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Cartoon Crackup


It is very difficult to write about the subject of the cartoons of Muhamed without getting someone angry, but it is very difficult and very wrong not to write about it. It was not wise of the Danish newspaper to print these cartoons. The reactions in the Muslim world, which resulted in burning of embassies, murder of a priest, and demonstrations in which people were killed, were very much worse than the cartoons.

The reason for the urgency of these demonstrations cannot have much to do with the cartoons, which were first published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten last September, and only recently republished in other European newspapers.

Though it is offensive to Muslims to make images of Muhamed, such images already exist in abundance and have existed for years. There are numerous depictions of Muhamed in Persian and Turkish works of art and books, including Siyer-i Nebi, written in Turkey. In the west, images of Muhamed include a frieze on the USA Supreme Court building, illustrations by Dore, Blake, Rodin and Dali based on Dante's Inferno, that show Muhamed in Hell, a fresco by Giovanni de Modena in San Petrino Church in Bologna, showing Muhamed being tortured in Hell, and the Tintin comics series. Le Nouvel Obervateur recently published a cover illustration featuring Muhamed. Except for an attempt by extremists to blow up the church of San Petrino, none of these instances of supposed sacrilege, some quite insulting, ever stirred Muslim fury like these cartoons.

The fury was fueled by governments. Saudi Arabia's government run Arab News daily ran an editorial demanding a Norwegian government apology for the cartoons. They got it, but it was not enough. They ran a "moderate" op-ed by one Amr El Faisal calling for a systematic gradually tightening boycott of European goods until those Europeans come to their senses and publish only what he likes. Syria was not content with editorials. Lebanese ministers saw the hand of Syria in riots in the Christian quarter of Ashrafiyeh and called for a UN Security Council investigation. Of 192 rioters detained, 77 were Syrians and 44 were members of the Palestinian Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The PFLP and the Baathist Syrian government are of course well known for their piety and readiness to defend the honor of the prophet.

While respecting the rights of Muslims and the dignity of the prophet, I cannot see how either of those are advanced in any way by demonstrators with signs that say "Prepare for the Real Holocaust" "Europe is the cancer, Islam is the Answer," "Slay those who insult Islam" "Butcher those who mock Islam." Is this the way to disprove the implication of some of the cartoons that all Muslims are terrorists? Aren't these demonstrators mocking Islam and all religion?

Sooner or later it all must come back to the Jews. In Europe, the Arab European League published a cartoon of Anna Frank and Adolph Hitler in bed, and a cartoon denying the Holocaust. No doubt the hand of the all-powerful Jewish conspiracy was evident to these pious people in the decision of some Danish editors, followed by the editors of Die Welt and France Soir and other newspapers, all bastions of Zionism no doubt, to publish these cartoons. These anti-Semitic cartoons were meant as "revenge." It is not clear why they would disturb the editors of European newspapers who routinely publish cartoons of Jews eating babies and give them awards, but no doubt it showed the piety of these gentlemen and their zeal for their religion.

Muslim and Arab media have never shown over-inclination to worry about religious or ethnic sensibilities. According to the Independent, Jewish groups complained that cartoons appearing in the Arab press 'include a depiction in 2002 of the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak as Hitler, with his hands dripping with blood. Another shows a Jewish devil with a huge hooked nose haranguing the Pope. The Pope says: "Peace on earth" and the Jew replies: "Colonies on earth." ' (Note - editors of the Independent think that Ehud Barak was Prime Minister of Israel in 2002). No action was ever taken regarding any of those cartoons. Egyptian television ran the Knight Without a Horse series, which claimed that there are really Elders of Zion and Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but no Israelis or Jews burned any Egyptian embassies.

The Danes touched a match to a powder keg, failing to realize that discretion is the better part of valor. There is no good resolution for this hideous carnival of hate and self-righteousness, fueled by bad judgement, frivolousness and evil. We could have done without the cartoons. Equally, the riots might have been avoided if the over-reaction had not been legitimized by official spokespersons and governments in the Middle East and elsewhere. Once the genie of religious frenzy was released, of course the respective governments had no choice other than to apologize in order to avoid bloodshed. Unfortunately, once the precedent that it is possible to limit freedom of expression by violence is established, it will not stop at cartoons we don't like. It is all very well for the Pope to reflect that it is wrong to insult the religion of others, but he should remember that the Sistine Chapel has a wonderful ceiling fresco by Michelangelo that depicts God. That is of course blasphemy according to Judaism as well as Islam.

Engaged in these momentous cartoon debates, the Middle East hardly had time to acknowledge the tragic and needless deaths of over a thousand people in the sinking of a dilapidated and overcrowded Egyptian ferry. We have our priorities right here. Matters of religious doctrine are much more important than trifles like ferries.

