Tag Archives: Mideast

Libby and Len Traubman on Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

Excerpted from an article in Elders Action

. . . The compelling year-long meal sharing and earlier Soviet-American successes prepared Libby and Len to begin facilitating dialogue between Jews and Palestinians, thus catapulting the couple into another of the world’s serious communal conflicts. Libby explains, ‘By the late ’80s and early ’90s we were meeting some Israeli and Palestinian citizen-leaders who aspired coming to the United Sates for talking with each other—illegal where they lived. We, with others in the Beyond War community and Stanford University said “yes.” ’


See video of “Twenty years of the Palestinian Jewish Living Room Dialogue”

The Israeli and Palestinian women and men were brought to the California redwoods for a powerful week-long conference resulting in writing and signing the historic 1991 Framework for a Public Peace Process. Len cancelled his patients and the Traubmans travelled to Jerusalem to help gel the new team. They assisted participants circulating their Framework document to their individual governments and peoples.

Back in the USA, the couple promptly applied the new strategies. Len recalls: ‘Libby said, “You know we’ve done this globally, now we have got to figure out how it works where we live.”‘ The year of interracial dialogue in their home had laid the groundwork for the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue beginning in July 1992 in their home.

Len recalls early difficulties: ‘Libby spent a year looking for brave local Jews and Palestinians—Muslims and Christians—willing to sit together. It was not a popular thing to do.’ Libby agrees about their biggest hurdle. ‘We searched tirelessly for people willing to face one another. It was almost unheard of. They’d say, “This is the enemy, are you kidding?” The Arabs and Jews were taking a risk by just sitting together, a taboo for many.’

Len explains that the Living Room Dialogues revealed that ‘the real fear is often not of the other side, but of one’s own people’s rejection as naive, sympathizer, unfaithful. That’s where the terror is: “What will people say?”‘

Libby adds, ‘So some feared their own people. Some feared the Other. And many questioned what good dialogue would do. Some said, “I’ve moved to America, and I don’t want to think about it anymore.” Palestinians’ and Israelis’ lives had become so comfortable in America.’

At first participants came to vent and then left. Later arrivals exhibited more dedication to deep listening and empathy. After 18 months a reliable core of respectful yet passionate women and men were dedicated to quality communication. ‘That was twenty-two years ago,’ says Libby. ‘Now eager would-be participants must be asked to wait until a rare opening occurs and the group needs a new member to restore balance.’

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Question for this article

How can a culture of peace be established in the Middle East?

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Len remembers key ingredients for Living Room Dialogue success: ‘We were dedicated and didn’t give up. Always there for the people, we kept respecting that at first most people dearly want to be heard. So the participant with the will and skill to listen is really the one with the power to transform the relationship. Listening dignifies both listener and the person whose story is being heard. Again, “An enemy is one whose story we have not heard.” We experience story as the shortest distance between two people. It is story and not information that goes to the heart and is best remembered. With this connection of hearts then brains, people experience each other’s equal humanity and begin wanting the best, not only for self but for the other person equally. Magic results from being together and connecting at the heart that then messages the brain that it is safe and the relationship is working properly. This face-to-face connection is simple yet the most effective human experience to redirect relationships.’

Libby continues, ‘At first we didn’t appreciate story as an entry point to Dialogue. We’d begin with political issues and hot topics, provoking ranting, blaming and battles over versions of history. Yet we failed to discover the personal and family stories of the human beings in the room with us. Slowly we discovered the primacy of personal intimacy and spending generous time with people telling their own narratives – sometimes bottled up inside a whole lifetime until then. That is really what we did that first year together of going round and round telling our own histories, ever more deeply learning more about each other. Familiarity, trust, and friendship grew. In time we could begin to approach more difficult issues.’

If listening ensures dialogue, then what makes someone a good listener? How can you make someone into a good listener? Len says simply, ‘You first listen to them.‘

‘You provide them that experience,’ explains Libby ‘And when they come into the dialogue circle, you have to be clear about the rule – what dialogue is and is not.‘

With skills from the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue, Len and Libby then facilitated and filmed Dialogue at Washington High in which Miriam Zimmerman, a Holocaust Jew, and Elias Botto, an original 1947 Palestinian refugee from Jerusalem, shared their poignant stories. Used for instructional purposes ‘…that film then touched hearts and passed on skills to citizens in Africa and worldwide, helping people to relate differently’ explains Len. ‘It reminded us not only to enact the dialogues but to also tell the story of it. The power today is in story and the choice of stories. Today people are fed mostly human failure stories that we see on the five o’ clock news. Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and teacher, says: “People become the stories they hear and the stories they tell.” We have to decide what is for life and what is for death, what is for relationships and the health of the planet, then tell the stories of people who live exemplary lives.’

[Note: Long-time readers of CPNN will recognize Len and Libby Traubman from their articles reprinted in CPNN:

Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue: Turning enemies into partners


Planting Peace Seeds on the Road to Jerusalem


Two Free Videos for Relationship-Building Worldwide

Yehezkel Landau: Can Zionism Be Redeemed?

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

Excerpts from an article by Yehezkel Landau* in Tikkun (abbreviated by CPNN)

. . . The decades-long war between Zionism and Palestinian nationalism (each with secular and religious articulations) has pitted two national stories of heroic striving against each other, competing for validation. This zero-sum equation is shared by the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians who experience the conflict from within. But a fair-minded observer, especially one who wishes to promote inclusive justice and reconciliation, should be able to adopt a dual- or multi-narrative perspective and see the conflict as a profound tragedy rather than a dualistic morality play. The conflict is often seen as one of villains against victims, or oppressors against the oppressed; such a judgmental outlook favoring one side over the other contributes to the ongoing strife and to the widespread suffering that it creates.

Protest from Israeli side of Gaza border with Israelis, Palestinians, and foreigners. Image by Cat Zavis.

In my own approach to the conflict, I am adopting Hegel’s definition of tragedy: a clash between two rights, not right versus wrong. In this case, it is also a case of two peoples with painful histories forced to confront each other as they seek to be separately and mutually healed, but so far inflicting more traumatizing wounds on each other. The horrors of the Holocaust, on the Jewish side, and the searing trauma of the Naqba for the Palestinians, only deepened the tragic dimension of the conflict. The Palestinians’ national identity crystallized in the process of resisting Zionism and the influx of Jews into Mandatory Palestine after World War I.[15] And just as there are various forms of Zionism, Palestinian nationalism has exhibited a range of positions (e.g., Islamist or secular, Marxist-Leninist, or democratic). The common denominator on the Palestinian side is to view Zionism as illegitimate and immoral.

The perception of Zionism as an unjust, oppressive, colonialist ideology, demonstrated in practice by the expulsion and dispossession of a large part of the Palestinian people from their homes, fields, and orchards, would probably have been mitigated had more Jews been living in the land before the Zionist movement began. Since most of world Jewry was living outside Eretz Yisrael, and most Palestinians did not perceive Diaspora Jews as a nation but, instead, saw them as a religious community akin to Christians or Muslims, the Zionist claim to even part of Palestine seemed bogus, even fabricated. Had there been appreciable numbers of Jewish residents outside the four cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberias, and Safed—recall that Tel Aviv was inaugurated in 1909 and over time came to engulf the ancient city of Jaffa—then the conflict between Jews and Arabs in the land would have looked more like the Hindu-Muslim intercommunal strife on the Indian subcontinent that gave birth to the separate states of India and Pakistan. (Pakistan later devolved into two separate states, with Bangladesh breaking off from West Pakistan). Even in South Asia, at the same time that the Jewish-Palestinian conflict reached its explosive climax in the late 1940s, the implementation of an agreed-upon partition was accompanied by large-scale intercommunal violence.

There have been many ironic twists during the course of this tragic conflict. One is the role reversal that transpired between 1947 and 1988. When the Palestinian Arabs were the demographic majority, they did all they could to prevent a Jewish state from emerging in even part of Palestine. The Zionist leadership, for its part, accepted the United Nations partition resolution of November 29, 1947. Then, when the Jews were the empowered majority, they joined with Egypt and Jordan to deny Palestinians an independent state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. It was only in 1988 that the Palestine National Council under Yasir Arafat’s leadership, meeting in Algiers, accepted the 1947 partition plan. But by then the Israeli Prime Minister was Yitzhak Shamir, who had always rejected any form of territorial partition. It took the election of Yitzhak Rabin in 1992 to launch the negotiations that produced the Oslo Accords. Another irony has been that, over the course of the last century, the two peoples have experienced complementary transformations in both symbolism and practice. For the Jews, the Zionist enterprise transformed a symbolic homeland suffused with dreams of messianic return from exile (see Psalms 137 and 126), but with very few geographical coordinates outside the aforementioned “holy” cities, into a functioning state with localized reference points. Some of those cities, towns, kibbutzim, and moshavim had ancient Biblical names like Beersheva or Ashkelon. Others were new creations, some with poetic names like Petach Tikvah, Rishon LeZion, or Tel Aviv, while others were development towns built later for immigrants, primarily from Arab countries, with names like Sderot and Carmiel. For the Palestinians, the process was reversed. Most of them began the 20th century with identities centered on their clan-based ancestral villages, which they retained even in exile. Over time these localized identities were supplemented by a collective sense of distinct peoplehood, as Palestinian national consciousness evolved. Now both peoples have dual identities, each combining an umbrella-like nationality that is reinforced by a shared narrative and symbolism, together with a sense of rootedness in a particular locale and community.

SEEKING A JUST PEACE

If we return to the moral dilemma at the heart of this conflict, we are faced with the challenge of finding a single standard of justice that can be the basis of genuine peace. To the extent that Zionism and Palestinian nationalism are conceived and lived out as self-referencing ideologies creating exclusivist identities, they remain impediments to reconciliation. And as long as that remains the case, the liberating vision of the Zionist pioneers will be even more corrupted, in both its ends and means, than it already is. Is there a redeeming alternative? I submit that if both Zionism and Palestinian nationalism can be viewed through more wide-angled lenses, they might yet become complementary rather than mutually exclusive. In that way, polarized psyches, hearts, and spirits can mutually nourish each other; they need not be seen as inherently hostile. As history has shown, shifts in consciousness need to occur in order for there to be shifts in behavior.

Zionism, in all its variations, has always had two aspects. One is the physical aspect rooted in, and driven by, an existential Jewish need for safety and security through an independent state with armed forces for self-defense. In the wake of the Holocaust, this aspect has been given disproportionate emphasis. The second aspect of Zionism, at least as vital as the first, is the metaphysical aspect, the longing for belonging rather than alienation, the yearning to be free and to feel at home, the psychological and spiritual need for independent selfhood that is not a defensive reaction to the harmful intentions of others. Jews, as human beings, deserve both security and spiritual liberation. So do Palestinians. A compassionate and just peace process based on mutual acknowledgement of those common human rights, needs, and aspirations can yield the practical fruits of reconciliation. That process would have as litmus tests three very practical criteria, based on emotional investments that can be changed if leaders choose to guide their communities away from antagonism and toward partnership: (1) Is fear being transformed to trust? (2) Is anger being transformed to mutual acceptance and forgiveness? and (3) Is grief being transformed by empathy into compassion for the suffering of others, before the grief turns into grievance and the desire for vengeance, fueled by bitterness and rage?

The national anthem of Israel is Hatikvah, “The Hope.” It expresses the yearning of Jews for Zion and the willful determination to be, once again, a free people in the ancient homeland.  This two-thousand-year-old hope was never lost, the song proclaims. Zionism, in whatever form, is the practical expression of this hope. But the Zionist revolution will not be complete, or truly fulfilled, so long as Israelis feel threatened by their neighbors, which means that the Palestinian people need to have its own hope of return and freedom fulfilled also. The Palestinian national anthem, Biladi, Biladi, “My Homeland, My Homeland,” expresses the love and longing for the Palestine that was lost but not forgotten. How to honor and realize both hopes, both dreams of return and renewal, remains the supreme challenge for anyone who cares about this tragedy and its global ramifications.

