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Dr. Mohammed Wattad


By Dr. Mohammed Wattad, July 6, 2010

[Editor’s note: Dr. Mohammed Wattad is an Israeli Arab lawyer who was in Winnipeg earlier this year to combat Israel Apartheid Week on  University of Manitoba campus. This article was first published in Maariv on July 1, 2010 and  is being reprinted with permission.]   

If the guilt of the seven bearded men from Nazareth is proven, the burden will be on the shoulders of the Arab sector in Israel to explain the how and why.

This is a public that demands the establishment of commissions of inquiry for every incident and every operation carried out by the State of Israel. 

Of course, defendants (and mere suspects all the more so), are to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise; in the absence of an investigation and facts, it behooves the observer to refrain from passing judgment for better or for worse.

That said, it was difficult to ignore the smiles on the faces of those seven young men, most of whom were bearded, as they entered the courtroom in Nazareth, singing songs of praise for Osama bin Laden. It is even more difficult for me to understand-and not only because I am neither a criminologist nor a sociologist-the hatred that a person can harbor in his own heart against another person because of his religion, nationality, race, skin color, gender or sexual orientation.

I find it no less difficult to understand the devastation that a small group of people can cause an entire sector.

The Middle East has been typified in the past number of years mainly in negative terms: war, destruction, bloodshed and ideological fanaticism, which are discernible in all levels of society.

More and more small groups advocate the use of violence, intimidation and terrorism.

That trend exists in Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups.
While I say that, the truth still needs to be said: one cannot ignore the magnitude of that phenomenon among the Muslim population throughout the world.

This is not my way of trying to blacken the name of an entire public. 

I too am a Muslim Arab, though I am not religious at all.

Why say this?

Because the voice of moderates in the Muslim world exists but isn’t heard,be the reasons for that as they may.

The September 11, 2001 attacks did not contribute greatly to the image of moderate groups in the Muslim world but, rather, to the catholic betrothal of Islam to the stigma of terrorism.

Muslims had the strength to do away with that terrible stigma-but they failed to do so. And if they did try-the attempt was inadequate. There is no better proof than the test of the end result.

Every time there is a terror attack, Muslim groups vie enthusiastically with one another over who can take credit for the attack-even when it becomes evident that the incident at hand was not an act of terrorism but a crime for which a third party bears responsibility.

Every time Muslims are given a stage, we hear words of hatred and murder.
The Muslims fail even at rhetoric.
Preachers in the mosques let their tongues run free on Fridays, so that the subject of their sermon is always hatred for everything that isn’t Muslim, as if it were another God who created the creatures.

The preachers either forget or ignore the fact that they are listened to by youngsters; youngsters who are naïve and whose passions are easily inflamed. That is a shame.

In the history of the State of Israel, relations between Arabs and Jews have had their share of ups and downs. An attitude of “suspect and respect” has been established between the two nationalities.

There were times in which the Jews were more deserving of “suspicion,” such as after the terror attack in the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the terror attack in Shfaram, the catastrophe in Kafr Kassem and so forth. There were other times in which the Israeli Arabs’ hands were soiled in the blood of nationally or religiously-motivated murder.

Thus far, this is a story of two nationalities that live under a single roof, and the overwhelming majority of both nationalities does not support violence.

In the past decade we have witnessed various attempts by Israeli groups of Arabs who are suspected of having tied their fate with organizations that are hostile towards the State of Israel.

The Arab Israeli public has undergone a trend of radicalization under the influence of irresponsible speeches by leaders of the Arab sector and senior religious figures in the Muslim world. That radicalization is liable to lead ultimately to a complete divorce between their national identity as Arabs and their civic identity as Israelis.

If the guilt of the seven bearded men from Nazareth is proven, the burden will be on the shoulders of the Arab sector in Israel to explain the how and why. A public that demands the establishment of various commissions of inquiry over every incident or operation carried out by the State of Israel, either justly so or not, often needs to do some soul-searching of its own.

I belong to the Arab sector in Israel, and my column here is directed at a public I care about.

I care so very much and even if they are bearded-they should not be a danger to the state.

Dr. Wattad is a graduate of Haifa University School of Law (LL.B, 2003), and holds a Masters in Law from the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (LL.M, 2004).

He served as a Legal Clerk at the Supreme Court of Israel, under the supervision of Justice Dalia Dorner (2003-2004). Another Masters in Law and a Doctorate in Law (JSD) he received from Columbia University School of Law in New York (2007).

Dr. Wattad holds a Post-Doctorate from the Max-Planck Institute in Germany, as a Minerva Fellow (2007/2008) and another Post-Doctorate from the Faculty of Law at Toronto University as a Halbert Fellow of the Munk Center (2006/2007).

Dr. Wattad graduated with honors from every school he attended. Among his legal education and fields of expertise, Dr. Wattad is an expert in International and Comparative Criminal law, Comparative Constitutional Law, International Law, the Laws of War, Torture and Terrorism. Besides his formal legal education, Dr. Wattad received informal high education in History, Philosophy and Political Science. His research in these fields includes the history of the state of Israel and comparative questions on self-image and identity in multi-cultural societies. His academic views were expressed through his numerous academic publications and other academic conferences he attended.

In addition to his academic experience, Dr. Wattad has been speaking publically, as an intellectual, already for 6 years, on issues related to contemporary conflicts in the world. In particular, he addresses contemporary dilemmas regarding the Middle East in general and Israel’s external and internal affairs in particular.

His views on these issues Dr. Wattad conveyed clearly during the last 5 years through written and electronic media, as well as through numerous public speeches and academic articles.

Among his leading writings are his very provocative article on “A Vision of Citizenship” and speech on “A Vision of Peace & Reconciliation.” In these two pieces, he tangles elegantly with the very delicate internal and external affairs of the state of Israel, as for the internal relations between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens, and as for Israel’s external relations with other surrounding Arab states.

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