Checkpoint

checkpoint
You watch me closely
With your sniper rifle
A weapon you call security
An instrument I call fear

I show that I am weaponless
As I pass through your checkpoint
Spinning like a whirling dervish
Fearless in this worldly separation

I want to open your eyes
So you can see the unjust persecution
I want you to look into my soul
And listen to the endless cries of desperation

I want you to watch my heart bleed
Every time I pray for Abraham’s children
I want you to hear me gasp for air
Every time a face and name is forgotten

Why are we, brothers and sisters, so torn apart?
Here I cross again, spinning in my Sufi dance
And dancing to the song of yearning
That plays forever in my heart

Like planets dancing around the sun
This is the dance of the celestial heavens
Where even the gunman is invited
No uniforms, no flags, no bombs, no guns

As you watch, I want you to listen:

My Beloved is Here
My Love is Here

My Home is Here

~Broken Mystic~

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14 Comments

  1. Shachar said,

    March 22, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Thank you for your beautiful poem.
    I hope that your attitude of accepting the other will spread. We are indeed, in G-d’s eyes, one. Our egos are our real enemies.

    I would like to bring that spirituality to the ground and remind you that as soon as the Arabs accept the existence of the Israeli people, there will be peace. Israel’s need to defend itself, the occupation, the checkpoints and the Jihad will be but a sour memory, and a reminder that we are one, and when we hurt each other and exclude each other from the table, we also hurt ourselves and exclude ourselves from the real feast – loving kindness.

  2. brokenmystic said,

    March 22, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Dear Shachar,

    Thank you for visiting and commenting on the poem. I’m glad you liked it :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts as well. Let us agree that we shouldn’t point fingers at simply one group of people since the situation is a very complex one. There has been violence from both sides, and yet we only see one side of the story in mainstream media. We are told that anyone who increases awareness about the Palestinians (or stands up for them) is a “terrorist sympathizer,” which is the easiest way to ignore their voices and dehumanize them.

    It is true that there are anti-Jewish sentiments from many Muslims, which are reported immensely in the mainstream media, yet we rarely hear that the majority of Muslims are NOT anti-Jewish. It’s true that suicide bombers kill innocent civilians, and yet we don’t hear about Israeli forces killing innocent civilians (a recent report was released by Haaretz and other sources). We don’t even learn that there is nothing inherently anti-Jewish about Islam. Israeli and Palestinian leadership are BOTH at fault.

    My inter-faith community is holding an event in May for Middle-East peace. We will be looking at how Faith can play a significant role in establishing peace. We are often taught that “religions divide” and “cause wars,” but our community argues the opposite. Spirituality — Faith that we are all from the Same Source — is what will make the difference and liberate us from separation, prejudice, discrimination, and violence.

    Salaam/Shalom

  3. htmm said,

    March 22, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    i enjoyed reading your poem

  4. Shachar said,

    March 23, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Dear brokenmystic,

    I agree with you that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders are responsible for the situation – perhaps at fault, but more importantly, responsible to make it better. I also agree that spirituality can be a uniting force, though religion tends to be a dividing one because each side thinks that they are right and the other is wrong.

    I also agree that the Israeli Defense Forces need to regain the restraint that they have been employing for decades, even though most Israelis have given up hope that the Palestinians will settle for peace, which led to decreased restraint. Most Israelis believe that because honor Arab cultures seems to often be more important than living (like the common killing of a sister who is suspected of pre-marital sex, and of course, suicide bombings), Arabs are committed to regaining the honor that they’ve lost in their attacks being beaten back by Israel time and again.

    I agree with you that the mass media shows an unbalanced view of the suffering, but it seems that you have it backwards. It seems that the majority of mass media and their subscribers note the horror of Israeli siege and occupation, while ignoring the Palestinian responsibility for this horrible situation. The suffering of Palestinians is highlighted in most international news sources, while the suffering and fear of Israelis is made to look “disproportional”. Surely you cannot deny the fear of Israelis as they were surrounded by Arab forces before 1967, as well as now that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and has been saying that they intend to use them on Israel.

    While the Palestinian rally cry is “Kill the Jews”, I agree with you that most Muslims are not anti-Jewish, in their ideals. But, in being anti-Jewish state (Israel) they are in fact anti-Jewish because most practicing Jews (except for Chabbad) have felt for a long time that they cannot live out and truly express what it means to be Jewish, without being part of a Jewish nation. History has proven that belief to be true, not only in Pogroms, Holocausts and second-class living, but in how the Jewish communities abroad have (with some exceptions) been pushed into a pathetic, small way of life – when the impressive accomplishments of such a tiny nation has shown a taste of what we are capable of.

    Finally, I do not think that this is a Jewish/Arab problem. It is a human problem, and except perhaps amongst Gandhi and Buddhist practitioners, war between ‘tribes’ has been all too common. I teach English in an Israeli city. One of my students told me that he and his Russian Jewish friends are often ridiculed and threatened by Moroccan Jews and that Ethiopian Jews also have to band together to stay safe from the ‘others’. It isn’t because they are Jewish. It is because as humans, we easily see only our own perspectives and our prejudices rule our behavior towards others.

    Some say that if you were to summarize the Jewish teachings into one sentence, it is to ‘love your neighbor as you love yourself.’

    It is important to respect, and from a spiritual perspective, revere ourselves and others – not because they are from the same tribe, or a cousin tribe, but because they are alive and experiencing/sentient beings.

  5. brokenmystic said,

    March 23, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Shachar,

    The whole point of this poem was to give voice to a group of people that are often labeled as “terrorists” and “barbarians.” We, as human beings, need to be working towards understanding and dialogue rather than throwing all these labels around.

    This is why I found it offensive when you speak of peace and coexistence, but then make incredible generalizations about Arab culture. What “common killing of a sister” are you talking about? And what is so “honorable” about that? I suggest that you read my post about Aasiya Hasan and learn that Muslims take great offensive when people label these murders “honor killings.” First of all, the terminology is ONLY associated with Muslims, and second, it places blame on a person’s cultural and/or religious background rather than considering other possible factors. When White Christian American mothers drown their children in bath tubs, you never hear anyone call that an “honor killing” or place blame on their culture or religion.

