"Relatives and friends of the al-Kaware family carry the seven bodies to the mosque during their funeral in Khan Yunis, in the Gaza Strip."

“Relatives and friends of the al-Kaware family carry the seven bodies to the mosque during their funeral in Khan Yunis, in the Gaza Strip.” courtesy of Creative Common Licensing.

When we look at the world today, we see a world on fire.
When we look at the Muslim ummah, we see an ummah on fire.
Palestine on fire.   Iraq on fire.   Syria on fire.   Pakistan on fire.   Myanmar on fire. Egypt on fire. Nigeria on fire.

The gap of wealth inequality wider than ever in America, rising tide of prejudice against Hispanic immigrants, women’s rights being rolled back, a planet environmentally being destroyed, an American Empire crumbling, Islamophobia on the rise.
And when we look inside our own hearts, we see fire and rage inside our own hearts.
We aspire for peace, and for justice.
How hard to find peace, when there is little peace outward, and little peace inward.
And yet strive we must.

Like many of us, I have been following the discussion over the recent visit of a few American Muslim leaders who visited Palestine and Israel to engage in interfaith dialogue with the Jewish leaders from the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.     This program, led by Imam Abdullah Antepli of Duke University, brought together some prominent American Muslims. Imam Antepli has passionately articulated his reasons for engaging in this difficult program.

Antepli’s piece came in the midst of serious critiques.  There was the piece from Sana Saeed (whom I don’t have the pleasure of knowing personally) and a follow-up by Abdullah Al-Arian (whom I have known for a long time) and Hafsa Kanjwal.   These pieces do raise some important critiques.   As indeed the research of some of the participants in the MLI itself has already shown, some of the Shalom Hartman Institute patrons do intend to use these types of initiatives as a goal towards weakening the BDS and “normalizing” relations with American Muslims.    The piece by Al-Arian and Kanjwal raises some important and relevant critiques about the ways in which the “Good Muslim, Bad Muslim” debate has been framed in the context of post-9/11 America.    These, and the lack of Palestinian participation in these exchanges, are serious issues that deserve to be taken seriously.

Living as we do in a digital era, it was perhaps unavoidable that the debate would spill over to social media and take a nasty turn there.
The response, and critique, towards the MLI program has been swift, personal, and at times, vicious.     In the social media (Twitter and Facebook) follow-up to this debate, words like “House Muslim,” “traitor,” “sell out,” “betraying the promise of BDS” have been used early and often. In some ways, this type of intra-group tension and fighting is not at all uncommon among all wounded people, colonized people, victimized people.   But we are not bound to remain wounded forever. Our God is a God of healing. The One who sends the pain also sends the remedy.   May there be healing, may there be remedy for us now.

It is Ramadan, and it is Gaza.   It is a sacred time, and it is a time of profound sorrow and outrage as we see Baraka and pain mingling.   Let me hope that there may be something of healing in these few words I have to share here.   Bismillah.

It’s about Palestine.
Of course there are raw emotions.

West Bank checkpoints, humiliation of Palestinians

West Bank checkpoints, humiliation of Palestinians courtesy of Shutterstock

Palestine is and remains an open bleeding wound for many Muslims and Global South citizens.   Let us not mince any words here.   Palestine is al-Nakba, ethnic cleansing since 1948, where half of the indigenous Palestinian population, Muslims and Christians, were made homeless and stateless, replaced by Jewish immigrants as part of the creation of the modern nation-state of Israel.

This is Palestine, under occupation from 1967. This is Palestine, which in the West Bank now sees a level of occupation, humiliation, dispossession, and segregation that leads South Africans like the Nobel peace prizewinner Desmond Tutu to observe many similarities with apartheid-era South Africa.

This is Palestine, with Gaza being a place under siege, under-employed, under bombs, under-nourished, thirsty, poor, and suffering. This is Palestine, a symbol of Muslim impotence and failure, a symbol of colonial power and Zionist success. Yes, there are raw emotions.   On all sides, the urgency to act, and the despair and anger are all real.

