Welcome to the thoughts, rants and passions of a young Muslim woman seeking soulful enlightenment in cyberspace.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Some Jews Who Disappoint

I am disappointed by some members of the Jewish community. In particular, I am disenchanted with their stance on Israel and their view of the Arab-Muslim community.

I must preface my comments here by explaining myself. I have decided to spend this year trying to understand “both” sides of the conflict. I want to do this not through formal dialogue, but by listening to people in their own spaces. I have pledged to reserve judgement until I’ve heard the full spectrum of opinions and viewpoints. But there are times when the fanaticism and revulsion of one community or the other scream out at me, and I cannot withhold myself from speaking any longer. This is one of those times. And so I ask you in advance to forgive me for some of the things I may say.

I have come face-to-face with (what I perceive as) extreme opinions and viewpoints of members of the Jewish community by way of the Internet - by visiting other people’s blogs, to be specific. I won’t mention any names because I don’t want to hurt anyone. That is not my purpose here. But I know that at least some of you will understand what I am talking about.

You may be thinking that by now I should be accustomed to the hatred, gross generalizations and narrowly one-sided worldviews. After all, I’ve been meeting with individuals and communities who have an interest in the conflict over the past academic year. I’ve seen a great deal, not all of it very pretty. Yet it surprises me still to experience such ugliness.

Why have I not addressed the individuals directly or expressed my disappointment on their websites? Three reasons. One, people like that terrify me. I can’t understand them, and therefore I’m convinced they will have a hard time understanding me. Two, I am afraid of being drawn into a war of words. But the third and most significant reason for my silence is that I do want to continue to read the pulse of the Jewish community, and the websites I visit offer legitimate means to do so. I cannot get an accurate reading of the Jewish community if the individuals involved are carefully measuring their remarks based on what others might think.

But it does make me ponder my own understanding of both communities. Often I’ve been left in defensive mode, trying to explain away - perhaps even rationalize - the desperation of the Palestinians and the apathy of the Muslim community to the Jewish individuals I am speaking to. It is an unenviable position to be placed in, but I do it because I’m forced to. My experiences with the Jewish community in the last few days have brought home the fact that the two sides are really quite identical. Any moral high ground claimed by the Jewish community is unjustified. In essence, I have a lot less to defend. Regrettably, this does not leave me feeling any better.

The most troubling aspect is that though far apart, the hate-filled rhetoric on both sides is remarkably similar. Replace Sharon with Abbas, substitute terrorist for occupier and illegal for corrupt – you will hear much the same thing on both sides. Disgust for each other, and an unwillingness to engage or understand. And I find it ironic that while these Jews are outraged with Palestinians and Arabs for using Nazi and Holocaust themes to refer to the Israeli government, they’re blind to the fact that members of their own community are using similar references with regards to Arabs – and for that matter, even to refer to the Israeli Prime Minister.

I know that there will be passionate people on “both” sides. Yet I naively expect to find more people with an enlarged understanding of the conflict. I seek out individuals who care less about earning brownie points at the expense of the other and more about finding just ways to resolve the conflict. I suppose my expectations are too high. And that, I think, is the hardest thing to come to grips with.


  • At 2/21/2005 02:04:00 a.m., Anonymous hanae said…

    I can understand that you may be disappointed, and i applaud your continuous efforts to understand all sides of the conflict. But I do think that however disconcerting some views may be they often do not represent the majority. This is something one can find hope in, and I do not think that being optimistic is a flaw. (someone I know told me that once!)
    On the contrary, optimism (although it should never be blind) is needed, especially in trying times.

    I hope your readings won't make you loose hope completely... I thought I had lost hope, since last year, and it made me kind of cut myself off from all of these issues, but somehow I have been drawn back into it, although only mildly still. It seems to be stronger than me.

    I know these may sound like light or even empty words, but I mean them with all the heaviness of lightness... (?!)

  • At 2/21/2005 03:11:00 a.m., Blogger dawud al-gharib said…


    aywa, Safiyyah;

    neither be disappointed or despair (which requires excessive hope in people - as a Turkish proverb says 'do not trust in the tree that withers and dies'); rather, begin with a sound view of your own community and the limits of our own worldviews.

    I have at times become quite bitter and cynical, towards both communities (both arab/muslim and jewish) - which I found usually rooted in a cynical perspective:(dictionary definition cites 'seeing a material motive behind everyone'). I can only heal this by returning to the Qur'anic worldview and as a hadith states 'Trust Allah in what he says about the people, and don't trust in the people in what they say about Allah'

    The Qur'an is quite clear in that 'many do evil, but some do good' (surah Ma'ida); and I've always found that scholars of both intellectual and theological rigour, as well as spiritual and political sensitivity are in agreement about dialogue with the Jews and Christians who are 'like-hearted' and 'on the Path to Truth'; while there are cautions to avoid the pitfalls which have befallen those communities, those are usually given as historical reminders and advices, not as personal condemnations of the present communities who identify themselves with those titles (ie, as the Qur'an says "closest to thee in affection will you find those who call themselves

    as far as some good Jewish webpages, you might appreciate for an open forum. I check for theological (and fiqh questions), but there are some other groups, such as - or their webpages (a Turkish group which emphasizes dialogue and reform, which has had some influence in modern Turkey turning back to Islam)

    don't want to be patronizing, but as Hanae, I hope you don't 'give up hope' ;)


