Recently Jeppe Juhl, the editor of a Danish newspaper, was dumped on the motorway by his Palestinian taxi driver Ali, as it dawned on Ali that his passenger was Jewish.
Subsequently Mr. Juhl wrote an open letter to Ali.
I find this letter so well written and the content so important for us in the UK multicultural society that an English translation is worth the effort in the hope that a few more people with roots in the Islamic culture might read it. I have changed a few sentences with reference to Danish names and also to make them flow in colloquial English.
Hereby I pass the word to Jeppe Juhl:
You don’t know me. I don’t know you. But one thing I know for sure: it is a statistically accepted fact that you and yours hate me and mine. If we met in a dark alleyway you would not hesitate attacking me and you would most likely be proud about the fact that you had caused me grievous bodily harm.
In court you would feel like a hero in the eyes of your friends and your status, in the open rather pleasant Danish prison system, would be strong and powerful.
You see, Ali: I am Jewish.
I don’t look like one, I have no cap or hat and no side curls (peyos) and have only been to the synagogue 6 times since my Bar Mitzvah 36 years ago. I don’t even belong to a Jewish congregation – but all this doesn’t matter. You’d hate me anyway. I don’t believe in Zeus, the Tooth-fairy or Jahwe. The stories about Moses on Mount Zinai and the Jewish sojourn in Egypt, both certainly unhistorical events, are equally absurd and ridiculous to me, as is the legend about Jesus walking on water and Mohammed going to Heaven on a white horse. Whatever I say or believe, you will hate me anyway. Because I’m Jewish.
But I am proud of being Jewish and proud of all the great contributions of the Jewish people throughout history. Perhaps this is a bit embarrassing, even ridiculous, but there you are. And I am proud of being Danish. Perhaps also a bit embarrassing and ridiculous, but please do observe, that I don’t say “also Danish”. To me there is no religious, ethnic, cultural or emotional difference between my being Jewish and being as Danish as they come.
My family’s history is sad, covering endless pogroms and persecution and being robbed of all basic human rights in Eastern Europe. Scorn, mockery and ridicule, concentration camps and fight for survival have been the daily fare for us. Luckily it ended well for my family, as we have landed in one of the world’s best countries: the beautiful little Denmark.
My grandparents worked hard to become assimilated and they succeeded with the help of a country that accepted them so readily and openly. The simplest way to illustrate how grateful we are and ultimately our ‘danishness’ can be seen from the final sentence during worship in the synagogue in Copenhagen: “God save the queen and our mother country Denmark.”
Yes Ali, I am Jewish. A Danish Jew with a strong Jewish identity and I love Israel. Of course I don’t blame you for not loving Israel – but there is another major difference between you and me: I don’t hate you. On the contrary, I wish you, your family and your people a long and happy life. Why shouldn’t I?
The reason I am writing to you, Ali, is deeply personal. You see: I have given up the thought of having a dialogue. A dialogue needs two parties, both willing to listen. It demands empathy and the ability to accept that sometimes the truth hurts. With that in mind I am sure that this letter is likely to be a complete waste of time. Nevertheless, I am trying, letting the benefit of doubt rule, while giving you and yours a chance to wake up!
Let us try this experiment: cleanse your thoughts of all prejudice, wipe the slate clean. No ‘no’s, no buts. I know it is difficult, but try for a while to forget the bombardments of Gaza, the illegal Israeli settlements and the prevailing unintelligent attitudes to war and proportionality. Forget the Allied bombing of Dresden and Hamburg, forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Forget the double morals of a meaningless UN and a lame duck Europe. Forget that the world’s most powerful super state with one hand dishes out their version of unwanted democracy through war, and with the other cooperates with the Saudi Arabian Wahabits, who spend billions of dollars on faith-schools, poisoning the minds of young children. Forget about almost 100 years political mismanagement and history of the Middle East with its absurd attempts to project western concepts of morality and values onto an irrational world, where life after death seems more important than the present. Let us try to forget what we think we know about the background of the conflict.
For my part I am trying to forget all that. I am also trying to cleanse my mind from the belief, that you and your brothers have been raised in hate and a systemic lie of such huge proportions that all hope about peace within the next 2-3 generations is an illusion. That the lies become the truth if they are repeated often enough. That your Mullahs are preaching death and dark ages, exploiting you and your young brothers to the extent that you find it impossible to get out of this enforced spiral of hopelessness, death and suppression. That your religion doesn’t possess and never will encompass free information, the absolute essence of a free life. That lack of hope and an existence in poverty force you to listen to these dark powers. I am trying to undo my observation that you and your brothers are being used as pawns in a deadly political game, the origin of which can be found in a deep rooted hate to the Jews. I am trying to ignore the fact that Israeli transgressions are being looked upon 10 times stronger than those committed by everyone else. I am forgetting that Israel’s fight increasingly is becoming the fight for the West, when we consider the rising power of a demon state like Iran. I am suppressing my negative feelings about the illegal Israeli settlements and I am doing my best to hide my contempt for the religiously motivated mechanisms that keep the fire burning under the biggest problem of all: the division of Jerusalem. I am forgetting your hate and I ignore Hamas’ statement: “We Muslims love death as much as you, the Jews, love life”.
I have now cleansed my mind of all these old dogmas.
Have you done the same?
OK – now we can dig deep, deep down to the roots that define us as human beings and ask ourselves the ultimate question: “Do we want peace?”
And finally: Do you think Hamas and Hizbollah want peace?