A Palestinian Hebrew of Jewish origins
August 23, 2009 2:57 PM   Subscribe

The first Jewish member of the Revolutionary Council of Fatah talks about a unique political journey.
as the small number of white members of the ANC widened its legitimacy during the apartheid era in South Africa, other Jews can be attracted to participate in Fatah, transforming it into a broader-based movement that stands for equal rights for both Arabs and Jews in a federated state.
Uri Davis whose motto is Against Israeli Apartheid — for Freedom and Justice in Palestine.
posted by adamvasco (82 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The Wikipedia link says Davis converted to Islam before marrying his wife. So maybe first member of Fatah of Jewish enthoreligious origins?
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:01 PM on August 23, 2009


See also:Neturei Karta/Guardians of the City
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:03 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


He sounds like a principled man making difficult steps in a very tangled situation. I wish him all the best as he strives to do what he thinks is correct.

I'm afraid to say anything more, given the contentious subject matter, but am grateful to have read this and the accompanying links.
posted by hippybear at 3:32 PM on August 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


The article confirms that he converted to Islam. It's disingenuous to use him as an example of Jewish coexistence with Palestinians.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:32 PM on August 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Just read this interview with Daniel Barenboim today, who also has an interesting perspective on this.
posted by nosila at 4:38 PM on August 23, 2009


It's disingenuous to use him as an example of Jewish coexistence with Palestinians.

Peace, like a good marriage, is always a bit disingenuous. You have to see the best in others even when you know they are probably ordinary.
posted by srboisvert at 4:56 PM on August 23, 2009


I would say, rather, "You have to see the ordinary in others even when you know they are probably disingenuous".
posted by freebird at 5:10 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


That sounds like an ethnic slur. Converting to Islam didn't make him a bad person; it just means that he is not a Jewish example of coexistence.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:13 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


The entanglement between Jewish by ethnicity and Jewish by faith is a difficult one to parse sometimes.
posted by hippybear at 5:19 PM on August 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


Does he really expect Israelis to take him seriously after his conversion?

In the eyes of many, that step alone would make him an example of cultural liquidation, of surrendering your history and heritage to ingratiate yourself with an enemy.
posted by jason's_planet at 5:23 PM on August 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Agreed, hippybear.
posted by nosila at 5:24 PM on August 23, 2009


Joe in Australia: The article confirms that he converted to Islam. It's disingenuous to use him as an example of Jewish coexistence with Palestinians.

Surely, it'd be disingenuous to use him as an example of Jewish coexistence with Muslims, but perfectly fine as an example of Jewish coexistence with Palestinians.
posted by Dysk at 5:44 PM on August 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


The entanglement between Jewish by ethnicity and Jewish by faith is a difficult one to parse sometimes.

He's a Moslem man with a Moslem wife living among other Moslems in a mostly-Moslem town. What's difficult to parse about that? He's "ethnically Jewish" the way Lord Haw-Haw was ethnically English.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:07 PM on August 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Electrius at 6:13 PM on August 23, 2009


If you convert to another religion -- not just sort of stop celebrating your own and go to your spouse's religious holidays instead but actually do a full conversion -- you're not Jewish anymore. That is the whole point of conversion, and the cultural vs religious question (I find the use of ethnicity to refer to Judaism problematic) becomes moot. He is not an example of Jewish coexistence with anything, because he is not a Jew: there is no entanglement or confusion. He's not a bad person (or, well, maybe he is: I don't know him personally and had never heard of him before this post. But I have no reason to think he's anything but someone trying to do what he thinks is right), but it would be nice if he weren't referred to as a Jew.
posted by jeather at 6:14 PM on August 23, 2009


"Moslem"? Really? Isn't that spelling, well, to put it politely, a wee bit dépassé?
posted by flibbertigibbet at 6:19 PM on August 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


And he hopes, too, that just as the small number of white members of the ANC widened its legitimacy during the apartheid era in South Africa

If you convert to the enemy's religion, you have no legitimacy in the eyes of the people you're trying to reach.

How did this guy get to be that old and remain so obtuse about the motives and psychology of the people around him?
posted by jason's_planet at 6:22 PM on August 23, 2009


Also: jeather, many Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law would disagree with you. Maimonides has a brief mention of the children of converts out of Judaism not being bound by Jewish law only because they don't know they're Jewish, haven't been raised Jewish, etc. He still considers them Jewish, no matter how many generations it has been since their parents were religiously Jewish.

As far as I'm concerned, he's Jewish and Muslim, just as you have people who call themselves JewBus or BuJews (Jewish Buddhists). You can have Jewish Christians (in the converso sense, not the Jews-for-Jesus sense). It's certainly not a common state of affairs, but it's fully possible within certain normative Jewish definitions of 'Jewishness.' The presentation of this post is not necessarily disingenuous per say; I do wish the FPP mentioned the conversion, at least.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 6:25 PM on August 23, 2009


If you convert to another religion -- not just sort of stop celebrating your own and go to your spouse's religious holidays instead but actually do a full conversion -- you're not Jewish anymore.

unless you lived in the former Soviet Union in which case you were Jewish enough for right of return, even if you or your parents had converted to orthodox christianity.

at this point Hitler has made himself the judge of the jews: if you are jew enough to go to the camps, then you are a jew. judaism is one of the few religious faiths where membership is inherited from your mother and things get ugly when jews start deciding you can kick people out of the club.
posted by geos at 6:27 PM on August 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Joe in Australia, while he may be a "moslem", he isn't an Arab, nor is he a Palestinian. He is, certainly, still from a Jewish background and family. It's interesting how ethnicity and religion are linked - somebody said that if you convert well and truly away from Judaism to something else, you cease to be Jewish. I disagree, in that I do think that there is such a thing as a Jewish ethnicity. It'd be helpful we didn't use the same word for the two, perhaps, but that's the nature of it - religion is so very tied into ethnicity.

