March 25, 2010
In Middle East, leaders on religious left offer reconciliation

Despite the seemingly continuous strife in the region, a few notable religious figures have emerged who stand for interfaith dialogue and Middle Eastern reconciliation.

Religious politicians are generally considered to be on the right of the political spectrum. However, we look at three figures — Iyad Jamal Al-Din in Iraq, Menachem Froman in Israel and Mehdi Karroubi in Iran — who advocate pacifism and pluralism yet are grounded in traditional spirituality. While their followings may be relatively small, these individuals give religious sanction to leftist politics and offer a spiritual alternative to secular liberalism.

Iyad Jamal Al-Din is a Shia cleric who sings the praises of Western democracy and seeks full separation of church and state. And the leader of the Ahrar (Freedom) party is thankful to the U.S. for enabling Iraqi democracy.

Here’s an interview with Al-Din on the Iraqi station Al-Fayhaa in February:

Though he received religious training in Iran, Al-Din seeks to liberate Islam from the state and mold a modern Iraqi government that is untainted by corruption. Jamal also rails against Arab states for using Israel as a pretext for their own misdeeds.

Although Al-Din’s campaign was managed by an American political consultant, preliminary results show that his party did not gain any seats in the March 7 elections. And Al-Din alleges that fraud took place.

The Israeli political leader who has made headlines for his fusion of left-wing politics and Orthodox Judaism is Rabbi Menachem Froman. He belongs to the interfaith Jerusalem Peacemakers, a dovish group that advocates coexistence in Israel-Palestine. He enjoys positive relations with both Fatah and Hamas.

Froman is the rabbi of the Tekoa settlement where he lives, guiding a broader group of southern West Bank Jews who believe in reconciliation with their Palestinian neighbors. Some of them are even willing to be citizens of the eventual Palestinian state.

They believe — like many right-wing religious nationalists — that they have a right to inhabit all parts of the Biblical Land of Israel. But they reject chauvinistic nationalism.

Hamas even endorsed a deal negotiated with the rabbi called the Froman-Amayreh Agreement. Reportedly, Froman was ready to hold a joint press conference with Hamas the day before the Gaza War started.

Rabbi Froman donating a Quran to a Yasuf resident. Photo: MaanImages/Rami Swidan

The New York Times quoted Froman in 2008 as saying that peace “won’t succeed without a religious, spiritual basis.”

More recently, peace-activist Froman made the news by spearheading apology efforts to Palestinian residents of Yasuf after their mosque was torched.

The rabbi also belongs to the revivalist camp that seeks to build a Third Temple on the Temple Mount, re-establish the Sanhedrin rabbinical court and awaken local Palestinian populations to their lost Jewish heritage. But above all, Froman promotes peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians.

Reconciliation between Islam and the West is a dominant theme in the rhetoric of another religious politician. In Iran, moderate cleric Mehdi Karroubi has complimented overtures by Barack Obama, called for better treatment of Iranian women and reached out to ethnic minorities.

The pragmatic reformist is head of the National Trust Party. As a prominent opposition leader in the aftermath of last June’s elections, Karroubi has faced threats from what he terms a government “plagued with despotism.”

He has been an outspoken civil rights advocate and publicly critical of the powerful Guardian Council. Even before the Islamic Revolution, Karroubi was one of the few clerics who got along well with secular leftists.

The BBC interviewed the embattled cleric at his home to discuss Karroubi’s predictions for Iran:

Karroubi continues to criticize the allegedly fraudulent election results and rails against the legitimacy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Over the past week, hardliners have been gathering outside his home, calling for Karroubi to be put to death.

In the Middle East, the combination of faith and progressivism is a hard sell — but for these politicians it offers a winning solution to sectarian strife amid the clash of civilizations.

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13 comments

#13

To JGE: Regarding the use of cluster bombs by the Israeli military on civilian areas in Lebanon, this can be found in the BBC archives by going to bbc.com/news, click on “Video and Audio”, type in “cluster bombs” in the subject box at the bottom of the page, and go to Aug. 21, 2006, Sep. 6, 2006, or Sep. 24, 2006. Regarding the Israeli militarys’ use of white phosphorus on civilian areas in Gaza, this can be found by typing in “white phosphorus” in the same subject box. Did you see those glowing yellow objects that would rain down on the population in Gaza after being dispersed a few hundred yards in the air? That was apparently white phosphorus. Regarding the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians that were apparently displaced during the late 1940s, you can google “Palestinians displaced 1947″. (The Palestinians had apparently begun to be displaced before the state of Israel was declared on May 14, 1948). And regarding the Palestinians that were displaced after the 1967 war, you can google “Palestinians displaced 1967″. (I may have been mistaken by a year or two on the March 12th message board - they took down the ability to post on that board before I could make a correction - my apologies. However, apparently hundreds of thousands of Palestinians WERE displaced during the late 1940s). As far as the “paid bloggers” by Hamas, Iran, and Syria are concerned, I have no knowledge of these whatsoever. And are you suggesting that all Palestinians do not love their children more than anything else because some, perhaps only a small minority, of them have responded in the wrong way? That would be a very large distortion in itself. And regarding the Wikipedia, I decided to check the article on Palestine in my own encyclopedia, and I noticed that it did not mention a single word about any Palestinians being displaced - so, since the general consensus seems to be that they were, (even the BBC website concurrs with that), it appears that the article in my encyclopedia is significantly incomplete.

