Yasmine Mohammed is an ex-Muslim human rights activist and a founding member of the AHA-supported anti-Islamist CLARITy Coalition. She is also the founder of the Free Hearts, Free Minds initiative to help ex- and LGBT Muslims and the author of Unveiled: How Western Liberals Empower Radical Islam.
Yasmine has a Palestinian family background and she was shocked by the Hamas attack against Israel in October. Written just days after the attack, her reflections below are both moving and essential to understanding this crisis. AHA is proud to share her thoughts.
My father, who was born and raised in Gaza, lived his entire life hoping that there might be a peaceful two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. He spent his final years making YouTube videos on the topic and telling anyone who would listen about his family’s olive groves in Gaza. After witnessing the events of the past few days, I admit that part of me is relieved that he died before he had to watch Hamas take away his lifelong dream, slaughtering both it and Israeli civilians on video for the entire world to see. Hamas has ensured that there will be no more Palestine and no further hope for an independent state for the Palestinian people.
Over the past few days, people have sent me what I consider flippant messages asking me something to the effect of, “Are you pro-Israel or pro-Palestine,” as if we are all watching a football match. Are you wearing a blue jersey or a red jersey? I wear neither. I am in black, mourning for the Palestine that could have been. With a gorgeous waterfront overlooking the Mediterranean Sea that was recently made safe for swimming, with fertile soil that sustained ancient olive groves, the land possesses the resources for success. Gaza also had the funding. Generous governments, corporations, nonprofits, and individuals had been flooding the area with tens of billions of dollars for decades. However, instead of focusing on developing a potential tourism industry, investing in innovative infrastructure, or helping the Gazan people thrive on their land, tragically, Hamas chose terrorism.
The world knows Hamas now as terrorists, who have committed the most depraved atrocities, acts on par with or perhaps even exceeding those of the Islamic State. However, the people of Gaza already knew Hamas and its leaders. They have been suffering in relative silence under these monsters for years. Hamas has killed and harmed Palestinians critical of the party, as well as individuals accused of collaborating with Israel. This ensured that others with similar ideas would choose to remain silent and refrain from criticizing Hamas. Even those who hated Hamas chanted their allegiance loudly, out of fear for their lives and those of their families.
Some in the West have called those aligned with Hamas freedom fighters and decolonizers. Now, after the videos that have surfaced, they should have no choice but to accept that they were dead wrong. Fellow regressive, Islamic regimes such as those in Iran and Afghanistan are reveling in the rivers of Israeli blood. They do not see Jewish people as humans. They see Jews as objects to be eradicated as per the Hadith by their prophet Mohammed, which instructs that Muslims must kill Jews until not a single Jew is left standing. Even the rocks and the trees will work with the Muslims against Jews according to the Hadith, as they call out, “O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.”
Even in Egypt, a supposedly more progressive Muslim-majority country, a police officer took it upon himself to murder two Israeli tourists, who were visiting ancient ruins in Alexandria. He killed their guide too, who was probably trying to protect them. The tourism industry has been relatively nonexistent in Egypt due to first the revolution and then the pandemic. Egypt is suffering greatly due to soaring inflation that is threatening lives daily. And, yet, killing Jews was more important. Even if it means threatening the anemic tourism industry, this police officer was happy to cut off the noses of Egyptians to spite his face.
I have to admit that I never shared my father’s optimism. I never could imagine the two states living side by side. The past 75 years have been just delaying the inevitable. The adherents of these two Abrahamic faiths in the Middle East clearly hate one another, and the only way there could have ever been hope is if both groups had progressed past their ancient religious texts. Unfortunately, both sides did the opposite. Israel has been pulled further and further toward the orthodox right-wing, and Gaza, accordingly, has become more extremist, electing terrorists who follow a literal interpretation of Islamic scripture. Now, it is clear that we, including those of us in the West, have been just watching the mercury rise for decades. There could have been hope 70 years ago when Israel was being founded by more secular and liberal individuals and terrorists had not yet overrun Gaza, but the writing has, unfortunately, been on the wall for a long time now.
Almost all of my father’s family is scattered across the globe, as is true of most Palestinians. There are second and third generations being born in diaspora with no connection to the land there anymore. This is not new for the Middle East, unfortunately. Jewish people with roots in every country from Algeria to Yemen have been all but eradicated from their homelands as well. Egypt has barely a handful of Jews remaining, down from the hundreds of thousands who once thrived in that nation. Hopefully, a few Gazans will remain in Gaza. Maybe they will be able to live in their homeland, finally, without fear.
I have never been to Gaza. My children have never been to Gaza. Maybe, one day, my grandchildren will visit and read a plaque on some ancient monument that describes that this used to be the land of a people who called themselves Palestinians. They had a rich culture; delicious food; and beautiful, bright, clothing. Now, they do not have a homeland because they chose violence over peace. Despite the abundance of olive branches in Gaza, they chose to extend a knife instead.