12/11/2012 12:23 EST | Updated 02/10/2013 05:12 EST

Human Lives Are More Important Than Holy Books

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs indicated that of the 158 Palestinians killed in the November Israeli assault on Gaza, an overwhelming 103 were civilians. At least 30 were children and 13 were women.

Undeterred by false anti-Semitism charges, many queer activists and their allies in the Abrahamic faiths, like others, stood firm against Israeli aggression.

While, many leaders dawdled on the issue, top Israeli officials were clear. Israel's deputy foreign minister stated that most people hit in Gaza deserved it as they were armed terrorists. Israeli leaders used language similar to that of Israel's deputy defence minister in 2008, who indicated that Palestinians would bring upon themselves a bigger "shoah" -- holocaust.

The Israeli Minister of the Interior stated that the goal of the operation was to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Likewise, Ariel Sharon's son, an activist for the opposition Kadima party, stated that even if images from Gaza turned out unpleasant, Gaza should be flattened just as the Americans hit Nagasaki after Hiroshima.

The images from Gaza were indeed heart rending. The religious leaders and queer activists I know of in Edmonton could not remain silent.

Reverend Dr. Nancy Steeves of Southminster Steinhauer United stated that justice requires that we stand by those whose land and water are being taken, whose movements are being restricted, whose livelihoods are being destroyed and who are being kept poor.

Likewise, her partner Dr. Dawn Waring questioned if, instead of passively praying for justice, we could summon the courage to speak truth to power, stand with the oppressed and rally for justice.

Dr. Sherry Ann Chapman, who like Waring has served as an ecumenical accompanier in Israel and Palestine, compiled a list of informational and action based resources and urged people not to become immune to human suffering.

Human rights activist Rob Wells wrote that such atrocities needed to be exposed for the world to see. He also questioned why the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising was termed as an act of resistance whereas, the 2012 Gaza uprising branded as terrorism, indicating that without justice there could not be peace.

Unitarian Chaplain Reverend Audrey Brooks questioned how Israel could inflict the horror of the Holocaust on the Palestinians. She added that Israel portrayed the people of Gaza as terrorists worthy of elimination.

Her words seemed to echo those of U.S.-based Orthodox Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz that some Jews use scriptural language to brand Palestinians as the "Amalek" who need to be destroyed.

Within the Jewish community, Paula Kirman stated that the inhumane and illegal treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government and military went against the Judaic values of reason, compassion and justice. Paralleling Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, she added that while committing massacre, Israel claimed moral righteousness.

The Christian and Jewish voices in Edmonton were complemented by Muslim voices in the U.S. Queer Muslim activist, Faisal Alam stated that he stood against the Israeli aggression in the occupied territories as his tax money directly funds U.S. military aid to Israel.

Likewise, Professor Omid Safi wrote that the American media is fixated on equating Gaza with Hamas as if the land was not populated by human beings. He added that Israel has bombed schools, homes, hospitals, and mosques, killing an overwhelming number of civilians.


Israel-Gaza conflict

While, many Jews, Christians and Muslims consistently speak out against Israeli injustices, some remain silent. Queer activist Darnell Moore mentioned his erstwhile silence out of fear of being smeared with anti-Semitism. After all, even Archbishop Tutu has been labelled as an anti-Semite and a "black Nazi pig."

About 70 per cent of Israelis opposed the cease-fire deal. Likewise, Hamas claimed victory at the expense of the lives of innocent women and children. However, the Israel-Palestine issue is not a Muslim-Jewish issue.

Time and again, Jews and Muslims, notwithstanding the narrative of bigots in their respective faiths, have reached out to each other. The Edmonton Muslim and Jewish communities have forged alliances against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

The Calgary Jewish community has honoured Muslims who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. In a New York train, a Muslim came to the rescue of a Jewish male, who later stated that someone often painted in the media as an enemy of Israel and Jews came to help when nobody did anything.

Likewise, a pair of Muslim cab drivers in New York rescued a Jewish bagel shop from closure by vowing to keep it kosher. In Bronx, a local mosque welcomed Jewish congregants when they could no longer afford the rent of their Orthodox synagogue.

A Parisian Imam from a Muslim delegation to the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial mentioned that he would have saved Jews during the Holocaust as human lives are more important than holy books.

Likewise, Rabbi Yanklowitz referenced the Orthodox Union and the Anti Defamation League, who have voiced concerns on bigotry that denigrates Islam and paints all Muslims as anti-American crusaders.

He also referenced the Jewish Philosopher Martin Buber who had stated that human beings are temporary residents and that none had an absolute claim to land ownership.

Rabbi Yanklowitz has also stated that non-Jews must speak up against anti-Semitism just as heterosexuals must speak up against homophobia.

Perhaps, this is why Rabbi Brant Rosen has clearly voiced that Israel's oppressive actions do not have much to do with security fears and that he would be betraying the teachings of his great faith by not standing with the Palestinians.

Likewise, Reverend Steeves has vehemently stated that act by act we can name injustice when we see it and that the Gospels are not neutral but teach one to stand with the oppressed.

In short, while world powers may continue to dawdle against Israeli aggression, including the expansion of the latest 3,000 illegal settlements, the brave children of Abraham, united by the great teachings of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, continue to assert their voice for justice.