In Defense of Carly Fiorina

In Defense of Carly Fiorina

By Habib Siddiqui

An impartial reading of the writings of Rabbi Rav Dov Fischer makes it clear that he is an unabashed Zionist who sees the world as either Jewish or anti-Jewish. In his view, if you have any disagreements with the actions of the state of Israel, then you must be anti-Israel and anti-Jewish. The hatred of the “other” people runs so deep in his “Israel-first” mindset that a mere honest positive observation about past Islamic civilization can be mocked and attacked savagely.

So it is not surprising to read Fischer’s tirade against Carly Fiorina, ex-CEO of HP, in his blog: Carly Fiorina, Islam, and Israel: A Very Scary Mix of Naivete and Mideast Realpolitik in a Dangerous World.  [1] It is worth noting here that Ms. Fiorina is considering running for the Republican ticket in the senate against Democratic incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer of California. The main reason Fischer is against Fiorina’s Republican senatorial bid is – Fiorina, as CEO of HP, had said some “awful” truths – glorifying Islamic Civilization half a month after 9/11. He thinks that with such a tribute to the Islamic civilization she has forfeited her right to become a contender for the senate ticket.

Before we analyze Fischer’s chauvinism against Muslims and Islamic civilization, let’s revisit what Ms. Fiorina had said some eight years ago:

“There was once a civilization that was the greatest in the world. It was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from ocean to ocean, and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion lived hundreds of millions of people, of different creeds and ethnic origins.

One of its languages became the universal language of much of the world, the bridge between the peoples of a hundred lands. Its armies were made up of people of many nationalities, and its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known. The reach of this civilization’s commerce extended from Latin America to China, and everywhere in between.

And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its architects designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption. Its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for disease. Its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and exploration. Its writers created thousands of stories. Stories of courage, romance and magic. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such things.
When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on to others.

While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the civilization I’m talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent.

Although we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other civilization, its gifts are very much a part of our heritage. The technology industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians. Sufi poet-philosophers like Rumi challenged our notions of self and truth. Leaders like Suleiman contributed to our notions of tolerance and civic leadership. And perhaps we can learn a lesson from his example: It was leadership based on meritocracy, not inheritance. It was leadership that harnessed the full capabilities of a very diverse population–that included Christianity, Islamic, and Jewish traditions. This kind of enlightened leadership — leadership that nurtured culture, sustainability, diversity and courage — led to 800 years of invention and prosperity.

In dark and serious times like this, we must affirm our commitment to building societies and institutions that aspire to this kind of greatness. More than ever, we must focus on the importance of leadership– bold acts of leadership and decidedly personal acts of leadership. With that, I’d like to open up the conversation and see what we, collectively, believe about the role of leadership.” [ The full text of Carly Fiorina’s speech “TECHNOLOGY, BUSINESS AND OUR WAY OF LIFE: WHAT’S NEXT”, delivered at Minneapolis, MN, Sept. 26, 2001, can be read at http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/execteam/speeches/fiorina/minnesota01.html ]

Does Fischer realize that when someone tries to demean a glorious civilization and history (something widely accepted by most historians), and twist facts it only unmasks the person’s insane bigotry and xenophobia? He really sounds silly and stupidly ignorant. And yet, he questions Fiorina’s understanding of history: “How can she be so remarkably ignorant of the abased and humiliated “dhimmi” status under which people of “different creeds” and “ethnic origins” lived within that orbit of Islam?”

As hinted, Fischer’s remarks depict his despicable ignorance in matters of history. Or, is it selective amnesia? He may like to educate himself by reading the book “History of the Jews” and view the mini-TV series (DVD) – Heritage, Civilization and the Jews – by Abba Eban, a fellow Jew who held many important positions for the state of Israel—before blaming Fiorina for her honest and informed comments. To quote Eban, “In Islamic Spain, the Jews found a “Golden Age” in the 10th and 11th centuries.” (See also: http://www.everburninglight.org/The-Golden-Age-Of-Spain.html )

One cannot belittle that “golden age” when one reflects that it was some nine centuries before the world had the Universal Declaration on Human Rights! Minorities in general in those days, could not expect any dignity; they were at the mercy of the powerful ruling class. And yet, what the Islamic civilization provided was something unique – it created a leadership that nurtured culture, sustainability, diversity and courage – the very values that we crave for in a successful leader in any progressive society. Yes, in vast territories that Islam ruled, the Jews and Christian minorities were second class to Muslims, but they enjoyed more freedom than enjoyed elsewhere by their fellow men, even within Christian Europe. These minorities became viziers and held important government positions under the Islamic rule.