    It is not fair to the Arab and Muslim people when you make generalizations like that. Those actions of murdering sisters, wives, or cousins is not representative of all Arabs and Muslims just like the murders of children in America are not representative of all White Americans. To blame “honor Arab culture” for the violence in the Middle-East is also inaccurate because you’re ignoring how so many Palestinians have lost their loved ones, relatives, and children at the hands of the Israeli military. Violence begets violence. Of course it’s not a Muslim and Jewish thing. There are Arab Muslims in Saudi Arabia and Dubai who mistreat and abuse South Asian and African Muslims. There is racism and ethnocentrism that exists in every community.

    And I don’t understand how you can reference the Holocaust and not acknowledge what is happening to the Palestinian people right now. Over 1300 Palestinians were killed in Gaza just before Obama took office. A couple of days before Obama took office, Israeli troops withdrew. Coincidence? No. Israel knew Bush wouldn’t lift a finger when they relentlessly bombed Gaza. Look at how Muslims and Middle-Easterners are being dehumanized, demonized, and vilified in the mainstream media — everything from the news to cartoons to television shows to propaganda films. Sound familiar? Didn’t the Nazis do this with the Jews — dehumanize them so that the rest of the country didn’t feel sorry about killing them?

    If you want to talk about history, then I hope you can learn from how dehumanization of the “other” can lead to disaster and excessive violence. Try living as a Muslim in the United States. You don’t know all the things me and my family have gone through. Hate crimes and discriminatory acts against Muslims in America have increased since 9/11. There are people in the world who make a LIVING out of vilifying my way of life. Look at what Robert Spencer says about Muslims and Islam, look at what Glenn Beck says, listen to Daniel Pipes and Bridgette Gabriel and Nonie Darwish — these people openly call my religion “violent” and a “threat to the West.” Did you know that MILLIONS of copies of an anti-Islamic film, “Obsession” was distributed to millions of Americans DURING the HOLY MONTH of Ramadan? Do you know how insulting and offensive that is? Do you know what it feels like when you call newspapers and write letters to them, and everyone dismisses your argument or refuses to respond to you?

    We have many Muslim authors who are writing books to counter the stereotypes and misconceptions, but who knows about them? They aren’t showcased in book stores. Have you heard of Sumbul Ali-Karamali? I didn’t think so. But read her book, “The Muslim Next Door” and it will enlighten you about Muslims and what Islam is really about. We work very hard to tell people that we ALSO have struggles, we are ALSO human beings, we ALSO have Love stories, we ALSO have our favorite songs and movies, we ALSO have dreams and ambitions, we ALSO want to be accepted for who we are. We’re sick and tired of being held accountable for crimes that WE DID NOT COMMIT. I have NOTHING to do with suicide bombings or the 9/11 attacks, and yet people expect me to apologize and answer for them just because I am Muslim.

    More than anyone, the Jewish people should be able to empathize with us. We are asking for your help. We are asking you to open your mind and look at things from our perspective. Look at how we’re being treated in the world. The Danish cartoons, the prisoner abuse, the desecration of the Qur’an in Guantanamo Bay, the propaganda films like “Fitna” and “Obsessions,” the hate crimes against Muslims, the vandalism of Mosques and homes — all these things are added to our life experiences. I was fired from my job last summer because a customer a called me a “terrorist” for no other reason except for the color of my skin. All of my friends know that I am a very non-violent person and I cannot explain how hurtful it was for someone to say that to my face. I still cringe every time I hear that word, “terrorist.”

    Even when Obama spoke about coexistence and equality of all human beings, two Muslim women were told they couldn’t sit behind him during a television broadcast because it would give him a negative image. How do you think that makes us feel? I know Judaism is about Love, and I know this because I have close Jewish friends. But when was the last time you heard the mainstream media speak positively about Islam? Do YOU know that Islam is about Love too? When was the last time the mainstream media vilified the Judaism and the Jews? Muslims are the target these days, and we have been ever since 9/11. There are so many untold stories, not just between non-Muslims and Muslims, but also WITHIN the Muslim community. My parents and I have had serious arguments because my parents don’t like telling people they’re Muslim. Whenever non-Muslim guests come over our house, they hide the Islamic decorations. Do you know about these stories? We are NOT backwards and uncivilized people. We are HUMAN BEINGS just like you. We have stories too. Generalizations, stereotypes, and misconceptions hurt us.

    I hope you know about Salah Al-Din, the great Muslim leader who restored coexistence in Jerusalem. The man who invited the Jews back into the city and didn’t kill a single Christian civilian when he took the city. Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived in coexistence for centuries, but now look at what’s happening. Look at the occupation, all these walls we have built, all this violence that is erupting. This is not the Holy Land.

  6. Shachar said,

    March 24, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    You’re right. I’m sorry that I generalized Arabs when I wrote about honor in Arab culture. I know that there is a difference between most Muslims and the extremist/radical Islamists from Malasia to Iran to Palestine to Sudan who are giving ordinary Muslims a bad name and image internationally.

    I wish that Salah Al-Din was a main leader of Palestine when the fourth Jewish exodus to Israel was getting ready to form a nation in the 1940′s, instead of Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Husseini, the Nazi ally and big reason why the Brits gave Jordan to the Saudi Hashmites even though the large majority of Jordanians are Palestinians.

    On this site, there is an eloquent clarification of misinterpretations of the Qur’an. http://www.scribd.com/doc/9653/Does-the-Quran-Say-to-Kill-the-Infidel-Islam-and-Terrorism

    The Qur’an says not to fire on civilian non-combatants. But Hamas and Hezballa and Palestinian “jihadists” in the 2000-2004 war were doing just that after Israel offered an almost complete withdrawal from occupied lands. These wars caused Israel to defend itself with the horrible checkpoints and mass imprisonment that Palestinians now suffer from. Israelis have decided that they will do whatever they need to do to stop our people from being hurt and killed by people who are committed to doing just that.

