Prophetic Voices Needed!

Palestinians remove debris from a building that was damaged after an Israeli strike, in Gaza City, Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. It'
Palestinians remove debris from a building that was damaged after an Israeli strike, in Gaza City, Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. It's the Israel's military second strike on the building in two days. Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad says an Israeli strike on a Gaza media center has killed one of its top militant leaders. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Today is the sixth day of the Muslim New Year, and in two days we will celebrate the long-awaited Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S. This is a providential overlap created by Islam's lunar calendar crossing paths with the Western Gregorian calendar. This overlap seemingly invites me and many others to take part in many layers of joy and festive celebrations. But the mood in the Antepli household is far from joy and celebration, mainly because of the recent outbreak of violence in Gaza. I think many households in the U.S. and around the world share this bitter and resentful mood of ours and join the Antepli family in our grief and mourning over what has been going on in Israel and Palestine in the last couple of days.

Everything you hear and watch about the conflict is such a fatal strike to your hope that you wonder whether there will ever be peace in that part of the world and whether there will ever be peace between Jews and Muslims in general. As all violent conflicts, this recent one gives rise to some of the most destructive and ugliest voices on all sides. Since the Gaza operation started, with no time wasted, prominent politicians, journalists and religious leaders in Israeli society have been calling for the total extermination of Gaza by leveling all the neighborhoods and killing its citizens. Simultaneously, their Arab and Muslim counterparts have been calling for the total destruction of Israel and wiping her off the world map.

These regretful voices are no doubt the voices of fringe and marginal groups and do not represent the majority of either side in this conflict. However, during these trying times they gain too much underserved legitimacy, recognition and support. To me the real danger is that these violent and shameful fringe voices are shaping the image of their entire society for the rest of the world. Muslims and pro-Palestinian groups all over the world have been feeding on so many Israeli voices calling for a "Palestinian Holocaust." Unfortunately, these marginal voices continue to shape the image of Jews, Judaism and Israel for many around the world, especially in Muslim societies. Meanwhile, the picture among Israelis and pro-Israeli groups around the world is equally destructive and troubling--for many, all they hear is the regretful Muslim and or Arab voices calling for the total destruction of Israel and even Jews in general.

I believe that those who desire peace for all Israelis and all Palestinians are in the majority--but they have to speak up. They can no longer remain a silent and ineffective majority and continue to let their crazies dominate the conversation and run the show. Unless these moderate and sane, but seemingly frozen, majorities are mobilized and energized to claim a voice in their respective societies, we will never see peace in Israel and Palestine.

Thus, the important question is: How? How can we breath life into the will of silent and confused majorities? What does it take for these people to finally say: "Enough is enough!" and " It is time for sanity and civility?" History has shown over and over that crowds are mobilized mainly through prophetic voices and movements within their communities. People or groups that have credibility and the respect of their communities should be ready to risk that credibility, respect and, sometimes, their own safety to fearlessly speak up for justice, peace and reconciliation.

Prophetic Muslim and Arab voices are needed--voices that will unequivocally condemn any forms of terrorism and violence, dismiss any justification for hurting innocent civilians in any given condition, and shun any voices calling for the destruction of Israel. Prophetic Israeli and Jewish voices are needed--voices that will call out Israel for the state's unjustified and excessive violence against Palestinians, compassionately condemn the inhuman living conditions of Palestinians in occupied territories and refugee camps, and unequivocally condemn human rights violations against Palestinians both in the occupied territories and within Israel as unethical and immoral, and therefore un-Jewish and not Kosher. More Prophetic American voices are needed--voices that will challenge Uncle Sam for his unhelpful and counter productive role in this bloody conflict since its beginning, fearlessly question how American tax dollars are being used and spent over this issue, and demand for a better way of dealing with this bleeding wound in the heart of humanity.

Dear members of silent moderate majorities, praying and wishing for peace is simply not enough. Talking the talk and expecting others to do something about it is wrong and adds insult to injury. Marginalizing and distancing yourself from your own crazies, just because you are not one of them, is self-delusion and fatal. Thinking that somehow over time an invisible hand will fix this problem is a sin and a gross ethical and moral failure. Please, for the sake of whatever you believe, wake up from your troubling sleep and start walking the talk and doing something about this before it is too late!

This column was originally published in the Duke Chronicle. It has been reprinted with permission.