The Invisible Palestinian Christians

On Christmas Day, worshipers across this country will hold bibles that bear the faithful diligence of the forefathers of present day Palestinian Christians; and Protestant and Catholic clerics will display the ecclesiastical vestments that invoke Palestinian traditional dalmatic embroidery.

mai abdul rahman                  Christmas 2017


This Christmas, pastors will quote the scripture that was elucidated by the Palestinian scholar  Procopius of Gaza, and bishops will bear their ecclesiastical vestments that display Palestinian traditional dalmatic embroidery first worn by Palestinian clerics two thousand years ago and counting.

bethlehem2The Christians of Palestine trace their faith to the very first disciples. Whether they reside in Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, or Israel Palestinian Christians represent the uninterrupted presence of the very first church. Their history and narrative dates back to the very first cross.

Since the birth of Jesus, the Christians of Palestine have provided fellow Christians an authentic account of the early Christian experience, and their scholars have helped clerics and worshipers contextualize the bible verses they cite and read. Early Palestinian Christian scholars documented and archived the experience and struggles of their ancestors, yet their contributions remain hidden from sight.  Their close proximity and relationship to the first disciples helped them clarify the early Christian experience and facilitate the spread of their faith. Palestinian Christians’ direct link to the disciples provided scholars and historians an intimate knowledge of the personal religious experience of the first Christians. Their accounts helped shape the Christian narrative.

For two thousand years, they have faithfully maintained the oldest churches in Christendom. They have preserved the ancient gardens where Jesus prayed, tended and harvested the olive trees that shaded Jesus and his disciples, and when their communities are besieged and bombed, they have used their sanctuaries to shelter and accommodate the earnest prayer of fellow Palestinians- Christian or Muslim.

So why do most Americans choose to ignore the Christians of Palestine and dismiss their early scholars? Palestinians have largely assumed that their Arabic bible, liturgies, and sermons, and Arab Semitic ancestral heritage are the core reasons that their community is forsaken and their scholarship is omitted and forgotten.

Regardless, Christians owe much to the faithful work and witness of the Palestinian Christians, and many a pilgrim owes them gratitude for their persistent stewardship of Christendom’s first churches. Like their ancestors before them, they  continue to practice their faith traditions and preserve their churches while living under an Israeli military occupation that limits their access to their cherished holy places.

A living testament to their faith they remain faithful, earnest, and hopeful. Their diligent care in preserving their ancient churches and love of their ancestral lands is awe inspiring. Ignored and shunned by their fellow Christians they are the pride of Palestinian people.


American Muslims: Accepting the Hand Dealt is not Approval

The Qura’n implores Muslims to show forgiveness, temper anger, speak from kindness, and stand for justice. Confronting injustice applies to all including those who claim the faith: “O you who believe, be persistently standing firm in justice as witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives…”- Surat An-Nisa 4:135. Simply stating that perverse Haqqani criminals are anti ethical and their actions are outside the faith, and therefore are not Muslim, while accurate, will not curb or end their dreadful crimes.

mai abdul rahman         October 2017

On October 13, Joshua Boyle, Caitlan Coleman, and their three children arrived in Toronto ending a five-year-long kidnapping ordeal. Their tale of physical, emotional, and psychological torment by the Haqqani Network whose leader was once called by former US Congressman Charlie Wilson “goodness personified” is impossible to mentally process or fathom. Even harder to grasp is the detrimental role the US played in seeding, spawning, and funding the Haqqani Network, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their ilk.

Unequivocally, the US bears the largest responsibility for allowing the spread of this criminal ideology across the Middle East, Africa, and the world. Nevertheless, accepting the hand dealt does not mean approving the ill unleashed as a result of US policies. It is time for American Muslims to confront the evil who claim their faith,  the Islamophobs whose toxic hate is lapped up by criminal extremists to spread their poison, and those Americans looking for reasons to justify their ill deeds.

Irrefutably, since 9/11 anti-Muslim bigotry has become an entrenched feature of the US political and social landscape. Also true, a small band of Islampohobia peddlers have influenced US legislators and political leaders allowing these hate messengers to operate in the context of state sponsored hate groups.

Naturally, American Muslims are overwhelmed with the deluge of anti Muslim rhetoric and worried about its impact on their children, muslim-little-boysfamilies, community, and livelihood. Nevertheless, difficult as it may be at this moment and space, they have to simultaneously resist the overt racism observed in the US and the criminal extremists whether home grown or operating across the Indian Ocean.

The American Muslim community has the human capital, know-how, and the contextual cultural and religious understanding to devise effective strategies to mute the message of the Haqqani criminals and their ilk. They need to earnestly begin an internal dialogue to explore how best to deal with the extremist criminals in far away Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Europe or wherever they may be.  For example, funding an educational campaign that targets Afghani and Pakistani mothers to shield their children from the influence of extremists is cost effective and feasible.

Additionally, the US has miserably failed at curtailing the menace it created, and will continue to fail unless American Muslims lend them a hand. But first, it is necessary to overcome and forgive past federal transgressions on innocent Muslims, and then consider how best to help inform and guide these agencies, and even encourage capable members of the community to join them. Without the input of the American Muslim community, the US will continue to develop ineffective strategies to address the spread of the criminal groups it helped cultivate.

The time is now to tackle the hate committed on innocent people by those who claim to be Muslims and the beneficiaries of the anti Muslim propaganda. Confronting the extremist criminals head on will create the space to discuss the impact of their vile actions on Muslims, how Islamophobic groups are employing hate, division, and fear to advance their anti Muslim, anti Arab, and anti Palestinian agenda, and how these two disparate groups are responsible for producing a class of Americans intent on harming ordinary Muslims and disrupting communal harmony.

