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One Woman’s Voice and Story – and a Message for Israel

Ayaan Hirsi-Ali

Ayaan Hirsi-Ali
Photo Credit: Screen shot

At the recent President’s Conference in Jerusalem – though Shimon Peres and others spoke about the dearth of women in professional life in Israel, few spoke about the amazing lack of women presenters at the conference. I counted only about a hand-full, perhaps a few more (one estimate I heard was that less than 10% of the presenters were women). There was Caroline Glick, who was amazing; Dr. Ruth who was entertaining. There was Keren Leibovitch who defines the word inspirational, and there was Ayaan Hirsi-Ali.

Ayaan is a 42-year-old woman who was born in Somalia, lived in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya. She is graceful, soft-spoken and beautiful. She came to the platform to speak and it was then you could see beyond the grace and the beauty is courage and intelligence. She explained that the first 20 years of her life were the complete opposite of the last 20 years. As a young Muslim child in Somalia, she learned three things that characterize that culture – the culture of Islam. She came to the microphone after Dennis Ross, former US ambassador to Israel.

She spoke after two American Jews had been to the platform to offer their opinions and knowledge of the Israeli-Arab situation. The night before, Henry Kissinger, Shimon Peres and Tony Blair all spoke about peace as if tomorrow it will come…if only we want it badly enough. Quietly, Ayaan spoke and without ever mentioning their names, she made these men sound like naive fools.

She never said it, but it was there. You cannot make peace with a society that does not want it; you cannot compromise with a people who refuse to accept that you even exist. Dennis Ross suggested one of the steps that the Palestinians must take is to simply put Israel on their maps – even this, they will never do because this is about compromise and, according to Ayaan, an impossibility.

These are her words, her experiences. People have asked me if I believe there can be peace. If I were to be honest with them, until now, I would have told them no – there can be no peace. Instead, I typically answer “if the Arabs want it.” That part is true. If they want it…

There are three things that characterize Ayaan’s Muslim upbringing and the world that she knew. It is amazing that days later, I do not even have to consult my notes to remember. Such was the power of her words and the honesty of her opinion. These are:

1. Absolute authority – of her father, of her Imam, of her teacher, of her government. Absolute. No opportunity to question, no right to question. You do what they say, always. She did not. She refused the marriage they would have forced upon her and in so doing, she lost her culture, her community, her family – and she sees where she is now and accepts she is in a better place, despite what she had to sacrifice.

2. No compromise – never. To compromise is to lose face; to be a loser. To be the weak one. The Palestinians will never compromise was her message. At one point, as someone on the panel was suggesting ways towards peace, Ayaan said something. I’m sure I heard it and perhaps can find it on a video somewhere to confirm. I believe she said, “Even if you give them Jerusalem,” and then she repeated it, “even if you give them Jerusalem, there will be no peace.” No compromise.

3. All that is right is in the Koran – and by extension, whatever is not in the Koran, is wrong. This means not only absolute power to the figure of authority, but absolute control of every aspect of your life.

What this means for Israel, was the silent message from Ayaan, is that you are in the Middle East. Just as she grew up within that world, Israel must accept it is firmly planted here. Ayaan was lucky in that she was able to break away; our country can’t do that.

True opposition will never succeed in the Arab world – the election of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is yet another proof of this. In breaking away from one tyranny, they have simply chosen another – even more fundamental, even more extreme. Absolute authority, no compromise, the Koran.

In her quiet way, Ayaan spoke the truth that so many simply refuse to see. It’s right there in #2 – no compromise. It’s right there in the absolute authority – why young men move to suicide, why mothers accept this and fathers are proud of it. It’s all in the Koran.

Even if you give up Jerusalem, even Jerusalem – there will be no peace. If you know anything about Israel, about how much we love Jerusalem, you will understand her message. She came to Jerusalem, recognizing it as our capital, recognizing our love of it. Even if you surrender this city that you love, this place that is your heart – even then, they won’t give you peace!