  • At 2/21/2005 02:20:00 p.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    I had the most fascinating dream last night. I dreamed that I was perusing the comments on this post, and I was happy to see that a Jewish friend of mine had posted a comment. As I scanned the post quickly, I could even see some of the words written – how this was not the most convenient way to discuss this matter, but there was a compelling need on this individual’s part to respond to my comments, and so on. The post went on to gently admonish me for my comments and to remind me that there are good Jews out there. In my dream, I felt sheepish for having jumped the gun. The dream was extremely vivid. I really did expect to find that individual’s comments here when I checked this morning!

    Hanae and Dawud, I was just as happy to find your posts. Thank you for the uplifting words. Perhaps I was a little melodramatic, but I do think the simple act of writing was a cathartic experience. Somehow I no longer feel so upset about the whole thing. And Hanae, you’re absolutely right. I admire your optimism, but sometimes I think I need more of it;)

  • At 2/23/2005 09:32:00 p.m., Blogger John said…

    Hello. I am a Jew :-)

    About your comments... I have learned the that some people (unlike you and me) do not appreciate the value of intelligent discourse. There is a lot of power to be gained among the pro-war community for somebody who taked the hardest line.

    There are a number of Jewish people I know who, I think, privately believe that Israel's leaders often do not act in good faith, and will still publically defend every action that Israel takes.

    Part of the problem is a feeling among many Jews that the holocaust was not so long ago. Millions of my people (4.8 million according to the international trials at Nurenberg) were murdered, while even Roosevelt himself did not bother to lift a finger (eg: USA could have bombed the railroads that led to Nazi death camps)

    In the recent American election, 76 percent of Jews voted for John Kerry instead of George. A poll by the Arab-American institute showed that 65 percent of Arabs (a catch-all term for a lot of different nationalities, I am aware...) voted for Kerry over Bush. Anybody who thinks that most Jews agree with current American policy is not looking at the facts, which show otherwise.

    As for bloggers, I would say that a number of them are connected in some way to the right-wing power structure. I have heard of people that "work" at a particular "job", and effectively do nothing but post their opinions to message boards. I have no doubt that a number of bloggers are getting paid to spew hate. Sad but true.

    If you want to counter this insanity with some intelligent dialogue, you are going about it in the right way. Just don't get burned out because some people will never change. Peace.

  • At 2/24/2005 11:38:00 p.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    "There are a number of Jewish people I know who, I think, privately believe that Israel's leaders often do not act in good faith, and will still publically defend every action that Israel takes."

    We have the same problem in the Muslim community. The feeling that we have to safeguard our own, to portray that united stunts real growth, unfortunately.

    The comment you made about the bloggers is a bit disturbing though. I hadn't thought of that!

  • At 3/05/2005 10:55:00 p.m., Anonymous ck said…

    I am so sorry I missed this post when it first came out. In any case, I would urge you to feel free and say whatever you want on Sure some people might take offense but I am pretty sure most of us desperately want to have a wide range of dialogue. Well, I know I sure do. So come on daown and say whatever's on your mind!

  • At 3/15/2005 02:20:00 a.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    Hi ck,
    Thanks for the comments. I love listening in the debates on Jewlicious. Great forum, great conversation.

  • At 4/03/2005 10:05:00 a.m., Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said…


    Please remember that moderation doesn't make headlines, that the silent majority are too silent. This problem ranges across religious and political discourse. Keep doing what you are doing.


  • At 4/04/2005 03:38:00 p.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    Thanks, TRK. I'm curious: Are you actually a rabbi's kid?

  • At 4/05/2005 09:24:00 a.m., Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said…


    Yes I am. Though not so much of the kid!


  • At 4/20/2005 03:50:00 a.m., Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said…


    You wrote "I have decided to spend this year trying to understand “both” sides of the conflict". I have a suggestion - which you are wlecome to ignore.
    I am happy to discuss and post on this issue, but with a difference. I suggest that I propose the Palestinian side of things, while you argue for the Jewish side. It helps us sharpen our debating skills and might make interesting reading.


  • At 4/20/2005 07:10:00 p.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    Fascinating idea. That's something I've always wanted to do. In fact, I was once contemplating organizing something like that, in a more public forum. But I don't think I can manage it right now. I'm already struggling under the weight of tons of unfinished work. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but things are quite hectic on my end. I'm actually planning to go light on this blog (ie. post less frequently if I can) starting in a few weeks.

  • At 4/21/2005 03:33:00 a.m., Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said…

    Ok SAF, good luck with your work, if you see that you have more time on your hands soon, let me know. We have Pesach coming up (Pasover) next week, but I'll be more free after that.



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