Book Review: ‘The Jew Is Not My Enemy’
Published: Jun 29, 2011 08:30 Updated: Jun 29, 2011 08:36
Tarek Fatah, a community activist in Toronto, often challenges conventional wisdom and does so again with his book, The Jew is Not My Enemy. The book invites Muslims and Jews to come together in mutual respect and peace.
It cites Qur’anic teachings to emphasize that the holy book does not incite hatred against Jews, it is later scholars who distorted Islam to promote anti-Semitism.
But the book rests on questionable assumptions and interpretations. That it would be condemned, as it has been by extremist Muslims and Jews, is not surprising. But mainstream Muslims and Jews, and followers of other faiths, should welcome it for nudging Muslims and Jews toward the universal values of justice, peace, human brotherhood and equality.
Fatah argues that though the Holy Qur’an chastises Jews (as it does Muslims and others), its criticism is directed at the wrong-doers and not against all Jews, most of whom were not even born when those transgressions took place. To condemn them simply because they were born Jewish is to challenge God who created them in the first place. This interpretation blends with the Islamic belief that God is just, that He judges people on their conduct and that He does not punish the innocent. Fatah quotes the Qur’an where it compliments Jews, Christians and others who do good deeds.
But the book’s premise — that anti-Semitism is rampant among Muslims — is contradicted by the book itself. It states that the Muslim caliphs in Arab countries, Ottoman Empire and in Muslim Spain treated the Jews well. Fatah also acknowledges that many Muslims provided refuge to Jews fleeing Hitler’s death squads. Other scholars assert that when Romans expelled the Jews from Jerusalem it was the Muslim conquerors of Jerusalem who permitted the Jews to come to Jerusalem for the first time in 600 years. The Crusaders again expelled the Jews when they took over Jerusalem. When Muslims recovered the city, they invited Jews back.
Fatah blames the West’s anti-Semitism, the teachings of Madrassas, the rhetoric of the Iranians after their revolution, fanatical Muslim preachers and Israel’s long occupation of Palestinian lands for fueling anti-Semitism among Muslims. This is true, but legitimate criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism just as the vices of Muslim dictators should not be used to distort Islam or defame all Muslims. There is no evidence that most Muslims hate Jews. With the rise of extremism, some Muslims kill innocent Muslims too, but they are a tiny minority.
Fatah is correct that Muslim countries are terribly mismanaged and that this has nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict or with US actions. But Israeli actions do adversely impact the lives both of Palestinians and those of neighboring countries. Similarly, American policies seriously harm Muslim countries, producing mass resentment.
The book documents the failures of Palestinian leadership and blames them for rejecting some United Nations resolutions. But Israel has flouted far more UN resolutions and it is the Israeli settlers and the right wing, according to most impartial observers, who are thwarting a just settlement of the dispute. Fatah admits some of this but does not acknowledge the quest by Palestinians and Arab countries in recent years for a just peace.
Fatah ridicules the allegations that Israel practices apartheid. He quotes Arab Israelis as saying that they enjoy far more human rights than people in most Muslim countries. This is true, but Israeli laws severely discriminate against non-Jews and relegate them to second-class status. This was acknowledged in Ottawa by respected Israeli journalist Gideon Levy and by Haneen Zoabi, an Arab Israeli member of the Knesset. Both spoke as loyal Israelis and also as people of conscience trying to correct a horrible injustice.
Fatah’s book needs to be read, but with care. Its basic message mirrors Islamic teachings — that God created all living beings, that He made people different so that they get to know each other. Islam also teaches truth, justice and respect for others. It condemns brutality and oppression. If Arabs and Israelis follow this teaching, peace and justice could replace the nightmare and killings in the Middle East.
If Muslim countries are to truly progress, they’d have to deal with their own internal malaise and rid themselves of the poison that is destroying their society, as Fatah says. If they can do that, external factors will be less menacing to them than they are now.
— Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a retired Canadian journalist, civil servant and refugee judge and the recipient of Canada’s highest awards.
