Opinion

'Those Primitive Arabs'

It is the right of every person to believe in whatever foolishness, but no one has the right to impose his nonsense on others.

Lucy, mother of Leanne Nasser (center) mourns at the funeral of her daughter, who was killed in the New Year's Eve attack in Istanbul, in Tira, January 3, 2017.
Ariel Schalit/AP

Let’s start with a riddle: Who made the following statement at the funeral of which victim of a terror attack?

“We are proud of you and your friends, and proud of this young and sober generation for its strong stand against anything that symbolizes darkness and inflexibility. We want and seek life, and the young people among us are those who decide what is or isn’t good for them, and no one can impose anything on them. And all those who try to impose a position, we’ll tell them that your position is invalid and these dark forces won’t deter young people from loving life.”

A. French President Francois Hollande at the funeral of one of the victims of the Islamic State attack in Paris; B. Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the funeral of Shira Banki, who was murdered at a gay pride parade in Jerusalem; C. Florida Governor Rick Scott, at the funeral of one of those murdered at Pulse, the gay nightclub in Orlando.

And the answer is none of the above. It was said by Tira Mayor Mamoun Abd al-Hay at the funeral of Leanne Nasser, one of the victims of the Islamic State’s terror attack in Istanbul on New Year’s Eve.

Al-Hay’s words didn’t come from nowhere. They were uttered as a vehement response to the voices heard in the Palestinian community to the effect that Leanne had brought her death on herself, as if she deserved to be murdered because she had violated the so-called holy rules of Arab-Muslim society. Not only had she and her girlfriends gone out partying without male supervision, heaven forfend, but she was celebrating the Christian New Year. Tsk, tsk.

Don’t you cluck your tongue in arrogance about “those primitive Arabs.” These same exact things are said here in public by “respected” rabbis from the entire religious spectrum, from those wearing shtreimels and fedoras to those wearing kippot and berets. There is no lack of examples. “A true princess [meaning a Jewish girl] doesn’t hang out outside” (from the Kippa website); “Celebrating Sylvester [New Year’s] abets those who commit idolatry, which is absolutely forbidden,” (Elyakim Levanon, rabbi of Elon Moreh); “And a man who lies with a man as if with a woman, both have committed an abomination and shall be put to death,” (Leviticus 20:13), and many others.

OK, let’s assume that you are members of a religion or cult that believes – because your spiritual mentor told you that that’s what your god told him or his sister’s cousin – that it’s forbidden to eat lettuce after eating a tomato. Fine, so don’t. But what do you care if other people, whoever they may be, do eat lettuce after or even together with a tomato, or even eat the lettuce first? How exactly does that hurt you?

All those who tell others how to conduct themselves, whether it’s not to celebrate the Christian, Persian or Chinese New Year, or not to eat lettuce after tomato or shrimps in sweet cream, and every one of these ridiculous prohibitions and prohibitors – the Tira mayor was right – can lead to murder, as happened in the club in Istanbul or at the gay pride parade in Jerusalem, where the lives of pure, innocent young girls were snuffed out even though they had never done anything to hurt anyone.

It is the right of every person – you, but also those who aren’t you – to believe in whatever foolishness he chooses, but no one has the right to impose his nonsense on others. He who forbids and imposes with words will end up imposing with deeds – with imprisonment, murder and massacres.