By Shaik Ubaid
Jerusalem: The videos from Masjid al Aqsa have been very disturbing. Israeli soldiers were seen firing stun grenades and brutally assaulting people who were sitting in prayer. Soldiers wearing heavy military boots kicked and applied running flying kicks to the heads of the peaceful worshippers. This should outrage anyone with a conscience.
When Mike Wallace took a stand in a CBS 60 minute segment against an Israeli assault on Masjid al Aqsa in 1990 it presented an opportunity for us to push for a debate in the media that would be based on justice and factual evidence. Many Islamic leaders among the Arab Americans, especially the Palestinians, missed that opportunity. I was among the few who kept suggesting that we in the US use the human rights angle and not the Islamic angle on the issue of Palestine. (I later successfully used this strategy for advocating for Indian Muslims when I helped launch INdian Muslim Council (IMC -USA) and the Coalition Against Genocide (CAG).
While the American Muslims failed to take the opportunity, the Israeli lobby recognized the danger that a justice- centric secular campaign will pose to their narrative and they went after Wallace brutally. They never forgave him even though he himself was Jewish and a supporter of Israel.
While the Muslims have been steadily gaining a voice in the American domestic policies, the same cannot be said about our influence in the USA on the Palestinian issue.
Recently, the Trump administration, with the help of UAE and Saudi Arabia, left the Palestinian matter entirely in the hands of Israel, in effect sanctioning their creation of an apartheid system.
Even before that we lost many opportunities, e.g. when Ehud Barak refused to sign an agreement that he had already agreed to at Taba in Sinai in January 2002. Ironically, the Israelis blamed Yasir Arafat for not compromising to reach an agreement at Camp David during the Clinton administration. Taba was right after Camp David!! The agreement was reached and then breached by Israel.
After 9/11, the Islamic national organisations started to lose influence on the US Muslim public. “Westernized” immigrant Muslims, many of whom were rather regressive politically, yet called themselves liberal, began rising in the leadership ranks of many mosques, in the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) as well as in some chapters of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)
This opportunity was used by the Israeli fronts to launch initiatives such as the Muslim Leadership Initiative (MLI) and Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom. The right-wing American Jewish Committee also launched a massive effort to bring up a new Muslim leadership which would not be so pro-Palestinian.
The national Muslim organizations as well as the progressive young Muslims tried to combat this dangerous development.
US policy on Palestine
Now, with the rise of the progressive wing in the Democratic Party, we once again have the initiative to change the US policy on Palestine. To succeed, we must unite and take a stand that is based on not only justice but also on self-respect. We must stop trying to appease our Jewish partners in the interfaith movement and start demanding from them that they denounce the rise of right-wing fascism in Israel and the apartheid policies of the Israeli government. It is time to honestly and frankly point out to them that they need us more than we need them in the current US climate, with the rise of white supremacy in the Republican Party and in the community at large.
It is time for us to isolate the Muslims who have become apologists for Israel, such as the MLI, ISNA, the Houston chapter of CAIR or EMGAGE . It is time for us to get away from the endless appeasement and inferiority complex that many so-called liberal Muslim leaders from MLI , Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, etc. promote.
We need to stop covering up injustice and human rights violations. And we need to build an alliance based on mutual respect and truth.
This will not only help shape the US policy on Palestine to be a fair and just one, but will also help us in building a healthy interfaith alliance based on justice and sincerity, not on expediency. In uniting our Muslim and Jewish communities, we will together have the ability to resist the right-wing backlash from the white supremacists in the US.
Dr Shaik Ubaid is a neurologist based in New York. He is a human tights activist and community organiser. He heads the Alliance to Save and Protect America from Infiltration by Religious Extremists ASPAIRE.org He can be reached at @shaikubaid on twitter or email@example.com