Explanation of the Hadith of the Rock, the Gharqad Tree, and the Jews: Did Prophet Muhammad Command Muslims to kill all Jews?


By Abu Amina Elias for FaithinAllah.org

Question:

I heard that Prophet Muhammad said:

لَتُقَاتِلُنَّ الْيَهُودَ فَلَتَقْتُلُنَّهُمْ حَتَّى يَقُولَ الْحَجَرُ يَا مُسْلِمُ هَذَا يَهُودِيٌّ فَتَعَالَ فَاقْتُلْهُ

You will fight against the Jews and you will kill them until even a stone would say: come here, O Muslim, there is a Jew, so kill him. 

[Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 6981]

Is this narration telling Muslims that killing Jews is a good deed?

Answer:

This narration is describing a specific miraculous event which will occur near the end of time. It is not a narration from which is derived a legal ruling. In other words, this narration is a description, not a prescription. For this reason, the scholars recorded this narration in the books of tribulations near the end of time and portents of the Hour; and they did not record it in the books of legal punishment.

An important principle of interpretation regarding the sacred text of Islam is that the clear verses and narrations should be referred to in order to explain other narrations like this. Allah said:

هُوَ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُّحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ ابْتِغَاءَ الْفِتْنَةِ وَابْتِغَاءَ تَأْوِيلِهِ

It is He who has sent down to you the Book; in it are verses that are precise – they are the foundation of the Book – and others unspecific. As for those in whose hearts is deviation, they will follow that of it which is unspecific, seeking discord and seeking an interpretation.

[Surah Ali Imran 3:7]

Therefore, we need to place this narration in its proper context so that Muslims will not act upon it wrongly and thereby commit transgression.

This miraculous event of the speaking rocks and trees will take place near the end of the world when the False Messiah (Anti-Christ) will appear and many people will follow him, including a small army of Jews. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said:

يَتْبَعُ الدَّجَّالَ مِنْ يَهُودِ أَصْبَهَانَ سَبْعُونَ أَلْفًا عَلَيْهِمُ الطَّيَالِسَةُ

The False Messiah would be followed by seventy thousand Jews of Isfahan wearing Persian shawls. 

[Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 7034]

As another narration makes clear, this is a group of unbelieving Jews, who do not believe in their own scriptures, let alone Islam. Jesus, peace be upon him, is quoted as saying:

 أَنَّ الدَّجَّالَ خَارِجٌ قَالَ وَمَعِي قَضِيبَانِ فَإِذَا رَآنِي ذَابَ كَمَا يَذُوبُ الرَّصَاصُ قَالَ فَيُهْلِكُهُ اللَّهُ حَتَّى إِنَّ الْحَجَرَ وَالشَّجَرَ لَيَقُولُ يَا مُسْلِمُ إِنَّ تَحْتِي كَافِرًا فَتَعَالَ فَاقْتُلْهُ قَالَ فَيُهْلِكُهُمْ اللَّهُ

The False Messiah will emerge and I will have with me two bars; so when he sees me he will melt away like the melting of lead. Allah will destroy him until the stone and the tree say: O Muslim, underneath me is an unbeliever, so slay him; thus, Allah will destroy them.

[Musnad Ahmad, Number 3546]

It is these particular Jews, not all Jews, whom Muslims will fight and they will be aided by miracles from Allah. An army of seventy thousand is quite modest by today’s standards, a mere fraction of the total Jewish population; so it cannot be said that all Jews, or even most Jews, will join the False Messiah.

Indeed, the Noble Quran is careful to distinguish between hypocrite Jews, who do not believe in their own scriptures, and believing Jews, whose attitude towards Islam is conciliatory. Allah said:

لَيْسُوا سَوَاءً مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ أُمَّةٌ قَائِمَةٌ يَتْلُونَ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ آنَاءَ اللَّيْلِ وَهُمْ يَسْجُدُونَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ وَأُولَٰئِكَ مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ وَمَا يَفْعَلُوا مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَلَن يُكْفَرُوهُ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِالْمُتَّقِينَ

They are not all the same; among the People of the Scripture is a community standing, reciting the verses of Allah during periods of the night and prostrating in prayer. They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and they enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and hasten to good deeds; and those are among the righteous. Whatever good they do – never will it be removed from them; and Allah knows the righteous.

[Surah Ali Imran 3:113-115]

And He said:

وَمِن قَوْمِ مُوسَىٰ أُمَّةٌ يَهْدُونَ بِالْحَقِّ وَبِهِ يَعْدِلُونَ

Among the people of Moses is a community which guides by truth and by it establishes justice.

[Surah Al-A’raf 7:159]

Muslims have been encouraged to behave well with these peaceful Jews, and indeed all people of different religions who seek peace. As Allah said:

لَّا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَلَمْ يُخْرِجُوكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ أَن تَبَرُّوهُمْ وَتُقْسِطُوا إِلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ إِنَّمَا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ قَاتَلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَأَخْرَجُوكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ وَظَاهَرُوا عَلَىٰ إِخْرَاجِكُمْ أَن تَوَلَّوْهُمْ وَمَن يَتَوَلَّهُمْ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ

Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. Allah only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes and aid in your expulsion – He forbids that you make allies of them; and whoever makes allies of them, then it is those who are the wrongdoers.

[Surah Al-Mumtahina 60:8-9]

At-Tabari, an important commentator on the Quran, explains this verse by saying:

لا ينهاكم الله عن الذين لم يقاتلوكم في الدين من جميع أصناف الملل والأديان أن تبروهم وتصلوهم وتقسطوا إليهم

Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion – including all the sects, creeds, and religions – that you behave righteously with them, maintain good relations with them, and act fairly with them.

[Tafsir At-Tabari, verse 60:8]

For this reason, the Prophet, peace be upon him, was careful to behave well towards the Jews, known in the Quran as the “People of the Book,” a title which honors their belief in Moses. For example, on one occasion the funeral procession of a Jewish elder was passing by the Muslims. The Prophet, peace be upon him, stood up out of respect for his humanity. It was said, “It is a Jew,” so the Prophet said:

أَلَيْسَتْ نَفْسًا

Was he not a soul?

[Sunan An-Nasa’i, Book 21, Number 1922]

The Prophet, peace be upon him, maintained amicable business relations with Jews even up until his death. Aisha reported:

تُوُفِّيَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَدِرْعُهُ مَرْهُونَةٌ عِنْدَ يَهُودِيٍّ بِثَلَاثِينَ صَاعًا مِنْ شَعِيرٍ

The Prophet, peace be upon him, passed away while his armor was mortgaged to a Jew for thirty units of barley.

[Sahih Bukhari, Book 59, Number 743]

Other narrations tell us about how the Prophet, peace be upon him, was careful to engage in fair business with Jews. The Prophet even had a Jewish boy who served him and he treated him like family. Anas ibn Malik reported:

كَانَ غُلاَمٌ يَهُودِيٌّ يَخْدُمُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَمَرِضَ فَأَتَاهُ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَعُودُهُ، فَقَعَدَ عِنْدَ رَأْسِهِ فَقَالَ لَهُ  أَسْلِمْ فَنَظَرَ إِلَى أَبِيهِ وَهْوَ عِنْدَهُ فَقَالَ لَهُ أَطِعْ أَبَا الْقَاسِمِ صلى الله عليه وسلم‏.‏ فَأَسْلَمَ، فَخَرَجَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَهْوَ يَقُولُ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي أَنْقَذَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ

A young Jewish boy used to serve the Prophet and he became sick, so the Prophet went to visit him. He sat near his head and asked him to embrace Islam. The boy looked at his father, who was sitting next to him. The father said, “Obey Abu Al-Qasim,” and so the boy embraced Islam. The Prophet, peace be upon him, came out saying, “All praise is due to Allah who saved the boy from the Hellfire.”

[Sahih Bukhari, Book 23, Number 438]

Even when some of the Jews of Medina declared their hostility to the Prophet, he would still respond with forbearance and patience. Aisha reported:

أَنَّ يَهُودَ أَتَوْا النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالُوا السَّامُ عَلَيْكُمْ فَقَالَتْ عَائِشَةُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَعَنَكُمْ اللَّهُ وَغَضِبَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ قَالَ مَهْلًا يَا عَائِشَةُ عَلَيْكِ بِالرِّفْقِ وَإِيَّاكِ وَالْعُنْفَ وَالْفُحْشَ قَالَتْ أَوَلَمْ تَسْمَعْ مَا قَالُوا قَالَ أَوَلَمْ تَسْمَعِي مَا قُلْتُ رَدَدْتُ عَلَيْهِمْ فَيُسْتَجَابُ لِي فِيهِمْ وَلَا يُسْتَجَابُ لَهُمْ فِيَّ

Some Jewish men came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and he said (as a play on words), “Death be upon you!” Aisha said, “The curse of Allah be upon you and His wrath!” The Prophet said, “Be calm, O Aisha! Your duty is to be gentle and beware of harshness and bad words.” She said, “Have you not heard what they have said?” He said, “Have you not heard what I have said? I said the same to them, and my supplication against them will be accepted while their supplication against me will be rejected.”

[Sahih Bukhari, Book 73, Number 57]

Furthermore, the Prophet, peace be upon him, strongly encouraged an alliance with the Jewish tribes of Medina, as mentioned in the famous Constitution of Medina:

وإن يهود بني عوف أمة مع المؤمنين لليهود دينهم وللمسلمين دينهم

The Jews of Bani Awf are one community with the believers. The Jews will profess their religion; and the Muslims their religion.

[Seerah Ibn Hisham 1/503]

The treaty explicitly affirmed religious freedom for the Jews and the encouragement of cooperation in righteousness between Jews and Muslims. On this basis, there were Jews who fought alongside the Muslims against the alliance of the hypocrite Jews and the idolaters of Mecca. Mukhayriq was one such Rabbi who allied himself with Prophet Muhammad and the Muslims. In fact, he donated all of his wealth to Prophet in order for it to be given as charity to the people of Medina. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said about the Rabbi:

مُخَيْرِيقُ سَابِقُ يَهُودَ

Mukhayriq is the foremost among the Jews.

[Ibn Shabbah, Ta’reekh Al-Madinah 467]

In another narration, the Prophet said:

مُخَيْرِيقٌ خَيْرُ يَهُودَ

Mukhayriq was the best of the Jews.

[Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat Al-Kubra 1535]

Following the Prophet’s example, the companions were eager to behave well with their Jewish neighbors, as this is a great way of seeking reward from Allah. Mujahid reported:

كُنْتُ عِنْدَ عَبْدِ اللهِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو وَغُلاَمُهُ يَسْلُخُ شَاةً فَقَالَ‏ يَا غُلاَمُ إِذَا فَرَغْتَ فَابْدَأْ بِجَارِنَا الْيَهُودِيِّ فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ‏:‏ الْيَهُودِيُّ أَصْلَحَكَ اللَّهُ‏ قَالَ‏ إِنِّي سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يُوصِي بِالْجَارِ حَتَّى خَشِينَا أَوْ رُئِينَا أَنَّهُ سَيُوَرِّثُهُ

I was with Abdullah ibn Amr while his servant was skinning a sheep. He said, “O boy, when you finish up, then start with the Jewish neighbor.” A man there exclaimed, “Jewish? May Allah correct you!” He replied, “I heard the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, recommending that we treat our neighbors well until we thought that he would order us to make them our heirs.”

