By Oren Rawls

Published August 01, 2003, issue of August 01, 2003.
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Bonds That Bind: Comparisons between Israel and South Africa are usually of the less-than-charitable variety, seeking to draw parallels between apartheid-era policies and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

A July 23 opinion article in the South African paper of record, though, has Johannesburg looking to Jerusalem for guidance on societal reconciliation. To heal the emotional and material wounds of apartheid, Daniel Bradlow suggests in Business Day, South Africa needs a program like Israel Bonds.

Bradlow, a law professor at American University in Washington, writes that a similar bond program would be “a shrewd investment in the construction of a society that offers both those who benefited from and those who suffered under apartheid the possibility of a better future.”

A South African investment in what Bradlow terms “R&D” — as in “reconciliation and development” — offers a return whose value is priceless. Such was the case, he points out, with another influx of cash to Israel: the post-Holocaust financial contributions that Germany made to the fledgling Jewish state.

“These payments were important for two reasons,” Bradlow argues. “First, they were a tangible demonstration of Germany’s interest in repairing the damage that it had done to the Jews. Second, by assisting Jews in improving their material well-being and helping them establish lives of dignity and opportunity, the Germans helped make it possible for the Jews to pay the psychic price of reconciliation.”

“R&D bonds alone will not guarantee reconciliation in South Africa,” he cautions. “However, they offer those who benefited from apartheid a creative way to help heal the wounds of the past.”

* * *

Dome of the Rock ’n Roll: “When the Islamic suicide bomber recently attacked Mike’s Place, the most popular blues club in Israel, he hit the fundamentalist version of the daily double,” Jay Rosenthal sounds off in the July 26 issue of Billboard, the music industry trade magazine. “Not only did he kill Jews, he also killed musicians.”

The only thing that gives Islamic fundamentalists the blues more than Zionism, notes Rosenthal, a Washington-based music attorney, is some of that ’ol time rock ’n roll. “To them, nothing is more unholy and anti-Islam than decadent Western music.”

While terrorists worry about losing their religion, as the rock band REM might have said, musicians are fighting for their right to party.

“Musicians, clubs, music fans and all those doing nothing more than having fun are on the front line in the war against terrorism,” Rosenthal riffs. But “while terrorism and modern-day Islamic fascism continue to confront us at every turn, including a devastating attack on a rock concert in Russia just a few weeks ago, there are clear signs of hope. They are playing music again in Afghanistan, and Mike’s Place is open for business.”

* * *

Forbidden Fruit: Islamic fundamentalists are sure to have sour grapes with the contention of a Semitic-languages scholar that the reward for their “martyrdom” is not the paradise of 72 wide-eyed virgins promised in the Koran.

A German going by the pseudonym Christoph Luxenberg is arguing that the canon read by today’s Muslims is actually a mistranslation from the original text, Stefan Theil reports in the July 28 international edition of Newsweek.

“What are described as ‘houris’ with ‘swelling breasts,’” Theil writes of Luxenberg’s assertion, “refer to nothing more than ‘white raisins’ and ‘juicy fruits.’”

According to the German scholar, the Koran was originally written in Aramaic and was only translated into Arabic 150 years after Mohammed’s death. And if that isn’t enough to earn a fatwa for Luxenberg — who for that very reason, apparently, writes under a pen name — Theil reports that the scholar claims the original Koran was actually a Christian liturgical document.

“Luxenberg may be ushering in a whole new era of Koranic study,” he proclaims. “In the West, questioning the literal veracity of the Bible was a crucial step in breaking the church’s grip on power — and in developing a modern, secular society. That experience, as much as the questioning itself, is no doubt what concerns conservative Muslims as they struggle over the meaning and influence of Islam in the 21st century. But if Luxenberg’s work is any indication, the questioning is just getting underway.”

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