Saturday, December 07, 2002

To follow up on my previous post: both David Warren and Aziz Poonawalla have only reinforced my view that religion is not necessarily at the center of this conflict.
Although religion – Islam in this case – does play an important role, especially in the Arab world, it is, after all, created by human beings (or at least that is what non-believers like me think). The Quran, the Old and the New Testaments are books, written and read by humans. And these humans are the ones ultimately responsible. Of course, it is no longer up to us what to write in these books, but it is certainly up to us what to read into them. To be sure, all of these books have enough contradictions in them to allow different interpretations.

BTW, I keep mentioning Arab world and Arab culture, because they are the ones I am more familiar with, compared to the rest of Muslims. But the main reason is that I think Arabs are at the forefront of the war that is being waged against us, while others follow for different reasons.
Once again I find myself responding to something Steve has posted. When I was in high school, I really liked when math was my first class on the schedule: it had the ability to organize my thoughts, and it carried over to the rest of the day. (I still tell my son to always start his homework with math). Steve’s posts have that kind of effect on me, which is not surprising: after all, he is an Engineer(TM?). (It’s funny: some times I tell my husband about something Steve has posted, and he would say: “Steve?” “Oh, you know, the Engineer.”)

This time it’s his reaction to an article by David Warren, which I have not read yet, but which allegedly posits that Muslims everywhere are experiencing a crisis in their faith. Warren is a Christian, thus his conclusion from this is pessimistic. Steve is an Atheist, and thus his conclusion is quite the opposite.

The problem I have with this whole discussion, is that it is based on the common assumption that the current confrontation between the West and the Muslim world has most of its roots in religion, i.e. Islam. Although many people, including Steve, are well aware of the socioeconomic aspect of the conflict (“they hate us because we are more successful”), still, I think that too much emphasis is being put on religion, and too little on something called “culture”. Although culture and religion in the Arab world are so closely knit together, that it is impossible to discuss them separately, they still are two different things.

There are certain phenomena in Arab culture that can be historically traced to the pre-Islamic period. One of them is the “blood feud”, which is really the most idiotic interpretation of the “eye for an eye” principle.
Anyone familiar with the Arab world witnessed this: families, clans and entire tribes are killing each other off one by one. Sometimes it can go on for years, with no one left who even remembers what started it in the first place.

Steve thinks that if the West defeats the Islamists, or Islam, physically and culturally conclusively enough, the West will also win conclusively. I am not so sure. For one thing, they were defeated physically long ago several times, and they are being defeated culturally every day, when they compare our living conditions to theirs. Why would next time be different? Moreover, I suspect that one of the many underlying reasons for their hatred of the West is that they have a score to settle with us. It is demonstrated very clearly in the Israeli-Arab part of the larger conflict: they were defeated, and defeated, and defeated, and they still keep trying.

Although I am not an atheist like Steve (more of an agnostic), my approach to this is just as utilitarian as his. But I am afraid I do not share his optimism on the subject.

Update: Read the article, and also Aziz Poonawalla response to Steve's post.

Friday, December 06, 2002

I just cannot put my thoughts together to form a post, although I do have a couple of topics roaming in my head. In the meantime, the big question seems to be: how do I make my font size adjustable? It is not, as of now, at least not in IE6 - which is what 57% of my 3 or 4 regular readers (including myself), use. Help!

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Posting should pick up tomorrow. In the meantime, one of my readers suggested that I decrease my font size. If anyone has an opinion on this, please let it be known in the comments section, or via e-mail. Or even better, can anyone tell me how to make my font size adjustable from the readers browser "view" menu?
See you tomorrow, and happy Chanukah (or what's left of it).
Sharon says that al-Qaida has its people in the territories, (mostly Gaza), and in south Lebanon, and they cooperate with Hezbullah, among others.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Sharon says he supports a future Palestinian state. He spoke at a conference in Hertzlia. He said that Israel supports the plan Bush put forward in his speech in June. Sharon said that there will be a Palestinian state, which will be disarmed, except for light weapons for internal law enforcement use. It will also be barred from forming strategic and military alliances with other states in the region. Sharon stressed that "we will not return to territories that we gave up under international agreements". He also expressed support for a continuing construction of a security fence between Israel and the territories.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

IBA radio reported today that the Cambridge University's equivalent of an American student association is discussing tonight a proposition for an economic and academic boycott of Israel. Such propositions have been recently brought in several British schools of higher education, and have had mixed success. Of course, if this is accepted in such an important university as Cambridge, it will have a much greater impact. A representative of an organization of Israeli students in Britain said that this proposition includes, among other things, an equation between Israel's policies in the territories and apartheid, and a differentiation between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. He says that his organization has joined British Jewish organizations (a rare kind of cooperation) in trying to prevent the resolution from passing. He also added that prof. Edward Said of Columbia University will attend the discussion, and lend his support for the passage of this resolution. I was unable to find anything on this issue on the web - please let me know if you do.

Update 12/4: It did not pass.

Monday, December 02, 2002

An interesting report this morning in Haaretz: it summarizes the QA session which the Israeli Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon gave at the Middle East research institute in Washington. However, the headline and the first few lines of the report caused quite a stir in Israel:

Ya'alon: Most of the settlements will have to be removed.

WASHINGTON - Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon has told a closed session of a Washington-based Middle East research institute that both the Israelis and Palestinians know that "at the end of the day, most of the settlements will be evacuated.

Arutz7 and YNet say Yaalon denies the report, and say that he was misquoted. One of his associates who was present at the QA session said the same on IBA radio. This is totally consistent with the views Yaalon had expressed in the past.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Sorry for not posting today - was busy making sufganiot (Channukah jelly-doughnuts, for the Hebrew challenged:-)), and entertaining a nice Jewish man and his nice Chinese wife. The kids are learning Hebrew and Mandarin, and have lived in Israel and Singapur. They look Chinese, but consider themselves Jewish. In instances like this I often remember the Chinese saying "May you live in interesting times", and it does not sound like a curse at all. Some of the places I have had visitors so far: Estonia, Russia, Singapur, Brasil, Mexico, Lebanon, Croatia, a Swed in South Korea, NZ (well, that's probably Murray), Australia (Bruce?), Spain (Karnit: a nice Israeli woman married to a nice Spanish man. They speak English to each other, the kid speaks Spanish, English, and maybe some Hebrew).
Thank you all for reading, and for sticking a pin in my map.
Tomorrow posting might be light - maybe.