FROM MY DESK.

 

It is interesting how being a humble artist and expressing my views about what is happening in the world can lead one into other areas.  I seem to have become an independent advocate for refugees. There needs to be more of us because the refugee crisis has to be resolved soon and humanely. At the moment the situations under which refugees are existing is deplorable.

We should all be concerned by what is taking place across the planet.  There is the major war between Ukraine and Russia, but there are also many smaller forgotten wars that are having a dreadful impact on peoples’ lives. Added to this, we have governments that are leaning heavily towards right wing extremism, another form of  racism and oppression.

When one examines the finer details of the European chaos, it is clear that NATO has been moving closer to Russian borders in a threatening manner. This does not justify war, but war could have been averted had Ukraine made the decision not to join NATO and instead to remain neutral. Now innocent people are paying the price.

I was shocked when I heard that Ukrainians were able to jump the refugee queue  and Afghans were to be left behind.  Yet again, the powerful nations have abrogated their responsibilities.  This is blatant white supremacist policy, but no one is willing to call it out.   Of course we should help Ukrainians, but while the country’s citizens are being transported out of danger, more weapons are moving in and more destruction is occurring.  These wars are not about lands or people anymore they are about making billions of dollars for arms manufacturers.  The result is clear in the images that cross our screens daily.

 

Images from the refugee camps!

Bangladesh. Police attempt to stop people leaving the camp to shop for food  at the market… Picture Anon.

Afghans still experiencing pain and oppression.

 

 

East-West Crisis.

Here is my take on the current stand-off between Russia and the west. First, there is no justification for war! There is also no justification for provocation, that is building a force that is likely to threaten another nation into starting a war. When you have a force like NATO moving towards a perceived enemy, then you are inviting a conflict.  There are no winners here, only hypocrisy and the failure of leaders to create peaceful societies.   After the Second World War, the world had a prime opportunity to give peace a chance. However, the western allies redefined the boundaries with a view to their own nationalist gains.  At the same time, much of the world was rejecting their imperial rulers and decolonizing.  Rather than seeing the pitfalls of nationalism, many countries became independent and formed nation states. The result was a vast capitalist expansion and immigrants heading to the lands of their powerful rulers and taking up residence.  The acceleration of capitalism led to the need for cheap labour and new forms of colonization (neo-colonization), but instead of helping to develop poorer countries the west’s neo-colonialism used foreign capital for the exploitation of countries, especially in the less developed parts of the world, this increased the gap between the rich and the poorer countries and it served to heighten competition between the major powers.  It became known as the struggle between capitalism and communism and it developed into the Cold War.    The Cold War took place in the 1960s but it had its beginnings much earlier. Leaders of the big powers, especially the United States, the Soviet Union and Great Britain met several times during the last years of the Second World War to try to put together a picture of the post-war world.   The last meeting between the Allied powers during the war was held in Yalta, Russia in February 1945 between the US, the UK and Russia. There was a prime opportunity at this time to invoke a cooperative agreement towards world peace, but money, power and ambition curtailed any hope of lasting world peace. Capitalism and communism were viewed as ideological opposites and therefore always in conflict, but in fact both the capitalist and socialist ideologies stem from the same foundations, the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, which gave rise to the new mercantile class and eventually fast capitalism.  (It also gave rise to the modern social movements). The post war world became divided into two sides, the capitalist west and the communist Soviet dominated regions.  The term used to describe this divide was the “Iron Curtain”. As time moved on each side moved to secure more territory, Stalin in Eastern Europe and America’s President Truman in his commitment to fight against all anti-communist countries. What resulted was a series of confrontations. It started with the Soviet blockade in Berlin in 1949. The victory of the communists in China in 1949 gave rise to the spread of this conflict to Asia, resulting in the Korean War of the 1950s. Around the same time, in 1953, the US supported the overthrow of the Iranian regime who were said to be supporting the communists.   In early 1959, communist rebels in Cuba overthrew a US-backed government and this led to the conflicts in Central America and the Caribbean.  By the 1960s the east and west had entered a new paradigm with the threat of a global nuclear war. Also, in the 1960s conflict spread to Southeast Asia with US forces supporting southern Vietnam and communist China and the Soviets supporting northern Vietnam. In the late 1970s, the Cold War confrontations moved into southern Africa and also into the Americas. Both of these regional conflicts continued into the 1980s and some morphed into religious wars fought in the middle east.  The communist governments of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union collapsed between 1989 and 1991, however the battle was never over and the bad blood still exists, hence the current fight in the Ukraine. There is no solution in wars only pain and hardship.  The world must find new ways to avert the dynamics of war.  We must begin a new age of freedom without fighting.  That men are forced to fight for their country is abhorrent.  If leaders wish to fight among themselves then the population must be free to leave and other countries should welcome them.

 

Rest in Peace: Keith Simons.

Easing the pain of losing someone you love is never easy.  I have tried to focus my energy on creativity. It is what my dear friend Keith Simons would have wanted.  Above is the memorial painting completed in his honour and in the memory of a truly remarkable man.  I hope it will serve to remind us all of the goodness and wisdom that Keith carried throughout his earthly  journey.

Below is the Obituary, due to be published shortly in the Upper Yarra press.

Keith Simons:  1949-2022.

An Obituary

by Dr Chris James.

Keith Simons has been my closest and most treasured friend for more than thirty-four years. We were born and grew up in the same local in East London and shared may of the same experiences. There are no words to express the loss of this kind, gentle and loving man who managed to bring so much joy, peace and harmony to the lives of all those who knew him.

Keith was born in 1949 and started life in London’s squalid inner east. His grandparents were Jews originally from the Ukraine and only spoke Yiddish and Russian. Later Keith’s parents and their two children, Keith and his sister Marcia, moved to a double story, semi-detached house in the outer London suburb of Upton Manor where he lived and went to school.

Life in England was hard in the post-war years, but it was especially difficult for children with an ethnically different background.  England was a predominantly Christian country and schools in those days had compulsive religious studies.  Keith and a few others were given exemptions, but this only accentuated the difference. Non-Christian children were segregated and treated as inferior. Like many Jews in Britain, Keith grew up being bullied and beaten by local thugs and it would be those many terrifying experiences that would serve to shape his adult life of compassion and understanding for others, especially those of difference.   In his book “Quest”, Keith describes how he was made to feel like an outcast and how it impacted on his relationships.  Keith was never afraid to tell the truth and his writings have helped many who have encountered similar difficulties.

From an early age Keith had what he called mystical experiences. He wanted more from life than pure existence.  He saw the many problems in the world and wanted to fix them.  After leaving school he started an apprenticeship at a Jewelers in London’s famous Hatton Garden, but he left to travel Europe in a search for the meaning of life. He moved across Europe and finally settled in Australia.

Keith explored many esoteric religions and beliefs. He became a follower of Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo and their philosophies formed the basis for much of his early writing.  He also became adept in the art of astrology.  Keith attended ashrams and took lessons from renowned spiritual teachers then finally devoted his life to Buddhism and the works of Rudolf Steiner. Keith was also a great supporter of Aboriginal culture and he actively worked to promote the drawings of Aboriginal artist Lisa Kennedy and others through his role as Director of the Harmony Festivals.

Most people will remember Keith Simons as the friendly soul who had a bookshop in the main street of Warburton. The shop was a gathering place for lovers of all things spiritual and offered weekly mediation sessions in the rooms upstairs. Keith excelled as a meditation teacher.  He finally found purpose and meaning in scholarship, leadership and meditation.

Keith Simons wrote several books relating to his studies including the popular Biography of a Russian Yogi. Other works include, Poetica Esoterica, a work that explores consciousness and sensory experience.  Elucia, a book based on incarnations as they have occurred in ancient and modern history and Parelsitus, an experiment in interdimensional communication. Out of all his many experiences, Keith rated the Harmony Festivals as one of his greatest achievements.

Of the Harmony Festival Keith wrote:

     The 2014 Warburton Harmony Festival was a highlight event of my life…   It represented a model and archetype of universal harmony, tolerance, empathy, friendship, dialogue, honesty and love. My involvement in bringing this to fruition is something I feel proud and satisfied about. I feel grateful to all those who believed in it and contributed to its manifestation. For me it also fulfilled a prophetic dream I’d had many years before. I am aware that this model is being taken up by many others across the globe. This archetype will now live on within my soul and await it’s re-emergence in whatever new form when the time beckons. Keith S

Keith has left his mark on history and in the hearts and minds of many people who knew him and others who simply read his works.

 

About the writer.

Dr Chris James was a resident of Warburton for fifteen years.

She now resides in Gippsland where she is a writer artist and teacher.

Contact:

 Mobile: 0411 494396

Email: doctorchrisjames@gmail.com

Website: www.doctorchrisjames.com

Is there a War on Islam?

The War on Islam?

                                         Google image.