(For another example, look to Northern Ireland's so-called 'troubles', which was/is an ethnic conflict between the Catholics (nationalists) and Protestants (unionists). Whether you actually went to church or believed in any of the tenets of either religion was and is fairly irrelevant. Yet people still ask "are you Catholic?" for example, not because they care what you believe. It's an old joke, I know, but they say you never cease to be a Catholic - you can at best become a lapsed Catholic.

My housemate is from Northern Ireland, and when asked if he's a Catholic or a Protestant, he says that he's an atheist, which always prompts the question, "aye, but a catholic or a protestant atheist?")
posted by Dysk at 6:32 PM on August 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


jason's_planet, I don't think he's trying to say that white South Africans in the anti-apartheid movement gave it more legitimacy of the unconverted Afrikaners. Likewise, I don't suspect this move is meant for the Jewish-Israeli audience that you quite rightly point out might get offended. I think it's meant for the wider world, really - us.
posted by Dysk at 6:36 PM on August 23, 2009


The thing about FATAH is that it has never had any strong religious motivation or basis. This argument is entirely framed by the concerns Muslim and Jewish fundamentalists. The original Zionists certainly had little use for the religion: a religion of the archaic superstitions of an ignorant and oppressed people huddled in ghettos across europe.

I would guess that Uri Davis sees his conversion much the same way a liberal civil rights activist might see interracial marriage in Apartheid America. The sort of knee-jerk revulsion I'm hearing in the comments here suggests that's about right.
posted by geos at 6:40 PM on August 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


You may be right, Dysk.

But even if you were right, who really cares about our opinions? The opinion of the wider world is not that important.

The opinions of average Israelis carry infinitely more weight here and this guy, as a Jewish convert to Islam -- which, I'll hasten to add here, is entirely his right as a free man and is certainly not an awful thing -- cannot reach that audience. It doesn't matter how pure his intentions are; Israeli people are not going to listen to him because they're going to interpret his choice as an unforgivable capitulation.
posted by jason's_planet at 6:45 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I sure that when he named the situation currently taking place in that part of the world "apartheid" back in the 80s, he had already made an unforgivable choice according to the hardliners.

His conversion was likely made to facilitate his marriage more than anything else.
posted by hippybear at 6:51 PM on August 23, 2009


Flibbertigibbet wrote: "As far as I'm concerned, he's Jewish and Muslim"

According to the linked article he stopped calling himself Jewish; he now calls himself "a Palestinian Hebrew of Jewish origins". I can't see how your opinion on the matter can be relevant, given that you are neither Uri Davis nor, I suspect, Israeli.

Geos: I understand that conversion from Judaism to another religion makes you ineligible for Israel's Law of Return. So your hypothetical convert to Orthodox Christianity would have to apply as a regular immigrant. In any event, the point of the Law of Return isn't to define who is or is not Jewish: it's to let Israel serve as a refuge for people persecuted because they are affiliated with Jews. For instance, the non-Jewish spouse of a Jew is eligible, as are their children and grandchildren - Jewish or not.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:51 PM on August 23, 2009


It would be awesome if this thread turns out to be a precedent-setting civil discussion.
posted by vapidave at 6:52 PM on August 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


jason's_planet: But even if you were right, who really cares about our opinions? The opinion of the wider world is not that important.

Interesting how this is the exact opposite mantra of the world trying to deal with South African apartheid, where the focus was well and truly on what 'we' as the conscientious outside world could do to put pressure on the South African government to change its policies.

I know there are a host of differences, obviously, a handful of which effectively render a similar attitude both unlikely, and ineffective, even if it were to become prevalent.
posted by Dysk at 7:01 PM on August 23, 2009


Joe in Autralia: I can't see how your opinion on the matter can be relevant, given that you are neither Uri Davis nor, I suspect, Israeli.

Why would being Israeli give his opinion on Uri Davis' label weight that being a Palestinian wouldn't?
posted by Dysk at 7:05 PM on August 23, 2009


"Moslem"? Really? Isn't that spelling, well, to put it politely, a wee bit dépassé?

No more so than comparing him to Lord Haw-Haw. It's always nice when people fly their Confederate flag over their opinions, as it were.
posted by rodgerd at 7:06 PM on August 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


Why would being Israeli give his opinion ... weight?

Because we generally give some precedence when it comes to naming people to the people being named. It's polite.
posted by ~ at 7:08 PM on August 23, 2009



Also: jeather, many Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law would disagree with you. Maimonides has a brief mention of the children of converts out of Judaism not being bound by Jewish law only because they don't know they're Jewish, haven't been raised Jewish, etc. He still considers them Jewish, no matter how many generations it has been since their parents were religiously Jewish.


I didn't mean this to derail into a discussion of whether the guy is Jewish or not. That said, I'm grateful for this comment -- I'm fascinated by the nexus between ethnos and formal religious affiliation in creating, sustaining, or negating identity, and this is an intriguing angle from Maimonedes. But isn't he referring to the children of converts -- who may have a link to their ancestral heritage -- rather than their parents, who have made a deliberate decision to join a different religious community?

Which brings me to this:
Flibbertigibbet wrote: "As far as I'm concerned, he's Jewish and Muslim"

According to the linked article he stopped calling himself Jewish; he now calls himself "a Palestinian Hebrew of Jewish origins". I can't see how your opinion on the matter can be relevant, given that you are neither Uri Davis nor, I suspect, Israeli.


The point seems less what we think than whether Uri Davis -- born into a Jewish family-- now considers himself Jewish.

It's useful to remember that the broad brushstrokes that are used to characterize Palestinians as "Muslims" obscure the fact that many are Christian, and that Fatah originated as a secular nationalist movement (as opposed to, say, a Islamist movement along the lines of Hamas).

But as others have noted, the challenge of coexistence is living with differences and accepting them, not becoming them. For me, Davis' life story makes me wonder if he sees his conversion as a necessary part of his vision of coexistence. In the linked article he defers questions about his conversion as a "private" matter, which in some ways I understand but in other ways seems to beg the question.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 7:27 PM on August 23, 2009


Also: jeather, many Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law would disagree with you.
While many others would agree with me. I am, however, not an Orthodox Jew.

Maimonides has a brief mention of the children of converts out of Judaism not being bound by Jewish law only because they don't know they're Jewish, haven't been raised Jewish, etc.
That is the children of converts, not the converts themsevles.

As far as I'm concerned, he's Jewish and Muslim, just as you have people who call themselves JewBus or BuJews (Jewish Buddhists). You can have Jewish Christians (in the converso sense, not the Jews-for-Jesus sense).
People can call themselves whatever they want. In some cases their self-identification is absurd. (I am not speaking of JewBus in general, nor of Davis in particular, who does not call himself a Jew anymore.)

I think a lot of his ideas for what he wants Fatah to do are interesting and I hope that some of them, at least, are successful. A large change in the Israeli government to match what might be a large change in the Palestinian government seems to me like the best chance at moving forward.
posted by jeather at 7:40 PM on August 23, 2009


~: Why would being Israeli give his opinion ... weight?

Because we generally give some precedence when it comes to naming people to the people being named. It's polite.


Heh. Firstly, could I reproduce that sentence unabridged?

Why would being Israeli give his opinion on Uri Davis' label weight that being a Palestinian wouldn't?

Well, nobody was talking of naming Israelis. We were debating about Jews and Jewishness, and what it means to be Palestinian (to some extent). Israel is only really tangentially relevant to this debate.
posted by Dysk at 7:44 PM on August 23, 2009


It's always nice when people fly their Confederate flag over their opinions, as it were.

That's an unjustified insult - and rather a stupid one. Look at my username to figure out why ...

There is a massive amount of condescension in this thread, all from the same side. There are people saying that his conversion wasn't sincere. There are people saying that it was ineffective, even if he were to have been sincere. There's even a suggestion that his marriage was political rather than genuine. You want him to be a Jew, despite the fact that he has renounced Judaism; despite the fact that the people he lives amongst do not consider him to be one; despite the fact that he himself does not want to defined as one. It seems to me that you're treating him a symbol rather than as a human being. As far as you are concerned it doesn't matter what he says, or does, or how he chooses to live: he is always, ineradicably and inescapably a Jew, because that allows you to say that Fatah elected a Jew to their Council.

I'm not going to reciprocate by calling you a racist: I don't believe you are. But this nasty habit of imposing a Jewish identify on people who do not identify as Jews is most commonly used by racists who want to show a preponderance of Jews in any field.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:51 PM on August 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Um... Wow. Joe, you need to take a deep breath and relax. You're putting words in my mouth which I never stated. A conversion to allow him to live with his wife in a country which would not allow them to live together otherwise, there is nothing to be intuited about that being an "insincere" conversion. It was not a political decision, was the point I was making, other than the politics of the region forbade him from cohabiting with his wife.
posted by hippybear at 7:56 PM on August 23, 2009


Joe in Australia, speaking of condecension...

You really are attributing opinions to me that I never expressed. I take no issue with Uri's religious conversion, but posit that this does little to affect his ethnicity. Would it help you if I were to adopt a capitalisation convention that has Jewishness related to the Judaic religion and jewishness related to an ethnic group? My point in the post you linked was that the crossover between the two (religious and ethnic groups generally, not just jews/Jews) is so great that we normally don't differentiate. When this crossover is absent, we have a problem as we have one word to describe two (now divergent) ideas. Doubtlessly, Uri is no longer a Jew. I still maintain that he's a jew, though, for want of a better term.
posted by Dysk at 8:02 PM on August 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


I felt a bit cheated by the Guardian article because despite the sub-ed claiming in the title we'd learn why he joined Fatah, it was pretty light on substantive content about his view of the Fatah political programme, and I couldn't spot much on the same at his site. Has he written anything recent in that vein, or is there something in the links I've missed?
posted by Abiezer at 8:13 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most people suck, this guy doesn't. Go people like him.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 8:22 PM on August 23, 2009


You want him to be a Jew

Not really? I don't frankly care about him being a Jew either way, I would simply consider him one. If he prefers to say he's not Jewish, then I certainly wouldn't insist on the point in his presence--that would be insufferably rude and would serve no purpose--but I'm merely talking about my definition process here. I'm perfectly fine with people disagreeing, and I'm not going to tell any of you that your personal definition of 'Jewishness' is wrong--you're not, this is a complex problem and frankly I'm not going to foam at the mouth either way.

Re: children of converts vs the converts themselves: if the converts themselves stop being Jewish, then their children cannot be Jewish without converting back to Judaism (geirus/geirut). Converts must stay somehow Jewish for their children to be born Jewish, or else the children would have to go through a geirut. Maimonides argument for children of converts being Jewish relates to his views on how one can renounce one's Jewishness, i.e. you can't. (Uber-derail: you also see this in Maimonides' view on conversion, which is a minority opinion. He says that someone who converts to Judaismn, who whatever ulterior reason and however insincerely, is Jewish forever after the fact. Most/many authorities require the convert to be sincere at the time, even if they later backslide, and this opinion is the current authority for the conversion 'annulments' you see in Israel and the US).

If you can prove matrilineal descent, even if it's Catholic going back until the 1500s, you're Jewish. But that's a derail that is neither here nor there, and I would like to apologize for contributing to it.

That said, while I do not agree with Geller's methods, necessarily, and am slightly too uneducated on the matter of Israel/Palestine to comment intelligently on his views, I think that his idea of trying to make Fatah a more peaceful organization by his participation to be an interesting one. The quotes in the Guardian article make him seem to be a relatively compassionate man. "To beware of every sentence that begins with 'all'. It was not 'all' Germans who killed my mother's family. It was some Nazis." No matter your opinion of the man, that's a sentiment worth repeating.

It's interesting--I'll have to chew the fat on this for a few days.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:22 PM on August 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Moslem"? Really? Isn't that spelling, well, to put it politely, a wee bit dépassé?

