Palestinian-Israeli Conflict Strikes Personal Chord with Loss of Friendship

By Mona Shadia
Up until about four months ago, I called a pro-Israeli Persian Jew my best friend.

She and I were initially drawn to each other through an appreciation for a commitment to our respective faith — Islam for me and Judaism for her. We saw each other as representatives of the strong, intelligent women we seek and appreciate. We connected through various other life experiences, ones that Middle Eastern women encounter in America, like our struggle with a culture in America that defines beauty differently from our kind of beauty. We connected through a yearning for peace and freedom in the Middle East — Iran for her, Egypt for me, Jews and Muslims for both of us.

We connected through a craving for authentic love, the kind where there’s mutual respect and shared religious connection between a man and a woman. We found a connection through an appreciation for the Middle East’s rich culture, its intoxicating romance, extravagant music, seductive beauty and ancient civilization. We connected through heartbreak.

When it came to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a subject that would inevitably be discussed considering our respective religions, we found a common ground in wanting peace for both sides, in rejecting injustice and murder. We also felt that the foundation upon which our friendship stood was unshakable by this conflict.
I used part of a column I wrote about life as a Muslim in America for a local newspaper to showcase how through our friendship peace is possible, how peace is the ultimate goal and the ultimate liberator on earth.

Although we didn’t always agree on everything, we provided for each other a safe place to discuss the conflict. She knew I was a supporter of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel as a peaceful measure to pressure it to give Palestinians their freedom, to stop the continued illegal building of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to eliminate the more than 50 Israeli laws that distinguish and discriminate against Palestinians living in Israel.

She knew it all, and when she felt differently about some of my views I always refrained throughout our friendship from challenging her. I did it in the name of compromise, peace, friendship, the bread we broke together and the laughter and tears we shared. I also knew that she struggled to justify the immoral and criminal behavior and policies of Israel, and I didn’t want to make it harder on her.

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There were times when I felt a deep sense of guilt for not presenting the Palestinian side more forcefully in our conversations. After all, I openly criticized Arab nations and Muslims for their shortcomings and the destruction of which they’re responsible. How can I not do the same in the face of all injustices?

Things changed when she fell in love with a man who didn’t have the capacity for our kind of intelligent dialogue or debate.

Although I didn’t notice it at first, his tendency to slip a few hateful words here and there against Muslims and Arabs and lash out unexpectedly revealed his character to me overtime.

But the real problem was her attitude also changed. She was less inclined to talk about a solution and always concerned that Israel is being unfairly pointed out.

Then came the day when I posted a Los Angeles Times op-ed that identified Israel as an Apartheid state.

The boyfriend exploded, insulted me, my profession, journalism and journalists and told me that because I have Jewish friends, I should think twice before sharing these sort of articles or holding these beliefs.

There seemed to be no middle ground: To him, I either supported Israel or I was the enemy.

And my friend’s reaction? Silence. The reaction of the rest of our mutual friends, who also support Israel? More silence.

Here was I: someone she had known for years, with whom she had shared friendship, heartbreak, laughter. And there was he: someone she had known for less than a year.

I realized something through her silence, and the rest of the mutual friends’ silence. This silence wasn’t actually about the nature of her relationship with him or her desire to protect it. I realized her actions personified the current culture and attitude of Israel and its supporters: The Israeli culture of hate and vengeance that is unwavering even with the systematic murder and dehumanization of Palestinians. It is a culture that is not interested in prosecuting the mobs of settlers who torment, torture and burn alive Palestinians. A culture celebrated by Knesset members, rabbis and public figures.

And silence is what led that culture to where it is today. Because criticizing Israel and suggesting that its policies and behavior are reminiscent of crimes committed by others throughout history is considered a betrayal, self-hate or equated with hating Jews and being anti-Semite.

