Tuesday, August 26, 2014

And in today's news...

Last night, our neighbor banged on the door, screaming and by the time my room mate was at the door, she had already withdrawn in the "safety" of the staircase, terrified of the bombing. Only:  there was no aza'akah (siren), and she had imagined the attack, or panicked.

I was still groggy when I woke up hours later and was greeted by my usual barrage of morning media. In these awful days, it seems so important to "know what's going on" or to read in order to "understand." The latter might be what Germans call a Berufskrankheit, an illness caused by my profession (I am a college professor). Today, there were two particularly well-written pieces.

One is an article by Matti Friedman, a former AP reporter and resident of Israel who talks about the world's strange obsession with Israel. You can find the entire article here. Here only some tidbits, but it's really  an excellent article that deserves to be read on its own:

"When I was a correspondent at the AP, the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia, or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined. It was higher than the total number of news-gathering employees in all the countries where the uprisings of the “Arab Spring” eventually erupted."

And here, one of my favorites that I often quote to my friends back home when they are worried about my trips to Israel: "In all of 2013, for example, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict claimed 42 lives—that is, roughly the monthly homicide rate in the city of Chicago."

"Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate. The West has decided that Palestinians should want a state alongside Israel, so that opinion is attributed to them as fact, though anyone who has spent time with actual Palestinians understands that things are (understandably, in my opinion) more complicated. "

I could quote more (these are just from the first page) but you get the drift. I would add another reason the west is so preoccupied with this conflict as opposed to, say, Kashmir, or the Central Republic of Africa: racism. Here, most participants can be read as "white", and this makes the horrible pictures of dying children and suffering in general more poignant, at least to the decision makers. 

The other article is this one here: "As violence rises, Muslim moderates must do more" by Asif Zaidi. 
It was originally published on the Pakistani blog Let Us Build Pakistan, where a version of this post originally appeared here where it was published on July 14.  I found it on 972.mag  Zaidi has written other insightful articles on selective Muslim outrage regarding violence and identity politics here

This is a welcome article that, while not letting Israel or the west off the hook, talks about the lack of a LOUD moderate Muslim voice and the reasons behind it. 

Why is there no voice that cries out against Muslim extremist violence perpetrated on other Muslims? We in the west often conveniently forget this, but let's face it, by a large margins the victims of Islamic extremism are Muslims: Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan... 

I am always struck by the argument that one or more terrorists  were not "real Muslims". Many Jews made similar arguments after the 1994 Goldstein massacre. Baruch Goldstein was an American-born physician who gunned down 29 people and wounding 125 others who were praying in the mosque in Hebron, on the holiday of Purim. Even years later I remember being shocked by the reverence with which his grave was being treated. To say that "he wasn't a real Jew" is disregarding that he was the product of a good and very expensive yeshiva education, a Yeshiva University graduate even. The same is true here: To say that, say IS are not "true Muslims" is discharging responsibility, especially for western Muslims living in safety from the repercussions that, say, criticizing ISIS or might bring if you were living in Mosul. I would be thrilled if I could see kernels of such introspection in my Muslim students in the US who for the most part are, not surprisingly perhaps, rather defensive. 

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