    The Qur’an also says about aggressors, “…and turn them out from where they have turned you out…”. But Israel was not an aggressor, nor did it turn Palestinians out. In the 1947 Declaration of Independence, Israel made it clear that Palestinians who remain will have full rights as citizens, as an alternative to years of war. When Israel succeeded to defend itself in 1947-8, it told Palestinians that they are welcome to stay, if they will be peaceful. Those who left, seem to have done so on the advice of Arab leaders who told them to leave, and they will regroup and destroy the Jews, and conquer the land.

    I don’t understand why so many Arabs and Iran have not accepted the Jewish nation. Not all, but many think of us as ‘apes and pigs’ and would not consider shaking our hands. But why try to deny us the nation that we need to live up to our potential as a people?

    I can tell that you are not one of the extremists. I hope that there is a way for loving people like you to convince the extremists to change their ways. Doing so will help them and you, and everyone. It would change the global image of Islam into a peaceful one.

    I try to convince extremist Jews to respect non-Jews whenever I come into contact with one.

    I know that the extremist Jews (such as those keeping vigil of the Tomb of the Fathers in Hebron) are intent on living out G-d’s instructions to live on this land. But vastly, most Israelis for many decades have been ready to accept Palestine as a good neighbor, and wanted to have inter-nation relations that benefit both.

  7. brokenmystic said,

    March 24, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    I understand what you’re saying, Shachar, but I still think it’s offensive when you say “I hope that there is a way for loving people like you to convince the extremists to change their ways.” How can we change their ways? Are we related to these people? Do we have some kind of “special access” to their extremist organizations? No, the majority of Muslims just want to live peacefully. Most of the Muslim youth around me, for example, just want to go out and have fun, get hyped about movies like “Twilight” and just be good Muslims. Of course they self-identify as Muslim, but it would be wrong for me to scold them for not speaking out against terrorism. Why should they speak out against terrorism — they had nothing to do with it. I agree that we need more Muslims in the mainstream media (and that is one of my goals), but at the same time, we cannot FORCE this burden on every single Muslim living in the world.

    And it’s unfair that people think only Muslims should speak out against terrorism. Terrorism is not just committed by Muslims. Terrorism has NO religion, skin color, or ethnicity. The fault of generalizing rests with the people themselves who make those kind of inaccurate and uneducated assumptions. To understand the actions of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, one needs to take religion out of the equation. Killing unarmed civilians in combat violates the Islamic principles of fighting, therefore it should not be seen in an Islamic light. As Edward Said writes in his books, the best way to understand the situation is in light of post-colonialism. Most of the violence breaking out in the Muslim world is due to post-colonialist liberation ideologies.

    Reactionary violence from the Palestinians is caused by the Israeli military occupation. There are countless reports of Israeli soldiers abusing power (and anyone who studies social psychology understands how power can easily be abused when someone is empowered with authority). It is wrong for some of the Palestinians to target innocent civilians just like it’s wrong for Israeli soldiers to target innocent civilians. No one can deny that both sides are suffering.

    Muslims haven’t accepted Israel as a state because there was no Israel prior to 1948. Palestinians were evicted out of their homes — that’s why there are Palestinian refugees and Palestinian *settlements*. A Palestinian was never created. If you read books like, “Peace Be Upon You: Fourteen Centuries of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Conflict and Cooperation” by Zachary Karabell, you’ll see how the three communities coexisted (for the most part) and how widespread violence between Muslims and Jews started in the 1900s during the British mandate. It’s very sad, but I believe the most realistic option right now is to work towards creating a Palestinian state. And it’s a misconception to think that most Palestinians or most Muslims don’t want to live in peace with the Israelis. Most of them *do*. I have friends who are Palestinian and they have relatives back home who say positive things about Jews that would NEVER get reported in the news. They even speak out against people who are anti-Jewish! You mentioned Iran, but do you know that Iran has the second largest Jewish population in the Middle-East besides Israel? There are over 25,000 Jews in Iran and they were protesting against Israel’s war crimes in Gaza.

    Of course there are Arabs and Muslims who say disgusting things about Jews, and there are Jews who say disgusting things about Arabs and Muslims too. Look at the t-shirts that are being sold right now in Israel: There’s a target on a Palestinian woman’s pregnant stomach and it says “1 shot, 2 kills.” Do we hear about these kind of things? We always hear about Muslims shouting “kill the Jews” or teaching their children to hate Jews, but we never hear what the other racists are doing.

    Leadership is the problem, we don’t have good leadership for the Muslims and the Jews. Anyway, we’re missing the whole point of the poem. The reality is that this is a horrible and terrible situation for the people in the Holy Land. We need to move forward; listen to each other compassionately, and find ways to solve the problem. When we look at suicide bombing and militants, we need to ask what is the root cause of the problem. Then we find the root cause and try to fix things there. When we look at Israel’s military strategy, we need to question why so many innocent civilians are being killed. We need to hold those individuals accountable for their actions.

    There is so much history and beauty there, and it always breaks my heart when I hear about all this senseless bloodshed. I have no faith in politicians anymore.

  8. Shachar said,

    March 24, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    I am very happy that I have not seen any of those disgusting t-shirts, though I’ve read about them twice on international newsblogs. I hope they don’t get censured because if I do see someone wearing one, that will be a great person to debate with. There area often extremists on the talk-backs/comments in the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz in articles on the issue. When I see them, I respond. That is a very safe way to answer the hate with love. I don’t expect that I’ll convince all of them to respect others simply because they are alive – and I also want to spend most of my time dancing and hiking and researching and working. I see responding to voices of hate as a privilege and honor.

    I’m very happy that you’ve written what you’ve written in our discussion. I learned from it, and it gives me more info to share with others. You seem to honor this as an emotional and difficult issue.

    Thank you

  9. Shachar said,

    March 25, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    It is good that you educated me about the points of views of Muslims who are falsely suspected of being extremists.

