Source: Al Jazeera

Say the words Chechen rebels and most people think of the Beslan school massacre and the Moscow theatre siege, in which hundreds of civilians were killed.

Most people might also think that the war between the Chechens and Russians in the remote mountainous region of the Caucasus is over, but this is not the full truth…

Many indigenous peoples are coming to Islam, subhanAllah!

Here is the story of Taufiq Boldy, who embraced Islam as a teenager. He beieves Islam is a way of curing the ills of society.

An extraordinary documentary, informative and enquiring.

Two Polish film makers travelled in search of why people fight in jihad. This took them to Chechnya, Qatar and Afghanistan. They interviewed the former Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev (two weeks before he was assassinated), Amir Khattab in the mountains of Chechnya (also subsequently assassinated), Shamil Basaev, and tribal elders of Waziristan, near the Afghan-Pakistan highland border, whose sons are being kidnapped by the Americans.

The logic of suicide terrorism
It’s the occupation, not the fundamentalism

By Scott McConnell and Robert Pape
American Conservative Magazine, 18 July 2005

Source: From Occupied Palestine

Last month, Scott McConnell caught up with Associate Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, whose book on suicide terrorism, Dying to Win, is beginning to receive wide notice. Pape has found that the most common American perceptions about who the terrorists are and what motivates them are off by a wide margin. In his office is the world’s largest database of information about suicide terrorists, rows and rows of manila folders containing articles and biographical snippets in dozens of languages compiled by Pape and teams of graduate students, a trove of data that has been sorted and analyzed and which underscores the great need for reappraising the Bush administration’s current strategy. Below are excerpts from a conversation with the man who knows more about suicide terrorists than any other American.

The American Conservative: Your new book, Dying to Win, has a subtitle: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Can you just tell us generally on what the book is based, what kind of research went into it, and what your findings were?

Robert Pape: Over the past two years, I have collected the first complete database of every suicide-terrorist attack around the world from 1980 to early 2004. This research is conducted not only in English but also in native-language sources—Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, and Tamil, and others—so that we can gather information not only from newspapers but also from products from the terrorist community. The terrorists are often quite proud of what they do in their local communities, and they produce albums and all kinds of other information that can be very helpful to understand suicide-terrorist attacks.

This wealth of information creates a new picture about what is motivating suicide terrorism. Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think. The world leader in suicide terrorism is a group that you may not be familiar with: the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

This is a Marxist group, a completely secular group that draws from the Hindu families of the Tamil regions of the country. They invented the famous suicide vest for their suicide assassination of Rajiv Ghandi in May 1991. The Palestinians got the idea of the suicide vest from the Tamil Tigers.

TAC: So if Islamic fundamentalism is not necessarily a key variable behind these groups, what is?

RP: The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign—over 95 percent of all the incidents—has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw.

TAC: That would seem to run contrary to a view that one heard during the American election campaign, put forth by people who favor Bush’s policy. That is, we need to fight the terrorists over there, so we don’t have to fight them here.

RP: Since suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism, the use of heavy military force to transform Muslim societies over there, if you would, is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists coming at us.

Since 1990, the United States has stationed tens of thousands of ground troops on the Arabian Peninsula, and that is the main mobilization appeal of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. People who make the argument that it is a good thing to have them attacking us over there are missing that suicide terrorism is not a supply-limited phenomenon where there are just a few hundred around the world willing to do it because they are religious fanatics. It is a demand-driven phenomenon. That is, it is driven by the presence of foreign forces on the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. The operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorism and has given suicide terrorism a new lease on life.

TAC: If we were to back up a little bit before the invasion of Iraq to what happened before 9/11, what was the nature of the agitprop that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were putting out to attract people?

RP: Osama bin Laden’s speeches and sermons run 40 and 50 pages long. They begin by calling tremendous attention to the presence of tens of thousands of American combat forces on the Arabian Peninsula.

In 1996, he went on to say that there was a grand plan by the United States—that the Americans were going to use combat forces to conquer Iraq, break it into three pieces, give a piece of it to Israel so that Israel could enlarge its country, and then do the same thing to Saudi Arabia. As you can see, we are fulfilling his prediction, which is of tremendous help in his mobilization appeals.

TAC: The fact that we had troops stationed on the Arabian Peninsula was not a very live issue in American debate at all. How many Saudis and other people in the Gulf were conscious of it?

