Fairfax News is never reticent when it comes to painting Israel and Jews in a bad light. So a story about an interfaith marriage in Israel between a Jewish woman and a Muslim man with the title – Right-wing extremists can’t break the love of a Muslim man and Jewish woman in Israel – is guaranteed to appeal to their audience.
We are told:
Sunday brought a different kind of pre-wedding jitters for one Israeli couple. Morel Malka and Mahmoud Mansour spent the morning of their wedding in court, trying to keep right-wing Zionist extremists from ruining their special night.
Amid the tension of Israel’s fragile ceasefire with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, the intimacy of Morel and Mahmoud has become a national political issue.
When the Jaffa couple posted their wedding invitation on Facebook, they just wanted to share their good news.
Instead, it attracted the attention of Jewish extremists avowed to preventing mixed marriage – especially Jewish women marrying Arab men. And especially when they have converted to Islam, as Ms Malka has done.
Run by ultra-nationalist Jewish activists, the group called Lehava is dedicated to what it calls “preventing assimilation in the Holy Land”, although it works against Israel’s Arab citizens on other issues as well.
Members called for a demonstration outside the wedding hall in the city of Rishon Lezion on Sunday evening as the couple was being wed.
A court granted the group permission to protest but ordered protesters to stay about 200 metres from the wedding hall’s entrance.
Although heavy police forces were deployed at the site, the family hired security guards at their own expense. The war in Gaza has exacerbated an already high level of intolerance among right-wing extremists in Israel.
Other Israelis gathered outside the wedding on Sunday, but for the opposite reason. Responding to a Facebook call to attend a “vigil of love” for Morel and Mahmoud’s wedding, dozens of people…showed their support with flowers, balloons and hand-painted signs congratulating the couple.
“This is an act of elementary humanism,” organiser Noga Eitan said. “We are here to show basic decency and sound a liberal voice,” she said, adding it was a pity that even a wedding should become a political act in Israel.
There are some bizarre features about this story, which has been widely reported worldwide as an example of Jewish intolerance. Morel converted to Islam, so she’d be expected to wear a modest dress, not one that makes her look extremely sexualized. In the picture of the couple, Mahmoud is looking away from her and grinning triumphantly, presumably to his mates, which bodes ill for the future. Also, given the sensitivity of the Gaza situation, why would they advertise their wedding on facebook, when it would inevitably attract unwelcome attention? Finally, to accuse Israelis of intolerance without mentioning the widespread Israeli Arab support for the genocidal intent of Hamas, plus the anti-Semitism rampant among Arab leaders, the media and education system, amounts to dishonest reporting.
Israel is a democracy and Arab citizens make up about 20 per cent of Israel’s population, so intermarriages inevitably happen. But it is unrealistic to expect Jewish parents to rejoice, given the intense incitement against Jews by all Israel’s neighbours. So when the Daily Mail reported that Malka’s father, Yoram Malka, objected to the wedding, calling it ‘a very sad event’ and that he was angry that his daughter had converted to Islam, rather than immediately assuming him to be a racist, surely it is instructive to consider the constant demonisation of Jews by Muslim Arabs and a father’s concern at how his daughter would be treated by her new family.
Reports about the fate of Israeli Jewish women who marry Arab Muslims provide a harrowing testimony to the reality that there is no fairytale ending. Some years ago. Israel National News produced a series of reports. Here is one extract:
“I Was Silent and I Was Alone”
Close to 6,000 Jewish Israeli women marry Arab men each year, unknowingly entering into a trap from which only a few manage to escape. Mayaan Jaffe spoke to one of the “luckier” ones.
Esther [all names have been changed] escaped from her Arab husband two months ago. An immigrant from the former Soviet Union, she met her Palestinian husband of seven years while working in a factory just one year after moving to Israel. She says while they were dating he treated her like a queen, and despite the warnings from her parents and friends she saw nothing wrong in their relationship. But it was all a guise…
“The minute he convinced me to marry him, the restrictions began,” she sobs. “When I became pregnant with my first daughter he persuaded me to ‘convert’ to Islam and to cover my hair like Arab women do. Once the keffiyeh went on he began to control me, to treat me dreadfully.”
Before Esther’s first child was even half-a-year old, her husband brought a second wife into their home, still in an apartment building in a mixed Jewish-Arab Israeli city. He used to be intimate with the woman in Esther’s own bed, and exploit the two against each other. As the years went by the ill-treatment increased, ranging from verbal abuse to physical beatings. Esther began to shut down.
