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Palestinians and Mideast Conflict

February 16, 1988

Hirsh writes about the West Bank and Gaza conflict in the deceptive vein of many other letter writers these past few weeks. Hirsh rewrites history, reduces Israel's claim from moral superiority to equivalence, and--most hurtful to our small community--raises the undefined specter of "fanatical" or "fundamentalist" Islam.

Before everything else, we are told the story of Palestine from the Zionist perspective. We rarely read how colonial powers (Britain, France and Turkey) traded in the land and sovereignty of Palestine without ever considering the inhabitants. We are told about the Balfour promise to the Jews. We are not told about the British promises to the Arabs for the same land--made at the same time.

Continuously, we are told of how Arab Jews came to Israel. But, we are not told the truth. The Arab Jews who chose to leave their homes did so after centuries of citizenship and respect. Arab Jews continue to live in all Arab countries with dignity and respect.

Moreover, it is false to say that the Muslims have not accepted the Palestinian refugees. The Islamic stance has been and remains that we seek a return to their rightful homes for the Palestinians. Once there, we seek full political franchise for them. Some Palestinians are nationals of almost every Arab and Islamic state. They are welcomed. But all of us know that should they abandon their camps, they will be accused of giving up their claim to their homes. Sadly, the governments of the countries in which the camps are located have much to answer for in terms of the quality of life in the camps.

Finally, we do not know how to respond to the fears provoked in letters like Hirsh's about Islam. The best that we may respond is to invite Mr. Hirsh, his organization, and the general public to visit us. Fanatical? We are indeed strong in our faith. Fundamentalist? We are indeed careful in our practice of Islam. Extremist? No, we are the people of the middle. We are the Muslims, the ones who strive in peace to serve God as best we might. Our values and beliefs are not so different from those of Christians and Jews.


Director, Religious Affairs

Islamic Center of the South Bay


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