The ABCs of Identity

The other day my six year-old niece asked me if the Israelis were Muslims. Of course her question didn’t shock me. After all, she has been trying to make sense of the news she is hearing around her about Gaza. Her mind has not been polluted yet by all the religious squabbles taking over this world. In fact, she barely understands what the term “Arab” means let alone “Palestinian” , “Jordanian’, “Israeli” or “Egyptian”. Religion to her is a simple affair where the Christian kids get gifts from Santa Clause for Christmas and the Muslims kids eat Ma’mool (Eid cookies(, wear new clothes, and receive gifts from their relatives for Eid. Before this conversation she didn’t even know that Judaism was a religion.


So, when I heard her question, I tried to simplify the matter in a way that is comprehensible to her six-year-old mind. With every intention to refrain from the bloody and gory details she is still too young to understand. I said “No they are Jews”. Still confused she replied “I know they are Jews (Yahood) but are they Christians or Muslims?” I said “Judaism is a religion dear and just like we are Muslims they are Jews”. She replied “Ok, so all Jews Israelis and all Arabs are Muslim right?” I replied “No dear Jews can be Israelis, British, American, French, and many other nationalities, and the Arabs can be Christians or Muslims.” She then replied “So the war in Gaza is between Palestinian Muslims and Jews who are from where?” I said “Dear it should be between Arabs and Israelis with religion having nothing to do with it.”
She then asked me a question that was well beyond her years, she said “So Arab Christian and Muslims are friends and they are not friends with the Israeli Jews, because they took Palestine right ?” To make matters simple I said “Yes”. She then went to ask “But they are friends with other Jews?” I replied “They could be”
I wanted to avoid going into the whole Arab Israeli conflict and the difference between a Jew and a Zionist, and the fact that Zionists have occupied a land not theirs, and that now the Israelis are killing women, children, senior citizens, and civilians. I really didn’t want this young girl to get into too much politics, but nevertheless I was proud of her for understanding her Arab identity more so than many adults we encounter in the communities around us.

In an ideal world there should be no conflicts at all, but we don’t live in an ideal world and right now we do have a conflict in Gaza. To make matters worse, our social media, not to mention foreign media and local media channels are plagued with accounts from people getting the dynamics of this conflict all wrong. Some claim it to be the conflict of Palestinians alone. this ill-informed group includes certain Arabs who are not supporting Gaza . To those Arabs one would should say it should be the conflict of Arabs fighting for a land taken from them with no justice, and that the conflict will always be there as long as Palestine remains occupied. In this instance it is fair to say shame on any Arab claiming neutrality and worse yet any Arab finding one hint of justification for not supporting Gaza . Shame on any Arab justifying the Israeli attacks or even supporting it. Unfortunately we do see accounts on the social media for such Arabs, and you have to stop and wonder about their IQ.

Others claim it is the fight of the Muslims of Hamas and the Israelis, and to those one would ask what does religion have to do with it? We are Arabs first and then Muslims, Christians or Atheists second. The conflict has nothing to do with Islam . One doesn’t need to be a Muslim to support Gaza. So, shame on any Arab state siding with Israel against Hamas because in doing so such states are contributing to the death and destruction of Arabs. After all, one cannot be in an occupied region and have the same goals as the occupier. It just doesn’t make sense, and I say this regardless of personal views about Hamas or religion in general.
On a more basic level let’s forget religion and forget being Arabs. Let’s just say there is no justification for supporting the killing of innocent people. There is no reasoning or rationalization behind supporting an occupation army, and there is no explanation for being neutral about it. If the world is holding protests against the injustice seen in Gaza, then how can any Arab in any position in this region contemplate being silent or lacking in opinion. After all, you don’t need to be a Muslim to support Gaza you just need to be a human being who still understands the concept of humanity.
In closing I say once again it is interesting to see how a six year old got a basic grasp of her identity as an Arab while some adults in this region are still pondering the issue. Let us state the obvious to such people. In a nutshell, this is a conflict of humanity, it is a conflict of Arabs not only of Muslims. It is a conflict caused by an occupying state set up in a region that it doesn’t belong in. The kid got it, it is time some confused Arabs get it too.
This is my modest take on the issue



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