My first question as I read Haroon Moghul’s blog about participating in the Muslim Leadership Initiative in Israel is: who are you?
Forty-four members of my family were murdered in cold blood in Palestine and I’m still trying to figure out how that has anything to do with you.
I’m a Palestinian American. I’ve been very outspoken about my family’s survival of the Deir Yassin massacre. Even though I am the granddaughter of Nakba survivors, I still do not feel comfortable or morally justified speaking on behalf of Palestinians living under Israel’s military occupation. Even though I am the daughter of a Palestinian refugee who was born in Palestine and never stepped foot in it again, I recognize my privilege far removed from the deadly and inhumane conditions to which Palestinians are subjected everyday. I will use every breath I have to speak out against and raise awareness of such injustices, but I refuse to inflict further violence against my people by silencing their own narrative.
My family history has been marred by massacre at the hands of the same forces that the Shalom Hartman Institute supports, and I still don’t understand how you, Haroon, and your cohorts are engaging on our behalf.
And, yes, that’s exactly what you’re trying to do. You gratuitously declare yourselves Muslim American “leaders” and tokenize your Muslim identity to empower your MLI participation and co-opting of Palestinian voices. Yet, in the same breath you attempt to exempt yourself of any scrutiny by saying you don’t claim to represent us.
The call for the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement came in 2005 from Palestinian civil society — you know, the people actually living under the occupation — almost 60 years into the conflict, given that in those six decades “all forms of international intervention and peace-making have until now failed to convince or force Israel to comply with humanitarian law.” Yet, somehow, you and your cohorts pompously believe that you are reinventing the wheel, that you know what’s best for Palestinians more than Palestinians themselves, that you are the ones with the answers — by violating the only effective grassroots movement that has ever succeeded in abolishing apartheid.
Individuals are not institutions. That’s pretty much BDS 101. You broke the boycott not by “communicating” with Israelis, but by engaging with a Zionist organization. You benefitted a free trip. That benefit rode on the backs of an occupied people. They are the ones that this is about. Not you, not your opinions, not your inconsequential chats with Israelis for some vague “foreign policy” work. It’s about occupied Palestinians.
By enjoying an all expense-paid field trip to lands to which Palestinians themselves are denied access, please do not be mistaken that you are, by any means, contributing to Palestinian liberation or doing Palestinians any favors.
It is not lost on me that I and many other Palestinian Americans are systematically denied access to our own homelands for our social justice work. Our faces and names are found in protest photos and published unpopular opinions in our untimely fight for human rights. We are suffering the consequences — from losing job opportunities to being ostracized in the mainstream. We are the ones subject to humiliating and invasive Israeli interrogation on our own intended Palestine trips, before being sent back into exile in whatever lonely corner of the diaspora we came from.
Your groundbreaking discovery that “some American and Israeli Jews are moving apart” is something you would have learned after just one day on the frontlines of the Palestine movement, where we stand side by side with Jewish allies who risk community reputation and family ties to fight for justice. That is where the future of the relationship between American Muslims and American Jews lies. That is where you’ll find us, while you’re on your privileged escorted trips, damaging the work that we have been tirelessly contributing.
Yes, you got duped. You sold out for travel accommodations. Then you came home and paternalistically blogged some liberal Zionist propaganda in defense of your decision. In that way, the Shalom Hartman Institute got exactly what it paid for. You perpetuated exactly what we warned you about.
If the opinions of actual Palestinians still don’t cut it for you, then it’s hard to ignore that in the case of MLI, the Muslim American community has — for the most part — spoken. I’m not sure of whom or what you and your cohorts deem yourselves to be leaders, but it is certainly not of our community nor the Palestinian cause. Please don’t do us any favors.