RP: We would like to think that if we could keep a low profile with our troops that it would be okay to station them in foreign countries. The truth is, we did keep a fairly low profile. We did try to keep them away from Saudi society in general, but the key issue with American troops is their actual combat power. Tens of thousands of American combat troops, married with air power, is a tremendously powerful tool.

Now, of course, today we have 150,000 troops on the Arabian Peninsula, and we are more in control of the Arabian Peninsula than ever before.

TAC: If you were to break down causal factors, how much weight would you put on a cultural rejection of the West and how much weight on the presence of American troops on Muslim territory?

RP: The evidence shows that the presence of American troops is clearly the pivotal factor driving suicide terrorism.

If Islamic fundamentalism were the pivotal factor, then we should see some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world, like Iran, which has 70 million people—three times the population of Iraq and three times the population of Saudi Arabia—with some of the most active groups in suicide terrorism against the United States. However, there has never been an al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from Iran, and we have no evidence that there are any suicide terrorists in Iraq from Iran.

Sudan is a country of 21 million people. Its government is extremely Islamic fundamentalist. The ideology of Sudan was so congenial to Osama bin Laden that he spent three years in Sudan in the 1990s. Yet there has never been an al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from Sudan.

I have the first complete set of data on every al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from 1995 to early 2004, and they are not from some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world. Two thirds are from the countries where the United States has stationed heavy combat troops since 1990.

Another point in this regard is Iraq itself. Before our invasion, Iraq never had a suicide-terrorist attack in its history. Never. Since our invasion, suicide terrorism has been escalating rapidly with 20 attacks in 2003, 48 in 2004, and over 50 in just the first five months of 2005. Every year that the United States has stationed 150,000 combat troops in Iraq, suicide terrorism has doubled.

TAC: So your assessment is that there are more suicide terrorists or potential suicide terrorists today than there were in March 2003?

RP: I have collected demographic data from around the world on the 462 suicide terrorists since 1980 who completed the mission, actually killed themselves. This information tells us that most are walk-in volunteers. Very few are criminals. Few are actually longtime members of a terrorist group. For most suicide terrorists, their first experience with violence is their very own suicide-terrorist attack.

There is no evidence there were any suicide-terrorist organizations lying in wait in Iraq before our invasion. What is happening is that the suicide terrorists have been produced by the invasion.

TAC: Do we know who is committing suicide terrorism in Iraq? Are they primarily Iraqis or walk-ins from other countries in the region?

RP: Our best information at the moment is that the Iraqi suicide terrorists are coming from two groups—Iraqi Sunnis and Saudis—the two populations most vulnerable to transformation by the presence of large American combat troops on the Arabian Peninsula. This is perfectly consistent with the strategic logic of suicide terrorism.

TAC: Does al-Qaeda have the capacity to launch attacks on the United States, or are they too tied down in Iraq? Or have they made a strategic decision not to attack the United States, and if so, why?

RP: Al-Qaeda appears to have made a deliberate decision not to attack the United States in the short term. We know this not only from the pattern of their attacks but because we have an actual al-Qaeda planning document found by Norwegian intelligence. The document says that al-Qaeda should not try to attack the continent of the United States in the short term but instead should focus its energies on hitting America’s allies in order to try to split the coalition.

What the document then goes on to do is analyze whether they should hit Britain, Poland, or Spain. It concludes that they should hit Spain just before the March 2004 elections because, and I am quoting almost verbatim: Spain could not withstand two, maximum three, blows before withdrawing from the coalition, and then others would fall like dominoes.

That is exactly what happened. Six months after the document was produced, al-Qaeda attacked Spain in Madrid. That caused Spain to withdraw from the coalition. Others have followed. So al-Qaeda certainly has demonstrated the capacity to attack and in fact they have done over 15 suicide-terrorist attacks since 2002, more than all the years before 9/11 combined. Al-Qaeda is not weaker now. Al-Qaeda is stronger.

TAC: What would constitute a victory in the War on Terror or at least an improvement in the American situation?

RP: For us, victory means not sacrificing any of our vital interests while also not having Americans vulnerable to suicide-terrorist attacks. In the case of the Persian Gulf, that means we should pursue a strategy that secures our interest in oil but does not encourage the rise of a new generation of suicide terrorists.

