I found it gratifying to see the Biden administration, earlier this year, hosting talks in Washington with the leaders of Israel and the United Arab Emirates and to see Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledging U.S. support to expand the Abraham Accords between Israel and the Arab states.
My enthusiasm was tempered, however, by the thought that such meetings at high levels of government never seem to address the extraordinary anti-Semitism persisting among the Arab states. I fear that if this aspect of relations with Israel is not resolved, then real and lasting peace will never be achieved.
Allow me to suggest 10 points to interject into future deliberations over the issue.
First, specific interpretations must be applied to certain Arabic terms taken from the Quran, the holy book of Islam. There are others, but for illustrative purposes let’s take three: yahud, Ashâb Al Sabt and Bani Israel, all dealing with how Arabs speak of Jews.
Almost all Arabs use yahud, often with derision, to refer to Jews and others outside the Muslim faith. Likewise, Ashâb Al Sabt or the “people of Saturday.”
These so-called epithets, however, ignore the Quran, which directs them specifically to small groups that existed only in the past. None exist today.
In fact, the Quran contains many positive verses that refer to Bani Israel, the “Children of Israel,” in a form that applies to those who do exist today. One such verse (2:47) states, “Recall my favour which I bestowed upon you, exalting you above all nations.”
Second, and related to the previous point, almost all messengers and prophets mentioned in the Quran are Bani Israel. They are, literally, Children of Israel. Accordingly, using the word “Israel” in a hateful or vengeful is a misinterpretation of the Quran and a grievous sin.
Third, other relevant verses in the Quran pertain to education, media and social media in the Middle East because they directly contradict the reasons for anti-Semitism.
One such verse (35:18) warns that “no bearer should bear the burden of any other person.” So many in the Muslim world hate the Jews because of historical conflicts between the two groups in the early stage of Islam.
Yet the Quran forbids Muslims to exact revenge on Jews because of conflicts that occurred among generations long ago.
Fourth, because many in the Muslim world believe the Jews are destroying the economy of their nations, they need a simple lesson about the modern history of the Middle East. That history demonstrates beyond doubt that countries such as Egypt, Iraq and Syria enjoyed much stronger economies when Jews numbered among their populations, before the emergent radical leaders of those countries ejected almost all of them in the 1960s.
Fifth, Arab lawmakers and leaders should oppose and even suppress anti-Semitism in their media because it is a major cause of hatred that impedes real peace.
Sixth, views that uphold the Quran should take precedence over any non-Quranic sources in Islam. For example, the prophecy that Muslims will behead all Jews before the end of days is not mentioned in the Quran. It exists only in non-Quranic sources and is a major contributor to pathological levels of anti-Semitism.
Seventh, we must recognize and convey aspects of Israel that clearly demonstrate the tolerance and desire for peace of the Israeli people. For example, Israel uses Arabic words on its currency notes as a sign of respect for the Arabs who live there. Such a gesture is virtually unknown elsewhere in the world.
Eighth — admittedly a minor point but a potentially useful one — Arabic movies once showed how Muslims, Christians and Jews could live together in peace and harmony. I recall a lovely comedy made in 1949.
Called “Fatma and Marika and Rachel,” it involved a young man in search of a wife who pursued three women, a Christian, a Jew and a Muslim. The story, and the fact that the movie was made and became popular at the time in Egypt, the country of my birth, shows how peaceful coexistence is possible among the Abrahamic faiths.
Ninth, team sports in the Middle East should include both Arabs and Israelis. Then, if an Arab — Israeli soccer team played, say, the Brazilian national team, wouldn’t Arabs and Israelis share support for those players?
All across the globe, sports act as a great unifier. Why not in the Middle East?
Tenth and last, the now-overwhelming influence of the internet and social media can promote all of these approaches to end hatred and begin a new era of unity and prosperity for Arabs and Israelis alike.
I pray for that day to arrive.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid (aka Tarek Abdelhamid) M.D., Mlitt (Edu), has testified before Congress and before the European Parliament. Dr. Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad: How Radical Islam Works, Why It Should Terrify Us, How to Defeat It." Read Dr. Tawfik Hamid's Reports — More Here.
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