Cosigning the task of combating the message of these vile groups to others has become consequential, and ignoring them will not curtail their damage or end their terror. The nefarious crimes committed by the Haqqani’s and their affiliates on Muslims and non-Muslims are harming the entire Muslim community. muslim-child
Imagine the revulsion of young Muslim Americans learning about the horrors committed against children, mothers, and fathers by these criminals who claim their faith. Meanwhile, the teachers whom they trust stand idle watching them bullied in their classroom and school playground.

America’s Muslims must invest in developing a well-educated cadre of American Muslim scholars capable of curtailing the scourge of extremist criminals who are causing unspeakable and lasting harm on Muslims and non-Muslims. They have to continue educating Muslims to reject violence and extremism, by embracing prophet Muhammad’s call for the righteous to take the path of moderation in every political and social expression.

Although the current US political and social climate has taken a turn for the worse, a growing number of Americans are alarmed by the harm committed by those who peddle and fund hate. Multitudes of faith, community groups, and ordinary Americans are standing shoulder to shoulder with American Muslims to fight bigotry and hate. images-1Many are engaged in educating their community to combat the toxic discourse and hateful national trend that is marring the fabric of our nation.

Combating the cancer within the US should not diminish the importance of fighting the cancer growing beyond our shores. No better time than now to take ownership of curtailing the growth of hate here at home and abroad. Both use fear and bigotry to advance their twisted political objectives and justify their menace. Understanding and exposing the intersectionality and co dependence of the Islamophobs, the Haqqani criminals, and their ilk will blunt the influence of their injurious message and actions.

American Muslims have a strong proclivity to avoid playing the victim role, than they must lead and challenge the hate spinners. With sound strategies and thoughtful planning both cancers- the one within our country and the one beyond our shores- are ripe for a serious challenge. None is better equipped to meet these two poisonous and politically driven trends than the American Muslims who have largely refused to succumb to either by asserting America’s forgotten ideals- a untied and indivisible nation with liberty and justice for all.







Blood Relatives: Palestinians and Jews

There exists another Palestinian-Jewish narrative that needs to be revived and shared. Palestinians still remember living peacefully among their Jewish relatives, friends, and neighbors, but that shared history is buried and forgotten by Israelis and Jews. It is time to claim the Palestinian-Jewish historical connection to bring forth a new narrative that can mend hearts and bridge differences.

mai abdul rahman                              July 2017


Understanding the cost of decades long wars and occupation while recognizing the historical connection that existed among the Palestinians and Jews before the birth of the Zionist scheme could lead to the peaceful destiny desired by Israelis and Palestinians. While many will challenge the merit or prospect of such a proposition, it will create the space for collective healing.

Several genetic studies substantiate the existence of what was once strong Palestinian-Jewish familial bonds. In 2000, “a study of high-resolution haplotypes [DNA sequences] demonstrates that a substantial portion of ‘Y chromosomes’ of Israeli Jews (70%) and of Palestinian Muslim Arabs (82%) belong to the same chromosome pool.”  In other words, Palestinians are more connected to the first Jews than Israeli Jews. This study and others before it, assert that the Palestinians whom Israel is hard pressed to subjugate and displace are the Jewish families thousands of years back who at one time or another chose a separate faith.

But first what were the reasons that buried the historical kinship that existed between Palestinians and Jews? And was the Palestinian-Jewish connection relevant to Jews before 1948?

Soon after the birth of the Israeli State, its leaders carefully cultivated a web of fictional assertions and myths that helped rationalize Israel’s colonial territorial expansion, displacement, and expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians. These myths helped Israel establish a distinct Israeli identity defined by military conquest and fear, and made it possible for Israel’s political leaders to draw a definitive line between ‘them’ and ‘us’.


To secure uninterrupted Jewish support within Israel and beyond, Israel utilized manic panic and mistrust of all things Palestinian. This ensured Israel’s political agenda and territorial objectives are supported by Israelis domestically and Jews internationally. The employment of these tactics helped Israel further its occupation of the entire Palestinian territories, the Jewish funding to expand its illegal settlement enterprise in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and uncontested support for its Gaza siege.

The deliberate omission of the largest chunk of the Palestinian-Jewish narrative has profoundly affected Jews within and outside Israel as well as the entire Palestinian people-whether they may be Palestinian Israelis, displaced Palestinians living in refugee camps, or evicted by its illegal settlers, Palestinians living under its military occupation, or enduring its Gaza siege.

In contrast, before the establishment of the Israeli State, collections of Zionists were well aware that the Palestinians are the original decedents of the ancient Hebrews. Prior to 1948, Ahad Ha’am, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and David Ben-Gurion Israel’s first prime minister among others claimed and coupled the Palestinian cultural heritage and history to the Jewish narrative. In their view, Palestinians’ daily life, character, and practice demonstrated the uninterrupted living Jewish history.

In 1918, Ben-Zvi and Ben-Gurion acknowledged that the Palestinians were the Jews who remained in Palestine and later converted to Christianity. Before them, Jewish nationalist and essayist Ahad Ha’am argued for the humane treatment of Palestinians “Moslems are the ancient residents of the land…who became Christians on the rise of Christianity and became Moslem’s on the arrival of Islam.”

Logically, the geographical location of Palestine exposed its people to each of the three Abrahamic faiths, where in sequence some chose to adopt the new faith. You need not be a biblical scholar, researcher, or historian to stumble on these facts. A simple Wikipedia search of “Palestinian people” you will find that “Palestinians are the modern descendants of those who have lived in Palestine over the centuries … Genetic analysis suggests that a majority of the Muslims of Palestine, inclusive of the Arab citizens of Israel are descendants of Christians, Jews, and other inhabitants of the southern Levant whose core reaches back to prehistoric times.”

