Wednesday, September 1, 2010

When Ovadia, or Abdullah, reigneth

Salman Masalha

When Ovadia, or Abdullah, reigneth

The Days of Awe lie ahead of us. Awful days in Hebrew and in Arabic. Every man will not sit under his vine nor will every senior citizen recline under his fig tree, but rather night and day they will study "Torat Hamelech: Laws of Life and Death between Israel and the Nations," the laws of hatred that are spreading through Israel.

We have already seen the rabbis mustering support for Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, the author of the book, which deals with the laws of life and death between Israel and everyone else and discusses the laws with regard to killing gentiles in times of peace or war.

And again, yes again, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the "spiritual" leader of Shas, delivers a sermon and smites us once again: "May our enemies and those who hate us die, Abu Mazen and all these evil people should perish from this world. God should smite them with a plague, the Ishmaelites, those Palestinians - evil, bitter enemies of Israel," as he is quoted as having said this week.

As the author of the Book of Proverbs might have written, there be many things which are too wonderful for me, yea, many that I know not. The way of the politicians from here and from there. The way of a politician, who like a fish fills his mouth with water upon hearing words of denunciation. The way of the man of religion, who creeps like a serpent upon a rock and ambushes easy prey with a sermon before the Days of Awe. The way of a racist politician who shuts his ears upon hearing these things here whilst hastening to quote from every stage similar things from the other side. The way of the man of religion who behaves like an adulterous woman, swallows the imprecations, wipes his mouth and says: I have heard no evil, or in other words: The rabbi's words have been taken out of context. About this sort of thing the author of the Book of Proverbs has already written of the land when the earth trembles: "A servant when he reigneth."

I hear these things and I read the reactions to them that haven't been tardy in coming, from here and from there. I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. As fate would have it, the words of the abusive rabbi sound very familiar to me in translation from the Arabic. As if the rabbi's name were not Ovadia but rather Abdullah, and as if it the sermon was not in Hebrew, but rather in Arabic.

From here the calls in Hebrew are repeated: "May those who hate us die and God should smite them with a plague, those Ishmaelites ..." And from there are heard, as though in a mirror, the same words of abuse in Arabic: "God, smite and destroy the Jews, descendents of monkeys and pigs, make their wives widows, make their children orphans..." - and other such pearls of pure Semitic.

"If heaven-forbid a Muslim cleric were to express himself against the Jews in those same words he would be arrested immediately," Balad MK Jamal Zahalka hastened to write to the attorney general, calling upon him to indict the rabbi. Apparently the energetic parliamentarian doesn't know anything at all about the heritage of Arabic imprecations.

If they were to arrest all the preachers of hatred in Hebrew and in Arabic, the Israeli, Palestinian and pan-Arab prison services would have their hands full. People, from here and from there, often wonder where all those rabid words come from. However, as is their habit, they always refuse to lay their finger on the root of the evil. They all prefer to bury their heads in the sand. And the sand in this Semitic expanse is quicksand, very much so.

Therefore, the time has come to tell it like it is. There is no need to go into contortions of strange and varied explanations. All the evil words, both in Hebrew and in Arabic, are nourished by the hatred from that same sewer, that same teat called monotheism. And when in this udder God and a tribal code mingle, only a toxic mix can emerge.

There is an antidote to this poison. Only courage is needed to use it. It is called separation of religion and state. Or in other words, if you will: taking the Holy One, blessed be He, away from the law.
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Published: Opinion - Haaretz, September 1, 2010
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