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Question for this article

How can a culture of peace be established in the Middle East?

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The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not simply over a common homeland and who exercises political control over it. At a deeper level, it is also about personal and collective identities that have developed in mutual antagonism rather than complementary creativity. In order to transform the political and spiritual dynamic from opposing struggles for independence to a common struggle for interdependence based on equity, the two national anthems need to be supplemented by other songs. Those additional songs need to put the collective yearnings for freedom and security within a wider context, one that frees both peoples from the shackles of alienation, existential dread, and recrimination.

One common goal that can help Israelis and Palestinians transcend their myopic notions of what best serves their interests is a shared commitment to safeguarding the land which they share from ecological calamities. In this regard, I think of a conversation I had with the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead several decades ago. We were talking about the Middle East, at a time when her daughter was living in Iran. Dr. Mead lamented the emphasis throughout the region on control over territory, based on strong attachments to a particular land, at the expense of environmental concerns about shared air and water. The shift in consciousness she was advocating could be a powerful force for shifting the bilateral focus on Israel/Palestine to a wider, regional perspective. There are already some commendable joint initiatives, like the Arava Institute at Kibbutz Qetura in southern Israel, that bring together Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians to work together on ecological sustainability. There are also hopeful signs of a growing environmental awareness among both Jews and Arabs. For example, on March 29, 2019, an annual Climate March was held in Tel Aviv. When it was first organized five years ago, some 200 people took part. This year over 5,000 people marched, Palestinian and Jewish citizens from all over Israel. They carried banners proclaiming mutual solidarity in the face of environmental threats and the need to work together to ensure a common future.

We need more signs of hope like these to boost our spirits and motivate action, within our respective communities and across boundaries. As a long-time grassroots activist in the arena of Jewish-Arab peacebuilding, I am confident that, over time, these micro-models of mutuality and solidarity will impact the macro-political situation. And one of the blessed fruits of these labors will be a conversion of hearts and an expansion of minds, so that Israeli and Palestinian national identities will be experienced as mutually enriching rather than as mutually exclusive and threatening. Let us all work toward that day and that outcome.

POSTSCRIPT: As I was writing this reflection, another round of lethal violence erupted between the Israeli government and the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaderships in Gaza. The Egyptian government worked to bring about another cease-fire, while the underlying conditions that inflame passions and perpetuate the no-win state of war remain unaddressed. In 2008, during the first of three wars between Israel and Hamas over six years, I wrote the following appeal, which was disseminated through the internet:

IF ONLY…

An appeal addressed to Jews, Arabs, and concerned people everywhere
in response to the wars between Israel and Hamas

by Yehezkel Landau

If only our empathy and compassion were as strong as our capacity for self-justification;

If only we could protect ourselves in ways that do not inflict harm on others;

If only we could see ourselves as interdependent, rather than isolated and threatened;

If only we could see the Image of God in one another, rather than projecting mythic images of Arab Nazis or Jewish Crusaders;

If only our leaders were committed to transforming conflict nonviolently rather than too often using military means to achieve political aims;

If only peace education were a part of school curricula throughout Palestine and Israel;

If only political agreements outlawed incitement and demonization in public speeches;

If only the Israeli and Arab media conveyed multiple perspectives, along with humanizing stories and images, rather than reinforcing prejudices;

If only we could address the core issues and grievances, rather than reacting to the latest round of violence or the fear of further violence;

If only the Arab perception of the state of Israel (in its pre-1967 borders, with mutually accepted adjustments) was of a people coming home and exercising the right of self-determination, rather than of a colonial conquest by outsiders;

If only Arab and Muslim leaders could acknowledge the existential fears of the Jewish people following the Holocaust and reinforced by subsequent wars, bellicose rhetoric, and the prospect of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Israel’s adversaries;

If only the Jewish people, in Israel and elsewhere, could acknowledge the deep, unhealed wound of the Palestinian people, displaced and dispossessed in large numbers in the war of 1948 and under prolonged occupation following the 1967 war;

If only Israel would join the Palestinian people in developing democratic institutions rather than destroying their civic infrastructure in the name of self-defense;

If only we could see the problem as a regional crisis, with multiple, interrelated challenges, rather than a bilateral conflict between Israelis and Palestinians;

If only a spiritual dimension to peacebuilding—drawing on the practical resources in  Judaism, Islam, and Christianity—were included in Middle East diplomacy, so that religious extremists would be countered in their own terms and political arrangements would be grounded in mutual repentance, the healing of trauma, and sustained hope for the future;

If only we could envision a future of cooperation and shared blessing, rather than a no-win war lasting generations;

If only the children on “the other side” were as precious to us as our neighbors’ children;

If only our young people were exposed to their peers on “the other side” early on, so that they could build friendships that transcend the “us-vs.-them” dichotomy;

If only we could build Shalom/Salaam together, with a Jewish-Arab peace corps constructing homes, schools, and hospitals in a state of Palestine alongside Israel, and with expanded cross-border initiatives in the areas of health, education, culture, the environment, and sports;
…then perhaps, with God’s help and courageous leadership on all sides, both Israelis and Palestinians could experience genuine peace and security, with fear transformed to trust, anger to forgiveness, grief to compassion, and narrow self-interest to mutual solidarity.

Dr. Yehezkel Landau, a dual Israeli-American citizen, is an interfaith educator, trainer, consultant, and author active in Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations and Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding for more than 35 years. While in Israel he was executive director of the Oz veShalom-Netivot Shalom religious peace movement and then co-founder and co-director of the Open House peace center in Ramle. From 2002 to 2016 he was a professor of Jewish tradition and interfaith relations at Hartford Seminary and holder of the Abrahamic Partnerships Chair.

Rabbi Michael Lerner: Racism and Israel’s election: How did the Jewish state become an oppressive state?

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

An article from Tikkun

Israel’s election on April 9 came down to a battle between a prime minister who promised to annex part (or possibly all) of the West Bank and its several million Palestinians into Israel, but without giving them equal rights to Jews, and a former army general and chief of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) who boasted about how many Palestinians he had killed, or had his army kill, in past invasions into Gaza.
How did this happen?

Rabbi Michael Lerner speaking at memorial service for Muhammad Ali

The answer given by the Israeli and American left give is clear enough: Israel is a racist society and most Israelis are racists. In his March 13 Ha’aretz column, Gideon Levi put it forcefully: “Netanyahu is not the problem. The Israeli people are. The apartheid did not start with him and will not end with his departure.”

This kind of thinking is not new — it is precisely the same partially correct but self-defeating thinking that I heard from many on the left in the United States, after Donald Trump won a majority of the Electoral College in 2016. Blame the people.

As a psychologist who has been studying social movements for the past 40 years, I have found these kinds of “explanations” merely repeating in different words the problem they claim to illuminate. Israelis did not always vote for right-wing candidates and most were enthusiastic about the hoped-for end of hostilities with Palestinians that the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s Oslo Accords promised: two states living together in peace. Similarly, a majority of Americans had voted for Obama in 2008 and again in 2012, and a majority voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, undermining the claim that the best explanation for Trump’s victory is that a majority of Americans are racist or sexist.

My research reveals that the very claim that all those who don’t support progressive politics are bad people (Clinton called them “a basket of deplorables”) reflects an underlying contempt for ordinary people on the part of many in the left, not only in the U.S. and Israel, but in many other struggling leftist parties around the world.

I first got a hint of this when I did research with working people in Israel in 1984, research that was based in the Labor Studies program at Tel Aviv University. At that time, most Israeli working people still associated with the socialist-oriented Labor Party. Yet it didn’t take long for people I interviewed to tell me their feeling that their union leadership cared little about them, their lives and their struggles. Many were beginning to flirt with the idea of voting for Likud (the right-wing party now led by Benjamin Netanyahu), not because they agreed with Likud, but because they felt so disrespected  by the leftists they met. They wanted to send a strong message of anger.

When I asked my friends in Shalom Achshav (the secular Israeli peace movement at the time) and in Netivot Shalom (the religious peace movement at the time) why they were not doing door-to-door organizing and reaching out to the people who disagreed with them, I got the same answer from both movements: “These people are racist to the core and there is no point in trying to talk to them.” Sitting in the chic coffeehouses of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, they were in fact demeaning working-class Israelis, just as those workers had complained.

It turns out that many people do not vote on the basis of whose political program they agree with most, but on the basis of who appears to respect and care about them, their families and their struggles. This continues to be the biggest fault line for the left almost everywhere in the world. The left not only disrespects and puts down ordinary people, it often shows the same disrespect to people who are supposed allies!

That is not to excuse the racism. But since most people are not born racist, the question of what experiences led to racism becoming dominant among Israeli Jews deserves a fuller and more compassionate account. Racism has often been used by imperial powers, from ancient Greece and Rome to contemporary European and American colonial and imperialist regimes. Often the victims of racism either succumb to the oppressors’ vision and internalize feelings of inadequacy, or they develop stories of themselves as ethically better than their oppressors. (Jewish “chosen-ness” sometimes yields a demeaning attitude toward the “goyim,” “sisterhood is powerful” sometimes yields a blanket suspicion of all men, and “black lives matter” sometimes yields an insistence that all whites are racist.)

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Question for this article

How can a culture of peace be established in the Middle East?

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Consider that one out of every three Jews alive in 1939 were murdered by 1945 in massive upsurge of Jew-hating, and further, that Palestinians used their influence with Britain to keep Jews in “displaced persons” camps and out of Palestine, and then rejected the UN vote to divide the land between a Jewish and Palestinian state. In this regard, it is understandable that deep resentments on the part of the survivors of the Holocaust and their allies in what became Israel would develop into a deep antipathy.

Having suffered so great a trauma, they concluded that almost anything Jews would do in the name of security would be justified, no matter how oppressive that would be to others. Taking over the West Bank, and now considering incorporating it into Israel itself, seemed to many Israelis to be their entitlement given their past suffering, which still lingered in their psyches and is continually reinforced by national rituals and injunctions to “remember” what others have done to us.

We can add to this :

* Jews from former Communist countries who have developed an allergy to anything smelling of socialism or anything linked to a leftist internationalist perspective.

* Jews from Arab countries who still carry with them the memories of how they were disrespected by Ashkenazi Jews (of European origin) and the supposedly socialist government when they or their parents or grandparents first came to Israel.

* Israeli Palestinians who don’t vote after watching their elected representatives to the Knesset treated disrespectfully, and (possibly correctly) believing that their voices will never be taken seriously. In the past few years, progressive Israelis have reported that many of their former Palestinian allies have decided that working with Israelis “normalizes the occupation” and so have cut off relations with even the most pro-Palestinian Israeli activists. Right-wingers point out that this behavior once again proves that “there is nobody to talk to” among the Palestinians.

* The virtual collapse of a progressive religious movement has made it easier for right-wingers to align their version of Judaism with their version of security, rejecting the notion that we at Tikkun magazine have promoted: that Israel’s security would be best ensured by a spirit of generosity and caring for the well-being of all the people Israel governs, rather than through repression. While the Reform movement of Judaism in Israel has fought for religious equality for women and LGBTQ, it has avoided activist opposition to the occupation, fearing that to do so would split the movement, many of whose members, like many American Jews, are “progressive on everything except Israel.”

All these factors have contributed to the normalization of racism and repression of the Palestinian people.

But trauma is also the experience of the Palestinian people. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were force-marched from their homes or fled in fear of Jewish terrorism in 1948 and developed a deep antipathy toward Jews.