[Al-Bukhari, Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Number 128]

When it comes to legal rulings, it is not permissible to use the narration of the rock and Gharqad tree as an excuse to violate peace treaties or otherwise transgress against peaceful Jews. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said:

مَنْ قَتَلَ نَفْسًا مُعَاهَدًا لَمْ يَرَحْ رَائِحَةَ الْجَنَّةِ، وَإِنَّ رِيحَهَا يُوجَدُ مِنْ مَسِيرَةِ أَرْبَعِينَ عَامًا

Whoever kills a person protected by a treaty will never smell the fragrance of Paradise, and indeed its fragrance can be found a distance of forty years of travel.

[Sahih Bukhari, Book 83, Number 49]

In another narration, the Prophet said:

 أَلَا مَنْ ظَلَمَ مُعَاهِدًا أَوْ انْتَقَصَهُ أَوْ كَلَّفَهُ فَوْقَ طَاقَتِهِ أَوْ أَخَذَ مِنْهُ شَيْئًا بِغَيْرِ طِيبِ نَفْسٍ فَأَنَا حَجِيجُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ

If anyone wrongs a person protected by a peace treaty, detracts from his rights, burdens him with more work than he is able to do, or takes something from him without his consent, then I will plead for him on the Day of Resurrection.

[Sunan Abu Dawud, Book of Leadership, Number 3052]

Violent extremists who cite the narration of the rock and Gharqad tree as evidence have grossly misunderstood the principles of interpretation, whether by ignorance or on purpose. If they use such narrations in order to justify transgression against the Jewish people, then they will surely be surprised on the Day of Resurrection when Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, comes as an advocate on behalf of oppressed Jews against the Muslims who oppressed them.

Conclusion

The narration of the rock and Gharqad tree describes (not prescribes) a specific event which will occur near the end of time, a battle involving Muslims and hypocrite Jews who will follow the False Messiah. It does not describe a battle with all Jews, or even most Jews, and it is not permissible to use this narration in order to make lawful the killing of peaceful Jews. Rather, this narration, whose meaning is unclear, must be referred to other narrations whose meanings are decisively clear; in other words, this specific narration must be interpreted in light of other narrations whose meanings are general. These other narrations inform us that the Prophet, peace be upon him, was careful to maintain amicable relations with Jews and this attitude was passed down from him to his companions.

Violent extremists and anti-Muslim activists like to cite this narration out of context in order to spread discord and hatred among Jews and Muslims. We seek refuge in Allah from their corruption and we pray that Allah Almighty will open their hearts to the light of Islam, and bestow upon them a proper understanding of this tradition.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

(www.faithinallah.org / 28.09.2012)

Israeli leaders set to repeat historical blunders

Netanyahu: Iran Bomb Red LineI am sitting here writing this article 39 years to the minute from that moment when the sirens started screaming, announcing the beginning of the war.

A minute before, total quiet reigned, as it does now. No traffic, no activity in the street, except a few children riding bicycles. , the holiest day for , reigned supreme. And then…

Inevitably, the memory starts to work.

Back in 1973

This year, many new documents were released for publication. Critical books and articles are abundant.

The universal culprits are  and Moshe Dayan.

They have been blamed before, right from the day after the war, but only for superficial military offences, known as “the default”. The default was failing to mobilize the reserves, and not moving the tanks to the front in time, in spite of the many signs that  and  were about to attack.

Now, for the first time, the real grand default is being explored: the political background of the war. The findings have a direct bearing on what is happening now.

Rejection of Egypt’s peace offers

It transpires that in February 1973, eight months before the war,  sent his trusted aide, Hafez Ismail, to the almighty US Secretary of State . He offered the immediate start of peace negotiations with . There was one condition and one date: all of , up to the international border, had to be returned to Egypt without any Israeli settlements, and the agreement had to be achieved by September, at the latest.

Kissinger liked the proposal and transmitted it at once to the Israeli ambassador, , who was just about to finish his term in office. Rabin, of course, immediately informed the prime minister, Golda Meir. She rejected the offer out of hand. There ensued a heated conversation between the ambassador and the prime minister. Rabin, who was very close to Kissinger, was in favour of accepting the offer.

Meir treated the whole initiative as just another Arab trick to induce her to give up the Sinai Peninsula and remove the settlements built on Egyptian territory.

After all, the real purpose of these settlements – including the shining white new town, Yamit – was precisely to prevent the return of the entire peninsula to Egypt. Neither she nor Dayan dreamed of giving up Sinai. Dayan had already made the (in)famous statement that he preferred “Sharm al-Sheikh without peace to peace without Sharm al-Sheikh”. (Sharm al-Sheikh, which had already been re-baptised with the Hebrew name Ophira, is located near the southern tip of the peninsula, not far from the oil wells, which Dayan was also loath to give up.)

Even before the new disclosures, the fact that Sadat had made several peace overtures was no secret. Sadat had indicated his willingness to reach an agreement in his dealings with the UN mediator, Dr Gunnar Jarring, whose endeavours had already become a joke in Israel.

Before that, the previous Egyptian President, Jamal Abd-al-, had invited Nahum Goldman, the president of the World  Congress (and for a time president of the ) to meet him in . Meir had prevented that meeting, and when the fact became known there was a storm of protest in Israel, including a famous letter from a group of eighth-graders saying that it would be hard for them to serve in the army.

All these Egyptian initiatives could be waved aside as political maneuvers. But an official message by Sadat to the secretary of state could not. So, remembering the lesson of the Goldman incident, Golda decided to keep the whole thing secret.

Hiding the peace offers

Thus, an incredible situation was created. This fateful initiative, which could have brought about an historic turning point, was brought to the knowledge of two people only: Moshe Dayan and .

The role of the latter needs explanation. Galili was the eminence grise of Meir, as well as of her predecessor, Levy Eshkol. I knew Galili quite well, and never understood where his renown as a brilliant strategist came from. Already before the founding of the state, he was the leading light of the illegal military organization. As a member of a kibbutz, he was officially a socialist but in reality a hardline nationalist. It was he who had the brilliant idea of putting the settlements on Egyptian soil, in order to make the return of northern Sinai impossible.

So the Sadat initiative was known only to Meir, Dayan, Galili, Rabin and Rabin’s successor in Washington, Simcha Dinitz, a nobody who was Meir’s lackey.

Incredible as it may sound, the foreign minister, Abba Eban, Rabin’s direct boss, was not informed. Nor were all the other ministers, the chief of staff and the other leaders of the armed forces, including the chiefs of  Intelligence, as well as the chiefs of the Shin Bet and the . It was a state secret.

There was no debate about it – neither public nor secret. September came and passed, and on 6 October Sadat’s troops struck across the canal and achieved a world-shaking surprise success (as did the Syrians on the ).

As a direct result of Golda’s grand default, 2,693 Israeli soldiers died, 7,251 were wounded and 314 were taken prisoner (along with the tens of thousands of Egyptian and Syrian casualties).

This week, several Israeli commentators bemoaned the total silence of the media and the politicians at the time.

Well, not quite total. Several months before the war, in a speech in the , I warned Golda Meir that if Sinai was not returned very soon, Sadat would start a war to break the impasse.

I knew what I was talking about. I had, of course, no idea about the Ismail mission, but in May 1973 I took part in a peace conference in Bologna. The Egyptian delegation was led by Khalid Muhyi-al-Din, a member of the original group of Free Officers who made the 1952 revolution. During the conference, he took me aside and told me in confidence that if Sinai was not returned by September, Sadat would start a war. Sadat had no illusions of victory, he said, but hoped that a war would compel the US and Israel to start negotiations for the return of Sinai.

My warning was completely ignored by the media. They, like Golda, held the Egyptian army in abysmal contempt and considered Sadat a nincompoop. The idea that the Egyptians would dare to attack the invincible Israeli army seemed ridiculous.

The media adored Meir. So did the whole world, especially feminists. (A famous poster showed her face with the inscription: “But can she type?”) In reality, Meir was a very primitive person, ignorant and obstinate. My magazine, Haolam Hazeh, attacked her practically every week, and so did I in the Knesset. (She paid me the unique compliment of publicly declaring that she was ready to “mount the barricades” to get me out of the Knesset.)

Ours was a voice crying in the wilderness, but at least we fulfilled one function: In herMarch of Folly, Barbara Tuchman stipulated that a policy could be branded as folly only if there had been at least one voice warning against it in real time.

Perhaps even Meir would have reconsidered if she had not been surrounded by journalists and politicians singing her praises, celebrating her wisdom and courage and applauding every one of her stupid pronouncements.

The same type of people, even some of the very same people, are now doing the same with Binyamin.

Déjà vu

Again, we are staring the same grand default in the face.

Again, a group of two or three are deciding the fate of the nation. Netanyahu and  alone make all the decisions, “keeping their cards close to their chest”. Attack  or not? Politicians and generals are kept in the dark. Bibi [Netanyahu] and Ehud know best. No need for any other input.

But more revealing than the blood-curdling threats on Iran is the total silence about . Palestinian peace offers are ignored, as were those of Sadat in those days. The ten-year old Arab peace initiative, supported by all the Arab and all the Muslim states, does not exist.

Again, settlements are put up and expanded, in order to make the return of the occupied territories impossible. (Let’s remember all those who claimed, in those days, that the  of Sinai was “irreversible”. Who would dare to remove Yamit?)

Again, multitudes of flatterers, media stars and politicians compete with each other in adulation of “Bibi, King of Israel”. How smoothly he can talk in  English! How convincing his speeches in the UN and the US Senate!

Well, Meir, with her 200 words of bad Hebrew and primitive American, was much more convincing, and she enjoyed the adulation of the whole Western world. And at least she had the sense not to challenge the incumbent American president (Richard ) during an election campaign.

In those days, I called our government “the ship of fools”. Our current government is worse, much worse.

Golda and Dayan led us to disaster. After the war, their war, they were kicked out – not by elections, not by any committee of inquiry, but by the grassroots mass protests that racked the country.

Bibi and Ehud are leading us to another, far worse, disaster. Some day, they will be kicked out by the same people who adore them now  if they survive.

(Uri Avnery  / sabbah.biz / 28.09.2012)

It Matters Little What Abbas Says

Mahmoud Abbas.
 

It has not gone unnoticed that Palestinians are showing little interest in Mahmoud Abbas’s speech to the United Nations, which he held on the 27th of September. Most Palestinians have no idea what he said, and do not care to know it. There is quite a contrast between the amount of attention given by Palestinians to this speech, and to the one that he held last year. The explanation for this is really quite simple, especially if the situation is summarized by highlighting a few of its most important aspects.

