Saturday, 3 January 2009

Pro-Israel camp would be wise to heed Muslim cries for peace

By Roi Ben-Yehuda

As technology advances and televisions get flatter, bigger, and clearer, one subject will always be broadcast to the world in black and white: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The recent events in Gaza have engendered a predictable world reaction: polarization, anger, hatred, and fear. The left screams "massacre," while the right wants to get tougher.

Watching the mass protest and reading about strident calls for Israel's dissolution, we Jews can't help but get that lonely feeling in the pits of our stomachs: The world is against us. Call it a Pavlovian response conditioned by persecution on a mass scale. But the pro-Israel camp would be wise to pay attention not only to the bellicose cries coming from the mosques and streets, but also to the Muslim voices courageously speaking out against Hamas.

The Muslim Canadian Congress, for example, has issued a statement holding Hamas responsible for precipitating the recent conflict in Gaza. The statement begins by condemning the recent Israeli attacks in Gaza as "disproportionate," but quickly turns its attention to censuring Hamas. According to the congress, Hamas is responsible for using the Palestinian people as "human bait," in an effort to kindle an all-out war in Gaza.

In words that would have made Alan Dershowitz blush, the statement asserts that: "No other national liberation movement in modern history has offered martyrdom as a substitute to freedom and statehood. Hamas has set back the clock for the Palestinians and it is time for all Palestinians to recognize that Hamas offers only death, destruction and a place in Paradise, not a Palestinian State."

The columnist Mona Eltahawy, to give another example, who writes for Egypt's Al Masry Al Youm and Qatar's Al Arab, published a piece in which she lambasts Hamas and the Arab world for their self-destructive addiction to Israel. "It is difficult to criticize Palestinians when so many have died this weekend," she writes, "but the Hamas rulers of Gaza are just the latest of their leaders to fail them. For those of us who long to separate religion from politics, Hamas has given the truth to the fear that Islamists care more about facing down Israel than taking care of their people. The Palestinians of Gaza are victims equally of Hamas and Israel."

Eltahawy originally published her article on Facebook, where bashing Israel is a full-time occupation. But even on the popular social networking site, a quick glance at some threads reveals that Muslim are far from intellectually monolithic on the operations in Gaza.

"Israel is no angel among nations," writes a man who identifies himself as a secular Muslim, "but Hamas is a disgrace to the freedom struggles of countless peoples - offering its own people to die so that it can serve some sick allegiance to Iran." And putting the matter succinctly and evenly, one young Palestinian writes, "I've never felt so angry the way I do now? F%#K HAMAS, F%#K ISRAEL."

So what can we make of all this? Why are more Muslims publicly voicing their opposition to Hamas? Is this an example of buyer's remorse? Has Hamas' gross blundering of an occupation-free Gaza finally cost them the privilege of representing the Palestinian cause? "The simple reason we see Muslims speaking out against Hamas," says the Muslim activist and writer, Raquel Evita Saraswati, "is that the organization has proved itself to be terrorist by nature and function; and while the larger Muslim community has always stated its rejection of terrorism, we see the pressing need to make our voices louder in these especially contentious times."

Many pro-Israel readers will see this statement, along with the ones above, and feel vindicated. But that would be a mistake. These letters should not be seen as an endorsement of Israel?s Spartan policies - which most of the writers correctly see as futile and morally abhorrent - but rather as a type of self-reckoning; a kind of honest awareness that is necessary for peace to flourish.

That said, the recognition that Israel is not always the problem and that occupation is not the only reason Palestinians fight is of no small significance. It is imperative, therefore, that we do what is in our power to ensure these voices are front and center competing in the great suk (market) of ideas, because once an idea is out there, it can never be un-thought.

Roi Ben-Yehuda is a writer based in N.Y. He regularly writes for Jewcy and France 24.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your blog. thanks for posting the article.