01 March 2007

Muslim and Jew Unite In al-Aqsa Protests

To my keen disappointment, it looks like that the Ultra-Orthodox community joins Muslims not only in their stiff opposition to the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, but also in their "righteous" outrage at the excavations near the al-Aqsa Mosque. Has a sure path to peace just been discovered?

Ultra-Orthodox Jews have joined Muslims in a demonstration against Israeli excavations near the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. They carried banners, some written in Arabic, that read: “Jerusalem belongs to the Palestinians” and “Jews are forbidden to insult Islamic religious sites”.
Are they: 1) sellouts; 2) out-of-touch fanatics; 3) blithering idiots; 4) all rolled into one?

At the same time in Moscow about 100 people waving Palestinian and Russian flags gathered in Bolotnaya Square, near the Kremlin, to object to the work. Organisers of the protest called on Russia to intervene to “save the old city of Jerusalem from vandalism” by Israel. The rally coincided with a visit to Moscow by Khaled Meshaal, the head of the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, who repeated the demand for Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian lands. (Reuters; AFP)
As I often find myself in the relative vicinity of Bolotnaya Square on my way from university, I decided to make a detour from my regular route and pay a visit to the place described above for the sole purpose of taking a glance at the festive event taking place there.

Despite the fact that such events are generally bound to garner much attention and support in Russia, seeing that the country has traditionally sided with Arabs and is well known for its rampant anti-Semitism, the event concerned, from all accounts, was a far cry from a sumptuous feast. Most participants were visibly Muslim, and very few ethnic Russians were present at the show, except for a few accustomed Russian Orthodox maniacs thrown in. Most passers-by looked at the curious spectacle in bewilderment, as if they had just entered a zoo.

On balance, I am under the impression that the event was a failed publicity stunt and a large disappointment to its organizers. It has served to further strengthen my belief that Russians are still into classical anti-Semitism, with its dead Christians babies and poisoned wells, while anti-Zionism, with its utter hatred for Israel, is only just beginning to catch on.

One of the main Jewish organizations of Russia has been outraged (alongside the broader Jewish community) by the spiteful remarks made by the Co-Chairman of the main Muslim organization of Russia at the said gathering. For the record, he earnestly described Israelis as "cancerous growths".

Business as usual.