I wasn’t always a pro-Palestinian Muslim. Seven years ago I was a Star of David-wearing Zionist Jew.
I lived in the Jewish stronghold of Sea Point and eagerly disposed of my spare change by contributing to the blue tin that an elderly lady would shake all day in front of Checkers. She said I was doing my bit to plant trees in Israel. That felt good. I’d visited Israel and loved the country.
I close my eyes and I can still feel Israel. I hear the Mizrachi music in the sherut heading towards Jerusalem from the airport, I feel the energy and sense of belonging at the Wailing Wall, and I feel the overwhelming family love on the Kibutz in the Hula Valley where I spent a June holiday in 1999 picking bananas. Mostly I can still feel the admiration I had for the young soldiers that I used to see on the buses in Tel Aviv.
At the time, I was oblivious to the living conditions of people in nearby Gaza. But anyone with a real understanding of the daily threat that Gazans live under and an understanding of the way the IDF treats civilians on the other side of the separation wall would surely be waving a Palestinian flag like I do today.
I became Muslim in 2007. Not long after, I found myself standing in a Spar in Kenilworth, inhaling freshly fried samosas with a handful of newly purchased books on Islam. An elderly woman approached me carrying a pile of books, scarf wrapped tightly around her face. My white face and awkwardly pinned scarf must have screamed “recently converted”.
“Salaam, here are some books on the Israeli occupation. They are killing the Muslims, you know.”
“Shukran.” I said.
I nodded and smiled and walked away feeling uncomfortable and angry...Funny, that's exactly how I feel whenever I encounter this sort of Zionhass. (Muslim Zion-loathers love it when they can get a Jew--or a former Jew--to trash his/her own. They think it sanitizes and validates their own pathological Jew-hate.)