even if we are unable to control our physical environment. We do not entirely have free will if our minds are hard wired to fire and occasionally misfire. The brain is not a perfect organ. No matter where we are born we all conquer complex concepts of language and we all reach certain milestones in our intellectual development at similar stages of our early life.
So we do not have free will to the extent that we are all products of our physical, biological limitations but we do have choice. Even those choices are not limitless. Our bodies limit us, our Laws constrain us. Our ethical system reminds us that though we are able to lead a materialistic life of drunken debauchery and endless narcissism there are alternative choices to be considered. A religious life is not for everyone. A secular humanist can equally lead a moral life if the parameters are set and the questions are asked.
The importance of choice is paramount to our survival. If all we live for is what we can easily attain then our purpose is shallow and with little difficulty, we are led. That is not freedom but voluntary submission. Perhaps that is why Islam (which means submission) is so attractive to so many people. It is a form of slavery that encourages its adherents to enslave others, for their sake. Freedom then, is an act of will, a constant companion to the right to choose. The problem is that we are constantly fighting against people and forces that do not believe that we have choices. This excuses their benighted ethics because it is something that is outside of their control.
The religious psychopath who cuts off heads or tortures his victims till they beg for death, the axe murderer and the baby killer are all forgiven because they have no choice. But there are always choices and it is how we choose to fight for our rights or wrongs that determine our outlook towards others, towards society and towards the human project.
I chose the title “Arab Xenophobia” because, to return to the fourth paragraph, it is a choice that has defined and continues to define the Arab Nation. A few statements from our enemies will illustrate the point.
“We must massacre the Jews in order to break them.” Yunis al- Astal (member of PLC) March 6, 2014
“Anyone who has a knife, a weapon or a car, and is not attacking a settler or a Jew, and is not killing tens of Zionists, does not belong to Palestine.” Fawzi Barhoum (Hamas Spokesperson) July 30, 2014
“Blessed be your quality weapons, the wheels of your cars, your axes and kitchen knives because [they are being used] according to Allah’s will. We are the soldiers of Allah.” Sultan Abu Al-Einein (senior adviser to Mahmoud Abbas and member of the Fatah Central Committee) Tuesday 18th November 2014 in praise of the two murderers who carried out the synagogue massacre