Ami Isseroff

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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/00000428.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.

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Replies: 23 comments

As a christian and someone critical of islam I believe that the reaction resulting from the publication of those cartoons has caused more damage to islam than the cartoons ever did.
Seeing the violence perpetuated by those muslims, the deaths and injuries leads most christians/westerners/ and other potential muslim converts to thing negatively of islam and muslims in general.
I once considered islam but after the 9/11 attacks, the repeated bombings, murders, beheadings, attacks there is _no_ way I would consider islam as a religion.
I don't at all support the spread of islam, in fact i do my best to hinder it where I can but I think they're only hurting their cause by being so violent.
Maybe they're worst behavior is my best friend in my aim to stop islam :)

Posted by A comment @ 02/07/2006 05:43 PM CST

As a muslim, as a Canadian, as an arab I am disturbed by the recent events in Europe and the Middle East. The pictures printed in some EU newspapers should not be viewd as freedom of expression. It is clear hatred and clear incitement against muslims and Islam. It is not freedom of expression when you depict the prophet of a great religion as a terrorist. The anger is not because a newspaper made fun at a muslim person, the anger is the mocking of the prohet of islam. These pictures should not be looked at in the same manner the pictures depicting a political figure is looked at. Islam forbids the redicule of any of the prophets such as Abraham, moses, jesus and mohammed, peace be upon all of them. People in the west should have a better understanding of muslims who are becoming more and more a part of the west.The reaction of some muslims does not reflect well on the muslims. However, this is not a reason for people, all people including muslims to be ignorant about the great muslim religion. It would be better for the whole world if more people pick up a booklet from their local islamic center and learn a little about islam. I am not suggesting this to convert anyone, but ignorance is not an execuse and all of us should know about each other's religious beliefs. I am not an expert on islam or chistians or jews, but I know enough that I would not disrespect their beliefs. My friends are from all religions. I am proud to be a muslim and a Canadian and an arab.

Posted by Mike Jebara @ 02/07/2006 06:47 PM CST

"It is not freedom of expression when you depict the prophet of a great religion as a terrorist."

This is exactly freedom of expression. Maybe we find this expression distasteful, but this exactly when freedom of expression is necessary.

"Islam forbids the redicule of any of the prophets such as Abraham, moses, jesus and mohammed, peace be upon all of them."

The Danish are not Muslim and should not be subject to the rules of Islam.

"muslims who are becoming more and more a part of the west."

If the are to be part of the west they will come in contact with people who will express many opinions they will find bad. Some of the muslims may also express opinions others may dislike. This is why freedom of expression is necessary. The alternative is for one side to force its expressions on another. Rioting and terrorism is one wayof doing that.

Posted by Micha @ 02/07/2006 09:36 PM CST

The response across the Muslim world to these rather inadequate cartoons is indicative, not of the degree of offense they may cause to Islam, but the inadequacy of the Muslim societies. The modern Islamic paradigm is one which is informed by their own sense of superiority emanating from their adherence to Islam; the profound sense of inadequacy in relation to their relative weakness in comparison to the West; and the complicity of western intellectuals who have failed to apply the same standards of examination and criticism to the Muslim world that they apply to the West.
The profoundly offensive depictions of Jews in the Arab and other Muslim media is indicative of their own inadequacy and their inability to face reality. It cannot be justifiably claimed in this age of the internet and world-wiode communication that at least a significant proportion of the Muslim world is unaware of political realities. This even more so of Muslims who live in the West and participate in the education system. They choose to ignore it, and believe their own self-deceptive myths.
Islam accords itself a position of superiority in relation to non-Muslims, and formally assigns to Jews & Christians the role of tolerated non-believers and to other denies them the right to life. Even within the role of tolerated non-believer, the Jew or Christian is obliged under Islamic law not to challenge Islamic hegemony. In essence Islam promotes the concept of apartheid for Jews and Christians, some 1000 years before the establishment of twentieth century South Africa.
However Muslim are caught in the cleft stick of their own culture. Whilst they are confident of their God given superiority, they are constantly reminded of their political, social, economic and military inferiority. The latter half of the twentieth century drove home to Muslims how they are unable to fulfil the expectations of their own rhetoric. Worst still Muslim have been repeatedly humilated by the odious Jews, whom should ,according to Islam, accept a subordinate position. Despite their considerable mineral wealth, Muslims have never been able to translate this into the creation of a substantive commonwealth for the benefit of all.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie provides us with a wonderful example of the difficulties that Muslims face. He is fully aware that in the hierarchy of victimhood to be identified as a victim delivers power and resources. He wants therfore to associate Islam with being the suibject of oppression and violence. He is also perfectly aware that the history of Islam is littered with gross outrages perpetrated in the name of Islam, and that Islamic states currently oppress non-Muslims. He is jealous of the Jews and their claim to victimhood whilst having an effective state. His response is therefore to politick against Holocaust Day and to refuse to attend so long as it does not explicitly equate the sufferings of Muslims as being on a par with the Holocaust. This is also a convenience as it allows him to avoid answering the odd questions about the role of the Muslim SS in WW2. As a key Muslim leader he cannot face the facts of history and as a consequence leaves his "flock" languishing in ignorance of the worst kind.
The many so-called friends of Islam amongst intellectuals and political activists in the West are too frequently patronisingly indulgent towards Muslims, and unwillingly to subject Islamic societies to the same standards they apply to other societies. In my opinion this behaviour is rooted in fundamental racism towards Arabs and other Muslims that consigns them to being nothing more than ignorant, if noble, savages. This can be better understood when one looks at the same group of intellectuals and activists in their relations to Jews. To them Jews were considered pitiful, if noble, until the advent of Zionism and the assertion of practical Jewish nationalism. From this point onward Jews became objectionable because they demanded equity and refused to be victims any longer.
Let us not condemn the Muslims who rage in their streets, and set fire to the public symbols of Denmark or other Western nations. Instead pity them. Muslims face problems that few of us can appreciate, and worst of all is the fact that many of the people who speak on their behalf do so to assert power over them.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 02/07/2006 10:54 PM CST

The muslims have shown Israel and Jews in comics in much worse ways than Denmark dipicted Mohamed. Doesn't it say it all when the Muslims react with violence and the Jews react with intelligence! It shows the world what violent people the muslims really are!

Posted by ciny @ 02/07/2006 11:06 PM CST

To Ami Isarof
This is a very good article. It shows the hypocrisy of Muslims who argue against these cartoons but let other depictions of Islam go by. This article should be read to Muslims out loud.

This other part of an article written by Gary Younge should be read outloud to Europeans regarding their claim of freedom of expression when publishing the Muslim cartoons. It shows the hypocrisy of Europeans rehgarding freedom of expression:


"Does the right to freedom of speech justifiy printing the Danish cartoons?"

Gary Younge: No

In January 2002 the New Statesman published a front page displaying a shimmering golden Star of David impaling a union flag, with the words "A kosher conspiracy?" The cover was widely and rightly condemned as anti-semitic. It's not difficult to see why. It played into vile stereotypes of money-grabbing Jewish cabals out to undermine the country they live in. Some put it down to a lapse of editorial judgment. But many saw it not as an aberration but part of a trend - one more broadside in an attack on Jews from the liberal left.

A group calling itself Action Against Anti-Semitism marched into the Statesman's offices, demanding a printed apology. One eventually followed. The then editor, Peter Wilby, later confessed that he had not appreciated "the historic sensitivities" of Britain's Jews. I do not remember talk of a clash of civilisations in which Jewish values were inconsistent with the western traditions of freedom of speech or democracy. Nor do I recall editors across Europe rushing to reprint the cover in solidarity.

Quite why the Muslim response to 12 cartoons printed by Jyllands-Posten last September should be treated differently is illuminating. There seems to be almost universal agreement that these cartoons are offensive. There should also be universal agreement that the paper has a right to publish them. When it comes to freedom of speech the liberal left should not sacrifice its values one inch to those who seek censorship on religious grounds, whether US evangelists, Irish Catholics or Danish Muslims.

But the right to freedom of speech equates to neither an obligation to offend nor a duty to be insensitive. There is no contradiction between supporting someone's right to do something and condemning them for doing it. If our commitment to free speech is important, our belief in anti-racism should be no less so. These cartoons spoke not to historic sensitivities, but modern ones. Muslims in Europe are now subjected to routine discrimination on suspicion that they are terrorists, and Denmark has some of Europe's most draconian immigration policies. These cartoons served only to compound such prejudice.

The right to offend must come with at least one consequent right and one subsequent responsibility. If newspapers have the right to offend then surely their targets have the right to be offended. Moreover, if you are bold enough to knowingly offend a community then you should be bold enough to withstand the consequences, so long as that community expresses displeasure within the law.

So far this has been the case. Despite isolated acts of violence that should be condemned, the overwhelming majority of the protests have been peaceful. Several Arab and Muslim nations have withdrawn their ambassadors from Denmark. There have been demonstrations outside embassies. Meanwhile, according to Denmark's consul in Dubai, a boycott of Danish products in the Gulf has cost the country $27m.

