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By MYRON LOVE It takes courage for Moslems and Palestinians to attempt outreach to Jews and Israel – and the penalty can be steep.

Take, for example, the case of Al-Quds University Professor Mohammed Dajani. Last spring, as reported in several media outlets, Dajani, head of the Department of American Studies at the Jerusalem-based Palestinian university, took a group of 27 of his students to visit Auschwitz. As a result of that gesture of understanding, the former Fatah activist turned moderate was forced to resign his position at the university.
As reported in The Times of Israel last spring, Dajani was quoted as writing in the New York Times four years ago that he thought it “essential for Palestinian students to study the genocide so that they would be armed with knowledge to reject the comparison between the Holocaust and the Nakba because if it were broadly avoided, peace would be even more attainable than it is today.
“Teaching Palestinians about the Holocaust, he said, would go a long way towards restoring the right of Arab societies to gain uncensored knowledge of history – and enable them to learn from the past,” he wrote.
“If Arabs knew more about the Holocaust in particular and genocide in general, perhaps Arab voices would be more forceful in trying to stop similar atrocities and young Palestinians more hopeful and determined to pursue peace.”
Regrettably, following the Auschwitz visit, Dajani was roundly denounced as a traitor and collaborator and expelled from his university teachers’ union (which he didn’t belong to anyway). His own university disowned the trip.
Dajani remains defiant, telling the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, that he broke no university policy, rules, or regulations.
In a convoluted and non-sensical condemnation of Dajani, one Arab academic by the name of Mazin Qumsiyeh, is quoted as saying, “[Dajani] adopted the Zionist perspective that Judaism and Zionism are the same thing and in our opinion this is an anti-Semitic attitude to equate Zionism and Judaism and somehow link making peace and Zionism with the issues of Jewish suffering around the world.”
A second Moslem leader – an Imam from Duke University by the name of Abdullah Antepli, is also in hot water for reaching out to Jews and Israelis. Some readers may recognize Antepli’s name as he was here a couple of years ago to participate in a Moslem-Jewish symposium along with his close friend, Or Rose.
According to Palestinian website Maan (in a story written by one Alex Shams. Antepli’s “crime” was to lead a group of 18 of his Moslem students on an all-expenses paid trip to Israel organized for Muslim-American leaders to Israel for a program at the Shalom Hartman Institute. Lasting 12 days, the program was primarily based at the Shalom Hartman Institute in West Jerusalem, where participants receive instruction through a curriculum entitled “Encountering Israel: Foundations of Peoplehood and Faith.”
The trip did include some meetings with Palestinian activists in the West Bank.
Antepli has been charged with being a dupe for Zionism, a sellout, “Faithwashing” and going against the BDS campaign against Israel. Reportedly, more than 4 different pro-Palestinian or Muslim-American community organizations as well as 200 independent activists have signed a letter promising not to give those who had attended the initiative platforms to speak, and calling for a complete boycott of the group.
To his credit, Antepli is not backing down. In an interview with Ma’an on the final day of the trip, he argued that the “program is primarily about Muslim-Jewish relations in the United States” and that participants do not have any “delusions” about trying to “solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” “In his opinion,” he said, “the majority of American Jews are Zionists and love Israel, and therefore the issue of Israel-Palestine was an elephant in the room in interfaith discussions in the US because Muslim leaders were afraid to engage on it.” Not understanding religious Zionism, in his opinion, hindered US Muslim leaders’ attempts to reach out to Jewish counterparts. “Coming to Israel and learning about Zionism doesn’t mean I agree with their policies, nor does it jeopardize my loyalty to my Palestinian brothers and sisters,” he told Ma’an. He noted that it was his idea to approach the Shalom Hartman institute after having previously studied there himself.
“These are people who believe there can be a different kind of relationship between American Muslims and the American Jewish community,” he told Ma’an, “and receiving an education from a credible, recognized, reputable Jewish Israeli organization can be utilized in improving or allowing a different kind of conversations within the American Jewish community within America.” Ma’an concludes that, short of a change of heart on the part of organizers and participants, an end to funding, or massive public pressure, however, it appears that Antepli’s Muslim Leadership Initiative is here to stay, and will be returning to “Palestine” next year.




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