I'm pretty much never in Joe_in_Australia's side in mefi debate (sorry Joe, but there it is), but really: are you implying something about Joe on the basis of his transliteration of an Arabic word? Really?

Why would you do that? (genuine question!)
posted by pompomtom at 8:33 PM on August 23, 2009


pompomtom, much as the subtle difference between "people of colour" and "coloured people" translates to a big difference in the associations and images conjured by the two phrases.

So it is with 'muslim' and 'moslem'.
posted by Dysk at 8:42 PM on August 23, 2009


Perhaps in the UK that's the case; I've seen this, but it doesn't give a source. In other courties it's used by plenty of people with impeccable liberal credentials, and or including many Moslems. And it's the spelling I'm familiar with, so I'll stick with it.

And pompomtom, no need to be sorry! If there weren't people with wrong opinions, however would I be able to bring light to the masses?
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:58 PM on August 23, 2009


Countries. Countries, countries, countries.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:58 PM on August 23, 2009


much as the subtle difference between "people of colour" and "coloured people" translates to a big difference in the associations and images conjured by the two phrases.

There must be some distinct cultural interpretation applying here, because I can't tell which of those two phrases is supposed to be "correct".

And "moslem" isn't as bad as all that. My dad still calls people "Mohammadians" - lately when he was telling me how fantastic a mosque he visited in Singapore was.
posted by Jimbob at 9:00 PM on August 23, 2009


To quote the journalists' style manual Joe in Australia linked:

Is it correct to write Muslim or Moslem?

Muslim is preferred. People refer to themselves as Muslims. Many regard Moslem as a term of abuse, like people of African descent dislike being called negroes. Also avoid Mohammedan and Musselman.


This is indeed the case here in the UK. And Jimbob, it pretty much is as bad as all that here. Obviously, I don't know what the norm is everywhere, but I do read extensively in a subject where terms like "muslim" kick up all the damn time (I'm about to start a master's in international security, fer chrissakes) and I've only ever seen it written as "moslem" in ancient texts, and by Joe here on the blue. I wouldn't call it the norm in the US or what Australian media and academia I have seen.

Now, I'm perfectly happy to believe that it's normal and accepted somewhere. I'm certainly not going to ask you to use one term over another. You should, however, be aware that you're going to be raising quite a lot of people's heckles by writing "moslem".
posted by Dysk at 9:20 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


There must be some distinct cultural interpretation applying here, because I can't tell which of those two phrases is supposed to be "correct".

Phew, not just me then.. I think it's "people of colour" is the PC, "coloured people" the un-PC. I'd guess colonials should stick to "blackfellas", to avoid causing offence.

...but seriously: if there's some PC baggage to the spelling "moslem", when speaking English, then it seems very silly to me, given the extensive historical usage of the spelling (I'd think just about every book I have that is printed before about 1960 would use that spelling) - and implying something about an Australian who uses such a spelling is extra-odd, because such PC-spelling rules don't really exist here.

I dunno, maybe Joe was trying to cast aspersions by the use of his spelling, but I think it's a lot more likely that he, as I, was taught that Muslim, Moslem and a couple of others were simply equivalent transliterations.

That all said... I hope I've not offended anyone with my spelling.
posted by pompomtom at 9:27 PM on August 23, 2009


pompomtom, this has been a subject that's been discussed a few times on the blue, so I just assume it's some bizzarro-world thing that I just don't get, being on the wrong part of the planet for it.

That said, I'm not sure an appeal to history legitimates 'moslem', necessarily. By the same token we'd have to revert to 'negro', as well.
posted by Dysk at 9:37 PM on August 23, 2009


It would be awesome if this thread turns out to be a precedent-setting civil discussion.

Sadly, the cause was hopeless once the dread word 'dépassé' was uttered. Cry "Havoc!" and let slip the dogs of culturally sensitive orthography!
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:54 PM on August 23, 2009


Well, he's not Jewish, but at least he supports the OP's agenda.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:05 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I find it interesting that he describes himself as a Hebrew - I wonder if he means by it what the Prophet Muhammad famously said: "The Arab is the one who speaks Arabic", thereby defining the Arabs as a linguistic group, not a "race". By the same token Uri is calling himself a Palestinian (national affiliation) Hebrew (mother tongue) Muslim (religion). Race is then meaningless.

As far as you are concerned it doesn't matter what he says, or does, or how he chooses to live: he is always, ineradicably and inescapably a Jew,
It's funny to see someone object to this principle AND to ascribe it to gentiles, because this is what I had always heard from my fellow Jews growing up. I don't agree with it, but I assumed this was the party line, so to speak. After all, your Jewish soul doesn't die when you convert, does it?
posted by BinGregory at 10:18 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


pompomtom, this has been a subject that's been discussed a few times on the blue, so I just assume it's some bizzarro-world thing that I just don't get, being on the wrong part of the planet for it.

The only source I found for it, as I said, is that manual I linked to. But an unsourced statement in Wikipedia describes it as "an older, possibly Persian-based spelling". When the author of that statement said "Persian" he probably meant Farsi, in which case the spelling may reflect a Sunni/Shiite shibboleth. But it might just be a regional thing. I'm used to spelling it "Moslem" and my fingers type it automatically. "Muslim" looks a bit strange to me.

Now, if you want an archaic term of ethnicity, look at the way Uri Davis calls himself "a Hebrew". I haven't seen that one in anything written recently. But he doesn't mean to be offensive: he just doesn't want to call himself a Jew. It would be different if he were promoting a racist agenda rather than a political one.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:37 PM on August 23, 2009


pompomtom, this has been a subject that's been discussed a few times on the blue, so I just assume it's some bizzarro-world thing that I just don't get, being on the wrong part of the planet for it.

Well, "moslem" being offensive doesn't seem to have made it this far South.

That said, I'm not sure an appeal to history legitimates 'moslem', necessarily. By the same token we'd have to revert to 'negro', as well.

Not by itself, perhaps. My point was that until this thread, I'd never heard of that spelling being dissmissive or offensive or whatever it is supposed to be, and I was unsure of the particular slight being implied in flibbertigibbet's comment.

I'm unfamiliar with that spelling being considered offensive in Australia and, if it is, the fact that the largest mosque in the country was built by, and is still managed by, the Lebanese Moslem Association may be the cause of some confusion.

So, my apologies for the derail, you may all return to your scheduled I/P shit-fight.
posted by pompomtom at 10:44 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you search "Moslem vs. Muslim" on Google the first result that comes up is from some website that calls itself "Ask Metafilter". Apparently any issue taken wrt Moslem|Muslim is mostly with pronunciation.
And for what it's worth todays Turkish Weekly has an article entitled "Uzbekistan: Attempt on the life of a Moslem leader in Tashkent".

I just file all this under "M" as in
(1) Muammar Qaddafi, (2) Mo'ammar Gadhafi, (3) Muammar Kaddafi, (4) Muammar Qadhafi, (5) Moammar El Kadhafi, (6) Muammar Gadafi, (7) Mu'ammar al-Qadafi, (8) Moamer El Kazzafi, (9) Moamar al-Gaddafi, (10) Mu'ammar Al Qathafi, (11) Muammar Al Qathafi, (12) Mo'ammar el-Gadhafi, (13) Moamar El Kadhafi, (14) Muammar al-Qadhafi, (15) Mu'ammar al-Qadhdhafi, (16) Mu'ammar Qadafi, (17) Moamar Gaddafi, (18) Mu'ammar Qadhdhafi, (19) Muammar Khaddafi, (20) Muammar al-Khaddafi, (21) Mu'amar al-Kadafi, (22) Muammar Ghaddafy, (23) Muammar Ghadafi, (24) Muammar Ghaddafi, (25) Muamar Kaddafi, (26) Muammar Quathafi, (27) Muammar Gheddafi, (28) Muamar Al-Kaddafi, (29) Moammar Khadafy, (30) Moammar Qudhafi, (31) Mu'ammar al-Qaddafi, (32) Mulazim Awwal Mu'ammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi.
posted by vapidave at 1:00 AM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


No Muslim of my acquaintance would be offended by "Moslim", "Mohammedan" on the other hand would be considered - if not a pejorative - then a sign of ignorance and insensitivity. This is because it implies that Muslims worship Mohammed (PBUH) the way that Christians worship Christ as the incarnation of God.

As to the original topic. I agree that it is maybe somewhat disingenuous to refer to this fellow as Jewish if he no longer self-identifies that way. It's still a valuable story though, especially because it highlights the nature of Fatah as a secular organization. Of course, this guy isn't going to convince the hard-core "Take it all back" settlers, but they are not in any case amenable to reason.
Every community has a spectrum of opinion and attacks on the soft margins are the most successful. I know white South Africans old enough to remember and the ostracism from Europeans and the Commonwealth was keenly painful to them. Don't underestimate the role that the disapprobation of valued cultural allies can play in modifying opinion.
posted by atrazine at 1:40 AM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty much never in Joe_in_Australia's side in mefi debate (sorry Joe, but there it is), but really: are you implying something about Joe on the basis of his transliteration of an Arabic word? Really?

Why would you do that? (genuine question!)


Other than the fact that I do not feel it's a genuine question: No, I'm just saying the word is not generally considered the best spelling to use and was actually surprised to see it here. I've never debated Joe before, I don't have any baggage about his beliefs, I don't recognize his username, I'm not assuming anything... I was just surprised to see 'Moslem.'

A lot of my friends, despite not being anti-Semites, will use the word 'Jew' as a verb ('he really Jewed me!' for 'he really screwed me!'), and I just like to see it as an archaic twitch of theirs, despite my being Jew-ish, not as an indicator that they're irredeemably racist... but since that example is pretty egregious, I do use it as an indicator of how they're irredeemably stupid, something which I wouldn't do re: Muslim/Moslem debate because the Muslim/Moslem debate is a much finer distinction. I try to get them to stop, but I'm really not super-sensitive about language, no matter how I came across up there.

Since his username is freaking Joe_in_Australia I was totally prepared to get smacked down by someone telling me it's still a standard spelling there (even though a quick search of The Australian website implied otherwise). I'd consider someone who is utterly gung-ho Marxist or Freudian in terms of their sociology of religion, with no compromise for how sociology has moved on, to be dépassé (again, with that being as polite as can be), without any racist implication. I'm sorry if someone read that to imply that I think Joe is racist--I don't, I was just surprised to see 'Moslem' up there, especially as using 'Moslem' in papers that you submit to religious journals would be a no-no of epic proportions, and, well, that's the world I'm burying myself in right now--the academic study of religion.

My apologies, Joe! And now, may this de-rail I caused finally die.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 3:05 AM on August 24, 2009


On Jew/jew: if the ADL (Israel's protector) can call Uri Davis a "self-hating jew" as well as many others in Israel, clearly they believe that he is jewish in some way, no matter how residual.

On Muslim/Moslem: Either is acceptable. Muslim happens to be more correct. Whatever ... they are both English words, and not the words to describe Muslims in most languages that come from the predominantly Muslim world.

What has gotten lost in the Jew/jew and Muslim/Moslem derailing is discussing the reasons why he has joined Fatah, and what it means for the Revolutionary Council of Fatah to include someone who was born Jewish and lived as Jew and Israeli for most of his life. It is sad if *all* Israelis will ignore him because he converted, whether for symbolic purposes, to live with his wife, or because he has actually changed his religion. Are all Muslims to be ignored if they are critical of Israel? Ought only the voices of Jews be heard? That chauvinism and racism is precisely the problem of which he and so many other Israelis speak!