The Jyllands-Posten editor took four months to apologise. That was his decision. If he was not truly sorry then he shouldn't have done so; if he was then he should have done so sooner. Given that it took yet one more month for the situation to deteriorate to this level, these recent demonstrations can hardly be described as kneejerk.

"This is a far bigger story than just the question of 12 cartoons in a small Danish newspaper," Flemming Rose, the culture editor of Jyllands-Posten, told the New York Times. Too right, but it is not the story Rose thinks it is. Rose says: "This is about the question of integration and how compatible is the religion of Islam with a modern secular society - how much does an immigrant have to give up and how much does the receiving culture have to compromise."

Rose displays his ignorance of both modern secular society and the role of religion in it. Freedom of the press has never been sacrosanct in the west. Last year Ireland banned the film Boy Eats Girl because of graphic suicide scenes; Madonna's book Sex was unbanned there only in 2004. American schoolboards routinely ban the works of Alice Walker, JK Rowling and JD Salinger. Such measures should be opposed, but not in a manner that condemns all Catholics or Protestants for being inherently intolerant or incapable of understanding satire.

Even as this debate rages, David Irving sits in jail in Austria charged with Holocaust denial for a speech he made 17 years ago; the Muslim cleric Abu Hamza is on trial in London for inciting racial hatred; and a retrial has been ordered for the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, on the same charges. The question has never been whether you draw a line under what is and what is not acceptable, but where you draw it. Rose and others clearly believe Muslims, by virtue of their religion, exist on the wrong side of the line.

As a result they are vilified twice: once through the cartoon, and again for exercising their democratic right to protest. The inflammatory response to their protest reminds me of the quote from Steve Biko, the South African black nationalist: "Not only are whites kicking us; they are telling us how to react to being kicked."

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 02/08/2006 12:28 AM CST

Had the Muslim leaders in Denmark ignored the cartoons, they would have disappeared as they were neither funny nor challenging. Instead they deliberately sought to make a major issue about them. We need to bear in mind that Denmark is a very small country, with little significant international impact. It has been economically and socially very successful, and is a very tolerant law abiding society.
The background to this is that Muslim leaders, and presumably the Danish Muslim community, find the extreme tolerance that exists in Denmark offensive and challenging. They have sought for themselves a position of protection against offence that is not open to others in Danish law. This extent of Denmark's social tolerance is not a new thing, and the majority of Muslims have chosen to live in Denmark due to its tolerance and wealth. Tolerant free societies are richer than those that are not.
What Danes justifiably object to is people, not just Muslims, wanting to reside in their country because of its tolerance and wealth, and then seeking to fundamentally change the nature of society to suit themselves without any regard for others and the traditions of that society. When they demand that immigrants integrate, their intention is that immigrants learn to accept and adopt the same values of tolerance.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 02/08/2006 10:33 AM CST

Micha needs me to clearup a few of my comments. As to portraying a prophet as a terrorist being freedom of expression, I wonder why most people don't look at anti semitism as a freedom of expression. The prophet Mohammed like all arabs and jews are the semitic people. Why not apply the same standards for the muslims??????
As to Denmark not being muslim, I agree that not all of the Danes are muslim. But they do have muslims among them as well as jews. Apply the same to the muslims as you do to the jews. My comment was not that all Danes are muslim. I meant that Islam forbids the ridicule of all prophets, this was in response to the article stating that muslim countries redicule christians and jews. The religion of islam does not allow it. But if some muslims choose to do that, then the religion can't be held resposible for the actions of a few.
As to muslims in the west, I know from my own experiences of the west that freedom of expression is ok if you agree with the majority of opinions. God help you if you disagree with them. The first comment made by your so called "freedom of expression group" is "why don't you go back to your own country". Most muslims don't like all the riots and the flag burning and the violance that followed. But I guess I should be rethinking my opinion and consider what these angry and hurt muslim are doing is what you call "FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION".

Posted by Mike Jebara @ 02/08/2006 08:35 PM CST

Mike seems to have a difficulty understanding the concept of freedom of speech. You are entitled to hold and speak unti-semitic opinions. Many muslims and myslim governments make much use of that right. I do not have the right to use violence against you in order to prevent you from speaking your opinions, even if they are anti-semitic. A government may (maybe under extreme circumstances) have a justification to prosecute you for voicing certain opinions if there is a clear connection between your words and dangerous actions, like if you said that someone should be killed and there was real concern that someone would actually be killed. I do have a freedom of speech to speak against your opinions if I find them offensive, and to convince others to speak against your opinions, so that maybe you will change your mind. But if I used violence against you to stop you from talking that would not be freedom of speech, it would be terrorism.

