Muslim reformer Tashbih Sayyed was also recently in Israel. Here is his illuminating and insightful report. From Israel National News, with thanks to S.:
As I boarded El-Al flight LY 0008 for Tel Aviv on November 14, 2005 with my wife, Kiran, my mind was busy arranging and re-arranging the list of things I intended to accomplish. I wanted to use my first visit to Israel to feel the strength of the Jewish spirit that refuses to give in to evil forces despite thousands of years of anti-Semitism. It was not Israel’s suicidal sacrifices that I wanted to investigate, but the foundations of Israeli determination to live in peace.
There are many things that I wanted to talk about with Israelis, the foremost among them being their reluctance to do something about the bad press that continues to paint them as villains. Although I understand why the media, which reasonably covers most events accurately, chooses to ignore all rules of ethical journalism when it comes to Israel, I could not fathom Israel’s reluctance to challenge the negative press effectively. Media bias against Israel reminded me of the Nazi-era German press that was recruited by Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, who picked every hate-laden word against the Jews. Just like the German press that refused to print the truth about the gruesome atrocities in Europe’s death camps, or claimed that it was all an exaggeration, the media today also ignores Arab terrorism.
I wanted to see if there was any truth in the media allegations that Israel was an apartheid state, undemocratic and discriminatory.
I knew that a true Jewish State could not be undemocratic, since democratic concepts were always a part of Jewish thinking and derived directly from the Torah. For instance, in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, when Jefferson wrote that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, he was basically referring to the Torah, which said that all men are created in the image of God. I was confident that Israel cannot be racist or discriminatory since it is based on the idea of the covenant between God and the Israelites, in which both parties accepted upon themselves duties and obligations, underlining the fact that power is established through the consent of both sides, rather than through tyranny by the more powerful party.
My understanding of the Jewish State was confirmed when the entry form that I needed to fill out before landing in Tel Aviv did not ask for my religion, as is the law in Pakistan. Also, unlike Saudi Arabia, no one in Israeli immigration demanded from me any certificate of religion.
As the El Al plane approached the Promised Land, I continued to shuffle the list of charges made routinely against Israel by its enemies: Israelis live in a perpetual state of fear; Israel is undemocratic; Muslim Arab citizens of Israel do not have equal rights.
Israelis live in a perpetual state of fear.
From Tel Aviv to Tiberias, Jerusalem to Jezreel, and from the Golan Heights to the Gaza border, I could not find any evidence of fear. In fact, the people felt so secure that none of the stores, gas stations, market places or residences we went to, and where it was known that we were Muslims, deemed it necessary to either search or interrogate us. Especially when Kiran and I went to Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem on a Friday evening, we found it bursting at its seams with people of all ages. The ground was shaking with music and young boys and girls were so busy having fun that they did not bother to even look around. Tourists were busy making deals and the whole crowd seemed to throb with the beat of the music.
I could not help but compare Israel’s sense of security with the environment of insecurity that exists in Muslim countries. From Indonesia to Iran and from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia, people are not sure of anything. In Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, and in the port city of Karachi, I was constantly advised not to make big purchases publicly for it encourages robbers to come after you. I did not hear news of any rape, honor killing or hold-up in Israel.
Read it all.