Palestinian civil society has asked for a boycott of the Muslim Leadership Initiative, a propaganda trip to Israel intended to “faithwash” the occupation.
This is, in its essence, what washing the occupation and apartheid clean actually is: to sanitize the narrative in which the oppressor becomes the oppressed or, at the very least, a relatable oppressor. -Sana Saeed
Simply put. MLI sucks. It is blatant Israeli propaganda, the people who participate in it are doing their part in promoting propaganda. Propaganda sucks. Not only is MLI intended for propaganda, it is intended to harm the BDS movement and further dangerous Zionist narratives.
The main premise of MLI is the deliberate blurring of the lines between Judaism, Zionism and the Israeli state. This logic serves to perpetuate the anti-Semitic claim that Jews are synonymous to the state of Israel and bear responsibility for its policies, no matter how oppressive these policies are, and that criticism leveraged against the state of Israel is, therefore, a criticism of all Jews. This conflation, which itself is anti-Semitic, as it reduces all Jews to a monolithic sum, has been used by opponents of Palestinian rights to muzzle legitimate opposition to Israel’s violations of international law and ignore growing dissent among Jews to such representations. – BDSmovement.org
MLI is not just funded by Zionist causes but by extreme Islamophobic hate groups(who are also funded by Zionists).
Major beneficiaries of the Russell Berrie Foundation include Steven Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism and Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum.
Steven Emerson is the nice fella who brought us “no-go zones” among other Islamophobic threats of “creeping sharia.” Daniel Pipes is an Islamophobe who funds and promotes a whole panoply of anti-Islam activities, groups and speakers. Wouldn’t we rightly condemn African-American leaders who were attending a conference paid for by the Council of Conservative Citizens? Why is Muslim collaboration with people and groups that hate Muslims, who spread Islamophobia not similarly condemned?
For an excellent analysis of all things wrong with MLI please see Sana Saeed’s excellent article.
The Palestinian issue is not a Muslim-Jewish issue
The issue in Palestine is occupation. Starting in the late 19th century, Zionists made a concerted effort to expel Palestinians off their land(excluding Jewish Palestinians, of course – but again, this was about the tribal identification not the religion of the Palestinian Jews). In the late 1940s, over 700,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their land. In 1967, Israel launched an offensive war and illegally occupied more Palestinian land.
Resistance to the occupation has existed as long as the occupation and has been fully an interfaith struggle. In fact, the PLO and many of the factions within Palestine are expressly secular.
Israel does not like this narrative, it makes them look bad, as illegally occupying land, expelling people, treating people as subhuman because of their ethnicity should. That is why Zionists have been so active in funding and promoting the West’s growing Islamophobia industry. Capitalizing on the fear and hatred of Muslims – Israel presents itself as a solution to the problem of “Islamism” by way of bomb and bullet and has the example of its brutal treatment of Palestinians as “proof” that it can handle Islam.
In that, is the narrative that “Muslim hate of the Jews” is fuelled by religious irrationality and this is where MLI comes in – presenting “brave young Muslim leaders who have seen the light by meeting Zionists and seeing Israel for the shiny happy utopia that it is.”
Of course, the reality is that Muslim antipathy towards Israel has much to do with its connections to Western imperialism and neo-colonialism which has killed millions of Muslims in the past few decades alone. It has to do with Israel’s continued occupation and oppression of a Muslim-majority population and its occupation and threats to destroy of one of the holiest sites in Islam. It has to do with Israel’s continued aggression against its Muslim-majority neighbours. It has to do with the commands in the Quran to fight for justice and the Prophet Mohammed’s teachings to do the same.
It has nothing to do with Judaism, or a lack of understanding between Jews and Muslims.
It’s the occupation stupid.
We also can’t forget that Palestine, is of course, home to Christianity and has a vocal and active Christian community that is equally oppressed by occupation. Christian churches, graveyards are subject to “price tag” attacks by Jewish settlers, Christian Palestinians are arrested, murdered, dispossessed just like their Muslim brothers and sisters.
Erasing the Christian Palestinians is essential to the Zionist narrative that Palestinians are a bunch of extremist “Islamists” who can’t be reasoned with because of their religion and a blind desire to kill Jews. It is also necessary to stoke Christian Zionist support – which sees Islam as the enemy in an apocalyptic war against the Antichrist. Initiatives like MLI further this agenda by framing the Israeli occupation as a Muslim-Jewish issue.
But… but dialogue!!! We need dialogue!
This is what MLI describes their program as:
The program invites North American Muslims to explore how Jews understand Judaism, Israel, and Jewish peoplehood. The program also encourages participants to experience how Palestinians, both inside and outside Israel, identify themselves, while exploring the issues of ethics, faith, and practice.
Does one need to travel to Israel to understand how Jews understand Judaism and Israel? North America is home to over 6 million Jews, in fact, there are more Jews in the United States than Muslims. If North American Muslims want to understand North American Jews, then they will not get a very good understanding if they go to Israel. The majority of American Jews are Reform and left-leaning, while Israeli Jews are overwhelmingly right-wing to the point of fascism.
Furthermore, MLI presents the Zionist lie that Judaism = Zionism and that Zionists speak for Jews. This is to me, anti-Jewish bigotry and it is factually incorrect. Remember:
There are many Jews involved in the Palestinian cause, groups like JVP, fight tirelessly for Palestinian rights while respecting the boycott. In fact, all a person needs to do is go to a pro-Palestinian event and they will not only meet Jews, but Christians, Muslims, atheists, Buddhists – people of all ages, all backgrounds and all classes. Palestinian events are among the most diverse I’ve ever been to and people are more than happy to share their perspective and background.
There are a myriad of ways a well-connected young Muslim can dialogue with Jews, work with Jews and understand Jews while doing good for the people of Palestine. There is no reason and no excuse to break the boycott line. None.
The bottom line is, these are people who want to use the power of well-connected Zionists to further their careers. They do this at the expense of the Palestinian people who have asked for a boycott of MLI. They have every right to engage in this self-serving exercise in career-building, but they need to stop pretending that this is anything neutral. They also need to stop expecting the activist community to stay silent and accept their actions, which are harming the Palestinians – not going to happen, nor should it.