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September 18, 2009
Washington DC –A diverse group of protestors gathered on Embassy Row at the approximate midway point between the White House and the Israeli embassy. As the noon-sun reached its zenith, Muslims and non Muslims, mothers and young children, students and grandparents approached the Circle wearing their khefayahs, and holding their flags or hand-made signs. The event began with the group recitation of surah al-Fatihah, the most commonly recited prayer by Muslims, asking Allah to guide them to the path of those who please Allah, not those who incur His wrath and displeasure. The moderator then introduced the theme of Quds Day and its origins. Thirty years ago Imam Khomeini called for the establishment of Quds Day on last Friday of the month of Ramadhan. The month of Ramadhan is a time of spiritual improvement for the individual as well as the community. Echoing this month-long improvement, Quds Day is another step in improving our connections with rest of the world-wide community and our connection to the Creator’s command to stand with the oppressed against the oppressors. The word “Quds” is Arabic for “the holy place” and is the Arabic name for Jerusalem and the surrounding lands. Quds Day is an opportunity for participants to proclaim support for a Holy Land free from the oppression and injustice wrought by Zionism. It’s a day to reinvigorate our support for our brothers and sisters who are struggling to live in dignity.
With this short explanation of the origins and purpose of Quds Day the first speaker was introduced and his organization was invited to speak.
A group of orthodox rabbis representing Neturei Karta International had travelled from New York to join the rally. Neturei Karta is an orthodox Jewish group founded in Jerusalem in response-to and rejection-of Zionism at the turn of the 19th century. Rabbi Yisoroel Dovid Weiss, standing in front of Palestinian flags and signs that read “Gaza=Auschwitz”, began by establishing that from a Jewish perspective rooted in the Torah, the entire existence of Israel is illegal, and that the Zionist ideology that led to its creation is also the “root cause of every drop of blood in Palestine.” Such startling words coming from a firmly Jewish presence based in New Jersey shatter the “anti-Semite” rhetoric that is the innate response of many uneducated and often bigoted Israel-supporters. Rabbi Weiss stated that Jews were commanded by their Lord to live in peace and harmony with their neighbors, and that contrary to the Zionist dogma, were forbidden by their Lord to come out of their status of being exiled from the Holy Land as a people.
The creation of the State of Israel, he mentioned, marks the Zionist attempt to transform Judaism from a spiritual religion to a political and nationalistic one. As an aftermath, this effort has “slaughtered Jewish spirituality,” and has led to the uprooting of the souls of Jews from their Lord. He pointed out that Zionism has absolutely zero Jewish theological foundations. The founders of the modern Zionist movement, leaders like Theodor Herzl and Ze’ev Jabotinsky were openly hostile to the Jewish religion and heaped ridicule upon observant Jews. Rabbi Weiss said these early Zionists were able to achieve support because they were willing to “kidnap the Jewish name” and use “the Torah as a deed to the land” without actually respecting the laws of the religion. In the meantime, they have gotten away with this behavior by creating a smoke screen and conning people to believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is based on religious differences between Muslims and Jews, and not the politics of oppression and usurpation of resources. Rabbi Weiss mentioned that the Zionists aggressively go after anyone, including Jews, through “ridicule, attacks, and intimidation.” Rabbi Weiss urged the audience to recognize and resist the Zionist agenda, denounce this massive error in modern history, and pray for peace which can only come from God.
After a commemoration of the massacre of Sabra and Shatilla (since the 27th anniversary fell two days prior), and poetry by spoken word artist Ebrahim Mohseni, the event continued with words from Reverend Graylan Haglar, a senior minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in DC. With a prophetic presence and a history of activism that reaches back to working against the apartheid regime in South Africa, the reverend had some very pragmatic advice for activists. For one thing, he noted that a difficult aspect of this struggle is that it is a “protracted one,” but this also means that it “has to be a creative one.” He offered his own experience in struggling against the apartheid regime of South Africa in Boston. He recounted the story of how he, along with other anti-apartheid activists, were calling for Harvard to divest from apartheid South Africa and how these calls were being ignored. So the activists paid a visit to the law firm that handled Harvard’s entire investment portfolio. They went into the offices and took it over, occupying it all day, refusing to leave or to allow the firm to conduct its business since it had relations with South Africa. The activists wanted to prove to the corporate world that they would “NOT be able to do ‘business-as-usual’” until they decided to “stand for justice and to stand for every soul that is Palestinian.”