If you buy only ONE BOOK this year, decade, century or lifetime, let THIS be THAT book! – PS – Ask the clerk if they’ll do a “Buy one get one free” for you and ask for the “Son of Hamas” – Equally fascinating & greatly educating, it goes into what it is like to be born into Hamas & act against Israel for THEM, by force or threat of death should you even consider a thought, never-mind actual acts of defiance in turning down the rocket firing cowards, who LOVE nothing more than to use their apartment or home, EVEN SCHOOLS, to launch their rockets into Israel knowing the IDF is too honourable, too ethical, too morally sound & respect life too much to defend itself back if it means civilian death…The “Son of Hamas” brings both Israelis & Palestinians to the table & dissects the biggest obstacles, myths, facts & provides extremely valuable idea’s that COULD work, if they were put into practice with conviction, I know Israel is READY. Israel has spent the last 63 years of her modern day existence wanting NOTHING more than peace & a comfortable life for themselves, after over 5,000 years of uncontested & forced upon them, abject poverty, conquests, seizures of their lands, rape of the people, children & lands, outright theft of properties belong to Jews & no one else, including, artifacts & all to try & erase the Jewish Identity…It didn’t work for the Romans & as long as I’m alive it won’t work for ANYONE ELSE EITHER!
Fascinating & gripping!
Factually sound & ethically rooted, in just the right mix of diplomacy & respect, whilst recalling and/or rehashing factual accounts of the events, without the rhetoric & bitter bias that accompanies the radicals & fundamentalists, and their sheep followers, which he covers in great detail. Fatah acts as a middle man if you will, a worker on THE bridge of understanding, we at IsraeliIDF are working to construct between both our peoples; so both of us can embrace our differences, which can sometimes bring more enlightenment than we had before, should we just be patient, openminded, fair-minded, honest & be dealing in good faith without doubt!
As it turns out, we ACTUALLY have more in common, than NOT! On the other hand Fatah makes a number of mentions of his pride to be a Moslem, but also his resentment for how the religion & people are being hijacked by a minority group of strong men, who have access to seemingly endless supplies of petrol dollars; Iran is used as much by Hamas, as Iran uses it against Israel. Iran acts as the benevolent modern day rich man AKA a personal ATM for Arms & terror dollars.
These fringe groups, who when not declaring war against Israel & killing Israeli school Children, are busy killing THEIR OWN PEOPLE, senselessly, needlessly, BOTH authors point that out, again and again being a trademark of “Palestinian Terrorism”. On the other hand Fatah is the first to acknowledge the miracle that is Israel, the miracles it’s responsible for, now into it’s 5771st year. Fatah knows & presents all the GREATNESS Israel has brought to the entire planet, as if you were a reader who had never heard of Israel before. That so might call “dumbing it down” – I call it appealing to ALL sides & easily understood by any citizen of our planet, which peak how many hundred languages PLUS countless dialects…Fatah objectively speaks for both in a remarkably refreshingly honest & candid fashion. He easily fills the roles of teacher, referee, judge & jury of the people, for the people.
On a personal level, it is not lost on me that both books have acted to enhance, substantially so, my own viewpoints & whole outlook has shifted to incorporate new aspects of the conflict, which I had previously not singled out to study, individually per se. BOTH books have changed my outlook, aspirations, hopes & prayers for the future, for all sides, for all our planets people, most importantly to me, the Middle East as Israel has SO MUCH TO SHARE & TEACH US ALL, FOR THE COLLECTIVE BETTERMENT OF HUMANITY as a whole! Both books stressed numerous times how determined Israelis are to helping others & how committed they actually are to find peace, once and for all; One need only look at the Humanitarian Missions the IDF has undertaken to Moslem nations!
It didn’t have to is the take home message, but the State of Israel made it’s IDF a humanitarian army first & foremost, another fact that is often lost on everyone but Israelis, Jews, the hundreds of thousands of victims of Natural Disasters, around the globe, such as in Haiti or Japan to name only two recent circumstances in which the IDF was on the ground, building state of the art field hospitals to nurse all the innocent victims it can, back to health. That is NOT the normal actions of a “brutal war machine” – Which are generally only open to the idea of enriching themselves on the back of their own citizens & who will turn on their own creed for the now lacklustre Greenback.
Those who brave the slanderous headlines to befriend us quickly realize that when we drop the labels, the finger pointing & act to resolve the conflicts once & for all & commit to enduring peace for all the planets people, not just the people of the Middle East, is in the best interests of every average Israeli or average Arab, who ONLY have full rights & recognition under the law & who live in complete freedom, compared with the rest of the Arab world, 600 times the size of Tiny Israel that are brutally repressive. One need only look north to Syria & what that dictatorship up there (Syria being only one example of what is TERRIBLY WRONG with the Middle East) is doing to its population, who are being butchered & slaughtered in view of smart phones with video capabilities, that then beam the footage for news outlets across the diaspora to insult the death of each victim by saying such thing as “And this unsubstantiated video, apparently depicts….” – NO, THIS IS HAPPENING…DID YOU EXPECT THAT BRAVE SYRIAN TO COME FORWARD WITH THE VIDEO, perhaps provide photo ID to authenticate their location…only to be killed off by Assad, in a tradition dating back to his, father? Only a VERY naive person would think any man brave enough to face Assad down singlehandedly! Like father, like son certainly applies to Syria!