There are many history books that I could quote to contest Fischer’s prejudice against Islamic civilization. In what follows I shall limit my discussion to Spain because it offers us an appropriate venue to compare Muslim treatment of Jews against that offered by Christians. Rather than quoting books written by Muslims (who may be blamed for their bias), I shall also rely on the on-line Virtual Jewish Library to make that comparison. It says: “In the 8th century, the Berber Muslims (Moors) swiftly conquered nearly all of the Iberian Peninsula. Spain flourished under Muslim rule, and Jews and Christians were granted the protected status of dhimmi. Though this still did not afford them equal rights with Muslims, during this “Golden Age” of Spain, Jews rose to prominence in society, business, and government. The conditions in Spain improved so much under Muslim rule that Jews from all across Europe came to live in Spain during this Jewish renaissance.  There they flourished in business and in the fields of astronomy, philosophy, math, science, medicine, and religious study. The same period also witnessed a resurgence of Hebrew poetry and literature from a traditional and liturgical language to a living language able to be used to describe everyday life. Among the early Hebraists of the time were Yehudah HaLevi who became known as one of the first great Hebrew poets, and Menahem ben Saruq who compiled the first ever Hebrew dictionary. The intellectual achievements of the Sephardim (Spanish Jews) enriched the lives of non-Jews as well. In addition to contributions of original work, the Sephardim translated Greek and Arabic texts, which proved instrumental in bringing the fields of science and philosophy, much of the basis of Renaissance learning, to the rest of Europe. In the early 11th century, centralized authority based at Cordoba broke down following the Berber invasion and the ousting of the Umayyads. Rather than having a stifling effect, the disintegration of the caliphate expanded the opportunities to Jewish and other professionals. The services of Jewish scientists, doctors, traders, poets, and scholars were generally valued by the Christian as well as Muslim rulers of regional centers, especially as recently conquered towns were put back in order.” [2]

In the account above, far from the sad picture of a dhimmi what we notice is that Jews under Muslim rule prospered very well. Fischer says, “Clothing was regulated, down to the number of ells that Jews could wear in their turbans; no Jew’s turban could be thicker, more impressive than a Moslem’s. Jews wore badges of shame.” He forgets that such measures in dress code were taken to protect the Jews from marauding Christian mobs who by the early 12th century had been trying to retake Spain from the Muslim rule. The first Crusade had already seen the killings of tens of thousands of Jews at the hands of those fanatic Christians everywhere – from Europe to Asia Minor. After the Christian loss at the Battle of Ucles (1108), an anti-Jewish riot broke out in Toledo; many Jews were slain, and their houses and synagogues burned by Christians. Alfonso VI, the Christian conqueror of Toledo, who was somewhat tolerant of Jews, intended to punish the murderers and incendiaries, but died before he could carry out his intention (1109). “After his death the inhabitants of Carrion slaughtered the local Jews, others were imprisoned and their houses pillaged.” [3]

The plight of Jews under Christian rule worsened during the Crusades. Anti-Jewish riots took place in Toledo (1212), robbing and butchering Jews across the nation – all done by Christians. During the 13th century, Spanish Jews of both sexes, like the Jews of France, were required to distinguish themselves from Christians by wearing a yellow badge on their clothing so as to keep them from associating with Christians. “During this time, the clergy’s endeavors directed against the Jews became increasingly pronounced as well. A papal bull issued by Pope Innocent IV in April 1250 further worsened the situation of the Jews in Spain by prohibiting Jews from building new synagogues without special permission, outlawing proselytizing by pain of death, and forbidding most forms of contact between Jews and Christians. According to the decree, Jews were also forbidden to appear in public on Good Friday. The Jews of Spain were also forced to live as a separate political body in the Juderias (Jewish ghettos).” [4]

As can be seen Fischer’s account of history is incorrect. He should know that there was no Juderias under Muslim rule. It remained a purely Christian idea or invention.

Because of their acquired wealth, as well as Christian government’s anti-Jewish attitude, Jews were also forced to pay many additional and exorbitant taxes to the Christian king.

During the 13th century, in Christian-ruled Barcelona, Jewish holy texts were often burned by royal decree, and many Jews were forced to convert to Christianity. In the 14th century, during the reign of Pedro I (1350-1369), for a brief period the quality of Jewish life in Spain began to improve as he started surrounding himself with Jews. “Soon, however a civil war erupted and a rival army, led by Pedro I’s half brother Henry II, attacked the Jews. During the war, part of the Juderia of Toledo was plundered and about 12,000 Jews were murdered without distinction of age or sex. The mob did not, however, succeed in overrunning the Juderia proper, where the Jews, reinforced by a number of Toledan noblemen, defended themselves bravely. The friendlier Pedro was to the Jews and the more he protected them, the more antagonistic his half brother became. Later, when Henry II invaded Castile in 1360, he robbed and butchered the Jews living in Miranda de Ebro and Najera.” [5] Pedro tried to save the Jews from Henry II and called upon the king of Granada to protect them. “Nevertheless, the Jews suffered greatly. Villadiego (whose Jewish community numbered many scholars), Aguilar, and many other towns were destroyed. The inhabitants of Valladolid, who paid homage to Henry, robbed the Jews, destroyed their houses and synagogues, and tore their Torah scrolls. Paredes, Palencia, and several other communities met with a similar fate, and 300 Jewish families from Jaen were taken prisoners.” [6]  After Pedro was defeated and Henry ascended the throne in 1369, “the Jews of Spain witnessed the dawn of a new era of suffering and persecution. Prolonged warfare devastated the land, and the people became accustomed to lawlessness. The Jews were reduced to extreme poverty and later expelled. In addition, Henry II decreed that Jews:

