Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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7 Cheshvan 5766 - November 9, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
A Realistic Solution to the Moslem Problem

For the first four or five days, the only reports of the riots in France that we saw were those filed by Arnon Jaffe, our Paris correspondent. But after they persisted for seven and eight days, reports started to appear in the major media as well.

The riots are approaching two weeks in duration and, as we write, they are still accelerating. They are very serious and the numbers are numbing. Two nights ago they were reported in 240 locations. Last night in almost 300. Two nights ago 1,295 cars were reported burned; last night 1,408.

The disturbances in the Moslem communities have begun to spread — across France and into neighboring countries like Belgium and Germany where a few cars were set ablaze. On Sunday two policemen were shot and seriously wounded in a Paris suburb in what spokesmen described as an ambush. Altogether about 80 policemen have been injured along with dozens of firefighters and innocent bystanders. One handicapped woman was doused with gasoline and set ablaze as she tried to get off of a bus to escape an attack.

The rioting started on October 27 in the lower-class Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. This is one of many areas of cheap government-built housing that are inhabited by the millions of immigrant Moslems in France. In a country of some 60 million people, Moslems are now about ten percent of the total.

French leaders thought that they were immune to serious trouble from their North African residents and citizens since they opposed the US war in Iraq and were consistently friendly to Arabs. Yasser Arafat died in a French hospital after he was taken there for treatment.

It seems that the recent events are just a more intense version of what goes on all the time, with no publicity. In eleven days, almost 5,000 cars were torched. However up until then, over 20,000 cars were burned since the beginning of the calendar year 2005. That means that "only" about 70 cars are destroyed on an average night. Compared to 1,400 it is not much, but compared to what normal civilized life is expected to be, it is enormous. The ongoing problems were always dismissed and explained away as the problems of youth — without mentioning the Arab and Moslem connection.

Nonetheless, France is being hit hard, and it seems that it will get worse before it gets better.

Britain found that its openness and tolerance for Islamic leaders — it was known as Londonistan — only led to the attacks of 7/7 from home-grown suicide bombers. All over the world there is a wave of terror and, as one analyst noted, even though not all Moslems are terrorists, all the terrorists are Moslems: Israel, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the US, Spain, the UK, Holland, Indonesia, Iraq, . . . and who will be next?

It is — or should be — becoming clear that the answer to these world problems is not any single thing. It is not the American-led invasion of Iraq or its attack on Afghanistan. It is not grievances against European governments. It is not Western success or Moslem failure to progress. And it is most certainly not the existence of Israel. There is a deep difficulty in living together with some powerful elements of the Moslem world.

Everyone yearns to find a full solution to these individual problems, and especially to the collective problem of reaching an accommodation with the worldwide Moslem community. Yet an insistence on building a policy based on a solution, something to end the conflict "once-and-for-all" — like the Oslo accords and the more recent Geneva Initiative of the Israeli Left — leaves one vulnerable to dangerous oversimplifications and outright deceit.

The only solution that seems reachable and practical is an application of the venerable Jewish "golus mentality" of reaching an accommodation with a difficult reality and learning to live with it — to make the best of things.

This is what Israeli Prime Minister Sharon seems to be pursuing with his Disengagement Plan: to create a situation that will not necessarily be stable or permanent like a full peace treaty, but is nonetheless livable. Utopian solutions are for Moshiach. In our situation, a realistic approach means learning to live with the problems of shibud malchuyos — both spiritual and material.

The willingness to find a way to live with problems that cannot be solved is a lesson that seems to have been learned by the Israeli prime minister. Other nations would do well to follow his lead in this area.

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