It’s also about America.

It’s about those of us who are here, born here or moved here, raising our children here, and wanting to have a foothold in the American dream.   It’s about the as of yet unfinished American Dream, with a noble but flawed past filled with racism and sexism, genocide against Native Americans and trans-Atlantic slavery—yet it is the place and the dream that we now inhabit. It’s about redemption of a republic that is today an Empire, with a democracy that is now broken and dysfunctional.   It’s about what relationship we are going to have with the corridors of power in this America. It’s about whether we are going to change the system from within through presence, engagement, and influence, or whether we are going to change the system from without through protest, solidarity, and dissent.    And change the system we must.

There’s no question that the system is broke, and needs redemption, needs radical change.

Demonstration against Israeli assault on Gaza

Demonstration against Israeli assault on Gaza courtesy of Creative Common Licensing.

Here is one place where the participants in this program and their critics actually have so much in common—though without perhaps articulating it more openly.   It is the painful realization that the tensions in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which is currently depicted as a zero-sum game, has led many Jewish American organizations to fan the fuels of Islamophobia in the political arena, in corporate media, in the entertainment industry, in national security, and in interfaith relations.   We all realize that Palestine/Israel is the elephant in the room.   Part of the desire to seek engagement over there has been to bring about change over here. The desire is noble, the need urgent.   Is it likely to be effective? That remains to be seen, insha’allah.

Which brings us back to the conversation—no, let’s call it what it is, shouting match—regarding the Muslim Leadership Initiative.

We all care.   And we are all wounded. We are, to use Desmond Tutu’s words, trying to be “wounded healers.”   And our wounds and our woundedness keep on showing.

Here is what I do know, and stand by.   I know the people who have gone on this program to Jerusalem. I’ll start with Abdullah.   He is a dear brother of my own soul. I love him, and adore him. I am in awe of his energy, his generous heart, his deep faith, his open-heartedness.  I trust him. Which doesn’t mean I always agree with him.   We do disagree often about Palestine/Israel.   I even see some concerns in approaching Palestine/Israel as a theological issue, a religious issue.  The reason I care about Palestine is not because it is an Arab issue, or a Muslim issue, but because it is a human rights catastrophe. As the Lord of all the Worlds is my witness, were it Palestinians who were using F-16 planes to blow up Jewish families, were it Palestinians ethnically cleansing Jews, I would be standing exactly where I am calling out its injustice.

Yes, Abdullah and I do disagree about the effectiveness of this program.   But there is something I don’t disagree with him about: his intention.   His goodness. His hopes.   His faith. I am not persuaded, personally, that engaging the interfaith Jewish in that context is going to work, that it will in any meaningful way alleviate the suffering of Palestinians. But though I am not persuaded, I am willing to say that perhaps my brother sees something that I do not, perhaps he has an intuition that I am not given, and perhaps goodness will come where I cannot see it.  After all, we are told to be people who have faith in the unseen.

I would say the same thing about the other friends who have gone on this program, in spite of and through the many profound reservations that they had. I know the participants who have gone with Imam Antepli.   I know them, I love them, and I trust the purity of their conviction, their iman, the depth of their love for the ummah, and the depth of their love for humanity.   Come the Day of Judgment, I would want to stand where they stand. May God increase them in their proximity to Him.

And I also know many of the most vociferous voices that have critiqued the MLI participants.  I also know of their iman, the depth of their love for the ummah, and their anguished demand for justice now. In their anger, I hear the frustration of 66 years of ethnic cleansing, the pain of 47 years of occupation. I too know this pain and frustration, for I share it.  And I know that many of the friends who went on the trip share this pain.  And let us be truthful with one another here:  the decision of some American Muslims to go on this program has caused great suffering for other American Muslims, and as importantly, for some Palestinians.  These all have to be acknowledged.  Where we differ is how to go about, with God’s grace, bringing an end to this suffering.

