Thursday, August 18, 2022

Jews around the world were inspired last month when Arab-Israeli teenager Moham­mad Zoabi cloaked himself in an Israeli flag and spoke into a bedroom video camera, “I am an Israeli and will remain an Israeli. Israel will re­main a Jewish and a democratic country.”

What few realized is that within days af­ter the video went viral, Israeli police arrest­ed three men in his own family for plotting to cause him harm in retaliation for the piece. His cousin, Arab Knesset member Hanin Zoa­bi, called her young cousin “a sleazy, mixed-up kid who has identity issues.”

Still, more voices like the young Zoabi’s have emerged in the month since the kid­napping of three Israeli teens and the weeks since the launch of Operation Protective Edge. Young Bissan Salman, an Israeli Arab from Ramla, blogged on July 23 that she re­fuses to choose between her Arab and Israe­li friends. “My tears choose the side of peace,” she wrote. “We are tired to hear about more killings. We are tired to run every time we hear the sirens …Don’t judge, pray. Pray for this to be over.”

But as the operation wages on and the rockets continue to plummet on the state of Israel, these young voices are lost. But there is another voice, a growing one, that is bubbling above the surface. That voice has little to do with Israel and everything to do with fighting Hamas. It is the voice of Arabs—Muslims, really—calling on their peers to fight the inexorable advance of po­litical Islamism over Islam.

Dr. Qanta Ahmed, author of Land of In­visible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom, told JNS.org while the media focuses on the war in Israel, simi­lar wars are being waged across the world. Islamism, she said, is the driving force be­tween the Islamic State of Iraq and Great­er Syria (ISIS) and Iraqi government forc­es, between the Pakistani Taliban and the Pakistani Army, the Afghan Taliban and would-be Afghan democratic leaders, Ni­geria’s Boko Haram Islamists and the Nige­rian government, and between Jama’at Al- Nursa rebels and the Syrian regime.

“Muslim militaries are not held to glob­al condemnation in the way the Israel De­fense Forces must face—despite their tar­geted attacks, pre-strike warnings, and efforts to contain civilian deaths,” said Ahmed.

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser—founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democra­cy (AIFD), which works to provide a platform for Muslim Americans who advocate for lib­erty, freedom, and the separation of mosque and state—expressed similar sentiments. AIFD has brought together a group of dozens of U.S. Islamic groups to form the American Islamic Leadership Coalition. To be a member, agen­cies have to sign on to a list of 17 principles. The last of the principles is recognition of the state of Israel.

“I don’t believe Israel is a religious is­sue for Muslims,” Jasser told JNS.org. “Ha­mas and other radical Islamic groups have propagandized the issues for decades and the latest conflict demonstrates that. It is constant warmongering. Hamas creates, starts these wars, commits acts of terror, and then uses the war as a platform to say all its grievances are Israel’s fault.”

Jasser said that while he hopes Israel deals a heavy blow to Hamas, he does not believe the war will have any long-term impact because the war is not about Isra­el, but rather “about Hamas and their cor­rupt ideology…You can compare it to drug addiction, which leads to violence,” he said. “Well, if you say the problem is the vi­olence and you stop the violence, it won’t work. It is the drug addiction that leads to the violence. We believe the gateway drug here is political Islam.”

Jasser’s group tries to stay quiet on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because he does not want to feed the international be­lief system that if that crisis was solved, it would be the solution to global terror­ism. “As a Syrian, I can tell you, nothing is further from the truth. [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad displaced and killed hun­dreds of thousands of people and Israel had nothing to do with it,” he said.

Tawfik Hamid is a former member of the Jamal Islamiyah terrorist organization. Thirty years ago, he broke from its grip to move to the U.S. and begin a fight against radical Islam. Recently, he founded the International Cent­er for Countering Radicalism (IC4CR.org). He told JNS.org he believes radicalism needs to be fought on multiple fronts.

First, he said, more accessible modern and peaceful interpretations of the Quran are needed. Next, accurate information is required; hate, said Hamid, is often based on misinformation that is being taught in Islamic schools and mosques. Additional­ly, Hamid said, the world should use be­havior modification techniques, like hav­ing “more negative reinforcements to stop them from doing terror acts.”

Terrorist organizations deprive their fol­lowers of anything beautiful, such as color, art, music, fashion, etc. Over time, Hamid explained, the followers become unable to appreciate beauty, and this makes them more receptive to “extremely ugly things.”

“It is like if someone destroys the re­ceptors on their tongue, they cannot dis­tinguish between good and bad tasting things,” said Hamid. “This is what happens. We need to reintroduce the beauty.”

Ahmed, Hamid, and Jasser said they are frustrated by the international media, which offers sensational sound bites and ignores the full picture.

“Many people look at what is happen­ing in Gaza as if Israel is the aggressor. But when you think deeply, Egypt offered a cease-fire and Israel immediately accepted it. It was supposed to start on July 5 at 9 a.m. Hamas refused the cease-fire. The full responsibility for any killings after July 5 lies with Hamas,” Hamid said.

He added that Hamas accuses Israel of eth­nic cleansing of Muslims, and the U.S. of being anti-Islam. But he said what is not reported is the number of mosques that exist in both Isra­el and America.

“If this was the case, if they were an­ti-Islam, why would they allow these mosques and Islamic schools to be built? Compare the numbers to the synagogues and churches in the Muslim world—there, these places are being destroyed,” said Ha­mid, who noted that antisemitism in the Arab world has been on the rise over the past decade. Jasser suggested that antisem­itism might be as high as 90% among Arab nations.

A recent Pew Research Center study of Muslim world perceptions of Hamas found that support for the terrorist organ­ization in general was on the decline. But Jasser said the study should be taken with a grain of salt.

“This is no silver lining unless we find an alternative to Hamas—not just we [as] Muslims, but the West. President [Barack] Obama has been missing in action, and if a vacuum is created it will be filled with Ara­bism or Islamism,” said Jasser.

“This is the beginning of change, but Ar­abs that think like I do, they are very few,” Hamid said. “That does not mean these views could not one day dominate, but they need to be empowered.”

Hamid’s www.facebook.com/Modern­QuranInterpretation webpage has 2 mil­lion “likes.” He surmises that 10 years ago, that number would have been only 200. “If we can support this momentum, it can change,” he said.

For now, though, Operation Protec­tive Edge continues, and in the end, Israe­lis and Palestinians, are likely both to lose, said Ahmed.

“Israel is fighting an impossible battle, on one front with nihilist political Islam­ists who willingly lead their populations to slaughter in the interest of religionized war for fictionalized spiritual gain rather than true political solution,” she said. “And, on another front, waging other battles with an international media reflecting an increas­ingly ignored and biased public opinion.”

Ahmed added, “The sooner media com­mentary can be broadened to explain po­litical Islamism, diplomatic and political powers globally can begin to plan the true long-term freedom of the Palestinians… a lasting liberation from the stranglehold of Hamas’s political Islamism.”

Maayan Jaffe is a freelance writer in Overland Park, Kan. Reach her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter, @MaayanJaffe.

By Maayan Jaffe/JNS.org

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