#12

B. Kelly.

Your distortions can only be answered by your conscience if you have any. The bunch of lies you have written is typical of paid bloggers by Hamas, Iran and Syria. Hate and dishonesty is typical of this failed propaganda. It is pernicious for the ignorance and hate propagated by these dictators that generate violence that mainly kill Moslems.

Make no mistake Israel will defend itself, While you kill the innocent Palestinians. Remember and memorize: Peace will come when the Palestinians love their children more than anything else, just like the Jews and Israelis do. At that point the evil fanatics will be silent forever.
To the readers from World-focus I ask to go to the Wikipedia to learn the truth.

#11

I believe that one of the biggest mistakes Israel has made is, on the one hand, embracing the part of the Bible that they claim gave them the authority to take the land that they are now on by almost any means necessary, and on the other hand, ignoring the part of the Bible called the Ten Commandments. When you use cluster bombs on civilian areas in Lebanon, for example, or white phosphorus on civilian areas in Gaza (which apparently burns at about 5000 degrees F.), both of which the Israeli military reportedly did, then you have no regard whatsoever for the commandment “You shall not kill”. And when you forcibly displace hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children so you can seize the land that they are on back in the late 1940s, or displace an additional 400,000 Palestinians after the 1967 war, again both of which Israel reportedly did, then you have no regard for the commandment “You shall not steal”. Of course some, perhaps only a small minority, of Palestinians have responded in the wrong way, however I wonder how we (America) would respond if a group of immigrants came to Florida for example and decided to establish the rule over half the state because they say it was theirs 3000 years ago. I believe that the peace process would have a much better chance of succeeding if the Israeli government would put its money where its mouth is and start to have some regard for the Ten Commandments.

#10

There is nothing easier than to unmask a profoundly immoral and malevolent “soul”. If it is ignorance or bigotry or simply Israel hate-bashing, the final judgement is that he is your enemy. Israel and the Jews are a shining star between the human malevolence. That is why we have so many antagonists.We have learned the hard way to defend ourselves and our children, and we tell you never again we will let our guard down. The American people at the tune of 80% admire and support Israel. The people know what is good and what is bad. Listen and read what 20% of Israel’s population (Israeli Arabs Moslem and Christian) say about being Israeli:

See what Sari Nusseibeh Professor at Al-Quds (Jerusalem) University says about Israeli Arabs :
Are the Palestinians and the Israeli Arabs part of the same people?
Well, yes, they are and they aren’t. The Israeli Arabs are Palestinians in one sense, but they’re very much Israeli in another. They look upon themselves as Israelis; they see themselves as part of Israel, which is peculiar. For instance, if you went to an Israeli Arab - Muslim or Christian - and said, “Look, in a future agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, we are going to be able to include where you’re living in a Palestinian state,” he’d probably say, “No thank you; go away.” [he laughs]
If you were to ask him why, he’d say, “This [Israel] is my country. This is my state. I’ve grown up here. I like it here. And I look at you over there, and I don’t like what I see.”
And, you know, I don’t blame them. We Palestinians have not succeeded in creating something of which we can be proud, or which can be attractive. So, why should anybody wish to come and live here?
An Israeli Arab - regardless of everything else that he might feel - feels that [in Israel] the law protects him. That he has rights as an individual. Come what may, it’s a system; it’s a state; it has elections; democracy; protects the women.
We on the Palestinian side haven’t been able to create anything like that. Come to think of it, if I were to be asked what I need a state for, I would say that it is primarily to see ways in which the needs and rights of the individual are addressed. I didn’t fight for a Palestinian state for anything else. If a Palestinian state doesn’t provide me with this, I don’t want it. This may be one basic difference between me and the Jews, who might want a state for other reasons. I want a state that will give me respect; that will recognize my dignity, make me feel equal; to develop; to grow; to feel that I’m able to practice and develop my abilities.
This is an excerpt of his interview in the Jerusalem Post.
More in :

One on One with Sari Nusseibeh | Magazine | Jerusalem Post
Apr 26, 2007 … Al-Quds University president tells Post about his new autobiography and old quest for coexistence.

#9

I was being kind to mark in comment #2. Actually, a country that invades another should be disarmed in a true human civilization. We have not evolved into a true civilazation yet, but morally, Israel needs to start being nice to Palestine. At this point, it looks like not one can be happy with their existence.

#8

This is an excellent contribution of World-focus. It is more of the shame that this constructive program is being taken off the air. Please continue as a blogging site and investigative site. You should be like the Huffington Post a place for information and serious discussion. Actually you are superior to the Huffington Post, more serious and global informative. And the postings of us the comments, is the most efficient and more open than any of the others I have used. Even is better than the Wall Street Journal Live Community. You brought controversial subjects and gave us the chance to publish our opinions, which I thank you for. Please let me and all of us know how we can help you to continue doing this very necessary endeavor to learn and understand the rest of the World.

