Hamza Khan knows the price he pays for supporting Israel. A few
years ago, he was impeached as president of his high school Muslim
Student Association for suggesting a condolence letter be sent to
the Israeli Embassy after a suicide bombing. Since then, he's
received hate mail for his unabashedly pro-Israel views.
Today, as Israel's bid to vanquish Hizbullah militants in Lebanon
enters its fourth week, the college sophomore is again at odds with
the majority of his fellow Muslim-Americans who condemn Israel for
using disproportionate force that has killed nearly 650 Lebanese
That means he stays silent in conservative circles. "If I were to
speak out, I think it would be ugly," he says.
Amid tense relations between Muslim and Jewish communities in
America over the current conflict, dissent is scarce. But if war has
strained interfaith dialogue, it hasn't stamped out intrafaith
debate, observers say. Indeed, dissenters in both communities say
that there's a growing willingness to consider the fighting from the
other side's point of view.
"When something big happens in the Middle East, it creates a more
tense environment in general, and one of the most surprising things
is that it creates tension within religious/ethnic groups, almost as
much as it does between groups," Vicki Armour-Hileman, a rabbinical
student at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in
Los Angeles, wrote in an email interview.
Jewish-American groups opposed to Israel's policies toward the
Palestinian territories say their ranks have swelled recently with
those opposed to Israel's bombing.
"I think this is a pivotal moment in the Jewish peace movement,"
says Cecilie Surasky, spokeswoman for Jewish Voice for Peace in
Oakland. "This is energizing people who were being quiet before."
Over 2,000 people have joined the group's e-mail list since fighting
began, bring the total to 15,000.
In Boston this week, some two dozen Jews wore black clothes and
lay motionless at the South Station train terminal to protest
Lebanese civilian losses from Israel's bombing campaign. The signs
on their chests read: "Not all Jews support Israel's actions!"
The demonstration drew its share of counter-protests. "Most Jews
do support Israel," one yelled. But many stopped to thank them for
taking a stand against the aerial attacks.
"I have to endure some shouts; it's little compared to what
people in Lebanon endure," said protester Marjorie Kent. "So I'll
take the shouts."
Insults have been hurled online and at demonstrations across the
country. Last week, a gunman claiming to be a Muslim-American killed
one person at the Jewish Federation building in Seattle, while at a
rally supporting Israel in suburban Detroit, a Jewish driver side-
swiped a Lebanese-American counter-demonstrator, nearly hitting her,
according to ArabAmericanNews. …