“If you complained you were beaten,” Esther weeps. “He would yell and then he would hit. If I said something to make him angry: beating. If a neighbor looked at me the wrong way: beating. If I opened the door for a male neighbor: beating. If I didn’t do something or prepare something the way he wanted: beating. There was no speaking. There was no help with the children. If the children were sick: nothing. I was alone. I was silent and I was alone.”
“I felt I couldn’t take it anymore. I was living with a person that I gave all the respect in the world and it was never enough. I had no worth. I did everything I could in the house, I shut my mouth, I shut my eyes, I ignored the fact that he was sleeping with another woman. But every second something set him off. Every minute he said something terrible to me.
Here is another:
When Israeli Women Marry Arab Men:
Black eyes. Bruises. Blood. Out of the refuse of a Gaza town, Aliza [all names have been changed] emerged a broken woman. With tears streaming down her face and her body shaking with trauma, Aliza described how she was locked in the home of a man she once thought she loved, treated in ways too crude to print before being left alone to rot.
Aliza met her Arab lover via the internet, and like most girls in her situation, she was promised the world in exchange for a Muslim conversion and a marriage license. Less than one year later, she was left beaten and betrayed. Almost a statistic, Aliza spent all the money she had ($250) to take a cab to the Erez Crossing, and with the help of the rescue organization of Lev L’Achim, she reentered Israel proper and left her life in the Arab “prison” behind.
Stories like Aliza’s are commonplace. While every woman’s tale has a unique flare, the basic plot repeats itself, proving again and again that no matter how in love you think you are, marrying an Arab in Israel means the end of your relationships, the end of your freedom and independence, and sometimes, G-d forbid, the end of your life. Unfortunately, according to Ze’ev Shtigletz who runs Lev L’Achim’s assimilation division, no matter how many times girls hear the facts, when they are serenaded and pampered they become convinced that for them things can be different.
Shtigletz travels across the country lecturing at any school that will have him…public schools often refuse, declaring him a bigot, and religious schools frequently deny the problem even exists.
Shtigletz is neither a pessimist nor a bigot. He says, “facts on the ground make evident that intermarriage between Jews and Arabs in Israel is a dangerous idea.” He explains that physical abuse is rampant among the Arabs, and empowered Arab wives are few and far between.
“I once was told about a girl from Ramat HaSharon who was dating an Arab boy and considering marriage,” says Shtigletz…”I asked the Jewish girl where her boyfriend was from, and she said Taibe. I opened the Taibe phonebook and called a number at random… A woman answered. I told her that I was Jewish and that I wanted to ask her a few questions. She agreed… I told her, ‘I have my sister on the other line. She is listening to us. She is thinking of marrying her Arab boyfriend. Tell me: should she do this?’
“The woman said, “Do not let her make this mistake. No way!…What, she would like to be beaten?”
Shtigletz replied, “Are there no decent Arabs?” She said no.
“‘All Arabs hit! All Arabs hit! They don’t always call what they are doing beating their wives. They say they are just giving us a spanking. But what is a spanking for? Because the coffee wasn’t hot enough, or I didn’t put in enough sugar, or his friend made him angry – this or that, it’s all worth a spanking.'”
Arab sociologist Dr. Abadi Nasser admits spousal abuse is somewhat commonplace in Arab households. But, he says, unlike in Western society where the abused appeals to the court for protection, Arab couples work out these problems within the extended family.
“The Jewish and Arab cultures are different,” Dr. Nasser explains. “In the Jewish culture the people are more connected to the law. So what is the Jewish woman’s reaction to being hit by her spouse? She goes to the police. In the Arab or Muslim sector, the women only turn to the police if the violence gets past a certain point.”
In his essay entitled “Violence Directed at Women in the Socio-Cultural Context of Arab Society” … Mohamed Hajj Yechi makes a similar point:
“…A Jewish woman from a Western background who uses the law to evict her abusive husband from the home… is likely to be received with sympathy and support by her community, family and friends. On the other hand, an Arab woman who makes use of the law in a similar way is likely to face excommunication by her community, and will be blamed for undermining the stability and solidity of her family.”
Dr. Nasser verified:
“In a mixed marriage, the Jewish woman has cut off her connection with her extended family and she has no way to return to it. She is ready to take the beatings because she has nowhere to turn… The Arab knows if he is married to a Jewish woman he can beat her because she has nowhere to turn… The percentage of violence in mixed marriages is higher even than it is in Arab-Arab relationships.”
