Shariah and Israel
This article would have come eight months ago. I still believe it is not out of place. My attention was drawn the increasing romance between some governments in the North and the state of Israel.
For two reasons, I am not seriously concerned about what relationship exists between the Federal government and the Zionist state, especially under the present leadership. One, anybody that voted for Obasanjo must have known that consolidation of our relationship with Israel, once he is in power, will be a foregone conclusion. It is what the Hausa refers to as barewa ba ta gudu danta ya yi rarrafe. He belongs to the same class in international relations as Former President Ibrahim Babangida, who normalized our diplomatic relationship with Israel. Since the duo are likely to continue determining which direction the affairs of our nation take, given the resources at their disposal, we have to learn how to live with them and their ideas. America is their goal.
Two, beyond the personal level, the Federal government is also free to choose partners in matters within its jurisdiction. If a section of Nigerians are interested in maintaining a relationship with Israel, no matter its policy regarding its Arab population, fine; the government is free to serve their wish if it is so interested. Tomorrow, if another government comes with a different ideology that sees much evil in the state terrorism perpetrated by Israel, it has every right to severe relations with it, given the fact that there is another section of Nigerians that share that feeling. International relations have never been fixed. Whenever there is a change of government, they are adjusted, or sometimes changed completely, to conform to the ideological colorations of the new government.
Having said this, I have five reasons why states with predominant Muslim populations should not seek to establish relationship with Israel. Let’s ride on …
The golden rule
One, we must realize that in a federation and especially during democracy, the federal government has no right to impose trade policies on state and local governments. What they do with the funds they generate or those allocated to them from the federation account is purely their business. Sokoto State, for example, has every right to determine from which country it buys a fabric or any industrial product. Likewise, the state is free to enter into bilateral agreements with any country with which we have a trade relationship. The converse is also true. It has the right to refuse relating with any country unwillingly. What determines the choice of partners, even in trade, is the interest of the population of Sokoto State.
Two, at the state level, the governor has to take into cognizance the values of his community. Nigeria correctly regards itself as a nation. However, that does not dissolve the differences in the value systems of its composite units. Such values vary from one region to another, from one state to another and, in some considerations, from one community to another. The essence of a federation that comprises states and local governments is essentially to allow for the manifestation of such differences at the local level, of course to a degree that will not be detrimental to national security.
Now if we extend this argument to the arena of international relations, we will find that certain states have a greater affinity to some countries than others. Reasons for that, as we mentioned before, especially in developing countries, has to do with common geography, history or culture. For example, Kano and Borno States are more likely to relate with the Republics of Niger and Chad respectively, because of their common border, culture and history, than any state in southern Nigeria. Similarly, we do not expect states with predominantly Christian populations, like Plateau or Edo, to relate with Islamic Republic of Iran, Sudan or even secular Turkey. We understand and respect their difficulty in doing so.
In the same vein, no one should frown at a blossoming relationship between Zamfara and Saudi Arabia. They have a common Islamic identity; they share the same worldview. Their sensitivities will be the same and in international relations they are likely to fall within the same divide. This is a golden rule.
Now, democracy has returned and along with it is the freedom in the management of resources by state governments, unlike what obtained under military rule. We have seen governors and local government chairmen shuttling around the globe, trying hard to source trade and cultural partners, following the good footsteps of their President who has the highest frequency of foreign trips in the history of nations.
Largely, these shuttles are guided by the golden rule that we mentioned above. For example, though Abia State has had difficulty in securing meat, it has not made any effort to import cattle or beef from Niger Republic, or joining the international livestock market at Maigatari, as did Jigawa State. The tradition also is for Benue to look westward in everything and eastward only in Hajj. Therefore, for Muslim states to seek establishing trade relations with Israel, this golden rule has been violated.
Three, trade does not hang somewhere in the air. It is tied to values. No one taught us this better than the Americans that many of us would like to consider as masters. Why should Liberia, for example, be sanctioned other than its support for the rebel groups that have unleashed terror on the civilian population in Sierra Leone? Why Iraq, Libya, UNITA, Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, etc? It is because these countries and groups have in one way or another something that the ‘Security’ Council claims to be violations of UN charters and natural justice as defined by the West.
Trade sanction is a suitable, or say convenient, way of punishing and incapacitating them. For over a decade now, Iraq is not allowed to sell it oil, and, in spite of the suffering of its civilian population – children dying of hunger and lack of essential drugs – the Insecurity Council, as it has truly turned out to be, remains firm on its resolutions on Iraq. We should not forget that not long ago some Nigerian prophets of human rights went begging America to unleash the same type of sanctions on this country. Unknown to them, the Americans knew where their eggs lie.
The fact is that trading with a partner is an approval of his conduct and a support to his economy. To trade with Israel is to accommodate its atrocities and increasing its prowess. This will be the last wish of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria who take the security of their Arab brothers in Palestine seriously.
Four, taking agriculture as an example, where some people see Israel as a model, consideration should be given to our golden rule and nothing makes Israel exceptional there. In fact, except for irrigation, I cannot see any reason why we will be keen to learn from a country that has a different ecology than ours. It is a desert country with scarcity of water and land. My local government for example is a savannah with eight months of rainfall, all year streams and a large arable landmass that can feed the country. Their constraints are not mine.
