Charlotte, N.C./Sept. 8, 2023 – While most teenagers headed off to high school excited to see their friends and learn something new, Obaida Mohammad and his siblings were stopped daily at Israeli checkpoint crossings in Israel-Palestine.
“There were routine delays in getting to school on time due to Israeli checkpoint traffic and extensive ‘security inspections’ for myself and my five siblings, who were all younger than me (we all ranged from 5 to 15 years old),” he remembered.
Mohammad and his fellow Palestinians experienced and continue to experience much more traumatic inconveniences than checkpoints. Through his lived experience of midnight raids of villages and homes, arrests without cause and extreme military presence and oversight, Mohammad decided it was time to start discussing the humanitarian crisis that is the continual displacement of the Palestinian people.
After high school, he moved away from Israel-Palestine and became the director of the Charlotte, N.C. chapter of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP).
He, along with four other scholars, will host a panel discussion on The Nakba: Understanding 75 Years of Catastrophe in Palestine on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. in the Truist Auditorium in New Science Center.
“On May 5, 1948, one nation’s triumph became another nation’s catastrophe,” said Imam John Ederer, religious director of the Muslim Community Center of Charlotte. “Based on the newly formed United Nations resolution, which Arabs boycotted, the British colonial efforts in Palestine were to end, and it would be partitioned into two states.”
Imam Ederer said the resolution originally provided 60 percent of the land in Israel-Palestine for the Zionist movement to establish a homeland for the Jewish people.
However, Zionist military efforts went on to take over 70 percent of the land, leading to a humanitarian crisis that has impacted the lives of Palestinians for 75 years.
“Hundreds of thousands of Christian and Muslim Palestinians were displaced, and this is called the Nakba, or ‘the catastrophe,’” he said. “For Palestinians, May 15 represents the destruction of their society, the loss of self, the right to self-determination, the expulsion of most from their ancestral homelands and the expropriation of their property.”
Dr. Kendal Mobley, professor of Religion and Spiritual Life Coordinator at Johnson C. Smith University, has teamed up with Imam Ederer and the AMP Charlotte chapter to host the discussion.
He hopes it will help students and community members understand that the Israel-Palestine conflict is not a religious conflict but a political one.
“It is a conflict over land,” he said. “Jews, Muslims and Christians lived side-by-side in relative peace and harmony before 1948. As the Zionist movement grew, conflict increased.”
“It is very important to emphasize that the issue is a political project that has hijacked religion for support,” added Imam Ederer.
Many Jews and Christians are religiously influenced to support a literal restoration of the Jewish Temple, with evangelicals supporting this cause because its completion would induce the return of the Messiah.
But Mobley said that Americans should see the ongoing struggles of the Palestinian people for what it is: suffering.
"Many in the U.S. are rather uncritically pro-Israel because they aren't aware of Palestinian suffering," he said. "The only way to change that is by helping them to become aware."
Mobley paralleled the current treatment of the Palestinian people to the continued mistreatment of Native and Black Americans in the U.S., particularly the rigid governmental oversight.
“I think a global perspective helps us to recognize these things more clearly and call them what they are,” said Mobley. “It is important that we be critical thinkers who realize there is only one humanity, and we should cultivate a humanity that transcends identity.”
Mobley said the panelists who will speak during the event are highly educated on the Israel-Palestine conflict, but none are pro-Zionist.
The panelists will include Mohammad as well as Dr. Ilise Cohen, scholar-activist on Israel/Palestine; Dr. Zachary Foster, lead product manager at Academic.edu and a historian of Palestine; and Ayah Ziyahda, American Muslims for Palestine advocacy director.
The panel will be moderated by Dr. Rodney Sadler, associate professor of Bible and director of the Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation at Union Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Attendees will have the opportunity to submit questions via a QR code at the event. For more information, contact Mobley at firstname.lastname@example.org.