"It is not with rancor that we criticize the Israeli government, but with hope, a hope that a better future can be made for both Israelis and Palestinians, a future in which both the violence of the occupier and the resulting violent resistance of the occupied come to an end, and where one people need not rule over another, engendering suffering, humiliation, and retaliation. True peace must be anchored in justice." --Desmond Tutu
On July 31st, over 60 Minnesota mosques, interfaith groups, civil liberties organizations, and other groups concerned about peace and justice held a press conference at Masjid An Nur in Minneapolis to call for an immediate end to Israel’s airstrikes on civilians in Gaza. The groups also joined the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The global movement for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights was initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005, and is coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), established in 2007. BDS is a strategy that allows people of conscience to play an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for justice.
The speakers included Muslim, Jewish, and Christian leaders as well as activists from various participating organizations.
Imam Makram El Amin of Masjid An Nur, stressed on the Islamic teaching of standing up for justice and quoted the saying of Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings:
“Whosoever of you sees a wrong, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his speech; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart – and that is the weakest of faith.”
Elisabeth Geschiere, representing Break the Bonds organization, talked about the group’s opposition to the State of Minnesota investing close to 30 million in Israeli bonds. She also emphasized that Minnesota’s investment in Israel supports an apartheid system in both Israel and the Occupied Territories that causes thousands of civilian deaths, many of whom are children, and which involves the widespread abuse of human rights.
Jordan Ash, representing the Jewish Voice for Peace, gave an impassioned speech on the Jewish perspective on the current conflict. His speech is reproduced below:
“When asked to teach someone the entire Torah while standing on one foot, Rabbi Hillel said, ‘That which is hateful to you, do not do to others. This is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary. Go and learn it.’ Supporters of Israel’s military offensive in Gaza have violated this central tenet of Judaism by disregarding Israel’s hateful actions.
Several sources have confirmed that this entire escalation was artificially created by the Israeli government which knew for weeks that the three kidnapped teenagers were dead, but maintained the lie that it hoped to find them alive, to justify the mass arrests and collective punishment of Palestinians. The Israeli government also insisted falsely that Hamas was responsible.
The result of this manufactured crisis has been devastating. Over 1,100 Palestinians have been killed, mostly civilians and including many children, and 7,000 Gazans have been injured. Fifty-three Israeli soldiers have been killed.
I am a member of the Mount Zion synagogue in St. Paul which recently completed a year of tzedek¸a year of justice. In his sermon to kick the year off, Rabbi Spilker said the pursuit of justice has been part of Judaism since Abraham’s arguing with God over innocent lives in Sodom and Gomorrah.
It is this tradition that requires us to look at the root cause of the current crisis – Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. The occupation denies the very humanity of Palestinians, while valuing Jewish lives at the expense of others.
For almost fifty years, the Israeli military has had total authority over every aspect of Palestinian life in these areas. Palestinians are subjected to daily and systematic home demolitions, checkpoints, arrests and indefinite detention. The occupation denies the very humanity of Palestinians, while valuing Jewish lives at the expense of others."
Dr. Jehad Adwan, Clinical Asst. Professor at the U of M School of Nursing, gave a first-hand account of life in Gaza. With several of his family members still in Gaza, he talked about how he feels sad, angry, and vulnerable. As the Israeli offensive unfolds deep into Gaza, he is unable to sleep and stays glued to the computer, scouring for news about his family and friends. He recounted his visit to Gaza in 2013 and highlighted the deplorable conditions that exist in Gaza due to the Israeli blockade. He expressed his distress on the death of a physician and a professor as their U.N. marked vehicle was shot up by the Israeli army. His heartrending story of the suffering in Gaza left many in the audience in tears. He appealed to the people of conscience to not remain silent at the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza and to join the BDS movement to help relieve the suffering of people in Gaza.
The press release of July 31 from the organizing group in part read:
“Israel's ongoing assault on Gaza has killed more than 1500 Palestinian civilians - including 300 children - and injured 6000 civilians. It has devastated the civilian infrastructure, including the health sector, which is facing severe shortages. Israel is using the full force of its military against the captive Palestinian population, particularly in the besieged Gaza Strip. UN reports indicate that 80 percent of the people killed in Gaza have been civilians, raising serious concerns about Israel's disregard for international and humanitarian law.
In Israel, two civilians have been killed by Hamas rocket attacks, some property has been damaged and more than 50 soldiers have died since the Israeli military invaded Gaza. The loss of life or infrastructure on either side is unacceptable.”
To listen to the local speakers from various organizations see the YouTube videos below:
Below are the participating Minnesotan organizations:
Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center
Al Amal School
Al Aqsa Institute
Al Farooq Youth & Family Center
Al-Wafaa Center for Human Services
American Muslims for Palestine-MN Chapter
American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa
Blaine Community Center
Break the Bonds-Minnesota
Brooklyn Park Islamic Center
Building Blocks of Islam
Church of All Nations-Columbia Heights
Council on American-Islamic Relations, MN
Darul Arqam Center of Excellence
Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights
Faribault Islamic Center
Friends of Sabeel North America-Minnesota Chapter
Good Deeds Charity-USA
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Islamic Center of Minnesota
Islamic Civic Society of America
Islamic Community Center of Minnesota
Islamic Institute of Minnesota
Islamic Society of Woodbury- East Metro
Ja'afari Islamic Center
Jewish Voice for Peace
Masjid Al Huda
Masjid Al Taqwa
Masjid An Nur
Masjid As Salaam
MidEast Peace Now
Minnesota Coalition for Palestinian Rights
Minnesota Dawah Institute
Muslim American Society of Minnesota
Muslim Healthcare Professionals of Minnesota
Muslim Youth Leadership Award
Muslim Youth of Minnesota
National Lawyers Guild-Minnesota Chapter
North American Council of Somali Imams
Northfielders for Justice in Palestine/Israel
Northwest Islamic Community Center
Save The Kids Augsburg Chapter
Sisters Need A Place
Southeastern Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers
St. Cloud State University Muslim Student Association
Students for a Free Palestine-St. Cloud State University
Students for Justice in Palestine, University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota Muslim Student Association
Vets for Peace
Women Against Military Madness
In the coming days, we will have many educational workshops to educate the participants on BDS and how to proceed. If you wish to join us or would like to invite any of the speakers for an interview or a conversation, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org