Labelled as a conspiracy theory, the War on Islam has been perpetrated by a number of political and social theorists. The term can refer to any acts that involve military, economic, social, cultural harm or any discursive means to undermine sovereignty and/or authority, like creating a negative public image, swaying public opinion with propaganda or fabricating stories about individuals and events.  In particular, the term is said to have come from Islam and pertains to accusations that the west is imposing its modern secularized ideas onto the traditional Islamic way of life. However, the War on Islam is much more than an idea or a political discourse, it has led to real wars, genocides, massacres, immense poverty and human displacements.    Juxtaposed is the western point of view, whereby The War on Islam has been converted into the western declaration of a War on Terrorism. This syllogism has been used mainly to identify key Islamic insurgents such as Sayyid Qutb, Ayatollah Khomeini, Anwar al-Awlaki and Osama bin Laden, all of whom are said to have raged a War of Terror on the capitalist west.  Sadly, there is little public knowledge on the history that cause these key figures to turn to terrorism.  By definition, terrorism is about inflicting terror, but it is also about having been terrorized. In order to understand these dynamics, we must go back to the source of terror that has been imposed on Islam in the past.

When we think about terrorism our minds hark back to the events of September 11th and the attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre.    Since 9/11, hundreds of Americans and people residing inside the United States have been charged with jihadist terrorism or related crimes, or have died before being charged, but were widely reported to have engaged in jihadist terrorism. The rise of ISIS brought a surge in terrorism across the world, although there have been cases every year since 9/11 that were not so widely acknowledged.  As the years have passed and since the peak of ISIS, the group’s influence has greatly diminished and the number of terrorism cases has actually declined.[1]  What has not declined is the targeting of innocent Muslims who have nothing to do with terrorism and just want to get on with their lives.

Today, Muslims live in many parts of the world and there is a view that they should assimilate into the western culture. Those who are charged with trying to make this happen seem not to understand that Islam is very different in its social order and requirements to that of the west.  Added to this, some aspects of the western culture have found their way into the Islamic countries and caused a split between the ideas of the establishments and the new generations, this in turn has added to the tension between east and west.

The west has rejected the idea that power should rest in the hands of religious leaders, European history has already had this experience at the time of the reformation.  Islam is also having a reformation, but it is not one major event, rather the reforming of Islam has been constant.  Within its own religious context Muslims have probably been subject to more reforms that any of nation. Reform is an integral part of Islams history. The greatest of all reformers was the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The early community attempted to improve their life-world by establishing Islam, which is in effect a reform movement in its own right. This was supported by Hadith claims that in every century, God would send a leader who would renew the religion. The concepts of reform (islah) and renewal (tajdid)[2] are taken directly from the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet and both involve a return to the fundamentals of Islam.[3]  However, the idea was not to move away from the ideas of Islam, but to appropriate modern ideas within the Islamic framework.

The problem incurred from the west lies in the inception of modernism, which has its roots in nineteenth century colonialism. This caused a dramatic decline in the Islamic economies. Muslims became totally subordinate to western domination.  Europe was deeply embedded in the new sciences, which were actually not new at all they were implicitly lifted from the historical contributions made by Muslims.  The fact is, Islamic science was robust  when Europe was still in the Dark Ages. These sciences included mathematics, geometry, algebra, medicine astronomy and religious life.  Reforms gave power to women long before the west’s suffragette movement.

It is true that many Muslims cannot support the idea of a secular society and the most radical of groups such as Hisb al-Tahrir are hoping to reinstate a Caliphate and gain global dominance. Some countries have installed Islamic States and/or theocratic republics that range from the monarchy of Saudi Arabia to the religiously dominated governments of Pakistan, Iran Afghanistan, Turky, Bangladesh, Maylasia, Indonesia and Sudan, most with autocratic regimes propped up by the military. The west has played a crucial part in the birth of these regimes through years of colonialism. Yet, today, this has seen the west entering into new crusades based on the notion of turning these states into democracies. Indeed, there is an ongoing assumption that democracies are the ideal system for any country wishing to join the New World Order,  but realistically,  most democracies are plagued with self-interests, corruption and failure to serve those who vote them in.

In studies on conflict the philosopher Charles Peirce uses semiology (the theory of signs) to understand and to clarify the problems of conflict.   Peirce draws on a theory of signs to identify the dynamics of hostile engagement. Hitherto, I shall apply Charles Peirce’s theory of signs to simplify and re-frame the Western and Middle Eastern problem.

First let us look at some of the characters already mentioned in their historical context. Sayyid Qutb was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamic organization founded in Egypt by the Islamic scholar Hassan al-Banna in 1928. Sheikh Hassan Ahmed Abdel Rahman Muhammed al-Banna was an Egyptian schoolteacher and imam, and one of the most influential Islamic revivalists.[4]  He published his treatise “On Jihad” in the late 1930s and it “became a required part of the Muslim Brothers’ curriculum.” [5] The main translation can be found in Wendell’s 1977 collection, Five Tracts of Hasan Al-Banna (1906-1949).[6] Al-Banna’s writings marked a dramatic shift in Islamic intellectual thought by presenting a modern Islamic ideology.  He designated the Qur’an to be the only acceptable guide to life and he promulgated the total Islamization of the state, the economy, and society. He declared that establishing a just society required development of institutions and progressive taxation, and elaborated an Islamic fiscal theory where zakat (taxes) would be reserved for social expenditure in order to reduce inequality.  Al-Banna strongly criticized Western materialism, consumption and rigorous competitiveness.   He condemned British imperialism, and the traditionalism of the Egyptian ulema (a body of Muslim scholars who are said to have specialist knowledge of Islamic sacred law and theology). Al-Banna’s ideas appealed to Egyptian and pan-Arab patriotism, but he rejected Arab nationalism and regarded all Muslims as members of a single community.[7]

Al-Banna’s work and that of his contemporary Sayyid Qutb need to be viewed in the context of an Arab Middle Eastern struggle for independence. The rule of Ottoman Albanian commander Muhammad Ali established a dynasty in 1805 that went on to reign until 1953. It was informally part of the Ottoman Empire.  In 1859-69 the Suez Canal was built, but it and other infrastructure projects ruined the economy of Egypt and lead to a gradual occupation by the British. In 1882 the British troops defeated the Egyptian army and took complete control of country. Egypt then became a British protectorate in 1914 at the start of the First World War. During the war Britain mustered its forces to guard the Suez Canal against invasion. The Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) was a British Empire military formation, formed to accomplish that role, It was established on 10 March 1916 under the command of General Archibald Murray from the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force and the Force in Egypt (1914–15), at the beginning of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign.[8] Fierce battles ensued before the defeat of the German and Turkish forces further crippling the Egyptian economy and the peoples’ spirit. After the 1914 Egyptian independence was restored, but the British influence remained strong until the 1950s. Importantly, at this time there were many changes occurring in Britain and the United States and Qutb believed the western influence was having an impact on the Egyptian monarchy. Sayyid Qutb visited America to see what was happening and what he witnessed disturbed him.  What he saw was America’s materialist and violent society, obsessed with sexual pleasures. Qutb spent two years pursing studies in educational administration.   Over two years, he worked and studied at Wilson Teachers’ College in Washington, D.C.   He visited the major cities of the United States and spent time in Europe.

America had a profound influence on Qutb’s thoughts and  he wrote about it.  Qutb noted with disapproval the openly displayed sexuality of American women:  He showed how the American girl is well acquainted with her body’s seductive capacity. “She knows it lies in the face, and in expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs – and she shows all this and does not hide it”. [9] He also commented on the American taste in arts and disapproved of them.

Before visiting America Qutb had enjoyed the western classics, but the realities of a changing western world were too much for him. On his return to Egypt, Qutb published “The America that I Have Seen”, where he became explicitly critical of things he had observed, materialism, individual freedoms, the economic system, racism, divorce, sports such as boxing and the interaction between men and women. He also objected to the strong support the United States gave to the new State of Israel. [10]

On the 29th August 1966, Sayyid Qutb, was executed for his role in an alleged plot to overthrow the government of President Nasser, but he has remained a hero to those Muslims America refers to as Jihadists and he is said to be the father of Islamic fundamentalism. He is believed to have been the inspiration behind the fight in Syria and the massacres in European cities. His book, known in English either as Milestones or Signposts, is described as being to militant Islam what Das Kapital was to communism or Mein Kampf was to Nazism. It has certainly influenced generations of Islamic fundamentalists, including Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.[11] However, author James Nolan, who writes about Qutb in his book What They Saw in America, says the Egyptian struck him as an unlikely candidate to be an Islamic terrorist. He was educated, a consumer of classical music, an intellectual.[12]  In Nolan’s book the story of Qubt is one of an existential crisis. while trying to determine whether he was going to be a true Muslim or if he was going to give way to what he called jahiliyyah—a departure from true Islam,’ Nolan explains. “This was tested one night in his cabin on a ship when a woman came to his door  semi-naked.  She asks if she can spend the night with him.

“True to his resolutions, he says no and he shuts the door. Then he hears her collapse outside the door in a drunken state”. Qutb sees this as an example of him keeping to his determination to stay true and not get into western sexual mores. This was believed to have radicalized Qutb.  Nolan goes on to suggest there were already seeds of discontent due to the Egyptian complacency with British colonization.