This very public, non-violent action brought awareness to their cause, and is a perfect example of the creativity that can be employed. This approach is necessary because, despite the deaths that have occurred on both sides, the playing field between Isrealis and Palestinians is not equal. And so, the reverend urged the crowd to “be with those who are oppressed while justice cannot be served. Until we find that our brothers and sisters in Palestine have a safe, decent, hopeful future we cannot do otherwise except to stand with them.” One example of this inequality and oppression is the security wall, which the reverend said is, “designed for a land grab—to control the water, the movement of people, and that is apartheid, and there’s no other way to cut it.” As for the settlements, he said: “we have to continue to resist settlements being placed on Palestinian territory—these settlements are against international law, moral law, and the law of God. Stand up and continue the resistance.” The fact that he was able to draw from previous experiences of fighting—and over coming—oppression was an excellent source of inspiration and reminder of the importance of spirituality guiding moral actions.
International ANSWER activist Eugene Puryear echoed this sentiment of hope within a seemingly bleak and discouraging situation, calling for the support of the Palestinian people and their human rights. He was followed by Hajj Mauri Saalakhan, Director of the Peace and Justice Foundation. While he mentioned that Genocide is taking place in various locations today, he made a distinction between the case of the Palestinians and other groups. He said that, “Zionism has an official, in your face…military and material cover,” that most other militaries and regimes do not have, which puts them at a severe advantage. Despite this international leverage, he quoted several American individuals who have come to recognize and speak out against Zionism and its lobbyists in the United States. Among those quoted in his book, The Palestinians Holocaust: American Perspectives are vice president Jimmy Carter and student activist Rachel Corrie.
Brother Afeef Khan, who serves on the editorial board for Crescent International was the final speaker. He made another interesting observation that seldom receives coverage or consideration. In addition to the corrupt moral foundations of the state, Israel has attracted other social ills that endanger healthy, wholesome, and peaceful existence of people. Today, the country is “the nexus of the worldwide drug trade, the trafficking of women, worldwide insecurity, arms sales and financial crisis.” These activities, unsupported by any people of faith, have naturally flourished in a state that usurped a Jewish identity for its own material benefit. They are further proof of Rabbi Weiss’s warning that the spirituality of the Jewish people is being slaughtered by Zionism, since no Jew who is loyal to the true teachings of the Torah and the commands of the Creator would be engaging in actions that make the world more harmful and toxic. With this view in mind, the “solution begins with the destruction of the state of Israel,” which would put an end to the negative intentions of the policies of the secular regime.
After the speakers, the organizers of the rally pointed out, as had Reverend Hagler, that Quds Day is not the only day of the year to be conscious of oppression in the Holy Land. Quds Day is a day to inspire and reinvigorate people for the next 364 days of the year. With this thought in mind, magnets were handed out to the crowd. The magnets were provided as a resource for families. The magnets listed 3 of the largest American companies that offer economic support to the Israeli apartheid economy. The magnet listed the “sins” of these companies or their CEOs and provided some basic information on the global consumer boycott of Apartheid Israel. The information was gleaned from the Inminds.co.uk website, a website offer researched information about dozens of companies that support the Israeli Apartheid economy.
Finally the rally participants endorsed four resolutions. The crowd then marched and chanted several blocks to a jummah prayer in front of the Washington DC Islamic Center. Imam Muhammad al-Asi continued with the theme of Quds Day with his khutbah.
The overall effect of the speakers was tremendous: religious leaders from the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities, as well as human rights activists covered various reasons why a Zionist Israel is as unacceptable as an Apartheid South Africa was. Wisdom, experience and encouragement were all offered in the struggle to remember and support our brothers and sisters in Palestine. Aside from this outstanding panel of speakers, there was another source of encouragement and inspiration: the crowd itself. Though small, it was filled with young families—many mothers and children were in attendance, as well as the elderly. Only Allah knows the length of the Palestine-Israel conflict, but the seed for peace through justice is firmly planted in our youngest generation.