uploaded : Thursday 4th Mar 2004 at 22:44
by : The Editor
Were it not so exasperating it would be amusing, but several colleagues and I have received an invitation from the Friends of al Aqsa to a conference on March 15 in London addressing the issue of the effect of Zionism on Muslim-Jewish-Christian Relations.
Amongst the guest speakers will be Rabbi Yisroel Weiss, a representative of the Naturei Karta, a Jewish sect that does not acknowledge the sovereignty of the State of Israel or the right of Jews to make aliyah before the arrival of the Messiah.
Here are a few thoughts we have compiled for the Friends of al Aqsa:
Can I please ask you why everyone is obsessed with Zionists?
There are billions of Muslims on this good earth living in considerable numbers in 55 countries, of which 22 are classed as 'Arab.' There are about 12 million Jews in the whole world and some are Zionists, some are not.
Zionism was a movement supported by Socialist idealists and intellectuals, as well as by capitalists and entrepreneurs united by persecution and led by a non-religious intellectual named Theodor Herzl. Dr Herzl had had enough of the unspeakable persecution of the Jews in Europe. His small band of supporters set up a beautiful and fertile farm community in
the Holy Land. In Pierre van Paassen's book 'Days of Our Years' (van Paassen was a Christian) the author noted that on his journeys to Palestine in the 20s and 30s the magnificent work the small community of Jews was doing, and
how much the Arab locals admired their scientific and agricultural genius!
Everywhere the Jews went, orchards sprang up from sewage-infested swamp and wasteland. Every whinge of late about Zionism also forgets that the Nazis were trying to annihilate world Jewry. Instead of welcoming these benighted people into their land and their homes, the Arabs started war after war against them, and now this hatred has become a worldwide whinge about ' the
Do the organisers of the event think Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow et al are some sort of threat to your existence?
Instead of having a Forum with the totally marginalised Naturei Karta (they represent about one millionth of a percent of world Jewry) why not have a Forum on bringing the Arab and Muslim world into prosperity for all its people?
Truly, I begin to think that there is a worldwide obsession about Israel. As I write this, unspeakable cruelties are being perpetrated in countries around the world but the world?s media focus on every little action taken by the Jewish State. House demolitions and the killing of small children and aid workers by the IDF do not make me happy. However, the idea that a conference can be convened at a major British university to discuss the ?impact? of Zionism on interfaith relations is another example of the obsessive discomfort felt by the world about post-Shoah Jews taking their destiny into their own hands.
Watching the horrific images from Iraq during the suicide bombings on yesterday?s holy day, in which thousands of Muslims were attacked by other Muslims, I find it irritating that academics feel they must convene to discuss the impact of a tiny movement based in a tiny state, when in fact there are movements much more worrying to the world.
Commentators in Great Britain and Europe like to tell the world that the actions of George W Bush and Tony Blair are engineered by the overpowering personalities of Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Lord Levy, Peter Mandelson and Eliot Cohen. Little is said of the Christian advisors to Bush and Blair. The implication is that ?Zionists? are running world policy.
One could look at it another way: so what is wrong with a bunch of Jews running things? How many Jewish hijackers have there been? How many Jewish suicide bombers are there? If a Zionist dream meant the creation of a Weizmann Institute; World ORT (this Jewish charity helps the deprived of all nations and faiths); Hadassah Hospital; the Technion and countless cultural institutions crowded into a minute space the size of Wales, what is wrong with Zionism? If little Jewish children covet Nobel Prizes and architectural accolades instead of murderous acts spouted by crazed zealots what is wrong with a Zionist movement? And for those who shout that a military state monster has been created with American money, shall we not look at the number of wars and terror atrocities perpetrated by Israel?s neighbours for over fifty years? When pressure groups rail about the injustices done to the indigenous peoples of Palestine, does anyone ever reflect on how magical a place the Holy Land would have been had the Arab nations embraced their Semitic brethren and built a fertile new land together, brimming with symphony orchestras, art galleries and ballet companies?
I hope the seminar will be beneficial for those in attendance. We may even try to attend and will report back if we do. Since September 11th and the new Intifadah, after all those hopeful Oslo years, my preoccupation is with Islamic radicalism and factionalism. It could now destroy Iraq. The groups who obsess about Zionism ought to look to the roots of unrest in the Arab world and not blame a tiny enclave of Jews whose relatives around the world in the Diaspora, like their Israeli counterparts get up in the morning, go to work, feed their families and try to be good neighbours.
The information about the conference appears below.
The Impact of Zionism on Jewish, Christian and Muslim Relations
Friends of Al-Aqsa has organised a one day international multi-faith
conference on the issue of 'The Impact of Zionism on Jewish, Christian and
Muslim Relations". It shall take place on Monday 15th March 2004 at SOAS,
University of London.
Panel of Speakers Includes:
Dr Ilan Pappe: Senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science at
the University of Haifa. He obtained a PhD from the University of Oxford and
has written many books on the issue of Palestine/Israel. He is described as
a 'new Israeli Historian'.
> Father Atalla Hannah: The spiritual head of the native Greek Orthodox
community in Jerusalem and the highest-ranking native Palestinian clergyman
in the Orthodox Church. He is well known as a proponent of full equality for
Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land and a peace activist. He has
been arrested several times by the Israeli's.
> Rabbi Yisroel David Weiss: The spokesperson for the Naturei Karta
International - Jews against Zionism. He is a descendant from the Hungarian
Jewry, and his grandparents were killed by the Nazis at Auschwitz. He lives
with his family in New York.
> Professor AbdelWaheb Al-Messiri: Professor Emeritus of English and
Comparative Literature at Ein Shams University in Cairo. He is a leading
expert in on secularism and Zionism in the Arab world, he has authored over
20 books on related issues in both Arabic and English.
> Reverend Stephen Sizer: Vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water. He is
acting Chairman of Living Stones and an area tutor at the School of
Theology, Westminster College, Oxford. He holds several positions as a
trustee and director of religious organisations and has had numerous
articles and books published.
> Dr Azzam Tamimi: Director of the London based Institute of Islamic
Political Thought, and senior lecturer at the Markfield Institute of Higher
Education. He has authored several books and contributes to national and
international debates on the issue of Palestine.
> Attendance with ticket only. ?10 per ticket/ ?5 students (including lunch
> For further details, please visit http://www.aqsa.org.uk or call 0116 212
5441/07976 073 675