In the early seventies when I went to live in Afghanistan for five years, I knew very little about Moslems but I had a vague idea that they hated and killed Jews, so I was very careful not to tell anyone that I was Jewish. This turned out to be a foolish and quite unnecessary precaution on my part. One of my neighbors in Jalalabad, the son of a prominent mullah, soon explained to me that both Christian and Jews were considered to be "people of the book," and therefore respected. I was also concerned about learning the local customs and taboos so as not to inadvertently offend anyone. In this I was extremely fortunate as I had spent some time among Orthodox Jews and found that this had prepared me quite adequately for living among the Afghan people.
Although the books and articles I'd read described the people of Afghanistan as fierce warriors, and they did indeed appear very warlike with every male being bearded, carrying a rifle, and usually wearing bandoliers of ammunition, they turned out to be an extremely fatalistic and docile people. Although they had successfully defended themselves against invaders for thousands of years dating back to the time of the Old Silk Road, they were not in the habit of attacking other nations. Most were extremely poor, but rather than coveting the material wealth of more developed countries, they saw their poverty as Allah's will and an indication of their purity. Their attitudes towards women were also remarkably similar to that of Orthodox Jews. I did learn of some honor killings while I was there, but having had personal knowledge of honor killings among Jewish families in New York, this did not strike me as extraordinary but rather as common to many patriarchal religions.
Recently, as part of my efforts to end the wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have been corresponding with many people who are active in the field of election fraud investigation and education. One of them happens to be a middle class Jewish woman, a senior citizen like myself, who lives in the same southern California area that I do now. But whereas I have been urging people not to vote in rigged elections and not to grant their mandate to a government engaged in wars of aggression, this is a topic where we do not see eye to eye. Indeed, when I talk about stolen elections, we are in total agreement. But when I mention the crimes against humanity, I am met with deaf ears.
It occurred to me recently that this might be due to the fact that my friend has never lived among Moslems as I have. Surely, if the genocides were directed against Jews rather than Moslems, she would also be advocating that we do everything possible to put an end to them immediately. Instead she finds any talk of war crimes and crimes against humanity to be offensive and refuses to read them. She likes my writing, she agrees that what I say is true, but she tells me not to send her anything that mentions war crimes and accuses ordinary U.S. citizens of being complicit by voting for war criminals. The problem in communications here, I believe, may be due to the fact that Iraqis and Afghans are Moslems rather than Jews.
My friend is not the only one who will listen intently to discussions of elections fraud, but cover her ears whenever the topic of crimes against humanity comes up. Most of those who intend to vote in November will also discuss the rigged elections, health care, the deficit, abortion, gay marriage, the Second Amendment, or any issue other than the fact that both candidates have voted to fund the wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq until 2010 and that no matter which of them becomes President, the genocides will continue unabated.
All religions have some form of the Golden Rule, but very few seem to take it seriously. There are, and can be, no exceptions to the rule. Those who are not your own people are others, and they are to be treated the same way that you would wish to be treated, for the very simple reason that if you treat them badly, that is how they will treat you when it is their turn. We, the United States, Israel, and our allies, are the aggressors and the persecutors this time. Thanks to mass media, we cannot claim as the "good Germans" did that we do not know what is going on. We know. The problem is that many of us simply don't care.
The Afghan people have a long memory. It may be hundreds, possibly even thousands of years before an ordinary Jewish or Christian American can live peacefully in Jalalabad or anywhere else in Afghanistan again. We have gone from being people of the book to being people of the bomb, and while the Afghans and Iraqis have lost millions of lives, we are the ones who have lost our heritage, our dignity, our right to be treated with respect.
My friend who doesn't want to hear about war crimes is, I believe guilty of the Pastor Niehmoller fallacy. She probably imagines the Afghan people in the same way that I did before I spent five years living there, as ferocious warriors unfriendly towards Jews. No warrior is more ferocious than a bomb and nobody is friendly towards those who bomb them. The question is not what group is being persecuted, the question is if there is persecution. The Afghan people aren't stereotypes, they are just people, and like all people they have their virtues and their faults. But the habit of attacking others without provocation or considering those different from themselves to be inferior were not among their faults. Those faults are now ours and no amount of denial can change that tragic fact. Whether my friend is willing to accept the truth or not, I shall continue to speak out. It is a debt that I owe to the Afghan people who befriended and accepted me when I lived in Jalalabad and a duty to my grandchildren who might wish to travel there some day.