Tuesday, March 11, 2008

11-Mar-08: One tiny pinpoint of light in the smothering darkness

The barbaric murders (see "Carnage in the library") of Jewish students in Jerusalem's Merkaz Harav Yeshiva this past Thursday night, and the grief it produced in all parts of our society here, have been weighing heavily on us.

The loss of promising and innocent young lives is awful. There are no words.

But there are words - and we need to find them - to condemn the stunning silence of the vast ranks of Israel's perpetual critics in the UK, Europe and North America. In particular the silence of the academic and media elites of those places in the face of a brazen act of mass murder in the name of jihadism. That screaming silence is an indictment of their hypocrisy and animus.

Now from an unexpected quarter comes the kind of straight-talking self-criticism that is so notable by its absence in the Arab and Islamic world. A welcome development even if it's mainly notable for being so rare.

We're referring to an op-ed under the title "Hamas terrorism and (Hezbollah!)" in Kuwait’s Al-Watan newspaper today. So far, it's been mentioned in very few media reports; we heard it described on Israel radio's midday news today and went searching for it on the web. Google's machine-translation gave us an approximate sense of the writer's intent, subject to the usual confusion that comes with all machine translations. Arabic readers can find the full original text here.

Until MEMRI comes out with its customary first-rate professional translation, we'll borrow the summary that one Middle Eastern English-language site offered:

An “unprecedentedly harsh” opinion piece (Arabic) appears in Kuwait’s Al-Watan newspaper today, condemning the recent massacre at Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav in Jerusalem, and calling the attackers “terrorist” and the products of an “evil alliance”. Abdallah Al-Hadlaq calls the attack a “barbaric murder” and writes in his article that one can not negotiate “with terrorism that indiscriminately aims itself at students, women and babies without any consideration for the means and the targets." When 15-year-old students are gunned down while holding their holy books, when blood has to be mopped up off the floors of religious institutions, when eight families have to be told that their children’s schools have “floors covered in blood-soaked holy books” — the attackers are not heroes, and their attack should certainly never be praised as a “heroic operation”.
This is Babylon points out that Al-Hadlaq calls Hamas a terrorist organization - notable in itself. He goes further, referring to the Merkaz Harav massacre as having been carried out by an “evil Alliance” of Hamas and Hezbollah. These are unusual and rarely-heard views in the Arab world.

As welcome as anti-terrorism op-eds are in the Arab world, the fact that they do appear from time to time is proof that the Arab world could, but doesn't, speak out clearly against jihadism minus the usual ifs, ands or buts. It would be nice to think this Kuwaiti column is a sign of change. But it's not likely. Still, you have to admire the writer's courage. Let's hope he doesn't end up paying an unreasonable price.

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