I know, and I love many of the people who have publicly and privately objected to the MLI program.   Included in their midst are a significant number of Palestinians who see this program as a betrayal and a violation of their commitment to the BDS.   I admire their courage, their conviction, and their sabr.   May God increase them in their proximity to Him.

Martin Luther King standing over LBJ Signing Civil Rights Bill 1964 copy

Martin Luther King standing over LBJ Signing Civil Rights Bill 1964 copy courtesy of Wikipedia

We are all trying to change this broken dysfunctional American system (without which the Israeli system of oppression against the Palestinians wouldn’t stand).   And I think we need to pause, breathe, and learn from the struggle of those who have come before us, on whose shoulders we stand.

My dear friend and mentor, Vincent Harding, who passed away in May, used to remind me that he and Dr. King did not speak of a “civil rights” movement, but simply of the Freedom Movement. And that the African American-led Freedom Movement was not a monolithic movement. There was always a spectrum from W. E. Dubois to King and Malcolm, from Niagara Movement and NAACP to SNCC, SCLC and Black Panthers. It consisted of people and institutions that operated within the system, such as the NAACP, with a relentless series of court cases.   It included the iconic King, who famously went to the White House in 1964 as President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Bill.   And it consisted of people and institutions that operated largely outside of the system, such as SNCC and the later Dr. King, who paid a great price as he rightly came to see the connection between American racism and militarism, between the suffering of African Americans at home and Vietnamese abroad.

And so it is for us.
We need all of us—those willing to work within the system to change it, and those pushing from the outside to change it.

Martin Luther King, Jr., preaching in Riverside Church against the Vietnam War

Martin Luther King, Jr., preaching in Riverside Church against the Vietnam War from Twitter.

Yes, we need Muslims in the State Department. We need Muslims to meet with the FBI, to make sure that their work is done in a way that is legally sound.   We need Muslims to engage the White House.   We might even need people to go to White House/State Department iftars someday (after drones, after Guantanamo, after surveillance…).  And we need Muslims, like Imam Antepli, to give the opening prayers for the US Congress.   And we need Muslim lawyers to take case after case to the US Supreme court, to challenge unlawful practices. And we need Muslims outside the White House and outside the Israeli embassy protesting drones, surveillance, Guantanamo, unfair tax brackets, fracking, and more.   We need all of us. It really does take all of us.

We all want to see an America that’s on the right side of a worldwide revolution of values.   We want to see an American who stands on the right side of history on issues of justice and injustice.   It takes all of us to get there.   And no doubt, we have radically different ideas about how to get there, and whether it is even possible to do so.

If we want to see unity in the world, we need to have unity in our hearts, we need to have unity in our community. I am mindful of the fact that a call for unity can often be a way of silencing legitimate critique.   That is not my intention.   I am asking for political maturity and spiritual maturity. To realize that God’s plan, and redeeming a broken political system and our place in it, requires an awareness that each of us is a small piece of the puzzle, that at best we are each one of the invisible threads that together make up the spider web covering the entrance to the Prophet’s cave.

We need unity.   We need respect and love for each other.     We need acknowledgement of the intentions, even the efficacy of one another’s work.

We need to remember what used to be the norm of our “adab” in our exchanges, that if even if see ourselves as “scholars and experts”, there is a mercy in the difference of opinion among scholars and experts—as the Blessed Prophet (S) reminded us.     We need to speak with one another by saying: “I think I am right, with the possibility of being wrong. I think you’re wrong, with the possibility of being right. And God knows better than we do.” And God knows better than I do, here and now.

It’s actually quite simple: we gotta have love for one another.   We can’t ask the world to love us if we don’t have love for each other.   I said love, not like.   I don’t like all of my Muslim ummah.   And I certainly don’t love everything my Muslim ummah does.   But love.   Love one another because we are all God’s creation, all connected together by the Baraka of the Blessed Prophet (s).