 When Qutb went back to Egypt, he joined the Muslim Brotherhood and helped in the overthrow of the monarchy. Later, under the government of the secular nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser, he was thrown in jail for his extremist activities.

At 3:00am on 29 August 1966, Sayyid Qutb was hanged in Egypt for his part in a conspiracy to assassinate Nasser, though Nolan says the trial was really based on his book.

Al Qaeda and Islamic activists have been very much influenced by Qutb’s writings and his life.   Nolan states, .’I think we need to understand him. You don’t have to agree with him to understand him.’[13]

 

In this last and final part of this study, Al-Banna wraps up his essay by addressing contemporary arguments against the obligation for violent jihad.  In a passage that could have been written by any online jihadi today, Al-Banna dismisses the “greater” vs” lesser” jihad argument.  In a fascinating reversal of tactics, it’s Brotherhood members themselves who use the “greater vs lesser” argument to deflect criticism from non-Muslims. [14]

Al-Banna’s teachings spread far beyond Egypt, influencing today various Islamist movements from charitable organizations to political parties. The English-language political neologism of “War on Islam” was coined in Islamist discourse in the 1990s and popularized as a conspiracy theory only after 2001.[12] Jonathan Schanzer has argued that the historical Muslim indifference to the West turned to “alarmed dislike” with the beginning of Western military superiority in the 17th century. This is  when Europe was coming into its own intellectually and scientifically.  There was fierce competition between beliefs with Islam being perceived as threatening to both the monarchy and the Christian hierarchy. However, with the end of the era of Western colonialism, rage against non-Muslims and the governments of Muslim-majority countries stemmed, not from alleged non-Muslim aggression and enmity, but allegedly from frustration over the unrelenting encroachment from Western culture.   This encroachment has never ceased.  [13]

[1] https://www.newamerica.org/international-security/reports/terrorism-in-america/terrorism-cases-2001-today

[2] Ibid p 90

[3] Qur’an 7. 170;  11. 117; 28.19.

[4] Making Sense of Jihad. https://web.archive.org/web/20090902105703/http://www.makingsenseofjihad.com/albannas_on_jihad/

[5] Iibid.

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8]

[9]“‘Qutb: Between Terror And Tragedy’ by Hisham Sabrin”. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 17 June 2006. quoting Hourani, A. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age: 1798–1939. Cambridge University Press, 1962. and Mitchell, Richard S. The Society of The Muslim Brotherhood. Oxford University Press, 1969.

[10]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sayyid_Qutb#Two_years_in_the_United_States

[11] https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/how-living-in-america-changed-islamic-fundamentalist-sayyid-qutb/7800676

[12] Ibid

[13] James Nolan What They Saw in America,  Williams College, Massachusetts. Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Online publication date: April 2016; Print publication year: 2016​ …

 

 

The Story of the Veil.

The shocking take-over of Afghanistan by the Taliban reverberated around the world. The main question was what would this mean for women? Afghan women have a prior history of being invisible.  Just as they were beginning to acquire some rights and freedoms, they are again plunged into the abyss. I watched them on the evening news, night after night, saddened by the outcome. Hiding behind the compulsory chador or niqab the women are hardly figures of exuberance, more like ghosts from a terrible past. It got me to thinking, how long will it take before these women are allowed to become visible again.

It was not so long ago that western women were invisible, it happened differently. Our bodies were exposed, but our personalities were crushed under the weight of patriarchy.  It reminded me of a 1960s song that conveyed a similar message in relation to suburban life. In the song our homes were described as little boxes. As women were locked into those suburban boxes.  The notion resonates with bodies being locked into the yards of black or blue cloth, the chador, niqab or burqa.  Women like dolls are wrapped up and packaged.    How do they work, half-blinded by the blackness?

We, the western women have shared much in common with our Muslim sisters, but they may not know it.  We were not invisible in body, but we were demolished in spirit and soul.   We were the domestics, cleaning, cooking and looking after children without pay or reward.  This is not the same as house-keeping or mothering, real  caring and nurturing are innate.  What I am speaking of is domestic slavery and exploitation, we were like robot dolls.. This view of women was recounted in another 1960s song by the popular Cliff Richard, the words described the situation perfectly, “Got myself a cryin’, talkin’, sleepin’, walkin’, livin’ doll”, the second verse speaks directly to the nature of imprisonment. “I’m gonna lock her up in a trunk so no big hunk can steal her away from me”. No loving or honouring was included in these lyrics,  just rank possession of the sublime object.

The story of invisibility is not unique to the Muslim women who must hide behind the veil. All women were veiled.  However, today’s Muslim women remind us of where we have come from.   My generation of women experienced a form on invisibility that obscured the person, but made the body available.  It was called the swinging sixties, the time of the sexual revolution and the discovery of the contraceptive pill. As women, we were made more available than ever before in history.  Men took full advantage of the new science and sexually used and abused us against our will.   All repressions on sexuality appeared to be lifted and people called it liberation… Liberation for whom?  Any woman who did not comply with the new demands was labelled frigid or a misfit. We were covered in a veil, but the veil was like an icy mist that would come and go over the landscape.

In the west attractive women were not physically invisible, to the contrary any attractive young woman would be encouraged to use her attractiveness to get ahead in the world.  At the time I was a junior in the film industry, how to get a quick promotion was easy, but not all of us wished to comply. With this in mind, many were locked out of their employment and left to fend for themselves.   Smart women did well, they found their voice.  A lot of women   complied, but for many it backfired, because as soon as they reached any kind of maturity, say age 20, they were no longer needed, there was a new cohort of pretty young girls to replace them on the casting couch.

Jump ten years and Muslims were immigrating into Europe and bringing their values with them. Some young western girls found honourable young men and turned their faith to Islam.   Muslim women appeared to have more protection and Muslim men had more respect, but we never got to know the full story.   By the 1970s feminism was rife in the western world, but Islamic women did not participate and we did not invite them. They seemed too entrenched in patriarchy.

Feminism did not reach the Middle East until much later, it had a difficult birth and a tedious evolution. The oppression and possession of Muslim women was different and it was not truly made visible until after the 1979 Iranian Revolution.  Prior to the Revolution Iranian women had enjoyed a lot of western style freedoms, but beneath the surface there was an insidious regime exploiting the workers and stealing the spoils.  The old Shar was very accommodating to western influences. In the 1930s, the Shar had banned the veil and ordered police to remove women’s headscarves.  Iran was central to the west’s attack on Islam, but we failed to see what was happening. The west appeared to be offering freedom, but what it was really pushing was colonization.

After the revolution, Iran’s new leader the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini decreed that all women had to wear the veil and the Islamic dress code was not just back in fashion it became mandatory.   All women regardless of religion or nationality were required to wear the hijab. Notably, the revolution came about, not through culture or religion, but due to oil,  Iran had barrels of it and America wanted it.  However, America’s presence in Iran would come to an end.  The Americans and the British had a long history of attempting to take possession of Iranian oil, but finally they capitulated. The Iranians hated America and subsequently they were sympathetic to the most extreme interpretations of Islamic Law.

In 1979 protesters outside the US embassy voiced their anger towards the US.  Revolutionary students took dozens of US embassy staff hostage while thousands of anti-US demonstrators surrounded government buildings and filled the streets with chants and protests. After the revolution women were largely confined to the home and wearing the burqa outside of the home became compulsory. A quarter of a century later women had become used to the code of dress and they were demanding the authorities maintain their compulsory laws regarding the wearing of the hijab.  Following the western occupation, the burqa and hijab made them feel protected.

It is commonly accepted that in order to change the society, you must first embed the changes into the culture and it takes roughly twenty-five years for any change to occur. Looking back, we cannot separate the events of the Iranian revolution from those of the US and British occupation.   It was the circumstances of oppression from the west that led to the establishment of an Islamic state that would be equally, if not more oppressive.

There are no strict rules regarding the full veil in the Qur’an and many Muslim women reserve the right to choose which parts of the body they wish to cover and how they will be covered. The liberal view is that women should be free to choose the cover that suits them.

Prior to the Taliban’s invasion in 2021 women were exercising many freedoms, in dress, education and the ability to hold important positions as well as being able to voice their opinions. Yet sadly, within days of the Taliban take-over women were back to wearing the burqa, chador or niqab.  This dramatic change sets an unfortunate precedent for the reigniting  of  womens’ oppression, not just in Afghanistan, but anywhere in the region.   Muslims are far more united under the umbrella of Islam than they are under the state and dress is a key religious signifier in the unity of the  Ummah, especially in times of insecurity.

During the festival of the hajj, the most important festival in the Islamic year, the men wear two pieces of white cloth and the women wear the burqa, chador or niqab and they are usually dressed in black. It conjures up medieval visions of the dark and the light, metaphors once used for the good and the bad in Christendom.  The woman was always perceived as the temptress and was often dressed in black, while the man was in the colour of angels.

