Faithwashing: A reflection on the Muslim Leadership Initiative

Sa”ed Atshan | Al Araby Al Jadeed

The Muslim Leadership Initiative (MLI) of Israel’s Shalom Hartman Institute has now sent two small cohorts of Muslim-American leaders to Israel/Palestine. MLI’s stated purpose is to shape the understanding of these cohorts with regards to Judaism and Zionism.

This conflation of Judaism and Zionism is troubling, in addition to MLI’s overstating the religious and theological dimensions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. MLI decontextualises this human tragedy, which cannot be resolved without attention to human rights, land, political struggle, decolonisation and the need for equal rights between Israelis and Palestinians.

MLI’s approach also reduces the conflict to Jewish-Muslim relations without understanding the role of Christians. The assumption that all Palestinians are Muslims further marginalises the voices of Palestinian Christians, atheists and other segments of Palestinian society, diminishing the long and rich history of Palestinian Christians in their fight for freedom in Palestine. At the same time, American Christian Zionism has significantly bolstered unwavering US support for the Israeli occupation and has had a devastating impact on the lives of Palestinians.

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