good aspect of the holiday season was that veteran Arab-hater
James Taranto, whose column "Best of the Web" runs
on the Wall Street Journal's website, went on vacation,
and the world was spared his
unsparing hatred for all things Arab for a few blessed
days. Not for long, however: he's
back at the same old stand, picking up little items from
about the innate evil of Muslims and always appending the
same hateful headline: "A
Religion of Peace?" But two can play that game
Washington Post reports
that there's "tension at [the] Holy Land's tombs,"
and the source of it is
well, let them report. You decide:
Tomb which is also venerated by Muslims and Christians has
been sealed inside a heavily fortified building. The tomb
is no longer visible from the outside, and Palestinians are
not allowed access. Foreign tourists can visit, but only
Jews are allowed to pray."
if the Post had titled its story "A
Religion of Peace?" The yelps of outrage would have
been deafening. Yet Taranto gets away with precisely this
kind of hate-mongering five days a week. I note, in passing,
that Taranto was one
of those who led the conservative wing of the Jacobin
mob that detached Senator Lott from his job as Majority Leader,
screaming that even the merest hint of "racism"
had to be expunged from the GOP. But what about Taranto's
own preferred form of bigotry attributing all the evil on
earth to the world's billion-plus Muslims?
what's the penalty for Christians and Muslims who break the
ban on non-Jewish prayers? And do they have hall monitors,
watching for signs of gentiles
looking a bit too prayerful as they traverse Rachel's Tomb?
scarier is the news that fanatical "settlers"
i.e. Israeli fundamentalists are mobilizing around these
holy sites as rallying points for their expansionist program.
As George Giacaman,
of the Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy, puts
strategy of settlers is to use every small place with some
religious connection as an excuse to expand the settlement
project. It's not a question of prayer rights for Jews. The
issue is using holy sites as a ruse to expand settlements."
in Hebron, where Kach
extremists have set up an outpost in the midst of an ancient
Palestinian community, and now enjoy the "protection"
(i.e. collaboration) of the Israeli Defense Force. And in
Bethlehem, where the
Vatican had pleaded with the IDF to permit the Christmas
celebration to proceed, it was the saddest
Christmas ever in the town where Jesus was born. The Latin
Sabbah, the highest Catholic cleric in the region, spoke
for many Christians, Muslims, and Jews when he delivered this
rebuke to the Israeli authorities in his Christmas message:
say no to violence, no to terrorism and no to oppression,
but we ask you (Israelis) to understand the reason for the
violence and this is occupation. Blood has been flowing in
your cities and streets, but the key to solving this conflict
is in your hands. By your actions so far, you have crushed
the Palestinian people but you still have not achieved peace."
many hoped that the
twelve days of Christmas would give Bethlehem a brief
respite, it was even briefer than that: the IDF withdrew for
a single day and then moved
right back in, guns blazing.
Gaza, they killed
a 9-year-old Palestinian child: Hanneen Abu Suleiman was
shot in the head outside her home in the Gaza Strip town of
Khan Younis. Presiding over this orgy of mindless violence,
the Chief Rabbi, Israel
Meir Lau, spread Christmas cheer by urging Jews not to
succumb to the temptations of the holiday season, warning
them against celebrating Christmas or New Year's Day. According
to the Associated Press, Lau ranted that "such
observances threaten the identity of the Jewish state."
With the expulsion of many Palestinian workers, and their
replacement by Christians from abroad, the celebration of
Christmas and the New Year has become more widespread in Israel,
a trend that upsets the Chief Rabbi, who declared in a Christmas
should we have anything to do with Christmas or New Year's
Eve, in the shade of the Christmas tree? We never imagined
that even in our independent country of the Jewish nation,
foreign cultures would threaten our identity as a people and
Israel's sense of national identity is threatened by a few
Christmas trees and toasts to the New Year, then it is too
fragile to survive in any case, and nothing can save it: not
the IDF, not more billions in U.S. aid, not all the angels
in heaven. In a country where endless war, official
corruption, and rising
religious extremism are everyday facts of life, are Christmas
trees and seasonal conviviality really a major problem?
the Pope, or Trent Lott, had said something in a similar vein
say, that celebrating "Kwanzaa"
diluted our identity as a Christian nation the media Thought
Police would have nabbed them and forced them to confess their
sins, and not only apologize but beg the public's forgiveness.