In the 1970s and the 1980s, the United States secured its interest in oil without stationing a single combat soldier on the Arabian Peninsula. Instead, we formed an alliance with Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which we can now do again. We relied on numerous aircraft carriers off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and naval air power now is more effective not less. We also built numerous military bases so that we could move large numbers of ground forces to the region quickly if a crisis emerged.

That strategy, called “offshore balancing,” worked splendidly against Saddam Hussein in 1990 and is again our best strategy to secure our interest in oil while preventing the rise of more suicide terrorists.

TAC: Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders also talked about the “Crusaders-Zionist alliance,” and I wonder if that, even if we weren’t in Iraq, would not foster suicide terrorism. Even if the policy had helped bring about a Palestinian state, I don’t think that would appease the more hardcore opponents of Israel.

RP: I not only study the patterns of where suicide terrorism has occurred but also where it hasn’t occurred. Not every foreign occupation has produced suicide terrorism. Why do some and not others? Here is where religion matters, but not quite in the way most people think. In virtually every instance where an occupation has produced a suicide-terrorist campaign, there has been a religious difference between the occupier and the occupied community. That is true not only in places such as Lebanon and in Iraq today but also in Sri Lanka, where it is the Sinhala Buddhists who are having a dispute with the Hindu Tamils.

When there is a religious difference between the occupier and the occupied, that enables terrorist leaders to demonize the occupier in especially vicious ways. Now, that still requires the occupier to be there. Absent the presence of foreign troops, Osama bin Laden could make his arguments but there wouldn’t be much reality behind them. The reason that it is so difficult for us to dispute those arguments is because we really do have tens of thousands of combat soldiers sitting on the Arabian Peninsula.

TAC: Has the next generation of anti-American suicide terrorists already been created? Is it too late to wind this down, even assuming your analysis is correct and we could de-occupy Iraq?

RP: Many people worry that once a large number of suicide terrorists have acted that it is impossible to wind it down. The history of the last 20 years, however, shows the opposite. Once the occupying forces withdraw from the homeland territory of the terrorists, they often stop—and often on a dime.

In Lebanon, for instance, there were 41 suicide-terrorist attacks from 1982 to 1986, and after the U.S. withdrew its forces, France withdrew its forces, and then Israel withdrew to just that six-mile buffer zone of Lebanon, they virtually ceased. They didn’t completely stop, but there was no campaign of suicide terrorism. Once Israel withdrew from the vast bulk of Lebanese territory, the suicide terrorists did not follow Israel to Tel Aviv.

This is also the pattern of the second Intifada with the Palestinians. As Israel is at least promising to withdraw from Palestinian-controlled territory (in addition to some other factors), there has been a decline of that ferocious suicide-terrorist campaign. This is just more evidence that withdrawal of military forces really does diminish the ability of the terrorist leaders to recruit more suicide terrorists.

That doesn’t mean that the existing suicide terrorists will not want to keep going. I am not saying that Osama bin Laden would turn over a new leaf and suddenly vote for George Bush. There will be a tiny number of people who are still committed to the cause, but the real issue is not whether Osama bin Laden exists. It is whether anybody listens to him. That is what needs to come to an end for Americans to be safe from suicide terrorism.

TAC: There have been many kinds of non-Islamic suicide terrorists, but have there been Christian suicide terrorists?

RP: Not from Christian groups per se, but in Lebanon in the 1980s, of those suicide attackers, only eight were Islamic fundamentalists. Twenty-seven were Communists and Socialists. Three were Christians.

TAC: Has the IRA used suicide terrorism?

RP: The IRA did not. There were IRA members willing to commit suicide—the famous hunger strike was in 1981. What is missing in the IRA case is not the willingness to commit suicide, to kill themselves, but the lack of a suicide-terrorist attack where they try to kill others.

If you look at the pattern of violence in the IRA, almost all of the killing is front-loaded to the 1970s and then trails off rather dramatically as you get through the mid-1980s through the 1990s. There is a good reason for that, which is that the British government, starting in the mid-1980s, began to make numerous concessions to the IRA on the basis of its ordinary violence. In fact, there were secret negotiations in the 1980s, which then led to public negotiations, which then led to the Good Friday Accords. If you look at the pattern of the IRA, this is a case where they actually got virtually everything that they wanted through ordinary violence.