There is an ecological danger in doing so especially when it comes to crop protection. The risk of introducing species of pests and pathogens, which can upset the centuries old ecological balance of the savannah, is very high, just as it happened to the poultry industry in the mid-eighties. So even on technical grounds, seeking technical assistance from Israel does not make sense. Brazil or Mexico on the other hand is a better choice. In irrigation, we have a lot to learn from our African neighbors, especially those living along the Nile valley. We have traded in plant and animal species with them for centuries without the risk of endangering our ecological equilibrium. To crown it all, we have not exhausted the research done locally in the past forty years and there are many experts here at home ever ready to make their services available.
Five, let’s call a spade a spade. Israel, right from the terrorism and conspiracy that gave birth to its creation in 1948 to the atrocities it perpetrates today, is a negation of our concept of social justice. We hereby categorically state that we are not, unlike others, at all comfortable with the injustices carried out against Palestinians: decades of murders of innocent civilian Muslims and Christians, driving them out of their homes, sending them away into neighboring countries, occupying their houses thereafter, and refusing them to return to the land of their grandfathers. In Islam, one of the greatest injustices is to kill an innocent life or drive him out of his home on no just cause. Muslims are instructed to relate generously with anyone, regardless of his religion, once he can fulfill its condition for social justice. This is explicitly stated in Mumtahanah, the chapter in the Quran that deals with what we today call international relations. It says:
“God forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loveth those who are just.
“God only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong.” (60: 8-9).
We do not have any problem selling this idea in the past. That is why Egypt and other Arab countries were able to convince other African countries to severe diplomatic relations with the Zionist state, until when they agreed to restore it. But our argument here goes beyond the premise of African nationalism on which that argument was built. It is based on the universal ideal of social justice. We consider the state of Israel as a violator of the rights of Palestinians.
If America were not the patron of Israel, there would have been little difficulty in punishing Israel until it conforms to UN resolutions protecting and affirming the right of Palestinians to return to their land. UN resolutions are enforced only if it pertains Iraq or Sudan. They are discarded if they call Israel to live up to standard of civilization.
Where are the Marxist academicians that supported sanctions against Israel? What happened to the lectures of Dr. Patrick Wilmot and many others who were always keen in equating apartheid with Zionism? Where are his students? America has taken over the world, and everybody is made to bow before the majesty of its ideology and economy. Actually, our memories were short. We have forgotten that when the state of Israel was declared in 1948, President Truman of the United States was the first to recognize it. He was immediately followed by the Soviet Union. For the twelve years that followed, the socialist state of Czechoslovakia was the biggest supplier of arms to Israel. Also, the largest immigration of Jews into Palestine was from communist Russia.
However, Muslims have an additional responsibility, beyond the rhetoric of the UN and socialism. There is an escalation of violence against the Palestinian population, especially with the recent election of Sharon. In addition, we must boycott its trade and turn down its offers. We should not waste our time, because states that have established relationship with Israel have little benefit to show apart from the sentiments. They have forgotten that the Jews never respected Christians in history. Christians are more humiliated today in Israel than Muslims.
Jewish history has shown that they never had any regard for Jesus, which is why they attempted to crucify him. They exiled his disciples. They were responsible for economic ills of Europe, a fact that resulted in their persecution. When they were exiled in the middle ages, they had no safe haven except the Muslim territories under the Ottoman Empire, which had the commitment to social justice that they needed for survival. Allowing them to migrate to Israel is a conspiracy of the British that was designed to achieve two goals: one, sending them out Europe, and two, at the same time using them as a pebble in the shoe of the Arabs and Muslims. Both purposes have been achieved.
Here in Nigeria, democracy is promising us freedom of activity, within the limits of law. If others, for reasons best known to them, are delighted to take Zionists as partners, we should also be allowed to swim in the delight of taking them as transgressors that murder our brothers in Palestine, regardless of whether they are Muslims or Christians.
This message is specifically important to Governors proclaiming Shariah. They should understand that Shariah demands that they stand firm in the face of injustice. There is no injustice worse than what the Palestinians are undergoing. Since the wave of their expulsions took off under the supervision of the British in the 1930s, a third generation of their population is growing in tents. We cannot tolerate this. If we cannot fight against it physically, we should not take any step that will strengthen the aggressor.
Citizens in Shariah states have the responsibility to call their governors to order. Nothing in existence as a federation demands that we should be insensitive to the conditions of humanity in other parts of the world, especially if they are our brothers in faith, culture and history. To proclaim shariah and support an aggressor is a contradiction. We should listen to the call of Islamic jurists like Dr. Yusuf Qardawi, who in the past six months has said it time without number that Muslims the world over should adjust the terms of their relationship with Israel. They must, as a sign of support to Palestinians, boycott Israeli and American products and force them to accept that killing a Palestinians is not as simple as killing a fly.
Here at home, let Israel admire our land and water resources and attempt to lure us with its empty promises. The resources will remain ours. We are willing to go into partnership only with those that have regard to human values, not those that preach and practice racial bigotry and survive on robbing and murdering innocent Muslims and Christians in our beloved and blessed land of Palestine.