Criticizing other countries — like Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Mexico — and taking them to task for their behavior is viewed as an honorable and important cause. Criticizing Israel’s actions are equal to being anti-semitic, anti-Jewish, anti-democratic, immoral.

It was very tormenting for me to walk away from our friendship. She and I would at times talk about the day we’d both be married to our dream husbands and how our kids would grow up together — Muslims and Jews, side by side. But I knew stepping away was the best option for me. She didn’t look back and I wouldn’t allow myself to remain in any sort of a relationship where I wasn’t valued and appreciated.

But even after I stepped completely away from both of them, the hostility on her partner’s part continued. After Israel began its Operation Protective Edge, killing more than 2,000 people, injuring thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands, I received an unsolicited message from him telling me to enjoy the destruction Israel was causing to the Palestinians. He told me to not mess with the Jews, hurtling unspeakable insults about my gender and religion my way.

What I came to understand is this behavior was not the ranting of one crazy man. This for me became a snapshot of the culture and attitude Israel breeds. It’s a snapshot of the Israeli Defence Force soldiers who post celebratory photos of the destruction they do to the Palestinians. It’s a snapshot of the more than 90 percent of Israelis who are supportive of the ground incursion and don’t want a ceasefire. A snapshot of the Israeli leaders who call for revenge and who describe Palestinian children as snakes who should die. It is a snapshot of the chants on Israeli streets of no more schools in Gaza because there are no children left. A snapshot of the attacks and intimidation toward those Israelis and Jews who are speaking out against the occupation and murder of Palestinians. It is a snapshot of how the occupation continues and what has justified the dehumanization of a whole group of people.

This silence is what is keeping this culture alive and thriving. The silence is what brought it to where it is today.

The irony of course is this is exactly how six million Jews were killed: It was due to silence.

Mona Shadia is an Egyptian American writer and journalist living in Southern California

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19 responses to “Palestinian-Israeli Conflict Strikes Personal Chord with Loss of Friendship”

  1. Amatullah says:

    So heartbreaking to lose a trusted bestie.. All for a guy with immoral values! Huh.
    May Allah replace her for you with someone even better.

  2. Mow Sow says:

    Good stuff !! I love the punchline at the end ! But I think it is crucial for people to understand that the media plays a big role in the radicalization of Israeli society and that this radicalization is the tool used by Israeli politicians to accomplish their political gains. Because things did not used to be like that before the right wing wackjobs took power in Israel. Also the settlers movements is another thing that exercise a huge bully power on the government itself.
    So hate has more of a political motive and a land theft tool. The indirect result is the radicalization of the entire society, that takes hate for the sake of hate.. exactly like what the nazi regime did to German people, and everyone followed.
    We need to warn about this phenomena at every occasion .. especially that we see it happening under our own eyes in our own backyard.

  3. Joyce Larsen says:

    I have heard a quote by someone living in Germany at the time of the horrible crimes committed against the Jews. He said
    “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” – Martin Niemoller-

    As Muslims, we must speak out against all injustice- and this is where Allah (swt) commands us to rise above human tendencies- even if it is against “our” own people…. who we may even love. Silence kills.

  4. Sara says:

    This was a great post. It is sad to see such issues come between people. Inshallah, if it is good for your akhirah, deen and dunya I hope that eventually your friend will come around. Sometimes friendships need distance and time to become stronger than they were before.

    You said something that is puzzling.

    You said…

    “The Israeli culture of hate and vengeance…It is a culture that is not interested in prosecuting the mobs of settlers who torment, torture and burn alive Palestinians.”

    You make it sound that EVERY Israeli has hate and vengeance in their heart. I don’t deny that from childhood, many (but not all) Israeli’s are taught to hate, and distrust the Palestinians and to see them as the enemy.

    Unfortunately we have that on the Palestinian and Muslim side too. If you ever lived in the Middle East, you will hear many Arabs refer to Jews as pigs or dogs. Even during Friday sermons. I have seen and hear this first hand for many, many years.

