King's Evangelical Divinity School

19 April 2011

A Zionist Muslim?

Well, maybe that's a tad ambitious, despite how some syndicated columns have run the story, but Ha'aretz' interview with a former journalist and leftist member of a Zionist organisation who is now a committed Muslim is certainly an interesting one, full of paradoxes and oxymorons. It certainly helps to demonstrate the complexities of life in the Holy Land, rather than the unsophisticated and deliberately polarised mischief-making we all too often hear from anti-Israel activists (whether Christian or secular) who have little understanding of life, faith and politics in the Holy Land. Whether or not you agree with his views, the interview with Kassem Zaid is well worth a read. Particularly interesting was the following comment he makes:
...there are a lot of advantages to living in Israel. On the personal level, Arab individuals can lead their lives in dignity, there is a senior citizens allowance, there is a guaranteed income allowance and no one suffers from abject hunger. My personal dignity is not trampled upon.
Yet Kassem Zaid also discusses how relations between Jews and Arabs are at an all time low, while he expresses Palestinian nationalist sentiment, together with the opinion Israel will never be complete without an active and vibrant Arab population, which he regards as an intrinsic part of the nation's fabric.

My point is simply this. Too often parts of the media and Israel's enemies seek to project a simplistic (and inaccurate) narrative which totally ignores many of the complexities on the ground. Rather, the aim is to demonise Israel and portray all Arabs within her borders as segregated, despised and humiliated. Indeed, there is rarely even any reference to the fact that there are over a million Israeli Arabs with full citizenship rights. Yet this Muslim Arab, hardly a champion of Israel, nonetheless explains an important difference between Israel's treatment of Arabs as individuals ("Arab individuals can lead their lives with dignity... my personal dignity is not trampled upon") and as a corporate entity driven by Palestinian nationalism. For a start, this helps make an important difference between understanding the current conflict as primarily racist or political in nature. It also demonstrates yet again how considerable nuance is demanded in trying to make head or tail of the current conflict. Meanwhile, it should force us to ask honestly how some activists, in their quest for a simplistic narrative, have bent the truth in other ways on the issue of relations between Israel and Palestinians. For my part, I've met a fair few Palestinians who are far more concerned about living under PA control than the current set-up. It's all a very complex situation which demands objectivity and nuance. But of course, nuance never makes for good headlines.

The Ha'aretz interview is available here.

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