    I also want to respond to some statements you made, that show that you also don’t have a clear picture from the point of view of Israelis, who cant understand why the world shames us for defending ourselves from aggressors who are hell-bent on killing us.

    “Muslims haven’t accepted Israel as a state because there was no Israel prior to 1948. Palestinians were evicted out of their homes — that’s why there are Palestinian refugees and Palestinian *settlements*.”

    First of all, there are a million Arabs living inside Israel, with full rights of citizens (though not all can serve in the military). Their families were not “evicted” from their homes, and the same can be said for those who chose to leave in 1948, after the Israeli leadership told them that they do not have to leave, but if they do, they may not return.

    Since 1948 a Jewish nation was reborn from the abandoned swamps and deserts of their ancestral homeland, and it isn’t going away – not without another genocide, which the Iranian president keeps threatening with their upcoming nuclear weapons. The 20th century saw the 4th time that the Jews returned to the land that our scriptures point them to. It is no accident or crime that Jews are here. This is the historical and present home of the Jewish people (who can live wherever we want to, but have roots here and a home to come back to if we want. This does not exclude Muslims and Christians, as long as they are peaceful.) People can accept it or not, but Israel is here. We are accused of “stealing” the land, but this is also far from true. Instead of continuing to lie to themselves, I wish that people would accept Israel and perhaps benefit from being partners and friends in a pluralistic Middle East. We have much more to offer as friends than as enemies.

    “And I don’t understand how you can reference the Holocaust and not acknowledge what is happening to the Palestinian people right now.”

    I don’t understand how you can even begin to compare the European Holocaust with the situation between Israel and Palestine. In the first half of the 20th century, the Jewish minority in Europe was oppressed and beaten down in most of Europe, suffering the Holocaust as a final genocide at the hands of people who wanted to “purify” Europe for the “master race”. Jews did not attack Europeans, except for in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, where they stood up against an imminent doom.

    Israel (Jews are a tiny minority in the Middle East) has defended itself from aggressive neighbors for over 60 years, causing more and more defensive measures to be taken over the years, including annexing the Golan Heights and turning the West Bank and Gaza into a prison only after the Palestinians initiated another war in 2000, where weapons were supplied from the occupied areas. For many years Israel could have easily acted in a way that would compare to the Holocaust, but that would mean killing almost all of the Palestinians in and around Israel. There are a few crazies who say that this is the only way to finish this war, but they are only a few crazies. And you may say that Israel has forced the Palestinians into a Ghetto, like in Warsaw, but this is also very far from the truth. Gaza and the West Bank were open to commerce and much easier border crossing until the intifada in 2000 showed Israelis that they need to tighten the security in those areas so that innocent civilians can use the buses or go to cafe’s without having to call their family when they get off the bus to tell them that they’re still alive. Incessant violence from enough Palestinians is why they are in prison – you, and many people misplace responsibility for the suffering of the Palestinians. I wish there was a way to tell the difference between the normal and the psychotic ones who refuse to let Israel live in peace, but because the extremists are in and amongst and aided and abated by the population as a whole, Israel is left with no other option that I’m aware of, if it is to defend its people. I have asked many people who criticize Israel and no one has given me a realistic alternative.

    “Reactionary violence from the Palestinians is caused by the Israeli military occupation.”

    Can you say that during the violence towards Israelis in the 1930′s who bought and struggled to survive on undesirable swamp lands in the Jezereel, Ahula and Sharon Valleys – were they occupying poor subjected Palestinians on unused land that they bought? Can you say that about every war that Israel defended itself from its aggressive neighbors ever since? You can say it, but it would be a lie.

    “Most of the violence breaking out in the Muslim world is due to post-colonialist liberation ideologies.”

    People can be victims of past European or present American empirical diseases and continue the disease, or we can move forward in a good way. The word assassin is not one used only by Muslim cultures (Japanese Ninja, snipers of many cultures, etc..), but its roots are from Arabic – violence is not new to Muslim or any culture. One cannot justly justify the crimes against humanity happening in Sudan (in Darfur, and soon in the north), or India/Pakistan, or southern Thailand or Afghanistan or what would happen in Israel if Israelis don’t defend ourselves vigilantly (perhaps sometimes too vigilantly, or more accurately, in a violent rage from waiting patiently for too long). Nor can one justify crimes of the Ottomans, but these political tragedies are not unique to Muslim cultures. China and the Soviet Union and Hitler and the USA have millions of barrels of blood on their hands in the 20th century, and covered up the conquest with a blanket of “ideals”. Burma has a brutal military dictatorship. The list goes on. Violence is clearly not a Muslim thing, but a thing that happens when someone or a group of people are inspired to control others (for resources in most cases, for safety in Israel’s).

    “There are over 25,000 Jews in Iran and they were protesting against Israel’s war crimes in Gaza.”

    There were about 145,000 Jews in Iran before 1948. 20,000 remained after the 1979 revolution, and have had children. They have a good quality of life, as Jews in Iran have for many decades. Most Iranian Jews who left Iran for Israel or the USA had a difficult time with the relative poverty that they lived in after moving out. In Iran today Jews have equal rights and are proud to be Persian Jews. (Arabs in Israel have a comparable situation, as minorities, with equal rights.) Iran doesn’t have a problem with Jews, they claim to have a problem with Israel. I think that they do this to gain influence with their Arab neighbors, with whom they are in a subtle power struggle (that is less subtle in the Shiite/Sunni war in Iraq).

    I still have never heard a good reason from anyone for the denial of the state of Israel. Yet it conveniently distracts people from the poor leadership and often crimes being committed by their leaders, as is the case of Hamas.

    I also constantly hear criticism of Israel for its defensive actions, but never any realistic alternatives. In fact, if you ask why most European and American leaders continue to support Israel, it is because Israel has shown incredible restraint, considering the situation.

