NYTimes: email from Israel

Russell Turpin deafbox@hotmail.com
Tue, 02 Oct 2001 15:53:44 +0000

Geegee writes:
>Judaism is not something they tack on after your nationality, as a subset.  
>It is genetic, passed down thru the mother. it is a belief in being the, 
>not a, chosen people (why else
>would physiological heritage matter?).

The problem is that there are also Moslem groups -- not all,
but some -- who believe that the only legitimate governments
are those that practice Shari'ah, as interpreted by Muslim
judges. And they take this belief just as seriously as do
the Jews who believe that the Jewish God ordains Israel as
The Justified religious state.

I understand how both groups can hold such beliefs.

The problem is that this kinds of belief, and the movements
they foster, may be the greatest danger facing western
civilization in this century.

So far, those who believe in a Jewish state -- not just in
Israel's right to exist as a government, but as a religious
state -- have been able to position this idea as favorable
to the west, and distinguish this idea from the reactionary
Muslims who believe in Islamic states. That positioning
will not last. In the long run, you get a choice. Either
you side with democracy, modernity, and civilization, and
you liberalize your theology so that it does not require a
religious state. Or you set yourself against democratic
government, and commit yourself to never ending wars between
religious states. And Muslims will have to make the same

You desparately want to walk a narrow path between these
alternatives, because you have not yet liberalized your
theology. You're in the same situation as a Catholic or
Protestant in Europe a few centuries ago, where religious
wars burned for centuries, killed a large fraction of the
population, and no peace lasted, because it is the nature
of a religious state not to trust any state whose religion
is different. Just as the 17th century Spaniard could not
imagine a Spanish government that wasn't Catholic, most
Israelis can't imagine an Israeli government that isn't
Jewish, and most Pakistanis can't imagine a Pakistani
government that isn't Muslim.

Until all such reactionaries expand their imagination and
liberalize their theology, these wars will burn. I hope
the rest of us can help you down that path before these
wars are fought with nuclear and biological weapons.


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