Sunday, October 9, 2011

Do Zionists Help Restore the Tuba-Zangaria Mosque? Yes, Zionists Do

As many of you know, last week a mosque in the Arab village of Tuba-Zangaria in the Galilee was attacked by arsonists, presumably extremist Jews (because of the "price tag" graffiti left at the site). One suspect has been arrested.

Not only is this act repulsive on many levels (and was immediately condemned in the strongest terms by both Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as by Israel's Chief Rabbis), but it also took place in an Arab village whose residents fought alongside the Palmach during Israel's War of Independence, whose young men commonly enlist in the IDF, whose village leaders decided they would not participate in the Arab riots in October 2000, and whose village sports center is named after Yitzhak Rabin.

And just yesterday, Muslim and Christian cemeteries in Jaffa were vandalized with similar graffiti left at the sites of the desecrations.

And while I don't always agree with Bradley Burston, I think his eloquent column in Haaretz about this is completely on the mark.

Those of us who are Jewish have just completed our prayers on the Day of Atonement.  Th
e centerpieces of that day's prayers are the community confessionals, the Vi'dui and the Al Het, in which we all request forgiveness for the sins that, though we may not have committed them ourselves, fall upon us because members of our community did commit them.  This Yom Kippur, the desecration of the mosque of Tuba Zangaria was prominent in my mind during those prayers. 

The "price tag" phenomenon is a dangerous one for Israel in many ways.  These acts are those of vigiliantes who openly challenge the rule of law and the authority of the state of Israel.  Up until now, these attacks have only taken place on the West Bank.  There, they attack not only their neighbors, but also IDF soldiers (on whom, ironically, they depend for their own safety in their West Bank settlements).  They undermine the authority of the state, and they feed into the mostly false stereotypes created by anti-Israel activists, of violent settlers attacking peaceful Palestinian villagers who want nothing more than to live in peace; that false impression creates more international pressure to force Israel to withdraw from the very land which the settlers want to keep for their own.   When these attacks take place within the state of Israel itself, it challenges one of the fundamentals of Israeli society that we proudly hold up as a response to those who maliciously misrepresent Israel's status as a Jewish state-- that Israel's Arab citizens have full political, civil and religious rights equal to the Jewish citizens, and far better than the rights enjoyed by Arabs anywhere else in the Middle East.  If Israel's Arab citizens, especially those who express friendship and support to their Jewish neighbors, are the subject of acts of terror such as this, then it is not only those Arab Israelis who suffer, but the Jews of Israel as well.   

We also make the argument that Israel acts more morally than the Palestinian leadership that turns terrorists into heroes, and that broadcasts an incessant stream of venal anti-Semitic propaganda . And we correctly point out that the terrorists of Hamas, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Islamic Jihad openly celebrate the slaughter of children in their bedrooms,  because "itbach el-Yahud" ("kill the Jew") has been a rallying cry for Arab rejectionists since the days of the Grand Mufti (and can be heard even on the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area) .

It is therefore vital for those of us who support the existence of a Jewish state of Israel, to stand with what we know is the overwhelming majority of Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora against such vile acts done by an extremist minority in our community; even the leadership of the settler movement condemns these terrorists.  Our enemies routinely distort "Zionism" into a hateful caricature; this is an important opportunity for us to stand up for the Zionism that we know and to reclaim it from those who use it as an epithet.

This is not about settlements, nor about borders, nor about negotiations (or lack thereof) between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  This is about standing with the Israeli citizens of Tuba-Zangaria and elsewhere, just as we stand with Jewish Israelis who have been the victims of religious and political acts of hatred. 

Israel's Declaration of Independence states: 

"WE APPEAL - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions."

The people of Tuba-Zangaria answered that appeal in the affirmative. It is time now for us to honor that.

In the spirit of atoning for the sins of others in our community, the Association of Reform Zionists of America, in partnership with the Israel Religious Action Center, is raising funds for the refurbishing of the Tuba mosque.  It's the Zionist thing to do. Please join me in donating.  

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