If we keep chopping and slicing one another, we don’t even have to wait for an American Empire or Zionist AIPAC to descend down upon us.

We all argue about positions.   We need to be solidly grounded in ethical principles, in spiritual relations. Beyond identity politics, beyond suspicion there has to be a “husn al-zann” realm that we begin by assuming what’s lovely about one another. We all want to save the Ummah, we all want to save the world.   We have to also save our own selves.   We have to transform and redeem our relationships with one another.   I don’t mean “those” folks over there have to. We all do. I do. We do.  We need to save, redeem, and heal our relationships with one another as Muslims.

Part of the problem is spiritual.   There is a poisonous anger in many of our hearts that festers.   I don’t mean “those” folks are angry.   I mean there is anger inside each and every one of us.     There is room for righteous indignation in face of injustice, but all too often we have an anger that transforms not. And we are lashing out at one another through this anger, rather than through love, through mercy, through generosity.

That’s the magical reality about love. Love is divine. Love is God, and love is of God.   When we love each other—didn’t say like, I said love—we place ourselves in the same cosmic current that is unleashed from God, washes through us, and insha’allah will deliver us back to God.   We gotta love one another, even when we don’t like each other.     I am not talking about love as a sentiment, but as a doing, as a being, as a cosmic and existential mode of relating heart-to-heart to one another as creations of God facing each other, fallen, stumbling, imperfect, ugliness mingling with beauty beings facing each other.

Part of the problem is institutional.   We as American Muslims are about 50 years behind where we need to be in terms of institution building.   There is nothing per se wrong with going to have weeks of meaningful interfaith dialogue with Jews, with Christians, with Hindus, with Buddhists.   Those may or may not be worthwhile projects, depending on the time, place, context, and conversation partner.   What we need to heal are spaces to have meaningful, challenging, difficult, honest, open, hard conversations with one another. We need places to bring the many, many brilliant, charismatic, gifted Muslims who are all pulled in different directions, who are all blogging and speaking here and there, together.   We need to get to know each other face-to-face.   We need to eat together, pray together, love together, do dhikr together, laugh together, cry together, argue together, learn-to-trust together. We need to heal together.   We need to be together.

We all see Muslims on individual platforms, blogs, lecture circuits speaking passionately and eloquently. Think about this: when was the last time we had a model of Muslims who disagree with one other, yet have a public, visible platform to have a civil and firm discussion with one another? When was the last time, in either Muslim society or American society, that we had models for what this civil but firm exchange should look like? We as Muslims should be leading this, not lagging behind.   We need these spaces.   Since we don’t have these face-to-face relationships, we lash out through blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts, 140-count character snipes.   These are twitter bullets that we ourselves are launching at our own selves.

We cannot withdraw from civic engagement, from interfaith work, of course.   Our obligations as citizens preclude us from doing that.   But we need a massive amount of intra-faith work.

We need to heal.   May it begin with us.   May we become a people who are a principled people, a people whose anguished hearts’ cry for justice matches our capacity for love.   May our love and our justice always mingle together.   May we be people who are the embodiments of “God commands you to justice (‘adl) and beauty/love/mercy (ihsan).”

There is something tragic when love and justice are divorced from one another.   Love without Power, we were told, is anemic and sentimental.   Power without Love is reckless and abusive. I see so many of us concerned about power, political power and influence, even crying out for justice.   But we need to be able to reach out to one another through love.   Justice empowered through love will become a mighty force, insha’allah, that will heal us, heal our communities, and God-willing, actually be an efficacious, Baraka-filled tool of transformation for this world.

There has been real suffering in our community. There is real and legitimate pain associated with Palestine, all the more real these days as the savage Israeli regime rains down 800 tons (and counting) of bombs upon the civilian population of Gaza.   The news of the MLI program itself has brought real suffering for many.  The conversation about MLI has caused us to revisit these deep and still open wounds in our community. The response to the MLI program, through online pieces and twitter blasts, have further caused serious suffering for the participants.   Let us be people who can stare into the suffering of fellow human beings and recognize our own suffering. Let us connect together our suffering and our humanity with one another.

