Failure of Interfaith Dialogue on Gaza-Israel

Failure of Interfaith Dialogue on Gaza-Israel April 7, 2024
Courtesy: Pixabay

Among other things, the atrocities in Gaza have revealed the superficial nature of interfaith dialogue. As if the atrocities and genocide committed by Israel in Gaza was not bad enough, the muted reaction by interfaith communities, especially many Jewish interfaith workers is very disappointing.

It is painful to see the innocent civilians killed in Israel on October 7. There is no place for that kind of act in Islam and Prophet Muhammad was explicit in the ethics of war not to harm the innocent civilians, especially women and children, and even commanded his companions not to harm the trees(!), let alone non combatant humans.
It is also not accurate to think this all started on October 7. There have been numerous run ins before October 7. Israel had many inroads and there was really no “ceasefire” before October 7. This issue did NOT start on October 7.

It feels very strange to Muslims that whenever Hamas (or any other group) does something, it is seen as provocation and whatever Israel does is “a response” or retaliation. In the west, we have been brainwashed to think like that. Israel is painted as a victim. She is not. This is not to condone the acts of October 7 at all. Another talking point of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee)is to paint any attack on Israel as an attempt to annihilate Israel or Jews. This causes a visceral reaction among the Jews because of the history of Jewish communities for thousand of years. The fear mongers know that and make full use of it. The facts are that Israel is the aggressor and the occupying force here, not a victim. Israel is not going anywhere even if its enemies wish it “gone”. Israel is one of the most powerful nation in the world, in fact a nuclear power, capable of destroying most countries in the world. The other fact is that it is actually the Palestinians and their land that is at risk for extinction and disappearance. The international court of justice alluded to that when it sided with Sout Africa, practically calling it a genocide.
The basic fact is that the source and underlying problem is the illegal occupation of Palestine (Gaza/West Bank) by Israel. Until that is addressed and resolved, we will see what we see. How would we act if God forbid Russia somehow was occupying the San Francisco bay area, depriving us of our free movement, water, electricity, treating us like sub humans? Israeli government and IDF has a large number of people who see Palestinians that way, one of them calling them “human animals”. When you dehumanize people, a genocide follows because it is “OK” to kill sub humans. That mentality led to the holocaust because the Jews were seen as sub humans by the Nazis. It also happened thousand of years ago under Pharaoh in Egypt. And many times in between. Ironically the Muslims in the golden age were the ones to help/protect the Jews in the “golden age” era.
It is inconceivable to me and I think to most Muslims, that the very people who were the victims will turn into the perpetrators of a genocide some 75 years after the holocaust. Having said that, I do not equate the actions of the state of Israel as those representative of “the Jews of the world”. We are starting to see many Jews speaking up against the atrocities in Gaza by Israel.
Worse still is the reaction of our government and politicians and many of our Jewish interfaith friends.If we are serious about the rise of anti-semitism, we need to stop Israel from committing genocide and the occupation. And yes it has been deemed so by the international court of justice (and if we look at the UN definition of genocide).
I feel strongly that our reaction would have been very different if the roles were reversed. Can you imagine if an Israeli group had invaded a Muslim country, say Iraq, and killed some 1400 innocent people. Iraq then decides to invade Israel in retaliation. Force one million people after giving them 24 hours notice to vacate their homes to move south, only to bomb them again when the became homeless? And Iraq goes on to kill some 33,000 Israeli citizens, over 65% of them women and children? And over 17,000 additional Israeli children became orphans and over 10s of thousand seriously injured (like losing limbs, eyes). And imagine Israel been cut off from water, electricity and food  and Iraq blocks most international humanitarian aid to Israel? And most hospitals are destroyed in Israel, and Iraq kills over 100 UN workers and over 100 international journalists working in Israel? (like the recent killing of international kitchen workers in a bombing of their van).
I have little doubt that we would be invading Iraq (again) within a week if that happened to prevent and stop the genocide.
In contrast, we decide to actually send more arms, mor e bombs, more rockets to Israel!!! Unfathomable.
As a person of faith, who believes in the same Creator (when I have been to the synagogues for various services, I have always felt I am worshipping to the same Creator as my Jewish cousins), I invite you to close your eyes when you go to sleep tonight. On the Day of Judgement when the Creator asks you, ‘what did you do when there was a genocide going on in Gaza’? Please ask yourself if you would be able to say you did enough to stop it?
I can tell you, my answer to that question is that I am not doing enough. I struggle with that and feel guilty that I am not doing enough.
Therefore I keep finding ways to see what I can do to help stop this genocide and have lasting, real peace in that region.
Any interfaith dialogue between Jews and Muslims need to address the elephant in the room- with honesty, frankness and civility, so we become part of the solution, not part of the problem.


This post is adapted from an actual email I sent to a Jewish member of an interfaith group I have been associated with.


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