It’s never easy to delve into the muddy waters of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and every honest attempt helps to uncover more truth. However, an article in Broadview Magazine, affiliated with the United Church of Canada, contained a number of factual errors which must be addressed.
In a June 7 article entitled: “3 faith leaders on why the Palestine-Israel conflict is not a religious one,” writer Ferrukh Faruqui wrote that “Arab residents of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem protested forced expulsions from their homes,” but did not mention that the residents in question were tenants who have been refusing, for many years, to pay rent to their legal landlords, which are Jewish communal organizations, whose legal title has been long established in the court system, and even acknowledged as such by a number of the Arab residents. This context is critical for understanding that, far from expelling Arabs from their home willy-nilly, this is rather a landlord-tenant dispute, tragically hijacked for ideological purposes by those seeking to defame Israel.
Faruqui also misrepresents the founding event of Israel when writing that the “Nakba, the 1948 mass expulsion and exodus of Palestinians from the newly created state of Israel.” Nakba, which is Arabic for catastrophe, refers to when Israel achieved independence in 1948 from the United Kingdom, and 750,000 Arabs fled Israel, after being encouraged by their leaders, who expected a quick rout of the nascent Jewish state. Of course, Israel was not destroyed, and so these 750,000 Arabs left their homes. Tragically, within the same time period, roughly 800,000 Jews from Arab lands were also forced from their homes, but unlike the Arab refugees, whose plight was perpetuated as a cudgel with which to beat Israel, were quickly and effectively integrated into the new Jewish State.
After two thousand years of exile after the Roman destruction of the Second Temple, the Jewish People achieved self-determination in their historic and ancient homeland in 1948. This Jewish return is called Zionism. This right of self-determination belongs to all peoples, including the Palestinians, and by giving credence and airtime to the claim that Israel’s very existence is a catastrophe, Faruqui regrettably further sets back the cause of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Faruqui also writes about a May 22 interfaith “Prayer for Palestine” event, featuring Muslim, Jewish and Christian speakers, where they sought to argue that the conflict is essentially a real estate dispute, and not primarily religious in nature.
And while this narrative is certainly at least somewhat comforting to many, it is not true, at least from the perspective of Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group based in Gaza, whose barrage of rockets last month kick-started the escalation of hostilities with Israel.
Hamas’ founding charter is explicit, not just in its desire to destroy Israel, but in its vision to replace the Jewish State with an Islamist fundamentalist caliphate. For example, Article 11 states: “The land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf [Holy Possession] consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day,” and Article 13 states: “Palestine is an Islamic land… Since this is the case, the Liberation of Palestine is an individual duty for every Moslem wherever he may be.”
One does not need to look at Hamas’ charter to see this; the organization’s rule in Gaza provides plenty of evidence. Today, Hamas rules the tiny strip with an iron fist, and makes little effort to hide its homophobic, genocidal and misogynistic ideology.
Critics may argue that Israel is a Jewish State, and therefore also religious in nature. But this analogy would be at best superficial. Israel is a liberal democracy where more than 20 percent of the country are Arab, and Arabs have full rights in Israel, and serve in all aspects of Israeli society. Today, an Arab Islamist party even serves as a coalition partner in the country’s new government.
Today, there’s undoubtedly much mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians. There are two peoples occupying one small sliver of land. But truth and facts cannot be a casualty of peace. By downplaying the religious nature of Hamas’ genocidal aims against Israel, and by appearing to de-legitimize – intentionally or not – Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, Faruqui does not do any favours to either Israelis or Palestinians. Neither people is going anywhere, and unless we acknowledge that both peoples have a right to self-determination in that small land, then the conflict will continue to persist indefinitely.
Broadview Magazine is affiliated with the United Church of Canada, the largest Protestant denomination in the country, which has a significant platform and voice to amplify this message: that peace benefits everyone, Israelis and Palestinians alike. But for the cause of peace to move forward, moderate voices, not those of Hamas, need to be heeded.
To write directly to Broadview Magazine, encouraging them to be more factually accurate in their coverage of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, you can send a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.