Muslims And Jews United Under Injustice

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Co-authored by Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street President

Hate speech. Swastikas. Refugees demonized. Places of worship and community centers targeted.

Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and bigotry are on the rise in our country. In the past few weeks, Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated and a mosque has been burned. In Kansas, two men were wounded and one killed when an attacker mistook them for Muslims.

The trend is alarming and unacceptable - but it’s also given rise to a powerful resistance movement. Along with thousands of other Americans, the Muslim and Jewish communities are increasingly working and standing together to fight back.

Two Muslim activists helped raise tens of thousands of dollars to repair the desecrated Jewish cemetery in St. Louis. American Jews have been at the forefront of protests and rallies opposing Islamophobia and the discriminatory Executive Order on immigration.

This should not come as a surprise. While American Muslims and American Jews have often been depicted as antagonists on questions of foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the truth is that we share a common set of values, experiences and interests that are binding us closer with each passing day.

Through both firsthand experience and historical memory, Jews know what it is to be scapegoated and persecuted by demagogic leaders that resent their traditions, achievements, and “foreignness.” They know what it is to flee the horrors of war and violence, to seek refuge in a country built on principles of democracy, tolerance and equality.

American Jews understand that their safety and success in this country is rooted in these principles. The ultra-nationalist, exclusionary worldview of the Trump administration threatens not just Muslims and refugees, but all religious and ethnic minorities. Already, it has led to a rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric and incidents like what we saw this week in St. Louis.

Belated condemnation of anti-Semitism by the President does nothing to suppress the hatred that some of his strongest supporters are peddling. If allowed to spread unchecked, it could undermine the very foundations of liberal democracy in the United States, and efforts to build peace and security around the world. That’s why we are seeing Jews and Muslims protesting arm-in-arm around the country. It’s why advocacy groups like J Street, MPAC, and many others are joining broad coalitions to speak truth to power in Washington.

Yes, Jews and Muslims in the US sometimes disagree on aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the complex history of the Middle East. But the common ground we share on the threats to our democracy and civil rights does not exist in spite of our positions on foreign policy and the conflict. It is directly related.

Both of our communities want to see American global leadership built on the same principles of tolerance and respect that allow us to flourish at home. We want our leaders to embrace diplomacy, international partnership, and conflict resolution. We want to see a just two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Trump administration is a threat to this foreign policy vision. Already, Trump and many of those around him have shown a willingness to attack foreign leaders, and contempt for flawed but important international institutions that work towards humanitarian progress and peace.

With their crass threats and their slogan “America First”, Trump and some of his advisers are championing the idea of a US that involves itself in world affairs mainly to intimidate, bully, and punish. For Israelis and Palestinians, this is already having a devastating effect.

With the administration backing away from US support for the two-state solution, ultra-nationalists in Israel’s government and settlement movement feel empowered to rapidly expand settlements and declare that they will never accept a Palestinian state. Prime Minister Netanyahu has embraced Trump’s hyper-tribalist worldview - even seeming to validate the president’s plans for an America where walls go up and immigrants are kept out. All of this will only empower extremists in the Arab and Muslim world.

Unlike Trump and Netanyahu, our communities refuse to view the world as a zero-sum game, where Jews can only be safe at the expense of Muslims, or where self-determination for Palestinians means disaster for Israel.

Instead, we know that we can and must work together to achieve security, justice, and mutual respect. We will resist the scapegoating of our communities and faiths, and fight anti-immigration legislation that goes against both of our histories. We will advocate for principled, diplomacy-first foreign policy to resolve conflicts, not exacerbate them.

What unites us is far more powerful and important than anything demagogues like Trump could say or do to tear us apart.

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