By Okolo Rashid
Jackson Advocate Guest Writer
The world stands stunned by the unspeakable tragedy that’s taking place in Palestine’s Gaza Strip. Israel’s Defense Forces said that it has dropped 6,000 bombs in six days in response to attacks by Palestine’s Hamas freedom fighters. Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 7, killing 1,400. Yet, Israel has killed more than 3,000 Palestinians to date. Further, Israel is poised to launch a massive ground attack on Gaza, one of the smallest and most densely populated places on the planet with a population of over two million!
Because of these atrocities, I joined the Mississippians for Palestine Protest Rally, held on October 16, 2023, to raise my voice and demand a ceasefire and a stop to Israel’s ground invasion and occupation in hopes that a peaceful resolution can be sought. In my opinion, what’s happening in Gaza is apocalyptic and Israel’s attack is being carried out on an industrial scale!
This current Israel/Palestine Conflict represents a seismic and global paradigm shift. For me, it affirms the importance of the work that we’re doing at the International Museum of Muslim Cultures (IMMC) to create a City of Jackson Beloved Community and the need for our “Beloved Community Movement Model for global peace.” So, in that spirit, my purpose is to stand for the human dignity, freedom, justice, peace, love, and safety of the people of Palestine and Israel.
It’s important to dispel the “myth of self-defense” that Israel has claimed and that western leaders across the globe, including our own government, support. They say, “Israel has the right to defend itself.” Let me be clear, this conflict is not about the defense of Israel. It is about the expansion of Israel and the creation of an Apartheid Regime. The Israeli Government is the lord and master of the land, and it’s in total control of the Palestinian people. Palestinians have been squeezed into slum-like conditions – without control of their basic needs – in an open-air prison.
While this conflict is over land and not religion, the Jewish and Muslim people, as well as Christians, have a history of inter-religious cooperation and coexistence, where a peaceful, free, and just society can be built. Specifically, the first was under the peace-building leadership of Muhammad, the Prophet and Respected Head of State, who prepared the first constitution in history and established the first Islamic State and Commonwealth between the Muslim and Jewish communities. Later, Christians would join this community, making it multi-religious, multiethnic, multiracial, and multilingual. This history is presented in IMMC’s “Muslims with Christians and Jews: An Exhibition of Covenants and Coexistence,” which premiered June 2019 and is still on display.
During the protest I shared the following quotes from Muhammad, and from the Qur’an:
“You will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I tell you about something which, if You do it, will make you love one another? Spread peace (Salaam) amongst yourselves.”
–Muhammad, the Prophet and Respected Head of State
“May I inform you of the deed that is better than fasting, charity and prayer? It is the conciliation between people, and rancor (bitter hatred) amongst them is destructive. It removes faith or religion. [Hatred consumes the heart, so much that we forget G’d’s justice and mercy. Our gratitude to G’d is repelled by resentment of others.]” –Muhammad, the Prophet and Respected Head of State
Below are quotes from Quran, Chapter 42, called Ash-Shuraa (Consultation). It’s a prescription for how evil and disbelief can be cured, by the Mercy and Guidance of G’d. Men and women are asked to settle differences in patience and mutual consultation:
42:40 “Those who, when an oppressive wrong is inflicted on them (are not cowed but) help and defend themselves. The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree). But if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from G’d. For G’d loves not those who do wrong;
42:41 But indeed if any do help and defend themselves after a wrong (done) to them, against such there is no cause of blame;
42:42 The blame is only against those who oppress men with wrongdoing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice: for such there will be a Penalty Grievous;
42:43 But indeed, if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous Will and resolution in the conduct of affairs.”
So, I close by saying, although these verses are from the Quran, there are similar verses in the Hebrew Bible, as well as the Christian Bible. Thus, the question is, how do we stop the violence and bring peace to the conflict between the Jews and Muslims in Israel/Palestine? It is to reverse course and return to the shared beliefs and values that bring about peace and reconciliation. This starts with Israel recognizing the Palestinians as equal human beings. Hopefully it can progress to Israel having a willingness to establish proper negotiations toward a peace deal with an atmosphere of calmness and peace and acceptance by both people towards sharing the land. Until there is justice, there can be no peace.