In the past, religious conversions were common among Palestinians, but after the turn of the century that trend was arrested. In 2016 alone, the applications of 400 Palestinians to join the Jewish faith were rejected.

Regardless, the early Zionists whose intent was to colonize Palestine recognized the Palestinians as descendents of the early Jews who never left. They believed Palestinians whether Christian or Muslim are of Jewish origin, and even briefly entertained naming their new state Palestine. But after 1948, the ideological implications of this shared historical connection became problematic. For example, Ben-Gurion whose research established the historical connection and amicable relationships between Palestinians and Jews chose to forge a distinct Israeli identity and experience that separates Jews from the native Palestinians.

Nothing more illustrates the fate of that shared narrative than the case of the Palestinian lepers. At the time, the entire leper population (Jews and non-Jews) was under the care of Tawfiq Canaan, a Jerusalem doctor, ethnographer of Palestinian peasants, head of the Palestine Medical Association, and noted authority on leprosy. Canaan had examined the cyclical genealogy of the disease in its cultural context, and is credited for the eradication of leprosy in Palestine. During the early days of the 1948 war, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim lepers were forcefully separated. Canaan’s Jewish patients remained in the Talbieh Leprosarium in West Jerusalem, and his Palestinian patients (Christian and Muslim) were forcefully expelled to East Jerusalem. The physical separation of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim lepers in the Talbieh Leprosarium was a tangible example of the end of the shared Palestinian-Jewish narrative.

This was again demonstrated in 1967. In 1940, Ben–Zvi’s research concluded that two thirds of Nablus and its surrounding Palestinian villages are of Jewish origin. According to Ben-Zvi, the Samaritans of Nablus kept a written record of the Palestinian families whom they identified as decedents of prophet Joseph and his two sons- Ephraim and Manasseh (adopted sons of Jacob). His research documented the shared familial bonds across the spectrum of the three faith communities living in Nablus. Ben-Zvi concluded that the familial connections between the inhabitants of Nablus were the impetus for the Palestinians to protect their Jewish relatives from persecution. After the 1967 war, that kinship and legacy ended.

The Israeli soldiers who physically occupied every street and corner across Nablus created a physical and emotional barrier between Palestinians and Jews. imagesThe Palestinians of Nablus who two decades ago were recognized by Israel’s second president Ben-Zvi as the decedents of the earliest Jews became the faceless enemies of the Israeli soldiers. Meanwhile, Palestinians’ daily struggle to protect their homes and properties from Israel’s illegal settlers created a toxic Palestinian-Jewish experience.

Why does it matter that Palestinians are the blood relatives of Jews? Recognizing the centuries long shared history will create the resilience and compassion between both peoples to re-construct their relations outside the box of enemy and rival. Furthermore, for the Palestinians, Israel is but a small paragraph in a thousand-chapter book of their history that extends beyond the Phoenicians, Assyrians, Alexander the Great, Romans, Jesus, and the disciples.

How do you rebuild a shattered communal narrative? Palestinians and Israelis have to learn to accept their shared history prior to 1948- before the establishment of the Zionist scheme. Instead of focusing on the history that divides them, they need to embrace the history that unites them. Recognizing their historical connection as blood relatives can create the space for compassion, forgiveness, and understanding.

Accepting their shared experience that extends several millennia will enable Palestinians and Jews to re-frame their relationship based on the long history that connects them; rather than the recent history that defines their association as occupier, occupied, illegal settler, displaced, homeless, and besieged. Acknowledging the historical bonds between Palestinians and Jews would help them realize the peace they desire. While this is a tall task, and more than many will challenge it- it is possible.


Abandoning the Families of Palestinians in Israeli Prisons would be Catastrophic

It is impossible to fathom the numbers and ease by which Israel apprehends and injures Palestinians. Between 1967 and 2014, Israel’s soldiers apprehended over 40% of the entire male Palestinian population, and in 2015 alone they injured 11,953 Palestinians- or about 33 Palestinians a day. Without the financial support of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the families of the Palestinians injured, buried, and apprehended would be unable to meet their basic elemental needs.

mai abdul rahman                 May 2017

Palestinian women hold pictures of jailed relatives during a protest marking

Meanwhile, on April 28th the Washington Post carried an article by Thane Rosenbaum titled: Palestinians are rewarding terrorists. Rosenbaum argues “while the settlements may be an obstacle to peace…Palestinian law that entitle Palestinians convicted by Israel for participating in the struggle against the Israeli occupation to monthly salaries” spurs Palestinians to commit violence.

Intentionally or unintentionally, Rosenbaum omits to address Israel’s wholesale detention policy, or simply site the percentage of Palestinians who served one or several terms in Israeli prisons, the numbers of Palestinians serving consecutive administrative detention terms ‘without either indictment or trial‘, consider the number of Palestinian prisoners killed, injured, and tortured while in Israeli custody, and those randomly killed and maimed by Israel’s occupation forces-all of whom once released, treated, or buried are unable to provide for their families.

If Rosenbaum had solely considered Israel’s wholesale detention of Palestinians he may have concluded that supporting the families of Palestinian Political prisoners, providing for the families of Palestinians in Israeli custody serving recurring administrative detention terms, or issuing a monthly stipend for the families of Palestinian prisoners killed and injured while in Israeli custody, is necessary, if not vital.

