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Democracy versus theocracy: Israel and Her Neighbors

by Marshall Onellion, posted March 26, 2015



"Islam is everything or it is nothing" Ayatollah Khomeini, 1943


2015 Israel election: united Arab parties third largest in Knesset. Note the contrast. Israel is surrounded by enemies. Three of those enemies tried to abort Israel in 1948; later, Israel has fought several wars of survival. Some of those 1948 enemies are among the united Arab parties who, in a free election, became the third largest party in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.



In universities- commonly called the “academy” by university types- the contrast is equally marked. Let me tell you a story. I am  a gentile, a Zionist and a Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. During a sabbatical to Hebrew University, I taught a course on science and religion at Hebrew University. There were very few opinions not expressed in this class, and there was no censorship or attempts to stifle opinion.



I also visited several places in the West Bank, including Bir-Zeit and Al Quds universities. At Al Quds, I cheekily mentioned “hiring” (voting for) President Obama and that I was thinking of “firing” (voting against) him. The university official became very quiet, literally glanced around his office, and then softly murmured that in the West Bank the President fires citizens, not the other way around.



During a lunch including all Physics faculty at Al Quds university, each colleagues explained his or her interest. One studied Islamic “science”, trolling the Qur’an to divine new sciences, and specifically new physics. If I told my departmental colleagues I was conducting “Christian Science” (Bible) or “Jewish Science” (Torah) my colleagues would think I was insane. The contrast at this Al Quds University lunch could not be more marked. Not by a single word, gesture, or facial expression did any of these physicists express disdain or even disagreement with this farcical nonsense called Islamic “science.”



And why? Fundamentalist Islam. Not merely a religion, but rather a total way of life, as Khomeini famously said. Both of my experiences- and many other experiences during and after my sabbatical to Israel- lead to the same conclusion: so much for freedom, or democracy, when either conflicts with fundamentalist Islam.



Am I saying all Muslims interpret their religion this way? Definitely not. On the contrary, I tremendously admire Muslims such as Professor Abdul Hadi Palazzi, Mr. Mudar Zahran and Mr. Bassem Eid who at great personal risk speak out against this fundamentalist ideological strain of Islam which denies basic human rights.



Further, not only freedom or democracy but the rational self-interest we grow up knowing in the West and East Asia are sacrificed on the altar of fundamentalist Islam. I offer a few examples for consideration:


* Between 1948 and 1967, Syria controlled the Golan Heights. During that 19 year period, Syria military lobbed approximately 100,000 mortar and artillery rounds into the Jewish Hulda valley. So if you lived in the Hulda valley during those years, as thousands and thousands of people did, 14-15 times each day you stood a risk of being killed or maimed by artillery fire.


* In 2000, President Bill Clinton, Chairman Yasser Arafat, and Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel met at Camp David. Barak offers 86-92% of the West Bank to the Palestinians, a fund of $30 billion to compensate refugees, and some form of joint sovereignty over parts of Jerusalem. Arafat refused.


* In 2014, Hamas attacks Israel, using human shields and ostensibly innocent facilities (schools, mosques, hospitals, and others) from which to launch their attacks. The Hamas attacks continued a tradition dating to January, 2001 of attacking Israeli towns and cities. So for over 13 years Hamas has systematically, if erratically, attacked any Israeli target it could reach. During that period, Israel launched a three week ground assault in December, 2008 and a six week assault in 2014. Where I come from, in the U.S.A., we would not wait 7 years (2001-2008), nor even 6 years (2008-2014) to protect our citizens against armed attacks. Israel took precautions to minimize casualties that are unprecedented in warfare and exposed Israeli soldiers and civilians to additional risk—risk incurred while worrying about their enemies, whose Hamas charter states their intent to exterminate the Jewish state.




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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.