Some people drive around with “coexist” bumper stickers. Others say you can’t make peace with people who want to kill you. While the bumper stickers are nice, we have to face the fact that the “coexisters” are mostly preaching to the choir. Those who need to be reached don’t want to hear it.
Why? For one thing, they are taught to hate, to never give in, to fight. And you can’t fault the choir for recognizing that fact. They are not the aggressors but simply understand the reality. Though Israel wants peace, far too many of her neighbors do not. It doesn’t help to yell at Israelis to coexist because they already do.
Around 25 percent of the Israeli population is non-Jewish. Most of them are Arab, and of the Arabs, the vast majority are Muslim. Only around 2 percent are Christian, and there are a few other religions mixed in.
The Israeli democracy allows freedom and wonderful opportunities for all citizens, whether they are Jewish or belong to a minority religion. As a result, there are Arab Knesset Members (the Knesset is the Parliament or Congress), Arab judges and even Arab Supreme Court Justices.
In 1999, Rana Raslan became the first Arab Miss Israel. But it was more recently, in 2017, during the Miss Universe Pageant when the world saw a sweet gesture between Arab and Jewish contestants. Miss Iraq and Miss Israel took a selfie together, and the photograph was shared all over social media. The general reaction on the Jewish side was positive, but a month later, a follow-up story demonstrated the sad reality of hate on the other end. After receiving death threats from back home, and out of fear for their lives, the family of Miss Iraq had to flee Baghdad. (Miss Iraq herself apparently lives in the US now and has responded by tweeting, “I’m not the first nor the last person to face prosecution over a matter of personal freedom. Millions of Iraqi women live in fear.”)
This is what she got for using her title to promote peace.
Yet who do people often blame for the lack of peace? Not the agitators, but those who are already peaceful. Why? Because they do not lie down and let the steamroller crush them? Because they will not jump into the sea or let others throw them in? Sorry, but that’s not the way it works.
Typical of Israel, extending the olive branch, every year the Jerusalem Municipality delivers free Christmas trees to Christians. And despite tensions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sends out holiday greetings to Muslims and Druze for Eid al-Adha and Ramadan. In 2017, for example, he wrote, “I wish #Ramadan Kareem to Israel’s Muslim citizens and Muslims around the world, hoping for much needed brotherhood, mutual respect & peace.” Peace indeed.
Instead of wishes for peace, from the Palestinian leaders, we get incitement to violence. The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) “pay-for-slay” program provides an income to Palestinian terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons, while crying to the world about how these poor people are victimized by Israelis because they’re in jail. The reality is that they committed atrocious terror attacks, attempting to kill, killing and/or injuring Jews, Druze, Muslims, tourists, etc., the people who are the real victims. Some of the terrorists will hold hunger strikes in prison, garnering more sympathy from the ill-informed world. Oh, those poor murderers!
The PA will also pay the families of the terrorists who are killed during their attacks. In 2017, the PA spent $355 million on these terrorist payments. If that’s not incitement, I don’t know what is. The terrorists may choose this route because of the financial reward. It’s a better paying job to kill Jews than many other jobs they could get, and even if they die, their families will be rewarded.
In 2012, for example, Ramallah’s payments to terrorists exceeded 75 million shekels ($19 million), according to Israel Hayom, which broke down how it works:
“According to Palestinian law, a terrorist serving three years or under in Israeli prisons is eligible for a monthly payment of NIS 1,400 (about $370), a terrorists serving up to 15 years is paid NIS 6,000 ($1,600) a month, and those sentenced to life in prison are paid NIS 12,000 ($3,100).”
Sounds like a pretty good deal. If they kill Jews, they get paid. And who promotes this agenda? Why our “partner in peace” of course, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
But every year, the reward budget may increase because the money in the pot grows.
In 2016, the United States provided over $700 million to Palestinians, and in 2017, over half of that amount was spent on rewarding terrorists. Just think about that. Fortunately, the Taylor Force Act, which cuts support to the PA if they continue to use the money to support terror, has passed the US House of Representatives. If the bill goes through, it will be a step in the right direction.
Cut the funds, stop the incitement.
This is really just the tip of the iceberg.
When President Trump announced the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Muslim world went ballistic. Leaders from Iran, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, etc., denounced the decision, and there were threats from all directions. Protests abounded, where Trump burned in effigy.
The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington, DC, canceled its Christmas party. What a wonderful showing of interfaith outreach!
Even in Sweden, protesters firebombed a synagogue and chanted, “Shoot the Jews.”
In the US, A New Jersey imam called for the killing of Jews, although now he will be “retrained” according to Ahmed Shedeed, the president of the Jersey City Islamic Center, who is known for his interfaith work.
So what was it the imam actually said? Referring to Jews as “plundering oppressors” and “apes and pigs,” he preached to his congregation, “Count them one by one, and kill them down to the very last one. Do not leave a single one on the face of the Earth.”
As Rabbi Shmuley Boteach says, “I pray for peace, but it will not be the result of a peace plan concocted by outsiders. Peace will come when Palestinians sit down opposite Israelis, accept Israel’s existence and demonstrate to the Israeli people — not the UN, the EU or anyone else — that they are prepared to coexist beside a strongly defined Jewish state. If they do, they will find Israelis willing to reach out to them as brothers. And that is the only peace formula that has any chance of success.”
On a positive note, an interfaith group from Bahrain (with Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs) reached out by visiting Israel at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, but in the process the group caught so much flack from the Arab world, they had to issue a statement that they are independent and do not represent the government.
Imagine being attacked for promoting peace.
There has been more publicized interfaith outreach of late, more Middle Eastern countries willing to talk to Israel, more acceptance all around. Yet the hate still overpowers it all.
Personally, I do believe in promoting peace, but my interfaith writing is honest. I was once accused of cognitive dissonance by someone with hardcore beliefs who didn’t understand what I do, never read any books I’ve written. Look, hatred exists, we cannot pretend it doesn’t, and to eliminate the hate, or at the very least, gradually minimize it one reader at a time, we must point out the problems, strip away the indoctrination or brainwashing, and reprogram biased minds by teaching the truth. Until Muslim leaders stop scapegoating and preaching hate against Jews and Israel, change is difficult.
Difficult, but not impossible.
One by one, more people are beginning to see the light. There are far too many interfaith outreach fails, but every success is worth celebrating. And that, my friends, is the reason why I write.
D.M. Miller is the author of the interfaith “Heart” series as well as the poetry collection, Dandelion Fuzz and the memoir, Half-Jew: Searching for Identity. The product of an interfaith marriage herself, Miller’s work explores the difficult themes of religion, politics, ethnicity, culture, family, ancestry and love. See her books on Amazon.