I read the article “What I Saw In Jerusalem,” about an Al-Jazeera reporter’s visit to Jerusalem, with a heavy heart. I would love to be able to say that it contains exaggerations or that it is ideologically targeted against the Israeli state. Like others of my generation, I applauded the vigor and social ideals embodied in the creation of the state of Israel even if it was at the cost of Palestinians’ homes and land. It was easy then to acquiesce and embrace the Arab fallacy (democracy and Islam are opposites). This is the story of Israel’s non-religious friends, friends who have been betrayed by Israeli politicians and extremists, by those who believe that any criticism of the Israeli state is a flagrant example of anti-Semitism. It is not, and the betrayal of Israel’s supporters like myself and others is only made more compelling by heckles and jeers of anti-Semitism.
I have travelled to Israel often as a Canadian diplomat and met with think tanks, NGOs, academics and other officials on a variety of political issues. The treatment reserved for the Muslim author of the referenced article is no different from my own treatment even when sporting a diplomatic passport. I wish with all my heart that I could say that it was different. However, how would that change the impression left on our Muslim journalist? It would only paper over the severity of the situation and highlight my own ethical relativism.
There are many good people who live in Israel. There are not enough of them or, at the very least, their voice is muted since one hears little regarding the outrageous behaviour of their state authorities towards their Arab citizens and neighbors. Now, with the King of Fools running American foreign policy, the Middle East is ablaze again. Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem might have induced some into believing that Donald Trump had a genuine understanding of what the Israeli state means or what it is to be a Jew in today’s world. On both accounts, the response is lamentable and it underscores the fickle nature of any US sign of approval. When will the Americans ever learn? Meanwhile, Arabs are treated in Israel like the Black Americans in Trump’s USA – with disrespect and barely concealed contempt.
Everyone knows that Iran is on the wrong side of the international ethical equation. Creating an apartheid state and using Israel’s nuclear capability to justify religious perennity and political stasis is hardly going to attract support for punishing the other religious state for its atrocities in Syria. Ripping up the Iranian nuclear agreement will only double Iranian efforts to develop a nuclear capacity. Even a child could have understood that!
I am sick of religion. In my country, it has polluted secular democracy and enforced an Anglo-Saxon inspired absolutism dedicated to the unilateral promotion of individual rights. Marx may have been right to conclude that religion is the opium of the people. In today’s world, it has become an addictive political elixir designed to deconstruct international law and justice. Instead of producing love and harmony, religion based on faith in an imaginary being has justified untold violence against innocent citizenry. Religion, like political ideology, is based on resentment and the excessive desire to change the world into a product of our own will.
As for Israel, it is time for those of the non-dogmatic nature to close ranks and insist on intelligent discourse from those who mistreat their Palestinian population. Dismantle the apartheid components of the state and start working on developing and fairly informing public opinion. Your founding fathers would have been sickened by what you have become. You were once great and powerful and harbingers of world peace and justice. You are not solely responsible for what the Israeli state has become but you have a responsibility to fix what is clearly wrong and morally reprehensible. Do not train your canons on us, your erstwhile friends and supporters around the world.
Know this, we will not be deterred by Donald Trump, America-firsters or by lies, slogans and badgering. Our belief in human dignity justifies no less. Cheap and uninformed jeers of anti-Semitism by you or by your proxies in our countries will only underline the urgency of change for the better.
There is a better way for intelligent and respectful dialogue to take place.
*Dr. Bruce Mabley is a former Canadian diplomat having served in the Middle East, and is the director of the Mackenzie-Papineau think tank in Montreal.