  10. brokenmystic said,

    March 26, 2009 at 6:51 am

    Shachar,

    If you’re going to only present one side of the story, then why did you comment on my poem in the first place? You say that Israel is defending against people who “hell-bent” on killing them, and yet you don’t seem to acknowledge that over 1300 Palestinians were killed in Gaza earlier this year! How is that self-defense? When the numbers were climbing so high, Israel should have stopped immediately, but they didn’t. The victims of the Gaza attacks are NEVER going to be the same again. You don’t think those attacks provoke violent and hateful behavior?

    I feel like the whole point of the poem is being missed here and honestly, it’s quite discouraging since it seems like the stereotypes still exist in your mind. What was the point of mentioning the fact that “Assassin” has Arabic roots? How is that relevant? What does that have to do with the message of coexistence and peace?

    Every civilization has blood on their hands — that’s understood — but it seems that you’re ignoring the realities of Islamophobia in the world. I didn’t bring up the holocaust just to talk about Israel and Palestine, I brought it up so that you could look at the larger picture. Look at how Muslims are being DEHUMANIZED, DEMONIZED, VILIFIED, DISCRIMINATED AGAINST, ABUSED, VANDALIZED, and even MURDERED just because of WHO THEY ARE, WHAT THEY BELIEVE, and WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE. When there is a military occupation of people who are differently religiously and ethnically, you don’t think there’s a strong possibility for racism? Did you see the recent police videos of White police officers BEATING Black women in the United States? Did you hear about all the horrible things that happened at Guantanamo Bay? The reality is that when you put a gun in someone’s hand and grant him authority, a lot can change. When you put a weapon in someone’s hand, the more responsibility and discipline it requires because it’s so easy to lose it. You can study Philip Zimbardo’s Standford Prison experiment and then read his book, “The Lucifer Effect.”

    What was the land called before 1948? Why was Israel created in 1948? Salah Al-Din recaptured Jerusalem in 1187 — 1187 to 1948 is a LONG TIME. Why was there no Israel? Why did widespread violence between Muslims and Jews erupt after the British mandate? Why are there Palestinian refugees? You don’t think a military occupation of the Palestinians is enough to cause violent reactions? You don’t think wiping out Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon is enough? You don’t think bombing Lebanon in 2006 and bombing Gaza in 2008-2009 is going to provoke violence from the Palestinians?

    Notice I didn’t say anything about violence in Judaism, nor did I say there is “violent Jewish culture” like you said there is “violent Arab culture.” You don’t seem to understand Islam and how it consists of so many rich cultures. When you talk about Jerusalem being sacred to Jews, you ignore two things: (1) Jerusalem is sacred to Muslims too, and (2) Islam is a continuation of Judaism — that’s what we believe! Muslims believe in the Prophets of the Old Testament! One of my best friends became Muslim recently. When he was 15, he left Judaism, and after he became Muslim, he said the amazing thing is that he found more appreciation and respect for Judaism than ever before. That’s because Islam is an Abrahamic religion too. Salah Al-Din’s Jerusalem was about ACCEPTING everyone for who they are. Now look at Jerusalem, there are borders and walls and checkpoints; those things weren’t there before! How can you say Israel has shown incredible restraint? Over 1300 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. Did you see ANY of the pictures? Is that restraint? If one Israel dies, does that mean Israel has the right to kill 100 Palestinians?

    You said: “Arabs in Israel have a comparable situation, as minorities, with equal rights”

    Yeah. Tell that to my Palestinian friend’s aunt who got locked up in a prison for a week.

  11. Shachar said,

    March 26, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    First of all, nowhere did I say “violent Arab culture”, as you said that I did.

    Secondly, you say that I’m only looking at one side of the situation, but it is clear to me that I seek and learn from other perspectives. I understand that there is prejudice, discrimination, racism and fear towards Muslims. I understand that there is violence in many parts of the world, and that much of it is not caused by Muslims. I also understand that the violence that is caused by SOME Muslims, loudly in the name of Allah, causes this prejudice. When a cartoon of Muhammad with a bomb strapped to him started mob violence and rioting by SOME Muslims in Europe, I couldn’t understand why people don’t see that the cartoon is saying ‘Would Muhammad do this?’ The obvious answer is NO. So, I would hope that the cartoon would have shown violent radical Islamists that their path is wrong. But, I also can see that the sensitivity of people feeling prejudiced can cause people to interpret the cartoon as an attack on Islam.

    “Why was there no Israel [before 1948]?” I’ll say it again. There was. A few times. Each time, the Jews came back to THIS land.

    “Why did widespread violence between Muslims and Jews erupt after the British mandate?” Good question. Is it because the Jews who were leaving generally horrible oppression and returning to our homeland? Or is it because there is almost always a power struggle in places where two or more populations are competing for the same territory. I wish that we had a pluralistic and wise leader like Salah Al-Din in the first half of the 20th century. Perhaps this article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amin_al-Husayni may shed light.

    “Why are there Palestinian refugees?” They are not refugees. They did not need to flee for their lives. They were invited to stay and be citizens of Israel. Some stayed. Some left.

    “You don’t think a military occupation of the Palestinians is enough to cause violent reactions?” Again, you are ignoring the cause of the military occupation – consistent Palestinian attacks coming from the occupied areas on Israeli people.

    “You don’t think wiping out Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon is enough?” This was a war started by a Palestinian attempt to take over Lebanon, after their attempt to take over Jordan was stopped brutally by the Saudi Hashemites, in a massacre killing tens of thousands of Palestinians. These Palestinian extremists in Lebanon were also attacking Israeli communities, so the Israeli army assisted the Lebanese Christian armies. I’m sure most Christians choke at thinking that there was a Christian army in the 20th century that conducted massacres, but people would do many things to defend themselves from the evils that Brigitte Gabriele tell about in her personal story as a child in Lebanon http://www.heritage.org/Press/Events/ev092706a.cfm You mentioned her earlier as being anti-Muslim and that she says that Islam is a threat to the world. In her story, she doesn’t always separate the violent, radical Islamists from the peaceful Muslims, but she does make clear distinction a number of times.

