March 04, 2007

A Clash of Cultures

From A Clash of Cultures, Interview with Amnon Rubinstein by Ari Shavit:

There is an Israeli-Palestinian conflict that we have to try to end. But one must also see the broad picture. There is a clash between a narrative of enlightenment versus a dark narrative. Islam is not an open society. In the terms of Karl Popper, it is the most closed society conceivable. It is an intolerant society. A well-known professor said not long ago that we have to adopt the values of the Middle East in which we live. I would like to ask him which values he is talking about. About the humiliation of women? About corporal punishment? About the hanging of a homosexual a month ago in a city square in Iran? About the flogging to death of a young homosexual in Saudi Arabia? About the Nazi propaganda in Egypt? I really want to know. What values are we talking about? After all, there is not one Arab state that upholds the values of freedom of expression, human rights and minority rights. And across the Middle East the Arab Christian minorities are disappearing at an appalling rate. No one talks about that. I am not willing to accept a multicultural approach that says that their culture is like my culture. I do not understand how one can talk about cultural relativism in a generation that saw Nazism and Stalinism. Is it really possible to say that all the narratives are equal? That the Nazi narrative is equal to the Anglo-Saxon narrative? That the Stalinist narrative is equal to the narrative of the French Revolution?

Professor Rubinstein, a former Israeli Minister of Education and Communications, is President of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya.