Zion­ism: An ir­ra­tional and mis­un­der­stood fear

The Jerusalem Post - - COMMENT & FEATURES - • By AD­NAN OKTAR

Born of the West­phalian peace of 1648, na­tion­al­ism spread across the world in earnest with the on­set of the French Rev­o­lu­tion in 1789 – so much so that the dreams of a na­tion state shaped international pol­i­tics for 150 years. It was na­tion­al­ist en­thu­si­asm which fu­eled wars of in­de­pen­dence. Those who were re­spon­si­ble for these wars burned with the de­sire to unite those of the same cul­tural back­ground, the same lan­guage and liv­ing in the same re­gion un­der one ban­ner. How­ever among the hun­dreds of na­tion­al­ist lib­er­a­tion move­ments, one is in­vari­ably sin­gled out, ma­ligned and placed at the cen­ter of sin­is­ter con­spir­acy the­o­ries.

As­pir­ing to re­unite and eman­ci­pate the Jewish peo­ple scat­tered around the globe un­der one state, this move­ment for in­de­pen­dence, named af­ter the Mount Zion in Is­rael, came to be called Zion­ism. The Jewish peo­ple, a di­as­pora com­mu­nity, ban­ished from ev­ery­where it had sought refuge, determined to es­tab­lish its own state in its an­ces­tral lands. While ev­ery con­tem­po­rary na­tion­al­ist move­ment en­joyed friends and suf­fered en­e­mies, Zion­ism faced unique, un­bri­dled hos­til­ity from vir­tu­ally ev­ery po­lit­i­cal cur­rent (save, in large part, Protes­tant Lib­er­al­ism). Fol­low­ing suit, non-aligned na­tions ve­he­mently op­posed the reestab­lish­ment of Jewish sovereignty in any part of the his­toric Jewish home­land.

To­day, anti-Is­raelism un­der the guise of anti-Zion­ism has be­come the main ex­pres­sion of anti-Semitism, of en­mity to Jews. An en­tire na­tion is tar­geted, for ver­bal or phys­i­cal vi­o­lence, women, chil­dren, el­derly, in­no­cent and op­pressed alike – sim­ply be­cause of their Jewish na­tion­al­ity, and their de­mand to be seated at the ta­ble of na­tions with all of their peers. De­spite the pres­ence of 22 Arab coun­tries, tied to a sin­gle eth­nic ori­gin, only the de­sire of the Jewish peo­ple to es­tab­lish its own sovereign state has been sub­ject to fierce op­po­si­tion.

Nev­er­the­less, Is­rael is con­cur­rently a safe haven for mil­lions of per­se­cuted peo­ple, those who fled the Nazi geno­cide, Soviet bru­tal­ity or vi­o­lence in many other coun­tries. Nearly one mil­lion Jews, leav­ing all of their as­sets be­hind, were forced to im­mi­grate from Arab coun­tries in the af­ter­math of the 1948 war.

Yet, Jewish­ness is not un­der­stood in racial or tra­di­tional eth­nic terms in the State of Is­rael, un­like its coun­ter­parts. It is a coun­try of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, one which hosts vary­ing faiths and di­verse eth­nic back­grounds, in con­trast to its Arab neigh­bor coun­tries. One-fifth of the Is­raeli pop­u­la­tion is Arab, while the over­all, ma­jor­ity Jewish pop­u­la­tion is com­prised of over 70 cul­tures speak­ing 35 lan­guages and dialects. Ad­di­tion­ally, Ara­bic is an of­fi­cial lan­guage, along­side He­brew, in the state of the Jews. The sa­cred places of all faiths are pro­tected: There are nearly 400 mosques, all safe­guarded since the dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence of the State of Is­rael.

De­spite this fact, Zion­ism is equated in ever widen­ing cir­cles with a con­spir­acy to con­trol and ex­ploit the whole world. Anti-Semitism is the only ex­pla­na­tion for this phe­nom­e­non, a mod­ern ren­di­tion of old, ir­ra­tional Judeo­pho­bic rhetoric. Zion­ism, de­spite the well-ac­cepted con­sen­sus in the Mid­dle East, is sim­ply the as­pi­ra­tion of the Jewish na­tion, who have been op­pressed, per­se­cuted and suf­fered greatly through­out his­tory, to live freely and in safety in their an­ces­tral lands. The Jewish peo­ple have been a part of these lands for 3,500 years, and were ex­pelled from there long ago by the op­pres­sive hand of the Ro­man Em­pire. The emer­gence of the State of Is­rael is the re­al­iza­tion of this small na­tion’s dream of a home­land where they can ul­ti­mately live in safety and gov­ern them­selves.

Many if not most Mus­lims are un­aware of the true mean­ing of Zion­ism. When asked about the rea­sons they op­pose it, they de­fine Zion­ism as “an evil sys­tem which aims to de­stroy the world or­der” and falsely be­lieve that Zion­ism is the source of all evil. More­over, many Mus­lims are un­der the il­lu­sion that anti-Is­raelism is piety, and this makes them un­just when it comes to Jews. There­fore, it is cru­cial to prop­erly de­fine Zion­ism to the Mus­lim-Arab pub­lic and to put an end to so much sense­less Jewish ha­tred.

