We at AIFD have been watching the continued tensions and violence in Israel with heavy hearts and increasing concern.
AIFD has always been committed to a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict which would grant all parties dignity, peace, and a safe homeland. As we’ve watched the latest rise in violence unfold – including horrific stabbings, incitement, and street violence – we join many in struggling to maintain hope.
Many organizations avoid the topic of Israel altogether to avoid getting into the often toxic dynamic that results when individuals are not able to engage with reason. At AIFD, we have been clear in our support for a solution resulting in meaningful coexistence and lasting peace. An integral part of this position is a commitment to recognizing the State of Israel, and encouraging our fellow faithful to do the same. Further, we believe that all forms of radicalism and violence must be opposed – and the kind that has resulted in the targeting of Israeli civilians by radicalized individuals yielding knives is no exception.
The State of Israel was created as a result of one of the most horrific crimes in human history – the genocide of millions of Jews at the hands of the Nazis. In 2015, anti-Semitism remains rampant: from stabbings to attacks on synagogues and attacks on visibly religious Jews, anti-Jewish sentiment is far from extinguished. We, as faithful Muslims and fellow citizens, understand and respect the need for the State of Israel, and hope for the day when Israelis and Palestinians can truly live side by side in peace.
As Americans and as Muslims, we must recognize this: what happens in Israel may ultimately find its way here. Indeed, we have already seen attacks on religious Jews in New York City, and a stabbing attack in California. While the motive in the California attack is still being investigated, even the possibility of a “copycat attack” inspired by stabbing crimes in Israel is of grave concern.
All who are rightly worried about the advance of groups like ISIS and their supporters should take special note of this rise in violence: not only have ISIS supporters tweeted support for the attacks in Israel, they’ve also expressed support for the stabbing attack just last week in California. While social media has the capacity to organize people – including youth – for positive change, it is also one of the key tools used by radicals to recruit people of all genders, ages and backgrounds. Stabbing attacks in particular have been encouraged – from both ISIS and radicals in the West Bank and surrounding areas. In the words of Palestinian cleric Muhammad Salakh: “Restrain the victim while others attack him with axes and butcher knives…do fear what will be said of you…next time, attack in a group of three, four, or five. Attack them in groups. Cut them into body parts.” This sermon has been widely distributed. The “Intifada of the Knives,” as it is called, has been bolstered by the likes of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood movement worldwide, and ISIS – who launched a campaign called “Project Behead the Jews.” Videos distributed by the group and by Hamas include titles like “Lovers of Stabbing.”
In California, Faisal Muhammad carried out an attack initially reported as something fueled by minor inter-personal frustrations. Alarmingly, the autopsy of Muhammad’s body revealed that he had written a manifesto – and that while the catalyst for his violence seemed to be a conflict with other students, he did use religious language in his promises to kill. Would he have lashed out at other students regardless of current events in the Middle East? Maybe. But is it also possible that his method and level of vitriol were inspired by what is happening in Israel and everywhere radicalization takes hold? Very possibly, if not likely.
AIFD condemns, in no uncertain terms, the violence perpetrated against Israeli citizens, and acts daily against the anti-Semitism behind the venomous attacks on Israel. We invite you to watch our video blog, “We are not post anti-Semitism” by clicking here. We also continue to work steadfastly at combatting the ideology of groups like ISIS, with the solemn and urgent awareness that without a firm and consistent strategy against these groups, we will all find ourselves in increasing peril.