Friday, June 29, 2007

The Brutal Fatwa's of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

The Brutal Fatwas in Israel
Fahmi Howaidi, Arab News —

While people in Muslim countries have been preoccupied with fatwas (religious rulings) concerning breast-feeding adults, the purity of the Prophet’s urine, and the legality of the recent different types of marriages such as Misyar and Mesfar, perhaps it would be appropriate to take a look at fatwas in Israel. It might give us a chance to compare the two, evaluating the circumstances on both sides.

It is worthy of further consideration to consider the Israeli fatwas that my Palestinian colleague Salih Al-Tuhami observed. Conservative Jewish thought and tradition say that in case the country’s laws contradict the rabbi’s fatwas, the fatwa must be implemented and anything the government says is worthless. That’s the opinion of Rabbi Elie — who is one of Israel’s senior rabbis — who is supported by the majority of his peers.

These Jewish fatwas are responsible for instigating religious Jews against Arabs. Last year, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, former Sephardic chief rabbi and an influential authority among conservative Jews, issued a fatwa asking the Israeli Army not to flinch from killing Palestinian civilians in the context of the ongoing military campaign against armed groups resisting the occupation. He mentioned in his fatwa, which received special attention from religious media outlets and hundreds of pamphlets distributed inside synagogues in Israel. that all Palestinians must be murdered, even the ones who are not participating in the war against terrorism. This wasn’t enough for the revered rabbi, who said that this was not only a fatwa, but a religious duty from God that Jews must follow.

After that, one of the most important Jewish rabbis issued a fatwa that allowed his students in one of the Jewish settlements in the northern West Bank to steal the agricultural produce grown by Palestinians. It said that everything in the West Bank belongs to the Jews, giving them the right to confiscate such properties. This fatwa was implemented and his students confiscated the agricultural yield of the Palestinians.

Rabbi Dov Lior, chief rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat-Arba, did the same when he issued a fatwa that allowed Jewish settlers to poison the livestock and water wells owned by Palestinians in neighboring cities and villages. The settlers didn’t hesitate in implementing the fatwa. Not a single day passed without Palestinians finding dead sheep and poisoned water.

On the other hand, a group of prominent Jewish rabbis addressed the Israeli defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, saying that killing enemy civilians was “normal” during wartime and that the Israeli Army should never hesitate to kill non-Jewish civilians in order to save Jewish lives. “There is no war in the world in which it is possible to delineate neatly between the population and the enemy’s army, neither in the US war in Iraq, the Russian war in Chechnya, nor in Israel’s war with its enemies,” the rabbis said.

The rabbis quoted a Talmudic ruling, which states “Our lives come first.” In their famous letter, the rabbis warned against what they called Christian preaching in dealing with conflict. “The Christian preaching of ‘turning the other cheek’ doesn’t concern us, and we will not be impressed by those who prefer the lives of our enemies to our lives,” they said.

These tense times have influenced a number of other fatwas from rabbis about underestimating the lives of Arabs and humiliating them. Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported on July 25, 2002 that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the current spiritual leader of the Shas political party in the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament), said that until Christ the Savior arrives, he will send all Arabs to hellfire. “Why doesn’t Ariel Sharon do what needs to be done? He’s scared of the people of the world. But when the Savior Christ comes, he won’t fear anyone. He will send all the Arabs to hell.” Yosef described Arabs as snakes and said Jews should not trust them.

It’s no wonder that one of the rabbis — Isaac Ginzburg — published a book entitled “Baruch the Hero” to immortalize the name of Dr. Baruch Goldstein who perpetrated the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in the city of Hebron, killing 29 Arab attendants of the Ibrahimi Mosque (within the Cave of the Patriarchs) and wounding another 150 in a shooting attack.

As for Rabbi Eli Albaz, who is one of the distinctive Eastern rabbis, he never misses an opportunity to attack Islam and condemn the Prophet (pbuh). He insists on complaining in front of his audience by telling jokes that address Muslims and Palestinians and using filthy language to attack Muslims. And Rabbi Eliyahu Reskin continuously ridicules the reconciliation attempts to create dialogue between Jewish rabbis and Arab officials. He believes that the only language of dialogue between Muslims and Jews should be bullets. He feels that without convincing the Arabs in general, and the Palestinians specifically, settlement can’t be forced upon Israel so the efforts of peace are worthless.

It’s true that from a legal perspective, the rabbis’ fatwas concerning political issues don’t exert much influence. But their words, that come from their religious backgrounds, have a huge impact especially with the increasing dominance of religious parties that have developed tremendous political power that cannot be underestimated. Therefore, their fatwas influence more than religious people and are used to pressure political decisions. It’s true that conservatives, whether the followers of Zionism or from the ultra-Orthodox movement, make up 28 percent of the Israeli population, yet more than 50 percent of the inhabitants of the country introduce themselves as conservatives. These people empathize greatly with Jewish religious authorities and pay attention to what they say.

What’s interesting is that all the laws and systems in Israel have never tried, not even once, to address those rabbis or question them about their racial discrimination. Not only that, but these rabbis, who are involved in this discrimination, are given great prominence in Israeli politics. Decision makers in Israel compete with each other to earn the endorsement of rabbis, and to be close to them.

When one examines these fatwas and their influence in instigating and serving the Zionist schemes and its evil goals, one can’t help but feel sad and bitter when compared with the fatwas that are preoccupying Muslim scholars. The latter provoke gossip among people and divert their attention from what’s vital and fateful, making them regress instead of moving forward.

I pray to God to enlighten our scholars and guide them.

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