And yet as we are told by our great sages, the wound is also where the light and the healing enters us.     May we be a people who are capable of seeing the wound, healing the wound, and emerging stronger.

Ibrahim in the flame, turning into Khalil (God's intimate friend)

Ibrahim in the flame, turning into Khalil (God’s intimate friend) courtesy of author.

Let us end with a reminder from the beautiful Qur’an, which we are told to immerse ourselves in during Ramadan.
The Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) was thrown into the flames by his own community, where God commanded the fire to be cool to him.   Then, and only then, did he emerge as a Khalil (an intimate friend of God).

We as Muslims are today in a fire.
May we too emerge like Khalil, all of us intimate friends of God.
May all those who care about Palestine emerge like Khalil.
May all those who dare to dream of a peace mingling with justice in Palestine and Israel emerge like Khalil.
May the citizens of occupied Khalil (Hebron) emerge like Khalil.
May all the children of Abraham emerge like Khalil.
“And we ordered the fire to be cool, and peace upon Ibrahim.”  [Qur'an 21:69]

 

 

 

 

 

 

21 Comments

  1. Prof. Safi!
    I listened to few of your lectures. Those were so intense, deep, articulate and full of conviction. Tone was so soft, melifluous and deeply spiritual. Even your choice of words while you speak reflects your heart which is filled with love and nothing but love. It brings tear in my eyes. When I read your Memories of Mohammed- for few days i was so content with myself, my heart filled with some divine light, I can not describe in words- I am not a word smith.
    Your piece on the controversial project and its fallout similarly is a response by a sage who cares everybody and tries to instill love and respect for one another and not attacking the intention of the participants and its critics.
    May Allah give you best of the rewards here and here after and Cngrats for your new post at Duke University.

  2. On another terrible Jerusalem morning, your words spoke to my heart, even though I am not a Muslim, or an American any more.

    sad/angry finding it more and more difficult to find people I love, although there are some real heroes in this part of the world.

  3. I have seen this trip referenced negatively by one or two Muslim articles and wasn’t really aware what had taken place. As a Hartford Seminary I know some of the people involved. I was trained by some of them in peacekeeping. But just now reading Rabia Chaudry’s Time peace, I am very very perplexed. Her mentioning of the Israeli’s “fear” of Palestinians being “real.” What does that mean?! It sounds as if she is justifying continued occupation and military operations. Based on a following her on social media & her other writings, that doesn’t seem to be her official stance. But it does come off as that.

    I, like you, knowing some of the Muslims who made that trip, and being trained as a “peacekeeper” at Hartsem, know the importance of interfaith dialogue. But I think I have some problems with the MLI trip based on different ground. It seems a good first step. But that is all. And it seems those involved, and perhaps because they want to defend themselves to the subsequent reaction, have blown the importance of the trip out of proportion. There is only so much that interfaith dialogue can do, and especially when those engaged in it are NOT those involved in the conflict.

    Also, this trip demonstrates something that many interfaith workers know – that is often very hard to get people to come out of their own safe bubbles. The SHI group was presenting their side. It is like a little child saying, “See? Come see what HE did to ME!” They are the ones that need to be involved in the dialogue. And perhaps the MLI group could/will act as mediators in the future. That would be an important outcome of the trip. But it seems it is a long way away.

    I will say, I don’t doubt for a second the intentions of any MLI participant. Those from Hartford Seminary, or around the CT area – it is a magical place. On campus, people of different faiths break bread together and discuss conflict, and you think “wow! we can solve this!” Then you go out into the world, and meet other faith leaders and they want to engage but they seem so far from actually engaging it is laughable.

