Letter: ‘We mourn the loss of all innocent lives while acknowledging the complexities of war’

A wall at Netiv HaAsara in southern Israel facing the Gaza border reads the words “Path to Peace” in Arabic, English, and Hebrew. Photo by Cole Keister.

Editor’s note: The following is a submitted letter to the editor in response to a letter to the editor from the Islamic Society of Kingston, published on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Kingstonist.

On November 27th , the Islamic Society of Kingston released a statement on the Israel-Hamas War, calling for a ceasefire, among other things. Link found here: https://www.kingstonist.com/culture/opinion/islamic-society-of-kingston-issues-statement-on-israel-hamas-ceasefire/.

Sadly, their statement contained some unfortunate phrasing and content, in particular calling the State of Israel “a 75-year occupation,” thereby rejecting Israel’s legitimate existence. A detailed analysis of the Islamic Society of Kingston’s statement by Mike Fegelman can be found here: https://honestreporting.ca/islamic-society-of-kingston-denies-israels-right-to-exist-by-publishing-statement-decrying-75-years-of-occupation/.

As members of the Kingston Jewish community, we are saddened by this statement. It sows division in the local Jewish and Muslim communities here in Kingston, which up to this point, have enjoyed a supportive relationship.

Adding to our disappointment is that an effort was made by the two communities to issue a joint statement that would have focused on what unites us — our common humanity, acknowledging that every loss of life is tragic and that both our communities are hurting and experiencing grief; and that even amidst the shock and grief we want to maintain respect, empathy, and understanding for one another. Above all, our joint statement would have celebrated our shared values as Canadians — of peace, diversity, and coexistence — and it would have expressed our commitment to upholding these values. 

While the Jewish community was eager to sign such a joint statement, the Muslim Community as represented by the Islamic Society of Kingston was not willing to do so and issued a statement of their own, referred to at the top of this letter. Rather than build coalitions and strengthen supportive relationships, their statement insults us, spreads disinformation, and perpetuates antisemitism even while purporting to eschew it.

As a community, we do not feel the need to issue a collective statement. We always have and always will support Israel’s right to exist and its right to defend itself just as every sovereign nation does. The types of attacks we are seeing on Jewish diaspora communities — both physical and in statements such as ISK’s — underscore for us the need for Israel to remain a sovereign homeland and safe haven for Jews. As Jews who value life, we mourn the loss of all innocent lives while acknowledging the complexities of war that always produce innocent casualties and we accuse Hamas of using its citizens as human shields, thus exacerbating the situation for innocent Gazans in order to win the global public relations war.

We sincerely hope that our communities can return to a healthy and respectful relationship after this troubling time is behind us. It will take some dialogue and work to rebuild trust and heal broken bonds.

Ed Smith, Richard Kizell, Michael Robinson 

Share your views! Submit a Letter to the Editor or an Op/Ed article to Kingstonist’s Editor-in-Chief Tori Stafford at [email protected].

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