First of all, the Palestinians are aware that this speech is an attempt to salvage some part of what he failed to obtain with his previous UN bid. Last year, the Palestinian Authority tried to obtain full statehood. Now, even though some news outlets still are using the term ‘statehood bid’ in their headlines, Mahmoud Abbas addressed the UN in the hope of obtaining “non-member state” status in the United Nations – a large step back from last year.

Abbas should not be surprised at the lack of Palestinian interest for this activity. If you ask for something first, and ask for something smaller the next time around when you don’t receive it, the message you send to the international community and to your own people is barely anything more than the fact that you are willing to settle for less. Settling for less than something that was already not enough in the first place doesn’t win you the full support of your people, nor the respect of the international community. It creates the impression that you will go on settling for less until you are willing to accept the fact that you will not be given anything.

Welcome to the geopolitical dynamics of power, a lesson apparently not even learned after the 19th-year anniversary of the Oslo accords. The Palestinian Authority decided to settle for less than what the Palestinians are entitled to, and ended up losing more than they would have if no accords had been signed. Once you start giving without taking, apparently that is all you will keep doing.

Secondly, there is the issue of representation. Who exactly is Mahmoud Abbas speaking for? To the outside world, the Palestinian Authority is seen as the official representation of the Palestinian people on the stage of the international community. One should ask oneself however: does it represent, or even claim to represent, all Palestinians? Historically, all Palestinians have been represented by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), but ever since the Oslo accords, much confusion has been caused by the creation of the ‘Palestinian Authority’. With the physical separation of one people into so many ‘brands’ of Palestinians, should a Palestinian from Gaza feel that Mahmoud Abbas represents him? What about a Palestinian who lives in ’48 occupied Palestine and holds second rate Israeli ‘citizenship’? What about the millions of Palestinians in refugee camps, scattered across the Middle East? What about the millions of Palestinians who, forced by the course of history, hold citizenship of so many different countries in the world?

From the Palestinian historical and popular perspective, all these mentioned above are Palestinians. From the American-European-Israeli imposed perspective, it is desirable that ‘Palestinians’ are only considered to be those who either are living in the West Bank or in Gaza, in blatant disregard of the fact that those who do not live there are mostly in that position as a result of forced displacement. Given this confusing situation, it is imperative that Mahmoud Abbas decides who it is exactly that he is representing. It goes without saying that from a Palestinian perspective, a true Palestinian leader must protect the interests of all Palestinians worldwide, including the occupied, the displaced, and the expatriates.

Thirdly, there is the issue of statehood itself. How is it possible for Palestinians who live in the occupied territories to feel that they have a true Palestinian government, if daily life is still confronting them with the Israeli occupation in a very direct manner, when it comes to issues that go beyond anything that is purely administrative? Who is really the government, if Israeli soldiers can enter any home in any place in the West Bank at will, and at any time they please to do so? This is happening on a daily basis, but it would even undermine that so-called ‘government status’ if it happened only once a year. Where is that so-called ‘Authority’ when Jewish settlers rampage into Palestinian lands and homes, with their violence and destruction? Again, we are not talking about incidents, but about things that are occurring every day.

In this context, it is important to heed the call issued by leaders from within the Palestinian community on the 19th anniversary of the signing of the Oslo accords, on September 13th. These leaders called for ‘liberation’ from the Oslo agreements, and they even included a statement from Fatah leader Mahmoud al-Aloul to abolish these agreements. The same demand was issued by prominent figures like Mustafa Barghouti and the leadership of the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). These sounds from the Palestinian community are far from new, but the urgency of the call has clearly increased, as well as the wordings. They amount to a demand to disengage from all agreements with ‘Israel’, an end to the PA’s security coordination with ‘Israel’, and the implementation of national unity.

The lamentations uttered on that same day by Saeb Erakat,  representative of the Palestinian Authority, express his frustration: “The interim agreements were supposed to last for five years. But what we see two decades later is apartheid rather than freedom and independence.”

If the expression of frustration is all that the Palestinian Authority can do for the Palestinian people, and if any action that might change the situation is either postponed or opposed, it only serves to underline the meaninglessness of this administrative apparatus. To take this hazy ‘governmental’ structure to the United Nations and request it to be recognized as a state can hardly be felt as meaningful to any Palestinian, given its ineffectiveness. The onus is upon the leadership of the Palestinian Authority to prove to the Palestinian people that it is more than an extension of Israeli control over the West Bank that serves to enable the occupation in daily life, while denouncing it in words at the same time.

Mahmoud Abbas’s latest United Nations speech, if anything, underlines the urgency and hopelessness of today’s Palestinian situation. Regardless of what he said in the speech, the simple fact that he was there holding it illustrates how complex and messy the situation is. Of course, a Palestinian will take note of this, and shrug his shoulders. Apparently, this is his representation in the World Community. Apparently, this is as far as diplomacy can take the Palestinian people in their aspirations for liberty and justice. Apparently, all we can expect is more of the same useless talk, and more lack of action. This is why it matters so little what Mahmoud Abbas has to say.

(Tariq Shadid / palestinechronicle.com / 28.09.2012)

Berlin Jewish Museum event calls for Israel boycott

The original Jewish Museum in Berlin was founded on Oranienburger Straße in 1933, but was closed soon thereafter, in 1938, by the Nazi regime. In 1975 an “Association for a Jewish Museum” formed and, three years lated, mounted an exhibition on Jewish history (1978). Soon thereafter, the Berlin Museum, which chronicled the city’s history, established a Jewish Department, but already, discussions about constructing a new museum dedicated to Jewish history in Berlin were being held.

Jewish institution hosts Judith Butler, who renews support of BDS movement; 700-strong audience cheers boycott call.

Judith Butler.

Photo: Wikipedia 

BERLIN – The internationally renowned Jewish Museum in Berlin hosted a podium discussion on Saturday with US academic Judith Butler, who renewed her calls to boycott Israel. It appears to be the first anti-Israel event held in the Jewish museum since its opening in 2001 with the aim of exhibiting the 2,000- year history of Germany’s Jews. At least 700 people attended the event.

The German taxpayer-funded museum’s decision to showcase the speaker Butler in the capital city, which during the Nazi period served as the launching pad for a boycott movement against German-Jewish businesses, has raised eyebrows about the management’s direction of the museum.

In an email to The Jerusalem Post on Saturday, Professor Gerald Steinberg, who heads the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, termed the cultural institution the “Berlin anti-Jewish Museum.”

Butler, a professor in the rhetoric and comparative literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley, told a sold out audience in the courtyard of the museum that she accepts a “version of a boycott” against Israel, and stressed that the Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS) movement is “non-violent resistance” against Israel. She claimed that “1,000 Jewish groups” agree with her.

The largely German audience frequently showered Butler with applause during the two hour podium discussion titled “Does Zionism belong to Judaism?” The panel discussion with Butler sparked controversy ahead of Saturday, prompting the scheduled moderator Jacques Schuster, a journalist with the daily Die Welt, to walk away from the event because a “balanced discussion” with Butler is not possible and her views toward Israel are more than “odd.”

The city of Frankfurt has been engulfed in a nearly three week row over the city’s cultural agency decision to honor Butler on September 11 with its prestigious Theodor Adorno award for excellence in the field of humanities.

Steinberg, whose organization serves as a watchdog of publicly and privately funded anti-Israel organizations, wrote to the Post that “the award of the Adorno prize to Judith Butler is a moral travesty, and the Berlin Jewish Museum’s decision to host her is an additional gross insult to the Jewish people.” He added: “Butler espouses causes such as the BDS campaign, erasing mass terror (‘ her version of non-violence‘) and, like Hamas and Hizbollah, explicitly seeking Israel’s destruction. This platform embodies the antithesis of the universal human rights principles adopted in the shadow of the Holocaust.” In an email to the Post, Cilly Kugelmann, the museum’s director, wrote “We understand ourselves… as a forum for discussion and debates with respect to historical and relevant topics.“ She wrote that the museum views its mission to address “Jewish life at home and abroad, as well as the relations between Jews and non-Jews.”

When queried by the Post about Butler’s support for boycotts against Israel and her ostensibly cordial words for Hamas and Hezbollah, Kugelmann added that “in our team there are certainly many attitudes and positions.” She declined to return calls and additional email queries about whether museum team members share Butler’s pro-BDS views and descriptions of Hamas and Hezbollah as progressive left-wing groups.

Katharina Schmidt-Narischkin, the Jewish museum’s spokeswoman, told the Post on Friday that attendees are not allowed to ask Butler questions about Hamas and Hezbollah. She wrote the Post on Saturday that ”audience questions” will not take place. The museum did , however, collect written audience questions at the end of the event and assessed which questions to permit.

Butler triggered intense criticism in Germany, Israel and the US because of her 2006 comment at a “Teach-in Against War “ event that “Understanding Hamas/Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important.” In an August email to the Post, she watered down her assertions and said her description does not mean she endorses Hamas and Hezbollah and she rejects violent movements. “I have never taken a stand on either organization,” wrote Butler. She declined to answer Post queries about her exact view of the two radical Islamic organizations.

Read Also: Mobilizing Movements, Mobilizing Contemporary Islamic Resistance: Movements in Algeria, Palestine and the Philippines by Rachael M Rudolph

In a letter to the Post, Michael Blumenthal, the American who oversees the executive direction of the museum, wrote “the museum takes no positions on political issues, whether in Germany, Israel or anywhere else.“ He added that “we believe a balanced and fair discussion of issues related to our mission is important and in the public interest. The Berlin Jewish Museum always makes it unmistakeably clear, however, that the opinions they express are the speakers’ own—and only their own. ” Steinberg responded that “Blumenthal’s attempts to justify such behavior on the grounds of‚ balance, democratic debate and free speech are as morally hollow as Butler’s defense. As long as Blumenthal remains, this institution will be known as the Berlin anti-Jewish Museum.”

Blumenthal noted in his letter that the appearance of Dr. Micha Brumlik at the discussion serves as a counterweight to Butler. Brumlik, a liberal German Jewish professor of pedagogy, argued against BDS actions targeting Israel at the event but was drowned out and not taken seriously by the largely pro-Butler audience.

A German Jewish academic at the event expressed dismay over the discussion at the museum. She told the Post that “Anti-Zionism is enormous in Germany,” and the political and historical context is different in Germany.

Critics in the Federal Republic have long argued that non-Jewish organizations and politicians frequently award prizes to anti-Zionist and anti-Israel Jews to vent their biases against the Jewish state and thereby avoid accusations of anti-Semitism or prejudice.

Phyllis Chesler, an emeritus professor of psychology and women’s studies at City University of New York, wrote the Post via email ,”What Berkeley and the Adorno Prize committee do understand are her very high profile and public anti-Zionist politics which, in these historical times, constitute part of what the ‘new anti-Semitism‘ is about.”

