When the Weekend Australian devotes an entire page to the promotion of a Sydney Writers Festival participant (no, not Junot Diaz) as it did on Saturday you've got to wonder just what's in it for the dark side. The writer's name is Mohammed Al Samawi and the feature is titled Finding common ground.
Here's the subtitle:
"A liberating friendship overthrows the anti-Jewish bigotry of a young Yemeni."
Here's the footnote:
"Mohammed Al Samawi appears at the Sydney Writers Festival today at at Melbourne Jewish Book Week tomorrow."
And here's the Australian's introduction:
"Mohammed al Sabawi, a Zaydi Shia Muslim, was born in... the old Yemeni city of Sanaa. He describes a childhood in which Jews were demonised. His life changed as a young adult when he became active in dialogue between Muslims and Jews. Following death threats from his compatriots, he fled Yemen and eventually escaped to the US, where he lectures in inter-faith issues."
Is it just me, or do you come away from those snippets with the indelible feeling that Yemen is about to be exposed as a hotbed of frothing, foaming anti-Semitism?
The feature is described as "an edited extract from the memoir The Fox Hunt by Mohammed Al Samawi, published this week by Scribe ($35)."
The edited extract is divided into 3, headed: Age 9, Age 14, and Age 23, presumably containing the most egregious examples of "anti-Jewish bigotry" that Yemen has to offer.
And yet Age 9 doesn't even mention Jews.
Age 14 does, however. The context is his viewing of television footage of the 2000 Gaza Strip death of the Palestinian child Mohammed ad-Durrah, who, along with his father, "pressed up against a stone wall, huddling behind some curved protrusion," was trying in vain to dodge a hail of Israeli bullets.
Al Sabawi's teacher is reported as saying of this: "This is what they do. They murder the innocent. What had this boy done? Why did he have to die? Because he is Palestinian? Because he is a Muslim? Because Jews have no mercy? Yes. Yes. Yes."
Comments Al Samawi, "That boy could have been us. I'd heard for years that the Jews in Israel killed children indiscriminately if it advanced their aims."
Is this the "anti-Jewish bigotry" and "demonisation" of Jews which the Australian has led us to believe Al Samawi's book is all about?
Surely not. Are we really supposed to believe that Al Sabawi's teacher, when he uses the term 'Jews', means all Jews? As opposed to the Zionists who carved out a Jewish state in the name of a mythical Jewish people in Palestine, and who always referred to themselves, and still do, as Jews vis-a-vis Arabs?
And as for "Jews in Israel" shooting those same Arabs, including over 2,177 children since the year 2000, "indiscriminately if it advanced their aims," couldn't the maintenance of a Jewish majority in Palestine conceivably be one of those aims? (See my 28/4/18 post The Truth about the Gaza Ghetto Massacres.)
No, you'd be stretching it to find much in the way of "anti-Semitic bigotry" here.
What about Age 23 then?
"We'd been taught that the Christian Bible was a holy work, but that over time Jewish scholars had altered it... They removed the Prophet Mohammed from the Bible and they tried to erase Allah."
"Anti-Jewish bigotry" to be sure, but is that it? Is that the worst the Australian can come up with in Al Samawi's book? I feel sort of short-changed.
Yemeni religious obscurantists are pikers compared to the good old-fashioned anti-Muslim bigotry of America's millions of Israel-blessing, Trump-voting, Rapture-ready, Armageddon Now! Christian Zionist zombies. Imagine Al Samawi in interfaith dialogue with Hal Lindsey, author of the best-selling, seminal Christian Zionist rant, The Late Great Planet Earth (1970):
"Lindsey now admits to feeling shocked dismay at Sharon's voluntary withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in July 2005, at his willingness to part with what Bible-believers know to be land promised to the Jews. How to account for such a flagrant flouting of God's will? Lindsey does his best: 'Sharon came up with a plan I believe. He knew that there was one thing he could count on, that the Palestinians would keep on with their terrorism. He gave them their freedom because he knew what they would do with it. Now he knows he's got a target-rich environment there in Gaza - they're all in one place!' His cruel vision of a Palestinian turkey shoot is met by a burst of applause. 'That's right on!' someone shouts.
"The hostess of the event, Jan Markell, joins Hal on the podium and they settle themselves on high stools with microphones in their hands, as if they might croon an evangelical hymn together. But this is a question and answer session. Jan - a Jewish convert to Christianity with her own syndicated radio show and an Internet ministry devoted, like Hal's, to analysing 'current events from a biblical and prophetic perspective' - kicks it off by asking Hal whether the United States or Israel will neutralise the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.
"After carefully opining that the current situation in Iraq would make opening another front in Iran difficult right now, Lindsey insists that he loves President George W. Bush as a fellow bible-believing Christian, but heartily wishes he understood prophecy well enough to realise that Islam is 'violent to the core' and go ahead and open that new front. When Jan prods him again for a prediction about Israel's role vis-a-vis Iran, Lindsey reveals that 'good friends in the Israeli air force' have told him that Israel is ready and willing to take on Iran. 'You can count on it - if someone else doesn't do it, Israel will,' he says.
"Jan Markell is just as troubled by the threat posed by another Muslim neighbour of Israel - Syria. Inviting the audience to open their bibles at Isaiah 17: 1, Lindsey reads aloud: '"An oracle concerning Damascus. Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city, and will become a heap of ruins..." My opinion is that Damascus will be destroyed before the Rapture...'
"'By Israel?' prompts Jan again.
"'By Israel. Syria's a troublemaker, a terrorist headquarters, and the prime reason why our troops are in such trouble in Iraq. I wish the US would obliterate Syria and not leave it to Israel...'" (Allies for Armageddon: The Rise of Christian Zionism, Victoria Clark, 2007, pp 152-53)
If the following 14/4/18 tweet of Al Samawi is any guide, he'll be a pushover for Lindsey: "The problem was in Gaddafi, they killed him but they also destroyed Libya, same thing with Saleh in Yemen and Saddam in Iraq. The US trying to rid of dictators without educating people first about democracy or creating generations that can replace dictators."