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Israel, Palestine and rising Islamophobia

January 5, 2024 at 11:30 am

Students gather in front of Humboldt University to stage a protest against Israeli attacks on Gaza in Berlin, Germany on December 13, 2023 [Halil Sağırkaya – Anadolu Agency]

The Palestine-Israel conflict has exposed the true nature of world politics and interstate relationships. It has further reinforced the main argument of Samuel P. Huntington’s idea of a new world order in a post-cold war era that would be marked with inter-cultural or inter-religious conflicts. One of the many episodes of this argument could be seen in rising anti-Muslim sentiments across the globe in a post-9/11 period which pushed western countries to introduce policies against Muslims at different stages.

The recent anti-Islam stimulus, in the drawback of the Palestine conflict, is no different from that of the post-9/11 period. Many leaders of different nations have exploited Islamophobic rhetoric to gain support for their political or strategic benefits. Using the derogatory speech act against Muslims, such leaders have added to the discourse of anti-Muslim hate in their countries and  beyond. Even a country like Canada – widely regarded as a “melting pot of cultures” – did not shy away from demonising Islam by terming Palestinian solidarity movements as the “glorification of violence”. The practical result of this selective hate could be seen when the Markham Public Library in Ontario temporarily took down the Islamic Heritage displays due to complaints received regarding Israel’s alleged war on Hamas.

The rising degree of anti-Islamic sentiments is leading to the abysmal acts of hate crimes and communal assaults. The contagion effects of these variables are causing a threat to Muslim community living across the continents, as the acts of a lone group are perceived to be the general motifs of a whole community. This hate has ensued polarisation at various levels with humanity at the receiving end. Even the children, widely regarded as ‘universal assets’ are being bombed or have their families wiped out. The transnational effect of these rising atrocities can be seen as the US Department of Homeland Security has issued a statement concerning the rising incidence of communal threats against Jews, Palestinian and Arab Muslims. This is obvious from the killing of Wadea Al-Fayoume – a 6-year-old child in Chicago – who was stabbed 26 times, and his mother severely injured, only because they were Muslims. Court documents suggest that the suspect, Joseph M. Czub, a 71-year-old lone offender, used to listen to “conservative talks” that ingrained insecurity and hatred in him against Muslims. Such incidents are a manifestation of anti-Muslim prejudice that is deeply ingrained into the minds and hearts of a disinformed public, which lead them to undertake violent lone acts to takeout their frustration on the innocents.

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Similarly, due to the situation in Gaza, there is a rise in the right-wing Hindutva ideology which has also prompted anti-Muslim sentiments across so-called secular India. Soon after Hamas’ infiltration of Israel on 7 October, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi showed his solidarity with Israel and called Hamas’ attack as terrorism. However, the statement is more than solidarity given the Indian domestic political environment and regional aspirations of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which aims to transform India into a greater Hindu nation. The anti-Muslim radicalism in India has caused its majority Hindus to treat Muslims as inferior by perceiving that they are responsible for everything bad in India. Ostensibly, such elements have started to look up to Israel – an apartheid state – as a model to be followed against Muslims, particularly in Kashmir, to displace and change the regional dynamics of the valley by conducting raids and carryout extra-judicial killings of Kashmiri youth. This is one of the reasons that under BJP, India has changed its historical position of narrating a pro-Palestine story to pro-Israel’s one.

Similarly, since the break out of the conflict, there is an uptick in reported cases of anti-Mulsim hate crimes in Latin America. In Brazil, media channels are being offered incentives to undermine the pro-Palestine voices by continuously referring to Hamas and Palestinians as the true perpetrators of the historical conflict. By equating Palestinians with terrorists, the Brazilian media is serving as a tool for Israel’s anti-Islamic narrative, which aims at demonising Muslims and defend Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza. Similarly, there is also a rise in the online spewing of hate against Palestinians. Many users of social media platform X (previously known as Twitter) are airing their prejudices against Muslims by equating them to terrorists who “should all be wiped out.” Such unnavigated flow of ideas is creating an atmosphere of hate and violence among communities. Historical facts provide us with various case studies, i.e. Rwanda, in which deliberate use of hate speech led to mass violence and genocide. The case of Palesine is witnessing the same trajectory, for Israel’s killing of children and women is being brushed off as they are labelled “human animals” by Israel’s defence minister.

The rising insecurities vis-a-vis Muslims in such countries have also added to the rising threat of xenophobia. The question of people other than natives is being seen through the lens of a state’s national security, where Muslims, Christians and Jews are called out for the actions that they have no connections with. Therefore, the loyalty of such non-natives is continuously being questioned, as they are forced to prove their true citizenship by condemning Hamas and praising Israel’s apartheid regime. Similarly, many countries are using immigration policies as a tool to discriminate against individuals who may have any perceived association with Hamas.

READ: Germany: Palestinian stripped of refugee status for Palestine activism

The UK immigration authorities are revoking the visas of individuals who they claim are contributing to anti-Semitism or who support Hamas. However, no similar projects are running for those peddling anti-Muslim rhetoric. Moreover, several other countries have imposed strict bans on the anti-Israel demonstrations under the pretext of assumed “inflammatory anti-Semitic chants.” In Germany, the government has directed school authorities not to allow students to wear the traditional Palestinian scarf, the keffiyeh. Moreover, in Neukoelln –  Berlin’s district with a huge population of Arabs and Turks – police have occupied the area to look for any signs of Palestinian identity or support.

After 7 October, many European countries lit their state buildings up with the colours of the Israeli flag, showing solidarity with the occupation state. This also highlighted their prejudice in the face of Palestinian sufferings. The international community is polarising the world by undermining Palestinian activism and Muslim communities are facing discrimination and hate at the hands of opinion makers and narrative builders. Their selective acts are contributing to rising Islamophobia and undermining the Palestinian cause, which remains unsupported by Western global leaders in the face of each country’s self-interests.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.