The violence between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas has escalated in the past week with the Israeli army mobilizing ground troops in an effort to destroy underground tunnels utilized by Hamas to smuggle weapons and other supplies into the Gaza strip.
With all of this happening some 6,000 miles away it’s easy to see the conflict as remote from the everyday events of american life. But for some, what’s happening right now in the Middle East might as well be happening in their own backyards.
Tarik Takkesh is a social justice advocate living in California. He’s also a devout Muslim and a Palestinian-American. For him and many other Americans, he’s interested not only in the day-to-day events in Gaza, but also with the role his country — the United States — plays in the conflict and how it treats Muslims, both here and around the world.
On July 14th the White House hosted its sixth annual Iftar dinner — the evening meal where Muslims come together to break fast during Ramadan. Takkesh was invited and in a recent piece for Mondoweiss recounted the internal conflict he faced in deciding to attend:
Before accepting the invitation to attend, I was caught in an internal debate that mirrored the split opinion in the American Muslim community: Would attending the White House Iftar be interpreted as condoning illegal and unconstitutional breaches of American Muslims civil rights, such as the NSA spying on American Muslims, the use of drones and extrajudicial killings in countries where many American Muslims have family members, the indefinite imprisonment and torture of exonerated prisoners in Guantanamo, or the unbridled support of Israel in the face of its continued occupation of Palestine? Or – would not attending the White House Iftar be injurious to the outcome of these issues as there would be no one to advocate or speak out against these problems in the long run?
This isn’t an insignificant struggle and it’s one faced by many activists of color who want to see real change. When do you sit at the table and when do you choose to walk away? How do you convey your frustration while at the same time maintaining the relationships necessary for change? How do you convince your allies that your way is right? These are the difficult questions and, unfortunately, I have no answers.
But in this instance, I support Takkesh’s decision to attend. More so, I appreciate his courage in attire. A black, white and green scarf emblazoned with the word ‘Palestine.’