By every humane measure abandoning the families of the Palestinian prisoners would be catastrophic. Since 1967, Israel has used every pretext to apprehend and jail Palestinians. For example, from 1967- 2014, almost one million (800,000) Palestinians including 10,000 women and 8,000 young children have been apprehended and sentenced by Israel’s military courts. These numbers account for more than 22% of the entire Palestinian population, and 40% of the Palestinian male population. In fact, the vast majority of Palestinians have at least one if not several of their family members in Israeli controlled prisons, or have been arrested and detained by Israel.

Unequivocally some Palestinians are responsible for committing serious crimes, but most are apprehended for political reasons and are legally termed as political prisoners (resisted Israel’s home demolitions or loss of their homes and fields to Israel’s illegal settlers, protested Israel’s incursions, destruction of their olive trees, and land confiscationUnknown-1objected to Israel’s ‘draconian system’ that obstructs their daily movement and economic prospects, or peacefully marching). Regardless, it is hard to articulate or fathom the numbers and ease by which Israel apprehends Palestinian women, men, and children.

Once Palestinians are branded by Israel’s military as ‘resisters of the occupation’ they are more likely to be rearrested, and their rights to travel abroad for school, work, or move from one Israeli administered checkpoint to another within Palestine are severely restricted. All of which hugely impacts their ability to find, keep a job, and provide for their families. Without the financial support of the PA, at least one of every 5 Palestinians would be unable to meet their basic needs. So here are the more relevant questions to ask: Why does Israel employ wholesale detention of Palestinians? Why does Israel degrade the dignity, quality of life, and economic viability of the Palestinian people- young and adult? And why did Rosenbaum choose to address this issue?

For Israel to maintain its 50 years occupation, continue its illegal settlement scheme, and decade long Gaza Siege -it is imperative for its soldiers to apprehend any Palestinian (young or adult) Unknownwho could pose the smallest challenge to Israel’s military occupation policies, or oppose Israel’s absolute control of Gaza’s water, lands, and economy.

Keeping Palestinians poor and in need provides Israelis the ability to leverage Palestinians’ daily needs, control their livelihood, keep them on edge, and too fatigued to resist Israel’s oppressive military occupation and illegal settlement enterprise. Hence, since 1967, Israel has used its occupation and military policies to arrest the growth and sustainability of the Palestinian economy, and curb the quality of life of the Palestinians under its military control.

As for the timing of Rosenbaum’s article- curiously, on April 16th, one thousand Palestinian men, women and children held in Israeli prisons began a peaceful hunger strike to draw attention to Israel’s administrative detention practices, mass arrests, and its ill treatment of Palestinian prisoners. Four days later, Israel’s minister of agriculture Uri Ariel and a group of Israeli settlers “set up grills outside the Ofer Prison windows to “celebrate the hunger strike”, while shocking they inadvertently helped generate world wide coverage of the Palestinian hunger strike and their demands.

If one considers the large numbers of Palestinian prisoners past and present, it becomes obvious that Israel’s detention practices are intentional. Israel’s detention policies impose tremendous psychological stress and economic hardships on a massive number of Palestinian families, restricts the viability of the Palestinian economy, and also incurs a substantial burden to the sparsely funded PA- that have no choice but to support these families.

Additionally, the PA payment system also provides monthly stipends to the families of Palestinian civilians who were wrongly killed or critically injured by Israeli soldiers and settlers. For example, in 2015, Israeli security forces injured at least 11,953 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, including bystanders, peaceful protesters, demonstrators, and suspected assailants. Also, during that same year, the Israeli settlers injured 84 Palestinians. Meaning, during the span of one year, Israeli soldiers and settlers injured 33 Palestinians a day.  While the daily cost of treating the predictable number of injured Palestinians is tremendous, denying them medical treatment would be callous, and refusing to support the families of the injured until they recover would be unconscionable.

It is difficult to imagine how is it possible for the Palestinian society to withstand the scale in the number of Palestinians injured in their midst. It is more difficult to conceive how anyone could overlook the human cost of Israel’s occupation practices and military laws on ordinary Palestinians, or disregard the tragic consequences of Israel’s occupation policies on the young Israeli soldiers tasked with implementing Israel’s military orders .

Is it possible that Rosenbaum is purposeful in his omission of the facts? You be the judge. The vast majority of people of every stripe and nationality will not justify the killing of civilians. Nonetheless, in 2014, Rosenbaum like Bin laden before him justified the killing of civilians based on their free will to choose their government. While Bin Laden argued that killing of American civilians is an acceptable moral cost; Rosenbaum proposed that Israel has the right to kill Palestinian civilians– child, man, woman, combatant, and noncombatant- for choosing to vote for Hamas. Based on his argument, Israel’s Operation Protective Edge that killed 459 Palestinian children is totally acceptable, simply because their parents most likely had voted for Hamas.

Accordingly, for Rosenbaum Israel’s wars and incursions that killed thousands of Palestinian civilians and orphaned young Palestinian children are justifiable. Likewise, Israel’s occupation of Palestine, illegal settlement expansion, willful destruction of Palestinian olive trees and orchards, the seizure of Palestinian owned lands and properties, the polluting of Palestinian waters and streams, and Israel’s military control over every Palestinian individual from birth to death are also reasonable and defensible.

Nonetheless, ignoring the consequences of Israel’s military occupation and its military policies does not negate the relevance of considering the ramifications of Israel’s detention policies on the Palestinian people and how Israel’s wholesale detention policy impacts the economic viability of more than one million Palestinians and their families. Merely reflecting on the sheer number of Palestinian prisoners detained by Israel could help explain why it is necessary for the PA to support the Palestinians who are without the means to support the daily needs of their young children.

