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Give me my Marseilles back!

Published on May 7, 2012 by: in: Society

I have recently read an interesting article by my friend from editorial office, Dominika Blachnicka, on difficult situation of Palestinians in Israel and Europe (http://liberteworld.com/2012/01/12/why-palestinian-stories-matter-to-me-anyway/). In the article, she shows her wholeheartedness for this national group and she deplores the everyday life practice in Israel. This is most visible near the border with Autonomy’s territory, where very harsh means of separating members of Palestinian and Jewish society are applied. Every European, who remembers the tragedies of ghettos and later Berlin Wall, will perfectly understand Dominika’s indignation. These are not nice pictures, nor is this the kind of life that every human being deserves. From the moral point of view, we should totally agree with the author.

Unfortunately, the brutal reality requires a slight relativization of the whole picture. The accusations hurled at Israel, commonly made by left-wing parties in Europe, result from one-dimensional point of view on what is going in the Middle East. Israel has more military strength than Palestinians, and overuses it in a brutal way, which resembles bullying. Typical left-wing reaction: to defend a weaker. Ok, I get it. But in this case, in my opinion, there is nothing more misleading.

Israel does not use this kind of preventive methods for pleasure nor because it considers Arabs worse, people who can and should be treated in this way. Palestinians, however, are not innocent, poor and downtrodden victims either. It is always worth noticing that it is Arabian side that is the one that attacks in this conflict, while Israel defends its rights to exist and its citizens right to live in that very part of globe. Of course, we can negate this law by moving back in history, but from the point of view of the present debate, I consider such arguments, as well as reproaching of faults from over 50 years, not only unconstructive but also third-rate. Israel defends itself in a brutal way (it’s unquestionable fact), because in the world of suicide bombers, missile attacks on school buses, intensifying for generations incitement to hatred, radicalization of Palestinians and the ubiquitous terror, other lenient measures, which were tested in the past, have proven to be ineffective and not ensure safety. And it is not about the full safety, because there is no such thing. It is about the elementary one. On the one hand, there is a democratic country, where majority of citizens hold liberal democratic values and which tries to retain its safety through means of ethnic separation (walls, checkpoints, “Palestinians-free highways”). On the other hand, there is a society, which exceeding critical mass part, for the realization of goals (e.g. liquidation of Israel) allows for terror, killings and established on the basis of racism extermination of the others. Therefore, we should not have doubts about which side of the conflict “to support”. The fact that the first of the sides has more coercive means and military power should not be the reason for condemnation but a reason to get some relief, since it is not Hamas nor Hezbollah that have this power. Although it may be true, it does not change anything when it comes to many decent Palestinians, who are free from racism, hatred and terrorist tendencies, but who suffer the consequences of Israelian actions.

There is no symmetry, no will, not even Tel Aviv’s plans to exterminate anyone, including Palestinians.

Despite completely different points of view, Dominika Blachnicka’s text takes to me. Even if there is one element which arises my fundamental resistance – that is the last part of the text. Here, the problem of our relations with Palestinians is moved, at least as I see it, from Israelian onto European grounds. The author makes here a comparison between the present Palestinian (I think I may say Arabs in general) situation and the situation of European Jews across the decades, up to the year 1945. The fact that we could not save Jews from our own demons fills the author with shame and guilt. So it is now very important to save Palestinians.

In my view, such comparison is too much. In the present day Europe Arabs are not threatened by anything that could be compared to what Jews had to face in the first half of the 20th century. Europeans will not carry out, on Arab people this time, another holocaust! There is no need for further “saving” them. Only the debate over the tolerance problem is relevant. Regardless of the number of crises and the loss of position and strength, Europe should still stand by the values of tolerance and respect for other cultures, traditions and customs and it should guard the ethnic minority rights to cherish them.  Nevertheless, the problem still exists, as beautiful, left-wing idea of multicultural society did not pass any tests. It is negated by those left-wingers who are advocates of total tolerance idea. By this notion I understand an allowance for a situation where minorities under tolerance protection would be discharged from parallel duty towards indigenous European citizens and other minorities, and where those minorities could show their intolerance. A project of this kind could easily be realized in Europe. Notwithstanding, it is not acceptable due to liberal standpoints. If the fundamental feature of freedom is an individual, not a group, then the right to decide about owns faith and path of life is the superior value to the right of minority groups, to nourish their customs and traditions.  So when the conflict arises, everything must be clear. Tolerance, which should be required from Islamic minorities in Europe, is an agreement to ban on imposing religious and cultural traditions on people, who although stem from their societies, have decided to leave them and live their lives as they see it, differently from what rules and traditional norms state. This is what has been lacking. Our Islamic fellow citizens very often cannot accept such model of social relations in Europe.

photo: Beth Rankin

To make it clear, here is an example. If you want to live in Marseilles, and not in e.g. Algeria, you have to expect that you would not be able to retain your traditions entirely. Some elements such as honor killings, arranged marriages, the coercion to wear burqas, locking up family members, following Sharia law and Ulama judicial system, banning children from going to school and raising them up in an antiscientific ignorance, are just a few of them. The basic rule in Marseilles has to be voluntariness and lack of coercion. As a result, non-acceptable in the new place of residence customs have to give way to internalization of basic rules and values regulating social life in the liberal democratic Europe, which can be called integration. Without integration we can’t talk about tolerance. 

Delusions that there are going to be some thorough demographic changes in the situation of minorities have to disappear, as they will eventually become majorities. One day it may happen that there will be places in Europe where Muslims will be the majority. It will not be any problem, unless these are radicals, but integrated Islamic Europeans ready and willing to nourish their faith and reconcile it with traditions of liberal Europe.

Translation: Piotr Gmitrowicz

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About Piotr Beniuszys

Piotr Beniuszys holds Master’s degree in sociology and political science; his views are to the right in economic issues, to the left in ethical and moral issues – i.e. liberal in both cases; the final chairman of Unia Wolności in Gdańsk, a former member of Democratic Party – demokraci.pl.

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