Uncivilized Relations: Israel confronts its neighbours

by Brenda Heard

The turmoil that has beleaguered the Middle East for decades has been described many ways.  On the 5th of June, however, the terminology turned vulgar.  This enduring conflict was publically characterised as a ‘war between the civilized man and the savage’.  Boldly announced with a plea to ‘support Israel/defeat Jihad’, the full page advertisement ran in the New York Post’s special section covering the city’s ‘Celebrate Israel’ parade.

Declaring the Muslim people ‘savage’ is, of course, just a school-yard taunt from Islamaphobe Pamela Geller, who gleefully takes credit for the advertisement.  Had her rant been limited to her own blog, we might easily dismiss it.  The problem lies in its acceptance into mainstream discourse.  The Post may be tabloid journalism, but its paper edition remains the seventh most popular paper in America.  And this sort of crude advertisement for a political cause panders to a public comfortable with the mind-set of ‘don’t bore me with the details’.

But the details are critical if we are to consider a conflict that has taken thousands of lives.  How can we, for instance, reconcile the concept of ‘civilized’ with the reality of shooting unarmed protesters?  The advertisement asks us to accept Israel as ‘civilized’; yet as these very words were first read, Israeli soldiers were shooting into a crowd of Syrian-Palestinians, killing 24 and injuring another 350.

Continue reading “Uncivilized Relations: Israel confronts its neighbours”

Principle and Park51: Tariq Ramadan vs Leon Wieseltier

Here are two statements about the proposed Islamic Center in Manhattan — the so called ‘Ground Zero Mosque.’ One by The New Republic‘s literary editor and pro-Israel partisan Leon Wieseltier, the other by noted Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan. I leave it to the readers to guess which statement was made by whom.

  1. “The challenge for Muslims in America is to respect the fears of ordinary people while resisting the exploitation of those fears by political parties, lobbies and sectors of the media. To meet this challenge, Muslims must reassess their own involvement, behavior and contributions in American society…Life is not only about rights to be claimed but also about collective sensibilities to be felt. It is possible to protect one’s rights while at the same time acknowledging and understanding the concerns of others…No doubt, it is the legitimate right of Muslims to build a community center near Ground Zero. Yet, I believe it is not a wise decision, considering the collective sensitivities in American society. This is a moment to go beyond rights and reach for the common good: To build it elsewhere, if possible, would be a sensible and symbolic move.”
  2. “It is odd to see conservatives suddenly espouse the moral superiority of victimhood, as it is odd to see them suddenly find an exception to their expansive view of religious freedom. Everybody has their preferred insensitivities. In matters of principle, moreover, polling is beside the point, or an alibi for the tyranny of the majority, or an invitation to demagogues to make divisiveness into a strategy, so that their targets come to seem like they are the ones standing in the way of social peace, and the “decent” thing is for them to fold. Why doesn’t Rauf just move the mosque? That would bring the ugliness to an end. But why don’t Palin and Gingrich just shut up? That, too, would bring the ugliness to an end.”

Well?

Let me assist. The first statement, telling Muslims to ‘respect’ fear and ignorance, is Ramadan’s; the second, speaking of inviolable principles, is Wieseltier’s. Ramadan’s principles are evidently more flexible. Muslims must apparently learn to live in a manner which accommodates Pamela Geller‘s prejudices.