Humanity Learning to Have Humanity: Reflections on the End of Year 5772

by Dr. David Mandler

For Jews around the world, the year 5772 is about to end on Sunday, September 16. The final days of this year could not have been more turbulent. With news about various protests against the United States–following news of an anti-Mohammed film–, Syrian atrocities against its own people with Hezbollah in Lebanon getting ready for the next round of hostilities, the last thing one wished to see is the kind of serious tension that has been mounting between Israel and the United States in the past few days regarding the issue of Iranian nuclear ambitions.

In such a context, the issues regarding Hungarian internal and international politics are all but irrelevant to the world at large except for Armenia (see my previous article).

So, at the end of this particular Jewish year, the prospects for year 5773 fill me with great trepidation.

Humanity is yet to learn what it means to have humanity.

Making a movie that looks so ludicrously amateurish with its obviously fake scenery coupled with clothing and exaggerated plastic beards straight from the corner shop for theater props is already an insult to the sensibilities of all intelligent movie goers. Any intelligent human being gets the picture when we add to all this the deception perpetuated on the actors who claim to have been in the dark about the real subject of the movie as well as the criminal background of the movie’s financier who had initially put out the inflammatory information that he was an Israeli Jew when in fact he is a convicted felon of Coptic Egyptian descent with the ominous name Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. Clearly, “The Innocence of Islam,” based on the excerpts available to the public, is such a bad film that none of its intended messages should be taken seriously.

Yet, thousands of Muslims have been raging for days now against both the movie and the country in which it was produced, claiming that this attack on the dignity of the Prophet Muhammed should not go unanswered. The Libyan U.S. ambassador, Chris Stephens, lost his life because, allegedly, Al Qaida, successfully took advantage of the protest around the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last week, managing to trap the ambassador and three other Americans in the building they set ablaze.

Their deaths constitute a dreadful loss to humanity.

Nonetheless, the deaths of these four innocent Americans seems not to have appeased the offended Muslims. More demonstrations have followed in the subsequent days with more violence.

Ironically, the violent reaction against the movie has done more to damage the image of Islam than the shoddy and obviously ideologically-driven movie itself. After all, the dignity of the prophet, any prophet, cannot be insulted. A prophet’s followers believe that he is a man of God, and no outside agitators can ever shake that belief. When a prophet preaches peace and submission, it is especially counterproductive to defend his honor by displaying rage and anything but submissions in an attempt to defend his honor. Then again, using an a fortiori inference, one should not be surprised by this kind of violent outburst to “defend the honor of Mohammed” in societies where so-called honor killings to defend the honor of the family by killing an unmarried sister or daughter who has been seen with a man are still common.

Killing human beings for making a movie–especially human beings who have had absolutely nothing to do with the film–is so morally outrageous that, when done in the name of a religion, it greatly tarnishes the reputation of the religion. It is up to Muslims who have been offended by the movie’s message but condemn murdering innocent human beings as a result must stand up and shout to the world that they are absolutely opposed to such retributions. After all, if the Islamic prophet Mohammed were alive, would he, as a messenger of God, sanction such reactions from his followers?

Tensions in the Arab world are disturbing regarding the future peace between Israel and various Arab and Muslim countries. What is even more disquieting is the disharmony between the U.S. president, Barak Obama, and Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu when it comes to Iran. The news that president Obama has no time to meet the Israeli PM when the latter visits New York demonstrates how seriously misaligned these two men are on the issue of attacking Iran. If even the approaching elections do not make President Obama intent on showing that he respects the prime minister of Israel, traditionally the closest and most unwavering U.S. ally, no matter his views then the situation is especially grave for Israel. For this means that President Obama believes that he can be reelected without the active support of Jews and, therefore, in his second term, will have to pay even less attention to Jewish voices when it comes to his policies in the Middle East.

If Israel ultimately attacks Iran in the next couple of months (or anytime afterwards), the Iranian reaction–both direct and through its terrorist allies such as Hezbollah and Hamas–will most likely be fierce and deadly. Israel knows this. For this reason, Israel has done everything in its power to avoid attacking Iran. The Stuxnet virus, reportedly developed by the US and Israel, has only slowed down Iran but has failed to stop it from developing nuclear weapons. Israel has waited for both American leadership and permission to act on its own if need be. In the past ten years, neither strong leadership nor permission to attack single-handedly has been given. And now, President Obama has publicly distanced himself from Israel. Even as thousands of Muslims called out into the street by various political and religious parties, using “The Innocence of Islam” movie as a pretext for further demonstrations against America as such, the U.S. president has not yet come down on the side of Israel in a clear and unequivocal way.

No Israelis or Jews have called for demonstrations or perpetrated violence as a result of President Obama’s public snubbing of PM Netanyahu. Instead, they will most likely register their dissatisfaction with the current U.S. president in November at the voting booths.

This article could go on and on with other burning issues. The brutality of the Syrian regime, Egypt’s definite march toward Islamic extremism, Iran’s repeated threats against Israel, growing intolerance of Jews in some European countries are but a few issues that need our attention.

Yet, the most burning issue for all Jews today who believe that a higher power directs the world is to look inward, discover and correct any character flaws that have had an impact on interpersonal relationships and the relationship between the individual and God.

I believe that not only individual peace of mind depends on it but the peace of the entire world. I believe that the words of the ancient declaration Jews are about to repeat in synagogues around the world rings especially true today. Whatever evil decree is about to be made in Heaven, repentance, prayer and charity (teshuva, tefila, tzedaka) are the only antidotes to the evil decree.

May the world have a peaceful and prosperous year in 5773 in which humanity finally learns what it means to have humanity.