Friday, June 15, 2007

Shimon Peres and Arab News

Who Wants peace in the Middle East? Peres
Brutal Fatwas in Israel - Arab News.

No group is free from fanaticism. The most important aspect in peace building is an acknowledgment of extremism in our own groups.

The fanatic Israelis and the fanatic Palestinians are few but very potent when it comes to action. They are bent on supressing sane voices and pushing their unjust agenda, and expect the world to bend over and kiss them. Those who do, are doing a dis-service to both the people. We need to speak the truth and honestly acknowlege ourselves and extremists amongst us.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. - Edmond Burke, Irish orator, philosopher, & politician (1729 - 1797)

The evil men are among Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and others. They believe in their superiority over the others... that is bunch of baloney. The superior ones are those who are humble and live with humility. Arrogance and spirituality are mutually exclusive and are inversely proportional. Sadly, the news papers be it Israeli or Arab and of course certainly American, report the bad truth, which is only the fraction of the truth., and much of the good truth does not get any exposure.

I wish the Arab Press to be as free as it is in Israel, and do sincerely hope that the monarchs and the ruthless dictators follow Islam, that is believing that they are mortal beings, and their life time is limited. They have to learn to accept and respect the uniqueness of each human and treat them on par as they practice daily in the religious rituals, let that thought process take root in their political thinking as well. Israel is a democracy, but the aparthied against the Palestinians has got to go to be a truly civil democracy.

A true democracy welcomes criticism, no one is above the others, and in a true democracy, we don't brush things off, instead we develop the capability to address the issues and not suprress them.

Goodwill can begin from the place of worship. Some have no hesitation using the pulpit to preach hate, we as a civil society has to guard against hate sermons from our temples, mosques, synagogues, churches and othe places of worship. .

Mike Ghouse

Who Wants Peace in the Middle East?
Shimon Peres

Forty years after the Six Day War peace between Israelis and Palestinians seems as distant as ever. Israel still refuses to accept the new Palestinian national unity government as a negotiating partner because Hamas is part of that government. What is the cause of this seeming paradox? Is there any hope?

The Palestinian government is united administratively, but divided politically. The Palestinians have one government with two policies. Politically, Palestine’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh remains against recognizing Israel and respecting the existing agreements. He declared that he is for the continuation of resistance in all forms. What kind of guarantee of a good faith effort to reach a peace agreement can come from such a stance?

That is the question the European Union needs to ask itself as it debates whether to resume providing financial aid to the Palestinian Authority. The EU should make it clear to Hamas that the Union is not going to finance terror and is not going to finance a refusal to make peace. If the Palestinians want to have European help – which I support completely – it must be ready to make peace, not to break peace. After all, it is not Hamas as a party that is objectionable; what is objectionable are the politics and policies which Hamas pursues. We have nothing against Hamas; we are against their belligerent policies, which service in government has not changed.

There was a time when the PLO held positions that were the same as those of Hamas. Then the PLO changed. If the current Palestinian leadership changes its position, there will be no problem from our side. We will have nothing against negotiations. We are for negotiations. We are for the “two-state solution.” We accept the Middle East “road map.” What we are against is terror.

Where we cannot agree, however, is on a “right of return” for Palestinians. If such a right were recognized, there would be a Palestinian majority instead of a Jewish majority, which would mean the end of the Jewish state. This is a demographic, not a religious, question: an Arab state is where the Arabs are the majority, and the Jewish state is where the Jews are the majority. Indeed, the “right of return” contradicts the very idea of a two-state solution, as it would mean one state – a Palestinian state. Nobody in Israel will accept this.

But there are other problems in the region that Israel – and the world – must face. The Palestinians’ current unity government resulted from Saudi mediation, which came in response mainly to Iran’s ambition to increase its influence, not only in Iraq, but also in Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank.

Of course, that issue is completely outside Israel’s control. The ongoing fight in the Muslim world between Sunnis and Shi’a recalls the struggle between Protestants and Catholics in seventeenth-century Europe. So it is little wonder that the Saudis, Jordanians, Egyptians, and the Gulf states are seeking to resist Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the region.

Nevertheless, the stakes are far higher than in the seventeenth century, because Iran represents a threat that combines a fanatic religion with a determination to acquire nuclear weapons. Indeed, Iran is the only country that openly declares its desire to destroy another member of the United Nations. That is a threat that every country is obliged to take seriously. When a country’s president delivers crazy speeches, denies the Holocaust, and does not hide his ambition to control the Middle East, who can guarantee that the threat is not serious?

The issue is not one of restoring nuclear “balance” to the Middle East, as Iran’s leaders maintain. First of all, Israel does not threaten anybody. Israel never said that it wants to destroy Iran; Israel never openly proclaimed that it would enrich uranium and build nuclear bombs in order to destroy another country. On the contrary, Israel has said that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in the Middle East. But that does not mean that we can afford to ignore an obvious threat from countries that want to destroy us.

Despite the current unfavorable situation, the path to stabilizing the Middle East still leads through joint economic projects. Even now, Israel is planning to build a new “corridor of peace,” which will comprise the Jordanians, the Palestinians, and us. Within the framework of this project, we are seeking to halt the dehydration of the Dead Sea, build a joint airport and a joint water network with Jordan, and develop tourism infrastructure, at a cost of up to $5 billion. We have the donors, so there is no shortage of money to finance our efforts, which, I am sure, will be realized.

Israel wants – indeed, desperately needs – peace and stability in the Middle East, and we will continue to do everything in our power to achieve it. But we cannot reach that goal alone, much less negotiate with those whose idea of a stable and peaceful Middle East is one that has no place for Israel.

