promoted from the comments section

There have been quite a few really incredible comments made these last few days, but this one from Stephanie seemed particularly worthy of a larger readership, so I thought that I’d move it up to the front page. By way of background, I should mention that it was written in response to a comment made by an individual suggesting that the Democrats were anti-Semitic because someone went to a DNC event and handed out materials critical of Israel.

I haven’t read the pamphlets. I do think that the distribution of false information is unfortunate, and it’s too bad that that happened. I don’t know whether there was any explicitly anti-Semitic content within the pamphlets, but I haven’t heard mention of any. Unless I am mistaken reading these posts, it seems that the suggestion that Israel withheld knowledge of 9/11 for its own gain is what is being seen as anti-Semitic. I guess I just don’t see that. If the pamphlets said (and I openly admit that I don’t know, so maybe they did…) ‘Israel withheld knowledge of 9/11 for their own gain because they’re evil, dirty Jews!’ then it might be clearer to me.

The stance, on both political sides, seems to be that no one wants to speak critically against Israel for fear of being seen as anti-Semites. Apparently, one can’t disagree with Israel’s political actions without hating Jews. And I don’t really get it. While Israel is a Jewish state, Israel does not equal all Jews everywhere or Judaism itself. You can disagree with Israel’s policies without hating Jews. (And now I am referring to Israel’s real political actions, not false ones claimed in a pamphlet.) Just like you can dislike the actions of other religious nations without hating the religion itself or all its followers (as I’m sure there are Christians who can hate the crusades, the inquisition, etc, without hating themselves and all other Christians.) Plenty of groups have made mistakes and acted very badly in the name of religion.

I am an atheist. According to Jewish law, though, I am still a Jew, whether I believe in God or not. Since I don’t believe in the authority of Jewish law, I can comfortably say that I am not a Jew. However, most people would disagree. That’s fine, it really doesn’t change much for me. It makes me very uncomfortable how a pro-Israel stance is seen as almost required nowadays. Back in Hebrew school, we were taught that everything Israel does is right, and those who might disagree with Israel’s actions are enemies of Jews everywhere. Last Thanksgiving, I believe it was, I was having a discussion with my family about how Israel had parked bulldozers and tanks outside a Palestinian encampment (perhaps it was a village, I don’t know) and gave the people there 24 hours to get out before they demolished the whole thing, whether there were people still there or not. My response was one of disgust. As was that of my family, however they were disgusted that the Palestinians wouldn’t just get out of Israel already and stop bombing everyone. In discussions with my Jewish family, an audible gasp can be heard if someone (me) even questions Israel’s politics. The view is that what Israel does is right, and we don’t even have to know what action we’re saying is right, because anything Israel ever does, has done or will do is right, because, I mean, c’mon, it’s Israel. And that view frightens me.

While my knowledge of Israel’s politics is admittedly limited, I can’t say I agree with the majority of their actions. I am also uncomfortable with any religious nation, no matter what the religion. I am in favor of religious freedom, and I’m glad that, at least for now, we still have that here, to a large degree.

On another, apparently related topic, maybe I have no say as a kooky liberal Jewish atheist, but I wasn’t offended by Mark’s post. As far as I know, all religions, Christianity included, have evolved (or should I say, “have been Created”) toward what they are today many times by a voice of dissent at the way the religion is currently being interpreted and the way its followers are conducting themselves. While I doubt it’s Mark’s goal to revamp Christianity, he is only doing what others have done to make the religion what it is today: observing a kind of worship, behavior, or attitude that he feels could be considered contrary to the true teaching of the religion and starting a dialogue. If someone out there feels he is mistaken in this observation, why not explain your position, and let him know exactly how some of the things that happened at the church fit in with Christianity? He seemed genuinely curious to know how some of the things he heard in that church followed the teachings of Jesus Christ.

