IslamophobiaMiddle East

Opinion: I Used to be a Staunch Zionist and Here is What it Taught Me

“How feeble are humans to think that hurting another human is right because God told you so. I fear for us, I really do…”

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“How feeble are humans to think that hurting another human is right because God told you so. I fear for us, I really do…”

They say that 9/11 changed the world, but I believe nothing has changed the world as 10/7 did.

As a kid, I did not know what Israel was and I did not know what Palestine was. Actually, I did not even know what was happening outside my country. All I knew was that there is Disneyland in the USA. The first time that I got to know about this “conflict” was during the 2nd intifada.

Many remember that video of Jamal al-Durrah and his son, Mohammed al-Durrah, that still symbolises the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation.

For me? I distinctly remember watching a video of an Israeli helicopter firing missiles on a Palestinian building and Palestinians shouting “Allahuakbar” as it happened. This video has been etched on the walls of my mind ever since. “Why is this happening? Who are these people?”, I thought.

I started watching the news and documentaries about Palestine and saw pictures of Israeli atrocities. My first thought was, “Is this what hate looks like?” Then came July 2006, and the Israel-Hezbollah war started.

I saw pictures of Israeli children writing messages for Lebanese children on Israeli missiles and I also saw pictures of the charred remains of Lebanese children from those rockets. My mind just couldn’t fathom such an atrocity. I was heartbroken. But this heartbreak wasn’t going to last long.

At around the age of 20, I started having my own spiritual conflicts and decided to leave Islam. I hated it and I hated Muslims. My hatred for the religion and its followers grew so much that I started thinking, “Islam is wrong, Muslims are wrong, and Arabs are wrong.” To give an image or a symbol to my newborn hatred, I looked at what has been happening in Palestine since almost 76 years now.

Israel became that symbol, despite all the photos and videos that I saw. Israel, to me, represented God’s miracle. I thought, “Israel has been through so much, and yet it’s still standing strong; that must be God’s miracle. Look at these Muslims; they start the war and then cry foul. How typical.” To me, Israel was God’s punishment for the wrongdoers.

I attended seminars at my university about Israel, where I was given stationary items that said, “Am Ysrael Chai” and “I love Israel.” I befriended Israeli exchange students, and we would talk about the greatness of Israel. Netanyahu became a hero to me. I had memorized “Hatikva” after listening to it only thrice.

I was in love with Israel and my hatred for Muslims got deeper and deeper. But now that I think about it, was it even love or was it me acting out of spite because of my own spiritual deficiencies?

Operation Protective Edge happened in July 2014 and I was among the people who cheered for the IDF. “What about the dead children?”, you may ask.

You see, I saw the whole Palestine-Israel “conflict” as the wrong people fighting the right people with the wrong people using children as their soldiers. Then happened the Dawabsheh family massacre. I saw the massacre on the news and my heart started to fill with sorrow. But I wasn’t supposed to feel sorrow for a Palestinian because I was a staunch Zionist.

As the Israeli atrocities continued happening, my conscience started getting more and more disturbed. But how can a baby be shot dead like that? How can a baby be burned to death like that? I saw videos of settler violence against Palestinians and first I thought, “Well, they started the war and they lost the war so this is what happens” (A narrative very common among West Bank settlers, no?).

I remember watching a video of a female settler verbally abusing a Palestinian woman and I thought, “Well, I’m sure that Arabs would do a lot worse if the roles were to be switched”. But as I watched more settler violence videos, my thought process started changing little by little.

Then came back Islam in my life, Alhamdolillah. With Islam coming back into my life, my conscience completely changed. Is this what hatred looks like? Can a person even hold this much hate in them? Is this what I am becoming? Did I really cheer for the IDF’s atrocities? What did I become? These kids could have been my nephews and nieces. Who is this “god” that they so proudly claim to be chosen by? My Allah would never tell us to do what they are doing to the Palestinians. I am blessed to not call myself a Zionist anymore, but the guilt still haunts me.

My entire experience that I have shared with you all has taught me (and still is) how dangerous it is to hate. How frightening it is to see what hate can do to someone… more than that, how frightening it is to be so sure of oneself when committing wrong and usurping the rights of others. And most importantly, how frightening it is to be so full of one self and walk with so much pomp that you claim to be God’s chosen and, therefore, what you are doing is His will without a second guess. How feeble are humans to think that hurting another human is right because God told you so. I fear for us, I really do…

I think that Israel gives us as much of a lesson to learn as Palestine does. One teaches us how to be right and the other teaches us how to be wrong… If you’re reading this and are still neutral about whatever that has happened and is currently happening, please wake up. If you’re reading this and think that whatever that is happening is correct, please let go of your contempt for another before it destroys everything human in you.

May Allah have mercy on the people of Palestine, and may we not become the thing that we stand against.

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