Jewish brutal fatwa

Fahmi Howaidi

The Brutal Fatwas in Israel Fahmi Howaidi, Arab News
While people in Muslim countries have been preoccupied with fatwas (religious rulings) concerning breast-feeding adults, the purity of the Prophet's urine, and the legality of the recent different types of marriages such as Misyar and Mesfar, perhaps it would be appropriate to take a look at fatwas in Israel. It might give us a chance to compare the two, evaluating the circumstances on both sides.

It is worthy of further consideration to consider the Israeli fatwas that my Palestinian colleague Salih Al-Tuhami observed. Conservative Jewish thought and tradition say that in case the country's laws contradict the rabbi's fatwas, the fatwa must be implemented and anything the government says is worthless. That's the opinion of Rabbi Elie - who is one of Israel's senior rabbis - who is supported by the majority of his peers.

These Jewish fatwas are responsible for instigating religious Jews against Arabs. Last year, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, former Sephardic chief rabbi and an influential authority among conservative Jews, issued a fatwa asking the Israeli Army not to flinch from killing Palestinian civilians in the context of the ongoing military campaign against armed groups resisting the occupation. He mentioned in his fatwa, which received special attention from religious media outlets and hundreds of pamphlets distributed inside synagogues in Israel. that all Palestinians must be murdered, even the ones who are not participating in the war against terrorism. This wasn't enough for the revered rabbi, who said that this was not only a fatwa, but a religious duty from God that Jews must follow.

After that, one of the most important Jewish rabbis issued a fatwa that allowed his students in one of the Jewish settlements in the northern West Bank to steal the agricultural produce grown by Palestinians. It said that everything in the West Bank belongs to the Jews, giving them the right to confiscate such properties. This fatwa was implemented and his students confiscated the agricultural yield of the Palestinians.

Rabbi Dov Lior, chief rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat-Arba, did the same when he issued a fatwa that allowed Jewish settlers to poison the livestock and water wells owned by Palestinians in neighboring cities and villages. The settlers didn't hesitate in implementing the fatwa. Not a single day passed without Palestinians finding dead sheep and poisoned water.

On the other hand, a group of prominent Jewish rabbis addressed the Israeli defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, saying that killing enemy civilians was "normal" during wartime and that the Israeli Army should never hesitate to kill non-Jewish civilians in order to save Jewish lives. "There is no war in the world in which it is possible to delineate neatly between the population and the enemy's army, neither in the US war in Iraq, the Russian war in Chechnya, nor in Israel's war with its enemies," the rabbis said.

The rabbis quoted a Talmudic ruling, which states "Our lives come first." In their famous letter, the rabbis warned against what they called Christian preaching in dealing with conflict. "The Christian preaching of 'turning the other cheek' doesn't concern us, and we will not be impressed by those who prefer the lives of our enemies to our lives," they said.

These tense times have influenced a number of other fatwas from rabbis about underestimating the lives of Arabs and humiliating them. Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported on July 25, 2002 that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the current spiritual leader of the Shas political party in the Knesset (Israel's Parliament), said that until Christ the Savior arrives, he will send all Arabs to hellfire. "Why doesn't Ariel Sharon do what needs to be done? He's scared of the people of the world. But when the Savior Christ comes, he won't fear anyone. He will send all the Arabs to hell." Yosef described Arabs as snakes and said Jews should not trust them.

It's no wonder that one of the rabbis - Isaac Ginzburg - published a book entitled "Baruch the Hero" to immortalize the name of Dr. Baruch Goldstein who perpetrated the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in the city of Hebron, killing 29 Arab attendants of the Ibrahimi Mosque (within the Cave of the Patriarchs) and wounding another 150 in a shooting attack.

As for Rabbi Eli Albaz, who is one of the distinctive Eastern rabbis, he never misses an opportunity to attack Islam and condemn the Prophet (pbuh). He insists on complaining in front of his audience by telling jokes that address Muslims and Palestinians and using filthy language to attack Muslims. And Rabbi Eliyahu Reskin continuously ridicules the reconciliation attempts to create dialogue between Jewish rabbis and Arab officials. He believes that the only language of dialogue between Muslims and Jews should be bullets. He feels that without convincing the Arabs in general, and the Palestinians specifically, settlement can't be forced upon Israel so the efforts of peace are worthless.

It's true that from a legal perspective, the rabbis' fatwas concerning political issues don't exert much influence. But their words, that come from their religious backgrounds, have a huge impact especially with the increasing dominance of religious parties that have developed tremendous political power that cannot be underestimated. Therefore, their fatwas influence more than religious people and are used to pressure political decisions. It's true that conservatives, whether the followers of Zionism or from the ultra-Orthodox movement, make up 28 percent of the Israeli population, yet more than 50 percent of the inhabitants of the country introduce themselves as conservatives. These people empathize greatly with Jewish religious authorities and pay attention to what they say.

What's interesting is that all the laws and systems in Israel have never tried, not even once, to address those rabbis or question them about their racial discrimination. Not only that, but these rabbis, who are involved in this discrimination, are given great prominence in Israeli politics. Decision makers in Israel compete with each other to earn the endorsement of rabbis, and to be close to them.

When one examines these fatwas and their influence in instigating and serving the Zionist schemes and its evil goals, one can't help but feel sad and bitter when compared with the fatwas that are preoccupying Muslim scholars. The latter provoke gossip among people and divert their attention from what's vital and fateful, making them regress instead of moving forward.
I pray to God to enlighten our scholars and guide them.

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