    I hate the thought that massacres happened on many sides of this age old conflict. I would love to see civilians left out of the conflict. If you could convince Hamas and Hezballa to leave civilians out of this, and if they feel a need to fight, do it outside of the villages, then civilians will be left out of this conflict. Until then, Israel will defend itself however it can, killing as few civilians as possible. If Israel didn’t take care to tell civilians to leave areas where they were going in to sweep for weapons that were being used on Israeli towns; if Israel wasn’t so careful to spare innocent civilians, there would have been many many many more casualties. The reason why there were this many casualties was because these “civilians” chose to sit with their soldier family members while they fire at Israelis. Instead of stopping their family member, they chose to become “shahid – martyrs” and believed that they are going to the highest place in heaven. Furthermore, they are responsible because they forced Israel to defend itself.

    “You don’t think bombing Lebanon in 2006 and bombing Gaza in 2008-2009 is going to provoke violence from the Palestinians?” I’m sure it does. Jews in Israel never started the attacks, but always defend themselves, and will continue to do so. Don’t you think that the Palestinian mob violence against Jews from 1920 until today is going to provoke self defense from Israelis? Why can’t you see who is truly responsible here? Why do these people keep forcing Israel to defend itself????

  12. brokenmystic said,

    March 28, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Shachar,

    I’m beginning to wonder if you have ever engaged in inter-faith and/or inter-cultural dialogue before? To hear you defend the Danish cartoons is unsettling because you don’t seem to understand how dehumanizing and vilifying an entire religion can lead to harmful consequences. If I said the Nazis made anti-Jewish propaganda films to show people “this isn’t what the Jews are supposed to do,” wouldn’t you be offended? There are people all over the internet who proudly display those Danish cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as their profile pictures and on their websites just to provoke Muslims. If you ever study media imagery, you’ll understand that the media is the number 1 storyteller in society, and as a result of that, people’s perceptions and views on certain groups of people (e.g. Muslims) are heavily influenced and shaped by what they see through visual media. Someone who doesn’t know anything about Islam may look at those drawings and think that they’re “accurate.” It also reinforces the popular anti-Islamic sentiment, which has risen annually in the West. Please read my article on the “U.N. anti-blasphemy resolution” which discusses the Danish cartoons in further detail:

    http://brokenmystic.wordpress.com/2009/03/16/critics-of-un-anti-blasphemy-resolution-overlook-opportunities-for-global-dialogue/

    You wrote: “So, I would hope that the cartoon would have shown violent radical Islamists that their path is wrong.”

    No. The cartoon is of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. It’s not an attack on radical “Islamists” because it’s a depiction of the Prophet of Islam. The cartoons clearly hurt the sentiments of ALL Muslims. To not understand why we’re hurt by these images is due to a failure of inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue. The violent riots that took place is a different issue altogether. The media focused so much on the riots that they overlooked the opportunities for inter-faith dialogue, as well as seeing that the majority of Muslims held seminars in their universities and communities to educate people about the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. No one bothered to listen to what *we* had to say, but of course, whenever there’s radical actions, the media lumps everyone into the same box of stereotypes and generalizations.

    “I also understand that the violence that is caused by SOME Muslims, loudly in the name of Allah, causes this prejudice.”

    Excuse me? The prejudice is not caused by extremism. It’s caused by lack of education and IGNORANCE. Timothy McVeigh was a White Christian extremist who blew up a federal building in Oklahoma, but that didn’t cause any prejudice towards White Christians in the United States. White people are not expected to answer for his crimes, and yet, all Muslims are expected to apologize for 9/11. Any person of color is held accountable for crimes that OTHER people committed. The same does not apply to White Americans. I have been cursed out by so many White Americans because of the color of my skin and religious affiliation, but I don’t generalize about every single one of them. I deal with every person individually. When radical so-called “Christians” bomb abortion clinics, or when radical so-called “Jews” plot to blow up Islamic centers in the United States, no one starts profiling Christians and Jews. The problem is that Islam is racialized. Christians and Jews are generally thought of as Western and White, while Muslims are thought of being foreign and dark-skinned. Since there is a visible and perceived difference, it’s easier to pin the blame on us. This is actually true with all people of color in the West. If you truly understand what stereotyping and generalizing is, then you don’t need to develop a prejudice for an ENTIRE group of people based on the actions of a few.

    If your argument that Israel was always there, I hope you acknowledge that it was ruled by Muslims for centuries. I also hope that you acknowledge that Muslims, Christians, and Jews coexisted. Are you saying that Jews are the only people who have the right to rule the country? If that’s what you’re suggesting, then I find that incredibly ethnocentric. The Jewish leaders, like David Ben-Gurion, said plenty of anti-Arab things when they took over the region and carved out the state of Israel. They *are* Palestinian refugees, and when you deny that, you’re simply covering up the facts. Do you even have any Palestinian friends? Why don’t you talk to them and ask them why their family members are in Jordan and Lebanon.

    You behave as if the Israel is innocent and is doing nothing else but “defending itself.” Israel has disproportionate power. They have one of the largest military forces in the world and it’s because they’re funded by the United States. Did you hear about Tristan Anderson — An American activist who was recently shot in the head with a rubber bullet by an Israeli soldier? Did you hear about Rachel Corrie — another American peace activist who was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer? Do you hear about the countless Palestinians who have their homes bulldozed by Israelis? Equal rights, right?

    Your defense of Brigitte Gabriele is offensive. If you can defend people like her (who doesn’t say a single word about peace and coexistence) then surely you’ll give people like Sumbul Ali-Karamali a read (author of “The Muslim Next Door”). Gabriele was a contributor on the anti-Islamic propaganda film, “Obsession,” which was distributed to millions of Americans during the Holy Month of Ramadan!

    You say the Jews never started any attacks. Do you why there was Palestinian mob violence against the Jews? Did you forget about Jewish terrorist groups like Irgun and the Stern gang? Did you forget that the Palestinians were afraid that the British was giving away their land to the Jews?

