Monday, December 26, 2005

Hanukkah Sameach!

Today is the first day of Hanukkah. Hag sameach! I hope everyone reading this has a very happy holiday. Just don't eat too many latkes or sufganiyot, OK?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Visiting Israel: A Muslim Perspective

Earlier this month a most refreshing article appeared on the Internet. Dr. Tashbih Sayyed, the editor-in-chief of Pakistan Today and Muslim World Today, a Pakistani-born Muslim now living in the United States, wrote about a visit he and his wife made to Israel. What was so wonderful about this article is that it successfully debunks the very negative view of the Jewish State painted by the hard left in this country and indeed the mainstream left in Europe. It stands in stark contrast to so much of what we read on the Internet and hear from sources like the BBC that I'm certain some reading it will simply disbelieve it. Yet, in my experience it is very much accurate and describes the Israel I know and love. The original article can be read on the Muslim World Today website. He explains the purpose of his trip:
I wanted to see if there was any truth in the media allegations that Israel was an apartheid state, undemocratic and discriminatory.
His interest in the article is clearly on how Muslim Israelis are treated and also on the desire of most Israelis to live in peace with their neighbors. Here are some high points:
My understanding of the Jewish State was confirmed when the entry form that I needed to fill before landing in Tel Aviv did not ask for my religion as is the law in Pakistan. Also, unlike Saudi Arabia, no one in Israeli immigration demanded from me any certificate of religion.

As the El Al approached the Promised Land, I continued to shuffle the list of charges made routinely against Israel by its enemies.

  • Israelis live in a perpetual state of fear.
  • Israel is undemocratic.
  • Muslim Arab citizens of Israel do not have equal rights

Dr. Sayyed goes on to describe how his experiences proved these charges to be false and recounts his conversations with Israeli Arabs.
But here, protected by Israel's democratic principles, the Muslim Arab citizens of Israel are afforded all the rights and privileges of Israeli citizenship. When the first elections to the Knesset were held in February 1949, Israeli Arabs were given the right to vote and to be elected along with Israeli Jews. Today, Israel's Arab citizens are accorded full civil and political rights entitled to complete participation in Israeli society. They are active in Israeli social, political and civic life and enjoy representation in Israel's Parliament, Foreign Service and judicial system.
I could not find Israelis acting in vengeance against their Arab compatriots.
On my way from the city of David to the Royal Prima hotel in Jerusalem, I asked my Palestinian taxi driver how he feels about moving to the territories under Palestinian Authority. He said that he could never think of living outside Israel. His answer blasted the myth spread by anti-Semites that Israel's Arab citizens are not happy there.
Arabic, like Hebrew, is an official language in Israel and underlines the tolerant nature of the Jewish State. All the street signs call out their names in Arabic alongside Hebrew. It is official policy of the Israeli government to foster the language, culture, and traditions of the Arab minority, in the educational system and in daily life. Israel's Arabic press is the most vibrant and independent of any country in the region. There are more than 20 Arabic periodicals. They publish what they please, subject only to the same military censorship as Jewish publications. There are daily TV and radio programs in Arabic.

Arabic is taught in Jewish secondary schools. More than 350,000 Arab children attend Israeli schools. At the time of Israel's founding, there was one Arab high school in the country. Today, there are hundreds of Arab schools. Israeli universities are renowned centers of learning in the history and literature of the Arab Middle East.

My sincere thanks to Dr. Sayyed. I can only wonder if he will now be the subject of a fatwa for daring to write something nice about Israel.

I encourage everyone to read Dr. Sayyed's article in full and to share it with their friends, particularly friends who tend to be anti-Zionist in their views. It's awfully hard to dismiss an article written by a Muslim intellectual that debunks the myths about Israel that so many in the Muslim world and even in the West wish to perpetuate.