This catastrophe, the Nakba, remains the guiding trauma of the Palestinian people, often leading them to adopt futile gestures of violent resistance rather than an embrace of nonviolence in principle which, at least several decades ago, might have softened the hearts of many Israelis who feel so insecure that they are unable to acknowledge the vast difference in power between their well-trained armies and the militarily insignificant actions of a mostly unarmed Palestinian population.

The periodic provocative launching of missiles toward Israel seems to suggest a kind of silent alliance between Hamas and the Israeli right — Hamas insisting that it while it would like a 20-year period of cease-fire it will never accept the right of the Israeli state to exist, and the Israeli Right using those periodic rocket attacks to reassert their position that only total subjugation of Palestinians will provide lasting security for Jews.

The outrageous actions of the Jewish majority in becoming oppressors of the Palestinians will remain, for thousands of years into the future, one of the most disgraceful moments in Jewish history. But it won’t be overturned until we can develop a new politics of compassion for both sides, and a renewed belief that people can be reached if we start from a perspective of respect and caring for them, even when we disagree with their current political proclivities. Challenge their policies, but affirm their humanity for all but the most extreme haters who now govern Israel and Gaza.

Until a compassionate left emerges in Israel and reshapes the dominant culture, Israel’s descent into an apartheid state seems inevitable, even if it happens more gradually than many on the right would wish. These lessons apply equally to the coming decades of American politics as well.

Michael Lerner is an American political activist, the editor of Tikkun, a progressive Jewish interfaith magazine based in Berkeley, California, and the rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley.

Richard Falk on Banning US Congresspersons from Israel

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

An article from the blog of Richard Falk*

The decision to ban, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, two sitting members of the U.S. House of Representatives, disgraces the leaders of both the United States and Israel, confirms the illegitimacy of both political parties by their tepid responses, and confirms once more the unhealthy relationship that has evolved between Trump and Netanyahu, these two most reactionary of political figures, and badly reflects on the political atmosphere in the countries they represent.  For an American president to encourage a foreign government to deny entry to elected members of Congress is not only unprecedented, harmful to the quality of democratic life in America, and represents a wrongful and extremely distasteful use of his position to engage in nasty partisan reelection politics aimed at the 2020 elections. This outrageous display of further impeachable behavior by Trump is further accentuated by the defamatory, as well as maliciously and demonstrably false assertions in this notorious tweet that Ilhan Omar and Rashid Tlaib, hate Israel and all Jews, and nothing can alter their views.


Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar during a press conference Monday. (Image: screenshot)

For Netanyahu, the leader of Israel, to reverse an earlier decision to allow these U.S. officials to enter the country in response to Trump’s tweet has just the reverse effect of what is claimed. By seeming to forego Israel sovereign rights in response to an inappropriate interference in Israeli public policy by the American Head of State, Netanyahu reveals to the world Israel’s weakness, not its strength, and in the process casts a dark shadow over Israel own claims of political legitimacy. As well, to give way in this unseemly manner to Trump may also prove to be a tactical blunder in the Israeli context even if it contributes one more sordid chapter to their quid pro quo relationshiip. Such a craven move by Netanyahu miight turn off just enough Israeli voters to tip the balance against the Likud Party in the forthcoming September 17thelections. Not only was Trump’s tweet an effective assault on Israeli sovereign rights, but it also undermines the long absurd propaganda claims of Israel to be a democratic state that values and protects freedom of expression.
 
After further political turmoil, Israel appeared to relent, but by affixiing humiliating conditions, and then only with respect to Rashida Tlaib. The Israeli Minister of Interior, Aryeh Deri, agreeing to a ‘humanitarian’ visit provided the Congresswoman agreed not to promote boycotts of Israel while in the country, her visit restricted to the sole purpose of visiting her 90-year-old grandmother in a small Palestinian village not far from Ramallah. After initially accepting these constraints over the intense objections of her supporters and even her family back in Palestine, Rep. Tlaib reversed her own acceptance of the Israeli conditions, issuing a statement denouncing the constraints she earlier accepted, and refusing to restrict her time in her own Palestinian homeland to a personal visit. Of course, an Israeli rebuke followed from Deri, claiming that her rejection of Israel’s humanitarian gesture exhibits the Israeli-bashing intent that motivated the factfinding visit. Deri hammered one more nail in Tlaib’s already exposed flesh: “Apparently her hate for Israel overcomes her love for grandmother.” More understandably, Tlaib also was rebuked by many Palestinians for initially accepting Israel’s conditions intense objections to her face from supporters, alleging that she fell into Israel’s trap, “and accepted to demean herself and grovel.”

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Question for this article

Presenting the Palestinian side of the Middle East, Is it important for a culture of peace?

How can a culture of peace be established in the Middle East?

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Seeking to thread this needle separating an ill-timed family ties from her high-profile political image, Tlaib chose these words, “Silencing me and treating me like a criminal is not what she [her grandmother] wants for me—it would kill a piece of me.” Although Tlaib used poor judgment by first agreeing to Israel’s acceptance, her statement explaining her reversal a short time later, had a redemptive effect. Perhaps, more disturbing, was Tlaib’s failure to sustain a posture of public solidarity with Ilhan Omar, whose relevance was ignored in Tlaib’s three-step dance movement.
 
The distractions caused by this secondary development involving Tlaib should not be allowed to divert attention from the primary outrage resulting from the Trump tweet and Israeli gag order imposed on nonviolent advocates of the BDS Campaign, which in this instance meant banning entry to elected U.S. government officials, supposedly a super-ally.
 
In my view Israel’s decision to ban these two members of Congress can at best be considered ‘an unfriendly act’ by Israel toward its unconditional ally. This alone should persuade a self-respecting U.S. Congress to react with much more than a few empty words of disapproval. At the very least, a message of censure should be formally endorsed by the House of Representatives, and delivered to the Israeli government, which strongly discourages further visits to Israel by members of Congress until Israel announces a policy of allowing entry any American official to visit Israel without restrictions. Perhaps, a more suitable alternative would be to urge banning members of the Knesset until Israel welcomes as visitors any and all members of the UN Congress without conditions. A further appropriate step would be to condition any approval of future military or economic assistance to Israel on lifting the ban on future visits by government officials, but also ideally by all American citizens regardless of political views; After all, American taxpayers have long paid their share of the annual aid package of at least $3.8 billion, the greatest per capita amount given to any country in the world.

I believe that by singling these two members of Congress, who happen to be the first two Muslim women ever elected to the House of Representatives, in the manner of Trump’s tweet is a clear instance of racism and hate speech, especially considered in light of his past hostile statements directed at prominent women of color who dare enter political life and oppose his presidency, including his past slanders of these two brave individuals. The language of Trump’s tweet also sought successfully to interfere with their effort to engage in a legitimate legislative undertaking in a discriminatory manner, and included this inflammatory and false allegation: “They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.” The tweet ends with this shocking expression of hostility that demeans Trump and the Office of the Presidency rather than its intended targets, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Trump’s final tweeted words– “They are a disgrace!” It is best understood as “You are disgraced.”
 
The media at least gave major attention to this unfolding political drama, although more in the spirit of narrating a human interest story than offering a damning commentary on the anti-democratic moves of these two ‘illiberal democrats.’ Tom Friedman, never foregoing a chance to deliver fence-setting know-it-all lectures to whomever would listen, managed staked out some liberal territory by condemning the tactical damage to their own countries and especially to the ‘special relationship’ between them as a result of making the Republicans the true friends of Israel, and the Democrats not so clear, hence fraying the edges of bipartisanship when it comes to support for Israel. Friedman also took the opportunity to make it clear that in his view Tlaib and Omar were not better due to their ill-considered support for BDS, which he argued dooms to two-state liberalism, and implies that by their criticism of Israel, the excluded officials are widening Jewish/Islamic cleavages rather than building bridges. [See Friedman, “If You Think Trump is Helping Israel, You’re a Fool,” Aug. 16, 2019]

Such misleading pontificating, which we should know is the standard offering of Friedman in his opinion pieces that reek of vanity and pro-establishment moralizing. It is part and parcel of the overall Zionist strategy of diverting attention from Israeli wrongdoing and criminality by discrediting the victim while airbrushing the oppressor. Here, those in genuine solidarity with sustained peace for the two peoples will not be distracted by such prevarications from the underlying encroachments on freedom of expression and the rights of an ethnically cleansed people to return to their homeland as a matter of right.

* Richard Falk is an American professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University. He is the author or co-author of 20 books and the editor or co-editor of another 20 volumes. In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Falk to a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.”
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Omar Barghouti : Why Americans Should Support BDS

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

An article from the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

Last Tuesday (July 30), the House of Representatives passed a resolution, H.Res, 246, targeting the grassroots, global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights that I helped found in 2005. Sadly, H.Res. 246, which fundamentally mischaracterizes our goals and misrepresents my own personal views, is only the latest attempt by Israel’s supporters in Congress to demonize and suppress our peaceful struggle.


Image: Demonstrators protest New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s McCarthyite executive order requiring state agencies to divest from organizations that support the Palestinian call to boycott companies profiting from, or cultural or academic institutions complicit in, Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people, June 9, 2016. (Sipa via AP Images)

(Article continued in the right column)

Question for this article

Presenting the Palestinian side of the Middle East, Is it important for a culture of peace?

How can a culture of peace be established in the Middle East?

(Article continued from the left column)

H.Res. 246 is a sweeping condemnation of Americans who advocate for Palestinian rights using BDS tactics. It reinforces other unconstitutional anti-boycott measures, including those passed by some 27 state legislatures, that are reminiscent of “McCarthy era tactics,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union. It also exacerbates the oppressive atmosphere that Palestinians and their supporters already face, further chilling speech critical of Israel at a time when President Donald Trump is publicly smearing members of Congress who speak out in support of Palestinian freedom.

In response to H.Res. 246 and similarly repressive legislative measures, House member Ilhan Omar, joined by Rashida Tlaib, civil rights icon John Lewis, and 12 other co-sponsors, introduced H.Res. 496, which defends “the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

Inspired by the civil rights and anti-apartheid movements, BDS calls for Palestinian liberation on terms of full equality with Israelis and categorically opposes all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.

READ MORE: https://www.thenation.com/article/bds-house-resolution-trump-squad-omar-aoc/.

[Omar Barghouti is a founding committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and a co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.]

Meet Janna Jihad, the 13-Year-Old Palestinian Journalist Exposing the Israeli Occupation

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

A report from Democracy Now (licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License)

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report.

I’m Amy Goodman. “My camera is my gun.” Those are the words of a celebrated Palestinian journalist who’s been reporting on the Israeli occupation from the West Bank for more than six years. But Janna Jihad isn’t any journalist. She’s just 13 years old. She started telling stories about her home of Nabi Saleh when she was only 7, after her cousin and her uncle were killed in the village. Since then, Janna has shared countless videos about Palestinian resistance with viewers around the world, on Twitter, on YouTube, on Facebook, garnering tens of thousands of followers. This is a clip of Janna Jihad confronting Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank last year, in 2018.


Video of interview with Janna Jihad

JANNA JIHAD: From here, as you can see, those terrorist people, humans with no humanity, are coming to our land, trying to kill children and to make children get injured. From here, we’re sending our message and saying that Palestine will be free. From Nabi Saleh, Janna Jihad, occupied Palestine.

AMY GOODMAN: You hear that sign-off: “From Nabi Saleh, this is Janna Jihad, in occupied Palestine.” Janna is the cousin of Ahed Tamimi, the teenage activist who became a heroine to Palestinians after a viral video showed her slapping an Israeli soldier near her family’s home in the occupied West Bank. It was right after she had learned her cousin had been shot in the face by an Israeli soldier.

Janna Jihad is in the United States this month to share her stories about Palestine around the country. She joins us now in our New York studio.

Janna, thanks for making this stop.

