Muslim, Jewish partners shouldn’t ignore reality of Israeli occupation

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Hundreds march through the streets of downtown Chicago to protest the U.S. embassy in Israel moving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 15, 2018. The protest came one day after Israeli soldiers shot and killed 59 Palestinians and wounded more than 1,300 in mass protests. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

In his piece, “Muslims, Jews need to be able to talk with each other about Palestine, Israel,” Omer Mozaffar questions whether “it [is] possible for Chicagoans to have a fruitful conversation on Palestine and Israel.” The answer is yes.

We have been having fruitful conversations, working on meaningful campaigns, and striving together to eradicate hate without normalizing the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

As members of American Muslims for Palestine, we are dismayed that he has chosen to disregard the work our organization has been doing for years along this front.

AMP has collaborated with Jewish Voice for Peace on various campaigns and worked in coalitions along with it and other social justice-seeking organizations. Our partners recognize and affirm that the source of Palestinian suffering is the military occupation perpetuated by the settler-colonial state of Israel.

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In his piece, Mozaffar rightly criticizes the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Muslim Leadership Initiative, a program devised with the expressed purpose of undermining American Muslim advocacy on behalf of Palestinian rights. However, Mozaffar proceeds to equate MLI’s divisive work with American Muslims forging constructive alliances with groups such as JVP. This false equivalence does an unprincipled disservice to a courageous ally in the struggle for justice and perhaps more significantly, seeks to silence American Muslim voices who rely on these partnerships to advocate on behalf of universal human rights.

Mozaffar also cites the recent partnership between the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Islamic Society of North America as an example of urgently needed engagement. Known as the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council, this alliance completely ignores AJC’s well-documented history of promoting Islamophobia. Its support of the Israeli occupation indicates that such a partnership is no more than a deceptive guise to continue the dehumanization of Palestinians.

The equivalency Mozaffar draws reinforces the trope that the Palestinian struggle is mired in a centuries-old religious conflict between Muslims and Jews. He further perpetuates the false moral equivalence between “both sides” that he repeatedly blames throughout the piece, despite the asymmetrical colonial nature of the conflict.

Fostering a setting where people can talk about “what Israel means to Jews … as a return home from exile,” further reinforces the myth that Palestinians are not indigenous to the land and that Israel holds some sort of Biblically mandated divine-right-to-exist at the expense of Palestinians.

Our coexistence can only function in a land where all may live freely and equally under laws that do not discriminate based on faith, race, or ethnicity. Individuals sharing this vision must work together to attain it.

Deanna Othman and Tarek Khalil, American Muslims for Palestine

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