    We once attended a Jewish seminary and the were so excited to engage with Muslim students. They had asked Hartsem students and faculty there to ask us “how do we get the Muslims to come?” And perhaps that is what SHI was trying to accomplish. Or maybe they really were just trying to brainwash the MLI participants. But knowing them, I know they will be trying to use their Israel trip experience to see how they can “get the Muslims to come.”

    I don’t think the bevy of articles has really accomplished that. It has been more defensive in tone. But I hope that happens. Blessed be the peacemakers.

  4. It is a beautiful sentiment of love and justice binding together in the ummah and throughout the world in search of peace. Speaking truth to the pain and injustice of al-Nakba and the Occupation involves recognition and the enormous intra-faith work that you call for. It also requires the expansion of the interfaith dialogue begun by Imam Antepli and the Shalom Hartman Institute to begin to identify and even understand the truth of the “other.” G-d bless this effort….

  5. Shahnaz Latif Dallas

    Very good article. Islam re-enforces the concept of humanity and respect for individual liberty. It also reminds man of his fundamental human right of being free to choose his own religion and live with peace. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes that the long-awaited messiah has come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadian, India, whose advent was foretold by the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace and blessing of Allah upon him). Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes that God sent Ahmad within the fold of Islam, to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed and reinstitute morality, justice and peace. Ahmad’s advent has brought about an unprecedented era of Islamic revival. He divested Muslims of fanatical beliefs and practices by vigorously championing Islam’s true and essential teachings. Ahmad emphatically declared that the doctrine of violent jihad goes against the teachings of the Holy Quran and the practice of the Holy Prophet of Islam. Similarly, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the only Islamic organization to endorse a separation of mosque and state. Promote hatred is not the mission of any religion. We condemn and reject all kind of terrorism and violence. Our Motto is “Love for All hatred for None” Ahmadiyya Muslim Community continues to spread Islam’s true teachings of moderation and restraint with compassion, patience and prayers, in the face of bitter opposition from the Muslim world. Please visit www.alislam.org or watch MTA.TV to get the true teaching of Islam.

  6. Linda Sarsour

    I am going to have to disagree with you on this one Omid. The critics extend far beyond Sana and Ibrahim for good reason. This program lacks transparency and I haven’t heard not one good argument about why this is a “good” program to participate in. There are alternatives let’s not settle for the one that pays our way (might as well went on Birthright Israel trip). Any fellowship that I attended my name and affiliation was clearly listed on the website. Not this fellowship. Did anyone ask why no Arab/Palestinian Americans attended? We support dialogue with others it seems but not amongst our own? Rabia was proud to say she learned about true Zionism. Zionism is a political ideology and movement that has unfortunately used Jewish traditions to legitimize their principles and their land grabs and abuses of Palestinians. Israel is a by-product of Zionism. There are many Jews who are not Zionists. I am very disappointed that members of our community would engage with such a program without starting this conversation within our community. We should be consulting each other – I have asked prominent Palestinian American activists who many of these attendees know and not one was asked their opinion. Difficult and courageous conversations must happen amongst your own before you dive in to “dialogue” with others outside of your community. How can you benefit from dialogue with Zionists when you can’t even have a frank discussion with your colleagues and community. There’s something that doesn’t sit well with me and I would appreciate if you took the time to think about my words and not settle for this is about a guy and his family who is still upset about his dad’s case. It’s MUCH bigger than that and if we can’t be honest with eachother – we choose to be honest with Zionists? I also know Jewish Americans who have constructive criticisms about this program as well – their voices aren’t included here either.