The purpose of a suicide-terrorist attack is not to die. It is the kill, to inflict the maximum number of casualties on the target society in order to compel that target society to put pressure on its government to change policy. If the government is already changing policy, then the whole point of suicide terrorism, at least the way it has been used for the last 25 years, doesn’t come up.

TAC: Are you aware of any different strategic decision made by al-Qaeda to change from attacking American troops or ships stationed at or near the Gulf to attacking American civilians in the United States?

RP: I wish I could say yes because that would then make the people reading this a lot more comfortable.

The fact is not only in the case of al-Qaeda, but in suicide-terrorist campaigns in general, we don’t see much evidence that suicide-terrorist groups adhere to a norm of attacking military targets in some circumstances and civilians in others.

In fact, we often see that suicide-terrorist groups routinely attack both civilian and military targets, and often the military targets are off-duty policemen who are unsuspecting. They are not really prepared for battle.

The reasons for the target selection of suicide terrorists appear to be much more based on operational rather than normative criteria. They appear to be looking for the targets where they can maximize the number of casualties.

In the case of the West Bank, for instance, there is a pattern where Hamas and Islamic Jihad use ordinary guerrilla attacks, not suicide attacks, mainly to attack settlers. They use suicide attacks to penetrate into Israel proper. Over 75 percent of all the suicide attacks in the second Intifada were against Israel proper and only 25 percent on the West Bank itself.

TAC: What do you think the chances are of a weapon of mass destruction being used in an American city?

RP: I think it depends not exclusively, but heavily, on how long our combat forces remain in the Persian Gulf. The central motive for anti-American terrorism, suicide terrorism, and catastrophic terrorism is response to foreign occupation, the presence of our troops. The longer our forces stay on the ground in the Arabian Peninsula, the greater the risk of the next 9/11, whether that is a suicide attack, a nuclear attack, or a biological attack.

Rwandans jump to faith they view as tolerant

Chicago Tribune
By Laurie Goering

August 5, 2002

Source: islamawareness.net

KIGALI, Rwanda — Long before the call to prayer begins each Friday at noon, Rwanda’s Muslim faithful jam the main mosque in Kigali’s Nyamirambo neighborhood, the overflow crowd spreading prayer rugs on the mosque steps, over the red earth parking lot and out the front gate.

Almost a decade after a horrific genocide left 800,000 Rwandans dead and shook the faith of this predominantly Christian nation, Islam, once seen as a fringe religion, has surged in popularity.

Women in bright tangerine, scarlet and blue headscarves stroll the bustling streets of the capital beside men in long white tunics and embroidered caps. Mosques and Islamic schools are overflowing with students. Today about 14 percent of Rwandans consider themselves Muslim, up from about 7 percent before the genocide.

“We’re everywhere,” says Sheik Saleh Habimana, the leader of Rwanda’s burgeoning Muslim community, which has mosques in nearly all of the country’s cities and towns.

Countries around Rwanda–Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda–have large Muslim communities. But the religion never was particularly popular in Rwanda until the 1994 genocide, which spurred a rush of conversions.

From April to June 1994, militias and mobs from the country’s ethnic Hutu majority hunted and murdered hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tutsis at the government’s urging. Within a few months, three of four Tutsis in the country had been hacked to death, often with machetes or hoes. More than 100,000 suspected killers eventually were jailed.

The genocide stunned Rwanda’s Christian community. While clergy in many communities struggled to protect their congregations and died with them, some prominent Catholic and Protestant leaders joined in the killing spree and are facing prosecution.

Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, the head of Rwanda’s Seventh-day Adventist Church, is on trial, charged with luring Tutsi parishioners to his church in western Kibuye province, then turning them over to Hutu militias that slaughtered 2,000 to 6,000 in a single day.

The day before the massacre, Tutsi Adventist clergy inside the church sent Ntakirutimana a now-famous letter, informing him that “tomorrow we will be killed with our families” and seeking his help. Survivors report that he replied: “You must be eliminated. God doesn’t want you anymore.”

Muslims offered haven

At the same time, Rwanda’s Muslims–many of them intermarried Tutsi-Hutu couples–were opening their homes to thousands of desperate Tutsis. Muslim families for the most part succeeded in hiding Tutsis from the Hutu mobs, who feared entering the country’s insular Muslim communities.