I don't hold Islam responsible for antisemitism in the muslim world. I hold the muslims who promote these opinions responsible, such as the Hamas, the prime-minister of Malaysia and the president of Iran to name a few. European newspapers also have caricatures Jews find offensive. They complain, but they do not riot. Complaining is freedom of speech too. So if the same rules should apply to Muslims and Jews than you should get used to hearing opinions you don't like.

If someone tells you to go to your own country it is also freedom of speech. But if they force you than it is violence.

I saw the cartoons. If these were the only kinds of cartoons made against Israel or Jews we would have considered ourselves lucky.

Posted by Micha @ 02/09/2006 02:03 AM CST

The alleged Islamic prohibition upon ridiculing the prophets surely only applies to Muslims, and does not extend to non-Muslims. Anymore than the Islamic prohibition on the consumption of pork and alcohol applies to Muslims only. To demand that non-Muslims behave in accordance with Islam is indicative of a degree of arrogance on the part of the Islamic world. It also suggests that Muslims are astonishingly insecure in their beliefs and self-image.
Anit-semitism is fundamentally different than the ridiculing of the prophets, in so much as anti-semitism is directed towards living human beings without regard to the behaviour or beliefs.
If the Western media produces cartoons associating the prophet Mohamed with terrorism and oppression it should produce alarm for Muslims, not as rage that this has been expressed, but in recognition that despite their alleged intentions this is how Islam is perceived in the west. It is not for non-Muslims to determine the nature of Islam, but for Muslims to project that nature. It is absolutely insufficient for some individuals to express the view that the average Muslim does not support these violent outbursts. If the Muslim collective does not condemn and thus constrain this very public violence, then they can not complain if non-Muslims express negative views about Islam.
Remember what we in the west see in our newspapers and TV's are a steady stream of images of people claiming to be devote and orthodox Muslims firing guns, burning buildings or joyfully celebrating when some "enemy" is killed. We see young men and women bearing placards demanding capital punishment for those who offend Islam. We see a young man dressed as a suicide bomber, and later learn that he is in fact a ***** dealer on parole from a five year prison sentence. This particular individual who is demanding the death of the cartoonists, wants of course the very humanity that the western judiciary affords criminals who profit from death and misery.
We do not see or hear from the millions of Muslims who allegedly desire peace, tolerance and democracy. Perhaps if Muslims in the west do want special treatment in accordance with Islam, then perhaps they might like to volunteer to be subject to an Islamic penal code. Had this been enacted in Britain, the young man who dressed as a suicide bomber would have been absent from the demonstration because surely he would have been summarily exected for his crimes.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 02/09/2006 10:23 AM CST

Speaking about Israel is always a touchy subject in the world. The majority of the world seems to forget that Israel is probably the only country in the world that still occupies some one elses land. When muslims were fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, they were called freedom fighters and muhjahedeen in the west. However, when the muslims fight against Israel which is occupying the arab lands, they are called terrorists. Double standard or what ??????. Talking against Israel is not being anti-semitic and this is considered true by some jews as well as others.Not all jews support Israel or the way the Israelly governments run the state of Israel.I think that the subjet of freedom of expression should have limits. The limits should be universally applied. To be against a whole people is not freedom of expression. I think the demonstration today in Beirut by Hizballah which had more than 250,000 people is a good way for all muslims and non muslims to express there displeasure with the Danish pictures. I think that sites like this here is a good place for civil debates on issues. Micha, I have been hearing opinions that I don't like, and I am sure not everyone agrees with my opinions. I don't have a problem with freedom of expression but to a certain limit. If you believe that freedom of expression should not have limits, then that is your opinion and I respect it. The world will not be a better place by everyone sticking to their guns and no one making any compromises.

Posted by Mike Jebara @ 02/09/2006 06:31 PM CST

Who will decide the limit to freedom of expression?

Being a freedom fighter and a terrorist are not mutually exclusive. Whether someone is a freedom fighter or not depends on your opinion. But if he uses terrorism to fight his fight than he is a terrorist, the same way that he was using a canon we would call him a canoneer.

All countries in the world are on land that used to belong to someone else.
If I oppose the occupation, it is not because of "Arab Lands," it is because I believe Palestinians/Arabs in Israel or in land controled by Israel should have either equal citizenship or their own state.

When criticism of Israel contains anti-semitism it is antisemitic. The Hamas and Egypt and Syria promote the protocols of the elder of zion which is an antisemitic document. They have the freedom of expression to do it, but they shouldn't complain that we call them antisemite.