JANNA JIHAD: Thank you. Thank you for, like, letting me come here and just, like, to speak more about my issue and, like, about my message as a Palestinian child.

AMY GOODMAN: So, when did you pick up your cellphone to start videoing? And was it your cellphone?

JANNA JIHAD: So, it was my mother’s cellphone. I was only 7 years old when I started doing journalism. It was when I saw that there were not enough journalists to cover things that happened in my village, Nabi Saleh, and also in Palestine in general. Like, when my friend Mustafa was killed, my uncle Rushdie was killed, a lot of things were happening, and the world didn’t know about how we, as Palestinian children living under this Israeli military occupation, are living, how we’re suffering, how we’re — like, how our rights are getting violated, our childhood is not given to us. So I wanted to be the voice of those children and to just be the messenger of their message, which is very important, and to raise awareness about this very important international issue.

AMY GOODMAN: So, at 7 years old, you take your mom’s cellphone, and you start videoing.

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And posting those videos.

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: You say your camera is your gun. What do you mean?

JANNA JIHAD: So, I always say that my camera is my weapon of choice, because using my camera, it’s a very peaceful and nice way to resist this occupation. And by using my camera, I can send a message, and it can be even more effective than a gun, more effective than violence, more effective than killing people.

AMY GOODMAN: How do Israeli soldiers respond to your videoing?

JANNA JIHAD: Of course, it’s pretty hard. Like, for example, last year I got — the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Thoughts made a secret report about me, saying that I’m the next threat on their country.

AMY GOODMAN: Wait, wait, wait. You have to repeat what you just said.

JANNA JIHAD: OK.

AMY GOODMAN: The Israeli Ministry of?

JANNA JIHAD: Of Strategic Thoughts.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you know about this report on you?

JANNA JIHAD: OK, I’ll explain. So, the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Thoughts made a secret report about me, saying that I’m the next threat on their state. And this report was revealed by the Israeli fourth news channel. And after that, I got a lot of threats, intimidations by the Israeli street. And after that, I got registered by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate. And, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you are the youngest press card-carrying journalist in the world. You just turned 13.

JANNA JIHAD: Thirteen, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: What does that mean? How does that protect you to have that press card?

JANNA JIHAD: So, I’m the youngest Palestinian registered press card-carrying journalist in the world. So, I got registered after this report was revealed. And it was also right after I was stopped on the border. I was only 12 years old and four days, when I was stopped while coming back from Jordan on the Israeli border, and was interrogated for three hours. And it was, of course, illegal, because, like, if a minor got interrogated, in the international law, I have to have my parent or a lawyer, and I didn’t have any of those. And it was pretty hard for me. And after that, I got registered, which would be like a bit of protection, although it’s not really protection, because all of the journalists get killed, arrested and injured in the occupied Palestine. But it helps a little bit, you know? Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to your cousin, Ahed, for a moment, Ahed Tamimi, the young Palestinian activist who served an eight-month term in Israeli prison. She became a heroine to so many Palestinians and many others around the world, when video went viral showing her slapping an Israeli soldier near the family’s home just after Ahed had learned her cousin had been gravely wounded by an Israeli soldier, who shot him in the head using a rubber-coated steel bullet. We got a chance to speak with Ahed soon after she was released from prison, and we asked her about the conditions in the jail.

AHED TAMIMI: [translated] There were women, and there were children. There was one woman who had been detained under administrative detention. Administrative detention means the detention is based on undisclosed files, so the detainee doesn’t know why they’re detained. Administrative detainees only attend administrative courts, and their sentence is always extended. At first, it might be six months, but it’ll be renewed another time for four months. They’ll tell you your administrative detention is six months, but then, after six months, they’ll tell you they’ve extended another four. After four months, they’ll tell you another six. It’s like the prisoner — may God rest his soul — Ali Jamal, who spent seven consecutive years under administrative detention.

There are over 350 children in prison, and three children who are under administrative detention. The conditions children endure in prison are very difficult. Prison isn’t for anyone. And the prison administration puts a lot of pressure on them, so it’s very difficult. I hope for the release of all prisoners, and especially children, as soon as possible.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that is Ahed Tamimi. We were speaking to her in front of her house. She was broadcasting from there to our New York studio, where I got a chance to interview her. She is 18 years old. She was jailed when she was 16, turned 17 in prison. What has Ahed’s activism meant to you? Tell us about Nabi Saleh, where you all live.

JANNA JIHAD: So, Nabi Saleh is a very small village, 500 people living there. It’s like so small. Also, we have an Israeli illegal settlement built on the land in Nabi Saleh, which is only 50 meters far from the village. And there is a checkpoint on the entrance. It’s very small. We’re all one family, which is the Tamimi family. Ahed is my cousin and my best friend. She was always. You know, I am the only child, and she has no sister, so we are always together and stuff. And yeah, Ahed is like — we’re really close. We always have been going to demonstrations and marches and like everything together. And it’s pretty nice, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And what was it like for you when she went to jail? She went to jail for slapping an Israeli soldier. So, she had just learned that your cousin, her cousin, had just been shot in the head by a rubber-tipped steel coated bullet?

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah. So, if you want, I can tell you Mohammed’s story, which is our cousin who got shot in the head, which was — he was just like literally playing. The soldiers were in the village for a couple of — for the past couple of days. And they were just shooting gas canisters randomly. There were no demonstrations, no clashes, no anything. It was just them raiding the village. And it was like right after Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, and a lot of stuff, like, were happening in the West Bank and, you know, like a lot of demonstrations and stuff. And it was that time.

So, Mohammed was playing with his friends, soccer, on the mountain. And he was just — so, like, you know, shooting, it’s pretty normal for us, and we would play outside, because, like, you know, it’s always happening.

(Article continued in the right column)

Question for this article

Presenting the Palestinian side of the Middle East, Is it important for a culture of peace?

(Article continued from the left column)

AMY GOODMAN: What’s always happening?

JANNA JIHAD: When, like, the Israeli occupation forces would just like start shooting gas canisters randomly. And then, suddenly, that shooting stopped. So, Mohammed thought that somebody got arrested or somebody got injured. So he was right next to that wall. It’s not a separation well, but it’s a normal wall. And he had a ladder. So he just climbed that ladder and wanted to see if something happened. And in the same moment, he climbed that ladder and just like took a look. The Israeli military soldiers were right under the wall. And one of them just shot him with a rubber-coated bullet, which came right here, right next to his nose, and was stuck in his brain. And he was in a coma for seven days. He lost a whole one-third of his skull. And he was under treatment. He had got arrested even three times while he was treated.

And after that — so, the problem about the world is that they only see the slap, but they don’t see the whole story. So, after that, the same soldiers just came right next to Ahed’s house and wanted to enter, because Ahed’s house is in a, like, pretty high area, so they can pretty much see everyone. They wanted to go to the roof of Ahed’s house and just like shoot.

AMY GOODMAN: Of Ahed.

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Who, at the time, was 16.

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah. They wanted to go to her house, to her properties, and start shooting more children. And Ahed was pretty much — she didn’t want them to go into her house, pretty much. And then he started pushing her, and then she slapped him. And that’s why she got arrested for eight months.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, you’re sitting here telling us this story. You’re telling us a story of when you were like, what, 10, 11 years old. Your cousin is shot in the face, is shot in the head, and now he’s lost a third of his brain or his skull in the process. How does this affect you as a child? How do you process this?

JANNA JIHAD: So, of course, a lot of difficult stuff for us as children living under this occupation happens. Like, for example, I saw a lot of people in my life getting killed in front of me. I was trying to — you know, we all — like, we get traumatized. We’re humans. You know, it’s pretty hard for us to process all of that. But we always believe that we want freedom, and wanting freedom is not easy. We have to pay the price of freedom. And the price of freedom won’t be that cheap. It’s going to be pretty expensive. A lot of people are going to get killed. A lot of people are going to get arrested. A lot of people are going to, like, get injured. But our main goal is to liberate Palestine, to live in freedom, love, peace and equality and justice, like any other human and child deserves to live.

AMY GOODMAN: You recently put out on Facebook the story of Mahmoud Salah.

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Who you say was shot in the leg by an Israeli sniper.

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what happened to him. What were the circumstances, and what has since happened?

JANNA JIHAD: So, Mahmoud Salah is a child from the village of al-Khader, next to the city of Bethlehem. So, Mahmoud Salah, he was playing after Iftar in Ramadan with his friends. He was playing soccer in the street. And his house is like basically right next to the separation wall. So, he was playing soccer, and then the soccer ball just went right next to the wall, so he went there to fetch it.

And then those Israeli soldiers in the tower shot him with a live munition, for basically no reason, in the leg. And his friends were trying to go help him, but those soldiers were faster than his friends, surrounded him. And they were shooting at his friends and didn’t allow anybody to come close to him — his family, his mom, his dad or anyone.

So they arrested his body. He fainted. He wasn’t even knowing what’s happening around him. And then, like, they didn’t inform the family about anything. After two days, they didn’t know anything about him, where was he, what happened to him. But he was at — he woke up, after two days, in an Israeli military hospital. And he had his leg cut off.

AMY GOODMAN: His leg was amputated.

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah, his leg was — like, he lost his leg, basically. And, like, none of his family was informed. And right now he’s under arrest even, for no reason, no charges. And —

AMY GOODMAN: How old is he?

JANNA JIHAD: He’s only — I think he’s only 14 years old, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: So, how do you cover these stories? Like, you don’t tweet. You’re on Facebook. What exactly do you do with your phone?

JANNA JIHAD: So, I usually try to, you know, cover whatever happens, like, for example, night raids, raids that are happening, when I’m coming back from my school on checkpoints. So, I usually even — like, usually go on live videos, because if I didn’t, if I was usually recording, they would just try to take my phone and try to break it or delete the videos off of it. So I always try to make my reports and just speak of what’s happening right in front of me, and then post it on my Facebook page. I have, like, right now about 300,000 followers. And, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: How often do you get to go to school? How often are schools closed in Nabi Saleh?

JANNA JIHAD: So, basically, our freedom of movement is violated. So, we have — me going to my school as a student is a struggle, because I face three checkpoints in my way. And those Israeli checkpoints are basically not checkpoints, but are barriers that block the street and close the whole street. And we cannot get anywhere because of those. So, usually, instead of me like reaching my school in about 25 to 30 minutes, I have to go to another way that takes me about two hours and a half to three hours to reach my school.

And it’s not only me that is getting affected. For example, my grandma started doing kidney dialysis two years ago because of how much tear gas she used to inhale, because, like, they shoot randomly at houses, at people. And, like, she has to go to the hospital three days a week, and sometimes she can’t. A lot of pregnant women gave birth to children in the car on those checkpoints. A lot of patients cannot go to the hospitals. Workers cannot go to their works. And it’s pretty hard, because we cannot go to the places we need to be at, at time. And it’s pretty — it’s a violation of our human rights.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you see as the solution for what is happening in the Occupied Territories and Israel?

JANNA JIHAD: OK, yeah. So, that’s a good question. We have the two-state solution, and we have the one-state solution. So, let’s start with the two-state solution. The two-state solution is basically dead, because, as a question, where are the borders of Israel? It was supposed to be the West Bank and Gaza for the Palestinians. But 68% of the West Bank is basically illegal settlements. And it’s pretty — it’s pretty much dead. And even like Israel doesn’t want it and is not working on it at all. Even, like, they signed on it, but it’s pretty much bad.

And then we have the one-state solution. For me, the one-state solution is the solution that would work. It can be that all of us could live together, same rights, under one government, getting exactly the same rights, me like the same as any other person. And all the refugees could come back to Palestine. All the people could live in peace, just in equality. And I have no problem with living with anybody, but a person that has — like, I would live with anybody that has a good mind, that they want peace and love and equality. And we have basically no problem. Like, welcome to our land, if you believe in peace, because it’s a land of peace, that never saw peace before. So, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you have a particular message for Israeli children?

