Monday, September 12, 2005

The Fires of Gaza

As expected, the Palestinians are busy burning the synaggogue and yeshiva buildings of Gush Katif, Netzarim and Kfar Darom. No doubt, there will be those Jews who justify it and will buy the explanation that this is not a religious act. Rather, it simply expresses the desire of the Palestinians to rid themselves of any vestige of Israeli rule.

I beg to differ. As the Jerusalem Post editorialized yesterday, and the chief rabbi of Moscow writes today:

Why cannot Palestinians show the entire watching world that they are capable of rising above base instincts and conducting themselves according the civilized standards they so aggressively demand from others? Why does the world not expect and rigorously require these same standards of them?

The answer has nothing to do with the occupation. It has everything to do with the lethal turn that the Islamic world has taken, as far as its attitude toward Jews is concerned. Islamic tradition puts a premium on demonstrating the superiority of Islam. Kafir, or unbelievers, are kept in degradation in order to demonstrate what happens to those who refuse to accept the message of the prophet, and as an inducement to abandon their error and join the 'Nation of the Believers' (umma). In line with that attitude, the tendency was always to turn infidel houses of worship into mosques (e.g. the great Hagia Sofia Cathedral in Constantinople became the great mosque of Istanbul).

The question might then be asked, if so, why destroy the synagogues of Gaza?

The answer is that hatred for Jews and Judaism have become a dominant religious value in the Arab and Muslim worlds, putting the theological desire to demonstrate the religious superiority of Islam in second place. Such a development, moreover, is hardly unprecedented. hen the Crusaders attacked the Jewish communities of the Rhineland in the Spring of 1096, they stated that they would either murder the Jews a retribution for their deicide, or they would force them to convert. As Robert Chazan has noted, the latter was the more constructive option because it would serve as a victory for the truth of Christianity. Nevertheless, the order in which the desires are formulated (in both the Latin and Hebrew chronicles) leave the distinct impression that physical violence against the Jew was the first order of businessm, as the events themselves proved to be true. [And note, that the Crusaders wasted a lot of time desecrating Jewish sancta as an expression thereof.]

Something very similar has happened here. The demonization of the Jew in the Arab World, which has been extensively documented by Bernard Lewis and on which I myself lecture quite frequently, has become the dominant motif of Arab and Muslim discourse regarding Israel and, indeed, all Jews everywhere. It has, albeit, very deep theological roots in the belief that Jews who do not obey the Pact of Omar, who rule over Muslims on Muslim lands, are diabolic blasphemers. It has absolutely nothing to do with the so-called occupation that obssesses the Israeli and World Left (especially the media parrots whose general knowledge of any topic is thoroughly underwhelming). It has to do with Muslim rage at the existence of Israel, at the achievements of the Jew and the (to this point) underachievement of the Islamic world.

That is why the ' cannot Palestinians show the entire watching world that they are capable of rising above base instincts and conducting themselves according the civilized standards they so aggressively demand from others.' So long as there is no internal shift of their dogmatics, the synagogues will burn and the Kassams will fly.

1 comment:

Ittay said...

I can’t believe I ma the first one to comment on such a thought provoking entry. I am Jewish, so feel a little awkward expressing Palestinians beliefs, but here’s my two cents. Most Palestinians have come to realize that the state of Israel is going to be there forever. They can reluctantly accept this.

What they can’t accept is the constant military intrusion into their lives by the IDF. The many checkpoints with hour-long cues, civilian causalities and house demolitions to expand settlements and road. Yes, the IDF does these things to protect Israelis, but most Palestinians don’t understand this. They think we do this because we hate them. How do they respond? By burning our synagogues and kassams. Both sides need to “shift their dogmatics” for a change to occur.