Chesler, who has written about anti-Israel professors, added that academics like Butler “are being rewarded for their political views—which is their real work.”

(akashmanews.com / 28.09.2012)

World Social Forum Free Palestine

November 2012 – Porto Alegre – Brazil
Reference Document

(Approved by the Palestinian National Committee for the WSF)

The Palestinian people extend their gratitude and appreciation to the World Social Forum and all social movements participating in the special forum on Palestine, which will be held at the end of this year. We particularly thank Brazil, its government and its institutions, for hosting this forum, which we regard as a crucial and extraordinary landmark in a process that will widen support for our people’s struggle to exercise our inalienable rights: the right of return, self-determination, and an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Despite the passage of more than six decades since the Nakba, the systematic ethnic cleansing of a majority of the Palestinian people in 1948, the Palestinian cause is still a global issue inspiring people of conscience and social movements around the world. Effective solidarity with the Palestinian people and its inalienable rights — especially the right of return of refugees to their homes and the right to self-determination — is today stronger than ever, reinforcing the struggle of the Palestinian people, under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization, for freedom and justice, in accordance with international law and universal principles of human rights, both pillars of the World Social Forum.

For the Palestinian people to exercise its inalienable right to self-determination (including refugees’ return), effective pressure needs to be applied on Israel to fully comply with international law through:

·      Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in 1967 and the dismantling of the apartheid wall
·      Ending its apartheid regime (conforming to the UN definition of the crime of apartheid) and the recognition of the fundamental right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality
·      Recognizing the rights of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties from which they were displaced, as stipulated in UN Resolution 194 and other relevant UN resolutions

The organization of the World Social Forum Free Palestine is an expression of the unity of international social movements — fighting against imperialism, neo-liberalism and racial discrimination in all its forms — in considering the just struggle for the Palestinian rights an integral part of the international struggle to develop political, social and economic alternatives that enhance justice, equality and sovereignty of the peoples on the basis of social-economic justice, human dignity and democracy.

The “World Social Forum Free Palestine” is a global public space and distinguished gathering for international civil society that aims to:

a.    Highlight, strengthen and deepen the global movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people’s rights
b.    Develop mechanisms for effective global action in support of the struggle of the Palestinian people to exercise its inalienable rights, foremost among them the right of return and self-determination, and to enforce international law and human rights.
c.    Provide an open space for debate, dialogue, developing strategies and planning for effective and sustainable campaigns in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and to hold the Israeli occupation accountable, illegitimate, and subject to sanctions.

After 65 years of the hegemonic powers’ partition of Palestine and their complicity in the systematic ethnic cleansing that the Palestinians were subjected to since November 1947, Brazil hosts this year a new kind of global forums aimed at strengthening the peoples’ struggle for rights and justice where most governments have failed to protect either.

The world social forum meets in Brazil in light of stormy changes in the Arab region, in what has become known as “the Arab Spring,” where people struggle for social justice, democracy and freedoms. In this context, the forces of Western hegemony, especially the United States, have striven to abort or contain the Arab popular revolutions in order to keep the area under their domination. This intervention, which sometimes takes a military form, poses serious challenges to the Arab revolutions in their quest to maintain their emancipatory and democratic identity and path towards achieving their declared goals. It is certain that the fall of the dictatorial regimes, which were the hotbeds of Arab complicity with the US-Israeli agenda, has had a major impact on undermining Israel’s impunity and in reviving the centrality of the Palestinian cause in the Arab world, thus promoting the cause globally, given the strategic importance of the Arab region.

In light of these changes and the positions and issues adopted by the First National Meeting of Solidarity with the Palestinian people in Brazil, the Palestinian National Committee of the WSF calls on all organizations, movements and networks to join this historic forum as an expression of solidarity with the rights of the Palestinian people and with our struggle to develop mechanisms to hold Israel accountable for its crimes and violations of international law. We also call on the WSF and social movements around the world to intensify their grassroots struggles and their pressure to affect real changes in official policies through:

1)        Defending the right of the Palestinian people to resist Israel’s occupation and apartheid in order to realize the right of return and exercise self-determination, including the establishment of an independent, sovereign national state, in accordance with UN resolutions.

2)        Strengthening and expanding involvement in the global, Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel as one of the most important forms of solidarity with our people and their rights; BDS encompasses boycotts of and divestments from Israeli and international companies that are complicit in Israeli violations of international law, as well as academic and cultural boycotts of Israeli institutions that are partners in occupation and apartheid.

3)        Holding world states, collectively and individually, responsible for the international protection of Palestinian refugees in their respective territories, until they can exercise their UN-sanctioned right to return to their homes of origin, and compelling Israel to recognize the right of return and reparations for refugees, to enable its enforcement, and to stop its policy of ongoing ethnic cleansing against Palestinians on both sides of the “Green Line”

4)        Defending the rights of our people in occupied Jerusalem and countering what a UN official termed “a strategy of Judaisation” which is manifested in land expropriation, systematic expulsion of Palestinians from their neighborhoods, violation of freedom of worship, relentless attacks on Christian and Islamic holy sites, and distortion of history, among other crimes

5)        Intensifying the struggle to lift the Israeli siege — in all its forms — imposed on our people in the occupied Gaza Strip and considering solidarity with Gaza a high priority; this calls for determined campaigns of solidarity with our people in Gaza and for holding Israel legally accountable before international tribunals

6)        Upholding the inalienable rights of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship as part of the indigenous people of Palestine, with sovereignty over their land, and supporting their struggle to end Israeli apartheid with all its racist laws and regulations, realize their national and civic rights, whether individual or collective, and counter Israel’s systematic policies of ethnic cleansing, land expropriation, house demolitions, especially in the Naqab (Negev), and racial discrimination in education, health and infrastructure projects

7)        Supporting and strengthening the struggle for the release of Palestinian prisoners  and detainees who are languishing in Israeli prisons for their involvement in the Palestinian national liberation struggle and recognizing their status as prisoners of war and freedom fighters. In this context, we emphasize the need to secure the immediate and unconditional release, as a matter of top priority, of sick, elderly, child and women prisoners as well as administrative detainees, and the release of 27 parliamentarians who were kidnapped by the occupation authorities in clear violation of international law, as well as banning and criminalizing the policy of solitary confinement and administrative detention.

8)        Pressuring world governments to fulfill their legal obligations, as stipulated in the decision of the International Court of Justice against Israel’s wall that is illegally built on occupied Palestinian territory, by applying pressure, in turn, on the Israeli government to dismantle the “wall of shame,” which is expected to reach about 800 km in length, and which has inflicted grave injustice and a new wave of ethnic cleansing on the Palestinian people, and urging them to reject and condemn the US administration’s use of its Veto at the UNSC against stopping the Israeli colonization of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

9)        Upholding the right of the Palestinian people to sovereignty over its natural resources (especially land and water) and to food sovereignty, to ensure the return to peasants, workers, fishermen and Bedouin communities of the lands and rights that Israel has deprived them of

10)    Making the WSF Free Palestine a platform for building BDS strategies against Israel and in particular for ending free trade agreements between Israel and other countries or groups of countries (such as the European Union, Mercosur, etc.), given Israel’s violations of international law and its regime of oppression against the Palestinian people which constitutes occupation, colonization and apartheid. FTAs allow Israel to normalize its oppression and to export products of its colonies that are illegally built on Arab and Palestinian territories in Gaza, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Golan Heights

11)    Campaigning for a comprehensive military embargo on Israel, including the cessation of contracts for the purchase of weapons, equipment, and military services of all kinds (especially aircraft and unmanned vehicles and security systems) which Israel exports and depends on their revenues to sustain its occupation and oppression of our people; moreover, military trade with Israel feeds the US military industry which profits from killing thousands and oppressing millions of people around the world

12)    In parallel with pressure to bring about Israel’s compliance with international law, supporting and promoting cooperation for the implementation of realistic economic, social, cultural and athletic development projects for the Palestinians, and providing financial and material support to improve living and work conditions and therefore enhance the steadfastness of the Palestinians in the face of Israeli attempts to uproot them

13)    Recognizing and supporting the struggle of anti-Zionist Jews everywhere, particularly those who stand on principle with the Palestinian people against Israel’s occupation and apartheid, by supporting their progressive and democratic political and social forces that are subjected to repression due to their anti-colonial stance and advocacy and defense of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people

14)    Supporting Palestinian popular resistance against the Israeli occupation and oppression as a leading form of resistance that can contribute to changing the balance of local and international power to the benefit of our people, and promoting visits by international solidarity groups to occupied Palestine.

15)    Activating the role of the media in exposing Israel’s colonial and racist policies and practices and launching effective public information campaigns for this purpose
The application of the aforementioned political, legal and ethical principles would effectively contribute to ending Israel’s impunity and enhancing its accountability for all the crimes it has committed against our people. This, in turn, would provide the Palestinian people with the highest forms of tangible, effective and sustainable support so as to achieve all our internationally-recognized rights, especially the right of return, self-determination, independence and national sovereignty.

(www.wsfpalestine.net / 28.09.2012)

Invloedrijke moslimvrouwen: het nieuwe bewustzijn


Als bekeerling heb ik de vrijheid gehad om de keuze voor islam te maken. Ik weiger dan ook elke vorm van beperking te accepteren die indruist tegen mijn gevoel van rechtvaardigheid in relatie tot mijn geloof. Ook al wordt deze opgelegd in de naam van religie.

Door: Anne Dijk

In een hadith werd mijn gedachte bevestigd; de Profeet v.z.m.h. zei: “Als je een hadith hoort waar je hart ontvankelijk voor is, waar zowel je lichaam als je geest vrede mee hebben, en je voelt dat het acceptabel voor je is, dan is het zelfs meer acceptabel voor mij. Maar als je een hadith hoort waar je haren van overeind gaan staan, en waartegen je hart en je geest zich keren, en je voelt dat het onacceptabel (baʿīd) is, dan is het nog meer onacceptabel voor mij[1] (overgeleverd door Bukhari en Hanbal). Ik had in het begin nooit echt stilgestaan bij de beperkende kant in de islam voor vrouwen, omdat die er volgens mij ook niet was. Althans zo had ik het opgemaakt uit de bronnen. Het bleek er in de praktijk wel eens anders aan toe te gaan, maar omdat dit voor mij onacceptabel leek besteedde ik er nooit veel aandacht aan. Mijn vraag naar vrouwelijke religieuze autoriteit in de islam rees echter toen ik een paar jaar geleden in Cairo was voor een studiereis.

