The weekend is behind us, and it was indeed a weak end.
Bibi’s speech was as predictable as the reaction from the media. I have read several news reports, and I’m not sure that all the writers read or listened to the same speech. I don’t think Bibi’s comments did anything other than to consolidate an obvious and practical position. Certainly I don’t think that the reports suggesting that this is a new position of the Israeli Government are accurate. The Palestinians have been offered all of this and more on more than one occasion.
There is another issue that showed itself to be of significance over the past couple of days, being the level of ignorance and paranoia displayed by both Jewish and non-Jewish residents to Islamic people within the community. In three separate discussions the matter of Sharia Law was raised with me, in the context of a new NAB banking product. Immediately a lot of scaremongering and fear has emerged with no basis whatsoever. The reality is that this product is not new, it is a fantastic development of the bank. The product simply structures the overall value of a loan into a payment method that does not compromise Islamic adherance to their own traditional law. The interest value is removed as there is a prohibition on charging interest on a finance arrangement.
What amazes me from the reaction that I have seen is twofold. Firstly, the racial and prejudicial reaction from those who feel threatened by a minority group that wishes to observe its own tradition. Even worse when they are Jews, who expect the same tolerance from society that they themselves are not willing to give. Secondly, the lack of awareness that Jewish law itself contains the same guiding values with respect to halacha. Jewish economic law provides the laws of Ribis – the prohibition of lending money on interest, as a business ethic. Given that Islam grew out of Judaism, and that many cultural traits are shared, I would imagine that Sharia Law originally took this precept from the Jewish tradition.
My frustration, demonstrated at least twice to me over the weekend, was that Jewish people were aware of the Islamic tradition not to charge interest, yet totally unaware that their own Jewish tradition contains a near identical construct. How is it that we are culturally aware enough to know about the religious-cultural leanings of others, yet blind to our own ethos? Where have we gone wrong with our education to be able to demonstrate that the multicultural value of another tradition is recognised and understood, without having a grounding in our own tradition?
There are free loan societies that have been built into the community infrastructure of many Jewish communities, including Perth, for the sake of recognising the halachic prohibition on charging interest. There are banks that have developed similar products as the NAB one for use in Jewish communities.
I wonder if the NAB product is a kosher form of finance for Jewish people, and whether the NAB have recognised that this product may indeed be attractive for the Jewish community as much as it is for those who hold by Sharia law?
In the meantime, there are people in our community who have spoken out against the NAB product from a position of great ignorance and insensitivity who would do well to go and study their own tradition.