Irrefutably, the human and economic cost of the Israeli occupation on the Palestinian population is colossal. However, the consequences of Israel’s five decades long military occupation also scars the Israeli soldiers responsible for implementing it. The intersectionality of Israel’s military occupation and illegal settlement enterprise on its victims and victimizers is beyond doubt. If the well being of the Palestinians is non-consequential than what about the long-term impact of administering Israel’s military practices on its young soldiers?

Holy Week: The Quintessential Palestinian Christian Experience

While the vast majority of Christians relate to Holy Week in the abstract, for Palestinian Christians it marks the intrinsic and central event that defines their history, character, and relationship to their faith.

mai abdul rahman                Easter 2017


Palestinians are the living stones of uninterrupted generations of Christians that are linked in faith and lineage to the first Christians. Holy Week for the Christians of Palestine is the most significant living faith experience that connects them to their past, present and future, and the quintessential cornerstone of their faith.

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week and concludes on Easter Sunday.  On Palm Sunday the Palestinians will follow the same path that Jesus took on his triumphant return to Jerusalem. Two thousand years ago, Jesus rode on a donkey as followers laid palm branches along his path. This week, Palestinians will march on foot and waddle through Israel’s Separation Wall, checkpoints, and soldiers 3aOlive-branch-offering-940x626while carrying and waving their Palm fronds and olive branches.

Palestinians will retell the story of Jesus’ sabeel (Arabic for just path), visit their churches, and attend candlelight services at some of the oldest standing churches in Christendom (Bethlehem, Gaza, Jerusalem, Nablus, Ramallah, Taibeh, Tabarieh, Arabe’, Beit Sahour, and Beit Jala). They will recount how Jesus entered Jerusalem greeted by a loving crowd who waved and covered his path with palm branches.

images-1During Holy Week, Palestinians  will meditate and contemplate their organic experience and unique narrative that connects them to the very first Christians and ancestors who lived through and witnessed the countless biblical accounts that speak of Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19). They will recount the hardships and the Joys their ancestors before them experienced, and pray for the peaceful end of the innumerable hardships they daily confront.

On Good Friday, they will retrace Jesus’ sabeel along the cobble stoned Via the Dolorosa, mark the Stations of the Cross that lead to his crucifixion, reflect and pray at each of the fourteen Stations of the Cross that are depicted on East Jerusalem’s ancient walls. While carrying and clutching their wooden crosses they will march towards the Sanctuary of Flagellation and meander the narrow paths that commemorate the final steps of Jesus. 07079c71e9ed7699c216c4b8997f162eSome will gently release white pigeons of peace at the end of their procession to honor their beloved and tortured Jerusalem.

On the eve of Holy Saturday, the Holy Sepulcher will celebrate the Holy Fire, which will spread to every town, city and village across Palestine. For 1,200 years and until the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, delegates, clerics and laymen carried and passed the Holy Fire to neighboring Christian churches in Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt.

On Easter Sunday, Palestinian Christians will attend Easter Sunday masses and services. At the two holiest Christian sites that mark the birth of Jesus and his crucifixion (Bethlehem and East Jerusalem) more than twenty separate masses will be conducted within 24 hours at their two holiest Churches- the Church of the Nativity and the Holy Sepluchre.

For the Christians of Palestine, Jesus’ sabeel path dictates every aspect of their Holy Week. Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday are the organic manifestations of their faith, and directly connects them to their past, present and future. Faithful, they relentlessly practice non-violence while working for justice and peace for the People of the Holy Land- Palestinians and Israelis. During this Holy week, Christians of Palestine will live their faith by tracing Jesus’ sabeel, and again commit to remain faithful to his just path.







Will Netanyahu’s ‘one state’ proposal end Israel’s structural bias of the Palestinians?

The Israeli prime minister is anxious for the world to abandon perusing the two- state solution. Instead he is proposing to extend Israel’s full sovereignty over all of Palestine, its people, and resources. But will his one state option curtail or suspend Israel’s structural discriminatory practices, or end Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories?

mai abdul rahman              February 2017


The United Nations, European Union, Arab League, United States, Canada, Russia, Germany, China, the Vatican, as well as the majority of  Israelis support the two-state solution. In fact, 138 nations endorse an independent Palestinian state within the pre 1967 Green Line borders. Nonetheless, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is anxious for the world to abandon perusing the two-state solution.

President Donald Trump’s ambivalence on how best to pursue a permanent peace among Palestinians and Israelis may have facilitated Netanyahu’s public disclosure of the motive behind his government’s rabid focus on increasing the number of Jewish illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. While Netanyahu absolved his government of any political responsibility for Israel’s human rights and international law violations by blaming the occupied and oppressed Palestinians, he unveiled Israel’s intent to expand its borders and retain control over the entire Palestinian territories. Consequently, Israel’s illegal settlement scheme was employed to destroy the territorial integrity and contiguity of a future Palestinian State.

As a matter of fact, expanding Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian lands has been Israel’s Likud party platform since its inception. Netanyahu has been a Likud party member since the 1980’s and its elected party leader since 2005. Throughout his political career, Netanyahu was noted for his opposition to the peace accord agreement between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel, which resulted in Israel’s brief withdrawal from the West Bank. While Netanyahu is credited with the rise of Israel’s extremists, his successive governments have shaped Israel’s occupation policies, settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Israel’s decade long Gaza siege and warsimages-1

Nevertheless, since 2009, Netanyahu issued several public statements in support of the two-state solution, which were understood as Israel’s preferred framework for permanent peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. So what forced Netanyahu to reveal his government’s coveted intent of expanding Israel’s sovereignty over the entire Palestinian territories? The mounting pressure exerted by the international community on the illegality of Israel’s settlement enterprise, and the global affirmative support for an independent Palestinian State based on the perimeters of the two-state solution.

