Jewish Voice for Peace on the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Muslim Leadership Initiative
Jewish Voice for Peace echoes the concerns of our Muslim partners who reject the efforts of the Shalom Hartman Institute__s Muslim Leadership Initiative to use interfaith relations as an excuse to justify the Israeli occupation.
The MLI__s stated objectives are __to forge deeper and more nuanced relationships between the Muslim and Jewish communities in North America, through an understanding of how Jews relate to religion, peoplehood, and Israel, [and] to advance the personal growth of participants by increasing their knowledge about Judaism, the Jewish people, and the complex realities of the region.__
We underscore that being Jewish and Judaism are not synonymous with Zionism or support for Israeli government policies. These false assumptions limit the scope of Jewish-Muslim relations and distort their nature. They also ignore the voices of countless numbers of Jews who are critical of Israel__s occupation of Palestine.
At the same time, MLI__s juxtaposition of Judaism with Zionism runs the risk of portraying the Israeli occupation and Palestinian dispossession as a religious conflict rather than as political conflict over land, natural resources, power, and respect for human rights. An analysis that minimizes the political core of this conflict takes pressure off Israel to take concrete steps toward a just solution.
The fact that the Shalom Hartman Institute is behind this enterprise is reason enough for concern. The chair of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America is president of a family foundation that has provided significant funding to Islamophobic projects in the United States. The institute has been an ardent advocate against the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.
This is a poor foundation on which to build genuine interfaith relations.
The MLI says it brings Muslim-American leaders to Israel in order to focus on the relations between American Muslims and American Jews. These relations would best be forged here in the United States and rooted in our communities. To that end, Jewish Voice for Peace invites the MLI participants to meet with us instead of going on a one-sided trip abroad, in order to share our common commitment to ending racism, anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry, and all forms of oppression.