September 9, 2010

From: Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia
To: My Jewish Friends
Subject: A JEWISH MEDAL OF VALOR

My Dear Jewish Friends,

There was a time, when a young man by the name of Abdurrahman Wahid worked as a part-time translator-cum letter-writer at a textile export company, under an Iraqi Jew named Ramin. That was way back during 1966-1970 when he was studying Islamic literature at the University of Baghdad.

Historians and biographers have documented that on January 27, 1969 his Jewish boss asked Abdurrahman to accompany him to Tahnir Square. On that particular day, nine Iraqi Jews were hanged at the square on charges of spying for Israel. It has been recorded that Abdurrahman’s boss broke down and cried endlessly for the dead men who were his good friends. It was this tragic event that had a deep impact upon the young man who would one day become the President of Indonesia (1999-2001), join the Board of Governors of the Shimon Peres Peace Center, and be honored by the Simon Wiesenthal Center with A JEWISH MEDAL OF VALOR.

In these days and times, while the entire Muslim world’s focus is upon the controversy of Ground Zero Mosque with little or no attention given on how to eliminate the two deadly sins, “Suicides” as well as “Settlements,” thereby, paving the way for “Serenity” to dwell in the Holy Land. Abdurrahman Wahid also known as “Gus Dur” meaning “Brother Dur” penned an article titled, “The Obstacles To Israeli-Palestine Peace” which was published in The Wall Street Journal on May 10, 2008. The very first two paragraphs read as follows:

“The prolonged Israeli-Palestinian conflict has a far-reaching impact
not only upon the lives of those who dwell in the Holy Land, but upon
virtually every nation and community on earth. On a daily basis, self-
interested parties are callously manipulating the most basic values of
humanity and religion in order to advance their personal or political i
nterests. Sectarianism, violence, arrogance and deception are constantly
subverting the fundamental values of life, and turning religious principles
upon their heads.

This horrific process demands that every moral human being, religious
community and nation throughout the world contemplate this tragedy
and offer assistance, however small, to help resolve the profound human
crisis in the Holy Land. Peace is both a process and a goal that the world
can neither morally nor practically afford to push off into the future yet
again.”

Paying glowing tribute to President Abdurrahman Wahid who passed away on December 30, 2009; Gideon Rachman, the chief foreign affairs commentator for the Financial Times, while accompanying him to a village in Indonesia, heard his joke, “Have you noticed that when the Jews pray, they stand by a wall and whisper. The Christians kneel and speak very quietly. But we Muslims stand in a tower and shout through a megaphone. It makes you wonder who is closer to God?”

Almighty G-d must be quite fed-up to see the sheer “Moral Failure of Political Leadership” on part of the three followers of Abrahamic religion. It is abundantly clear that G-d is not listening to either a Jew, Christian or a Muslim when it comes to the agony that is prevailing in the Holy Land. Modern Israel is 62 years old and still the bitter struggle between those who staunchly believe in building “Settlements” with an absolute disregard to the world’s opinion versus those who violently commit “Suicides” by blowing up their fellow humans without any remorse continues to prevail with no end in sight. I respectfully beg to differ with Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a Chief Rabbi of Bet El Eretz Yisrael who proclaimed, “Imagine what we (Israel) can do if the world were not against us.” Lest the honorable Rabbi forgets that it was none other than President Anwar-el-Sadat who displayed an enormous courage to go to Jerusalem and shake hands with Prime Minister Menachem Begin only to be later assassinated by his fellow Muslim brethren, and not to mention, the Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid who was not only a friend of Israel, but for the past thirty years he had made a point of speaking out against anti-Semitic thinking and ignorance about Israel and Judaism. In other words, from the Middle East to the Far East Asia, the nation of Israel have had many friends and well-wishers, and that also includes this humble writer too.

