While Palestinian terrorism rages on, a new Arab “White Rose” – much like the World War II German student Nazi resistance of that name – has been sprouting. Not many Israelis have acknowledged its existence. But it is high time we did our bit to help this brave flower blossom.
In my eighteen years living in Israel, two encounters with Arabs left me with indelible impressions.
The first was a decade ago when my developmentally delayed daughter, a year old, was hospitalized. She had pneumonia and uncontrollable seizures and I was simply overwhelmed. Nurses would pop in to administer drugs and then vanish into thin air. The remainder of the care was up to us parents.
Souaid, a university-educated Israeli Arab whose mildly epileptic baby shared the room, took me under her wing. Behind the scenes, she urged the nurses to help me out. She was direct and commanded their respect. And they obliged her. Souaid was a kind friend to me throughout her baby’s hospitalization.
On Friday evening, she and her baby disappeared from our room after candle-lighting. I searched the ward to no avail. Several hours later, they reappeared. Souaid explained that they’d gone to an empty room in deference to the Shabbat atmosphere and the religious fathers who were visiting with their children. By the time her baby was released, Souaid had shared many long, intimate chats with me as well as with Chavi, an ultra-orthodox woman in our room. After they had bid one another farewell, Souaid took me aside and said: “I can’t believe it; Chavi told me I am a righteous gentile.” “Chavi was right,” I told her.
Six years later, two other Arabs impacted on my life. On a hot August afternoon in 2001, Izzadin Al Masri brutally murdered my fifteen year old daughter, Malki, along with fourteen other innocent Jews. Eight children and one entire family were among the dead.
Ahlam Tamimi, a Palestinian journalist, disguised herself as a secular Jewish tourist and escorted Al Masri through central Jerusalem while chatting in fluent English to dispel the suspicions of a police force on high alert.
From an Israeli prison cell where she is now serving 16 life terms, Tamimi spoke a day before last week’s Israeli elections. “I am not sorry for what I did,” she declared. “I will get out of prison and I refuse to recognize Israel’s existence,” she added. “Discussions will only take place after Israel recognizes that this is Islamic land,” she predicted.
Several years ago Tamimi spoke with Barbara Victor, author of “Shahidas: The Female Kamikazie of Palestine” In her book, Victor writes that Tamimi who “didn’t regret the deaths of all these children added ‘They should have returned to Poland, Russia or the United States, to the countries their parents came from.’”
In ending Malki’s beautiful life, Al Masri and Tamimi condemned me to never-ending pain and longing. So I think I would be forgiven for keeping my distance from Arabs as long as I live.
But the fact is I would never consider doing that. Today I hear many compelling Arab voices rising above the fundamentalist Islamic din. More and more courageous Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, are outspoken defenders of the United States, Israel and the Jews. After a steady diet of Muslim bloodshed, their messages have been pure ambrosia.
The latest one of these “Souaids” – righteous gentiles all – to step into the spotlight is psychiatrist, Dr. Wafa Sultan. Her February debut on Al Jazeera has attracted over one million listeners on the internet. Sultan doesn’t mince words. Pitted for the Al Jazeera interview against an Algerian cleric and an Egyptian professor of religious studies, she opened on the offensive: “The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. .. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness… between barbarity and rationality, between freedom and oppression… Civilizations do not clash, but compete.”
Dr. Sultan was born and raised in a traditional Muslim home in Syria. From grade-school on she was indoctrinated, by her own account, to hate Jews and Israel. After witnessing the brutal murder of her respected medical school professor by two Muslim Brotherhood terrorists, she abandoned her religious beliefs. Soon afterwards, she immigrated to the United States with her husband and children. There, studying in a California hospital, she met Jews for the first time. Before long she embarked on her fight against the anti-Semitism endemic in Muslim society.
Sultan incensed her Al Jazeera opponents with a striking observation: “The Jews have come from the tragedy and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror; with their work, not with their crying and yelling.”
Dr. Sultan joins the ranks of other Arab heroines like Noni Darwish, a Palestinian who moved to the United States after completing her university studies.
Ms Darwish relates memories of her pre-school education: “A Jewish person was portrayed like less than human, a dog, an evil alien from outer space…cursed by G-d and the main mission of Islam was to get rid of Jews.”