To come to the President’s Conference where half the sessions seemed to be dedicated to discussing tomorrow and the roads we should take towards this thing called peace, and essentially say you are dreamers, naive and perhaps even foolish – this was a bold and brave stand to take. I have little doubt that most of the male presenters lack the experience, the bravery and the boldness of this one woman.

They spoke of maps that lead nowhere, compromises that will bring nothing. They suggested, cajoled. insisted, opinionated. They want to push Israel because perhaps deep down they understand that they cannot push the Arabs – no compromise. It was the truth of Ayaan that I wish they had heard – even if you cut out all that we are, even if you give it all, even we listen to your foolishness, even if we give up Jerusalem, they will not let us live here in peace.

No, it wasn’t a message Peres would be ready to listen to; not a concept most of the other panelists would have been ready to hear but it was one woman’s voice, her story, her truth, her past and her future – and perhaps, just perhaps, Israel’s as well.

About the Author: Visit Paula Stern's blog, A Soldier's Mother.


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12 Responses to “One Woman’s Voice and Story – and a Message for Israel”

  1. Ariella Butler says:

    WHoohoo!

  2. I wish that this was not true. I know a great deal about the Middle East, and everything that I know says that this is true: that there will never be peace, because the Muslims will never accept peace. As a Christian, I find this very hard to accept. We Christians are in the forgiveness business. We believe that hearts can transformed by the power of God. That is what I wish would happen in the Middle East; I wish that the Lord would soften the hearts of the Muslims, and let them accept peace. From a worldly perspective, I see no reason to believe this might happen; the only hope that I see is that the prayers of the world might cause this to happen. Why Jews — who do not share our faith in the transforming power of the Lord — have any hope for peace is beyond me.

  3. Ariella Butler says:

    Her message was, if you think for one second there can be peace, you are fools, because the life long goal is to destroy you. She pretty much shut everyone at the conference up when she spoke. I will see if I can get a video of it.

  4. What idiots.like a bunch of children. They blame everything on Iarael. Whether they have proof or not. Anything that happens, whether it is Dubai or Syria, Israel get the blame.

  5. Perhaps it is a compliment, I am not sure.

  6. If someone wrote an article like this and quoted someone to the effect that "The Jews"' wil always do this or that , we would condemn it at racism, bigotry, etc. But if someone talks about "The Arabs" JID posts it as insightful commentary. This is appalling. I respect Hirsi-Ali and I abhor the suffering she went through. But that doesn't mean she knows everything that is going on in the heads of millions of Muslims.

  7. Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the Middle East.
    http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2010/06/ayaan_hirsi_ali_on_the_middle.html
    What was a territorial conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis was transformed into an Arab Jewish, therefore ethnic conflict and then from there expanded into a religious conflict. Now, that conflict, that process, is no longer about the people on the ground, on that strip of desert. That territorial conflict has between 1948 and now gone from territorial and ethnic conflict to a major religious and civilizational- symbolic conflict, Now 1.57 billion Muslim people seem to have put their religious destiny into that conflict, and the outcome they want is the eradication of Israel. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but that is the objective.

  8. Jeremy Goldbloom says:

    Richard Gibson might ponder the words of the Prophet Isaiah which are quite central within Jewish faith:

    they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

    I think has to be at least as powerful a message as the Christian one.

  9. Richard–I don't appreciate you calling me names. But I'll say this: I've been to Israel many times since you have last been there, I probably read a lot more about it than you have and I've studied it more than you have. I'm not naive, I have a different bias and opinion than you do. Are you calling me naive because I don't distrust all Musilms on Earth? I know a lot of them hate Israel, just like many Jews hate all Arabs and Muslims. But most of them probably care very little about the conflict, particualrly all those form the most populous Muslim nation on Earth–Indonesia. Let's talk instead of doing this on facebook.

  10. Hirsi-Ali doesn't know. I don't know. But you know? You don't know.

    …a lot of them hate Israel? just like a lot of Jews hate all Arabs & Muslims? Both statements are patently false. MOST, like 99% of Arabs hate Israel. A minority of Jews "hate" Arabs. You use words to intentionally skew the argument.

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