We hadden daar een ontmoeting met de mufti van Al Azhar-universiteit, wat zeer zeldzaam is, omdat hij een belangrijk en drukbezet man is. (mufti = een hoog rechtsgeleerde die ook geautoriseerd is om fatwa’s uit te brengen) Iedereen mocht een vraag aan hem stellen, en overdonderd als ik was kon ik niets meer uitbrengen dan de vraag of het ook mogelijk is voor vrouwen om mufti te worden? Een moment van stilte volgde, en hij zag duidelijk dat ik een bekeerlingen met een westerse achtergrond ben, waardoor zijn antwoord mogelijk diplomatieker was dan normaliter. Hij zei dat dit in theorie mogelijk was, maar dat het in de praktijk niet snel zou gebeuren omdat vrouwen toch vaak andere prioriteiten hebben. Daarna ging hij snel door naar de volgende vraag.

Een paar jaar later bleek inderdaad dat dit niet snel zou gebeuren. Niet omdat een vrouw andere prioriteiten had, of omdat zij niet geschoold genoeg was, maar omdat de mannelijke raad van al-Azhar haar simpelweg niet koos. Dit betreft  trouwens Souad Saleh, decaan van de theologische faculteit van al-Azhar, maar nog steeds geen mufti. Tot op heden zit er geen enkele vrouw in de grote raad van mufti’s van al Azhar. Dit was voor mij de aanleiding om te kijken naar vrouwelijke autoriteiten in de geschiedenis van de islam in het algemeen. Kunnen vrouwen bepaalde functies islamitisch gezien niet vervullen? Of willen mannen dat niet? Ik dacht altijd dat de schuld geven aan patriarchale interpretaties of een dominerende mannenwereld een te makkelijk en voordehand liggend antwoord was. Maar uit mijn onderzoek bleek niets minder waar.

Een rijke wereld aan materiaal opende zich toen ik onderzoek ging doen naar vrouwelijke autoriteiten in de geschiedenis in de islam. Ik zocht niet alleen geleerden, maar vooral vrouwen die invloed en macht hadden, ook over mannen. Voor mij zijn dit absolute autoriteiten. In de nu beschikbare tijd kan ik de hele geschiedenis van invloedrijke moslimvrouwen niet toelichten, maar ik kan wel een paar voorbeelden noemen. Het bekendste voorbeeld is natuurlijk A’isha, de vrouw van de Profeet die niet alleen veel kennis bezat en doorgaf, maar die ook een belangrijke autoriteit, mufti en zelfs legeraanvoerder was. Maar vandaag kies ik voor minder bekende voorbeelden, op basis van diversiteit van de vrouwen en van hun boodschap. Ik wil daarmee niet alleen vertellen dat ze er waren, maar ook laten zien dat hun bijdrage nog steeds van belang is voor ons vandaag de dag. De vrouwen van toen zijn onze inspiratie voor het heden. De vrouwen van nu zijn de geschiedenis van morgen. De boodschap die zij vertellen, is voor mij universeel en kan dienen als absoluut voorbeeld, niet alleen voor vrouwen, maar ook voor mannen.

Rabi’a
De eerste vrouw waarmee ik u kennis wil laten maken is Rabi’a van Basra, ook wel Rabi’a al-Adawiyya genoemd. Zij stierf aan het einde van de tweede eeuw van de islamitische jaartelling (eind achtste eeuw van de chr. jaartelling) in Basra, Irak). Rabi’a is de bekendste moslimmystica. Zij staat bekend om de nadruk die zij legde op het liefhebben van God zonder daarbij te denken aan een beloning en was de eerste die dit begrip van ‘Goddelijke liefde’ ontwikkelde. De beroemdste anekdote uit het leven van Rabi’a is dat zij op een dag door de straten van Basra rende, met een brandende fakkel in haar ene hand en een emmer water in de andere. Toen mensen haar vroegen wat zij aan het doen was, zei ze:

“Ik wil het vuur van de hel doven, en de beloningen van het paradijs verbranden. Zij versluieren de weg naar God. Ik wil niet aanbidden uit angst voor straf of vanwege de belofte van een beloning, maar simpelweg alleen uit liefde voor God.[2]” Rabi’a was zeer toegewijd aan God, en aan God alleen. Alle huwelijksaanzoeken die ze kreeg, wees ze dan ook resoluut van de hand. Een man zou haar alleen maar afleiden van wat echt belangrijk was; God.

Rabi’a zelf schreef geen boeken; alles wat we over haar weten is opgeschreven door mannen. In de geschiedenis zijn er nauwelijks verhalen van vrouwen die zelf hun leringen opschreven. Waarom, dat blijft gissen. Schrijven konden ze vaak wel want het waren vaak grote geleerden. Dat het benoemen van vrouwen als leiders toen al een gevoelig punt was, zien we bijvoorbeeld aan de woorden van een bekende moslimschrijver uit de geschiedenis; Farid al-Din Attar, die zei: “Wanneer iemand mij vraagt, ‘Waarom heb je Rabi’a opgenomen in de rank van de mannen?’ Dan is mijn antwoord dat de Profeet zelf zei: ‘God houdt zich niet bezig met uw uiterlijke vormen.’ De kern van de zaak is niet vorm, maar intentie, zoals de profeet zei: ‘Mensen zullen worden gewaardeerd op basis van hun intentie.’ Daarnaast, als het gepast is dat wij twee-derde van onze religie afleiden van Aïsja (zoals dmv ahadith), dan is het toch zeker toegestaan om religieuze instructie te ontvangen van een volgeling van Aïsja’s (een vrouw).[3]” Er zijn veel verhalen over Hasan, de grote theoloog van Basra, die bij Rabi’a op bezoek ging. Zij brachten vaak hele nachten gezamenlijk door, in discussie en in gebed. Hun band was zo nauw dat hij haar zelfs aan haar ziekbed kwam bezoeken. Hasan en Rabi’a waren goede vrienden en Rabi’a vond vooral onder mannen haar discipelen en vrienden; er valt nauwelijks te lezen over haar omgang met vrouwen. Zij ging op gelijke voet om met de geleerden van haar tijd en zij prezen haar.

Opmerkelijk feit is dat Rabi’a zelf geen les kreeg van een sheikh of leraar. Haar leringen zijn uniek en van haarzelf. Prachtig vind ik haar inzicht van dat we Allah moeten aanbidden uit liefde voor Allah en niet uit angst voor bestraffing of verlangen naar beloning. Deze laatste motivaties zijn volgens mij uiteindelijk egoïstisch. Als we puur alleen het goede doen omwille van het Goede (met hoofdletter G) kunnen we onze intenties zuiveren van egoïsme en gaan voor oprecht altruïsme.

Nafisa
De tweede vrouw die ik graag wil belichten is de juriste Nafisa. Zij overleed aan het begin van de derde eeuw hijra (208). Nafisa was een nazaat van de Profeet v.z.m.h. Ze was getrouwd met Ishaq, zoon van de grote Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq. Hij was de oprichter van de Shi’itische Ja’fari madhab (wetschool)Imam Ja’far werd zeer gerespecteerd binnen zowel sunni als sjia kringen. Nadat Nafisa met haar man twee kinderen kreeg vertrok ze naar Cairo met haar nicht Sakina. Nafisa kende de Koran en de commentaren uit haar hoofd en bezat zoveel religieuze kennis dat zelfs haar tijdgenoot Imam Shafi’i, oprichter van de soennitische Shafi’itische-wetsschool, regelmatig naar haar lezingen kwam om te luisteren en met haar in gesprek te gaan. Shafi’i’s respect voor de kennis van deze vrouw was zo groot dat hij tijdens de Ramadan samen met haar de speciale avondgebeden (tarawieh) bad. Er wordt gezegd dat zij hem de profetische traditie heeft geleerd, voor hem bad als hij ziek was en op zijn verzoek aanwezig was bij zijn overlijdensgebed. Uit recent onderzoek blijkt zelfs dat zij Shafi’i’s begrafenisgebed leidde[4]; dus als imam fungeerde. Na haar dood wilde haar man Nafisa’s lichaam overbrengen naar Medina, maar de inwoners van Cairo smeekten hem om Nafisa bij hen te laten begraven. Haar graf is nog steeds te bezoeken in Cairo.

In dit verhaal komen twee belangrijke aspecten naar voren. Ten eerste wordt duidelijk dat er in die tijd een uitwisseling van gedachten gaande was tussen Sjiieten en Soennieten en dat zij zoveel respect voor elkaar hadden dat zij zelfs samen het gebed verrichtten en religieuze kennis van elkaar leerden. Daarnaast zien we dat Nafisa omringd werd door enkele van de belangrijkste mannen in de geschiedenis van de islamitische jurisprudentie en dat zij Nafisa’s kennis en wetenschappelijke autoriteit meer dan accepteerden. Zij was een gelijkwaardige partner met autoriteit voor hen, zowel in discussie als tijdens het gebed. Nafisa is voor mij een ultiem voorbeeld als het gaat om religieuze autoriteit op het gebied van kennisoverdracht op theologisch gebied. Haar verhaal is een mooi voorbeeld hoe we vandaag de dag, door verschil binnen de ummah (islamitische gemeenschap) te accepteren, een stap richting een vredigere ummah kunnen doen.

Vrouwelijke staatshoofden
Tot nu toe heb ik vrouwen genoemd die vooral op spiritueel gebied of op het gebied van religieuze kennis autoriteit bezaten. Maar een vrouwelijk staatshoofd in de islamitische geschiedenis lijkt onmogelijk, zeker afgebeeld tegen onze tijd waarin moderne landen als de VS nog nooit een vrouwelijk staatshoofd hebben gehad. Iedereen kent natuurlijk hedendaagse voorbeelden als Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, maar er zijn veel meer vrouwelijke politiek leiders in de islamitische geschiedenis geweest. De meerderheid van de moslimgeleerden achten een vrouwelijke khalief (een soort keizer van het toenmalige islamitische rijk) niet mogelijk. Toch was Sitt al-Mulk khalifah voor een paar dagen (vanuit Cairo). Nu is een paar dagen niet veel dus zal ik meer substantiële voorbeelden in de islamitische geschiedenis belichten.

Zo regeerde Asma aan het eind van de 5e eeuw van de islamitische jaartelling over Yemen en zat ongesluierd besprekingen voor[5]. ‘Arwa, de schoondochter van Asma, nam het stokje van haar over. ‘Arwa had zelfs de macht over Yemen gedurende bijna een halve eeuw!

Het is opmerkelijk dat bijna iedereen deze vrouwen vergeten is. Zelfs Westerse islamkenners schijnen dit deel van de geschiedenis niet te kennen. Zo zei Bernard Lewis dat er “geen koninginnen in de islamitische geschiedenis zijn en dat het woord koningin, als dat al voorkomt, alleen gebruikt wordt voor buitenlandse heersers in Byzantium of Europa. Er waren een paar momenten waarin moslim dynastieën kort geregeerd werden door vrouwen, maar dit werd gezien als een dwaling en een wandaad.[6]”. Er zijn nog veel meer vrouwelijke staatshoofden, dus wanneer Lewis zegt dat er maar een paar waren, lijkt niet juist. Het vrouwelijke kalifaat lijken de meeste moslims inderdaad snel te willen vergeten, maar de Yemenitische geschiedkundige, hedendaagse én klassieke, verwijzen niet naar deze malikaat (koninginnen) als schandalig, maar juist als prestigieus en zij bestempelen bovenal hun regeerperiode als succesvolle momenten in hun geschiedenis. Sommige geschiedkundigen vergelijken hun heerschappij zelfs met de invloed van sommige imams en zeggen: ,,’Arwa heeft monumenten, gebouwen, wegen, moskeeën en nog veel meer achtergelaten. Veel meer dan werd bewerkstelligd gedurende een lange periode van macht van imams[7]”.

