Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Humanizing Jews in the Saudi Media

Crossroads Arabia links to this story, positive on several levels. First of all, it is unusual for Jews to be shone in a positive light in Arab media. Second, it illustrates a point that most Americans take for granted, that in the courtroom justice often, if not usually, trumps prejudice. Finally -- and this strikes me as the most important point -- it underscores the historic reality that Jews and Arabs have more in common than either group is apt to admit.

This two-part account of how a man accused of being a terrorist was finally vindicated by the evidence is written by his attorney, Randall B. Hamud. I recommend reading both parts. I agree with the comment at the link. "The story is interesting enough in its own right. Even more interesting, though, is that the Saudi Arab News sees fit to run a two-day story about Jews helping an Arab. That's a pretty big step, I think, toward humanizing Jews, who are often vilified in popular media and textbooks."

Osama is a Muslim-Arab who immigrated to the United States from Jordan in 1999. Born in Venezuela and reared in Jordan, he is the son of naturalized US citizens. He came to the States to further his education and become a citizen.

He is a devout Muslim who believes in the literal truth of the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an. The Qur’an teaches him that the forebear of the Jews was Isaac, son of Abraham; Isaac’s brother, Ishmael, was the forebear of the Arabs. By blood, Jewsand Arabs are cousins. The Qur’an also teaches him to respect the Jews as worshippers of the one God. As a practicing Muslim, Osama unquestioningly accepts these teachings.


To most people, the obvious lesson of the case was that the justice system was still intact in South Manhattan. After all, a Muslim-Arab who had been acquainted with two of the 9/11 hijackers had gotten a fair trial just a few blocks from Ground Zero.

But to me, a far more important lesson was taught: Osama’s Semitic cousins had saved him. Jesse, Liz, Sarah, and the other members of the defense team had not hesitated to come to his defense; a courageous Jewish judge had applied the law to the facts in spite of the potential fallout on the far right; a lone Jewish juror held out for six days against a tide of prejudice sweeping through the jury room; and finally, Mimi had put a human face on “Sam.” To all of them, Osama and I say, “Shuk’ran,” Arabic for “Thank You.” And we urge all of our Arab brothers and sisters and our Semitic cousins to take a close look at Osama’s case. We two peoples can accomplish much more as friends than as enemies.

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