For the matter of record, I do hereby agree with the thoughts of Rabbi Brian Walt, a former executive director of Rabbi for Human Rights-North America who in his article “G-d Demands Justice” published in the Tikkun magazine (September/October 2006 issue) wrote as follows:

“So today, I work for an organization called Rabbi for Human Rights,
which believes that as Jews we care deeply for the state of Israel,
for its security and survival. And as such we care about the future
and the security of the State of Israel, and as much as our heart
breaks whenever we hear of a tragic suicide bombing, or an attack
that kills fellow Israeli citizens, we also believe in G-d. And G-d
also cares about the life of a Palestinian child who is killed by an
Israeli bullet, or the home of a Palestinian that is demolished by a
bulldozer at the behest of the Israeli government.

Of course, there are people like Michael Lerner, Art Waskow of the
Shalom Center, people at the Reform movement’s Religion Action
Center, and many others who speak out about such issues. But we
need much more. We need a clear prophetic voice in the American
Jewish Community, one that knows that to be Jewish is to stand for
justice and human rights, not only for Jews,but for all people.”

Without doubt, voices of a handful of Jewish intellectuals, actors and playwrights are being heard all across the world as they have been in the forefront in acknowledging that the Jewish “Settlements” are illegal by every measure of international law, however, on the other hand, the deafening silence by Islamic scholars, political leaders and intellectual elite (http://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org), having a difficult time to outrightly condemn “Suicides” is beyond human comprehension. It will be highly appropriate for me to enlighten you that when Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center asked President Abdurrahman Wahid, “I have travelled the world looking for Muslim leaders willing to stand with us against those who justify ‘Suicide’ terrorism in the name of G-d, with little success …… I come to ask you that you convene a conference of world religious leaders united against terror.” The wise, noble, devout and scholarly Indonesian Muslim leader and cleric, “Gus Dur” wholeheartedly agreed.

I, Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia, being a letter writer has thoroughly enjoyed my friendship with many of my Jewish friends. Most of them I have deeply admired, and I shall always cherish their memories throughout the rest of my living days on this Planet Earth. I believe that it is high time for both American Jewish Business Community and American Muslim Business Community to voice our respective concerns on the Holy Land which is very much dear to all three adherents of the Abrahamic faiths. Let us together join by contributing our small efforts to put a permanent stop to “Suicides” and “Settlements” as these serve no purpose, but only breed more Islamic terrorists bent on destroying the State of Israel and disrupting our human civilization at large.

L’ Shana Tova to you and your beloved family members. May Almighty G-d bless you all.

Affectionately yours,

Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian Peace

By Abdurrahman Wahid & Abdul A’laMay 10, 2008

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

The prolonged Israeli-Palestinian conflict has a far-reaching impact not only upon the lives of those who dwell in the Holy Land, but upon virtually every nation and community on earth. On a daily basis, self-interested parties are callously manipulating the most basic values of humanity and religion in order to advance their personal or political interests. Sectarianism, violence, arrogance and deception are constantly subverting the fundamental values of life, and turning religious principles upon their heads.

This horrific process demands that every moral human being, religious community and nation throughout the world contemplate this tragedy and offer assistance, however small, to help resolve the profound human crisis in the Holy Land. Peace is both a process and a goal that the world can neither morally nor practically afford to push off into the future yet again.

We must develop and implement concrete strategies to resolve the conflict, while inspiring hope that peace can actually be achieved. The problem is that the various obstacles to peace seem nearly impossible to eliminate. These obstacles are rendered even more severe by the fact that both major parties in the conflict harbor groups absolutely convinced of the correctness of their mutually exclusive views and agendas. Such groups reject not only the rights, but the very existence, of the other side.

The corrosive effect of this phenomenon is the evocation and rationalization of the use of violence, either through terrorism or militarism. Prejudiced views on both sides, not only by those directly engaged in the conflict, but by their allies as well, further stoke the flames of hatred and violence.

