Sheldon Paul Stone
A bit more Chesed wouldn't hurt!

The Manchurian Man and Hamas

Gaza: Where my Uyghur and Jewish worlds collide

He came  towards us in Parliament Square at a Bring Them Home rally.

I shook his hand.

“Thanks  for coming. Are you from Thailand, supporting the Thai hostages?”

“From Manchuria, he said, “ Supporting Israel. I’m an asylum seeker. If you live with China, you know what it’s like living with an extreme totalitarian genocidal ideology, like Hamas.”

As a Jewish activist protesting China’s Genocide of Uyghur Muslims, I knew China was suppressing Manchuria’s (Inner Mongolia) language and culture, but his reasoning focused for me how much my Uyghur and Jewish worlds now rubbed up against each other in Gaza.

For one thing, friends ask,

What do your Uyghurs Muslims say to you, about Israel, after all the work you’ve done for them?

Well, the World Uyghur Congress immediately condemned Hamas. From fellow activists and Uyghurs, I’ve had only sympathy and understanding. Some respond well to my pro-Israel tweets. I’ve had one difficult WhatsApp, and one civilized Twitter conversation, where we agreed to differ, and one long video call, asking if I would back a permanent ceasefire to allow aid in, stop  Gazan children dying, and release hostages. Not without negotiations for Hamas to leave Gaza, I said!

But there is more to it than that.

I now have a greater appreciation of Uyghur pain. It’s one thing being an activist sympathetic to others’ suffering. It’s another  being an activist for your own people,  experiencing daily dread and worry for family, friends, nation and  community. How on earth do Uyghurs cope?

I now note a shared dignity in Uyghur and Jewish protests. No hate-filled songs, chants or calls for anyone’s death- China, Gazans, or Hamas. Perhaps we realise many Gazans and Chinese are also victims of their regimes. We both sing national anthems and songs for peace. As loss is personal, both communities are restrained. Vengeance is not ours.

We share pain and anger at the fate of women and families. Hamas pre-meditatedly raped and gang raped women and girls, including some taken hostage. Pregnant women were eviscerated, their foetus stabbed before their eyes. Children were killed in front of parents and vice versa. Kidnapped families are separated.

Inside China’s concentration camps, where up to 3 million Uyghurs have been incarcerated, rape and gang rape are routine punishment and a perk for guards. Outside the camps, Uyghur women face forced sterilization or abortion, with surviving foetuses killed. Over a million children have been forced from their Uyghur families into Han state orphanages.

There is also a hurtful  contrast.  London’s Uyghur  rallies attract 100-200  to protest a Muslim Genocide, whose  death toll in the camps from disease, starvation and torture is unknown, and where state programmes of forced  organ-harvesting kill tens of thousands yearly. London’s Muslim-lead marches  London, attract 300,000, supporting Gaza and Hamas, whom Israel attacks, not because Hamas is  Muslim, but to uproot an entity it can no longer live next to, as it has sworn to repeat the assaults of October 7th, wipe out Israel as a state, and murder Jews worldwide. Why don’t Uyghur protests get such crowds?

I support the Uyghurs  because their persecution and genocide echoes our historical experience. Our festivals of Chanukah, Passover,  and Purim feature genocides. Just as Uyghurs have “Urumqi” and “Gulja Massacre” days, we have 10th Teveth, 17th Tammuz, and 9th Av as memorial days on the road to our national tragedies.

In truth, we Jews have always lived on the edge. Since October 7th, I see this more clearly, in our daily prayers.  The ancient Kingdom of Israel faced frequent attack from cruel idolatrous regimes practicing child sacrifice or pederasty, or empires wishing to wipe out our religion. Our Psalms are replete with reference to  enemies, evil doers, habitual liars,  men of violence and our own fervent wish for peace. In our difficult exile, our  prayers yearn for a return to Israel and are laden with entreaties for removal of adversaries, physical  salvation, redemption and peace. Justice and Righteousness are asked not only for the poor, the widowed, the orphaned, the oppressed across the world, but  for us, that we just be left alone, able to live without persecution in our own ancestral homeland. Don’t tell me that Zionism has nothing to do with Judaism! I live and breathe it three times a day in shul.

So, when Hamas (the acronym means violence in Hebrew) spend a year negotiating, telling Israel they want economic prosperity not violence, so we create 18,000 jobs for them, whilst they plan October 7th, and with international antisemitism now  stalking campus, street and social media: it strikes a deep historical chord!

Save my soul from a lying  lip, and a deceitful tongue”(-Ps 120:2)… guard me from men of violence” (Psalm 140:2)…. I am for peace but when I speak they are for war (Ps 120:7)….See my enemies,  for they are many, and they hate me with a violent hatred” (Psalm 25:19)

We Jews know what it’s like to face genocide with too few to speak for us, so we speak up for the Uyghurs, according to our fundamental teaching, “whatever is (was ) hateful to you, do not do to your fellow” (Shabat 31b) and the biblical command “do not stand idly by the blood of a fellow man” (Lev 19.16).

But it is here, in the face of so many Gazan deaths, none of which we celebrate, that the ethical going gets difficult. Especially for an Uyghur activist who uses the international rules-based order of conventions, treaties and declarations to call China to account. It is hard not to worry that Israel is breaching the same rules-based order with respect to the Laws of Warfare.

If that were true it would be tragic and hypocritical for me not to call it out.

That’s  my “Jacob’s angel” to wrestle with.

Solving that conundrum will take another blog!

Uyghur and Jewish experiences are similar yet not similar. The Jewish state is able to exercise its right to self defence. Uyghurs are not. Both communities need fair un-politicised application of  international law, as do Gazans.

I wonder what my Manchurian would say about that?


About the Author
Sheldon is a 67 year old, London-born, Meikal Orthodox retired Teaching Hospital Consultant Physician for Older People and Stroke. His research in infection control and behavioural science helped introduce bed-side alcohol hand-rub. Now an Advisor to World Uyghur Congress, London Office for STOPUYGHURGENOCIDE campaign. Wife consultant physician. Two daughters, one son. University or graduated. One cat. Spurs season ticket holder (except shabbat!). Aliyah one day (PG!).
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