Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Magdi Allam - Muslim, Italian and Zionist

In this day and age, it takes immense courage to stand up publicly for Israel, especially if you are a Muslim. As Haaretz reports, this is precisely what Magdi Allam, deputy editor of the Corriere della Sera, one of Italy's leading newspapers, has done.

"It's not every day that a Muslim intellectual puts his own head on the line to defend Israel's right to exist. But that is exactly what Magdi Allam, an Egyptian-born Italian writer and journalist, has been doing for years. He recently published a book whose name alone is enough to endanger his life: "Long Live Israel - From the Ideology of Death to the Civilization of Life: My Story."

In "Long Live Israel" ("Viva Israele" in Italian), Allam directly links the denial of Israel's right to exist to the death cult being nurtured in fundamentalist Islamic circles, and refers to "the ethical erosion that has led to even the denial of the supreme value of the sanctity of life." Allam sees Israel as "an ethical parameter that separates between lovers of civilization and those who preach the ideology of death." The sanctity of life, he writes, "applies to everyone, or to no one."

Allam was not always a defender of the Jewish state. "'Zionism' was a dirty word for me," he admits in his book. For years he considered Israel an aggressive, racist, colonialist, immoral entity, and he accepted the methods of the Palestinian struggle and its leader Yasser Arafat, "without criticizing the fact that Fatah adopted the path of terror extensively inside and outside Israel." ... "My passion for the Palestinian cause was strong, as was my enthusiasm for Arafat's personality."

In his new book he describes his long road from profound admiration for Arafat and "the prophet of pan-Arabism," Gamal Abdel Nasser, and strong support for the Palestinian cause, to his unreserved support for Israel. "I want to tell you about my slow and tortured path from the ideology of lies, tyranny, hatred, violence and death, to the culture of truth, freedom, love, peace and life, until it ripened into absolute certainly that defending the sanctity of life is more than ever in keeping with defending Israel's right to exist," he writes. At the end of this "slow and tortured path" he reached the conclusion that the Arab countries' refusal to recognize Israel during the 1950s and 1960s hurt the Palestinians, and that Arafat was a tyrant, a megalomaniac, corrupt and corrupting, and the worst disaster to befall them.”

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