Only together we can stand up against the threat of division in our society

A joint declaration on the war in Israel and Gaza (from 24.10.2023)

We are still paralyzed by horror and shock at the pogrom-like, anti-Semitic and misogynistic terror against innocent Israeli civilians on October 7 and the spiral of violence it has already unleashed. The lack of any prospect of an early non-violent solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is causing feelings of powerlessness, despair and anger among many people on both sides of the fence and their relatives and friends. In the midst of this madness, we would like to set a common sign for non-violence, humanity and healing.

The conflict is already being fought out on the streets of the world, but above all in the echo chambers of social media. The fighting is accompanied by a media “war of images”. This war of images is part of the calculation of the terrorist Hamas. People are to be emotionalized and incited to hate others. The conflict is to be perceived as a clash between Muslims and non-Muslims. The inevitable rise of anti-Muslim racism – which is always the case when terrorist attacks are allegedly carried out in the name of Islam – is deliberately accepted, indeed it is a strategic goal of Hamas and its ideological relatives.

They must not be allowed to succeed! We call on all people who feel emotionally affected by the conflict and the current outbreak of violence to continue (and now more than ever!) to seek dialogue with each other and not to allow themselves to be divided and incited against each other.
The future of the Israeli government, especially that of Prime Minister Netanyahu, is being openly discussed in Israel. Many see him and his right-wing government as (co-)responsible for this development and this escalation of violence. The next elections will decide their fate. Israeli society is at a crossroads. This includes the question of whether the response to terror respects international law or takes the path of collective punishment.

The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, on the other hand, have long been unable to decide their own fate and are dependent on solidarity and supplies from outside. The population of the Gaza Strip therefore deserves every solidarity and expressing it must not automatically be equated with anti-Semitism. However, showing solidarity with the Palestinians’ justified desire for self-determination and a life in safety and dignity must not mean legitimizing Hamas’ terror in any way. It must now be clear to everyone that the totalitarian Hamas cannot be part of this movement for equal rights for all people in the region. Israelis and Palestinians will continue to live side by side in the region and there can only be a future for both sides if the fantasy of eliminating the other no longer determines their actions.

Anti-Semitism is a real threat to Jewish life – and the new wave of anti-Jewish conspiracy fantasies that is already emerging is causing us great concern. But neither can anti-Semitism be countered with anti-Muslim racism, nor should racism in our society be misused as a justification to pander to the rampant terror propaganda.

We know that dialog in our diverse society faces new and difficult challenges. But we can only stand together against the threat of division in our society. Here and there.

Prof. Dr. Zekirija Sejdini

Institute for Islamic Theology and Religious Education, Innsbruck University

Dr. Hanno Loewy
Jewish Museum Hohenems

Arnon Hampe, Dipl.-Pol.