JANNA JIHAD: So, Israeli children, I believe — we’re not the only victims, but we are freedom fighters as Palestinian children. But the Israeli children are, for me, a victim for the occupation. Because why would an 11-years-old child be holding a weapon that is even taller than him, and walking with it in the street? Why would they —

AMY GOODMAN: Have you seen that?

JANNA JIHAD: I’ve seen it. And I’ve seen children having —

AMY GOODMAN: You mean you’ve seen a settler child.

JANNA JIHAD: Uh-huh, a settler child in even like Jerusalem and anywhere we would go, like the children would be holding guns and like holding weapons. And why would a child hold that? Why would a child be raised on that mindset of killing people and on that like mindset of Zionism and really bad stuff, that we don’t want any child in this world to be raised on?

So, my message to the Israeli children is that we are all children, and we are all victims of that occupation. So, we have to stand up [to] the occupation. And, you know, the problem, I was debating that yesterday, that, like, the problem the Israeli youth are that, like, they’re going more to the right side of the government and stuff, and they’re more like a 17-years-old child would just like go and serve in the IDF. They’re supposed to go when they’re 17 years old. And it’s pretty bad, you know? And I believe that we all, children around this world, have to all unite to make this world a world of peace, love and equality and justice, because we’re the leaders of the future, and we’re the leaders of today, and we have to make a difference. We don’t have to just like repeat the mistakes of the adults right now, where they’re all separated and where, like, they’re all divided. And they just — like, we all want to live in peace. And we’re just tired of all of that, that’s happening around us.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you say that’s your message to children of the world, overall?

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah, that’s my message to all the children around the world, because we can make a difference, and we have to.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much for being with us. Janna Jihad just turned 13 years old. She is a Palestinian journalist, one of the youngest journalists, card-carrying journalists, in the world. She lives in Nabil Saleh in the occupied West Bank. And she is the cousin of Ahed Tamimi, who was considered a heroine to so many around the world, served time in an Israeli prison when she was 16 years old, turned 17 in person. You can go to democracynow.org to see our full interview with Ahed in Nabi Saleh. It’s been so great to have you in our studio.

JANNA JIHAD: Thank you. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you so much, Janna. This is Democracy Now! Thank you very much for joining us.

(Thank you to Phyllis Kotite, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

Manifesto on diversity: the Land of Canaan

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

An article by Mazin Qumsiyeh

At the Edinburgh International Festival I was asked to give a manifesto for the future. Thinking about it, I propose that briefly I address the issue of existential need to maintain biological diversity including human diversity. This resonates deeply with me due partly to my background in biology and medical genetics: the former helped understand better the evolution of diversity in nature and the latter (together with my social and political interests) the nature and importance of human diversity.

In many ways I think we can approach phenomena like racism, environmental destruction, colonization and wars via a diagnostic-therapeutic approach. As a student of science I was always keen in following this pragmatic approach with proposing rational testable hypothesis, collecting data, testing and retesting ideas with as little bias as is reasonably possible. With regards to the situation in Western Asia (aka “Middle East”), I wrote a book called Sharing the Land of Canaan, which talks about patient history, symptoms and underlying cause (etiology) as well  as prognostics.

I addressed in more detail the therapy in a book called “Popular Resistance in Palestine, History of Hope and Empowerment”. Here I do not want to go over these details and I want to just focus on one issue which is human diversity as a an imeprative – strengthening diversity as the most rational and obvious outcome even following colonial anti-colonial struggle.

I was professor at Yale University Medical School and when I was teaching my students I would say, you have to take a bit of patient history, understand what’s going on, and then you make the right diagnosis, and then you offer therapy and you look to prognosis. Taking the same approach is the logical way of looking at things, not emotional gut feeling kind of thing. Our subject or patient is a geographic region that is very significant, it’s at the nexus of continents and the cradle of civilizations. Due to geologic and geographic location, we have rich biodiversity including human diversity. A bottleneck for bird migration where >500 million birds pass on annual migrations from Eurasia to Africa. It was also a bottleneck for human migration where early humans spread out of Africa to the rest of the world.

This is the first area on planet earth that humans went from hunter-gatherers to agricultural and pastoral lifestyles. It is where we first domesticated plants like wheat, barley, and lentils and animals like goats and sheep. This is thus the fertile crescent. Jericho for example is the oldest continuously inhabited town on Earth; It has always had people. Of course these people acquired different religions, as religions come and go but the native/indigenous people stayed here for 12,000 years since that dawn of agriculture and animal husbandry.  It is what we call dawn of civilization because when people went from hunter-gatherers to agricultural communities their numbers went up so they lived in villages and towns and started to organize their lives and started to be more creative creative with the Iron and Bronze age. These people, our ancestors the Canaanites, are depicted in hieroglyphics and in Mesopotamian reliefs as rich people who had a fertile productive county (the land of milk and honey mentioned
in the Bible).

(Article continued in the right column)

Question for this article

Presenting the Palestinian side of the Middle East, Is it important for a culture of peace?

How can a culture of peace be established in the Middle East?

(Article continued from the left column)

Our Canaanitic ancestors evolved into various tribes: Nebateans (early Arab), Jebuisites, Hebrews, Ammonites, Phoenecians and Phyllistines among others. Towns and villages that they inhabited prospered and as they diversified and specialized they traded their goods. Cheese and butter of Nebateans for perfumes from Jericho and wood from cedars of Lebanon. For these 12,000 years we have had very little conflict here. Palestine having multiethahnic, multireligious, multicultural and even multilingual society for thousands of years. This may surprise some of you because you watch western media which is basically propaganda nonsense. This country is one of the least conflicted on Earth. We are just unlucky to be living in this era now. If you go back before this conflict between natives and Zionism you would go to the Crusaders, 1190 AD, another conflict that came from outside. So we’re talking about hundreds of years with no conflict in between short episodes imposed on us from outside.

So this is not a congenital problem, the patient is not hopeless, the patient has had episodes, once in a while, but these native people prospered developing religion, laws, music, and even the alphabet. The latin alphabet was invented and evolved by our Canaanite ancestors. The Aramaic language that Jesus spoke had significant influence as it evolved to Arabic, Assyrian, and Hebrew. Like languages, religious beliefs also evolved and diversified.  Our country has always been multi-ethnic, multicultural, multi-religious, and multilingual. Very rare episodes which came from outside attempted and failed (e.g. Crusaderism, Zionism) to change this. Settler colonialism is not uncommon diagnosis and it is a very destructive force for both the native humans and all other native fauna and flora. We can cite for example destruction of millions of endogenous treesand planting European pine trees to hide the places of the destroyed Palestinian villages. We  can cite draining the Hula wetlands, diversion of the Jordan valley waters (leading to desertification) and the politically motivated Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal.

I’m optimistic because our subject, the Western part of the Fertile Crescent has been healthy and prosperous and strong (via diversity). Its current setback started with an idea called Zionism. Zionism is not a complicated idea, it says that European Jews are discriminated against in Europe, they should have their own state, so come and take this country that is called Palestine and make it the Jewish state of Israel. Most blacks in North America resisted discrimination but there was a minority who decided to go make their own state created a nation state in western Africa, Liberia, and the problem for them is the same problem that these European Jews faced, and Herzl also one of the founders of this movement faced, is that Liberia was not a land without a people for a people without a land. There were people there, natives, and what to do with the nativesis always a problem for people who come from abroad to try and create new realities on the ground.  Today 7.5 million of us Palestinians are refugees or displaced people (of a total 13 million Palestinians).  Settler colonialism has one of three possible outcomes: 1) Algerian model where 2-3 million Algerians were killed in the struggle and then one million French packed their bags and went to Europe, 2) Australia and the US model (genocide of natives), 3) The rest of the world model were descendants of the colonizers and descendants of the colonized live in one country and share it. There is no fourth scenario in the history of colonization.

The diagnosis and the prognosis (third scenario) is logical and attempts by colonizers are monolithic society fail (cf Crusaderism, Zionism).  They fail because diversity is strength. In biology when I look at the forest and I see one species dominate I don’t say this is a healthy forest. I say this is unhealthy, it’s going to decline. The strength comes from diversity, so we say that’s what will happen here and that’s another reason why I’m optimistic – we fight for equality and to maintain the country the way it was supposed to be: multi-ethnic multi-cultural and multi-religious.

Therapy in the form of popular resistance and a global joint struggle as we did against apartheid in South Africa is working. We just need to intensify it.

(Thank you to Phyllis Kotite, the CPNN reporter for this article which she received by email from Mazin.)

Voices of Afghan women ‘must be heard at the table in the peace process and beyond’ UN deputy chief tells Security Council

. . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . .

An article from the United Nations

Afghan women have “paid a high price” during their country’s nearly four decades of conflict, the United Nations deputy chief said on Friday, addressing the Security Council a day after Kabul had been hit with a fresh round of “horrific” bomb attacks.

As she opened her briefing, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed offered her “deepest condolences to the Government and people of Afghanistan”, saying that “indiscriminate attacks that kill women and children are an affront to our humanity and a crime under international humanitarian law”.

Before updating Council members on her recent visit to the country, she affirmed that the UN “stands with Afghans as they work for lasting peace and security”.


Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed briefs the Security Council on the situation in Afghanistan and her recent visit to the country. (26 July 2019), by UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Afghan women on the rise  

Under the Taliban government, “women and girls were denied access to education, health services and protection from extreme violence, and could not participate in political or public life”, said Ms. Mohammed.

Her briefing comes just days after returning from her third visit to the country to explore UN support for the ‘ women, peace and security’ agenda. She was joined by UN Political and Peacebuilding Affairs chief, Rosemary DiCarlo, the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Natalia Kanem, and the head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

While there, Ms. Mohammed held talks with President Ashraf Ghani, the Chief Executive, the First Lady, as well as senior leaders and religious scholars; and made a field visit to Bamiyan Province and spoke to women leaders, decision-makers and health care workers.

“In the past 18 years, there has been significant progress”, the UN deputy chief reported, pointing out that women encumber senior roles in the Defence, Foreign Affairs and Interior Ministries; 27 per cent of the civil service is female; and women are serving as mayors and provincial governors.

Moreover, elections are scheduled for 28 September and both the Independent Electoral Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission heads are women.

Since the fall of the Taliban, nine out of 11 million Afghan children are now enrolled in school; investments in reducing maternal mortality are saving thousands of lives; and improved infrastructure and power supplies are connecting remote areas to national economic opportunities.

Afghanistan has “done more to invest in women’s leadership” than many countries with greater means and women are “rising to reclaim their rightful place in all areas of society”, Ms. Mohammed spotlighted.

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development  holds great promise for the lives of Afghans across the country,” she said highlighting that 24 UN agencies are partnering with the government on issues ranging from food security to clean water and the rule of law, “often risking their lives”.

Global Goals

On the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), she conveyed that SDG 5, on gender equality, is “essential to ensure that women have access to education, health care and decent work, and that women are represented in all areas of society and in all political and economic decision-making processes, including in government and in peace negotiations”.

“SDG16 on peace, justice and strong institutions will also be essential to hold free, fair and credible elections, to build trust in state institutions, and to facilitate reconciliation and the reintegration of former combatants after the signing of any peace agreement”, added the UN deputy chief.

She brought to light that in the short-term, 6.3 million Afghans need humanitarian aid across the country, adding that “the Humanitarian Response Plan is just 27 per cent funded”.

“We must increase that level urgently, to provide immediate support and protection to displaced people and those in greatest need”, explained Ms. Mohammed. 

Peace needed ‘urgently’

“As we witnessed again yesterday, conflict continues in Afghanistan”, Ms. Mohammed said, noting that in the first five months of this year, conflict displaced more than 100,000 people, which “increases the risk of gender-based violence”.