Regardless, Netanyahu’s one state proposal is not a novel concept. After the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the subsequent rise and political dominance of Israel’s extremists, the Palestinians, Israelis and their respective supporters have considered two political frameworks. A measurable sum either advocated for adopting the one state option or the two-state solution. Although, the goals of the two frameworks are driven to meet identical objectives, the advocates of each proposed option aim to achieve divergent if not contradictory outcomes.

By and large, the Israelis and their supporters who advocate for the one state option are subscribers of Israel’s far right parties, fundersresidents and leaders of Israel’s illegal settlements. Their aim is to absorb the Palestinians as second-class citizens with limited rights. They argue, increasing the Jewish population in the Palestinian territories will be less complicated and internationally accepted if Israel extends its sovereignty over the entire West Bank and East Jerusalem. This will nullify Israel’s legal constrains of transferring its own population into the Palestinian lands it military occupies and expand Israel’s borders from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea to the West Bank of the Jordan River.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians and their supporters who advocate for one state option are grounded on the principles of human values, democracy, international covenants and laws, and the fundamental human rights doctrine. They believe the one state option will offer the Palestinians the legal framework to advocate for equality and justice for the entire ethnic and religious groups that live within Israel including the Palestinians. In addition, it will provide the Palestinians the opportunity to forge alliances with Israel’s various Jewish ethnic communities (African, Arab, and non-European Jews) and Israel’s non-Jewish citizens who are also struggling under Israel’s exclusive social and political construct.unknown-1 They argue that Israel’s established differential treatment and embedded institutional bias of Jewish and non- Jewish citizens will eventually usher mandatory international embargo of the Israeli State. To secure full citizenship rights for Israeli citizens whether they may be Palestinians, or Israeli black Ethiopian Jews, or oriental Mizrahi Jews, they rely on the legal framework of the Apartheid Convention, International law, and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Mind you, both of these camps -whether supporters of an exclusive theocratic Israeli political system, or those who advocate for an inclusive social and political Israel- believe their strategy will eventually succeed. While one aims to nullify the illegality of the Israeli occupation policies and extend Israel’s borders, the other wants to use internationally accepted fundamental human values and rights to reform Israel’s social and political institutions.

The two state advocates also bear distinctly different objectives. Israelis and their supporters who advocate for the two- state solution aim to protect the Jewish character of the Israeli State and evade the prospect of it becoming an apartheid state. They argue that Israel’s continued military occupation of Palestine and settlement expansion policies will force the international community to intervene on behalf of the Palestinians and pressure Israel to adopt inclusive democratic standards and norms, which would dilute its national character. They fear such a prospect could alter the exclusive protections and privileges that Israeli Jewish citizens and prospective Jewish immigrants have been afforded.

Palestinians and their supporters who advocate for the two- state solution want to end Israel’s terminal occupation of the Palestinians and their lands. Whereas they have succeeded in creating massive political support for the future establishment of an independent Palestinian State, Israel’s illegal settlements continued to grow. As a result they have urged the boycott of Israeli settlement products, the divestment from companies that operate within Israel’s illegal settlements, and the sanction of companies that profit from the Israeli military occupation. They argue, once free of Israel’s military occupation, Palestinians can begin building their economy, address their immediate need for water, electricity, clean up their polluted streams and environment. They support the two-state solution to provide the Palestinians the freedom and space to begin building their national institutions, infrastructure, and economy, address their decades long high unemployment and poverty rates, and improve their quality of life.

In the meantime, it has become clear as day that as long as Netanyahu is the prime minister of Israel he intends to retain control of the Palestinians, their lands, and resources. In addition, the state of Israel and its institutions give precedence to its Jewish citizens over others, and the operational and legislative tools to ensure Palestinians are without the political and social means to demand full equality under the law.

Notwithstanding, if Israel with the help of the Trump administration impose the one state option on the Palestinians, the illegality of Israel’s settlements under international law would be revoked. Consequently, Israel’s human rights violations against the Palestinian population will be become an internal issue- but not indefinitely.

So what could the Palestinians achieve by acquiescing to Netanyahu’s proposed one state option? Extending Israel’s sovereignty over the Palestinian territories will not end Israel’s mass displacements of the Palestinians, or alter Israel’s structural and institutional exclusive laws, and will also briefly limit Palestinian access to international forums to call attention to their plight. However, the one state option may offer the Palestinians the strategic leverage to partner with Israel’s marginalized populations to demand full citizenship rights from within Israel’s political and legal construct, and the  legal standing to invoke the International Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid Convention.

America’s Muslims: Staying Above the Fray has Run its Course

American Muslims have never been good at playing the role of the victim. By and large, their faith and sentimentalities reject victimhood as a static affliction and the weight of its label, which they consider maladaptive and unproductive. When faced with adversity and hardship they have made every effort to remain ‘above the fray’. But has ‘staying above the fray’ helped or hurt American Muslims? Has it curbed or facilitated the current hateful national discourse?

mai abdul rahman             July 2016


This week marked two important events for America’s Muslims. The end of Ramadan and the commencement of the Eid Al Fitr celebration coincided with Independence Day. So naturally, when more than 500 Muslim worshipers gathered for the Eid Al-Fitr services at a local mosque in Maryland, from the onset they were consoled that despite the toxic current political climate their right to worship is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, and to forgive those Americans who question their faith and allegiance.