Personally, I do not like the full veil, but I respect those who choose to wear it. I cannot truly imagine what it is like to see the world through a piece of muslin cloth.  To me the full veil is the outward expression of male domination and it dehumanizes the female, but many Muslim do not agree with me and they have a right to their own opinion.

We should not shy away from beauty and there are many beautiful head coverings.  Today,  veils still play a significant role in many religions, including Orthodox Judaism and Catholicism as well as in Islam with all three religions having had their roots in climates where head coverings are conducive to the environment.   We must take into account the context. Islam began as a small religious community in Medina in the Arabian Peninsula.  It was established by the prophet Muhammad (c. 570–632 CE) and it gradually spread across the Middle East to Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa, then to Central Asia, and parts of Europe.   In these times women did not wear the burqa, the covering was a veil or scarf as was the tradition long before the inception of Islam. It is only recently that some Islamic states, such as Iran, Afghanistan and more, have begun to require all women to wear the full veil.   There are issues of freedom here and there are significant health issues as well. The body needs some exposure to light and the sun,  without it vitamin deficiency will occur and the body will not be allowed to breathe.

As a general rule Islam does not require women to wear the full covering, but many choose to.  We need to understand this and we need to ensure that the woman knows that if she chooses not to wear the full covering, she is not failing in her religion or in respect. Islam allows for the freedom to choose.

In the end, it is modesty that holds the key to the female’s  choices and some will wear clothing that completely covers the body from neck to toe, but which is not traditionally Muslim.  In addition, many western women will dress in a manner where there is nothing to distinguish the western women from the Muslim woman. Long gowns go in and out of fashion as do head scarves.  Today, on the western streets many young girls will wear modern dress, often jeans or pants and simply cover their head with a scarf. Many of the clothes are tight fitting and would be frowned upon by the older generation.  Also, today, many western people are converting to Islam and this is bound to have a significant impact on Islamic law, jurisprudence and the way Muslims dress.

Across the world men have been telling women how to dress since antiquity. The struggle over what women wear has been well established in history. During colonization many authorities attempted to stop Muslim women from wearing traditional dress.  In Islam there is no one size fits all. In some parts of Islam, if men wear silk and gold, it is considered to be haram as these two things are meant only for women. In other parts men will wear brighter colours or just pastels.  In many respects women are idolized by Muslim men and this can be manifest in the promulgation of extreme controls. Guidelines differ, many Muslim men are happy to allow women to travel alone, use jewellery, perfumes and makeup, while others are not.

For women it is not easy being a Muslim. At the intersections of all traditional practices, we find misogyny, oppression and brutality.  In addition, Islamophobia makes being a Muslim woman very difficult in western society. There is a lot of ignorance and even more arrogance  that impacts on the Muslim community.   Women need to feel confident and they need to feel safe and they should be permitted to dress accordingly.

 

First hand account of an attack on Palestinian village.

Free Palestine.

Dr Chris James.

The following disturbing post appeared on my Face Book feed recently. It describes a random attack on a small Palestinian village named Mufaqara, a village in the South Hebron Hills.

A day later a picture of a 3 year old child was posted on my feed in relation to the attack.  The child was stretched out on a hospital bed fighting for his life after a Jewish settler had hit him in the head with a stone.  It is beyond belief that anyone would want to harm a small child in this way, but the frenzy of violence has no compassion for victims despite their age.   This story brings home the ongoing devastation suffered by the Palestinian people and I am sure it will touch the hearts of all who are humane in their beliefs and caring in heart and soul. As for me I just cried while reading it. In silence, we are all responsible for these actions and we must collectively speak out against this inhumanity regardless of race, religion or creed.

The attack happened on the Jewish Holy Day of Simchat Torah. This is how the Jewish settlers celebrated their Holy Day. The description comes from an Israeli who was there, his name is Yuval Abraham and it was translated by Riva Hocherman and posted by my Facebook friend Sol Salbe. This is what Yuval Abraham said:

“There’s an insane rampage happening now at Mufaqara, a Palestinian village in the south Hebron Hills. About sixty masked men with clubs, sticks, guns, rocks. There’s never been anything like this here. It’s like a small army. Dozens of settlers. I’m writing this quickly, because they’re still here, in the trees. This is one of the most frightening things I’ve ever seen.

First a group of twenty masked men showed up and attacked a shepherd. Three of his sheep, they slit their throats right in front of him. He ran away with his two children, six and seven years old. The rest of his flock was slaughtered. Basil Adraa saw it and I’m here with him now. He took some pictures. There are also videos, which we’ll upload when we can.

Then a few dozen more masked men joined in, all with clubs, the villagers said. They overran the village and began to hurl rocks at the houses. They hacked at the water pipes with machetes and knives, one house after another. The terrified families fled their homes, went to the wadi. A horrific sight, hard to describe: there’s no car left that they haven’t smashed to pieces.

Then the settlers went inside the houses, into the living rooms, the kitchens. They started wrecking them with clubs and hammers. Quite a few of the villagers were injured. One was hit in the head, another in the stomach. A three-year-old boy, Muhammad, was hit in the head with a rock and was rushed to hospital, where he is now. He has a cracked skull, internal bleeding, and will probably have surgery tomorrow. There’s a smear of blood on the floor in his house. He was at home when the men attacked. His grandfather is here with us now, consumed by fear and also injured.

Soldiers were standing behind the attackers the whole time and did nothing to stop them. They fired huge amounts of gas as well as stun grenades at the Palestinians. In situations like this, the soldiers almost always back up the settlers. It’s simple: if Palestinians defend themselves and stand up to their attackers, throw stones at the men invading their village, the soldiers shoot at them. This is how one guy from Kosra, Muhammad Hassan, was murdered a few months ago, in a similar attack by settlers in the Nablus area, who broke into his home with hammers.

I can hardly hear now because of the booming. The gas destroys your throat and the soldiers shooting are terrifying. Meanwhile the settlers’ rocks are flying over your head. And this is all really happening, right in the village, right by Palestinian homes. I didn’t know what to do except shout, don’t shoot! don’t shoot!

Quite a few people are injured, some are still getting treated. There were so many masked men that they could lift up cars and roll them down the wadi–really. One settler fired at a Palestinian who was in his home and threw stones. Didn’t hit him. The bullets are still on the floor. Sorry, this is disjointed.

The media is blind to what is going’s on here in the West Bank. In the south Hebron hills alone, seven new outposts have gone up in the past year, so-called “sheep farms”. There’s a network of insanely violent outposts all over the West Bank—about forty of them built in the last five years.

The state gives the farms thousands of dunams of land expropriated from Palestinians, and the Israeli settlers use deliberate, blatant violence to terrorize them. There’s a network of several hundred settlers who operate the farms, many of them moving from farm to farm. They break hands and stab animals, all so that the Palestinians will leave. I’ve seen dozens of incidents like this just this year. They’re very organized, with WhatsApp groups. Every day they graze their sheep somewhere else to take over the maximum amount of land. Before the holiday, they called their people to come to the farms to volunteer. I think it’s related, but don’t know for sure. On a holiday, with people all together, the timing is no accident.

This isn’t a bunch of extremists. No. It’s the state, it’s official policy, for which Benny Gantz is responsible. Just like the masked men, the government is pushing for expulsion from whole areas. The village of Mufaqara is unrecognized, one of dozens, and the army comes back here again and again to demolish the houses. Even though it’s been here for generations, the residents are not allowed to build so that they’ll leave.

And so today, on Simchat Torah, eighty men got together, came out from their farms and outposts, and simply destroyed a village so that the people would leave, or just from pure racism, or I don’t know what. It will happen again and again if they don’t stop it. And our country is cynical, yawning in the face of violence, they don’t see the connections, they’re blind to the fact that our army really does rule over another people, that the Palestinians have no rights, that we have created a system of masters and slaves. Wake up—come see for yourselves. Learn what’s happening in this country, especially my generation—see what military occupation looks like, what supremacy look like. I’m tired of the complacency, the racism, the fact that no one cares.”

No words can be added to describe this dreadful incident, one of many.  It is beholden on every Jew across the world to condemn this behaviour.  It is beholden on every other  international citizen to condemn Israel and to invoke embargoes on this rampant discrimination and cruelty.  This is not the Jewish way. This was not the purpose in the minds of many ordinary Jews who just wanted to assist their fellow citizens in settlement. In history Jews and Muslims have lived together in harmony with few disruptions.

The Palestinian people are experiencing a slow post World War genocide that has been carefully calculated along with a New World Order and it includes Muslims against Muslims. This has been instigated and facilitated by western governments for their own interests.

There is no half way in this struggle. The Palestinian people have a right to live in peace on what is their land.  The world collectively must do more to stop this war-mongering slaughter. It is not just a threat to Palestinians, it is a threat to global peace and security.

 

 

 

Go Vegans.