(Continued in right column)

Question related to this article:

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

Is peace possible in Afghanistan?

(Continued from left column)

And in areas where the Taliban has reclaimed control, “there are reports of honor killings, stoning and other attacks on women’s rights”, she lamented, adding that “peace, security and economic stability are urgently needed”.

All the women she spoke to “wanted an inclusive peace centred on women, as well as victims and survivors”, she told the Council.

“Afghan women, like women everywhere, must play a part in decisions that will affect their future”, she spelled out. “Inclusivity is not only the right thing to do for women and girls, it is the only way to make durable peace”.

Sustainable peace will take time and must address violations and divisions of the past for the country to achieve closure.

“Inclusion and consensus are also essential to creating the greatest possible peace dividend, benefitting all parts of the economy and all sections of society…to address stigma and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity or regional differences”, she elaborated.

With women playing “a central role” in creating peaceful, inclusive communities with opportunities for all, she said, “Afghanistan is at an important crossroads” and needs the support of the entire UN system and international community “to invest in building on the gains, while sustaining peace”.

“I urge this Council to do all in its power to support all Afghans in realizing their hopes and aspirations for lasting peace, stability and prosperity”, concluded the Deputy Secretary-General.

Gearing up to vote

Taking the podium after Ms. Mohammed, UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo recalled that Afghanistan is marking the centennial of its independence, saying that it is at “a pivotal juncture with an unprecedented opportunity for peace”.

She underscored the need that the upcoming presidential elections are “credible and held on time”, adding that the UN is providing technical assistance and that the Independent Electoral Commission has “made steady progress” in its preparations – with two non-voting UN members embedded in each Commission.

A $149 million election budget has been finalized, with the Government covering $90 million and the international community the rest.

“Over half a million more Afghans have registered, of which some 36 per cent are women”, she updated the Council. “This is the first time that citizens were given an opportunity to review and make corrections to the 2018 voters list”.

Despite this progress, challenges remain, including the recruitment and training of thousands of polling staff.

“With only nine weeks remaining to the polling and the Commissions working against the clock”, she underscored that there is no room for technical or political delays, adding also that “a level playing field amongst all candidates is key for credible elections”.

Credible elections are “vital” to give the newly-elected president “the authority needed to bring the country together in the peace process”, she maintained.

Finding a political solution

Meanwhile, direct talks between the United States and the Taliban continue.

And while this is “an important step forward” towards formal negotiations between the Government and the Taliban to reach a sustainable peace agreement, Ms. DiCarlo affirmed that additional intra-Afghan conferences are planned.

“A political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan remains more relevant than ever, as civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict” she stressed, calling on all conflict parties “to respect international humanitarian law, to ensure access for humanitarian agencies to provide life-saving assistance and to distinguish between combatants and civilian targets to protect civilians from hostilities”.

In closing, Ms. DiCarlo underscored that “Afghans deserve peace and the right to choose their representatives”.

We urge this Council to do the same”, she concluded.

A view from the ground

Addressing the Council via videoconference from Kabul, Jamila Afghani of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom-Afghanistan, underscored the impact of the conflict on ordinary Afghans, who live in constant insecurity yet find themselves on the side lines of peace talks. 

Since September 2018, the US and other countries had facilitated efforts towards a negotiated peace, but she stressed that there has been a clear absence of meaningful participation by women and other actors, notably the direct victims of war. 

“Afghan women must be able to meaningfully participate in decisions that affect them,” she said, and urged the Council to ensure clear procedures for engaging Afghan women from diverse backgrounds in peace negotiations and conflict resolution efforts, especially as negotiators and religious leaders who can bridge political gaps on the path to peace. 

She added that the Council should ensure that this year’s elections include enhanced security for women voters and candidates, and for networks involving the Government, civil society and other stakeholders to promote women’s participation. 

Women Are Critical to Building a Lasting Peace in Afghanistan

. . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . .

An article by Ian J. Lynch in The Diplomat

Women are critical to the everyday peacebuilding activities necessary to put any peace agreement into effective practice.


Independent Afghan artists draw a graffiti on a barrier wall of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to mark International Women’s Day in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, March 8, 2019.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation, is back in Qatar  for what could be the final round of U.S.-Taliban negotiations. He tweeted  on July 31, “if the Taliban do their part, we will do ours, and conclude the agreement we have been working on.” While he also  that talks “between the Taliban and an inclusive and effective national negotiating team,” would follow, the Taliban maintain that they will not negotiate directly  with the Afghan government. Even if “inclusive” intra-Afghan talks do materialize it remains likely the role of women will be marginal. 

Afghan women and their advocates  are concerned that their exclusion at the negotiating table will severely undermine the gains they have made over the past 17 years. Moreover, women are critical to the everyday peacebuilding activities that will be necessary to put any peace agreement into effective practice.

At the heart of the exclusion of women from the peace process in Afghanistan are two pervasive, often unstated, but widely held, notions: 1) Afghan women are not well suited to negotiating an effective peace agreement with the Taliban and 2) women do not need to be present at negotiations so long as negotiators commit to protecting women’s rights. These ideas actually weaken the prospects for a long-term, inclusive peace.

A peace agreement that ends outright hostility and provides a means for reconciliation is essential, but the peace process will not end with an agreement. The everyday actions necessary for peacebuilding will require the participation of civil society, municipal leaders, traditional institutions, and, crucially, women. The participation of women and civil society groups in negotiations greatly increases the likelihood that peace agreements last.

The development of a new culture of peace will be an arduous process, but vital if Afghanistan is to avoid a relapse of civil conflict. The 15,000 women who participated in recent grassroots Afghan Women for Peace  forums in all 34 provinces demonstrate both the capacity and the desire to be effective peacebuilders.

(Continued in right column)

Question related to this article:

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

Is peace possible in Afghanistan?

(Continued from left column)

Women across the countryside already perform the kind of everyday negotiations with Taliban leaders  necessary for a  new culture of peace to take root beyond an agreement on paper. In the hotly contested Kunduz province, 510 women stated  in March they “have a continuous and active role to play in the maintenance of social peace, and the peace process.” They “have been able to stop youth, and people who are easily influenced by the insurgent groups, from fighting against their own villages and homes.” The same month in Nimroz, 500 women said  they speak to their neighbors “about the importance of peace, especially with families who are suspected to be members of the insurgent groups.”

In April, Khalilzad met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, former President Hamid Karzai and others to discuss the progress of the talks and “the necessity of an inclusive #Afghan  negotiating team.” Women were not present in this meeting about the “necessity” of an inclusive process and yet Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – who until recently led armed opposition to the government – and other former warlords were at the table.

Prior to the U.S.-Taliban talks in June, Khalilzad met with  female Afghan politicians and tweeted, “US policy is that women should be at the table in intra-Afghan dialogue & negotiations.” Members of the Afghan Women’s Network were also present  when Khalilzad briefed President Ghani during the same trip to Kabul. This was an improvement compared with earlier diplomacy by the U.S. envoy, but women need to be given more than a consultative role.

For their part, the Taliban know they need to improve  their image on women’s rights to secure a peace agreement. Insurgents and warlords involved in the peace process may even agree to long-term institutional compromises to reach a final peace agreement that ends the war, offers some impunity for their actions, and affords them participation in governance similar to the rehabilitation of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami party. 

However, a willingness to agree to laws and institutions on paper should not be interpreted as a willingness to respect and uphold a functioning legal system. Insurgents, warlords, and other entrepreneurs of violence rarely expect future legal structures to affect them, because the law has never applied to them before. In practice, Taliban commanders continue to deliver brutal public punishments  to women who stray from their strict interpretation of Sharia law. 

Power sharing earned via violence produces a fragile peace. As Mary Kaldor argues in Global Security Cultures, such a peace may be better than continued warfare, but the entrenchment and legitimization of violent actors’ power perpetuates crime, human rights abuses, and fails to resolve grievances that can reignite conflict later. 

To avoid a compromised peace, the Afghan process must subordinate violent actors and uplift the moderate, majoritarian sources of political legitimacy that are too often left out of peace talks. Afghan women have consistently practiced the local-level peacebuilding that will be needed to reinforce a national-level political settlement and build a culture of peace over time. The Taliban will resist including women and it will make the process more difficult, but involving a broad set of Afghan actors committed to the everyday reproduction of peace is the only way to build an enduring peace. 

Ian J. Lynch recently graduated with a Masters in Middle East, Caucasus, and Central Asian Security Studies from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He is the former Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the School of Leadership Afghanistan, the country’s first and only boarding school for girls. He tweets at @Ian_J_Lynch.

Historic and Cultural Interactions Between Islam and Judaism, Muslims and Jews

. TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY

An article by Bahar Bastani, M.D. – Saint Louis University, School of Medicine from Persian Heritage-part one and part two

There is a public perception that the Muslims and the Jews have an eternal animosity and have been in conflict through out their histories. However, Islam recognizes Judaism and Christianity as legitimate monotheistic faiths, and the Jews and the Christians as People of the Book who have received divine guidance. Moreover, in contrast to the Christians, Muslims did not consider the Jews as killers of God or God’s son. Thus, there was no inherent theological conflict between the Muslims and the Jews. The early conflicts between the Muslims and the Jews in Medina were political in nature, between the new rising power of the Islamic community (Ummah) and the older established power centers by the Jewish tribes. During the Golden Age of Islamic Civilization, 9th-12th centuries CE, both the Muslim and the Jewish civilizations flourished in the Islamic centers of higher learning in Baghdad and al-Andalusia-Spain, and the Muslim territories was safe heaven for the Jewry of the world. Also, when Spain fell under the Spanish Catholic rule in 1492 and the Jews where being persecuted, it was the Ottoman Empire that send ships to rescue the Jews from Spain into the Muslim territories. The current conflicts between some of the Muslim countries and Israel is also of political and not ideological in nature.

Part one

Judaism and Islam are both true monotheistic Abrahamic religions that originated in the Middle East. The prophet Moses founded Judaism among the ancient Hebrews over 3,500 years ago (1500BCE = Before Common Era = Before Christ). The prophet Moses was a descendent of the prophet Abraham through his wife Sarah, their son Isaac, and their grandson Jacob (also known as Israel). The Torah (the Hebrew Bible = the Christian Old Testament = the first five books of the Bible [Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy]) is the foundational text of Judaism that encompasses the religion, philosophy and culture of the Jewish people. It is believed by the Jews that God gave the Tanakh (the written Torah [the Five Books of Moses], Nevi’im [“Prophets”], and Ketuvim [“Writings”]) to the prophet Moses. The books of the Tanakh were passed on generations accompanied by the oral Torah (the Talmud: Mishnah & Gemara) that contains compiled rabbinic opinions and teachings from before the Common Era (BCE = BC) to the fifth century Common Era (CE = AD = After Death of Christ) on Jewish law & ethics, customs, history and philosophy.

The prophet Mohammad (570-632CE or AD) founded Islam in the 7th century (610CE) (1,400 years ago). The prophet Mohammad was a descendant of the prophet Abraham through Abraham’s second wife Hagar, and Abraham’s first-born son by Hagar, Ishmael. The primary sacred scripture of Islam is the Quran, which is considered by Muslims as the verbatim word of God. Other important Islamic sources are the teachings and normative example of the prophet Mohammad, which is called the Sunnah, composed of accounts called the Hadith. The books of Hadith that are considered most authentic in the Sunni Sect of Islam are called the Sihah Sittah (the six authentic books): Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu Dawood, Jamia Tirmizi, Sunan Nasai, Sunan Ibn Majah. The books of Hadith that are considered most authentic in the Shia Sect of Islam are called al-Kutub al-Arbaa’h (the four books): Kitab al-Kafi, Man la yahduruhu al-Fagih, Tahdhib al-Ahkam, and al-Istibsar.