Citing the words of Prophet Muhammad that no Muslim should sleep contently while knowing his or her neighbor is hungry, worshipers were encouraged to be sympathetic and advocate for the large and growing number of America’s middle class who have joined the ranks of the poor, ct-muslim-ramadan-volunteers-met-20160604-1continue their Ramadan Zakat practice of feeding the homeless and less fortunate, and enjoy and practice their right to vote. In short, worshipers were urged to calmly mitigate the current intense political climate surrounding them, and to ‘stay above the fray’. But will this approach help America’s Muslims curb the spread of hate and Islamophobia?

With every wave of adversity, America’s Muslims have applied a fairly simple strategy: stay composed no matter the merits of the situation, avoid over reacting, dismiss hateful rhetoric, overlook discriminatory practices and individual acts of bias and bigotry, tread softly, educate, inform, and constructively engage community and nation. But will maintaining this course stop the spread and use of Islomphibia to advance narrow political agendas?

The time has come for America’s Muslims to re-evaluate the effectiveness of ‘staying above the fray’, and to assess whether or not their approach has allowed the spread of hate that has smeared them and others. Has their ‘stay above the fray’ strategy helped desensitize Americans on the effects of their words, political posturing, and actions on Americans whether Muslim or non-Muslim? Specifically, will their ‘stay above the fray’ strategy compromise the well being of America’s young Muslims? In other words, have their choices and responses to Islamophobia help or hurt America’s Muslims and the character of our nation? Above all, does employing the ‘stay above the fray’ strategy help facilitate the hateful discourse that has gripped this nation since 9/11?

If we agree that hate for one community fosters the hate of other communities, is it effective to simply rely on educating Americans of the long history and accomplishments of American Muslims? Probably not! It is not a hidden secrete that the presence of American Muslims in North America pre-dates Christopher Columbus and the American Revolution, and includes notable early American explorers and revolutionaries. Many are aware of the important role that Islam played in shaping America’s earliest enlightened thinkers and philosophers.

Countless researchers and academicians have documented the early presence of Muslim Americans. Many historians have explored how Muslim values whether they may be that all humans are born free of bondage, their conceptual understanding of free will, the treatment of the injured soldier, or Islamic Jurisprudence influenced early American jurists. American scholars have extensively written on the role of Islam and early American Muslims in shaping the views of early American political philosophers and thinkers, who helped formulate the best elements of our Constitution. Has any of this made a difference? Not really!

America’s Muslims have been in North America before and since the birth of the US. As a matter of fact, since the 1500’s Muslims have been present in North America. They were among the first to sail and bank its shores, and some traveled its width and length as explorers. While today most are abhorrent of the cruel treatment that Christopher Columbus exacted on the indigenous native populations, two of his ship captains and their younger brother were related to the Sultan of Morocco Abuzayan Muhammad III (1196-1465). Likewise, most American Muslims are repulsed by the early colonial explorers who injured and mistreated the native nations and tribes, but Estevancio of Azamor (1503-1539) the first non native to explore Arizona and New Mexico was a Muslim. He was born in Azemmour, Morocco.

Furthermore, Muslims were  responsible for building America’s early colonies and their free labor, sweat and blood built the wealth of this nation. Many of the early Africans who by force and abduction were enslaved were born to prominent Muslim families. Muhammad Bilal along with 80 Muslims under his command fought the British in the war of 1812, and successfully defended Sapelo Island, Georgia. Bilal authored the first American Muslim manuscript titled “Rissala” or “message” that explored his faith, beliefs, and prayers. Also in 1832, Omar Said authored the first hand written account of his abduction and enslavement in South and North Carolina. Bilal and Said are heavily referenced in African American literature and their accounts helped shed light on the severity of their conditions and brutality of America’s slave masters. In fact, most scholars acknowledge the important role that their faith played in shaping their identity and scholarship.

Every war America waged, American Muslims played a role. During the American Revolution Yusuf bin Ali and Bampett Muhammad among others fought with America’s early revolutionaries. The presence and accomplishments of early American Muslims was well noted by the Founding Fathers, who thoughtfully considered the relationship of Islam to the new nation. Their active involvement and sacrifice is the reason why much thought was expanded on the role of the state in protecting Muslims. In Jefferson’s autobiography, he recounts the passage of his landmark Bill for “Establishing Religious Freedom”. He wrote with satisfaction of Virginia legislature’s inclusion of religious protections for “Mohamaten” (Muslims).

Additionally, Islam has exponentially influenced the writings of early American philosophers and thinkers. For example, Islam shaped the philosophical perspective of Samuel Johnson, Henry David Thoreau, Thomas Paine, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. Samuel Johnson is considered America’s first philosopher. He extensively wrote about Islam and explored Muslims’ attitude towards the environment. He studied the relationship between their faith and conviction that humans are stewards of nature in its multiplicity and various forms. In Johnson’s words the expression of the Muslim faith applies to “The plants of the garden, the animals of the wood, the minerals of the earth, and the meteors of the sky.”

Furthermore, the Founding Fathers embraced and studied the Sharia (jurisprudence), especially those laws that pertained to governance. John Adams, praised Prophet Muhammad’s “Thoughts on Government.” Adolph Weinman the sculptor of the US Supreme Court included Prophet Muhammad along with 18 great lawgivers in a marble frieze that sits above the justice’s bench. This simple observable fact is meaningless and irrelevant to a whole lot of contemporary state legislators who claim to be guardians of the US Constitution. Jefferson loathed narrow-mindedness, he wrote: “Bigotry is the disease of ignorance.” For these legislators suspicion and fear America’s Muslims is not merely an outcome of their ignorance. Their rush to ban Sharia law is advocated for political gain and has little to do with facts or logic.