I wonder if Ami can find the quote attributed to Oliver Wendel Hiolmes concerning freedom of expression?

I am for compromise. Freedom of expression is a compromise. It means that we both have to hear expressions we don't like. I don't like some of the Danish cartoons. I don't like the antisemtic cartoons in Arab newspapers. I don't like some of the other cartoons in Arab newspapers, or in European. I live with it.

Posted by Micha @ 02/09/2006 06:55 PM CST

"We should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe." OLIVER WENDEL HOLMES, JR

Posted by Mark Hull @ 02/09/2006 10:05 PM CST

I guess spammers are having fun with this site. It seems everyone is for freedom of expression the same way everyone is for freedom from occupation. We however still have a problem defining the limits of both. We disagree on the when to call someone a freedom fighter and when to call him a terrorist. If you are for what the Israelly government does, then those that oppose Israel are called terrorists. If you are for the Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese getting their land back and then living in peace with Israel, then in opposing Israel you would be called a freedom fighter. That is my opinion. It seems that the Israelly-Arab problem is the cause of so many problems in the world. I feel that if Israel would accept the offer made by the arabs in Beirut through the arab league where they stated: LaND FOR PEACE. ISRAEL RETURNS TO THE 1967 BORDERS,AND THE ARABS WILL MAKE PEACE WITH ISRAEL. ALL ARABS. I look forward to the day that majority of people recognize that the only hope we have for lasting peace, is for Israel to return to the 1967 border. Most arabs do not call for the distruction of Israel. Most arabs are not asking for Israel to return to the 1948 border. Compromise is the logical answer here even if some arabs and Israelies don't like it. I hope that someday in my life time I will be able to freely go from Beirut to Tel Aviv and continue to Dimascuss or any other arab country. This is only a dream, and if the Israelies continue in this manner, a dream it will remain.

Posted by Mike Jebara @ 02/10/2006 02:49 PM CST

I just noticed that in my last post I may have gone off topic. oppps.

Posted by Mike Jebara @ 02/10/2006 02:52 PM CST

Dear Mike,
You are pretty close to the topic. Unfortunately AFAIK it is not possible to keep out the spammers as far as I know unless I change the Web Log engine and then it is open to a different sort of spam that is about as bad. Unfortunately too I have to delete each SPAM post individually or wipe all the comments. That's the way Greymatter works. The updated versions don't deal with the problem either I am told. Anyhow I got rid of the spam for now.

I want to get all the Imams, Rabbis, Priests and Ministers to take up the cry of "Kill the Spammers wherever you find them." I think capital punishment is not excesssive for such people, and a few examples will probably cure the problem.

As for the Beirut peace offer, it is not as you stated, but implies also return of all Palestinian refugees to Israel. That would be the end of Israel as a Jewish state. We do not wish to commit suicide. That is the reason Israel has been reluctant to take it up. You can read it at mideastweb, linked from http://www.mideastweb.org/history.htm

Ami Isseroff

Posted by Moderator @ 02/10/2006 04:23 PM CST

Ami Isseroff if the return of all refugees is the only problem, then I think the leaders can come to some kind of agreement. Although I did not make quote about the Beirut summit, the main points are land for peace. Most of the Palestinian refugees are not a problem. The Palestinians in Lebanon maybe the only problem. When ISrael decides to accept the Beirut offer in principle,I hope that the leaders can come to a balanced soultion. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water......

Posted by Mike Jebara @ 02/10/2006 08:03 PM CST

Another interesting article by Mr. Young:

The Right to Be Offended
Gary Younge

In April 2003 Danish illustrator Christoffer Zieler submitted a series of unsolicited cartoons offering a lighthearted take on the resurrection of Christ to the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Zieler received an e-mail from the paper's Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, saying: "I don't think Jyllands-Posten's readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think they will provoke an outcry. Therefore I will not use them." Two years later the same paper published twelve cartoons of Muhammad, including one with him wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a burning fuse. Predictably enough, it created an outcry. How we got from there to talk of "the Muslim threat" to the immutable European traditions of secularism and freedom of speech, while Scandinavian embassies burn in the Arab world, is illuminating.

Four months after the cartoons were published, Jyllands-Posten's editor apologized. In the intervening time Muslims engaged in mostly peaceful protests. Several Arab and Muslim nations withdrew their ambassadors from Denmark while demonstrators picketed embassies. According to Denmark's consul in Dubai, a boycott of Danish products in the Gulf would cost the country $27 million in sales.

All of this went largely unnoticed in the West, apart from critics who characterized the protests as evidence of a "clash of civilizations." In their attempt to limit free speech, went the argument, the demonstrators proved that Islam and Western democracy were incompatible.