In a short interval of 622 to 732CE (within a 110 years) Islam entered into the international stage, and became an important player in vast territories stretching from Iran to Spain, Morocco, northern Syria, and the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Thus, Muslims from the beginning of their history (migration from Mecca to Medina, 622CE) have been in close contact with people of the Jewish and Christian faith.
There are many shared aspects between Islam and Judaism: both are strictly monotheistic and non-compromising in a transcendent, eternal and incorporeal God who is just and merciful, who guides mankind through prophets, who prescribes laws of conduct for all daily matters from birth to death, and whom can be reached by way of prayer that should be directed to God and not to others with no need for intermediaries or clergy; a God who is aware of the thoughts and deeds of man, and who rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked justly. Both faiths believe that there is life after death, and both are messianic, believing in the coming of a savior at the end of days. Both faiths are very action-oriented, with religious acts and rituals mandated by God that should be performed routinely and correctly. Christianity, on the other hand, is more about faith and feeling in the heart. Both faiths (Judaism & Islam) describe in detail how a righteous life should be conducted on a daily basis from the time of birth to one’s death, in accordance with God’s mandates. While Jesus himself was born into a Jewish household and Jewish tradition and followed these rules, the Christians led by Saint Paul abandoned these rules claiming that the coming of Jesus meant loss of validity of the Jewish laws. The very elaborate and intricate system of laws and jurisprudence is called “Halakha” in Judaism and “Sharia” in Islam. Both are paths for a believer to reaffirm his/her covenant with the creator. For both faiths, the letter of the law is as important as its spirit. Both legal systems go into detail of how one should conduct his/her daily living matters at a personal and community level, and in relation to God. There are permissible (Kosher or Halal) and impermissible foods, specific ways to sacrifice animals for human consumption, prescribed daily prayers and rules on washing before prayers, rules about place of prayer, prescribed fasting at specific times, rules on spousal relationship, laws on inheritance, marriage, divorce, child custody, adultery, financial conflicts, stealing, treason, rituals after birth, circumcision of male offspring, and rituals at burial of the dead. 

Scholars of both faiths spend tremendous time extracting these legal codes from the sacred text (the Torah and the Quran) and the oral commentaries (the Talmud and the Hadith books), and pass judicial treatises. In both faiths, learning about religious and divine laws is a form of prayer and worship, and a fulltime occupation for religious scholars and leaders (rabbis and ulema). These religious scholars act as interpreters of the law for their communities in religious matters and do not have any liturgical role, as in the case of Christian priests, since in both Judaism and Islam, the believers directly pray to God, with no need for intermediaries. They also served as judges and arbitrators in community conflicts. In both faiths there has been emphasis on memorization of the sacred text in early childhood. Over time, the synagogues and the mosques that used to serve as the community centers, courts of law and centers of higher education, became devoted exclusively to the study of religious legal matters to an extreme extend, and focused more on the past commentaries and oral traditions than their original sacred texts, i.e. the Torah and the Quran. 

Islam considers the Christians and the Jews as legitimate communities of believers in God. They are referred to in the Quran and the Hadith as “people of the Book” (Ahl al-Kitab), who have received divine guidance through two highly revered prophets, i.e., the prophet Moses and the prophet Jesus. The prophet Moses is mentioned 136 times and the Children of Israel (Banu Israel = children of Jacob) 43 times in the Quran. There are five major chapters in the Quran that are devoted significantly to the story of the prophet Moses and Banu Israel, namely the second chapter (Al-Baqara – The Cow), chapter 20 (Ta-Ha), chapter 26 (Ash-Shu’ara – The Poets), chapter 27 (An-Naml – The Ants), and chapter 28 (Al-Qasas – The Stories). And, over 16 verses in the Quran emphasize that the Quran has come to affirm the truth in the Bible and the Torah, and not to reject them, emphasizing their role in human guidance (Quran 5:46, 66, 68).1

The early interactions between Muslims and Jews were very positive. Mohammad considered them to be his natural allies and admired them as true monotheists. The earliest verses of the Quran were very sympathetic to the Jews. Unlike the Christians, Muslims did not view the Jews as deicides (killers of “God”) (the Quran claims that the Jews did not kill Jesus; Quran 4:157)2 and did not attribute evil to the Jews. The Quran did not present itself as the fulfillment of the Hebrew bible, but rather as a restoration of its original message. The Quran praises the prophet Moses, depicts Israelites as the recipients of divine favors, and in many of its verses glorifies the Hebrew prophets (Quran 6:85),3 and mentions God’s favors to the Children of Israel that made them excel among the nations of their time (Quran 2:47, 122).4

On the 11th year of Mohammad’s prophet hood (622CE), because of the heightened persecutions against the Muslims and an attempt to assassinate the prophet Mohammad in Mecca, and after repeated invitations from people of Yathrib (later named Medina), the prophet Mohammad, along with some 200 immigrants from Mecca (called the “Muhajerun”) fled to Yathrib (Medina). The event hallmarks the beginning of the Islamic calendar, al-Hijra. This was at the invitation of the people of Medina, who were comprised of 2 prominent rival Arab tribes (Aus & Khazraj), which had been in a seemingly never-ending perpetual fight for centuries. The prophet Mohammad was appointed as the governor, judge and arbitrator of this city. In Medina, along with the Muslim immigrants from Mecca (the “Muhajerun” = the emigrants) were the newly converts of Medina (the “Ansar” = the helpers), some remaining idol worshipers, some Christians, and 3 powerful Jewish tribes. In the very beginning, the prophet Mohammad drew a “social contract” known as the “Constitution of Medina” or “Medina Charter”, a kind of alliance or federation among the prevailing communities in Medina. It upheld a peaceful coexistence between the Muslims, Christians, Jews and other city dwellers in a new, inclusive concept of Umma (community of the citizens), granting them freedom of religious thought and practices.

It was a formal agreement guaranteeing interfaith, multicultural coexistence, including articles emphasizing strategic cooperation in the defense of the city, and prohibiting any alliance with the outside enemies. It also declared that disputes would be referred to the prophet Mohammad for arbitration. It was acknowledged in the contract “the Jews will profess their religion, and the Muslims theirs,” or “to the Jews, their own expenses, and to the Muslims, theirs. They shall help one another in the event of any attack on the people covered by this document. There shall be sincere friendship and exchange of goods, good counsel, fair conduct and no act of treason between them.”

The prophet Mohammad expected the Jews of Medina to be his natural allies and accept his prophet hood, since his message was in alliance with their long-standing tradition of monotheism, confirming the truth that had been revealed to them from God in the Torah. However, as the conversion of the perpetually fighting pagan tribes of Medina to Islam united them in a Muslim Umma (community of the faithful) and the Muslims gained more power, tribal politics led the Jewish tribes of Medina to worry about this newly rising power. They refused to accept Mohammad’s prophet hood, and in the subsequent years that wars happened between the Meccan pagans (Quraysh tribes) and the Muslims of Medina the Jewish tribes secretly sided with the offending pagans. Moreover, on religious grounds the Jews were skeptical of a non-Hebrew prophet. While the prophet Mohammad had no prejudice against the Jews and considered his message as substantially the same as theirs, this initially peaceful coexistence soon ended. Around 2 years after Hijra (immigration of Muslims to Medina) the direction of prayer (qibla) of Muslims changed from Jerusalem to Mecca (624CE = 2AH), further emphasizing the identity of the new faith (Islam) as distinct from Judaism. 

The 3 powerful Jewish tribes in Medina were the Banu Qaynuqa, the Banu Nadir, and the Banu Qurayza. The Banu Qaynuqa were expelled from Medina after the Battle of Badr (624CE; 2AH), wherein the first armed confrontation Muslims decisively defeated the pagan forces of Mecca (Quraysh tribe). According to Ibn Ishaq (85-151AH),5 shortly after this victory, a Muslim woman was disrespected by a Jewish merchant in the Jewish quarter of goldsmiths, by stripping off her dress and head-cover. A Muslim man who came upon the resulting commotion killed the Jewish merchant. A Jewish mob of the Qaynuqa tribe killed the Muslim man in retaliation. This led to a great turmoil in the city. The prophet Mohammad gathered the Jews of the Banu Qaynuqa in the bazaar, warning them to stop escalating hostilities or they would face the same fate of the Meccan pagans in the Battle of Badr. He also asked the Jews to accept him as a prophet of God. The prophet Mohammad was mocked over his victory over the Meccan pagans, and the Battle of Badr was ridiculed and claimed as insignificant. He was further told that the Muslims would not dare to confront the Jews. The event led to a siege of the Qaynuqa Jewish fortresses and their expulsion from Medina.

Part two

The Banu Nadir tribe was expelled from Medina in 625 CE (3 AH) after an alleged attempt to assassinate the prophet Mohammad a few months after the Battle of Uhud. In that battle, an army of 3,000 men of Meccan pagans (Quraysh tribe) attacked a Muslim force in Medina (around 700 defending men), and despite early success in the battlefield, Muslims had very heavy losses.

The Banu Qurayza tribe was vanished after the Battle of Trench in 627 CE (5 AH), when a combined force of more than 10,000 men from the pagan Meccan Quraysh tribe and many of the Bedouin pagan tribes of the Arabian peninsula united forces under the Jewish leadership of Huyayy ibn Akhtab to conquer Medina and eradicate Muslims once and for all. After a month of an unsuccessful siege of Medina, behind a trench dug by the Muslims and adverse weather conditions, the pagans retreated with heavy losses back to Mecca. During the unsuccessful siege of Medina, the pagans secretly negotiated with the Jews of the Banu Qurayza to provide them with a safe passage to attack the city from behind. This was considered a violation of the peace treaty (the constitution of Medina). The prophet Mohammad ordered a siege of the Banu Qurayza fortresses. After their defeat, he asked them to appoint a judge of their choice to rule on the act of treason they had committed. The Banu Qurayza agreed to accept whatever verdict Sa’ad ibn Mua’dh (the leader of their former ally, the Aus tribe) would pass on them. Sa’ad, who himself was severely wounded in the Battle of Trench, invoked the Torah and declared treason as an unpardonable offense and sentenced all adult males be executed and the women and the children be taken as war captives (Quran33:26-27). However, some historians have disputed that the Banu Qurayza men were killed on quite such a large scale. It has been argued that ibn Ishaq gathered information from descendants of the Qurayza Jews, who embellished or manufactured the details of the incident.

(continued in right column)

Question related to this article:
 
How can different faiths work together for understanding and harmony?

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The negative and derogatory verses in the Quran against the Jews (Quran 2:65, 5:60, 7:166) appeared after these events and were directed toward the wrongdoers among the Jews who disobeyed the laws of God as revealed in the Torah, who broke the Sabbath, and took usury, which was strictly prohibited for them and for the Muslims, and who were not grateful for the goods bestowed on them by God, and had altered their holy scripture (Quran 3:63, 71; 4:46, 160-161; 5:41-44, 63-64, 82; 6:91). In the Quran’s style of timely narratives, the references to the Jews and other groups were only to certain populations, and pertained to a certain period of history, and were devoid of racial and religious profiling. The Jewish people in general, and Judaism were not the targets of these remarks, and the criticisms dealt mainly with the wrong doers among the Jews. At the same time, the Quran gives legitimacy to the Jews and the Christians where it says that those among them who truly believe in the God, the Day of Judgment, and do good in this life, should have no fear on the Day of Judgment (Quran 2:62 & 5:69),10 and praises the high virtues among some of the followers of the Book (Christians and Jews) (Quran 3:113-115),11 and praises those Jews who guide others in the way of the truth and act justly (Quran 7:159).