Uitzondering versus Normaal
Nu lijken deze vrouwen uitzonderingen, en in de Arabische context misschien gevallen apart. Ergens anders in de wereld was het de normaalste zaak van de wereld dat vrouwen als koningin de boel regeerden.

Ibn Battuta, de islamitische Marco Polo, reisde vanaf Tanger als islamitische rechtsgeleerde de hele toenmalige islamitische wereld rond. Zo kwam hij ook op de Malediven, wat tegenwoordig overigens het enige land ter wereld is met een moslimpopulatie van 100%. Dit maakt het niet alleen een heel geliefde honeymoon bestemming, maar ook nog eens een “halalle” en misschien daarom dat Ibn Battuta daar zelf ook getrouwd is. Hoe dan ook, in Ibn Battuta’s reisverslagen kunnen we lezen dat de Maledivers een vreemde gewoonte hadden; Zij werden namelijk geregeerd door een vrouw. Er waren drie Sultana’s daar (nee, niet de koekjes, maar echte vrouwelijke Sultans), en nog eens vier in islamitisch Indonesië.[8] Ibn Battuta noemde het vreemd, maar heeft het nooit afgekeurd of verworpen. Hij stond zelfs met zijn mond vol tanden toen hij Sultana Khadija ontmoette.[9] Ibn Battuta, zelf een qadi (rechter) afkomstig uit een redelijk strikte regio van de Maghreb, vond het geen fantastische gewoonte voor moslims, maar reageerde toch vol lof over de kwaliteiten en capaciteiten die deze Maledievse vrouwen bezaten. Khadija regeerde 33 jaar! Na haar nam haar zus Myriam het over en daarna diens dochter Sultana Fatima. Ibn Battuta was uiteindelijk zo te spreken over deze vrouwen dat hij de stiefmoeder van de Sultana trouwde. Hij schreef uitgebreid over hun goede karakter die hij als meest integer, vroom, solide in geloof en oprecht omschreef. De Maledivers waren de beste moslims die hij had ontmoet.

Er was alleen één ding wat hij toch echt niet leuk vond; de Maledievse vrouwen liepen er namelijk half naakt bij; zo schrijft hij ,,de vrouwen van deze eilanden bedekken hun hoofd niet, ook hun koningin niet, maar ze kammen hun haar en voegen het samen aan een kant. De meesten van hen dragen alleen een wikkelrok welke hun middel tot aan hun knieën bedekt, maar de rest van hun lichaam blijft onbedekt. Zo lopen ze dan over de bazaar en overal. Toen ik Qadi werd wilde ik deze praktijk tot een einde brengen en beval hen om kleren te dragen; maar ik kreeg het niet voorelkaar.[10] Hij kreeg alleen voorelkaar dat ze hun lichamen bedekten in zijn shari’a rechtbank. Ondanks dit kleding issue, had hij toch een zeer hoge dunk van de Maledievse vrouwen en hij vergelijkt hen later nog met de goed bedekte dames van Indonesië, waarbij de onbedekte Maledievse vrouwen toch echt beter afstaken qua karakter en gedrag. Nu moeten we niet denken dat hij heel liberaal was; want de mannen die niet naar juma (het verplichte vrijdaggebed) kwamen werden kaalgeschoren en zo door de bazaars geleid ter vernedering. Ibn Battuta heeft echter nooit sancties gelegd op de gebrekkige kleding van de maledievse vrouwen.

Twee zaken in dit verhaal van ibn Battuta vind ik vandaag nog interessant. Allereerst, het gegeven dat het in de achtste eeuw van de Islamitische jaartelling normaal was voor moslimvrouwen om te regeren. Het was misschien even ánders dan ibn Battuta gewend was, maar het werd niet afgekeurd, nog tegengewerkt. En een tweede; dat de vrouwen, zonder dat ik dit gebruik zelf wil onderschrijven, maar dat zij toch de keuze qua kleding hadden, en ook vrij waren om zichzelf te blijven. Desondanks werden ze door Ibn Battuta als goed en zelfs als vroom omschreven. Dit is voor mij een ultiem voorbeeld dat het qua goede moslim zijn, niet om het uiterlijk maar om het innerlijke karakter en gedrag draait.

Tot Slot
De kritische luisteraar is het misschien opgevallen dat in alle verhalen die ik vertelde, de autoriteit aan vrouwen verleend wordt door mannen. Dit heeft verschillende oorzaken; maar de belangrijkste heeft simpelweg te maken met wie de ‘overleveraars’ van de informatie waren; en dat waren mannen.

De vraag die op het eind bij mij rees was; waarom is er ondanks zoveel materiaal van vrouwelijke autoriteiten in de geschiedenis van de Islam, zo weinig bekendheid hierover? Er is nog weinig onderzoek naar gedaan, maar velen hebben aangekaart dat vrouwen structureel uit de geschiedschrijving gebannen zijn; dit is overigens niet alleen zo in de islamitische geschiedenis, maar in alle patriarchale culturen, die nagenoeg bijna de hele wereld behelsden (grof gezegd). Boeken werden herschreven maar dan zonder de vrouwelijke verhalen; die werden eruit gefilterd. Of soms nog makkelijker, de verhalen over vrouwen werden er gewoon uitgescheurd. Soms werden boeken zelfs geheel verbrand.[11]/[12] De geschriften die bewijsmateriaal bevatten van vrouwen met autoriteit  en die nog wel bewaard zijn, zijn vaak nog onvertaald dus nauwelijks toegankelijk, of zwaar bediscussieerd en worden divers geïnterpreteerd of als feministisch afgedaan. Zo is er de hadith van Umm Waraqah, die expliciet toestemming/ opdracht kreeg van de profeet om voor te gaan in het gemengde gebed van haar huishouden vanwege haar excellente kennis van de Koran. Deze hadith wordt nog wel volledig in vroege hadiethverzamelingen vermeld, maar in latere hadithverzamelingen wordt alleen nog maar gesproken wordt over haar excellente kennis maar staat er niets meer over het voorgaan in gebed.[13] Er is dus meer onderzoek nodig om nog meer verhalen toegankelijk en bekend te maken om zo een nieuw bewustzijn te creëren. Niet alleen over het bestaan van deze vrouwen, maar ook over hun boodschap en hun autoriteit.

Iemand vertelde me eens; “importeer nooit andermans beperkingen”; als er dus gezegd wordt dat vrouwen bepaalde functies niet kunnen bekleden; mógen wij daar kritische vragen bij stellen. Dit heb ik ook gedaan. Zoals ik hier nu sta; ik ben geen uitzondering. Wij allemaal zijn geen uitzondering, net zo min als de vrouwen in de geschiedenis. Mensen zeggen wel eens; “leuk Anne, die verhalen over deze vrouwen, maar dat zijn de uitzonderingen”. Mijn antwoord is dan; “Goh, dan zijn er wel heel veel uitzonderingen en ook wel veel autoritaire uitzonderingen. En dit zijn slechts de “uitzonderingen” waarvan we afweten”. Vrouwelijke visies, daadkracht en de geschiedenis van invloedrijke vrouwen zijn te lang ondergewaardeerd en onderschat geweest. Het is tijd voor een nieuw bewustzijn. Een nieuw bewustzijn van invloedrijke moslimvrouwen, waarmee ik hoop dat we uiteindelijk kunnen werken naar het ideaal dat de eerste man in mijn verhaal eeuwen geleden al bepleitte: “God houdt zich niet bezig met uw uiterlijke vormen. De kern van de zaak is niet vorm, maar intentie”.

Door de geschiedenis te herschrijven denk ik dat we de kracht kunnen vinden om vanaf nu opnieuw geschiedenis te schrijven. Een zelfbewuste, inspirerende geschiedenis met nieuwe inzichten. Ten slotte wil ik jullie de wijsheden van de genoemde vrouwen nogmaals meegeven: Rabi’a’s wijsheid van het niet fixeren op anderen, maar op de intentie van de religie in jezelf; het aanbidden van Allah uit liefde voor Allah, in plaats van het aanbidden van de beloning. Nafisa’s voorbeeld als vrouwelijke geleerde en autoriteit, maar vooral haar dialoog binnen de Ummah. Het uitwisselen van gedachten en het samen bidden en discussiëren – het kan dus wel. En het politieke leiderschap van de Malika’s van de Jemen, maar ook van de Sultana’s van de Malediven. Ibn Battuta accepteerde hun leiderschap. En de Maledievse vrouwen bleven gewoon  wie ze waren, en kun karakter en gedrag werden toch geprezen, wat aantoont dat het niet om het uiterlijk draait maar om het innerlijk en gedrag. Allahu ‘Alem.

Anne Dijk is religiewetenschapper. Bovenstaande tekst werd door haar uitgesproken tijdens het 30-jarig jubileum van Al Nisa op 22 september 2012. Voor meer informatie hierover: www.alnisa.nl.  


 


[1] (Ibn Saʿd, Kitāb al-Ṭabaqāt al-kabīr,1:333; Ibn Ḥanbal (d. 241/855), Musnad Ibn Ḥanbal 3:497, 5:425; Bukhārī, al-Tārīkh al-kabīr, 5:259).

[2] Attar, Farid al-Din., ’Muslims Saints and Mystics. Episodes from the Tadhkirat al-Auliya’ (‘Memorial of the Saints’)’, Translated by A.J. Arberry. London: Routledge & Kegan, 1983, p. 51 zie ook Munawi, al-Kawakib al-Durriya vol. 510  and  Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir’at al-Zaman vol. 265 b.

[3] Farid al-Din Attar, ’Muslims Saints and Mystics., p. 40

[4] Kecia Ali: The Jurist and the Saint: Sayyida Nafisa, Biography, and the Construction of Muslim Women’s Authority. CURA Conference, January 24th2012.