Even on its own terms this logic is disingenuous. The right to offend must come with at least one consequent right and one subsequent responsibility. People must have the right to be offended, and those bold enough to knowingly cause offense should be bold enough to weather the consequences, so long as the aggrieved respond within the law. Muslims were in effect being vilified twice--once through the original cartoons and then again for having the gall to protest them. Such logic recalls the words of the late South African black nationalist Steve Biko: "Not only are whites kicking us; they are telling us how to react to being kicked."

Nonetheless, the "clash of civilizations" rhetoric framed the discussion for the almost inevitable violence to come. For as criticism mounted, other European newspapers decided to reprint the cartoons in solidarity with Jyllands-Posten. This was clearly inflammatory. Now the flames have reached all the way to the Middle East, where Danish and Norwegian embassies have been burned down. And the violence has been characterized as evidence that Muslims are plain uncivilized.

There seems to be almost universal agreement that these cartoons are offensive. There should also be universal agreement that the paper has a right to publish them without fear of violent reprisal. When it comes to freedom of speech, the liberal/left should not sacrifice its values one inch to those who seek censorship on religious grounds. But the right to freedom of speech equates to neither an obligation to offend nor a duty to be insensitive. If our commitment to free speech is important, our belief in antiracism should be no less so. Neither the cartoons nor the violence has emerged from a vacuum. They are steeped in and have contributed to an increasingly recriminatory atmosphere shaped by, among other things, war, intolerance and historic injustices. According to the Danish Institute for Human Rights, racially motivated crimes doubled in Denmark between 2004 and '05. These cartoons only served to compound Muslims' sense of alienation and vulnerability. The Jerusalem Post has now published the cartoons. Iranian newspaper Hamshari is calling for illustrators to ridicule the Holocaust. The race to the gutter is on.

The acts of violence, including death threats to Jyllands-Posten's editor, should be condemned. The fact remains, however, that the overwhelming swath of protests, particularly in Europe, where crass banners and suicide-bomber attire were the worst offenses, have so far been peaceful. But those who see this episode as freighted with weightier cultural meanings have another agenda. "This is a far bigger story than just the question of twelve cartoons in a small Danish newspaper," Flemming Rose, Jyllands-Posten's culture editor, told the New York Times. Too right, but it is not the story Rose thinks it is. Rose claims that "this is about the question of integration and how compatible is the religion of Islam with a modern secular society." In the mistaken belief that Europe is a monoethnic continent to which nonwhite people have just arrived, Rose is not alone in refracting every protest by a minority through a racial, ethnic or religious lens.

In so doing he displays his ignorance of both modern secular society and the role of all religions within it. Without anything as explicit as a First Amendment, Europe's freedom of speech laws are far more piecemeal than those of the United States. Many were adopted as a result of the Holocaust--the most potent reminder of just how fragile and recent this liberal secular tradition truly is in Europe. Last year the French daily Le Monde was found guilty of "racist defamation" against Israel and the Jewish people. Madonna's book Sex was only unbanned in Ireland in 2004. Even as this debate rages, David Irving sits in jail in Austria charged with Holocaust denial over a speech he made seventeen years ago, Islamist cleric Abu Hamza has been convicted in London for incitement to murder and racial hatred and Louis Farrakhan remains banned from Britain because his arrival "would not be conducive to the public good." Even here in America school boards routinely ban the works of authors like Alice Walker and J.K. Rowling. Such actions should be opposed; but no one claims Protestant, Catholic or Jewish values are incompatible with democracy.

Which brings us back to Zieler. We will never know what the response to his Christ cartoons would have been because they were never published. (The paper's announced plan to reprint some cartoons about Christ fails to mitigate its double standard.) That fact alone shows that the question has never been whether you draw a line under what is or isn't acceptable to publish, but where you draw it. There is nothing courageous about using your freedom of speech to ridicule the beliefs of one of the weakest sections of your society. But Rose and others like him clearly believe Muslims, by virtue of their religion, exist on the wrong side of the line. That exclusion finds its reflection in the Islamist rejection of all things Western. And so the secularists and antiracists in both the West and the Middle East find their space for maneuver limited, while dogma masquerades as principle, and Islamists and Islamophobes are confirmed in their own vile prejudices.

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 02/10/2006 09:33 PM CST

The world's view of Muslims is framed by violence and Terrorism, If Muslims want a modern face, then their leader's should condem terrorism,and show the world the "peaceful face of Islam" I for one have only seen the ugly violent face of Islam , bent on intimidation violence and extortion.