What Israelis should reflect upon are his well-formed comparisons between South African and Israeli Apartheid, as well as his distinction between political Zionism and spiritual Zionism:

Davis is careful with his definitions of both "Zionism" and his own "anti-Zionism". The Zionism that he opposes is the "political Zionism" of Israel's founders, the Zionism that amounts, he says, to land grab based on ethnic cleansing.

Davis himself insists on reclaiming a wider meaning for the word, not least because he was shaped, as he grew up, by a different school: the "spiritual Zionism" of thinkers such as Ahad Ha'am, religious philosopher Martin Buber and Judah Magnes, co-founder of Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

posted by Azaadistani at 3:58 AM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]



What has gotten lost in the Jew/jew and Muslim/Moslem derailing is discussing the reasons why he has joined Fatah, and what it means for the Revolutionary Council of Fatah to include someone who was born Jewish and lived as Jew and Israeli for most of his life. It is sad if *all* Israelis will ignore him because he converted, whether for symbolic purposes, to live with his wife, or because he has actually changed his religion. Are all Muslims to be ignored if they are critical of Israel? Ought only the voices of Jews be heard?


But your argument shows that the question of whether Davis abandoned his Jewishness is perhaps not such a derail at all, since it is key to whether he can be taken as a credible model of coexistence for Israelis.

Davis himself insists on reclaiming a wider meaning for the word, not least because he was shaped, as he grew up, by a different school: the "spiritual Zionism" of thinkers such as Ahad Ha'am, religious philosopher Martin Buber and Judah Magnes, co-founder of Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

I wish the distinction -- and the works of these writers -- were more broadly known. And yet part of my frustration with the article is because of its shallowness: we don't get a sense of how Davis would apply the works of Buber or Magnes or Ahad Ha'am. If they offer an alternative model of Zionism and a potential formulation for coexistence, what are the practical implications? What would they look like on the ground? How, exactly, will they help resolve the dilemmas of the present?
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 4:39 AM on August 24, 2009


Joe in Australia, I reckon there's a good chance Uri means the same by 'Hebrew' as I do by 'jew'. His term may perhaps be better (less confusing) but it isn't one I've seen before. But really, I think we agree in principle, just disagree about the words and labels.

pompomtom, I'm quite happy to believe you (and others) that moslem is a perfectly acceptable spelling in Australia. I just find it odd that I haven't come across it in any of the Australian news media, or any of the academic articles written by Australians.

Both (and all) of you, I'm sorry if I've overreacted, but I cannot help but have an intrinsically negative reaction to the word 'moslem'. I'll try and remember to check if the speaker's from down under in future.
posted by Dysk at 4:46 AM on August 24, 2009


"An important part of the education that I received from my parents," Davis recalled last week, "was never to generalise. To beware of every sentence that begins with 'all'. It was not 'all' Germans who killed my mother's family. It was some Nazis." Another distinction was emphasised by his mother. "If she heard the suggestion of vengeance, she would be horrified. She sought justice. One of the biggest problems addressing a Zionist audience is that the distinction between justice and vengeance has collapsed."

I like this guy. I don't like the way this thread has turned into a pointless game of "who's a Jew" (which is never fun for anyone involved), but hey, it's marginally more civil than most MeFi I/P threads, so there's that.
posted by languagehat at 4:47 AM on August 24, 2009


I can't see what the ADL has to do with anything. I don't know what the ADL allegedly said, but perhaps it was when Uri Davis was still identifying as a Jew?

I don't think *all* Israelis could agree on anything. In any event, I don't think anyone suggested that there is some sort of Israeli campaign to ignore him. Such a campaign would be counter-productive: you can't tell people to ignore someone without drawing attention to him.

As for his well-formed comparisons between South Africa and Israel ... don't you think it's ironic that the only Jew who lives in Ramallah (as far as I know) found it necessary to convert to Islam? Are there any Jews living in the West Bank or Gaza, apart from those in enclaves guarded by Israeli soldiers? Why are Jews not allowed to purchase land in the West Bank or Gaza? Why are Jews not allowed to return to homes in the West Bank or Gaza which they occupied before 1948? In contrast, Israel has a thriving Arab population with the same sort of civil rights as other Israelis.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:49 AM on August 24, 2009


As for his well-formed comparisons between South Africa and Israel ... don't you think it's ironic that the only Jew who lives in Ramallah (as far as I know) found it necessary to convert to Islam? Are there any Jews living in the West Bank or Gaza, apart from those in enclaves guarded by Israeli soldiers? Why are Jews not allowed to purchase land in the West Bank or Gaza? Why are Jews not allowed to return to homes in the West Bank or Gaza which they occupied before 1948? In contrast, Israel has a thriving Arab population with the same sort of civil rights as other Israelis.

So as not to move this in the direction of traditional Israel/Palestine threads, I won't directly respond to all of this, but will just point out that one could write a rather similar paragraph from the opposite perspective. Notable problems with your paragraphs include, 1) that the "enclaves guarded by Israeli soldiers" are illegal expansionist settlements often (but not exclusively) populated by Greater Israel Zionists who want to expand the Israeli borders far beyond the green line; and 2), there are noticeable, if often subtle, differences between the rights of Israeli Arabs and other Israelis.

I'm not trying to get into a shitfest, I just want to encourage you to examine the issue from the other perspective as well.
posted by knapah at 5:13 AM on August 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


"the fact that the largest mosque in the country was built by, and is still managed by, the Lebanese Moslem Association may be the cause of some confusion."

Just because the NAACP exists, that doesn't mean it would be wise or particularly sensitive of me to go around shooting off my mouth about colored people, does it?!

If he's not Jewish, and his children shouldn't be allowed to immigrate to Israel, regardless of whether they choose to be Moslem or not... does that mean that most Jews are irredeemably Golden Calfists?!
posted by markkraft at 6:18 AM on August 24, 2009


"Are there any Jews living in the West Bank or Gaza, apart from those in enclaves guarded by Israeli soldiers? Why are Jews not allowed to purchase land in the West Bank or Gaza?