I know plenty of people who are religious. The majority of people I know, my family, friends, and just about everyone I meet are religious in some way. I don’t hold it against them. I do disagree with some of their ideas about the world, but it doesn’t stop us from being friends. I do think that I am right and they are wrong, obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t believe what I do. And I know they think that they are right and I am wrong. That’s all fine. I don’t have any problem with religion as a concept, or with religious people as a group. I do have a problem with the teaching of hatred, intolerance, suspicion and fear. I think the question that has yet to be answered is this: Was that sort of teaching what was going on during this church service? If not, please explain. And if so, how is that not contrary to the teachings of Christ?

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  1. [steph]
    Posted June 27, 2005 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Catchiest/wisest blasphemy I’ve ever heard from a pseudo-13 year old, if I do say so myself.

  2. mark
    Posted June 27, 2005 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I can only hope that my daughter is as elloquent when she enters into her early teens… You are an inspiration, Steph.

  3. john galt
    Posted June 28, 2005 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ahmad Dwidar is imam of the Islamic Center in New York and a lecturer at Manhattan University; on June 9, 2005, he did an interview with the Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC), captured and translated by MEMRI TV:

    Dwidar: In 1995 I heard some sermons, saying that Muslims should march on the White House from some of the mosques.

    Host: What do you mean by

  4. [steph]
    Posted June 29, 2005 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    When Mark moved my post up to the front page, I had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I was very proud that he felt my comment was astute enough to warrant front page status. But I was also wary because I know there are people who lurk around this blog simply to insult people’s views and start fights. Since I have an admittedly limited knowledge of what I was posting about, I was a little nervous about being able to thoroughly defend myself.

    Luckily, I haven’t had to. The empty, polarizing insults never came and I’m glad about that.

    I don’t really understand what this last comment has to do with what I said though…

    But I do think its funny that my post was a reply to a comment that had little or nothing to do with Mark’s original post (that’s what I was referring to with “on an apparently related note”.) And now I get an unrelated comment of my own. It’s like I’m growing up.

    So in respose to the seemingly unrelated comment, I have this to say: I find it overall relatively hopeful, but I’m still wary. Their goals aside, it’s nice to hear anyone who puts forward the idea of nonviolent resistence. It’s nice as well that these ideas are coming from a Muslim leader, not only to set an example for Muslims, but also to let Americans know that not all Muslims are violent or believe in violence, which is an idea some people may have. And he’s not just preaching non-violent resistence, but also the enrichment of the world through accomplishments made by Muslims. I think this is a very positive attitude and goal and that part is really great.

    As for the Muslim White House stuff, that’s where I’m wary. If by “Muslim House” they mean that it should be some sort of religious center, in a way that threatens religious freedom and the separation of church and state in our country, then obviously I am not in favor of that. Just as I would be opposed to the same goals of Christians, Jews, Scientologists, and so on. If the goal is simply to have a Muslim president–an American working toward continued improvement and freedom and justice in this country who also happens to privately practice as a Muslim–then that’s fine with me. This hypothetical Muslim president would, I hope, keep religious dogma out of speeches, just as I cringe when Bush, for example, mentions his god.

    Since this is America, the first lady has as much right to wear a burqa as a cross around her neck. I’d rather she were the president than the first lady, but that’s another debate. Although my saying that I hope women continue to work hard and be acknowledged for their accomplishments in hopes that we will have a female president one day doesn’t seem much different from the hope that Muslims will continue to work hard and be acknowledged for their accomplishments in hopes that we will have a Muslim president one day. I think the goal of a diversification of the White House and of all political offices is an admirable one, moving toward the long-term aim that it should be the ideas of a person that determines their ability to lead, not their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religious beliefs (as long as they don’t favor any one group or act unjustly.)

    The part of the article that is clear to me–the push for non-violent actions and positive Muslim role models–is great. The “Muslim House” idea needs to be clarified for me to decide about that–whether it means a president who is Muslim or a government pushing a Muslim doctrine, two very different things. Muslim symbols outside our courthouses frighten me just as much as the ten commandments posted in Texas.

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