    • Omid Safi

      salam Linda, and Ramadan mubarak. As always, I have so much respect for you, and the principles you live your live by. I am not really interested in being a defender of the MLI program, and both above and in person I have shared many concerns I have about it, its design, and its efficacy. There are reasons why I personally have not accepted these invitations from Jewish organizations to go to Israel and will not do so as long as the occupation endures. And I do absolutely agree with you that we need to be able sit down and have frank face-to-face conversations with our own community. This is exactly what I said in the piece, “We cannot withdraw from civic engagement, from interfaith work, of course. Our obligations as citizens preclude us from doing that. But we need a massive amount of intra-faith work.” And I think we need that not just on FB walls or online forums, but in person. I would dare so more than we need Muslim-Jewish dialogue these days. So I do agree with you on all that. My concern is in many ways about where to go from here, what ethical principles we are going to base our own communal relations on. As you probably know as well as anyone, I am all for firm, principles, unrelenting critique and speaking truth to power. But i also know that that concern for truth and justice always needs to be mingled with love–with in my own experience is lacking from our own community right now. So my concern for healing is not to defend a program or even a few individuals. It is, above all else, about our capacity to form a vibrant and robust community that stands up for justice, based on love.
      If you have the time, I would so cherish a chance to have a conversation about this, and learn more from you about how we can get there, insha’allah. may God bless you and yours.

  7. Hussar Ayloush

    Salaams and Ramadan Mubarak Dr. Omid.
    Thank you for writing about this issue. In general, I agree with you that we have to continue to engage, especially with those we are trying to educate and change. However, such engagement has to be qualified to ensure that any projected and aspired good is not overshadowed by greater harm. In this case, it is clear that this Zionist program is exploiting certain American Muslims (I am confident that most if not all of them are well-intended) to drive a wedge within the community by pitting the community as pro vs anti peace. More dangerously, the program aims to reinforce false premises involving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by painting it as a Muslim-Jewish conflict that can be resolved if we just take Muslim who hate or distrust Jews on trips to Israel to face their fear and engage with and learn about Zionism. Once that happens, Muslims are magically going to change and then talk and write about their transformation and the org will imply that this will eventually lead to peace and harmony. As you know very well, the conflict is about serious issues of injustice, dispossession, and racism. Kumbaya trips will not resolve the injustice, sadly, they might prolong it by providing the necessary whitewash cover that the occupier needs to sustain such inhumane practices.
    I am all for interfaith collaboration and dialogue. Let’s make sure we pick the right partners for such a dialogue. Let’s also make sure we involve the rest of the community in such sensitive engagements, not after the fact. Most importantly, we need to involve, not dismiss as angry or emotional, those who are most aware, affected, and engaged with the issue: the Palestinian American community. The last thing we need is to undermine the struggle for justice and freedom of Palestine in the name of our narrow-minded and stubborn understanding of engagement with hardcore zionists who don’t believe in the basic Palestinian right of return or equal citizenship just because they happen not to belong to the “right” ethnicity or religion, according to such Zionist orgs. The rule goes that if we cannot help a cause, at least we should not hurt it.

    Regards,
    Hussam Ayloush

  8. I am so glad you touched on this issue Omid. I, like many others, have been reading the back-and-forth on this issue and have been somewhat torn. This article answers a lot of questions. It will hopefully bring all sides a little closer together for dialogue as well as a stand towards justice – two things you inspire in all your readers all the time.

  9. No comment at all about the leadership of Gaza, Hamas?

    Nothing about the money flowing into Gaza from Iran, but all of it used to fill militant coffers?

    Nothing about Gaza’s other neighbor Egypt who easily could render any kind of Israeli blockade moot? There are not even settlements anymore in Gaza, why should there still be a conflict?

    Nothing about Hamas’s Taliban-like iron grip on the populous of Gaza? How they drove out, moderates, Fatah members or anyone who remotely looks for peaceful resolution?

    Nothing on how Hamas uses civilian facilities as weapons depots to deliberately invite Israeli attack?

    Frankly until Palestinian leaders get off of the Iranian and Arab League payroll, stop acting like proxy soliders for the Arab/Israeli conflict and Saudi/Iran cold war, they will always be mired in misery.