Yahya Kayiranga, a young Tutsi who fled Kigali with his mother at the start of the genocide, was taken into the home of a Muslim family in the central city of Gitarama, where he hid until the killing was over.
His father and uncle who stayed behind in Kigali were murdered.

“We were helped by people we didn’t even know,” the 27-year-old remembers, still impressed.

Unable to return to what he considered a sullied Roman Catholic Church, he converted to Islam in 1996. Today he is studying Arabic and the Koran at a local madrassa and most mornings awakens for the dawn
prayer, the first of five each day.

His job as a money changer in downtown Kigali conflicts with Islam’s prohibitions on profiting from financial transactions, but he thinks he has mostly adapted well to his new faith.

“I thought at first Islam would be hard, but that fear went away,” he said. “It’s not easy at the beginning, but as you practice it becomes better, normal.”

Rwanda’s Muslim leaders have struggled to impart the importance of unity and tolerance to their converts, who number as many Hutus as Tutsis.

Reconciliation at mosques

Habimana is one of the leaders of the country’s new interfaith commission, created to promote acceptance, and in a country still seething with barely masked anger and fear after the mass killings, Rwanda’s mosques are one of the few places where reconciliation
appears to have genuinely taken hold.

“In the Islamic faith, Hutu and Tutsi are the same,” Kayiranga said. “Islam teaches us about brotherhood.”

While Rwanda’s ethnic Tutsis mostly have come to Islam seeking protection from purges and to honor and emulate the people who saved them, Hutus also have come, seeking to leave behind their violent past.

“They all felt the blood on their hands and they embraced Islam to purify themselves,” Habimana said.

Becoming Muslim has not been an easy process for many Rwandans, who chafe at the religion’s dress and lifestyle restrictions. Despite Islam’s new status, Rwandan Muslims traditionally have been second-class citizens, working as taxi drivers and traders in a society that reveres farmers.

“Because we were Muslim we weren’t considered Rwandanese,” Habimana said. Now, as the religion’s popularity grows, that is changing.

Today “we see Muslims as very kind people,” said Salamah Ingabire, 20, who converted to Islam in 1995 after losing two brothers in the killing spree. “What we saw in the genocide changed our minds.”

Flowers of Galilee

By Israel Shamir
Source: The Truth Seeker

When in 1543, the typhoon-blown Portuguese schooners approached the shores of Japan, the astonished sailors could not believe their eyes: on a warm spring day, the tropical island ahoy was buried under snow. They were witness to one of the real Seven Wonders of the World, the flowers of sakura, the wild cherry of Japan. As soon as the benevolent heaven bestows this seasonal gift to earth, the Japanese forget their wives and kids, their duties, employers and bills; they just sit under the trees, drink sake wine and write poems, short and sharp as swords.

That is why, these days, leaving behind our man-made troubles, I sit under the white cloud of a tree and watch the beautiful white and pink blossoms of almond trees covering the hills of Galilee. These lovely blossoms are our version of the Japanese sakura, and a chance to indulge in the custom of flower viewing. A honey aroma wafts through the air; the skies are crystal blue. Yellow daisies dance on the lush green grass at the base of these almond wonders, interspersed by violet cyclamen and red anemones. The glorious backdrop is provided by the huge snow mass of Jebel al Sheikh (Mt Hermon). Palestine is a sister to Japan. These two hilly lands are home to stubborn mountain folk, devoted to their customs and ways.

For all the similarities in the landscape, there are differences. The hill we sit on, all white like Jaffa sea surf, is the ruin of a village. If we were in Japan, it would be alive and humming. The village of Birim has been dead for fifty years. It is beautiful even in death, like Ophelia floating down the stream in the pre-Raphaelite painting of Millais. It was not ruined by war. Its Christian inhabitants were expelled from their houses well after the 1948 war. They were told to leave for a week or two, for ‘security’ reasons. They had no option but to believe the Israeli officers and move out. Their village was dynamited, their church surrounded by barbed wire. They went to Israeli court; they went to the government; commissions were appointed and petitions signed. Nothing helped. Ever since, for 50 years, they have lived in the nearby villages, and on Sundays they continue to visit their church. Their lands were seized by their Jewish neighbours, but they still bring their dead to be buried in the church graveyard, under the sign of the cross.