[5] Fatima Mernissi, The Forgotten Queens of Islam, p. 115

[6] Bernard Lewis, The Political Language of Islam, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1988, p. 66

[7] ‘Abdallah Ahmad Muhammad al-Thawr, via The Forgotten Queens of Islam, p. 117

[8] Fatima Mernissi, The Forgotten Queens of Islam, p. 107

[9] Ibn Battuta, Tuhfa al-Nuzzar, IV, p. 122 ff, via: Margareth Smith;  Rabi’a the Mystic and her fellow saints in Islam, London, Cambridge University Press, 1984, p. 128

[10] Ibn Battuta, edited by: Tim Mackintosh-Smith, The Travels of Ibn Battutah,Chapter on Maldives, Picador, Oxford, 2002, p. 231-242

[11] Introduction of Fatima Mernissi, The Forgotten Queens of Islam, translated by Mary Jo Lakeland, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1993

[12] For example, during the reign of caliph al-Mansur (580/1184-595/1198), Maliki writings were burnt, because his opinion was that Malikism derived too far away from the Quran and the sunna. See Maribel Fierro, the Legal Policies of the Almohad Caliphs and Ibn Rushd’s Bidayat al-Mujtahid, p. 236

[13] Asma Afsaruddin, The First Muslims; History and Memory, Oxford, Oneworld, 2008, p. 164, 190-192 en 224

(www.nieuwemoskee.nl / 28.09.2012)

Israel lobby uses discredited anti-Semitism definition to muzzle debate

A shelved EU draft definition of anti-Semitism is being used to stifle criticsm of Israel on US campuses.

Top administrators at the University of California are considering what action to take against speech and activities alleged to be anti-Semitic. As part of their discussions, the university may endorse a seven-year-old document, which — despite not having an official status — is often called the European Union’s “working definition” of anti-Semitism.

Although the administrators have indicated that their motive is to protect Jewish students, a careful examination of the definition indicates that the real agenda may be to stifle Palestine solidarity activism and criticism of Israel in the classroom.

In early July, a report commissioned by the University of California’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion was published (“U. of Calif. Weighs Banning ‘Hate’ Speech,” Forward, 2 August 2012).

The council has been co-directed by Richard Barton, national education chairman of theAnti-Defamation League — one of the most powerful groups in America’s pro-Israel lobby. Its report claims that Palestine solidarity activities were “undermining Jewish students’ sense of belonging” and creating a hostile environment.

The report’s recommendations include the adoption by the administration of a definition of anti-Semitism that could be used to “identify contemporary incidents” which would then “be sanctioned by University non-discrimination or anti-harassment policies.”

Specifically, the report mentions “a working definition of anti-Semitism” developed by “the European Union,” a reference to the 2005 draft working definition of anti-Semitism published by the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. Based in Vienna, the center has subsequently been renamed the Fundamental Rights Agency.

One of the Zionist groups to enthusiastically welcome the findings was StandWithUs, whose chief executive Roz Rothstein called the idea of a definition of anti-Semitism “one of [the report’s] most important recommendations” (“StandWithUs Welcomes UC Report On Campus Climate For Jewish Students,” 23 July 2012).

Rothstein noted the reference to “the EU’s working definition,” which she claimed “recognizes that anti-Israel extremism is a form of what is called the ‘new anti-Semitism.’”

The month after the publication of the report, at the end of August, California’s assembly passed a non-binding resolution “urging California colleges and universities to squelch nascent anti-Semitism … [and] to crack down on demonstrations against Israel” (“Calif lawmakers denounce anti-Semitism in colleges,” Associated Press, 29 August 2012).

Like the University of California report, this resolution calls on the university administration to “utilize” the EU agency’s “working definition of anti-Semitism.”

The origins of a “definition”

The story of the EU Monitoring Centre’s 2005 draft working definition of anti-Semitism, a text so enthusiastically pushed by Israel advocates in California and beyond, is not well known — but it is illuminating.

Central to the emergence of the draft working definition was Ken Stern, anti-Semitism specialist at the American Jewish Committee. According to Stern, he developed the text “along with other experts during the second half of 2004”; his version is largely identical to the one published by the EU Monitoring Centre the following year (“Proposal for a redefinition of antisemitism,” the Stephen Roth Institute, July 2005).

There are two other key figures in the backstory to the initiative. Ken Stern has credited Dina Porat, then head of the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University, for having “first articulated” the idea “for a common definition” (“The Working Definition – A Reappraisal,” Tel Aviv University, July 2011 [PDF]).

The other key figure is the American Jewish Committee’s Andrew Baker who, according to Stern, had “smartly developed a working relationship” with the EU Monitoring Centre’s then director Beate Winkler. Winkler was invited to address the AJC annual meeting in Washington in May 2004, where she told delegates that “the demonization of Israel and the denial of its right to exist are clearly anti-Semitic in our view” (“Confronting Anti-Semitism, Mobilizing Governments,” AJC, 9 May 2004).

According to former Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research and author Antony Lerman, Baker had been in contact with Winkler following controversy about a 2003 report abandoned by the EU Monitoring Centre because of problems that included the definition of anti-Semitism used (“EU Accused of Burying Report on Antisemitism Pointing to Muslim Role,” Forward, 28 November 2003).

Baker proposed to Winkler “that she move quickly to convene a meeting of [Jewish leaders, activists and researchers]” to draft a satisfactory definition of anti-Semitism (“The Farcical Attack on the UCU For Voting Against Use of the EUMC ‘Working Definition’ of Antisemitism,’” antonylerman.com, 2 June 2011).

In Lerman’s account, “[Baker] knew that those invited to the meeting would need to be broadly sympathetic to the concept of the ‘new anti-Semitism’ and … he was able to determine who attended.”

During a conference in Israel in October 2004, informal discussions about the definition took place involving, according to Ken Stern, a number of individuals that included the UK lobby group Community Security Trust’s Michael Whine, Jeremy Jones of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, and other figures from American Jewish Committee or the Stephen Roth Institute (Stern relates what took place at the 2004 meeting in this transcript of papers from a conference at Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry).

As the text of the draft working definition moved towards a final version, Stern refers to “a very exhausting meeting” between Winkler, the Community Security Trust’s Michael Whine, and three American Jewish Committee staff — Stern himself, Baker and Deidre Berger. Whine has also given accounts of this process, referring to “final draft negotiations” involving “representatives of the American Jewish Committee and European Jewish Congress” (“Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Diplomatic Progress in Combating Anti-Semitism,” Community Security Trust [PDF]).

Subtlety of a mallet

Since its publication, the definition has been repeatedly cited by pro-Israel advocacy groups to attack Palestine solidarity activism, and used — in the words of Ken Stern himself, in the aforementioned Kantor Center’s conference program — “with the subtlety of a mallet.”

Israel lobbyists have often misrepresented the nature of the text and its contents. The Anti-Defamation League’s Richard Barton, an author of the University of California “campus climate” report, has tried to convey the impression that the draft text has an official status by calling it the EU’s definition of anti-Semitism (“Protests must not stray into anti-Semitism,”San Francisco Chronicle, 23 August 2012).

A working group on “combating Anti-Semitism” at the Israeli government’s 2009 Global Forum gathering, chaired by the Community Security Trust’s Michael Whine, described the draft definition as “the European Union’s own definition of anti-Semitism.”

The definition has been invoked in a number of cases in bids to muzzle Palestine solidarity activism and speech, particularly on campus. Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual series of awareness-raising activities in universities throughout the world, has been singled out for special attention.

In February this year, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Zionist organization based in Los Angeles, asked the French interior ministry “to cancel the ‘Israel Apartheid’ conference at the University of Paris VIII and anywhere else in France,” claiming the week was “a clear violation of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency’s working definition of anti-Semitism” (“Cancel ‘Israel Apartheid’ conference at Paris university as threat to public order and a danger to the Jewish community,” Simon Wiesenthal Center, 15 February 2012).

A conference promoting a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine situation at Harvard University in March was described in an article published by the Zionist group Committee for Accuracy and Fairness in Middle East Reporting in America as “an exercise in anti-Semitism” according to “the working definition of anti-Semitism” (“Harvard to Host Conference Promoting Israel’s Destruction,” 17 February 2012).

NGO Monitor — a Zionist group which regularly smears human rights organizations — has put it equally bluntly: “campaigns that single out Israel explicitly violate the European Union working definition of anti-Semitism” (“Protestors Rebuffed in Call For TIA-CREF Anti-Settlements Boycott,” The Jewish Week, 20 July 2011).

Richard Cravatts, current president of the pro-Israel national academic watchdog groupScholars for Peace in the Middle East, believes that it has become “more difficult” for “Jew-haters” on campus to defend themselves from the charge of anti-Semitism, citing approvingly the “significant” working definition (“ Antisemitism and the Campus Left,”Journal for the Study of Antisemitism , Vol. 3:2801 [PDF]).

No longer “working”

The reality, however, is quite different. Not only has the Israel lobby exaggerated and misrepresented the working definition, the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency itself has quietly left it on a shelf.

In 2005, the year the document was published, the then-European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia indicated that there would be a review process after data-collecting organizations in EU countries had given “feedback regarding their views on its functionality.” Three years later, the Fundamental Rights Agency informed the UK government that “initial feedback and comments drew attention to several issues that impacted on the effectiveness of the definition as a data collection support tool” (“All-Party Inquiry into Anti-Semitism: Government Response, One Year On Progress Report,” United Kingdom government, 12 May 2008 [PDF]).

This writer asked Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, head of the Fundamental Rights Agency’s Equality and Citizens’ Rights Department, for clarification.

He said that during discussions of racism and xenophobia monitors throughout the EU “it became evident that there was no interest by primary data collectors to adopt or use” the working definition. He also confirmed that the Fundamental Rights Agency “will not follow-up [the draft working definition] any further,” adding that the body “has no legal competence to develop itself any such ‘definitions.’”

This statement by the Fundamental Rights Agency confirms what those who have studied the issue carefully had already surmised. David Feldman, director of the London-based Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism, told me that “the EUMC [European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia] working definition was never, so far as I understand it, an official EUMC line.” The Fundamental Rights Agency, he pointed out, “appears to be taking a different approach and has commissioned a survey that focuses on Jews’ perceptions and experiences of anti-Semitism.”

Brian Klug, a senior research fellow at Oxford University who has followed the surrounding debate closely, concurs.

“First, the document was never endorsed by the EUMC [European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia] nor by its successor, the FRA [Fundamental Rights Agency],” he said. “Second, it is more a discussion paper than a definition. Third, as far as I know it is not ‘working’ — either in the sense of there being plans on the part of the FRA to revise it or in the sense of law enforcement agencies in Europe putting it to work.”

Interestingly, supporters of the working definition have on occasion admitted the reality.

Speaking in Washington last December, the American Jewish Committee’s Andrew Baker acknowledged that the document “still meets with some opposition, including from the EUMC’s successor organization” — before revealingly adding: “thus it bears repeating whenever possible” (Transcript: Hearing — Combatting anti-Semitism in the OSCE region: Taking stock of the situation today,” Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe, 2 December 2011).

In 2010, the Community Security Trust’s Michael Whine said that the Fundamental Rights Agency “does not even notify” partner organizations in EU countries that the definition exists, “let alone ask them to use it,” according to the Kantor Center’s conference program, referenced earlier.

