By Mike Ghouse
Author's note: Who am I to worry about Israelis and Palestinians? What inspires me to be involved in the Israel Palestine conflict? The following is the story of my struggle to see a cohesive world, the story will take you through different emotions but at the end, I hope you feel a sense of completeness of the story. Due to its length it is a three part article, and this is part 2 of 3.
To read part 1, click here.
Israel's security and justice to the Palestinians are directly proportional to each other. Hundred percent security for Israel comes with 100 percent justice to the Palestinians. A majority of people in the conflict understand this, but the leadership runs aground with short sighted false perceptions.
Way back in the early 60s, when I was around 10 years old, my mother took away a book from me, "Eishman 60 Lakh Yahodiyon ka Khatil" -- Eichmann killer of 6 million Jews in my mother tongue Urdu. She would not let me read the book; she said I could not handle it.
She was right; I did glance over a few pictures and was unable to take it out of my mind forever. She had psyched me up to run from it, I was unable to watch the WWII movies up until I was 55. Whenever I saw the wagons stalked with skeletonic humans, or marching of innocent men and women towards the pit, my systems would shut down on me and I would turn the TV off or walk away from it.
My gutlessness bothered me, and I had always wanted to do my share of work towards finding a solution. The catalytic moment came on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2005. As Muslims, we took the initiative to commemorate Sept. 11 as Unity Day to bring Americans together to re-dedicate our pledge for the safety and security of America. I had invited people from every faith, race, ethnicity and nationality along with the FBI chiefs, 10 mayors and several council persons.
Mayor Joe Chow was speaking and the fire alarm went off. I can never forget the scene. My Jewish friends in the front row were the first ones to dash out of the hall. There were 630 of us in that hall. Remember we were doing the 9/11 event and it was scary to many. Mayor Mike Simpson of Frisco stepped up and assured everyone that it was a false alarm as his Fire Marshall assured him in less than two minutes. I asked agent Gonzales, the FBI chief for Dallas area to speak up. He did and assured everyone that it was false alarm ... there were about 25 on the stage including mayors, fire and police chiefs and civic leaders. I walked up to my Jewish friends and asked them to come back and they did. That was the catalytic moment for me. The fear in their eyes had a major impact on me and an inexplicable love for my friends and the desire to protect them was welling up in me.
Two months later in Nov. 2005, the United Nations passed a resolution about Holocaust commemoration. Something triggered in me. Perhaps the catalytic moment was moving me to commemorate the event to let the Jewish community know that we care about them and that we are with them in their sacred moment. I called in my friend Bernie Mayoff (who had attended the Unity Day). He lend me a copy of "Schindler's List" to watch, which I had avoided all along due to my own childhood phobias. I decided to see the movie and understood my mother's words that I could not handle it.
I had lost my balance and wanted to regain it. Bernie and I went to see Elliot Dlin, (who passed away in 2010) the Director of Dallas Holocaust Museum, an affable but sceptical person. He saw my passion about the commemoration and also saw that I was willing to go it alone, if he did not want to participate.
We moved forward and commemorated the first Holocaust event on Jan. 26, 2006 and every year since then except 2007. The Holocaust survivors William and Rosalie Schiff were the key note speakers at a gathering of about 300 people represented by every faith. We have taken extensive pictures and all are listed at www.HolocaustandGenocides.com.
This was probably the first time in the world where a Muslim took the initiative to commemorate Holocaust with the general public. The Jewish people have always commemorated as Yom HaShoah at the synagogues, and usually Jewish people have attended the event. At our program we had 11 different religious groups shared their prayers. We were all in there together and the tradition continues; that of education to the general public.
I hope one of these days, through appropriate funding, I could make this happen in every major city around the world. A day where all of us come together to reflect upon the terrible things we have inflicted on each other.
There is a shameless cruelty in us, either we shy away or refuse to acknowledge the sufferings of others, worrying that it will devalue our own. The program would entail learning that other people's suffering is as legitimate as ours, it is easy to see ourselves as victims, but we must also see the perpetrator in us that remains silent or justifies oppression of others or turns the head other way. We need to be full humans to cherish the life and we must learn to value each life and learn to do everything we can, to never let this happen again.
The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad denied Holocaust and I jumped all over him in a note at Dallas Morning News. Later found out that he did not deny it, but had questioned it.
Thank God for giving me the courage to stand up for others, and I have continued with education in pluralism and stereotyping and have written extensively about it. I wrote against the anti-circumcision bill in San Francisco and finally it was off the ballot and I believe this article was cited.
Fred Phelps came to Dallas with his anti-Semitic demonstrations, he was at several synagogues, Texas Jewish post and the Holocaust Museum where he demonstrated, so was I gathering the Holocaust Survivors together and leading the peace prayers in the Holocaust Museum. Huffington Post published my piece on the topic as well.
I went to Jerusalem in Aug., 2010 for four days with the Middle East Peace group. a Rev. Sun Myung Moon initiative. I am proud of the efforts of Rev. Michael Jenkins who had led the team to Israel over 30 times. He and his group did what was the right thing to do -- engage the faith leaders in dialogue, taking actions such as getting the Israeli and Palestinian Children to play soccer, and eat together. Get the Knesset and Palestinian Parliament members to sit together and talk. I wish, the world can see the power in doing this in finding lasting solutions. Blaming and bullying does no good. The group visited Israel quite extensively and I spoke on pluralism and shared the peace prayers.
As seekers of peace, we need to step above the Jewish or Palestinian issue to find a solution and not keep building barriers. Sadly, the community leaders among Jews and Muslims act the same; deny each other's initiatives. Indeed, if a sane Jewish voice comes out, as a sane Muslim voice, they will be hounded and barked at in unison.