 

 

 

            Golden Calf. Art by Yishkah

Two things have prompted me to reassert my animals rights campaign, the first is the calving season in Victoria.  I am forced to listen to the painful cries of mother cows as their babies are snatched from them for a miserable life of milking.  The second is the Islamic festival of Eid, which sees animals slaughtered as sacrifice. The word Eid means breaking the fast and there are two main fasts a year in Islam.  Animal sacrifice is the most barbaric of practices, it makes me sick to just think about it.  Nowhere in the Qur’an does it say animals should be sacrificed in this barbaric way.  It has become a matter of tradition and it should be outlawed.  In many European countries now the practice is coming up against cruelty to animals laws. This needs to happen everywhere… And soon.

There is a growing vegan movement for Muslims happening across the world and hopefully this will bring about changes.

The Truth About Zionism.

                                        Palestinian flag.  Google.

                                        Israeli Flag. Google.

A few years ago, I held an exhibition of my paintings at a Jewish Arts Centre in Melbourne. The exhibition was based on an important historical and theological concept in Judaism named Tikkun Olam (Heal the World). During the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza, I was reminded of the two fundamental teachings in Judaism that most Jews today still adhere to without question. On the one hand, Tikkun Olam, or the obligation to heal the world and on the other the State of Israel, or the designated Jewish homeland. These two critical imperatives dominate Jewish life, but they are also buried in a complex mythology which raises obvious contradictions. How does one heal the world while at the same time a war is being raged against people who disagree with the Jewish interpretation of history?

More than 2000 years lapsed between the Jewish Diaspora and the re-birthing of Israel. There were very few Jews left in the homeland after the mass exodus, but they suddenly arrived in droves in 1948 and in a slow trickle before then. This has led to numerous questions about the role of the Jewish State in modern global politics and whether there has been a deliberate attempt to eliminate the Palestinian population or to assimilate them into one bilateral territory. Israel would not have survived without the backing of the United States, whose leaders saw a strategic advantage in having an ally sitting between east and west. At the end of the Second World War, the establishment of Israel was viewed as a solution for Jews who were homeless following the horrors of the Holocaust, it was also of strategic importance.  Israel has moved ahead exponentially since then and has claimed significantly more territory, while Palestinians have been constantly driven into poverty, oppression and persecution. It begs the question: Was partition a genuine attempt to house desperate and suffering Jews? Or was there another agenda before that?

Undoubtedly, Jewish history is modelled on trauma, but instead of looking retrospectively to deal with the internal pain, many have turned it outwards and created a nationalist and eschatological explanation for decades of conflict and Human Rights abuses. Throughout history Jews have suffered for their beliefs, but they have also brought immeasurable suffering upon themselves. In 1948 the nation that once was Palestine was partitioned, which resulted in the creation of the Jewish State of Israel, but sadly, Israel is not a land of emancipation, but one of exclusivity, insecurity and wars. Israel is a small fortress surrounded by hostile enemies. Is this the Jewish dream or the reality of a horrible nightmare?

The Conflicts.

Two main conflicts took place in 1947 and 1948, the Civil War in Mandatory Palestine and the Arab–Israeli conflict in 1948, but the story that gave rise to these conflicts is much older.

Well before partition a nationalist state for the Jews was already in the planning. The Mandate on Palestine and the conflicts between Palestinian Arabs and Jewish Zionists are well documented, but the events that took place before partition and leading up to the conflict are less known. There was seemingly a plot to eliminate Palestine well before partition. The plot was hatched with the establishment of modern Zionism in Eastern Europe.

Modern Zionism emerged in the context of modern Antisemitism in the late 19th century. It started in Central and Eastern Europe as a nationalist revival movement and as a reaction to the rise in Antisemitism. It was also a response to the Haskalah, or the Jewish Enlightenment. The Jewish Enlightenment was not a lot different to similar movements around the western world. Modern industrialisation had driven many rural people off the land and into cities and factories. Feudalism was being dismantled and a capitalist system was replacing it. Workers received a wage, but it was a poor reward for mass slavery. Importantly, at an intellectual level, the old superstitions and beliefs were being replaced with scientific explanations.

The Haskalah means wisdom and the new knowledge and wisdom among Jews was to be expressed in a burgeoning intellectual movement among the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe who called themselves Zionists.

Zionism differed from other forms of Enlightenment in that it held on to the old traditions, but it also followed the Enlightenment methodology that led to a vast wave of imperialism, territorial expansion and colonialism. During the 1770s to about 1881 Zionism was an ideological worldview that had its roots in Jewish nationalism. This followed the rise of nationalism in England, France, parts of Eastern Europe and the United States. With many nations in the grip of a new nationalism the Zionist movement felt to challenge the Ottoman Empire and lay claim to Palestine as the national home of the Jewish people. The target was the whole of Palestine and the displacement of the Arabic population.

The Promised Land.

According to the Bible and Judaism, Eretz Israel was promised to the Jews by God. Based on this promise, in 1854, an American businessman named Judah Touro bequeathed money to fund Jewish residential settlements in Palestine. The executor of the Will was Sir Moses Montefiore (1784 -1885). Montefiore was a British financier, banker, philanthropist and a Sheriff of London. Montefiore was from a rich Italian-Jewish family and he used his wealth to promote economic development among Jewish communities in the Levant, but he is best known for his contribution to education and the Montefiore schools. He founded the Mishkenot Sha’ananim in 1860, a Jewish residential settlement and almshouse outside of the old walled city of Jerusalem; the first settlement outside Jerusalem’s walled city. As President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Montefiore carried a lot of influence with the British consul in Damascus. The consul Charles Henry Churchill (1841–42) is viewed as pivotal to the development of the new Zionism. 1 Many of the Montefiore funds were used for transporting Jews to Palestine.

In 1812, Moses Montefiore married Judith Cohen (1784–1862). Judith’s sister married Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777–1836) and Montefiore’s firm acted as stockbrokers for the Rothschild’s family business. The two brothers-in-law became business partners. They invested in major projects like gas and insurance. In 1824 Montefiore was among the founding consortium of the Alliance Life Assurance Company (which later merged with Sun Insurance to form Sun Alliance 2

Pogroms.

Between 1881-1884 a mass persecution of Jews took place in the Russian Empire (the pogroms). In 1882, a group of Hovevei Zion members founded Rishon LeZion, the first Zionist settlement in the Land of Israel. It was led by philanthropist Isaac Leib Goldberg. The Zionists got around the political obstacles by registering as a charity. In 1890 The Society for the Support of Jewish Farmers and Artisans in Syria and Eretz Israel came into existence. It was later known as the Odessa Committee. The Odessa Committee was dedicated to the practical aspects in establishing agricultural settlements. One of the major donors was the tea merchant, Kalonimus Wolf Wissotzky (1884-18850, who founded the largest tea company in Russia, Wissotzky Tea. Wissotzky financed agricultural colonies in Palestine. 3

Theodor Herzl

Zionism as an organised movement is generally considered to have been founded by Theodor Herzl in 1897. However, as we have noted, the history of Zionism began earlier and is related to the pogroms. The Hovevei Zion, or the Lovers of Zion, were responsible for the creation of 20 new Jewish cities in Palestine between 1870 and 1897. 4 In 1850, Palestine had about 350,000 inhabitants. Roughly 85% were Muslims, 11% were Christians and 4% were Jews. 5 Upon the outbreak of World War I, political Zionism reasserted itself, and its leadership passed to Russian Jews living in England. Two such Zionists, Chaim Weizmann and Nahum Sokolow, were instrumental in obtaining the Balfour Declaration from Great Britain’s Jews. The failure of the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the wave of pogroms and repressions that followed caused growing numbers of Russian Jewish youth to emigrate to Palestine as pioneer settlers. By 1914 there were about 90,000 Jews in Palestine; 13,000 settlers lived in 43 Jewish agricultural settlements, many of them supported by the French Jewish philanthropist Baron Edmond de Rothschild. The Hovevei Zion, are now considered the forerunners of modern Zionism.

Since the creation of Israel, the country has grown stronger and the importance of the Zionist movement as an organisation has split into factions.

It was the Zionists who had laid the foundations for Arab suppression. It was a deliberate attempt to eliminate the Palestinians and steal back the land. In Jewish circles, Zionism is not talked about in these terms. There are Jews who oppose Zionism, but there are also those who make no division between being a Jew and being a Zionist.

The success of Zionism has meant that the percentage of the world’s Jewish population who live in Israel has steadily grown over the years and today 40% of the world’s Jews live in Israel. The second largest population of Jews reside in the US.

A political opportunity was given to Zionism when Theodor Herzl asserted assimilation as the most desirable remedy for the Jews, but he knew it would never work. He argued that Jews were forced by the external pressure of Antisemitism to form a nation. In a sense this was true, after World War ll, no one wanted a host of displaced Jews. Added to this, there was an immense nationalist push across the western world as the boundaries shifted.  A Jewish State was therefore convenient, it would have its uses.

In 1897 Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress at Basel, Switzerland, which drew up the Basel program of the movement, stating that “Zionism strives to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law.”