    “Instead of stopping their family member, they chose to become “shahid – martyrs” and believed that they are going to the highest place in heaven”

    Ugh, please read “The Muslim Next Door” by Sumbul Ali-Karamali and “Orientalism” by Edward Said. You think the motives are all related to religious beliefs. How about you see it this way: A Palestinian’s family is killed. He has no education, no government to turn to, and he lives in very poor conditions. He decides to be a suicide bomber to avenge his family. Is it right? No. But is it right that his family was killed? No. Study the statistics, over 50% of the Palestinians who become suicide bombers have had their homes BULLDOZED by Israel. Two ex-Israeli soldiers came to visit my campus and they gave a talk about how they’re not allowed back in their own country. They also share really disturbing facts about the Israeli military and how they were ordered to bulldoze homes of innocent Palestinians. And if Israel is such a democracy, then why are Israelis put in jail if they refuse military service??

    There is no such thing as a “religious war,” and your understanding of religious extremism of Muslims is misplaced and misunderstood. Religious extremism is merely added to an already turbulent conflict. It’s not the root cause of the problems — it’s USED to energize militants. Reports are coming out now that the Rabbis were preaching to Israeli soldiers that they should show no mercy to the Palestinians, even the unarmed civilians! This is how religion gets USED. It has nothing to do with Judaism or Islam. Whenever there is war against a foreign invader, there is a more passionate, patriotic, and ethnocentric reaction from BOTH sides. When Palestinians shout “Allahu akbar,” they’re doing so because they’re establishing a more radical connection with their religious and ethnic identity. It has VERY LITTLE to do with Islam.

    If Israel is defending itself, then why am I seeing dead bodies of Palestinian children and women? There are better ways to deal with violence, and using violence against violence is not one of them. 30% of the victims who died in Lebanon 2006 were CHILDREN. Are those children terrorists? Were they a threat to peace?

  13. Shachar said,

    March 29, 2009 at 8:48 am

    I am thankful that you are educating people that Islam is not an aggressive religion. I’ve looked through your blog and it seems like you’re doing a very good job showing the love. Your poems are breathtaking. You also make a good point that extremists use religion to energize militants – like I said, most wars are over resources, but that reality is covered by a blanket of ideals.

    It is clear that the prejudice and bigotry against Muslim people is a very serious issue. It is also a sensitive issue, causing every criticism to inflame into anger. It is clear that there is more bigotry against Muslims than against Jews (how many crazy neo-cons “accused” President Obama of being Muslim so as to whip up people’s fears?) I know that Islam is not an aggressive religion, and that during the Catholic Dark Ages, the knowledge and wisdom of many cultures were preserved in Muslim countries. (It is unfortunate that movements like the Muslim Brotherhood in Africa and the Taliban are creating a hellish world instead.) You mention the Oklahoma City bombing, which was done by a militant, anti-federalist white supremacist who was certainly not Christian by his actions. There are other examples of extremist cults, that people put in the “crazy cult” category and don’t associate with mainstream Christianity. Muslims, unfortunately, do not have the same media exposure to show the truer side of Islam. It is unfortunate that the mass media focuses only on dramatic/traumatic events. This is also the case with Israel. The mass media ignored the years of bombings that Israeli civilians endured because it is normal already – nothing new(s), but vividly showed the wars in Gaza and Lebanon.

    Israeli youth do have the option to not be in the military, if they choose. I know a few and none of them went to jail. Israel is still very much a democracy. Most Israeli youth want to go to the military because they know that we need to defend ourselves from aggressive neighbors. There are examples of soldiers who have traumatic experiences, like with any war – war is inherently ugly, traumatic and evil. I hope this war will end very soon with a home for Jews and one for Palestinians. Israel has a disproportionately strong army because Israel is constantly having to defend itself. I would love to see more of Israel’s brain power and resources focused instead on empowering education, culture, service, positive scientific innovation and other pursuits of peace. I am amazed that Israel has contributed so much to medical, environmental, educational, and cultural fields when the largest portion of government spending is for the military. (Go to http://www.israel21c.org to get a little taste of what Israelis are contributing in these areas just today.) There are many non-profit organizations run by Jews and Arabs (funded mostly by Jews) who are working towards peaceful coexistence.

    There are also many former extremist Arab terrorists who now advocate for Israel because they see that Arabs live inside Israel with freedom, but Jews living in Palestine need to protect themselves. Other than Iran, Israel is the only place in the Middle East where Jews, Muslims and Christians still coexist.

    I don’t agree with the bulldozing of homes of suicide bombers. Israel bulldozes homes of suicide bombers who murdered Israelis because the government thinks that it will deter them. Hamas and others give money to the families of suicide bombers, and others who die to kill Israelis. By bulldozing homes, Israel is trying to counter this ‘murder benefit’. I think that if someone is humiliated or desperate, they will be more willing to die and know that now their families will have enough. Your percentage of the numbers of terrorists whose home was bulldozed is both because Israel bulldozed their homes after they murdered innocent people on buses or in cafes, and because these families are more likely to promote violence against Jews. Bulldozing homes is a very weak approach to this. It would be more effective to murder the whole family instead, but because this is unethical Israel hasn’t been doing that. Now that Israel is in control of the West Bank, it is responsible to make sure that people aren’t humiliated or desperate. Checkpoints should be carefully monitored for weapons only. Israel is stupid to slow down the shipment of food and medicine aid to bare minimum needed to sustain life. Hamas takes the ‘barely enough’ food and gives it to their supporters, causing their support base to grow. It was more ideal before 2000, when there was a mutual economy between Palestine and Israel. Palestinians worked here. Israelis shopped and worshiped there. The violence that was started by Arabs after Israel’s offer to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza made the situation much much worse.

    When talking about Israel, it is important to keep in mind that Israel is defending itself against groups who are openly intent on killing us all. They not only say it, they act on it.

