Following the Israeli massacre of 15 unarmed Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on 30 March, Dr Anas Altikriti wrote the following to the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Mr Jonathan Arkush:
March 31st, 2018
Dear Mr Arkush,
Firstly, allow me to wish you and the entire Jewish community chag kasher v’somayach, wishing you all many blessed returns.
I am writing today to thank you and the Board of Deputies for your clear and unequivocal rejection of the Leave.EU tweet on the 29th of March, in which the bearer of that account claimed to be against one form of discrimination and prejudice, by promoting another. Your response made it clear that unless all and every form of this disease are fought in unison, the bigots will have their way, and that the presence of any form of racial or religious discrimination is a threat to all races, faiths and groups.
With that said, I was hugely disappointed with your tweet the very next day on Friday 30th of March commenting on the events that surrounded the Grand March of Return in Gaza, and allow me to explain why.
The ‘Alarming developments’ which you referred to in your tweet, were basically the killing of 15 and wounding of 1500 Palestinian marchers. None of the tens of thousands that attended the march were armed, and there was absolutely no threat of the march crossing the borders of the Gaza enclave. No Israeli, soldier or civilian, was ever under threat, let alone harmed. Yet as all the live TV coverage, pictures and clips clearly demonstrate, the Israeli forces and its snipers saw fit to take pot shots into the civilian crowd who were marching peacefully. The Gaza Ministry of Health reported 773 live rounds were fired and most of the dead and injured had wounds to their upper torso. Haaretz newspaper broadcasted a Palestinian youngster shot in his back while he was running away from borders. To not only deny the blatant truth, but actually turn the truth on its head by claiming that the victim was the aggressor, and to appear as though you are justifying the killing of unarmed civilians, is problematic to say the very least and does a grave injustice to your earlier commendable tweet. One cannot help but draw parallels between the events on Friday and your comment which coincide with the advent of Passover; which is hugely symbolic for the Jewish people breaking free from slavery, subjugation and oppression. How this could have escaped you is beyond me.
Further, you claimed that this march was organised by Hamas. This is factually untrue and incredibly unfair to the Palestinian people and to the organisers of this event. Everyone who followed the March from the very moment it was called for will know that it was a group of Palestinian youngsters, openly and undeniably non-partisan, who were behind this event, and your claim does an incredible injustice to a peaceful expression of longing for freedom and basic national rights which should otherwise be supported and encouraged.
You go on to suggest that the Palestinians should return to the ‘negotiating table’, yet you neglect to consider the built-up frustration of millions of Palestinians who for 50 years of unfulfilled UN resolutions condemning the Israeli occupation, the Separation Wall, the illegal settlements, the systematic expulsion of Palestinians, the illegal annexation of Jerusalem and much more, were met with a callous decision by the US President to decide on Jerusalem with one fell swoop, proving the futility, indeed wastefulness of those negotiations. Consider also if you will, the state of the almost two million residents of the Gaza strip, who have been living as virtual prisoners, suffering a strangulation in all but name for the past 11 years with absolutely no hope of any resolution.
If the battle against all forms of discrimination and prejudice are to be won, none of us can afford to be hypocritical or to play politics with human values of justice and truth. In the same way that I do not regard an attack on a Muslim state as having anything to do with Islamophobia, I fail to see how being critical of the practices and policies of Israel could be conflated with the evil of anti-Semitism.
I am sure you agree with me that as humans and regardless of our religious or political backgrounds or affiliations, we must defend each other’s rights. For us, it also means we will always be critical of any state, Muslim or otherwise, which adopts policies that violate our universal human values.
My hope is that you apply this maxim to the practices of Israel, rather than giving it carte blanche to do as it wishes with no accountability.
Dr Anas Altikriti,
President, Muslim Association of Britain
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.