Until the arrival of the Israeli army, this ruined village with its orphaned church was the home of the rural Christians of Birim who, for centuries of Moslem rule, lived in peace with their Moslem neighbors of Nebi Yosha and with the old Sephardi Jewish community of nearby Safed. This little Guernica in the Galillee can single-handedly undermine the myth of a ‘Judeo-Christian’ civilization opposing a ‘monstrous’ Islam. This myth lays at the foundation of the Christian Zionist movement; among its fervent supporters, one can find a friend of Mark Rich and a newly minted New York citizen, W. J. Clinton.

The problems of the Middle East are ugly enough without the current Moslem-bashing. The pro-Israeli pundits of the New York Times quote the blood-curling verses on Jihad, retell the old traditions of religious wars and persecutions, to ‘prove’ Islam’s cruelty and intolerance. They are repeated by a pleasant upper-class Jewish lady from London, Barbra Amiel. In a sotto voce, she writes about ‘exclusivist’ Islam and Jewish ‘moderation’. In order to incite hatred, Israel’s lobby works all the ropes. Before the rise of Israel, Arab sheiks were depicted as romantic heroes in movies acted by Rudolf Valentino. Nowadays, the pro-Israel producers of Hollywood turn out propaganda films on ill-shaven Moslem terrorists with the subtlety of Edward D. Wood, Jr. This new prejudice is amplified a hundredfold by the Christian Zionist Congress, claiming ‘protection for Christians of Palestine from the Moslem (?!) persecution’. These people obviously have not walked among the ruins of Birim.

Another email comes into my laptop, this time from Gaza. An American girl, Alison Weir from San Francisco evades Israeli bullets, comforts the scared Palestinian kids, and writes: “The problem is when you know the truth, it is far too cruel, far too diametrically opposite what we used to think and what everyone still thinks to express. The lie is too big, the repression too complete, the Palestinians’ lives too horrible to write about reasonably”.

Well, Alison is right. We face a huge lie, an anti-Moslem blood libel, and it is time to stop it. I do not think that the problems of Middle East have anything to do with religion. But if the supporters of Israel want to wake up the sleeping ghost of religious intolerance, to incite Christians against Moslems, let us audit their balance.

If these Christian Zionists care for Christ, not only for Zion, let them learn what Jews and Moslems feel towards Christ. Rami Rozen expressed the Jewish tradition in a long feature in a major Israeli newspaper Haaretz[i]: “Jews feel towards Jesus today what they felt in 4 c or in the Middle Ages It is not fear, it is hatred and despise”. “For centuries, Jews concealed from Christians their hate to Jesus, and this tradition continues even now”. “He is revolting and repulsive”, said an important modern religious Jewish thinker. Rozen writes that this “repulsion passed from the observant Jews to the general Israeli public”.

On Christmas Eve, according to a report in the Jerusalem local paper, Kol Ha-Ir[ii], Hassids customarily do not read holy books, as it could save Jesus from eternal punishment (the Talmud teaches that Jesus boils in hell[iii]). This custom was dying out, but Hassids of Habad, the fervent nationalists, brought it back to life. I still remember old Jews spitting while passing by a church, and cursing the dead, while passing by a Christian cemetery. Last year in Jerusalem, a Jew decided to refresh the tradition. He spat at Holy Cross, carried in the procession along the city. Police saved him from further trouble, but the court fined him $50, despite his claim that he just fulfilled his religious duty.

Last year, the biggest Israeli tabloid Yedioth Aharonoth reprinted in its library the Jewish anti-Gospel, Toledoth Eshu, compiled in the Middle Ages. It is the third recent reprint, including one in a newspaper. If the Gospel is the book of love, Toledoth is the book of hate for Christ. The hero of the book is Judas. He captures Jesus by polluting his purity. According to Toledoth, the conception of Christ was in sin, the miracles of Jesus were witchcraft, his resurrection but a trick.

Joseph Dan, a Professor of Jewish mysticism in Hebrew University in Jerusalem, writing on the death of Jesus stated: “The modern Jewish apologists, hesitantly adopted by the church, preferred to put the blame on Romans. But the medieval Jew did not wish to pass the buck. He tried to prove that Jesus had to be killed, and he was proud of killing Him. The Jews hated and despised Christ and Christians”. Actually, adds Prof. Dan, there is little place to doubt that the Jewish enemies of Jesus caused his execution.