America’s Muslims have been here forever and should begin to loudly reject any attempt to separate them from fellow Americans, and those who use hate and suspicion of Muslim Americans to advance narrow political agendas. Clearly, they and their faith are not a new American phenomenon. For more than 300 years American Muslims have lived and prospered in the US. They are racially and ethnically diverse and hold the second-highest level of education in the US. As a matter of fact, American Muslim women are one of the most highly educated females in the US. They largely belong to America’s dwindling middle class with a large base of income earners contributing handsomely to America’s tax system.

In addition, despite their small number they have produced a cadre of innovators that have influenced our economy and daily life. For example, the seat belt that keeps America’s children safe was modified and improved by an American Muslim, the first mass produced IBM electronic computer was invented by an American Muslim, and the innovation of an American Muslim solar energy pioneer spurred a thriving and promising US industrial sector that is enriching and employing many Americans. In a nutshell, their industrious contributions have enriched their states, and their creative inventions have created a whole lot of jobs.

So than why are Americans of Muslim faith continue to be collectively lumped, smeared, and discredited? The answer is complex, but two reasons stand out. America’s Muslims reluctance to attack bigotry and hate directed at them and other fellow Americans head on is one. Also their use of soft and restrained tactics to change attitudes and practices is partly to blame.

Scarred by the aftermath of 9/11 anti Muslim discourse, they assumed that by informing Americans of their faith they would help lift the veil of mistrust shrouding them. They believed that by being involved in their own communities and by being engaged with the various interfaith communities they would succeed in dispelling the thick layers of confounding myths that do not reflect their faith or community. islamad-e1350125874829They assumed choosing a laid back strategy will help control the spread of Islamophobia and hate. Instead, their approach helped supporters of Israel’s illegal settlements implement a well funded campaign that has complicated their situation at home, and the prospect of peace for Palestinians and Israelis.

And the proof is in the pudding. 15 years after 9/11, their strategy of choice has not tempered the toxic national discourse or reduced the number of hate crimes committed against American Muslims. Simply stated-their decade long strategy has failed on every level, for one overarching reason. Unchallenged, bigotry in the US can become an institutional trend that takes over every public and political sphere, and cyclically repeated and spread by the US corporate media.

Racial bias in the US is a manifestation of a complex system that has been consistently employed through the use of overlapping and well funded legislative initiative. Once these policies are funded they are fostered by the private sector that often carries out its implementation and become invested in its continuation. Meaning, funding bad policies makes them hard to eradicate by simply engaging with others on their negative impact on the individual and community.

While not every legislative initiative results in institutionalizing racism, some have. The four decades long US war on drugs helped institutionalize racial injustice by targeting African Americans and rewarding police departments on the number of arrests. The war on drugs was advanced by legislators who used monetary incentives to implement it’s objectives at the state and local level. Consequently, it was used to foster racial bias that resulted in the economic exclusion of African Americans, who constitute 35% of America’s Muslims.

Hate is America’s centuries old malady, and US legislators who help fuel and fund it are its instruments. The exclusion of Americans is an embedded and entrenched practice that continues to divide and separate Americans. Its success depends on rewarding the few who apply it a shallow sense privilege. The only means to tackle this habitual US legislative practice is to challenge those legislators who engage in peddling hate speech, and their use of our taxes to fund laws that harm Americans of all colors and ethnicities.

Meanwhile, fear of American Muslims has become a national obsession, and bigotry has become its accepted currency. Undeniably, American Muslims are like other faiths and secular communities with their share of lunatic extreme fanatics, and some have committed heinous crimes against innocent Americans. And while one fanatical Muslim is too many, the numbers of American Muslim loonies is no more or less then those represented among other faiths. While unequivocally refusing to allow any form of prejudice that implicates their entire community and faith, American Muslims have to fortify their young from feeling helpless and traumatized by the nagging and constant drum of hate they are daily exposed to. They must take ownership of teaching their children the true tenants of their faith to shield them from the poisonous discourse from within and from the predators lurking to pluck them from without.

America’s Muslims have to exert a greater role in educating their young to reject all forms of extremism, by embracing prophet Muhammad’s call for Muslims to take the path of moderation in every political and social expression, and action. But first, they must start building a cadre of American Muslim scholars trained to teach the tenants of their faith that are also articulated in the ideals and aspirations of our nation. None, but American Muslims can assume the responsibility for educating their young of the true Islam that helped shape the best of the America’s ideals, and to prepare them to lead and create a better future for their community and nation. Creating a class of American Muslim scholars and advocates can help protect young American Muslims from succumbing to the hate that surrounds them, and would also help spawn future American leaders.

For the time being, American Muslims can take comfort and solace in words written in 1776, but words alone will not end racism and bigotry in the US. They must step out and take the responsibility for realizing the American values, rights, and protections that have remained an unfulfilled promise for the vast majority of Americans. They must not shy from exercising the entire list of rights that their identity bestows on them, and breath life and actualize the caption embodied in the Latin words inscribed on the seal of the United States, that sums up America’s distinct identity— “E Pluribus Unum”: out of many, one.

Meanwhile, America’s Muslims have to become fully involved on every civic and political level to create the space for our country to embrace and honor all its citizens and its multitudes of faiths and non-faiths. ‘Staying above the fray’ has run its course, and it has not helped shield them or other Americans from bigotry and racial bias.

In the true spirit of their faith and national ideals, America’s Muslims must help break down the long established barriers of bias and discrimination, including those that have inflicted great suffering on Americans of color, and the marginalized of all colors. Only through a well articulated, deliberate, and comprehensive strategy to end institutional racism and bias will this nation of ours have the fortitude to fulfill its promise to honor and respect all of its citizens, whether they may be brown, black, white, or purple. Yes, it’s a tall order, but it’s doable.