Her father, a prominent military officer mobilized Palestinian forces into Israeli territory and was killed by the Israelis in retaliation. Nevertheless Darwish says, “I blame the Middle Eastern Islamic culture and the propaganda of hatred taught to children from birth.” for his death.
Brigitte Gabriel, a Christian Lebanese, was ten years old when her home was bombed by Muslims. By the age of twenty, she says, most of her friends had died at the hands of Islamic terrorists. Her first personal encounter with Jews and their compassion was when she rushed her seriously injured mother over the border into Israel for life-saving medical treatment.
She says she was “amazed when I saw Americans waking up on September 12, 2001, and asking themselves “Why do they hate us?”…they hate us because we are defined in their eyes by one simple word: “infidels” Under the banner of Islam…they murdered Jewish children in Israel, massacred Christians in Lebanon, killed Copts in Egypt, Assyrians in Syria, Hindus in India, and expelled almost 900,000 Jews from Muslim lands. We Middle Eastern infidels paid the price then. Now infidels worldwide are paying the price for indifference and shortsightedness.”
Gabriel defends Israel and warns of the dangers of “Islamic totalitarianism” by lecturing on American college campuses and through her organization, American Congress for Truth.
Last month the New York Times published an op-ed by a Muslim academic at Yale University, Irshad Manji. Entitled: “How I Learned to Love the Wall”, it defends the barrier’s construction in much the same way as the Israeli government does. “Since the barrier went up”, writes Manji, “suicide attacks have plunged, which means innocent Arab lives have been spared along with Jewish ones. Does a concrete effort to save civilian lives justify the hardship posed by this structure? The humanitarian in me bristles, but ultimately answers yes.”
Ms. Manji is the best-selling author of “The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith” published in 2004. There, on her web-site and in international TV and radio interviews Manji crusades for the emergence of moderate Islam to counter terrorist Islam. She asserts that mainstream Muslims, those who do not actually engage in terrorism, are in denial about the role their religion plays in encouraging the bloodshed. She challenges those who “assure us that Islam is an innocent bystander in today’s terrorism” and points to the video legacies of the terrorists themselves – replete with Koranic quotes – as proof in point.
These Christian and Muslim Arabs are more courageous and honest than many of my compatriots. Israeli reserves of these traits are sorely depleted. Too many of us have been, to borrow an image brought by Manji describe her own people, “sticking fingers in our ears and chanting ‘Islam means peace’”.
And if one can judge from our newly elected Prime Minister, then even Israel’s leaders lack the mettle and morals of our tenacious foreign allies. Imagine how uplifted our enemies must have been by Ehud Olmert words several months ago. In an alarming speech to the Israel Policy Forum he conceded: “We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies.”
He is not far behind another veteran Israeli politician, Shulamit Aloni, who announced in a pre-election interview on national radio “My shame over being an Israeli grows constantly.” And a Haaretz columnist, Benny Tzifir, in critiquing the chase, capture and arrest of a Palestinian carrying an explosive belt wrote “We are the ones losing our humanity”.
We need to extend a supportive hand to these inspirational Arab activists who, unlike Olmert and his cohorts, are wide awake, energetic and proud of Israel. We owe it both to ourselves and to them. Every one of them lives in the shadows of phone and e-mail death threats or “fatwas” from the Muslims they challenge. A New York Times article carelessly revealed the location of Dr. Sultan’s residence. Consequently, her supporters have been canvassing private security firms to donate equipment and services for her protection. This is where we Jews could make a concrete donation. We can also support them by arranging radio and TV appearances and live speaking engagements.
Representatives of Palestinian terror organizations are routinely hosted on radio and TV. But during the visit to the region that inspired her New York Times op-ed about the security fence, Manji was not interviewed even once by Israeli journalists. Is there no spare air-time for Arabs who are not intent on murdering us?
The three leaders of the German White Rose, a brother and sister and friend, were arrested, tried and summarily beheaded by the Nazis in 1943. Their supporters were all subsequently caught and either executed or sent to concentration camps. Their movement’s year-long struggle against barbarism (1942-43) never progressed beyond the hand-printing and distribution of anti-Nazi leaflets.
We must not allow the latter-day “White Rose” to suffer the same fate.
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