Downing St peace vigil: Now is not the time for dialogue with Zionists

Juveriah Alam urges Muslims not to take part in a “multi-faith peace vigil” at Downing St tomorrow which which will be attended by Zionists. She argues that it will only deflect our attention from showing solidarity with our Palestinian brethren and reduce the heat on supporters of genocide.

“A Palestinian child is as precious as an Israeli child” says the actor Stephen Fry directly to a camera, giving the impression of utmost sincerity.

This was part of a campaign video which included Zionists, cricketer Azeem Rafiq and Loose Women’s Saira Khan, to call attention to an upcoming “peace vigil” taking place tomorrow.

Hosted by Together For Humanity, and promoted by prominent Zionists, the event seeks to “mourn innocent lives lost” in Israel and Palestine and “stand against the darkness of antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred.”

Confirmed speakers include Christian and Jewish religious figures as well as Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra.

Now, just from reading this brief description, the shrewder amongst us will be aware right away of the true nature of this event – to deflect attention from Israel’s genocide and reduce the heat on supporters of it. If that is you, feel free to stop reading now.

However, if you find yourself swayed by the idea of a peace vigil featuring Muslims, Christians and Jews mourning together with other faiths and condemning hatred on both sides, you really ought to read on.

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Those who claim to care about the plight of the Palestinians must ask themselves: will attending this event be helpful to the Palestinian people right at this very time as the genocide continues? The answer is no.

This vigil will not benefit the Palestine cause in any way. Rather, the purpose of this event is to address concerns that the war in the Middle East is spilling over onto our streets and affecting community cohesion in Britain.

And this concern should be low on the Muslim priority list right now. Muslims should be focussed on the people directly affected by the war itself. It is a sign of our faith that we are more concerned with our brothers and sisters in Palestine over our own comfort and security here in Britain.

The Palestinian people definitely feel our solidarity as we continue to march in our millions across the world demanding a ceasefire and an end to the occupation. It gives them hope and that means something.

But if those very people who have lost half their family members were to witness a vigil “mourning for both sides,” (when, let’s face it, one side is doing the vast majority of the killing) I imagine they would feel very alone and confused about why their supporters are lighting candles while the killing is ongoing.

After all, mourning usually takes place after deaths have occurred, not while killings are ongoing and while you can actually do something about it. So to take part in a showy display of sadness will detract from our commitment to seeking justice for Palestinians. It takes our focus away from the people who are directly affected by the genocide.

A surface-level display of unity with other faiths in Britain will not bring justice for the Palestinians who have lost their lives, their homes and their limbs.

Deflecting attention

The poster for the event states: “no flags, no placards, just people.”

The organisers have failed to understand that our flags and our placards make up our very identities at this time. These items represent our cause. Will they turn someone away for wearing a keffiyeh, I wonder? If you must ask people to shed a part of who they are in order to attend, then you are not promoting unity in the true sense.

Where an interfaith event fails to actively encourage diverse voices and discuss the difficult subjects, it will ultimately fail in its aim to promote community cohesion. Events like these make the mistake of designating “moderates” from both sides, excluding the bulk of people and then claiming they have achieved unity.

All the while, they paper over the cracks in our communities by glossing over and ignoring the key issues at the heart of the war on Gaza. The divide between those advocating for a permanent ceasefire and an end to the occupation versus those supporting Israel’s actions is not a schism that can be bridged merely by shared mourning.

Jemima Goldsmith, who to her credit, has made some brave comments in support of Palestinians, wrote a piece in The Independent promoting the vigil. She wrote that the point of the “anti-hate” vigil is to state that “all racial and religious hatred is equally abhorrent and unacceptable. It’s not a competition.”

While her intentions may be noble, there is no equivocation between antisemitism and Islamophobia in the context of this conflict. The pro-Palestinian movement has never been motivated by antisemitism. If Israel was a Buddhist supremacist state instead of a Jewish one, we would be just as passionate in opposing it.

Jemima Goldsmith. Editorial credit: Fred Duval /

Yet, it is clear that the pro-Israel movement is riddled with Islamophobia of the worst kind. And while antisemitism comes from a few cranks and trolls, Islamophobia is merged deep within the power structures.

A perfect example of this is Barak Obama’s former advisor who was arrested for Islamophobia and stalking, which included the mocking of dead Palestinian children. Indeed it is institutional Islamophobia that prevents politicians from viewing Palestinian lives as equal to Israeli lives and it is this Islamophobia that motivates them to oppose a ceasefire.

Furthermore, our communities are not on equal footing. Perhaps other communities who are not concerned with the genocide in Gaza, may be able to mourn with quiet, peaceful, candle-lit vigils. But Muslims do not have that luxury. The suffering of our brothers and sisters is ongoing, on a mass scale and is cheered on my many world leaders. In such circumstances, we cannot be expected to participate and accept this status quo.

While Muslims risk losing their livelihoods for expressing support for Palestine or for being mildly critical of Israel, British fighters in the IDF get paid a friendly visit by Boris Johnson. There’s a severe chilling effect on free speech during this war and it only affects one side. We are not equal.

If Strephen Fry truly believed that “a Palestinian child is as precious as an Israeli child” he would be calling for a ceasefire, loudly. He would be promoting mediation and he would write about ways to stop Netanyahu just as he spoke about stopping Putin.

Simply put, Muslims and others who truly care about the Palestinians should not attend this vigil. We cannot unite with people who consider dead Palestinian children to be merely a tragic case of collateral damage and if we do, we put at risk the hope and morale of the Palestinian people.

Right now, we need to have some red lines. Friendly dialogue with supporters of Israel should be completely out of the question. After all, more children will be murdered on Sunday while they have their peace vigil. And it will be Palestinian children.

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