1) Be kept far from palaces;
2) Were forbidden to hold public office;
3) Must live separate from Christians;
4) Should not wear costly garments nor ride on mules;
5) Must wear distinct badges to indicate that they were Jewish;
6) Were barred from adapting Christian names;
7) Were forbidden to carry arms and sell weapons.” [7]

In subsequent years, during the reign of John I (1379-90) things got even worse for the Jews of Spain. “On Ash Wednesday 1391, Ferrand Martinez, the Archdeacon of Ecija, urged Christians to kill or baptize the Jews of Spain. On June 6, the mob attacked the Juderia in Seville from all sides and murdered 4,000 Jews; the rest submitted to baptism as the only means of escaping death. The riots then spread across the countryside destroying many synagogues and murdering thousands of Jews in the streets. During the months-long riots, the Cordova Juderia was burned down and over 5,000 Jews ruthlessly murdered regardless of age or sex. Again, more Jews converted as the only way to escape death. Soon after, a series of laws were passed to reduce the Jews to poverty and further humiliate them. Under these laws, the Jews were ordered to:

1) Live by themselves in enclosed Juderias;
2) Banned from practicing medicine, surgery, or chemistry;
3) Banned from selling commodities such as bread, wine, flour, meat, etc.;
4) Banned from engaging in handicrafts or trades of any kind;
5) Forbidden to hire Christian servants, farm hands, lamplighters, or gravediggers;
6) Banned from eating drinking, bathing, holding intimate conversation with, visiting, or giving presents to Christians;
7) Banned from holding public offices or acting as money-brokers or agents;
8) Christian women, married or unmarried, were forbidden to enter the Juderia either by day or by night;
9) Allowed no self-jurisdiction whatever, nor might they, without royal permission, levy taxes for communal purposes;
10) Forbidden to assume the title of “Don”;
11) Forbidden to carry arms;
12) Forbidden to trim beard or hair;
13) Jewesses were required to wear plain, long garments of coarse material reaching to the feet, and Jews were forbidden to wear garments made of fine material;
14) On pain of loss of property and even of slavery, Jews were forbidden to leave the country, and any grandee or knight who protected or sheltered a fugitive Jew was punished with a fine of 150,000 maravedís for the first offense.

These laws were strictly enforced, and calculated to compel the Jews to embrace Christianity.” [8]  After the persecutions of 1391, many Jews converted to Christianity, and rabbinic texts were confiscated and burned. And all this happened before the Spanish Inquisition that saw the worst of crimes against the Jews and Muslims of Spain. The Inquisition was extremely active between 1480 and 1530, during which time about 2,000 Jews were executed. Jews were expelled from Spain by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492. Approximately 40,-50,000 Jews converted to Christianity to escape death and expulsion. Many Spanish Jews immigrated to Portugal (from where they were expelled in 1497) and to Morocco. There in the midst of Muslims, the Sephardim, descendants of Spanish Jews, established flourishing communities in many cities of North Africa and the Ottoman Empire. Most of these Jews lived very well for centuries before the Balfour Declaration was announced.

It is true that since that infamous declaration, the relationship between Jews and Muslims is tense and bitter, and many – mostly on the Arab side - have become casualties to the seemingly never-ending conflict in Palestine, whose millions have been uprooted from their ancestral homes in one of the worst crimes of the last century. When one considers today’s treatment of the indigenous Palestinians that is meted out by the Israeli usurping government one may conclude that the golden age of Islam was actually the platinum age of civilization. [Interested readers may like to read this author’s article: Israel – the Apartheid State – to get a flavor of inhumanity practiced by the Zionist regime against Palestinian Muslims and Christians.]

So rather than questioning Ms. Fiorina’s credential for the senate seat, and attacking her credibility for her honest reading of history, Rabbi Fischer may do us all a great favor by demanding change in the attitude of Jewish and Israeli leadership that dwells in the past with an accusatory finger while too nonchalant about today’s crimes of the war criminals of the Zionist state. He can start that process by preaching with the building blocks required in a prudent leadership, so beautifully articulated by Ms. Fiorina.

I think our voters are smart enough to distinguish between chauvinism and honesty. They have already seen the irreparable harm brought to our national security and economy by the Israel-firsters, the so-called “Amen Corner” in the Capitol Hill. America cannot fight Israel’s proxy war. It is suicidal for our nation. We need a change.

NOTES:

1 http://ravfischer.blogspot.com/2009/08/carly-fiorina-when-realpolitik.html#comment-form
2 http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/spain1.html
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8 Ibid.

 


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