The rise of Haider in Austria, Le Pen in France, and similar
eruptions of political incorrectness in the Anglosphere
have ensconced "xenophobia" in the political lexicon
as a synonym for hate. But when Israel's chief religious official
attacks Christmas and even New Year's parties as an invidious
incursion of "foreign cultures," where is the outrage?
rise of religious fundamentalism is generally deplored by
the champions of "modernity," such as Andrew Sullivan
and his "blogger"
brigade, who point to the Islamic and Christian varieties
as the main danger to Western civilization. Those nasty Christian
fundies, we are constantly reminded, are a bunch of knuckle-dragging
book-burners who would
ban Harry Potter if they could: but when fundamentalists
of another sort campaign
to ban a novel, our "civil libertarian" journalists
usually so vocal about the defense of free speech, especially
when it comes to books are struck dumb. I
can't locate a single editorial or opinion piece in English
on this subject, outside
of the Middle East except for an
article in Alexander Cockburn's Counterpunch, where
Gavin Keeney's review of Christmas books notes:
publishing sensation of the year Dream of Palestine
written by a fifteen-year-old Italian girl (of Palestinian
not be available in the U.S. (in English, French or Italian),
but you can buy Oriana Fallaci's anti-Muslim screed The
Rage and the Pride (in five languages). The former is in
the process of being suppressed overseas and will probably
never see the light of print in the U.S., while the latter
has climbed the bestseller list despite being universally
condemned as a post-9/11 apoplectic tirade in 'defense' of
the supremacy of Western values. Odd, indeed, since both of
these titles come from the same publisher."
marriage of religious fundamentalism and state power is supposedly
the main threat to the peace of the world, which is why many
Russo-Iranian effort to supply Tehran with nuclear power.
But what about the
one country in the Middle East that already has nuclear weapons,
Oh, but they are just like us, the Amen
Corner assures us, a modern essentially European-style
"democracy." Yet Israel has its own mullahs, and
is a "secular" society only in comparison to its
neighbors. By Western standards, Israel is a theocracy: why
else would you
need the permission of the government to change your religion?
Sydney Morning Herald reports that four Israelis, born
into the Jewish faith, converted to Islam and were told by
the Ministry of the Interior that their conversions could
not be officially registered:
four were told they could not convert without the approval
of the Ministry
of Religious Affairs, which in turn tried to put
pressure on them to change their minds. All four have been
told they will have to justify their decisions before a special
committee that includes a psychiatrist and a social worker."
gives new meaning to the term "therapeutic
state," popularized by Thomas
Szasz and Paul
Gottfried. Israel today is a typically theocratic Middle
Eastern country, albeit one armed with all the "scientific"
instruments of social engineers and all the social workers
(and nukes) U.S.
tax dollars can buy.
fundamentalism rises in Israel, threatening
the last vestiges of moderation in the government, the
U.S. has grown closer to Ariel Sharon. Sharon's political
opponents consider that the alleged
threat to Israel from Iraq is a convenient
diversion away from the election bribery scandal tainting
the Likud party. But the Likud leader has received confirmation
from Washington that the threat is so great that America is
prepared to put the lives of its own soldiers on the line.
first in a deployment of 1,000 American troops arrived in
Israel on December 28.
official pretext for their presence is a military exercise
code-named "Jennifer Cobra," designed to test the
effectiveness of the Patriot missiles we sent over there in
combination with the Israeli "Arrow" missile system.
However, as the Guardian reports, "once the exercise
is over, the U.S. soldiers will remain in Israel until the
crisis over Iraq is resolved."
As the crisis deepens, their numbers can only increase, making
our soldiers convenient targets for suicide bombers. An American
garrison in Israel could result in another
Beirut, this time writ
religion of peace? There
isn't any such thing. All religions, all the time, inspire
dogmatism that ends in violence because of the simple definition
of faith, which is the
suspension of reason. When rationality breaks down, dialogue
is impossible and war is inevitable. It's as simple as that.
let's cut out the cheap shots at Islam, and Christianity,
for that matter, while leaving the rest of the world's superstitions
immune from criticism. The rise of religious intolerance in
Israel, and among that country's vociferous supporters in
the West, isn't the only clue to the dangers posed by a misguided
is the latest fundamentalist threat to the peace of the world,
as I have warned
in this column before:
does the world really need another nuclear-armed fanatic who
looks to God (or the gods, in the case of the Hindus) as justification
for repression and mass murder?
Israel-India alliance is all
too logical, given the fundamentalist trajectory of both
countries. That the U.S. is funding
this sinister convergence will reap us the kind of "blowback"
we have rightly come to dread.
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