Because Israelis violated international law by stealing the land in the enclaves, and the Palestinians would rather not provide a legal basis for the Israeli theft of their land?!
posted by markkraft at 6:22 AM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


If the differences are subtle then they're hardly comparable to Apartheid. In contrast, Jews can't live in the Palestinian Authority areas. They don't enjoy the most fundamental of civil rights - the right to life or equality under the law.

As for the enclaves being "illegal expansionist settlements" - surely you don't think they would exist if Jews enjoyed civil rights under the Palestinian authority? Jews in Israel proper seem to manage living in a multi-ethnic society; why is it that it takes barbed wire to accomplish the same thing a few miles away?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:24 AM on August 24, 2009


I asked: Why are Jews not allowed to purchase land in the West Bank or Gaza?

Markkraft responded: Because [...] Palestinians would rather not provide a legal basis for the Israeli theft of their land?!

I did say "purchase". If you read the article I linked to, it says that the Palestinian Authority has declared that selling land to Jews is a crime that carries the death penalty.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:35 AM on August 24, 2009


Oops... Muslim. Not Moslem.

See? There's a great reason to use the less proper term. Sheer, unadulterated confusion.

It's also a good reason for those who know better to try get the terminology right in the first place, lest we all start talking about colored Jujubes, and not mean the tasty red or tangy yellow ones.
posted by markkraft at 6:41 AM on August 24, 2009


Sigh, I was going to post again earlier saying that I'd looked at your posting history and discovered it was abundantly clear that you won't accept alternate viewpoints on this issue. Then I thought that would push this thread into classic I/P discussion territory, so did not. I see you've managed it quite well enough anyway though.

As for it being "comparable to Apartheid", well, how about how many Palestinians living in the West Bank (or particularly those living in Gaza), can't even enter Israel, let alone purchase land there. Even those Arabs living within Israel are discriminated against regarding the granting of leases to land, being given permits to build houses, etc. Just because Israel is much more PR savvy than the apartheid regime of South Africa doesn't mean that there is no discrimination.

Furthermore, the Palestinians don't want Israelis buying land in their territories because any land that would be bought by Israelis in the Palestinian territories would then effectively become Israeli territory. Israel may be a "multi-ethnic democracy", but it is formally described as a Jewish state. It's unsurprising that some Palestinians might not like that terribly much. There are dodgy comparisons to be made to the native Americans encounters with the European settlers here.

Anyway, I've already wasted too much time on this, so feel free to continue on in the vein you normally do in this thread. I'm going to stop feeding you now.
posted by knapah at 6:55 AM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


"If the differences are subtle then they're hardly comparable to Apartheid."

Then clearly, the differences aren't subtle. At all.
posted by markkraft at 6:57 AM on August 24, 2009


Joe in Australia: 'Are there any Jews living in the West Bank or Gaza, apart from those in enclaves guarded by Israeli soldiers?'

No, but this is to protect some of them from justice perhaps?
posted by mullingitover at 9:23 AM on August 24, 2009


In contrast, Israel has a thriving Arab population with the same sort of civil rights as other Israelis.

lol
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:33 AM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


A lot of my friends, despite not being anti-Semites, will use the word 'Jew' as a verb ('he really Jewed me!' for 'he really screwed me!'),

A little nelatedly, but have you considered asking them to stop? They may not be antisemitic, but it's an antisemitic use of the word, and demonstrates, at the very least, either vast cultural insensitivity or ignorance on their part.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:40 AM on August 24, 2009


Nelatedly is, of course, an archaic form of belatedly.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:40 AM on August 24, 2009


In contrast, Israel has a thriving Arab population with the same sort of civil rights as other Israelis.

There are several problems with this argument.

1) Even though it is factually correct, it does not distinguish between Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians (Christian and Arab) who live in Gaza and the West Bank. The groups are not treated equally by the Israeli government.

2) In theory, Arab Israelis (that is, Arab citizens of Israel) do enjoy the same civil rights as Jewish Israelis, with one clear civic exception: military service for Israeli Arabs is voluntary, rather than mandatory.

In practice, this is not the case.

In '03, the Orr Commission outlined much of this. They found that the state government clearly ignored or sanctioned Arab Israeli discrimination and economic poverty. At the same time, the report explained that in some ways, the Arab Israeli community's problems exacerbated or created their own problems. (PDF: Summary / PDF: Two-Year post-analysis) More.

In addition, reports from Human Rights Watch dating back 8 years) have shown that education funding initiatives have traditionally been far higher for Jewish Israeli children than Arab. The Education Ministry has acknowledged and will be addressing the problem in the coming school year.
posted by zarq at 12:40 PM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Astro Zombie: in my original draft of that comment, I did mention how I try to get them to stop. They're trying, but it's slow work, and they often apologize nelatedly, heh.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 2:30 PM on August 24, 2009


Whenever anyone says "Jew me down" or some similar horrible phrase in my presence, I always ask them, "are you sure you didn't mean that they Italian you down? Perhaps they Spaniard you down..." They usually get the point after I do that once or twice. I don't know why the substitutions seems to point out the farce behind their words, but it works, and does so with humor. YMMV.
posted by hippybear at 3:00 PM on August 24, 2009


this argument [...] does not distinguish between Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians (Christian and Arab) who live in Gaza and the West Bank. The groups are not treated equally by the Israeli government.

You wouldn't expect them to be. Israel no longer has a presence in Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority has responsibility for Palestinians in the West Bank. They're not Israelis, and most people want West Bank / Gaza separated from Israel. One corollary of that is that they want the inhabitants of the Palestinian Authority to be treated differently from Israelis.

In theory, Arab Israelis (that is, Arab citizens of Israel) do enjoy the same civil rights as Jewish Israelis [...] In practice, this is not the case.

