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Two Muslims and one American consultant


[Note: The names of people below are changed. --- J.M.H.]


At least once a week Muhamed telephones from his Galilee village to chat about the news and ask how things are in Tel Aviv. He likes to reminisce about happy days in Tel Aviv of the 1980s, before the first intifada killed the mood and the first Gulf War scared the tourists away. Since those days, Tel Aviv has acquired a new opera house, endured a decade of sporadic suicide bombings, and begun sprouting high-rise buildings. It has not fully recovered its pre-intifada upbeat attitude, though. The young Brits and other Europeans who used to come here to work and travel no longer enliven the place. Muhamed recalls restaurants that have ceased to exist and local celebrities whose faces are no longer seen.

Muhamed watches Aljazeera television a lot. When he telephones from his village he often already knows the details of a breaking story from Iraq. Sometimes he launches into a monologue on the comparative benefits of living in the State of Israel. He praises its food, climate, health care, economic progress, even its law-enforcement. He was born only a few years after the establishment of the state and has spent most of his life here. He says he does not understand why people in his village complain as they do. Jews and Zionism have been good for the place, he says. Sometimes he goes to Haifa and discusses politics and history in a coffee house. He has no one to talk to in his village, he says.


Abdul lives in the United States now. The word here is that he married an American woman.

Sometimes he used to accompany his uncle to have dinner at our apartment in Tel Aviv. We used to laugh a lot. The last time I saw Abdul was in 1988, not long after the start of the first intifada. He had come over from Jerusalem with his uncle and some other people one Saturday afternoon. Adbul and I were standing together, outside on the balcony. The radio was on, and the hourly news brought a report of more violence between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers.

"How is this going to end?" I asked Abdul. He prefaced his reply with an apology.

"Please pardon me for saying this in your own home," he told me. He proceeded to cite some words from a Hadith, a saying attributed to Mohammed. The part which Abdul paraphrased goes like this:

"The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him." (from Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 6985)

It turned out that this Hadith forms the concluding section of Article Seven of the Hamas Charter. The Hamas came into existence as a Gaza offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood not long before Abdul left for the United States.

Today, thanks to the internet and the televised transmission of mosque sermons, this Hadith is more widely disseminated than it was when Abdul and I had our last chat.

American consultant

This American consultant and I have been meeting a few times a year at parties in Tel Aviv since the early 1990s. I used to look forward to the conversations. He has a fine mind and knows a lot about consulting, a trade which I enjoy and have plied from time to time. He also knows about Washington, where I used to work. We discovered we knew some people in common.

Since 9/11, it is increasingly unrewarding to talk with him. He seems to be obsessed with Islam yet unwilling to learn about it. Discussion of other subjects is desultory. Each conversation winds up with his confiding that he has discovered that the Koran is riddled with prejudice. He says the anti-Jewish passages would shock me.

The first time he offered this revelation I tried to discuss it with him, pointing out that you can find many different things in the Koran. There are even Muslims who say that Sura 5, Verses 20-21, means that their God wants the Land of Israel to belong to the Jews.

This was to no avail. He said he knows about the Koran from a relative abroad who is a student and has read every word of the Muslim sacred book, and that's that.

Of all people, a consultant should know better. When looking at situations, consultants ordinarily understand that what matters is not only the stated doctrine, but how it is interpreted and who wields the power.

-- Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000399.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Joseph M. Hochstein @ 10:38 PM CST [Link]


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