    You can even see it in Arab And Iranian media. I have seen cartoons on Iranian State TV which teach kids that Israelis are cunning, liars and so on. You can see them on Youtube if you don’t believe me. that doesn’t mean that Iranians have a culture of hate. It just means that the Iranian government takes part in propaganda just like many governments around the world.

    Alhamdulilah I am a Muslim. And the injustice that is happening to Palestinians is horrific. But I cant deny that this culture of hate (towards Israelis and Jews) exists among Muslims, Iranians and Arabs too.

    What is disappointing here is the author of the article above has with the brush of her pen painted every Israeli as being hateful, when we know that isn’t true.

    How do we feel when people say that “Islam teaches terrorism”?

    Don’t we feel upset and angry?

    Dont we feel frustrated when the news portrays Muslims as “jihadis” and “extremists”?

    We know that Islam teaches only good. And yet, we are judged because of the actions of certain misguided groups.

    And yet what you wrote above is doing the same thing to Israelis.

    This statement “The Israeli culture of hate and vengeance…It is a culture that is not interested in prosecuting the mobs of settlers who torment, torture and burn alive Palestinians.” is essentially creating more hatred and ignorance among us and not conducive towards peace and understanding at all.

    Imagine if i said the following statements

    “The black culture teaches gun violence and gang mentality”

    “The Saudi Arabian culture teaches controlling and abusing women”

    “Islam teaches terrorism”

    Can you see how the racist and ignorant the above statements are?

    We shouldn’t make such black and white statements.

    You also mentioned that Israeli’s have a culture of “silence” towards injustice. That too is not true either.

    Many Israeli’s are vocal about the injustice that their government is committing towards the Palestinians. Many Israeli soldiers defected from the army and refused to serve because of the injustice.

    That is like me saying that American Muslims have a culture of silence because The USA government went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan and killed hundreds of thousands.

    Anyways….let us not do to others, what we dont want done to us.

  5. tut says:

    More fool you for taking a pro-Israeli as a best friend

  6. Sara says:

    It seems muslimmatters is censoring comments. I had posted a comment expressing my opinion and it has not been published. My comment had no profanities or anything distasteful.

  7. scorpius says:

    “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is a chant by Pro-Palestinian protesters

    “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

    Hamas Covenant. So, the Palestinians want to wipe out Israel and the Jews and The majority of Gazans support them through their vote.

    Add to that Hamas using Gazan civilians as human shields. Add to that the Anti-semitic attacks by Palestinians against Jews in many European countries and you begin to see the nature of the Pro-Palestinian crowd: hatred of jews and thirst for vengence.

    When you see the “culture of hate and vengeance that is unwavering even with the systematic murder and dehumanization” you’re not looking at your Zionist friend; you’re looking in a mirror.

    • GregAbdul says:

      Scorpius you are right but you are typical. You can clearly see the hate and wrong done by the other side. It is your excuse to condemn an entire people and to refuse to see their humanity and for you to refuse to see them as individuals and for you to refuse to see a world where they are given basic human rights. While you paint your side as Lilly white and right. Either you are a white Christians engaged in subtle KKK behavior (some not whites are less than) or you are Jewish and you, like many in Israel are showing signs of Stockholm Syndrome.