The centre of the movement was established in Vienna, where Herzl published the official weekly Die Welt (“The World”). Zionist congresses met yearly until 1901 and then every two years. When the Ottoman government refused Herzl’s request for Palestinian autonomy, he found support in Great Britain. In 1903 the British government offered 6,000 square miles (15,500 square km) of uninhabited Uganda for settlement, but the Zionists wanted Palestine.6

At the death of Herzl in 1904, the leadership moved from Vienna to Cologne and then to Berlin. Prior to World War I, Zionism represented only a very small number of Jews, mostly from Russia, but led by Austrians and Germans. By 1933 Jewish immigration remained relatively slow, until the rise of Hitler in Europe. The Arabs anticipated trouble and feared that Palestine would eventually become a Jewish state so they resisted Zionism and the British government that was known to have Zionists as members. British forces struggled to maintain order in the face of a series of Arab uprisings. The strain of suppressing the Arab revolt of 1936–39, ultimately forced Britain to reassess its hold on Palestine. In hopes of keeping the peace between Jews and Palestinian Arabs and retaining Arab support against Germany and Italy in World War II, Britain placed restrictions on Jewish immigration in 1939. The new restrictions were violently opposed by Zionist groups such as the Stern Gang and Irgun Zvai Leumi, which committed acts of terrorism and assassination against the British. They also organised illegal Jewish immigration to Palestine.7

Following the mass extermination of Jews by Hitler many surviving Jews sought refuge in Palestine and the United States. Zionism achieved its aim of establishing a Jewish State in Palestine, but at the same time, it became an armed stronghold surrounded by hostility and it has impacted on the security of much of the western and middle eastern world.

Israel is still iconic in Jewish history, philosophy and the lived experience. Zionist organisations in many countries continue to raise financial support for Israel and to encourage Jews to immigrate there. Jews have been raised to see Israel as central to their existence. Many Jews have been led to believe they are living their lives in exile and they need to relocate to the homeland.   The psychological damage of not belonging is immense and Israel has exacerbated this by not accepting many of its own people. Qualifying as a Jew is predicated on the burden of proof and it can never be neutral.

The Six Day War.

On 14 May 1948, in accordance with the UN resolution, partition enabled Israel to become a nation state for the Jewish people. Zionism had, in part, fulfilled its objectives. As a result, many Zionist institutions became government institutions and the three Zionist militias were combined to form the Israeli Defence Forces.

The 1967 the Six Day War between Israel and the Arab states marked a major turning point in the history of both Israel and of Zionism. Israeli forces captured the eastern half of Jerusalem, including the holiest of Jewish religious sites, the Western Wall of the ancient Temple. They also took over the remaining territories of pre-1948 Palestine, the West Bank (from Jordan) the Gaza Strip (from Egypt) as well as the Golan Heights (from Syria). As Israel grew stronger Arab nationalism was also growing with demands that Palestine become an Arab state and hostility continues to escalate as the wounds of 1948 are still remembered and relived.

Ethnic Cleansing.

In a book called The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine authored by the Historian Ilan Pappé and published in 2006, the writer claims that in the 1948 Palestinian war around 720,000 Palestinian Arabs out of the 900,000 who lived in the territories that became Israel, fled or were expelled from their homes. In his own words, Ilan Pappé makes the case for the paradigm of ethnic cleansing and use[s] it to replace the paradigm of the war in 1948. 8 Pappé argues that the forced removal of Palestinians to the Arab world was a long-time objective of the Zionist movement. We now know this to be fact.

According to Pappé, the 1948 Palestinian exodus resulted from a planned ethnic cleansing of Palestine that was implemented by the Zionist movement leaders, mainly David Ben-Gurion and the other ten members of his consultant committee. It was called Plan Dalat and it was aimed at the expulsion of 500 Arab villages.

Dalet is the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the word Dalet means door, the door stands as the opening of the house the beit. Among Orthodox Jews who read the Zohar Dalet is the awareness of one’s own power and the power to achieve success, but that power also depends on Divine aid. The Jewish Talmud describes a story where one man is carrying a heavy object and another man comes to help him by placing his hands under the object, but in reality, the help is just an appearance, the first man is still carrying the weight.9 The weight of war and oppression has been carried by the Zionists and this is still the case today. It is true to say that the Palestinians launch rockets across the border and that they are a cause of great annoyance, but these are not high-powered weapons we are talking about, they a backyard experiments which are no match for Israel’s defence system. Palestine has no army, it has no tanks or sophisticated weapons, no fighter jets or battleships. The border skirmishes consist of children, teenagers and a few adults throwing rocks at Israeli personnel. In retaliation Israeli soldiers shoot to maim or kill.

In 2021 where are we now? Israel pounded Gaza with bombs and heavy artillery for 11 days where at least 243 people, including more than 100 women and children, were killed. According to its health ministry, Israel has said it killed 225 militants.

Israel has always claimed its 1967 land conquests were not planned. According to Haaretz, Declassified Documents Reveal Otherwise.10

3Pioneers of Zionism: Hess, Pinsker, Rülf, Julius H. Schoeps

4 Penslar, Derek Jonathan (1991). Zionism and Technocracy: The Engineering of Jewish Settlement in Palestine, 1870-1918. Indiana University Press. pp. 20–. ISBN 0-253-34290-2. Hovevei Zion, the name attached to an informal network of Jewish nationalist societies that sprang up in the wake of the 1881 pogroms and which was officially constituted in 1884

5 Scholch, Alexander (November 1985). “The Demographic Development of Palestine, 1850-1882”. International Journal of Middle East Studies. Cambridge University Press. 17 (4): 485–505. doi:10.1017/S0020743800029445. JSTOR 163415.

6https://www.britannica.com/topic/Zionism

7Ibid

  • 8 Ilan Pappé (2006). Preface xxvii The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Oneworld Oxford.

9Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh. 1990 Dalet in the Hebrew Letters: Channels of Creative Consciousness. Jerusalem Gal Einai Publictions p66

10Haaretz 4th June 2021. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israel-said-67-land-conquests-weren-t-planned-declassified-documents-say-otherwise-1.9873297?fbclid=IwAR1LvPodYwJwIXo2aMQrpiPhna8b_zKn2eI1zFqaT5FEPDSMY80k-pT9Gx4 Retrieved 4th June 2021.

 

 

Free Palestine.

 

 

                                             Gaza 2021.    ABC News.

The following article was written in response to Israel’s 2021 attack on Gaza.

Free Palestine

 

I was born in January 1948. It was a remarkable year. Israel was born on May the 14th 1948 and as I grew in awareness it featured strongly in my mind.  I could imagine many Jewish families sitting around the radio listening to the inauguration speech by David Ben-Gurion, leader of Mapai and head of the Jewish Agency. My family would still be in mourning, my grandfather, an engineer and inventor, served in the Middle East during the First World War and on his return he committed suicide. My grandmother never spoke of his experiences, but she spent her days grieving for him. My grandfather had been a proud and devout Jew serving his country. He  might have died on the battlefield or in a camp,  but he died by his own hand. Wars have terrible consequences.

Since its birth every Jew is beholden to support the State of Israel, a land mass that was previously known as Palestine. The area is a small region that has been significant in ancient and modern history because it sits at the crossroads between the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The name Palestine derives from the Greek word, Philistia, which dates back to Ancient Greece and it was used to describe the area by writers’ in the 12th century BCE.

Palestine typically refers to the geographic region located between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan. Arab people who call this territory home have only been known as Palestinians since the early 20th century and much of the land is now considered to be the State of Israel.

How the Jews got to settle in Palestine.

 The Hebrew Bible tells us that God commanded Moses to liberate the Jews from slavery in Egypt and they would receive a reward, the Promised Land. Thus, the area has always been considered by Jews as rightfully belonging to the Jews. That Jews originated in the Land of Israel is recorded in the Egyptian Merneptah Stele, circa 1200 BCE. , when most of the region had been conquered. During Biblical times, two kingdoms occupied the zone, the Kingdom of Israel (Samaria) in the north, and the Kingdom of Judah in the south. The Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Neo-Assyrian Empire (circa 722 BCE), and the Kingdom of Judah by the Neo-Babylonian Empire (586 BCE). Jews were then exiled to Babylon. Upon the defeat of the Neo-Babylonian Empire by the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great (538 BCE), many of the Jewish elite returned to Jerusalem and they built the Second Temple.

In 332 BCE the kingdom of Macedonia under Alexander the Great conquered the Achaemenid Empire, which included Judea. This event started a long religious struggle that split the Jewish population into traditional factions and the Hellenic adherents.

In 165 BCE, after the religion-driven Maccabean Revolt, the independent Hasmonean Kingdom was established. In 64 BCE, the Roman Republic conquered Judea and made it a Roman province. Although coming under the influence of various conquerors the area of ancient Israel was predominantly Jewish until the Jewish–Roman wars of 66–136 CE. During the wars, the Roman Empire expelled most of the Jews from the area and formed the Roman province of Syria Palaestina. This was the beginning of the Jewish diaspora. The movement of Jews went in two directions north to Spain,  Southern France and beyond and South West to Eastern Europe. By the time of the Muslim conquest of the Levant the Jewish population made up only 10 to 15% of Palestine’s total population.