Posted by Sean @ 02/11/2006 12:02 AM CST


The Beirut declaration is good. Israelis who oppose the occupation and want peace can look at it as a positive development. But there are three problems:

1) The ambiguity about the issue of refugees has made even Israelis who want Peace reluctant to support it. Ambiguity (on both sides) was the death of the Oslo accords and the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians.

2) The Beirut summit came at a time in which Israli Israeli society at large and even many in the peace camp has lost all faith in the idea of peace as a result of the surge of violence and hatred that has engulfed Israel/Palestine since the collapse of the peace process. The words spoken by some Arab leaders in Beirut seemed hollow compared to the reality on the ground at the time. It should also be noted that the distance between the words of Arab leaders and the sentiments of Arabs on the street also causes many Israelis to doubt the possibility of peace in the region.

3) After the Intifada started Sharon came to power, and the Palestinian leadership was too caught up in the armed aspect of the Palestinian struggle. Now you have a Hamas government . That means that the ruling parties of both Israel and the Palestinians were neither willing nor capable to make peace based on the Beirut proposal. Again, the proposal was detached from what was happening on the ground.

Concerning terorism and freedom fighters. Calling someone a freedom fighter is a value judgement. You can call the Palestinians who fight against Israel freedom fighters if you want. But the methods used by the Palestinians over the years -- from highjacking planes to suicide bombing -- have often (but not always) been terrorist methods: the deliberate targeting of civilians by paramilitary groups in order to cause terror and demoralization in its society so as to force surrender. If you find these methods acceptable or not is your decision, but you can't say that they are not terrorism. If the term terrorism has a negatove meaning it is because some people consider these methods offensive. Obviously many Palestinians do not, so why should they should consider the word negative is beyond me.

1) To say that the attitude in the Muslim world tawrds the holocaust are a response to the Danish cartoons is ridiculous. It's like saying that world war II cause world war I.

2) What is more offensive crass banners (calling for the death of Denmark) and suicide-bomber attire or a cartoon of Muhammad with a bomb on his head? Which one is making a stronger link between Islam and terrorism?

3) We are accustomed to refer to some countries as ASrab and Muslim countries, and are expected these countries to embody Arab and Muslim tradition. Shouldn't we refer in the same way to Christian and European countries?

Posted by Micha @ 02/11/2006 02:30 AM CST

I started posting in here because of the offensive pictures from the Denmark paper and now I will end my postings with a final comment and question. It seems that no peace will be achieved for many years to come. The killing and hatred towards the other will continue for many years. Most of the world will more and more be affected negatively by the middle east problem. It is a sad fact. Creating one country that encompasses Israel and Palestine is not a choice for either parties seems keen on. Going back to the 1967 border and refugee status is not an option Israel is accepting. The arabs cannot accept any less than the 1967 border, which I feel is the only thing they can ask for.
It has been intersting participating in this site.
So that was my comments.
Now the question:
What do you as a reader think can be done to bring peace to the middle east. Oblitiration of either side is not an option. although I'm certain some on all sides woulk like that.

Posted by Mike Jebara @ 02/11/2006 06:56 PM CST

All ya'll just need to relax it's nothing but a cartoon don't take it so serious. I mean there have been cartoons made about black people lookin a certain way that doesn't depicked black people truthfully. there are other things to be woried about then some cartoon you people that your Prophet doesn't look like that so why would even let it bother you. ya'll need to start acting like adults!!! and stop fighting over petty things. Something that you shouldn't even give a second thought about. I not saying that it was right but don't you think the people around the world are taking this tooo Far?

Posted by J. Moreno @ 02/11/2006 10:01 PM CST

"What do you as a reader think can be done to bring peace to the middle east. Oblitiration of either side is not an option. although I'm certain some on all sides woulk like that."

Obliterating both sides.

Seriously, what should be done is stopping to make excuses for either side, terrorism or occupation; to understand the complexity of the issues; not to divide the conflict to good guys and bad guys; not to demonize either side but to assume that both Israelis and Palestinians are acting for reasons we can understand if not condone; not to allow the discussion to be shifted to the realm of the abstract (such as are Jews a nationality or are Palestinians a nationality?); to prefer restrained arguments for inflamatory language that buys emotional effect at the price of accuracy; and to continue saying that the only solution is the division of Palestine/Israel into a Jewish state and an Arab-Palestinian state.

Here is a link to a blog discussing a supposedly antisemitic cartoon in an English newspaper. This blog has many other entries against the overuse of the antisemitism label by Israelis. I do not agree with everything he says, but it is worth reading.

Posted by Micha @ 02/13/2006 01:53 AM CST

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