These prejudices contaminate public discourse throughout the world, and are constantly exploited by Middle Eastern regimes that fuel anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic emotions for political purposes, while displaying little or no actual concern for the well-being of the Palestinians themselves.

Under such conditions, it is nearly impossible for sincere dialogue even to occur, much less to develop or flourish. Instead, the cycle of violence breeds a hardening of mutual hatred.

The Palestinian side routinely condemns its enemy as a colonial power whose entire population is demonized as “imperialists,” while the Israeli side brands its political opponents as terrorists, or terrorist sympathizers.

For six decades, the peace process has been conducted primarily by self-interested political players who cannot penetrate to the heart of the underlying problems, much less resolve them. This gives rise to deeply cynical views on the part of certain groups on both sides, who view the peace process as absurd, its goals unobtainable, and continued violence better than compromise.

Yet the difficulties that have swamped every Israeli-Palestinian peace process to date do not mean that achieving peace is impossible. Rather, they point to the need for a new and more holistic path to peace in the Middle East. This path would mobilize the populations of Israel and Palestine toward this goal, with the active encouragement and support of the rest of the world.

The December 2007 visit to Israel and Palestine by a group of Indonesian ulama from the world’s two largest Muslim organizations – LibForAll Foundation and the Indonesian Peace Delegation – represents one such effort, and the first step in a larger, systematic process. Conducted under the joint aegis of LibForAll Foundation and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, members of the group consistently observed that the silent majorities on both sides of the conflict sincerely desire an end to the cycle of violence, and peace for themselves and their children. This is remarkable, given the decades of incitement to hatred and violence in Palestinian mosques, schools and mass media, and a political culture that eschews compromise.


Pictured sitting are Medal of Valor recipient President Abdurrahman Wahid and his wife.
Standing (L-R): Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the SWC; Rabbi Marvin Hier,
founder and dean of the SWC; Medal of Valor recipient Father Patrick Desbois; John Calley,
President, John Calley Productions; Dinner honoree Amy Pascal; Medal of Valor recipient
Lord Carey of Clifton; Rabbi Meyer H. May, Executive Director, SWC; Janice Prager, National
Director of Major Gifts, SWC.
Photo: Peter Halmagyi Courtesy Simon Wiesenthal Center

It is tragic that the voice of the people – full of an honest and sincere longing for peace – should be drowned out by violence and the narrow interests of politicians and extremists on both sides. We have a responsibility to amplify the voices of the innocent who pay with their blood and sorrow the price of others’ ambitions and hatred.

We must also strengthen and facilitate the people’s efforts to pressure their political elites – in a manner that is focused, intense and vocal, yet simultaneously civilized – to create a just and lasting peace.

Palestinians and Israelis need the world’s support to create a new reality, in which the highest values of religion and humanity are restored to their proper dignity. We must also help Muslim populations – not only in Palestine, but throughout the Arab world – to rise to embrace a profoundly spiritual and tolerant understanding of Islam, and a humanistic attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that acknowledges the legacy of suffering on all sides. Such an attitude is a necessary precondition for recognizing Israel’s unique history and right to exist, while truly advancing the interests of Palestinians as well.

Last year’s LibForAll/Indonesian Peace mission to Israel and Palestine was designed to initiate such a process. After the religious leaders who participated returned to Indonesia, they faced intense condemnation from Muslim extremists, who accused them of having betrayed their Palestinian brethren and embarrassed Indonesia’s Muslim community. Yet there is nothing shameful about working to realize the highest values of religion – which God intended to serve as a blessing, and not a curse, to all of humanity.

Although the obstacles to peace in the Holy Land may appear insurmountable, it is the responsibility of religious leaders on all sides to attempt the impossible, and to accept whatever threats, slander and stigma may follow.

Mr. Wahid is the former president of Indonesia and co-founder of LibForAll Foundation. Mr. A’la is an associate dean of graduate studies at Sunan Ampel Islamic State University in Surabaya, Indonesia.

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