April 27, 2006

Give the man a prize

Indonesian journalist, Goenawan Mohamad, has just won a Dan David Prize, to be awarded at Tel Aviv University.
The prize committee, explaining its choice, said he was being honored for "his activity during the past 30 years on behalf of freedom of the press and the promotion of independent journalism in the largest Muslim nation in the world."
Here he is being interviewed by Ha'aretz:
Why do the Arabs and Muslims hate Israel and the Jews?

"I am not enough a theologian nor historian to give a satisfactory answer to that. But I would say, like I did before, you have to take into account the impact of different histories. Granted Muslim tolerance was partly a myth - one has to recognize the absence of a uniform Muslim rejection of Jews.

"I learned somewhere that there was a violent conflict between a Jewish community and early Muslims in the seventh century. In Muslim Spain of the 12th century, the rulers did impose Muslim ways and many Jews left the country. Maimonides was one of them. But then he settled in Cairo, becoming the chief rabbi of the city and the physician of Saladin, the sultan. In the 15th century, Turkey, under Beyazed II, welcomed Jews expelled from Spain - a policy of tolerance continued by Suleiman the Magnificent.

"Today the picture is different. On this issue, you cannot speak of Arabs and Muslims in the same breath. The Arabs' negative attitude toward the Jews - and the feeling is mutual, I gather - is mixed with and shaped by the opposition against the State of Israel. Of course, you know that this opposition is not confined to Muslims. Islam came much later to the scene. After Marxism and Arab nationalism failed to deliver the Palestinians from their plight - symbolized by decades of refugees' camps - religion has increasingly become the most effective ideology of liberation. Hence the current Hamas' political leadership in Palestine."
Here's the rest.

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