#7

US occupies American Indian land; Russia occupies German’s Eastern Prussia and Japan’s Kurilas; Britain occupies Argentinia’s Falklands and Spain’s Gibraltar. Quartet has no legal and moral rights to dictate Israel on Israel territory occupied by arabs. The State of Israel was created over 3500 years ago with a capital of Jerusalem and Jews ruled their country for over 1500 years.

4. Article 24 of the 1964 PLO charter addressed to UN stipulates: ЭPalestinian muslims do not claim Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and Gaza their territories”.

#6

Mark Bernadiner your claim of bias against the Western press shows your bias, the Western press especially the US press is pro-Israel. A one state solution would mean the end of the religious state of Israel unless only Jews were allowed to vote or the area was ethnically cleansed which is Israel is attempting to do now. For those arguing Israel’s historic presence it should be remembered, according to the Bible Israel was a unified a unified state for only a few years and at the time of Christ, Samaria, now the West Bank, was not considered as part of Israel, the people were not true Jews.

#5

How and when Palestinian issue emerged

In 1975, by its resolution 3376 the General Assembly established the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian people. At that time, Secretary-General of the United Nations was Kurt Waldheim.

So, the question is how this resolution emerged in 1975? The analysis of historic documents revealed two undeniable facts:

Fact 1. In 1920s-30s, Palestinian Muslims committed massacre of Jews in Jewish land of Palestine murdering thousands of children and civilians. The murder was organized by the founder and supreme leader of the Arab Higher Committee, Haj Amin al Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, and supported by British Administration of Palestine. The primary objective was elimination of all Jews from Palestine. The massacre was, in reality, the Holocaust committed by Palestinian Arabs.

Haj Amin was a close friend of Hitler. In 1941, Haj Amin came to Berlin and visited Hitler. He brought the Holocaust idea to Hitler. In 1943, Amin organized Bosnian Muslim battalions in Croatia comprising some twenty thousand men. The battalions were put in Waffen-SS units, fought Yugoslav partisans in Bosnia; thousands of Serbs, Roma (’Gypsies’) and Jews hunted down by Haj Amin’s SS troops were killed by those same troops, or they were sent to the Islamic death camp Jasenovac. After the WWII, the International tribunal declared Haj Amin war criminal; however, he escaped prosecution, fled to Egypt and then Palestine where he organized Fatah. After his death in 1974, Arafat, who was Haj Amin lieutenant, became Fatah commander. He organized PLO. Thus, PLO and Fatah were created by people close to Nazi, based on Nazi ideology.

Fact 2. Kurt Waldheim was a Nazi SS officer in WWII, committed numerous crimes in Europe and responsible for death of thousands of European. He is a war criminal.

These two facts clearly show that the Palestinian issue was introduced to commemorate Nazi-Palestinian Muslims unbreakable criminal connection and to recognize PLO-Fatah as Nazi successor. After 1980, every Secretary General, including the current, and entire UN staff uphold Nazi legacy of Kurt Waldheim.

#4

Mark, Israel and Arabs (islam) have been killing each other for what 2000 to 5000 years. Your extreme point of view must be re-thought so the novice reader does not see your posts as real nor accurate. 1922 League of Nations was a complete and utter failure which no one but wishful thinkers still refer too. The world is always inundated with the peaceful intentions of both side of the conflict just before each side indiscriminately kills the other.
I can tell that you have never been to war because the only persons who admire war are those who have never been in it. The only way to have peace in your country is for warmongers to be put on the front lines until they actually know what are is. People must learn to share and not be greedy and thoughtless.

#3

Mark’s Soul is right, there should be one state solution, as two-state solution was implemented in 1922 when over 70% of Israel territory were allocated to palestinian arabs and created Transjordan according to 1920 League of Nations Resolution. All parties, UN, EU, US, must comply with this resolution and relocated palestinian muslims to Jordan.

#2

The clashes in middle east are due to differences in the scriptures. The left is aways more expanded in mind and heart. The best solution is a one state solution. The two state solution is not going to work, because israel has taken too much land for there to be a fair and vialble 2nd state.

#1

The actual source of violence between islam and Israel is rooted to western media, including fist of all british, france, holland, and sweden, who has been promoting anti-Semitic, elimination the State of Israel and killing Jews around the world for decades. It is the same press that supported Hitler in 1930s and that has never learned the lesson that this behavior works as boomerang. This media published and broadcasted thousands of fake, false, made-up, and fraudulent information on Israel and Jews, brainwashing inexperience and uneducated people around the world and profoundly ignorant UN staff. Western media ignites bloodshed and must take responsibility be accountable. If western press was honest, objective, educated, and did not “set the cat among the pigeons”, there would no t be thousands of victims of violence and the issue could be resolved long ago.

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