Dr. Nasser divides the conflicts that arise for the parents and children of mixed marriages into three categories: naming children, schooling, and serving in the army.
“When they give a name that is acceptable on both sides, this is to say that they are not at peace with their identity. They have not yet decided [whether] to raise the child as a Jew or as an Arab… The child will be teased in school for having a Jewish mother and he will turn from his Jewish identity.”
Living in an Arab village, the children will be schooled like the rest of the Arab children there. He will learn Arabic and Arab traditions, and he will celebrate Muslim holidays. But, because he will always know in the back of his head that he is different, he will rebel. For a glaring example, Nasser claims the number of children from mixed families involved in attacks (rock-throwing, etc.) against the IDF during the intifada (roughly 1987-1992), was greater than those from pure Arab families.
“They wanted to prove they were more Arabic than their friends,” Nasser explains. “They wanted to show that they were Arabs despite their Jewish mothers. They wanted to be accepted, and so they threw more stones than the average Arab.”
The next obstacle occurs when the child turns 18 and receives his draft letter to the Israeli Army. Here begins a major conflict. By Israeli law, he is Jewish, in the likely event that his mother maintained her Jewish identity in the Ministry of the Interior. On the other hand, Islam recognizes patrilineal descent, thus that by Islamic law he is a Muslim.
“The boy is in a state of conflict,” Nasser says. “If he doesn’t go to the army, he is defecting and the IDF will find him. If he chooses to enlist, he is defending the Jewish nation and he will have no home to return to. He will be going against everything he grew up with – all the anti-Israel rhetoric, his friends, etc. … Most of these children choose not to go [to the army].”
Because these children suffer from the stress of their parents’ decision to intermarry, close to 100% of them choose not to do so themselves. They marry Muslim women, have Muslim children, and a generation of Israel is lost.
The Jewish wives must remain in the village if they want to see their children, and they suffer – terribly.
In 1998, Lev L’Achim received over 900 distress calls from Jewish women who were experiencing brutal and systematic abuse at the hands of their Arab husbands…
Women tell of being pushed down flights of stairs, watching their Arab sisters-in-law being burned to death and having all their teeth knocked out by a rake.
Are Arab women who intermarry in a similar situation? Dr. Nasser says as of 1991, only 18 Arab women had married Jewish men since the founding of the State. “Why? Because she will be hunted down and killed by her family. The family would rather have her dead than married to a Jew.”
Lev L’Achim, on the other hand, would rather have the girl safe than married to an Arab:
“I don’t think the girl understood when she got involved in this situation what hell it would be. What would you do if your daughter was in this situation? You would save her. These are our brethren. A Jewish woman is our sister. Her children are Jewish. Any Jewish woman who wants to restart her life, to return to Judaism, can rest assured that Lev L’Achim is with her all the way.”
Hatred towards Israeli Jewish women is widespread throughout the Middle East, as this 2008 interview illustrates:
Interviewer: Egyptian lawyer Nagla Al-Imam has proposed that young Arab men should sexually harass Israeli girls wherever they may be and using any possible method…What is the purpose of this proposal of yours?
Nagla Al-Imam: First of all, they violate our rights, and they “rape” the land. Few things are as grave as the rape of land. In my view, this is a new form of resistance.
Interviewer: As a lawyer, don’t you think this might expose Arab youth to punishment for violating laws against sexual harassment?
Nagla Al-Imam: Most Arab countries… With the exception of three or four Arab countries, which I don’t think allow Israeli women to enter anyway, most Arab countries do not have sexual harassment laws. Therefore, if [Arab women] are fair game for Arab men, there is nothing wrong with Israeli women being fair game as well.
… In my view, the [Israeli women] do not have any right to respond. The resistance fighters would not initiate such a thing, because their moral values are much loftier than that. However if such a thing did happen to them, the [Israeli women] have no right to make any demands, because this would put us on equal terms – leave the land so we won’t rape you. These two things are equal.
I don’t want young Arab men to be interrogated. I want these Zionist girls with Israeli citizenship to be expelled from our Arab countries. This is a form of resistance, and a way of rejecting their presence.
So before rushing to judgment about how racist Israelis are, maybe people should pause to consider who are the real racists, and ask themselves if they would like a female family member to be subjected to a life of almost certain abuse.