Since the Diaspora the Jews have achieved their wish for a a return to the region and a modern Jewish State, but its acquisition and establishment a point of contention that causes pain and suffering for Jews and Arabs everywhere as well as contributing to global insecurity.  How did this happen?

 Modern History.

The story begins at the end of the Second World War. The Ottoman Empire had dominated the region for over 600 years. At its peak in the 1500s, the Ottoman Empire was one of the biggest and most powerful empires controlling an expanse that included, not just its base in Asia Minor, but also much of Southeastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The Ottomans governed an area that stretched from the Danube to the Nile Rivers. It flourished because it had a strong army and a wide variety of solid and impressive economic interests, but it was not to last!

The Ottomans made a strategical error in siding with the Germans in World War I. After suffering defeat, the empire collapsed and it was dismantled by treaty in 1922, when the last Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed VI, was deposed and left the capital of Constantinople (now Istanbul). What remains of the Ottoman empire today is known as Turkey, a nation that still harks back to a proud history.

The battle against the Ottomans was fought largely by the British and French, who in turn recruited help from the Arabs by promising them a parcel of land if they helped to defeat the Ottomans. The Arabs agreed to the deal and in return they were offered the Arab peninsula. However, the British and French reneged on the deal. When the Lands were divided up the Arabs were left out of the bounty. Instead, the British took Palestine Jordan and Southern Iraq and the French got Northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

More than a year after agreement with Russia, the British and French representatives, Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges Picot, authored a secret agreement regarding the future spoils of the Great War. Picot and Sykes represented a small group determined to secure European control and avoid the spread of Arab nationalism and namely, Islam. Hitherto, the Arabs fell under European colonial rule.

While the British were occupying Palestine another movement was operating in the wings. The Zionists were focused on a return to Zion and they based their movement on Biblical teachings. The Torah describes the story of the plagues and the Exodus from Egypt, which is estimated at about 1400 BCE. This is the journey of the Jewish people toward the Promised Land, the Land of Israel. These events are celebrated annually during Passover. The Passover meal traditionally ends with the words “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Demands for the homeland had been growing rapidly prior to and during the war years, After the fighting the Zionists increased their campaign for a mass migration to Palestine.

Soon after, Britain declared its intention to establish a home for the Jewish people. The Balfour Declaration, which resulted in a significant upheaval in the lives of Palestinians, was issued on November 2, 1917. The pledge is generally viewed as one of the main catalysts of the Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 – and the conflict that followed with the establishment of the State of Israel.

The statement came in the form of a letter from Britain’s then-foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour and it was sent to a major figure in the Jewish community, Lionel Walter Rothschild. Between 1922 -1935 the Jewish population jumped from 10 percent to 27 percent. According to records 376,415 Jews arrived in Palestine between 1920 and 1946 giving rise to the British recommendation of a Partition. The British also advised the forced removal of the Arab population whereby thousands of Palestinians lost their lives in subsequent protests. By 1947 the region was in chaos and Britain handed the problem to the United Nations. The events caused 11.9 million Palestinians to be forced out of their homes, 530 villages and cities were destroyed and  years of occupation in Palestine began. These details do not go uncontested.

US Intervention.

Although the United States supported the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which favored the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had assured the Arabs in 1945 that the United States would not intervene without consulting both the Jews and the Arabs in that region. The British, who held a colonial mandate for Palestine until May 1948, are believed to have opposed both the creation of a Jewish State and an Arab State in Palestine as well as unlimited immigration of Jewish refugees to the region. The British were known to have turned back the ships of Holocaust survivors. Great Britain wanted to preserve good relations with the Arabs to protect its vital political and economic interests in Palestine.

According to US historical records, when President Truman took office, he appointed several experts to study the situation in Palestine. In 1946, Truman established a special cabinet committee whereby members entered into negotiations with a parallel British committee to discuss the future of Palestine. In May 1946, Truman announced his approval of a recommendation to admit 100,000 displaced persons into Palestine and in October publicly declared his support for the creation of a Jewish State. Throughout 1947, the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine examined the Palestinian question and recommended the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and Arab State. On November 29, 1947 the United Nations adopted Resolution 181 (also known as the Partition Resolution) that would divide Great Britain’s former Palestinian mandate into Jewish and Arab States in May 1948 when the British mandate was scheduled to end. Under the resolution, the area of religious significance surrounding Jerusalem would remain separated and held under international control administered by the United Nations.

The question of who was to blame for the partition of Palestine still rages today. In a meeting with Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann in 1922, Arthur Balfour and then-Prime Minister David Lloyd George reportedly said the Balfour Declaration “always meant an eventual Jewish State”. The Jewish State was destined to take the region in another direction that would serve western interests and curtail any further spread of Islam.

These events have been hotly debated. Some academics have argued that many in the British government at the time were Zionists themselves, others say the declaration was issued out of an Antisemitic reasoning, that giving Palestine to the Jews would be a solution to the “Jewish problem”. Nonetheless, control over Palestine was a strategic imperial tactic to keep Egypt and the Suez Canal within Britain’s sphere of domination and to enable free trade.

While Britain is generally held responsible for the Balfour Declaration, it is important to note that the statement would not have been made without prior approval from the other allied powers during World War I, in particular the United States of America, whose interests in the region should not go unnoticed. Israel was allowed to establish agencies with the aid of foreign assistance, most of which came from the US., while the Palestinians were forbidden to do so, which paved the way for extreme Arab hardships and deprivations as well as constant attempts at revolt.

The Threat of Islam.

The Ottoman Empire had been defeated, but the question remained, was Islam still a threat to western culture and economic imperatives? In his pronouncements, Osama bin Laden made frequent references to history. One of the most dramatic was his mention, in the October 7th videotape, of the “humiliation and disgrace” that Islam has suffered for “more than eighty years.” The Turks eventually succeeded in freeing their homeland without contest from the west because they did so, not in the name of Islam, but as a secular nationalist movement. In 1922 one of their first acts was to abolish the sultanate. During the Ottoman era the sovereign was not just a sultan, the ruler of a specific state; he was also widely recognized as the caliph, the head of all Sunni Islam, and the last in a line of such rulers that dated back to the death of the Prophet Muhammad, (PBUH) in 632 A.D. The demise of the sultan would have been a direct affront to many Islamic believers and a serious tampering with Muslim belief and identity. Like most others, the Muslim people are shaped by their history, but Muslims to do not see life in the same way as westerners, there is only religion, which has often been described by the west as medieval. 

The Arabs have produced a vast canon of literature in relation to their struggles against Christianity from the first conflicts of the eighth century to the collapse of the Ottomans. The struggle was not just about religion it was about survival. The Arabs almost always referred to their western enemies as Infidels (kafir), but they never referred to their own sides by nation, but as Muslims, one people. Islam has a lot to teach the west about unity.

Europeans have been given a very misguided view of Islam. While Europe was still in the Dark Ages, it was Islam that was the advanced society. Each of the historical advances in scientific disciplines that Europe has lain claim to are detailed in the Qur’an. Islam does not advocate war, but it does reserve the right to defend itself.   The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) fought these same battles, hence the inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock. built in Jerusalem between 691 and 692 A.D., they include a number of directly anti-Christian polemics: “Praise be to God, who begets no son, and has no partner,” and “He is God, one, eternal. He does not beget, nor is he begotten, and he has no peer.” the western interpretations of these commentaries have led to gross misunderstandings.

Historically, under Muslim rule, Jews and Christians were allowed to practice their religions and run their own affairs (with some limitations). Today, we would call such people second-class citizens, but second-class citizenship, was far better than the total lack of citizenship which has been the fate of many Palestinians.

The Aliyah.

Israel is designed to be the resting place of all the world’s Jews and it is a powerful regime to aspire to. All Jews are encouraged to make aliyah, this means they are encouraged to leave the country wherever they are living and return to the Promised Land. This, to most Orthodox Jews is the fulfillment of God’s Promise and a return to their perceived origins. The Law of Return is open to all Jews as long as they can prove they are of Jewish heritage. However, it was not until March 2021 that Reform Jews could be eligible for Israeli citizenship. The High Court of Justice ruled that people who convert to Judaism in Israel through the Reform and Conservative movements must be recognized as Jews for the purpose of the Law of Return, and are thus entitled to Israeli citizenship. The decision overturned the longstanding orthodox monopoly on conversions. This was not just a gesture of kindness, but one of strategic importance. Israel has a low birthrate and the number of migrants into Israel have reduced significantly over the past few years. The total number of immigrants into Israel in 2020 was 19,713 in the previous year it was 34,000, in 1995 it 76,361 and in 1993 it was 76,805. Clearly, immigration to Israel is not proving as attractive as it was and immigration is crucial to Israel’s future development.

The exodus of Soviet Jews to Israel in the 1990s bolstered the Israeli economy and it was a timely event. There was a wave of highly skilled labour and technological know-how.  Migrants integrated well into the domestic labour market. This wave of immigration changed the economic landscape significantly raising productivity and underpinning the advance of the information age. Indeed, Israel’s robust assimilation of immigrants into the economic sphere and the electoral system transformed the political balance and created numerous social changes along with increased incomes.

Immigration has far-reaching economic and social effects.   Migrants become part of the society and they contribute greatly to the developing cultures, often mixing their own cultures with the new. However, not all Jews are the same. Not all assimilate well. Further, the issue of migration raises an even more complex question, who is a Jew?

Definition of a Jew.

The common belief is that a Jew is defined by combining religion and ethnicity, whereby the individual or group see themselves as having a Jewish identity. In the most detailed sense, this pertains to genealogical dimensions. Orthodox Jews follow Jewish Law (Halakah), which regards the person as Jewish if the mother is Jewish, the grandmother or great grandmother is Jewish. The alternative is to undergo conversion. Reform Jews follow both the matriarchal and patriarchal lines.  For most Jews their identity is formed around their heritage and the recent court decision has seen this heritage extended. It coincides with a lowering of migration into Israel and the high incidence of Israelis’ living abroad.

In a book titled The Invention of the Jewish People, the author Shlomo Sand examines the notion of Jewish nationalism and heritage He accuses Israelis’ of having a significant lapse in memory, when it comes to Jewish identity.  He goes on to describe Israel’s nationalism and what he describes as the “Khazar past”. Sand tells his readers that there was immense anxiety about the legitimacy of Zionism due to an intense fear that it might become known that the mass of settlers into Israel where not direct descendants of the Children of Israel. He suggested, there would be tensions because such a challenge invokes the State of Israel’s right to exist.

In 1954 a comprehensive study of the Jewish Khazars was undertaken by the scholar Douglas Dunlop. He showed through their language that the Khazars were influenced by Islamic, Byzantine, Caucasian, Hebrew and Old Russian Sources and they were not uniquely guided by the Hebrews. Crucially, among the Khazars there was no imperative for racial purity. In other words, there was no authentic Jewish lineage. In 1976 Arthur Koestler published a book called the The Thirteenth Tribe, in which he advanced the thesis that Ashkenazim Jews are not descended from the historical Israelites of antiquity, but from the Khazars, a Turkic people. Koestler hypothesized that the Khazars (who may have converted to Judaism in the 8th century) migrated westwards into Eastern Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries when the Khazar Empire was collapsing. Koestler used the works by Douglas Morton Dunlop as his main sources. Koestler’s aim was to eradicate Antisemitism by disproving its racial basis.  

It was never Koestler’s intention to deny the existence of Israel, rather to have it founded on a sounder basis of International Law. Koestler was a pioneer member of the Zionist Movement in his youth, but he grew disenchanted at the nationalist imperatives. He opposed all forms of racism and Antisemitism and fought against them in his literary canon.  He wrote:

The large majority of surviving Jews is of Eastern European origin and perhaps mainly of Khazar -origin. If so, this would mean that their ancestors came not from Jordan, but from the Volga, not from Canaan, but from the Caucasus, once believed to be the cradle of the Aryan race; and that genetically they are more related to the Hun, Uigur and Magyar tribes than to the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Should this turn out to be the case then the Anti-semitism would become void of meaning, based on misapprehensions shared by both the killers and their victims. The story of Khazar Empire, as it slowly emerges from the past, begins to look like a cruel hoax which history has ever perpetrated.

Whatever the origins of the Jewish population the State of Israel was founded on the basis of a genocide and by the 1970s Israel was caught up in the further expansion of its territories.   The nation was thus, founded on Biblical literature and dismissing the Biblical past was perceived as harming Israel’s future.

It was not the first time the use of heritage was called into question, The German scholar Jacob Fullmerayer had suggested that the Greeks were not decedents of Ancient Hellenes. Many writers have since attempted to follow the lives of Jewish decedents from Eastern Europe, particularly of those who spoke the Yiddish language which was dominant among Easter European Jews.

DNA Testing.

A cursory reading of history sees Jews spread around vast areas of the world before the common era. This cross fertilization makes it almost impossible to tell who is an authentic Jew. DNA tests have been used in Israel to verify a person’s Jewishness, but this brings an even bigger controversy since it harks back to an era of eugenics and racial preferences. It raises many questions. What does it mean to be genetically Jewish? And, can you prove religious identity scientifically? The ambiguities are endless and often heartbreaking.

The Law of Return.

The Law of Return was passed in Israel on 5 July 1950, which gives Jews the right to move and to live in Israel as permanent residents or with citizenship. Section 1 of the Law of Return declares: “every Jew has the right to come to this country as an oleh [immigrant].” The law is not unique to Israel. The right of return is a principle in International Law which guarantees everyone’s right of voluntary return to, or re-entry to, their country of origin. The right of return is part of the broader human rights concept of freedom of movement and it is detailed in “The Human Rights Committee General Comment on Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (November 1999)” which is overseen by Human Rights Watch. Included in these protocols is the right to abode. Importantly, these rights are not new, they were formulated in several modern treaties and conventions, most notably in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1948 Fourth Geneva Convention and are considered to be International Law.  In essence, Palestinians should also have a right of return.

In the Law of Return, the State of Israel gave credence to the Zionist movement’s demands, which called for the establishment of Israel as a Jewish State. Clearly, this was a State to be based not just of religion or culture, but also on racial purity.   Jews would argue that conversion makes for exceptions to the rule. However, the processes towards conversion is not easy, it probably takes a lifetime to learn how to become a good Jew.

In 1970, the right of entry into Judaism and settlement in Israel was extended to people with one Jewish grandparent and /or a person who is married to a Jew, whether or not he or she is considered Jewish. On the day of arrival in Israel or at a later date, a person who enters Israel under the Law of Return as an oleh would receive a certificate stating that s/he is indeed an oleh. The oleh has three months to decide whether s/he wishes to become a citizen and can renounce citizenship during this time. The right to an oleh certificate may be denied if the person is engaged in activity directed against the Jewish people, which can also be read as being against the government’s policies. It also means that the governing body will be wholly and solely made up of people with Jewish interests. There is no room for dissidents or anyone who does not represent the dominant group.

Arab Israeli Status.

How to refer to the Arab citizen of Israel is a highly politicized issue, and there are a number of self-identification labels used by members of government and the community. According to a United Nations 2009 report and the Human Rights Watch report Second class: Discrimination against Palestinian Arab children in Israel’s Schools. 2001. Human Rights Watch, supporters of Israel tend to use Israeli Arab or Arab Israeli to refer to this population without mentioning Palestine, while critics of Israel (or supporters of Palestinians) tend to use Palestinian or Palestinian Arab without referencing Israel.

According to The New York Times, 2012 most Arabs preferred to identify themselves as Palestinian citizens of Israel rather than as Israeli Arabs.   The New York Times uses both ‘Palestinian Israelis’ and ‘Israeli Arabs’ to refer to the same population. Every Israeli resident has an identity card, which identifies Palestinians as Arab Israelis. This is the same system that was used in South Africa during apartheid, which saw citizens and others denoted by race and/or colour.   The discrimination is blatant. Added to this, Arab Israelis rate among the poorest residents in Israel. According to the Jerusalem Post 2021, about 2 million people in Israel live below the poverty line. This is 23% of Israeli citizens and 31.7% of Israeli children. In the Arab sector, 702,832 are poor, with 346,397 of this population being children. In the Jewish population, the proportion of the poor is 17.7%.  In the Arab population, 35.8% who live in poverty.

The report’s findings show that the standard of living of families in Israel, as measured by the median economic income, fell by a considerable 22.7% in 2020, with the main victims being of the middle class. In addition, there was a significant increase in poverty and inequality from 22.4% in 2019 to 23% in 2020. This clearly reflects the political turmoil in Israel, which manifests in the hesitancy of migrants to relocate to their homeland.

Israel is imploding from within. Four elections in two years is taking its toll. Israel’s society is hurting. The country is divided and Arab Israeli’s are finding their voice. This raises some significant issues in relation to change and the direction it might take.

Conclusion.

I began this work with the memory of my grandfather who died before I was born. From what I remember of my childhood, Jews had no quarrel with Islam, Muslims and Jews were cousins; family. I am pretty sure my grandfather would have been impressed with Islam, for its morals, its discipline, its advocacy for peace and its ban on usury. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and perhaps the western ideologues feel threatened by it. At the same time western values have fallen into disarray. The western adage of “cause no harm” has become meaningless.

The development of western thought has conceived a dislike for all forms of religion and Islam has become significantly visible in recent years. This makes for obvious tensions. America like other European countries pour millions of dollars into war games, which adds to the insecurities and leads to real wars. Market forces have much to gain from the post war military economies. Justification is all too easy  when people do not understand the details of what is happening. Islam is a religion of peace and should be defended.

Free Palestine.

Sources.

History.com  Palestine.

Wikipedia. Ottoman Empire.

Aljazerra.com  Palestine

US Office of the Historian. Creation of Israel.

Jewish Virtual Library. Migration.

The  Times of Israel.

Voxeu. Org. Migration.

Shlomo Sand. The Invention of the Jewish People.

Arthur  Koestler. The Thirteenth Tribe.