I’ve just noticed a comment, made elsewhere in response to this blog entry of mine, that irritates me quite a bit:
“There is no Palestine,” it reads. “Let the Jew-haters move to Jordon, Syria, Egypt, or some other Moslem country stuck in the 7th century.”
I’ll resist the temptation to suggest that this person move to New Zealand or South Africa or Australia or England or, at least, Canada. It’s a common and ignorant assumption that Arabs — or should I say “Ay-rabs”? — are fungible, that a Moroccan is a Jordanian is an Egyptian is an Iraqi is a Tunisian (and, for those in Rio Linda, is an Iranian [pronounced Eye-rain-ian). But it would be foolish and outrageous to suggest, were the United States somehow taken over by a hostile power, that Americans should just suck it up and flee to Australia or Canada or India or Ireland (“They all speak English, don’t they?”). In fact, countries such as Jordan, Syria, and Egypt, to say nothing of Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan, and all them other “Moslem countries stuck in the seventh century,” are quite distinct from one another, with different histories and cultures, varying legal systems, widely differing dialects, and, in many cases, altogether different languages.
And don’t even get me started on the semi-literate libel that the Middle East — from which the West derived much of its medicine, mathematics, philosophy, and science, including many star names, basic chemical terms, the concept of zero, “Arabic numerals,” and the place system in arithmetic — is, somehow, “stuck in the seventh century.”
The irony is that, I suspect, I probably share a number of political positions with the person who emitted the comment to which I’m responding. (My leftist friends will hasten to suggest that this should worry me. But it doesn’t. I know what my views are and why I hold them, and they don’t rest on this sort of stuff.)
I try to walk a moderate and mediating path with regard to the deep divisions in the Middle East and across the Islamic world. Not because I’m specifically seeking to be moderate, but because the facts demand such a position. I’m uncritically adoring of neither side in the intractable Arab/Israeli conflict, for example. I have friends on both sides. I admire much about Israel. I obviously admire much about Arab civilization. Yet I dislike things that both sides have done and continue to do.
And I will speak out from time to time when I see unhelpful ignorance and bigotry showing up. To say nothing of injustice. On either side.
Here’s an article that I wrote for the Deseret News — separate from my usual regular columns — back in December of 2011, when Newt Gingrich made similar remarks during the run-up to the Republican presidential primaries: