Originally created 04/13/02

Intifada is a political movement, not a religious warfare



RABBI JORDAN PARR wrote a guest column in The Chronicle on March 31 and asked Muslims to respond.

I have known Rabbi Parr for the last few years through interfaith activities. He was gracious to visit, along with other clerics, in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and to provide support to our community after our center was vandalized. Also, we appreciate the Congregation Children of Israel's invitation to discuss Islam.

Rabbi Parr asked us to condemn violence and we do, but, also, we would like our Jewish friends to join us in the condemnation of all violence in the Holy Land - both that committed by the relentlessly brutal Israeli army and by those young Palestinians, who are giving up their lives ...

Muslims believe in the sanctity of human life. The Quran teaches us that the taking of a single life is equivalent to the killing of all humanity. Thus, we deplore the killing of any human being - no matter what label of nationality or race they bear.

THERE ARE SEVERAL points that are worth highlighting. The statement by Rabbi Parr that "Muslims are attacking Jews because they are Jews" is very troubling, as it is not based on fact. Muslim-Jewish history, prior to the creation of Israel, is a clear testimony to the sanctuary provided to Jews in Muslim lands under Muslim rule, when other religious factions were persecuting them.

On the other hand, since 1967, the Palestinians - both Muslims and Christians - have been deprived of their fundamental human rights. Their lands confiscated, they are prevented from expanding their homes. Existing homes are demolished simply because they are not Jews. A Jew from any place in the world, if he moves to Israel, is automatically granted full citizenship, while Palestinian refugees forced to flee their ancestral homes in 1948 and 1967 are not allowed to return, simply because they are not Jews. It defies common sense to believe people subjected to this will not be provoked to extremist political violence.

Interested readers can look at the web page of B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights group, at www.btselem.org for the grim details of life Palestinians face in the occupied territories. The attacks by Palestinians against Jews are not promoted by religious beliefs but by political reality, as they personify the state of Israel and its policies.

The attacks during religious celebrations are particularly condemnable. However, both sides have committed atrocities. One is reminded of Dr. Baruch Goldstein of New York, a leader in the Jewish Kach party, who murdered at least 29 and injured about 300 Muslim worshippers while they were praying at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.

RABBI PARR ASKS Muslim clerics to condemn attacks against Israelis. However, I do not recall any American-Jewish religious leaders condemning murders committed by Dr. Goldstein. Instead Israeli leaders, especially those active in the settlement movement and in the forefront of terrorizing Palestinians, erected a shrine in his honor.

A chilling aspect of this conflict is the pervasive Israeli culture of dehumanization of Palestinians, both Muslims and Christians.

The last 35 years of military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the continuous establishment of new settlements on Palestinian lands, depriving Palestinians of their livelihood, manifest this culture.

While I agree with Rabbi Parr that violence is wrong no matter what, I would add that violence is committed disproportionately by Israel against the Palestinians, and not the other way around.

There were two recent positive developments; the U.S.-sponsored Security Council resolution of the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state alongside Israel and the Saudi peace initiative.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's trip is a step in the right direction, as long as it involves practical steps toward establishing a Palestinian state, along with cease-fire enforcement based on Security Council Resolution 1402.

IF THE UNITED STATES could assure Palestinians that there is light at the end of the tunnel and encourage sraelis to realize that Palestinians are an integral part of the Holy Land - and for both parties to realize that it is better to have peace with your neighbor than to hate him - I am sure the violence will stop and peace will be restored to the Holy Land ...

(Editor's note: The writer is a member of the executive committee of the Islamic Society of Augusta.)