Sunday, February 17, 2013

Two pieces of good news from the Arab world

In general, anti-semitism is getting more apparent in the Arabic media that I am reading. But two recent stories counter that trend.

The first was reported in English last week, but not that widely:
Morocco’s Islamist Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane inaugurated the reopening of a historic synagogue in the city of Fez Wednesday, conveying the wish of Morocco’s King Muhammad VI that all the country’s synagogues be refurbished and serve as centers for cultural dialogue.

Benkirane, head of the Justice and Development party, wore the traditional Moroccan Fez and a white robe at the reopening ceremony of the seventeenth century Slat Al Fassiyine (Prayer of the Fesians) synagogue, where he read out a congratulatory message by King Muhammad VI, A-Sharq Al-Awsat reported.

From its peak of over 250,000 during the late 1940s, the Jewish community of Morocco has shrunk to less than 5,000 today. Most Jews left the country during the 1950s and 1960s following the establishment of Israel, with the remaining community members mostly concentrated in Casablanca.

According to local media, Benkirane conveyed the King’s praise for the historic influence of Jews in Moroccan culture and his commitment to protect Jewish freedom of religion.

The synagogue will serve as a cultural center focusing on interfaith dialogue.
While that last sentence gives reason to be a little cynical, given Islam's traditional misuse of the term "interfaith dialogue," the symbolism of an Islamist political leader dedicating a synagogue at the same time other Islamists in that country are railing against a film about Morocco's Jewish community of years past is striking. The decision to support this dedication ceremony is still causing some controversy.

This other article comes from an Arabic news source I had never heard of, Murasel (Reporter.) The domain name is registered in Romania, and its articles seem to be centered on Egypt.

Murasel has an article about the 117th anniversary of the publication of Theodor Herzl's "Der Judenstaat" which was a blueprint for the creation of a Jewish state. The title of the article is "The Jewish State: The book that became a reality."

I can see little hate in this article, which goes through Herzl's life and his part in the early mainstream Zionist movement. It does emphasize Herzl's willingness to have the state built in other places besides Israel, and it akes a passing mention that Israel was "set up at the expense of a peaceful Arab people stripped of their land and identity," but besides that the article seems more admiring towards the founder of Zionism than anything else, which is an astounding thing to see in Arabic.