uploaded : Wednesday 30th Apr 2003 at 00:44
by : C R Schiloni
I received the following article and link from IMRA Saturday night. Editorial comment follows the press release....
The World Assembly of Muslim Youth build new Mosque in Palestine
Makkah, April 26, SPA(Saudi Press Agency) -- The World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) has recently completed the construction of a new mosque in Palestine at a total cost of SR 74,837,000. In a press statement here today, WAMY's secretary general Abdulwahab Noorwali said the mosque named "Ash-Shuhada" mosque was built as part of WAMY's consistent efforts to promote the cause of Islam. "The construction of the mosque also reflects WAMY's continuous efforts to support the Palestinian people in all aspects of their lives," he said.
There is plenty of news about Israel that is grabbing bigger headlines. "Abu Mazen most likely funded the 1972 Olympic Massacre", is the title on 28 emails in my in box. The Palestine Media Center on the official P. A. web site mocks holocaust remembrance day by calling the IDF "nazis" and comparing the Arabs to the Jews who suffered in the concentration camps.
Yet this small article about another mosque being erected in Israel triggered an alarm. It provoked pertinent questions relevant to our understanding of the term "Jewish State and what exactly that means
Israel is without equivocation the most religiously tolerant state in the Middle East, and one of the most religiously tolerant in the world. Muslims, Christians, Druze, and many others openly practice their faiths. It is a fact that Jews boast of proudly. For many Jews this and "Purity Of Arms" (see 4/25 MEET news letter) are proof positive of Israel's, and thus the Jews' stringent adherence to democratic ethics.
For others, the open ended acceptance of expanding movements antithetical to Judaism, calling for the death of innocents, and hostile to Israel, signal an unwillingness to grapple with serious questions about identity. What does a "Jewish State" mean and how can burgeoning non-Jewish religions, educational institutions, and populations support the concept?
In 1967 there were 60 mosques in Israel. In 1977 there were 150. By 1993, almost another hundred had been built bringing the total to 240 mosques. (1)
In 1947 most of the Arabs in living in Palestine lacked even a grade school education. Arab women were worse off, many did not receive the most rudimentary secular education. Now, in the disputed territories alone, there are over 8 Arab Universities that have been built and funded by Israel. Hebrew University invites PLO members whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel, or the "liberation of Palestine" to lecture. Students are, as their peers in American Universities, mentored by the leading pro-Arab voices in the world.
(Naturally this begs the rhetorical questions:
How many synagogues have been built in Arab countries in the last 50 years?
How many state funded Universities in Arab countries have been built to educate anti-Arab Jews? )
There are many other ways in which the nature of the "Jewishness" of Israel is being challenged; non-Jewish immigration, no public Shabbat closings, etc. I met several women who had returned from a tour in Israel, and though none were particularly religious here, were dismayed to find that bacon and eggs could easily be had for breakfast. One, in her 60s recalled that when she visited Israel many years ago, she was thrilled to be able to buy kosher snacks on the streets and kosher meals in restaurants. 30 years ago American Jews relied on Israel to be the one place in the world where everyday life was, at least on the level of some religious observances, Jewish. Now it seems that naive dream is fast disappearing.
Also seemingly forgotten is that Israel is not a miniature United States. America certainly shares the peculiar honor inherent in extreme democracies of funding educational institutions that condemn the very government that supports them. But America has had over 200 years to support the initial "isms" it was built on, one of which is as a home for everyone, not just Jews or Christians or Muslims.
Intellectual honesty should prompt us to explore how a Jewish state can remain a Jewish state if all other religions are permitted to grow, even those that call for jihad against Jews. Shouldn't these groups just remain as small as possible? When funds that could go to helping disadvantaged Jewish youth (and plenty exist in Israel) go towards supplying education to Muslims are we confusing tolerance with pandering to world opinion? When the land, which is so limited, smaller than New Jersey, is being used for Mosques, aren't we confusing democracy with Jewish Uncle Tom"ism"?
These are uncomfortable questions. It should go without saying that the concept of a Jewish state, or Zionism, is not racist since Jews are all races, and colors. But is there a level at which we should differentiate between the privileges of Jews in the Jewish state, versus the privileges of non-Jews? Has the state of Israel, conscious of course of the noble ideals of democracy, confused policies appropriate for its nature with policies that are appropriate with America's?
We can't have it both ways. When it comes to the nature of a state's raison d'etre, we must discriminate between what supports this and what does not. If Israel is to remain a Jewish state, then concepts and constructs that support the Jewishness of Israel, should be supported. Democracy without discernment, as popular as this ideology may be, is not a Jewish concept. Jewish sages, both mystics and realists, have long stressed that in order for tolerance and kindness to not become ultimately cruelty and folly, they must be balanced with acumen, responsibility, and strength.
Chaya Rivka Schiloni
M.E.E.T.(Mid East Education Team)
Ithaca, New York
C. R. Schiloni is
Founding Director of the Mid East Education Team.
M.E.E.T. was created as a response to the damaging effects of incomplete and unbalanced news reporting on the Israeli-Arab conflict. M.E.E.T. aims to counter the fallout of this disturbing trend. M.E.E.T. offers the chance to see thought provoking images and hear ideas not usually manifest in the mainstream media. M.E.E.T. invites everyone with an interest in these events so crucial to regional and world peace to join our search for the facts behind the issues.