Shaking hands with an Israeli Jew
Two stories of Israeli-Arab rapprochement and reaction. Note the difference:
There is this, from Egypt:
Muhammed Sayyed Tantawi ... The high-profile Egyptian Muslim leader was caught on camera shaking hands with...Israeli president Shimon Peres at the Interfaith Dialogue Conference in New York last month. Although at first he claimed it was an accident, he later asserted that he would meet with Peres for the sake of peace.
Back home, however, Tantawi’s symbolic gesture is being taken as a massive stab in the back.
“The hand that shook Peres’ hand is tainted with the blood of Palestinians and reeks of the smell of their corpses and remains,” wrote Egyptian columnist Fahmi Huwaidi. “There is a verbal tradition that says that in such a situation the hand should be washed seven times.”
As Ynet reports, Egyptian opposition MP Mustafa Bakri declared that Tantawi should be fired immediately from his post at Al-Azhar University, where he serves as imam. “It’s a blow to al-Azhar’s functioning and sanctity in the Arab world. This meeting was like al-Azhar’s clear normalization with the Zionist enemy. . . . His meeting with the Zionist president is demeaning to all Muslims.”
Thirty years on, this is the face of Egyptian peace with Israel
And this, from Iraq:
Iraq's highest court told the Iraqi Parliament last Monday that it had no right to strip one of its members of immunity so he could be prosecuted for an alleged crime: visiting Israel for a seminar on counterterrorism. The Iraqi justices said the Sunni lawmaker, Mithal al-Alusi, had committed no crime and told the Parliament to back off.
That's not all. The Iraqi newspaper Al-Umma al-Iraqiyya carried an open letter signed by 400 Iraqi intellectuals, both Kurdish and Arab, defending Alusi. That takes a lot of courage and a lot of press freedom. I can't imagine any other Arab country today where independent judges would tell the government it could not prosecute a parliamentarian for visiting Israel - and intellectuals would openly defend him in the press.
In the case of Iraq, though, the federal high court, in a unanimous decision, vacated the Parliament's rescinding of Alusi's immunity, with the decision delivered personally by Chief Justice Medhat al-Mahmoud. The decision explained that although a 1950s-era law made traveling to Israel a crime punishable by death, Iraq's new Constitution establishes freedom to travel. Therefore the Parliament's move was "illegal and unconstitutional because the current Constitution does not prevent citizens from traveling to any country in the world," Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar, spokesman for the court, told The Associated Press.
That Israel has a peace agreement with Egypt, a country run by an ancient authoritarian ruler whose own rule and dynasty are not subjects to be discussed by the press. Vilification of Israel, antisemitic caricatures, however, are the daily bread and butter for the "intellectual" classes, the so-called teachers of their people, whose dictum seems to run counter to the cliche of the role of the intellectual.
Egypt is also considered a "moderate" country, a friend of the West and of the US. If this is what peace with Egypt looks like, we can safely deduce by extrapolation what friendship with Egypt is worth.
In Iraq, however, what matters is a democratic principle, upheld by the judiciary and the intellectuals who understand their role as the "guardians of civilization" and practice what they preach. Irrespective of the popular opinion.
"Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done." (Ortega y Gasset)
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Shaking hands with an Israeli Jew