As the people of the Book, the Christians and the Jews in the territories governed by Muslims enjoyed more protection than the followers of other faiths, and were given a minority status of “dhimmi” with rights to own property, practice their religion, maintain their places of worship, and be judged by their own judges according to their own jurisprudence, engage in commerce and operate their own schools, in exchange for a special poll tax called “Jizya”. Also, they would not be drafted into the army at wartime and they would receive all the protections that Muslims enjoyed as citizens of those communities. Moreover, they were exempt from the regular tax (Zakat) that Muslims had to pay to the government on a yearly basis.

It was at the time of the second righteous (Rashidun) caliph after the Prophet Mohammad’s death, Umar ibn al-Khattab (641 CE, 19 AH), that the Holy Land of Hijaz (Mecca and Medina and their surroundings) became forbidden to the non-Muslims, and they were only allowed in the Red Sea port of Jidda (Jeddah). He also set aside the Christian ban on the Jews and allowed them into Jerusalem for worship. At the same time some restrictive conditions were codified known as “Pact of Umar” that gave the Jews and the Christians a second-class citizen status. However, despite the dhimmi status, the Jews were still better off under the Muslim rule than under the Byzantine Christian rule.

While the dhimmi status indicated a second-class citizenship, it did not prevent a good working relationship and even friendship between the Muslims and the Jews. As individuals, the Jews reached high positions under various Muslim rulers, rabbinical courts were recognized to judge the Jews in their disputes, and the Jewish leaders were recognized to represent the Jewish communities.

After Ali ibn Abutaleb, the fourth righteous caliph after the Prophet Mohammad’s death, was assassinated in 661 CE (40 AH), Muawiya who was the Muslim ruler of Syria took over the entire Muslim empire and established the Umayyad dynasty. The Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads in 750 CE in a bloody revolt, notably by the support from the “mawali” (converted Iranians) lead by an Iranian general Abu Muslim Khorasani. The sole survivor of the Umayyad royal family, Prince Abd al-Rahman I fled to Spain that had been under Umayyad rule since 711 CE, and established a new dynasty at Cordoba, Spain. His descendent, Abd al-Rahman III proclaimed the caliphate of Cordoba in 929 CE independent from the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad.

During the Abbasid caliphate in the Muslim Middle East, there was a gradual revival of the Persian (Iranian) culture and influence, and the old Arab aristocracy was partially replaced by a Muslim Iranian administration. The Iranians had an ancient civilization that had extensive interactions with the civilizations of India and China. The Iranian converts introduced advanced technologies in agriculture and irrigation, medicine, mathematics and astronomy, as well as a universal philosophy, and a tradition of efficient state administration. During the Abbasid dynasty, Baghdad was the capital city and seat of power in the Muslim world. It became a center for higher learning, arts and sciences, attracting people of knowledge, philosophers, architects, musicians, poets and intellectuals from all around the world. The books of past scientists and philosophers were actively translated from the Greek, Persian, Indian, and Chinese languages into Arabic, and soon the Arabic language became the means of conveying knowledge and new discoveries to the world, much as the English language is today. Muslim physicians and scientists of Persia (Iran) wrote the prefaces in Arabic for more widespread public use in the Islamic world.

The Islamic civilization flourished most in the medieval period 900 – ۱۲۰۰ CE in both Baghdad and Cordoba-Spain, as did the Jewish civilization in the Muslim territories. As the Arabic language became the state and intellectual language of the Middle East, North Africa and Muslim Spain, the Jews living in these territories adopted Arabic as a means of communication, and for several centuries most of the Jewish religious and secular intellectual production was in the Arabic written in Hebrew letters. Following the pioneering works of Rabbi Saadya Gaon in Iraq, some of the greatest Jewish classics by ibn Pakudah, Maimonides and Halevi were written in the Arabic language, which had become a legitimate tool of creation of scientific and philosophical discoveries and thoughts.

The region in Spain ruled by the Muslims, called al-Andalusia, became a center for intellectuals, poets, philosophers, and scientists of the time. The adoption of the Arabic language enabled the educated Jews to actively participate in the dominant culture, and to have access to all recent Muslim intellectual achievements in science and philosophy, as well as to the Greek intellectual heritage, which had been best preserved by the Muslim scholars. The Jews became active participants in a variety of professions, such as medicine, commerce, finance, and agriculture. The meticulous regard, which Muslim-linguists had for the Arabic grammar and style influenced Jewish linguists to study Hebrew and led to a renaissance in the Jewish poetry in Hebrew that paralleled the Arabic in meter and styles. During this period some of the greatest intellectual works in philosophy, law, grammar, and natural sciences appeared in both the Jewish and Muslim worlds. Adoption of the Arabic language and a Judeo-Arabic culture greatly facilitated assimilation of the Jews in Muslim countries, and their active participation in international trade in caravans linking east and west of the vast Muslim territories. This led to the emergence of a class of wealthy Jews in the courts of Muslim rulers who served as the bankers and financiers.

When Muslims conquered south of Spain in 711 CE, they were generally welcomed and assisted by the local Jews, and once conquered, the defense of Cordoba was left in the hands of the Jews under Muslim rule. By the time Umayyad rule was establish by Abd al-Rahman I in 755 CE, waves of Jewish immigrants escaped a century of persecution under the Christian rule in Europe, as well as the Jews from the Mediterranean region, and also from the Muslim territories from Morocco to Babylon joined the native Jewish communities there, and thus, a highly enriched-Sephardic Jewish culture was created by a mixture of these very diverse Jewish traditions from all over the world. The Jewish scholars from around the world were invited to Cordoba. During the reign of Abd al-Rahman III (912-961 CE) who proclaimed a Muslim Caliphate (independent from Baghdad) in Cordoba-Spain (929 CE), the Jews developed their own (independent of Baghdad) Jewish community, culture and Talmudic authority. Under the influence of the Muslim linguists and grammarians, a new generation of Hebrew linguists and grammarians emerged, who applied the same meticulousness that the Muslim linguists and scholars applied to the study of Arabic (the language of the Quran) to the study of Hebrew (the language of Torah). The Jewish poetry in Hebrew had a renaissance in style and meter in this period. Celebrated poets, such as Solomon ibn Gabriol, Yehuda, Halevi, Abraham and Moses ibn Ezra, as well as linguists, such as Dunash ben Labrat (innovator of Hebrew metric poetry), and Menahem ben Saruq (compiler of the first Hebrew dictionary) were some of the prominent figures of this period. Hasdai ibn Shaprut, the Jewish counselor in customs and foreign trade to Abd al-Rahman III, himself a poet and a man of letters, encouraged and supported Sephardic Jewish works in linguistics, religion, nature, politics and music.

In the fertile multicultural environment of al-Andulus, the Jewish and Muslim scholars made significant strides in astronomy, astrology, optics, geometry, medicine, philosophy, and literary works. They developed astrolabes to calculate latitudes and improved astronomical tables and instruments for navigation. Abraham ibn Ezra, a Jewish poet and scholar, wrote three books on arithmetic and number theory. Many books of science and philosophy were translated from the Greek into Arabic, Hebrew and Latin, and had a great influence on the intellectual movement and renaissance later in the rest of Europe.

The good fortune of the Jews in the Muslim Spain (al-Andalusia) that started in 711 peaked by mid 12th century when Jewish communities had flourished throughout Spain’s Islamic centers of power, Granada, Cordoba, Merida, Lucena, Saragossa, and Seville. The culture of Sephardic Judaism was shaped in this unique multicultural, diverse society where the Muslims, the Christians and the Jews lived together, interacted freely and created a culture full of vitality.

The culturally fertile and open society of al-Andalus ended in mid 12th century with the coming of Almohads (al-Muwahhidun = “the monotheists”, a Moroccan Berber Muslim movement founded in the 12th century) from north of Africa (Morocco) to help defend the Muslim Spain against the Spanish Christians who were pushing the Muslims southward. The whole of the Islamic Spain was under the rule of Almohads by 1172 CE. Their dominance continued till 1212 CE, after which they gradually lost territories to an alliance of Christian forces from north of Spain, so that the great Moorish cities of Cordova and Seville had fallen to the Christian forces by 1236 CE and 1248 CE, respectively. Jews were severely restricted under the Almohads’ reign and many chose to move northward to the newly conquered Christian lands, where they were temporarily treated better. Among those were Maimonides (aka Moses ben Maimon, Musa bin Maymun, Rambam) and his family, a great medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher, legalist and physician, who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. They settled in Fez in Morocco, and later on in Fustat, Egypt around 1168 CE. While in Cairo, he composed his acclaimed 14-volume commentary on the Mishna Torah that still carries significant canonical authority as a codification of Talmudic law. He worked as a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Morocco and Egypt. He was influenced by the earlier Muslim Scholars and philosophers such as Al-Farabi (Alpharabius, 872-950) and Avicenna (ibn Sina, 980–۱۰۳۷), and his contemporary Averroes (ibn Rushd, 1126-1198), and he in his turn became recognized as a prominent philosopher and polymath in both the Jewish and Islamic worlds. Gaining widespread recognition, he was appointed as court physician to Sultan Saladin and the Egypt royal family. Maimonides died in 1204 in Fustat, Egypt.

By the thirteenth century, the multicultural, humanistic Muslim societies gradually gave way to more rigid, orthodox and less tolerant societies, and the Islamic world declined in its intellectual productivity and frontiering, as did the Jewish communities within these territories. The Jewish cultural and intellectual creativity gradually shifted toward the Jewish communities in Europe. However, the Jews who stayed in the Muslim territories still had some protections, albeit as second-class citizens, in accordance with the pact of Umar.

The fate of the Jews in Spain turned around once again in 1492 CE when the Spanish Catholic royal couple Isabel I and Ferdinand II issued an edict that all the remaining Jews (hundreds of thousands) who had lived in Spain for generations should either convert to Christianity or be expelled from Spain. The Turkish Ottoman Sultan Bayazid II sent ships to Spain and rescued the Jews who were not only permitted, but were even encouraged to settle in the Ottoman territories. The Jews lived under relative calm under the Muslim Ottoman rulers. The relatively tolerant atmosphere of the Ottoman Empire encouraged large numbers of European Jews to migrate to Ottoman controlled territories. The newly arrived Jews contributed to the technological and scientific progress of the Ottoman Empire. One of their great contributions was development of the printing press in Turkey in 1493 CE, and within one year of their expulsion from Spain they established the first Hebrew press in Istanbul.

During the early Turkish conquest and expansion of the Muslim Ottoman Empire in the early 14th century, the Jews who were oppressed under the Christian Byzantine rule welcomed Muslims as their saviors. Throughout the 14th and 15th centuries the Jews who were expelled from many European lands, e.g., Hungary (1376 CE), France (1394 CE), Sicily (early 1400s), Bavaria (1470 CE), Spain (1492 CE), Italy (1537 CE), Bohemia (1542 CE), fled to and were welcomed in the Ottoman territories.

During the three centuries following their expulsion, the Jews in the Turkish Muslim Ottoman Empire ascended to high positions as court physicians (Hakim Yacoub, Moshe Hamon, Joseph Hamon, Gabriel Buenaventura, and Daniel Fonseca), and as foreign diplomats.

In the 19th century, with the decline of Turkish Ottoman power, and as a reaction to the growing European colonial powers, there was a rise in nationalistic fervor and religious radicalism that led to deterioration of the living conditions of the Jews in some Muslim countries.

Today, territorial and political disputes in the middle east have been increasingly characterized in religious terms, feeding the radicalized elements of all sides, to demonize “the others,” and have created the false notion that the Muslims and the Jews have been mortal enemies of each other throughout their histories, while, as shown in this communication, the rise and fall of civilization in both communities was interdependent upon one another and the Jews were historically better off in the Muslim lands than in the Christian lands.

(Thank you to Eshagh Shaoul for sending this article to CPNN)