I said the same sort of civil rights for that reason: there's a difference between a denial of fundamental rights and the sort of low-level discrimination that goes on in Israel (and, frankly, most other countries). The Education Ministry's action must be seen in its context: Israeli Arabs could have sought redress through the court system if it had failed to act. This is because they have the same sort of civil rights, through the exercise of which they are gradually obtaining equal treatment that is unfairly denied them. I don't know whether it's possible to talk seriously about civil rights in the Palestinian Authority, but since Jews are not equal under Palestinian law it would not be possible for a Jew to seek redress through the Palestinian court system.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:26 PM on August 24, 2009


the sort of low-level discrimination that goes on in Israel (and, frankly, most other countries)

It's not low-level, and it's quite different from most other countries. While in theory there is legal protection for all, it's actually just there as a fig leaf to cover up gross inequities in every aspect of public life. Why do you feel the need to apologize for racism? It's in other countries too! Um, they could easily fix it if they went to the court! Er, they are "gradually obtaining" human-level status! It goes on and on and on. Keep spinning!
posted by cell divide at 5:22 PM on August 24, 2009


You wouldn't expect them to be. Israel no longer has a presence in Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority has responsibility for Palestinians in the West Bank.

One does not need a presence in Gaza to create serious human rights concerns.

One does not need to be directly responsible for the Palestinians in the West Bank to create humanitarian crises.

West Bank and Gaza Economy: Before and After the Crisis.

More.

Israel has the power to control sanctions against the Palestinians and cut off monetary aid & tax revenue. They are free to wage military actions in Palestinian territories.

They're not Israelis, and most people want West Bank / Gaza separated from Israel.

This doesn't negate my point.

Also... this is from a Zionist organization: A new public opinion poll has found that the majority of Israelis now believe that retreating from Gaza will lead to more, not less, terrorism from Gaza Arabs against Israel. This is from an organization that supports a two-state solution: Eighty-six percent of the Palestinians are interested in an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders. Sixty percent of the Israelis say that this possibility is unacceptable, and 73% of the Palestinians believe that a border based on the separation fence is unacceptable. Thirty-five percent of the Israelis share this opinion.

The polls conflict, and the results change depending both on who is asking and the questions being asked.

One corollary of that is that they want the inhabitants of the Palestinian Authority to be treated differently from Israelis.

This is not in question.

I said the same sort of civil rights for that reason: there's a difference between a denial of fundamental rights and the sort of low-level discrimination that goes on in Israel (and, frankly, most other countries).

Freedom from verbal or violent racism isn't a fundamental right? What about equal access to education? Equal funding and access to human services? Living free of discrimination that may prevent one from supporting one's family?

I'm sorry, but this isn't low-level discrimination. It's a systematic weighting of the scale in favor of Israeli non-Arabs.

Also, let's be honest with ourselves: What other countries do or do not do is irrelevant. "We treat them better than Lebanon!" is not a justification for discrimination.

The Education Ministry's action must be seen in its context: Israeli Arabs could have sought redress through the court system if it had failed to act. This is because they have the same sort of civil rights, through the exercise of which they are gradually obtaining equal treatment that is unfairly denied them.

Both the Orr Report and the two-year post-analysis I link to indicate that Arab Israelis are rightfully mistrustful of the Israeli government and authorities. They seem to believe their "equal rights" are a facade thanks to experiences that have shown them otherwise. Such trust must be earned, especially in a democracy.

I don't know whether it's possible to talk seriously about civil rights in the Palestinian Authority, but since Jews are not equal under Palestinian law it would not be possible for a Jew to seek redress through the Palestinian court system.

I don't see how that's relevant to how Israel treats her Arab citizens.
posted by zarq at 6:29 PM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wrote: [...] Jews are not equal under Palestinian law [...]

zarq replied: I don't see how that's relevant to how Israel treats her Arab citizens.

It isn't; it was in the context of my suggestion that the Palestinian Authority practices something akin to Apartheid.

One does not need a presence in Gaza to create serious human rights concerns.

Absolutely. But that's not an argument that Israel ought to treat Palestinians in Gaza the same way as it treats Arabs in Israel. It does not have a presence in Gaza and therefore it couldn't possibly do so.

And yes, freedom from verbal or violent racism is a fundamental right. And that is why it's a good thing that Israel has a civil police force and courts. Your rights in the USA are guaranteed in precisely the same way: by protection when possible and redress through the justice system if that protection fails.

Incidentally, by a remarkable coincidence there was an article in today's Ha'aretz newspaper reporting on academic results in Israel. The second and fourth best-performing schools were Arab ones, and 33 percent of "outstanding" pupils were Arabs. This is especially remarkable given that only about 20 percent of Israelis are Arabs. This article is of course reporting on the fortunate percentage of students at the top of the academic scale, not those on the bottom. But it's still good news.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:27 PM on August 24, 2009


Joe in Australia: "It isn't; it was in the context of my suggestion that the Palestinian Authority practices something akin to Apartheid."

Holy shit - you realize that it's illegal for an Israeli citizen to enter the OPT, right? It's not like the big, bad Palestinians are all like, "You Jews have to stay in horrible, horrible Tel Aviv while we enjoy beautiful Jenin!" Israeli's aren't allowed into the West Bank at all. If they do enter it's either on a settlement road (to drive to their settlement) or because they're soldiers there to "defend Israel."

You really need to visit the West Bank, Joe - I think it'd blow your mind.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:42 AM on August 25, 2009


Joe in Australia: [My reference to the Palestinians] was in the context of my suggestion that the Palestinian Authority practices something akin to Apartheid.

Baby_Balrog: It's not like the big, bad Palestinians are all like, "You Jews have to stay in horrible, horrible Tel Aviv while we enjoy beautiful Jenin!"

How about "You Jews have to get out of Hebron and Nablus"? If that's not Apartheid then I don't know what is.

You really need to visit the West Bank, Joe - I think it'd blow your mind.

Some Jews come for a visit and never leave.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:24 PM on August 25, 2009


His conversion was likely made to facilitate his marriage more than anything else.

Just as a well-known Silicon Valley personality converted to Islam when he married an Iranian so they could have a traditional wedding.
posted by mike3k at 5:44 PM on August 26, 2009


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