In Latest Indication of New Relations, Arab Paper Prints Defense of the Talmud

In the latest indication of changing Jewish-Arab relations, a prominent Arab newspaper has published a defense of the Talmud.

The defense, written by Rabbi Daniel Landes of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was a response to an earlier assault on the Talmud in the Arabic publication Al-Hayat.

Calling the newspaper’s decision to print his response a “tremendous opening,” Landes said, “As far as we know this is the first time that a Jew has not only been allowed to respond but to speak for the Jewish faith.”

Al-Hayat published its two-article assault on the Talmud, and on Jewish values, in June. The articles described the Talmud as “the governing criteria for Jewish life” since the seventh century and attributed many reputed slurs against Gentiles to permission granted in the Talmud.

Written by Abdul al-Wahb al-Masiri, an Egyptian scholar and philosopher, the article claimed, for example, that “cemeteries of Gentiles are not sacred and cannot defile a Cohen, while Jews are considered pure in both life and death.

“The Talmud preaches two different sets of moral values, one for Jews and the other for Gentiles,” al-Masiri wrote.

Landes, director of educational projects at the Wiesenthal Center and a specialist in Talmudic ethics, wrote and submitted his rebuttal in English.

He said he believed his article was translated well, except that the publication chose to delete his references to the Koran.

Pipes described Al-Hayat, which is financed with Saudi money and published in London to allow for press freedom, as “probably the single most important, most prestigious paper in the Arab-speaking world today.”

He said the newspaper’s publication of the rabbi’s response takes into account “the sensibility of Jews, and that has just not been part of the public debate in decades.”

Landes said that this new chapter in Arab-Jewish relations “does not mean that the struggle is won. This, I believe, is equivalent to the early rebuttals of Christian anti-Semitism that finally found their way into Christian journals in the early part of the 20th century in America.

“We are far behind,” he said, “but this is a tremendous beginning.”

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