    “If Israel is defending itself, then why am I seeing dead bodies of Palestinian children and women? There are better ways to deal with violence, and using violence against violence is not one of them. 30% of the victims who died in Lebanon 2006 were CHILDREN. Are those children terrorists? Were they a threat to peace?”

    Then can you offer a realistic alternative to stopping extremists who are committed to murdering me and every other Jew in Israel? I have requested this before from you and from many people, but to no avail.

    Sorry that I have to be rude, but you show great blindness and deafness here. I have let you know that Israel has made great efforts in Gaza and Lebanon to give people who want to leave an area that will soon be a battle front a chance to leave. Do you choose to ignore American media reports that Israel drops fliers in neighborhoods a couple of days before going in, or that Israel made hundreds of thousands of phone calls in Arabic into Gaza telling them to tell their friends and family to leave that neighborhood? I have made it clear that those who chose to stay, sat with their family member as he shot at Israelis. In Lebanon, Israelis made greater efforts not to hit civilian targets, even though they were being shot at from them, causing greater Israeli deaths. In Gaza, Israeli soldiers were instructed that ‘this time, it doesn’t matter from where they are shooting at you. If they shoot, return fire. We will have already given them warning to leave before you arrive to get their rockets.’

    The fact that Hezballa and Hamas use civilian “shields” is why there are women and children dead from Israel’s actions taken to disarm and discourage the rocketing of Israeli towns. I don’t know the percentage of these “civilians” who choose to die with their soldiers in the propaganda part of their war, but I know that their deaths is because of Hamas and Hezballa (Syria and Iran). Israel is and always has been defending itself.

    The Irgun and Sterns Gang were just that..terrorist gangs. Small gangs. Overwhelmingly smaller than the Haganah, which was the powerful force in the 1940′s. The Sterns Gang and Irgun were largely disarmed in the controversial sinking by the Haganah of a much needed ship full of weapons that the extremist Jews were bringing in because Ben Gurion refused to allow them to have power and to divide the young country.

    I know that, as you said, Palestinians were concerned about the British promising land to Israelis because the British were also promising it to the Palestinians. It seems to have been in line with their empirical strategy – divide and conquer. The war was originally against the British occupation, and when they left and the UN made a compromise that created a Jewish state in areas with Jewish majorities, there was a natural scramble for control, where Israel fought against Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria. Jordan and Egypt kept the land that they conquered – they also occupied Palestine until 1967.

    I’ll say it again. There were no Palestinian refugees, regardless of what lies they may tell. Israel was very clear that they could stay. Some chose to stay. Some chose to leave. There are a million Arabs inside Israel (not in West Bank or Gaza) whose families chose to stay. I use their buses. I eat in their restaurants and buy food from their markets. Arabs work in high tech, service fields, mixed municipalities, and own their own businesses. Some of them are my friends. The bus to the nearby universities that goes by my bus station is always full of dark skinned men and women with Muslim head covering. Arabs are a minority here, but they have representatives in the parliament. (Israel did just ban two Arab parties that sat in the parliament while they don’t recognize the state of Israel, and whose leaders have been sharing information with Syria. Would any nation allow parties that not only refuse to recognize the very nation, but are committed to its destruction? Would they allow it for 60 years like Israel has until now?) Israel isn’t perfect, but it is a democracy.

  14. Shachar said,

    March 30, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    I am sorry that I said that you “show great blindness and deafness”. That was not constructive dialog. I was angry because you were saying that we are killing children and calling it self-defense, and you didn’t seem to understand me when I wrote that we don’t have a choice but to defend ourselves, and that it is not our choice that Hamas and Hezballa shoot at us from behind women and children.

    You also wrote “There are better ways to deal with violence, and using violence against violence is not one of them.” I hope that you are right, but I know realistically that in some cases this ideal isn’t true. In this case, Israel has been defending itself against really sick people, who are openly committed to our death. I’m not sure if it is accurate to compare Hamas and Hezballa to Hitler’s Nazis, I think that from a Jewish perspective in Israel, it is a good comparison, now and in the 1940′s when Mohammad Amin al-Husayni was the recognized leader of the vast majority of Palestinians, after having collaborated and allied himself with the Nazis.

    Israel’s dilemma is that we cannot allow ourselves to be attacked and victimized again, so we defend ourselves. But we don’t finish the job because we don’t know how to separate the innocent from the psychotic Palestinians who are waiting for a chance to kill us. So we wait, trying to keep them from attacking us – and hope that they will accept us, realizing that we are here to stay, and that we make much better friends than enemies.

    I am inspired by Gandhi’s example. Unfortunately, we are facing a different situation. The British did not want to commit an Indian genocide. Also, when they became violent against non-violent people, the world saw and did not tolerate it, while the families of violent Palestinians gain a nice ‘murder benefit’. These “martyrs” are supported and hero-ized for attacking innocent people, while the British were shamed. Since their democratic/violent takeover of Gaza, most of the world blockaded Hamas – except for Iran and Egypt who allowed weapons and cigarettes to get into Gaza through underground tunnels. These weapons have reached major civilian populations, and everyone knows that Iran is now building up towards nuclear weapons. I hate to think about what we will need to do to defend ourselves when people who say that they will use these weapons against us, become too close to having them.

    We already offered withdrawal from occupied lands in 2000 and the response from the PLO was another war. We withdrew from defensive positions in Lebanon, which allowed Hezballa to fire at our communities. We left Gaza, which allowed Hamas to get stronger. We live on a tiny bit of land that is the spiritual and physical home of most of the world’s Jewish people. Just under 5 million Jews here have no other home. And these crazy people do not stop attacking us. They just do not accept us being here and sovereign over our lives. We aren’t perfect, but we do our best to be a democracy and to stand up for justice for everyone who lives here – including Palestinians – though because of their continued violence, their justice now is in a de-facto prison. I wish the innocent and rational Palestinians and Lebanese stopped those who attack us and force us to defend ourselves.

    Again, I would love to see a realistic alternative that wont lead to a genocide or all out civil war. Somebody please enlighten me…please. I will pass any good ideas on to every Israeli that I know.


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