  8. GregAbdul says:

    I thank Muslim Matters for being such a well-run, informative website. Palestine is really so much on my mind. I am black American. As such, I constantly deal with questions of identity and authenticity, of what it means to be truly Muslim black and American in America in 2014 and beyond. I love Jews, but I am not on the side of the Israeli government when it comes to the Palestinians. I see the fundamentals of a powerful Muslim Jewish alliance. We are both high-achieving minorities.
    What separates us Israel. What I am tired of is that when I try to talk to non-Muslims, they assume a basic part of my religion is hating Jews. I just read a Muslim magazine. Sami al Arian this and Gaza that…. We spend so much energy talking politics under the guise of standing up to oppressors, that we end up misleading the entire West about what are supposed to be our core beliefs. There is a hadeeth where a companion says, if someone were to put a blade to his throat, he would recite the Kalimah to that person. I am wrong for not giving the source so please call me out if I am spreading falsehood. I am trying to be brief.
    Our first obligation is to make the world know that we believe God is One. He has no partners. God is not in need of any special trick in order to forgive His creation. His only demand is that we NEVER associate any thing or person with Him and His majesty. This is the message of Muhammad. This the message we are supposed to carry forth with our very lives.
    I am not supposed to die over Palestine, just because Muslims are there. The Jews will never allow a full Palestinian state. In America, the Native Americans were pushed into reservations and they died by the millions. This the equivalent of the Muslim demands for a two state solution. Why, when you know the people you are dealing with will never fairly divide the resources of the region, would you insist on a line where they have resources you have no say over?
    In the West (I am a Western Muslim) in America, the power lies with the vote and the goal is always the vote. This is how we fight the oppression: with sound arguments based in democratic traditions combined with the vote. This is why I am dumbfounded. The obvious solution and goal for the Palestinians is FULL Israeli citizenship. If the Palestinians demanding Israeli citizenship it will force America to back away from Israel and once the argument is successful, it will gives Palestinians an equal political say in the region’s resources. It saddens me that we have let this issue define us as Muslims.
    Hamas should not set the agenda for Muslims living in America. In the West our obstacles are clear. We should be about freedom of worship, free from discrimination and dispersing the truth given to us by God through His Prophet. This is my uniformed opinion. I thank Allah for making me Muslim. I love all the Muslims in the world because of Allah’s blessing, but I am confused at how we don’t understand mass communication and long-term ideological stands the way Allah blessed our Prophet to understand them.

    Allah is the Most High. Peace and blessings be upon the messenger of Allah.

    • scorpius says:

      Full Israeli citizenship for Palestinians is a good, workable idea if this were 10 years ago. But in the interim the people of Gaza elected Hamas with all their racist and genocidal ramblings. Now the people of Israel can’t afford to let those same people vote.

      • GregAbdul says:

        People make stupid votes. That’s a part of democracy. The hope of democracy is that after the people make stupid votes, they get to see the results and make smarter votes as they move forward. The Palestinians need a lot of development, but they only have one path and their mistakes are not an excuse to ban them from the equality that is due to all people, regardless of religion or race.

      • Sara says:

        Hamas are resistant fighters. How much land has israel stolen? How many lives has israel taken?

        Did you really expect the people of palestine to just sit back and take it?

        The french had resistance fighters to combat the cruelty of king louis. South africa had resistance fighters to fight the racist apartheid regime.

        Israel is reaping what it has sowed all these years

    • Iman says:

      well said. let’s leave aside politics and focus on God and the mission at hand. pray globally, dawah locally.

  9. Iman says:

    honestly, i don’t think the choice the author made to see her friend’s reaction as a manifestation of a particularly israeli trait (being silent about current wrongs) is entirely correct. it’s understandable, and useful to talk about a larger issue, but i really think she just took the position she did to keep her boyfriend and not lose him, and to accommodate his needs in a way many women do, for the sake of the same harmony you talk about – harmony in their relationship with a man they love. she did not participate in insulting you, and she did not want to come out against her man, so she took the middle road: silence. i can understand and sympathize and i think you as her friend should as well. she wants to get married- just like you talk about – do you want her to sacrifice her possible marriage for you?

  10. L Glaser says:

    I find it funny, when a comment support the author, Mona Shadia, a thumbs down response is ignored and only thumbs up ratings are registered. When the comment is not supportive of the author, any rating works. Very biased website.
    As for content, Mona is certainly entitled to her opinion, but her viewpoints are similar to the man she attacks, i.e. ALL Palestinians or ALL Israelis are evil.

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