Jeffrey Kass

An Open Letter to Our Cousins of the Ummah

Image: ShutterstockBartolomiej Pietrzyk
Israeli and Palestinian flags with barbed wire

The last six months have been heart-wrenching. Since October 7th we’ve seen devastating images from Gaza of innocent Palestinians, young children, infants, babies–ravaged by war. Their lives cut short because of a conflict they had nothing to do with. Naming them “collateral damage” seems trite and heartless.

So much death and destruction. So many innocent lives lost. Other than intentionally hateful people, most of us, Jew and Arab alike, desperately want to see a better future for our children. Where there are no more terror attacks on Israel (or any country in the region) and where there are no more Israeli responses that impact innocent civilian populations.

Insh’Allah, as the 1973 war led to the first Israeli-Arab peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, this latest war between Israel and Hamas will also lead to peace among nations.

In 1973, Israel was attacked on the holiest day of the year for Jews, Yom Kippur, when they were caught off guard. Like Ramadan, Jews fast, seek atonement and ask for forgiveness. That’s our focus on that day.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had ordered Egyptian forces to attack Israel, but once the war was over, something dramatic happened. Egypt’s visionary and state leader boldly decided that 30 years of war were enough. It was time to make peace with Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin also recognized that decades of war was enough, and likewise agreed to peace with Egypt.

It’s that type of leadership that is needed on both sides of the conflict today.

Since Sadat and Begin made peace, Egypt and Israel have not seen a day of war. The two countries cooperate extensively in their mutual fight against terrorist extremism. Egypt even had Israel attack ISIS targets in the Sinai desert, Egypt’s sovereign territory, over the last couple of years.

Not coincidentally, Hamas’ massacre came on the 50th anniversary of the 1973 war. But sadly, we all know that Hamas doesn’t have a similar Sadat-like visionary in their ranks.

As a result, Israel decided Hamas wasn’t going to rule Gaza anymore. Not after Hamas raped. Chopped heads off. Burnt babies. Kidnapped toddlers and octogenarians. We’ve personally seen the videos. It’s beyond anything Hollywood could conjure up if this were fiction.

The removal of Hamas is a goal shared by many innocent Palestinians in Gaza too, if you’ve been paying attention to the recent protests by Gazans against Hamas. Hamas is linked to the same Muslim Brotherhood, unwelcome in much of the Arab world. In Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and many other places.

Plus, Gazans are keenly aware that Hamas has received billions in aid over the past 15 years, but instead of building the Singapore of the Middle East, they invested in lavish homes for themselves.

Hamas leadership built wealthy neighborhoods and beach towns in Gaza for the few. They spent hundreds of millions on a subterranean military fortress that leverages every human shield. They use humanitarian buildings, schools, mosques and United Nations buildings to launch their campaigns of violence. All while keeping everyday Palestinians in hardship. Hamas even in the midst of war stole humanitarian aid and set up markets to sell that food to Palestinians in Gaza.

Hamas leaders living abroad are some of the wealthiest people in the world and make no attempt to invest that money into the everyday lives of Palestinians.

Instead of creating a startup entrepreneur hub, they invested in missiles, drones and other weapons.

Ever wonder why there are no bomb shelters in Gaza but plenty in Israel? Hamas doesn’t care if Palestinians die; in the first month of the war, they publicly said that they aren’t responsible for protecting Palestinians. They just want to inflict as much death on Israelis and Palestinians as possible.

As the Israel-Hamas war rages on, Palestinians are losing more and more loved ones, children, homes and communities. Malnutrition is at an all-time high. And yet it’s become clear that Hamas’ leaders remain as committed as ever to using their vast tunnels and strategy to hide behind every human shield they can, Jewish, Muslim or otherwise.

It’s for all these reasons that those of us who wish for a better future for our children should work together to support the removal of Hamas from Gaza. Hamas’s vision of the future is one of death and destruction. Would you want Hamas running your country? Or even one bordering your country?

As we discussed in our October 16 essay, “The Day After Hamas,” for Palestinians to have the brightest possible future, Israelis and Palestinians need the region’s deep involvement. They need the region’s help to remove Hamas from any vestige of power.

They need help to support the rebuilding of Gaza. And maybe most importantly, they need the region’s help to identify and legitimize new Palestinian leadership. New leadership that promotes more than just uncomfortable coexistence. People committed to partnership.

All for building a better future for all nations in the region.

There’s a reason why the peace agreements with UAE, Bahrain and Israel are far more vibrant than the one with Jordan. It’s because those agreements are about normalization, not coexistence. They’re about mutual respect, commerce, culture and education. UAE even teaches Holocaust education now, all while Hamas distributes Hitler’s book, “Mein Kampf,” translated into Arabic.

But to be clear, this isn’t just about failed Palestinian leadership.

Israelis must also have new leadership. Recent polls show that a record low 15% of the Israeli public still supports Netanyahu. Most Israelis don’t want him or his far-right-wing coalition to lead the country.

In that same vein, Israel’s far-right political parties, which have protested aid to Palestinians and made outlandish calls for Jews to resettle in the same Gaza it withdrew from over 15 years ago and to displace Palestinians to other countries, are also widely criticized.

In a recent Israeli poll, these extremists barely make the threshold to gain any seats in the next Knesset. Other polls show the most extreme of the parties not being elected to the next Knesset at all. Although their ideas make a disproportionate amount of the headlines, like extremists in every country, they are not supported by the vast number of Israelis and will almost certainly be excluded from any future governing coalition. And these extremists certainly don’t represent most Jews worldwide.

These right-wing parties were only given important roles in the current governing coalition because Prime Minister Netanyahu knew it was the only way he could regain power. Netanyahu put himself before his country to preserve his own place. The Israeli press is awash with a broad group of Israeli leadership who condemn these extremists and their ideas.

As a democracy, the Israeli electorate will eventually (hopefully sooner rather than later) bring new, braver, more peaceful leaders to power. Just two months ago, Israel’s largest volunteer network placed a full-page newspaper ad calling for early elections.

We’ve had many conversations with our Arab “cousins” across the region, as well as Israelis. We share a common vision for a brighter future, even if we disagree over some issues or how much blame ought to be assigned for the current conflict.

Still, we share a vision where neither Palestinians nor Israelis need to live in fear of the other. A vision of peace and prosperity across the Middle East. Where these countries form a united front against any group that wishes to destabilize that vision.

Let’s work together to bring new leadership to prominence for Palestinians and Israelis. New leaders who takes risks for peace, not risks for war. Leaders who teach their children curiosity and understanding, not hate and destruction. Leaders who understand peace comes through commerce, cultural exchange and togetherness, not walls, massacres, bombs or division.

Leadership who can build the future all our children deserve. A Jewish baby and a Palestinian baby ought to have the same worth.

We need the help of our Arab cousins to make this happen.


David Jacques Farahi is a U.S.-based private investor, adjunct professor, and advocate for Israel.

Jeffrey Kass is a lawyer, community activist, award-winning author and top-50 writer on racism, diversity, history and education in the U.S.

About the Author
Jeffrey Kass is an award-winning American author, lawyer, speaker and thought leader on race, ethnicity and society. His writing was nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize literary award, and he was named a top 50 writer on Medium on the issues of race , education and diversity. His newest book, "Black Batwoman v. White Jesus," is a collection of essays dealing with race and ethnicity.