    It would be nice if there was a civil rights movement like MLK’s in Palestinian areas, but their leaders would either exile or kill such people once they are no longer useful for foreign propaganda. If any nation in the Middle East could possibly be affected by such a thing, it would be democratic Israel. Anyone else in the region would just shoot the organizers and raze the communities they came from.

    The last thing Palestinian leaders want is a democratic, non-violent political movement. When that happens, people start demanding things they haven’t seen ever, like government accountable to its people, not siphoning all economic activity into the piggy banks of political factions, peace.

    • Omid Safi

      Hi Larry. Let’s make a deal: we’ll get Iran and Arab league off of Hamas, you work to get America to stop funding Israel at a tune of 3 billion dollars a year over the last 30+ years. Deal?
      If you want to see Palestinian nonviolent movement, study the “5 Broken Camera” film, which talks about the nonviolent movement there. And how Israel has used every opportunity to crush the Palestinian nonviolent movement. Here’s one example: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-15744576
      In a sense, the current Israeli government loves dealing with Hamas, because it allows them to unleash the one language they understand: brute force.

      • Given the disappearance of my rather lengthy rebuttal, it is clear you are not interested in an objective or informed view of Palestinian leadership.

        Hamas and Fatah only tolerate non violent groups which get media attention, do not criticize the corrupt leaders or ask for democracy.

        What would happen if Hamas renounced its war with Israel and demanded relations as a legitimate nation state? We will never

        • Hamas was established in 1987; Israel in 1948. To depict Hamas as the reason of the military conflict is to deliberately hide the complicated history and hence the real reasons of the problem. The main reason of the bloodshed is the denial of facts by Israel and people like you. Israel does not want peace, and it never did (see: http://www.haaretz.com/mobile/1.601112?v=6E9AFB2329D863163C98066529E8BC76). It is the state based violence, occupation and apartheid committed on a daily basis by Israel (and supported & funded by the US and people like you) that strengthens radical reactions like Hamas. We have little hope for peace, and even less hope, after seeing unfortunate responses like yours.

          • Memories and facts are notoriously selective with cheerleaders for the Palestinians. Especially those people willing to ignore the fact they are supporting a violent theocratic government. Especially when they fail to acknowledge there are really 2 Palestinian states right now. Anyone who speaks of the Palestinians as a single unified group is deliberately misstating the situation.

            Denial of facts? So how did Hamas gain control of Gaza again? Through fratricidal violence. You guys always forget there is a civil war going on among Palestinian factions. You also always ignore the fact that both sides are beholden to foreign powers (Iran and the Arab League) with no interest in peace in the region.

            You also ignore the fact that Israel has made peace with its enemies before. The Oslo Accords was the closest thing to a real peaceful resolution and Hamas was instrumental in killing it.

            Btw what occupation of Gaza? There are no more settlements there.
            Israel can’t blockade Gaza completely either. It is adjacent to Egypt, but the Egyptians catch no flak when they seal off that end of the border. Did you know Israel tried to give Gaza back to Egypt as part of the peace treaty at the end of the October 1973 War? Egypt didn’t want them.

            What does Hamas do to allegedly secure the freedom of the people they pretend to govern? They fire rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians. How does that further their goal of independent statehood? It doesn’t. It merely invites reprisals and puts Gaza in a siege mentality.

            Hamas has no desire to actually govern its own people. By keeping Gazans in constant fear, they absolve themselves from having to look out for the welfare of the under their control.

            Until Hamas can do something besides terrorize its own population and fire rockets at Israeli civilians, nobody is going to take them or their supporters seriously.

            That being said, I believe the only way towards peace is a multi-state solution. Israel has to get rid of the West Bank settlements, Palestinians absolutely need peaceful existence with Israel if they are ever to have a chance at normal economic existence.

  10. Omid, Thank you for this useful and inspiring piece. There is a national webinar today with key religious leaders at noon PST to explore the situation, our role and solutions. Here’s the link: http://almaghrib.org/live

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