Even today, Jews in Israel refer to Jesus by the demeaning word Yeshu (instead of Yeshua), meaning ‘Perish his name’. There is an ongoing argument, whether His name was turned into a swear word, or other way around. In a similar pun, the Gospel is called ‘Avon Gilaion’, the booklet of Sin. These are the endearing feeling of the friends of Christian Zionists towards Christ.

What about Moslems? The Moslems venerate Christ. He is called ‘The Word of God”, “Logos”, Messiah, the Prophet and is considered “a Messenger of God”, along with Abraham, Moses and Muhammad. Many chapters of the Kor’an tell the story of Christ, his virgin birth and his persecution by Jews. His saintly mother is admired, and the Immaculate Conception is one of the tenets of Islam. The name of Christ glorifies the golden edifice of Haram a-Sharif. According to the Moslem faith, it was there that the founder of Islam met Jesus, and they prayed together. The Hadith, the Moslem tradition, says in the name of the prophet, ‘We do not forbid you to believe in Christ, we order you to”. Moslems identify their prophet with Paracletes, the Helper (Jn 14:16) whose coming was predicted by Jesus. They venerate places associated with the life of Jesus: the place of Ascension, the Tomb of Lazarus, the Holy Sepulchre are adjacent to a mosque and perfectly accessible by Christians.

While Moslems do not consider Jesus – God, they proclaim him as the Messiah, the Anointed one, the Paradise Dweller. This religious idea, familiar to Nestorians and other early churches, but rejected by mainstream Christianity, opened the gates for those Jews, who could not part with the notion of strict monotheism. That is why many Palestinian Jews and Christians of the 7th century accepted Islam and became Palestinian Moslems. They remained in their villages, they did not depart for Poland or England, they did not learn Yiddish, they did not study the Talmud, but they continued to shepherd their flocks and plant almond trees, they remained faithful to their land and to the great idea of the fraternity of men.

In the south of Hebron, in the ruins of Susiah, one can see how in the course of two centuries a synagogue slowly evolved into a mosque, as the population of nearby caves abandoned the exclusionary faith of Babylonian wizards and adopted Islam. These shepherds still live there, in the same caves. In the last year, the Israeli army has twice tried to expel them to provide more room for new settlers from Brooklyn.

Why, in this season of blossoming almond trees, do I brood on the sensitive subject of Jewish and Moslem attitudes towards Christ? Because one has to stop the mills of hatred operated by Israel’s supporters. Because the “Judeo-Christian” code language is being used to justify the barbed wire around Birim’s Church and the tanks around Bethlehem. Because there is a duty to remove an obstacle from the path of the blind.

The majority of the Christian Zionists are simple misled souls, people of good intentions but little knowledge. They think they ‘support Jews’, but they promote the Christ-hating spirit among the Jews. It was not in vain that a hero of the Zionist Bible, Exodus by Leon Uris, kept a poster in his room saying ‘We crucified Christ’. It was not in vain that an Israeli soldier on the roadblock of Bethlehem told me yesterday, ‘We starve the beasts’, referring to the native Christians of the city of Nativity. It was not in vain that the Gospel was burned on a stake in Israel, while anti-Gospel literature is widely spread; that new immigrant Jews embracing Christianity are persecuted and deported; that every preacher of the Christian faith in Israel can be sent to jail according to new anti-Christian laws; that Israeli archaeologists erase the Christian holy sites and memories off the face of the Holy Land.

To the leaders of the Christian Zionists, who surely know these facts, but lead their innocent flock on the path of the Anti-Christ, I say, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Christ to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone tied round his neck and be drowned in the deep sea” (Mt 18:6).

To my Jewish brothers I say: the opinions of medieval Jews do not bind us. Every Jew can decide for himself, whether to pray for the destruction of the Gentiles or to share the blessing of the Holy Land with the villagers of Birim and Bethlehem. Within the Jewish people, there were always spiritual descendants of the prophets who wished to bring peace and blessing to all the children of Adam. As true as this almond blossom, in you the prophecy will be fulfilled: ‘All the nations of the earth will bless you’ (Deut. 7).

Extracted from Flowers of Galilee: The Collected Essays of Israel Shamir