Ha­tred of the State of Is­rael and Zion­ism do not com­ply with the spirit of the Ko­ran. Mur­der­ing in­no­cent Is­raelis or pro­mot­ing ex­pul­sion of Is­raelis from their an­ces­tral home­land, as is in­creas­ingly com­mon not only in the Arab world but in Euro­pean left­ist cir­cles, is symp­to­matic of a lack of conscience. The state of Is­rael may have its faults – which state does not? For its ex­cesses and where it has com­mit­ted crimes, it should be judged based on the law. Is­lam has a prin­ci­ple of “in­di­vid­ual crim­i­nal re­spon­si­bil­ity” just as we see in international law. An en­tire state can­not be in­crim­i­nated or pun­ished with­out mak­ing any dis­crim­i­na­tion be­tween the in­no­cent and the guilty or the right and the wrong, and ir­re­spec­tive of con­text. The claim of some Mus­lims that “they fight against the Jewish peo­ple in the name of the Ko­ran” is an act of ig­no­rance and in vi­o­la­tion of the Ko­ran since God ex­plic­itly grants the Jewish peo­ple the right to live in the Holy Land: “Re­mem­ber when Moses said to his peo­ple, ‘My peo­ple! Re­mem­ber God’s bless­ing to you when He ap­pointed Prophets among you and ap­pointed kings for you, and gave you what He had not given to any­one else in all the worlds. My peo­ple! En­ter the Holy Land which God has or­dained for you. Do not turn back in your tracks and so be­come trans­formed into losers’” (Ko­ran 5:20-21).

God in­forms us in the Ko­ran – this is also promised in the To­rah (Deuteron­omy 30) – that the Jewish peo­ple shall gather and live in these lands in the End Times: “We said to the Chil­dren of Is­rael af­ter that, ‘Dwell in the land and, when the prom­ise of the here­after comes, We will gather you as a min­gled crowd’” (Ko­ran 17:104).

De­spite these un­am­bigu­ous Ko­ranic in­junc­tions, no one in the Mid­dle East seems to support or ap­prove of Zion­ism. On the con­trary, hos­til­ity to Zion­ism is now as­sumed, and to buck that trend is to risk one’s life. In truth, Mus­lims are or­dered by the Ko­ran to act fairly and con­sci­en­tiously, hence should advocate not only for the rights of the Pales­tini­ans but also the Jewish peo­ple as well.

Mus­lim in­tel­lec­tu­als, re­li­gious schol­ars and politi­cians should stand out among oth­ers not by fu­el­ing the ex­ist­ing ha­tred for the Jewish peo­ple but by em­pha­siz­ing the beauty of co­ex­is­tence in these Holy Lands. They should ex­plain that ad­vo­cat­ing for the rights of Pales­tini­ans is not tan­ta­mount to ex­hibit­ing hos­til­ity to Jews.

It is an in­con­testable right for Is­raelis to have the de­sire for self-de­ter­mi­na­tion, as the Pales­tini­ans do. When the Arab-Mus­lim world rec­og­nizes Is­rael’s right to ex­ist as an in­de­pen­dent and sovereign state, this cen­tury-long blood­shed will cease. The great­est benefit here would cer­tainly be shared by the Pales­tinian peo­ple, who suf­fer due to war and se­cu­rity pre­cau­tions.

Need­less to say, the spirit of peace and broth­er­hood is an ur­gent need for the lo­cal com­mu­nity. The spo­radic war­fare has cost a for­tune, which could have been used for the wel­fare of peo­ple in­stead. More im­por­tant, this use­less war has claimed the lives of thou­sands of young and el­derly, civil­ian and sol­diers alike. Once the Arab world de­cides to ac­knowl­edge Is­rael as a neigh­bor, it can fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing the well-be­ing of the Pales­tinian peo­ple, and of the other Arab peo­ples do­ing far less well than the Pales­tini­ans, too. The ef­fort and means spent on con­flict, de­struc­tion and hos­til­ity will be trans­ferred to the con­struc­tion and em­bel­lish­ment of the re­gion; swords made into plow­shares, ha­tred turned to science, art and tech­nol­ogy.

The bi­ased, base­less outlook re­gard­ing Zion­ism in the Is­lamic world has over time warped into a mis­placed pho­bia of Jewish peo­ple. It is now high time to put an end to this point­less, anti-Ko­ranic op­po­si­tion to Is­rael and the Jewish peo­ple. Ex­plain­ing Zion­ism in an ac­cu­rate way and end­ing this cy­cle of ha­tred is in­cum­bent on Mus­lim in­tel­lec­tu­als ev­ery­where.

The writer is a Turk­ish Mus­lim TV com­men­ta­tor who has au­thored more than 300 books in 73 lan­guages on po­lit­i­cal, faith-re­lated and sci­en­tific top­ics.

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