9/17/2005

burning any house of worship is obscene

Those who have been expelled from their homes without a just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah. And had there not been Allah's repelling some people by others, certainly there would have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques in which Allah's name is much remembered; and surely Allah will help him who helps His cause; most surely Allah is Strong, Mighty. (Qur'an 22:40, Shakir translation)


As you may have heard, Palestinians torched synagouges left behind by the retreating Jewish settlers. I am outraged by it[1].

The situation isn't as black and white as the Israelophiles insist, of course. The decision to leave them standing was a craven act of cowardice by the Jewish authorities. Judith Weiss had a prety good point about this, warning earlier that leaving them standing would be a mistake, and then observing after their destruction:

In the end, though, the Israeli Government decided that desecration by Arabs would be more commensurate with the ethics and morale of the Jewish state than destruction by the IDF’s troops.


Further, the actual sanctity of the buildings themselves was essentially zero, given that all items of religious significance were removed:

As the settlers left their homes last month, they took the Torah scrolls, prayer books and other holy items from the synagogues, symbolizing the end of the use of the buildings as houses of prayer.


(The Jerusalem Post). Really, it's desecration of the sentimental, rather than the sacred, that we are talking about here, as opposed to many tragic examples of actively-in-use synagouge-desecration in the past.

Finally, the Sharon government had anticipated that the structures would be destroyed and left them intact regardless:

Citing fears of desecration, the cabinet originally planned to destroy the 17 synagogues left standing in 21 Gaza settlements that were evacuated and demolished last month.

But the government backtracked on Sunday under pressure from rabbis who said the demolition of houses of worship by Jews would be the greater sin.


(Ha'aretz). Not just Sharon. Minister Mofaz had a convenient change of heart himself:

Speaking publicly for the first time since he flip-flopped on his decision to leave Gaza synagogues intact, Mofaz said he just couldn't bear to lend his hand to the destruction of a Jewish house of worship.

"As a Jew it was hard for me to give orders to IDF soldiers to blow up a synagogue, so I asked that it be reconsidered," Mofaz said. "I believe that there are issues where Israel as a Jewish state considers the decisions of the rabbis," Mofaz said. "We also have to take into account the decisions of rabbis abroad. We knew that the Palestinians would respond to the decision, and the rabbis decided it would be better that the synagogues be destroyed at the hands of Palestinians than at the hands of the IDF."


What a puerile fool. He desecrates these places of worship by using them as pawns, just as much as the mobs torching them.

Still, despite the Israeli and Israelophile melodrama that the act of burning these buildings has generated, it is still inexcusable.

Make no mistake in my position: the synagouges should have been dismantled, and if the Israeli government was too craven to shoot their own dog, then the PA should have stepped up to the plate. The PA had the responsibility to dismantle them in a respectful manner. However expected it may have been by cynics on both sides of the conflict, the final responsibility for the action of burning them down lies however with the Palestinian people of Gaza, and their aspirations will suffer for it as just recompense.

As Haroon wrote a while ago, most muslims want to see Islam as merciful and strong. Not barbaric and reactionary. There's really no other way to describe the burning of these synagouges. And that's why I've become increasingly hard-line in my view towards the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

For the record, though, in response to this question, mosques have hardly been immune to destruction or defilement either. I've even supported the destruction of mosques, when neccessary. It's wrong to burn down any house of worship - or perform any other fundamentally political act upon it. The purpose of these buildings is higher than our petty squabbles.

[1] I have to also agree that there was excessive excuse-making for the Palestinians in the media.

1 comment:

Joshua Scholar said...

The fact that they would necessarily be destroyed, whether by the Palestinians or by the retreating Israelis just point to the actual shame of the situation, which has nothing to do with buildings.

That shame is this:
There are no Jews in the flegling Palestinian state to attend any synagog.

While there are many Muslims living in Israel, it will never be safe for a Jew to live in the state forming in Palestine.

So the problem isn't buildings, it's intolerence.