In my opinion it is critical that ALL sides fully understand, within context & from sources that are proven trustworthy, that the unyielding wish of the majority of Israelis I am privileged to call my friends & family is to find peace, for the sake of both sides! I also have Arab friends who think exactly the same way & who are, for example, not Pro-Palestinian at all. I have yet to discover the exact reason that the Philistine Tribe is so detested by their Arab cousins, to the point that they wouldn’t allow them refuge as the Jordanian Secret Police apparatus hunted them down in the streets with no shame, never-mind remorse! We need to think of the generations of children that are growing up around this vicious cycle, unwilling or unable to break it, as I did for example, with my own blood related family, who are worse than Nazi Sympathizers, they revere Hitler like a G_D!
We have to look into our children’s precious faces & eyes & ask of ourselves, if we are prepared to let yet another generation grown up in the shadows of unconventional, untraditional & ugly acts of war & brutality that is savage & life altering, trust ME! It took more than I can fill 3 books with, to engage the courage I had to resist the attempts to have the hate cycle continue on, worse than the one before! Or will we be the 30-something generation of openminded intellectuals & visionaries who act to ENFORCE a better way of life for all of us, going forward!
We can accomplish anything, if we are brutally honest & reflect the feelings & sentiments of the people, not one person, head of so and so, decides for all, as the Mufti did when he decided to work hand in hand with Hitler & by extension betray his own people for the sake of his own Ego…A relationship which exposed the Mufti to the Concentration Camps, which had only been rumours in villages near to them for example, as the age of internet & media as we know it, was well, radio silence then.
For him to have aided the genocide of the Jewish people for Hitler, in the name of Palestinians is not only reprehensible, but it should be seen for what it is, FINALLY & MUST BE condemned by the Palestinian people!
We ALL need to know exactly what the opinions & views are that Arab-Israelis & Palestinian-Israelis hold dear to them & what they regard as their most pressing concerns & we should find a way to end the conflict and be the GREAT NEIGHBOURS that we can CHOOSE TO BE!
A good first step would be renouncing their 63 year long narrative of “not recognizing” the Jewish State of Israel, despite it having been created by the British & the League of Nations or as a result of THEM, not because of the “plotting Zionist & their evil eye”. We needn’t feel ashamed to ask if our Arab & Moslem neighbours have also been privileged to have read either book, preferably both? If not, then via WHATEVER cost, these two accounts from two people who are prominent & well known, which too many are too quick to condemn as traitors; Since when has lowering your arms down to the ground & giving up a never-ending & costly war, killing civilians on all sides, which are caught in the unfortunate crossfire & become the “Casualties of War” another statistic, for another History Book. What do we need the book for, if we refuse to change our ways & LEARN from our collective mistakes of the past, some even PRESENT using the manifesto of the failed genocides/examples before them?
Personally I regard both authors as personal heroes who I look up to & am proud to declare it! I also continue to work on the model, which we all are & learning as much as I possibly can take in! Lack of knowledge hurts the majority, INCREASED knowledge leads to complete independence, or freedom, as you have the truth, knowledge & wisdom & you have made sure to learn from the failures we create in life! I am certain that any Arab or Moslem that reads both books will find that they too, will have to refocus their own long held beliefs, as they are challenged with evidence in black & white before them!
Eye-opening is ALWAYS a good thing, unless your part of the machine that is trying to conquer & divide us all up again! Stand UP, tell them you are tired of conquer and divide & that we want everlasting PEACE!
The Israeli way is to question, question, question….Did I mention Question? QUESTION & CHECK & RE-CHECK everything! That is why they are such a success story & because their Heads of State are not funnelling millions or billions in to their unnumbered Swiss Accounts! It is critical in my view, that we understand each other’s points of difference & find common ground for both, which will feature security neither the Jewish people nor the Palestinian people have enjoyed for, practically hundreds of years prior to the Declaration of the Jewish State of Israel & which both sides deserve to see in this lifetime!
A Must read for ALL – It results in the revelation that we actually have more in common with each other than we care to properly consider! Why not just embrace that fully?
Come to Israel in peace and we will make your cities gleaming like Tel Aviv.