In a seemingly counterintuitive example of interreligious dialogue, Muslim, Jewish and Christian groups have joined together to oppose the Israeli war in Gaza, staging massive demonstrations against the offensive and continuing violence in a show of solidarity that transcends religion.
A coalition of London-based Muslim groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and several Jewish organizations around the globe was the driving force behind the mass demonstrations staged throughout Europe and America to protest the Israeli massacre of Gazan civilians during the 22-day offensive that technically ended with a unilateral ceasefire Jan. 18 though air strikes have continued.
Up to 25,000 marchers hit the streets of Paris early January, while in Brussels a protest drew 30,000 on Jan. 11. The largest protests took place in Madrid where 250,000 rallied on Jan. 10 and another 100,000 in Barcelona. In London's Hyde Park protests drew a 100,000 in one day.
Kamal Al-Halbawy, an alternative media researcher and the London-based Brotherhood spokesperson, spoke of the massive efforts to coordinate Muslim, Jewish and Christian groups in the U.K. opposed to the war on Gaza and said their work revealed the extent of pro-Palestinian networks that transcend religious and ethnic identity.
"Faith groups were at the very heart of this campaign. Christians of various denominations and Jewish groups with different views on Israel all came out to support Muslim groups protesting the massacre of Palestinians," he told AlArabiya.net.
He said Jews who support justice for Palestinians do so because the Jewish character and sense of justice is at stake.
"They join the coalition out of concern and worry for what they see as the deterioration of the character of the Jew in Israel because of the brutal massacres, which they denounce and say 'this is not our religion'," he said.
Orthodox Jews against Israel
One such group is the Neturei-Karta International, or Jews United Against Zionism which refuses to recognize the state of Israel and regularly organizes anti-Israeli demonstrations
Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, who heads the organization from New York, told Al Arabiya.net that the group is strictly against Zionism, the force behind the establishment of Israel, and therefore has continued to join Muslim groups across Europe and North America in solidarity with Palestine.
"Zionism is a political construct that has caused strife between Arabs and the indigenous Jewish populations of Palestine. Indigenous Jews who lived in Palestine prior to 1948 opposed and we continue to oppose the making of Israel because the concept of a sovereign Jewish state counters the very edict of Jewish law," he explained.
Opposing Zionism has translated into collaboration with Muslim and secular human rights groups working against oppression of Palestinians and the occupation.
"We have a long relationship with Muslim groups. We network with them and others opposing injustice in solidarity of Palestine. The massacre of Gaza has brought us all out to show our support of the people of Gaza and our disdain for the state of Israel's actions," said Weiss.
Neturei-Karta spoke out against the latest Israeli assault on TV and radio and organized demonstrations in Montreal, Washington, New York, California and London. One of the largest demonstrations in New York drew 25,000 protestors to the streets.
We have a long relationship with Muslim groups. We network with them and others opposing injustice in solidarity of Palestine
Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, Neturei Karta
Anas Tekriti, head of Muslim British Initiative, said the cross-cultural anti-war campaign in London had a "snowball" effect.
"The campaign was like a snowball increasing in terms of how broad, inclusive, various it was and the kind of narrative and discourse it adopted every single day until now we have arrived at a size that we have rarely seen before,” he told AlArabiya.net.
Tekriti, who was behind the campaign against the BBC after the network refused to broadcast a charity appeal for Gaza two weeks ago, said that coordination efforts of faith-based and secular human rights had awakened global consciousness of the injustice.
"The solidarity Jewish individuals and groups have shown with Arab Muslim, Christian and human rights groups could not have been more vocal. We witnessed in London a sizable ‘coming out’ of Jewish voices from across the spectrum who have denounced the actions of Israel," he said, referring to the now iconic image of a Jewish Rabbi burning his Israeli passport outside of Israeli embassy in London.
"With this outpour of support for Palestine, we are seeing something far greater than any solidarity campaign in the past," he said.
Well organized campaign
The anti-war campaign drew such large support because it was coordinated and not simply ad-hoc, according to Jimmy Johnson, international coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions in Israel (ICAHD).
"The Palestinian solidarity campaign was successful because it was highly organized. Its outreach was remarkable," he told AlArabiya.net, adding that such cross-cultural coalitions are vital if there is any hope of transcending ideologies ingrained in western culture.
Johnson said the U.K. chapter has organized solidarity marches with British Muslims and Israeli groups, and that many were initially organized by Muslims.
The ICAHD was also behind rallies in Jerusalem which drew out Jews, Muslims, Christians and secular groups to protest the war.
"The coalition with various groups in Israel and in Europe is vital because for the most part white Europeans can be a bit hesitant to speak out against deeply ingrained ideologies that frame the West vs. Muslims,” he said. “This is why we seek out links of solidarity between European, Israelis, Arab, Christian and Muslim," he explained.
Johnson added that forging networks of solidarity for Palestinian rights across racial and cultural and religious divides is vital for making peace a reality
"It is vital to build on the massive response we have seen to Israel's war on Gaza. Every single death in Gaza was senseless. If we don't build and organize around that those deaths will only be in vain and that would compound the tragedy."
It is vital to build on the massive response we have seen to the Israeli war on Gaza. Every single death in Gaza was senseless
Jimmy Johnson, ICAHD international coordinator