Smears

Pro-Israel groups’ use of the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia’s definition has taken place in the wider context of the Israeli government’s efforts to attack the international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Of particular note here is the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, because of the overlap between its participants and those involved in designing and pushing the working definition (and because it is run by the Israeli foreign ministry).

At the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism conference in 2007, for example, working groups addressed topics like “academic and economic boycotts: pre-emptive strategies” in Western Europe, and “means of response to hostile faculty and student bodies” under the bracket of “anti-Semitism in the academy” (“Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism to hold conference,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 8 February 2007).

At the 2009 conference, chaired by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a working group on tackling BDS was convened.

The group described BDS as “traditional bigotry,” and talked about a “five year plan” that included implementing “legislative prohibitions vs. BDS,” taking into account “different legal traditions” (see document produced at the conference) .

The real story of the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia’s draft working definition highlights the lengths to which some will go to undermine those supporting the Palestinian struggle for their basic rights.

The current focus on the University of California is an important opportunity to resist the implementation of a “definition” that would undoubtedly have an impact on ability of students and faculty to speak about and act on behalf of Palestinian rights — and only impair the fight against genuine anti-Jewish racism.

(electronicintifada.net / 28.09.2012)

Settlers pump wastewater on lands west of Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM, (PIC)– A group of Jewish settlers pumped, on Thursday morning, wastewater from a settlement in the west of Bethlehem in southern West Bank, onto Palestinian agricultural land.

Ahmed Sukkar, head of the village council in Fukin village, told “Quds Press” that settlers pumped wastewater on lands in the village, damaging an area of 50 dunums.

He pointed out that this is not the first time the settlers pump industrial waste or wastewater through pipes installed in the region, which led to damaging the lands and the crops.

Sukkar cautioned of the environmental and health dangers caused by such acts on the area’s residents and farmers.

(occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com / 28.09.2012)

How the BBC denies Israel’s occupation

No occupation to see here, according to the BBC.

There is international law, and there is the world as Israel and the BBC see it. And if Israel claims the whole of Jerusalem as its territory, contrary to international law, then it is not for the BBC to dispute this — or so its coverage would have us believe.

In its country profile for Israel, the BBC’s website lists statistics including Israel’s size in square meters, its major languages and its main exports. Shying away from giving a capital, as it does for all other recognized countries featured in such profiles, the BBC’s online editors have opted instead to give Israel a “seat of government” (“Israel profile,” 11 September 2012).

And this seat of government, according to the BBC, is Jerusalem. All of it. This is despite the fact that international law is quite clear that East Jerusalem is Palestinian territory, illegally occupied and annexed by Israel. Israel, however, refuses to accept UN resolutions on Jerusalem and continues to claim it all, undivided, as its own. The BBC, it would appear, is backing Israel up on this.

This is how Israel’s claim to Jerusalem is presented on the BBC website: “Israel profile. Seat of government: Jerusalem, though most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv.”

The Israeli government does not recognize Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital, and so the BBC obligingly does not give a capital for Israel in its country profile — noting, instead, in its specially-created “seat of government” category, that “most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv.”

The website also runs a profile for “Palestinian territories” and this gives an “intended seat of government.” Under this category, BBC editors have written “Intended seat of government: East Jerusalem. Ramallah serves as administrative capital” (“Palestinian territories profile,” 31 August 2012).

Concealing the truth

There are no difficulties here for the BBC in making a distinction between East and West Jerusalem. Rather, the difficulty for the BBC lies in admitting that Israel occupies the “Palestinian territories.” Nowhere in the profile is the occupation mentioned, and the land is not referred to as the “occupied Palestinian Territories” — the wording used by the United Nations — but simply as Palestinian territories. And of course there is nothing to inform the reader of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Jerusalem from 1947 onwards, and how the division of the city came about.

The UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign challenged the supposedly impartial BBC on its assertion that the whole of Jerusalem is Israeli territory, a falsehood which Israel is keen to propagate in its attempts to create facts on the ground.

The PSC pointed out over a series of email correspondences since July that it would be simple enough for the BBC to add the word “West” to let its audience know that Israel’s seat of government is not in Jerusalem, but in the western half of a divided city. This would also guarantee 100 percent accuracy, surely a priority for a major news organization.

Richard Hutt, complaints director at the BBC, sent a detailed email on 18 September to say: “It seems to me that the current content on the page for Israel acknowledges the Israeli view, but contextualizes it so that it is clear to readers that this is disputed.”

With no hint of irony, Hutt goes on to say, about a page that is subtitled “Facts”: “Although more information would have been helpful, I do not believe that the content would mislead readers as to the basic facts.”

Laughable

Hutt’s defense of the BBC position becomes laughable as he defies logical argument in his attempts to defend inaccuracy in the BBC’s news pages.

Explaining why the BBC refers to “Jerusalem” on the “Israel” profile and “East Jerusalem” on the “Palestinian territories” profile, he says: “I do not think that ‘due’ impartiality in this context would require that the language for one page mirror that of the other.”

Hutt then says he does not think readers would make the assumption that the whole of Jerusalem is Israeli territory from the BBC’s reference to the whole of Jerusalem being Israel’s seat of government.

He argues: “The only grounds I can see for reaching such a conclusion are that the content for the [Palestinian territories] page lists ‘East Jerusalem,’ whereas the reference to Jerusalem on the Israel page is not similarly qualified.”

That is the exact reason given by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to the BBC in its request for the qualifier “West” to be added to “Jerusalem” on the Israel page. Bizarrely, Hutt appears to acknowledge that argument, before concluding that no alteration will be forthcoming.

Defending criminality

Israel’s claim to an undivided Jerusalem is not the only area where BBC terminology privileges Israeli occupation and colonization.

However, just as BBC reporting consistently fails to mention the fact of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, it is similarly coy about spelling out the criminality of its settlement building, despite UN Security Council Resolution 446’s clear definition of settlements as a “serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has not been alone in asking the BBC why, without fail, in all its online reports concerning settlements, as well as in television and radio broadcasts, it uses this line: “The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this” (“Israel anger at S Africa ‘Occupied Territories’ labels,” 22 August 2012).

The line will be found buried at the end, or near the end, of any article about settlements and provides scant context for the preceding content.

What is interesting is the need the BBC feels to use this line. Settlements are not stated categorically as being illegal under international law, simply “considered” to be, and a disclaimer is added — “Israel disputes this” — as though international law is not the last word on what is legal for nations.

Tarik Kafala, the Middle East editor of BBC Online, replied to a Palestinian living in the UK, who had emailed him to question the use of this line. Kafala’s reply, sent in October 2011 and seen by this writer, explains the BBC’s reasoning for its caution, erring on the side of Israel.

“The contention that settlements are illegal … is hugely well founded in international law, but an opinion,” Kafala writes.

And then this: “We also feel that to simply state that the settlements are illegal under international law is potentially misleading. An untutored reader might wonder why, if Israel is so flagrantly breaking the law, such a criminal state is still a member of the UN, a favored ally of the US, a major trading partner of the EU and so on.”

It’s an astounding assertion from a senior BBC editor. It also lays bare the BBC’s policy on reporting on Israel and its daily violations of UN resolutions, Geneva conventions andInternational Court of Justice rulings. There is a softening, a tempering of the reality, if it is even reported at all, which is rare. An intellectual analysis for the BBC audience of why a “criminal state is still a member of the UN, a favored ally of the US, a major trading partner of the EU” is out of the question.

Such an analysis would require honesty about the political situation, not just in Palestine and Israel, but in the Middle East as a whole, and Kafala’s incredible revelation shows that the BBC is not capable of such honesty.

The resultant dishonesty, and the attempt to keep the truth about Israel’s illegal actions from its audiences, is spread across the whole of BBC programming, from news right through to entertainment.

Not interested in reality

An activist with Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods spent a year in correspondence with the BBC over “Top Gear Middle East Special,” an entertainment program for motoring enthusiasts broadcast on BBC Two in December 2010. It traced a trio well-known to UK TV audiences traveling from Baghdad to Bethlehem in a convertible sports car.

As presenters James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond drove through Syria, viewers were given the following information about the occupied Syrian Golan Heights: “For political reasons, this was Syria and is now Israel.”

In reality, the Golan Heights is Syrian territory, illegally occupied and annexed by Israel. UN Security Council Resolution 242 makes this clear and additionally calls for the withdrawal of Israel from the Golan Heights, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

But the BBC isn’t interested in reality when it comes to Israel. What appears to be more important for this publicly-funded UK broadcaster is to shield Israel from criticism of its illegal actions by hiding the truth of those actions from its audiences. In this instance, the BBC was prepared to broadcast an outright lie about the status of the Golan Heights.

Wiped off the map

And to hide the existence of the Palestinian West Bank — where Bethlehem is located — the program used maps which named only Israel. Palestinian land was effectively wiped off the map by the BBC. This mirrors the maps used in Israeli schoolbooks and Israeli tourism guides, which show all the land which was once historically Palestine as being “Israel.” Gaza and the West Bank are not named.

To complete the deception, at no point during the drive to Bethlehem or on arrival did the presenters use the words “West Bank” or “Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Instead, viewers were told that the “final border crossing” before arriving in Bethlehem would be from Jordan into Israel. The crossing from Israel into the West Bank, which has to be made in order to reach Bethlehem, was ignored by the BBC, and viewers were left to think that the city is in Israel. There was no indication of the existence of Palestinian land.

It is a narrative that would thrill the Israeli government. To justify its broadcast, the BBC’s Editorial Standards Committee ruled, in December 2011, that, because Top Gear is an entertainment program, there was no requirement to “make the location of Bethlehem explicit.” Why the location of Bethlehem had to remain hidden when the location of every other city visited by the presenters was marked clearly on the maps they used constantly throughout the program was not explained.

Nor was there any explanation for not marking the West Bank on any maps. Instead, the committee said “contrasting shading” used on the maps was sufficient to show the area as being separate from Israel. Why not just name it?

Finally, dealing with the Golan Heights reference, the committee said that it did not believe “the description used in the program was materially inaccurate or misleading, bearing in mind that the requirement [in the BBC’s editorial guidelines] is for due accuracy.”

Due accuracy, according to the guidelines, is accuracy that is “adequate and appropriate to the output.” Because Top Gear is an entertainment program, the level of accuracy displayed was, according to the committee, totally adequate. In other words, it was happy with the BBC broadcasting a falsehood.

Why, when it comes to Israel, can’t the BBC call a spade a spade? Why do the words “West Bank” and “Occupied Palestinian Territories” stick in the throats of BBC presenters, unable to see the light of day even when the presenters in question are standing on that very land? Why, if these are genuine mistakes, can’t the BBC correct them, put “West” in front of “Jerusalem” and admit that Israel illegally occupies the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights?

Rectifying these errors would be far simpler than concocting the tortuous and absurd explanations BBC employees spend so much time on to justify their misleading and biased output. But, then again, when it comes to the BBC and Israel, nothing is rational.

(electronicintifada.net / 28.09.2012)